It's a slow night and Frank's bored shitless. He lights a cigarette, hoping a hit of nicotine will make the time pass faster. It doesn't. It never does.
He's watching the smoke curl up from the cherry, dancing pretty in the streetlight beam when a squeal of tires assaults his ears.
"Frank! What the fuck are you doing? Get in the goddamn car!" There's an angry man in a rental car shouting at him. He's got lightning bolt sideburns and a mess of tattoos, but he doesn't look that scary. He's not one of Frank's regulars, but if he knows Frank's name and where to come then someone's vouched for him.
Frank shrugs and crushes the cigarette out under the heel of his boot. Maybe the guy is into role play. It's not the worst kind of john to get. He mentally tacks on a weirdo surcharge and strolls over to the car, flattening his hands on the roof and leaning over the open window.
"Where are we going?" He doesn't add 'babe' to the end of the sentence, but it's implied.
"I swear to fuck you're gonna give me a heart attack one day. Get in!"
Up close, the guy is tiny, and more annoyed than angry - the sighing, nose-pinching kind. Nothing that's throwing up any red flags - yet.
The tiny, angry guy leans across the seat to throw the passenger door open shouting, "In! In! In!" until Frank climbs into the car just to shut him up. He does a quick scan once he's inside - the rental's clean but for a couple of Starbuck's coffee cups, so the guy can't have had it long. He's not your typical out-of-town businessman, what with the tatts and gauged ears, but then Frank learned years ago that money doesn't always equal a three piece suit. He's not ugly either. Aside from the weirdo role play thing (which will likely drop away once they get down to business proper) this is probably not going to be a bad job.
"Jesus Christ, Frank, do you want us to miss a show? Is that what you want? What the fuck were you doing out there anyway?" The guy revs the engine (badly, obviously he prefers to drive a stick) and wrenches the wheel so they pull away from the curb.
Frank observes the guy for a moment, weighing up what he should say. The role players definitely prefer it if you play along, without trying to lead too much. "Have I done something wrong?" he asks carefully, "do I need to be punished?" He puts extra emphasis on the word punished because why be subtle when you're on the clock?
The guy glances between him and the road, looking confused and suspicious. So okay, wrong answer then. Fine. Frank's good at reading people but he's not a fucking mindreader.
"All right, time out. I get there's some kind of role play deal going on here, but can we talk turkey for a minute? How about I tell you my rates and you tell me what you want and we figure out a plan?" The speech is practically rote by now, but the guy doesn't respond normally at all.
"Frank, stop fucking around or I'll just lock you in a room with Bob, and let me tell you, you are not in his good books right now."
Okay, there's a new thing - who is this Bob guy and how does he fit in? Fuck, Frank hates it when he has to wing it. "Look, if you're gonna start adding in other people that's a whole other rate card. I do couples, fine, but you're lucky, man, not all of us do. You should mention that shit up front." Frank says, keeping his voice nice and neutral. "So okay, what were you thinking? You want a standard threesome or you want me to fuck him while you watch, or fuck me while he watches, or what?"
The guy stares at Frank so long he nearly totals the fucking car.
The tiny, angry guy who still hasn't introduced himself doesn't take Frank to a hotel room. He walks him up to a big, shiny bus parked outside a rock venue Frank's never set foot in. The guy punches a code into the bus door and pulls it open for Frank, who hesitates just a moment before heading up the stairs. It's fine, he's partied in worse places. He may as well get this done.
He's not two steps inside when someone shrieks his name and suddenly he's being hugged. Not the back-patting casual kind of hug either, the hanging-on-and-clinging-like-you-can't-let-go kind. "Frank, thank god," the guy sighs into Frank's hoodie, not letting go even though Frank's not hugging back. The only impression he has of the guy is a whole lot of black and a nest of messy hair. "Guys, guys! Frank's back! We found him, thank god!"
The guy shouts it loud enough it makes Frank's ear hurt, and when Frank peers over his shoulder there's three more random guys staring at him from what looks like a living room (seriously, what kind of fancy bus has a lounge in it?) One of them has a fro the size of Texas, and the other two are blonde - one thin and bendy, the other stocky with a beard.
What kind of fucking party is this? "Dude, what is this, a gangbang?" Frank hasn't brought enough condoms for this kind of thing.
"What?" The guy says, easing back but still not really letting go. Frank can see now that he's young, with soft, pretty face and a mane of black hair that looks like it could use a wash.
"Are you Bob?" Frank asks, trying to put the pieces together. Tiny Angry Guy mentioned a Bob.
"Frank, don't be weird."
"I'm not being weird," Frank says, trying to keep his patience, but for fuck's sake the first rule of role play is if you want a fucking scene you should outline it first. "I don't know you!"
The guy just stares at him, his eyes huge and uncomprehending. He's looks so sad and confused that Frank bites back the snarky sentence he had lined up to say.
"Don't fuck with me, Frank, you were gone for ages. We've been going out of our minds. What-"
Tiny, Angry Guy jumps in, "He's acting weird. I don't know. " He turns his frown on Frank. "Frank, if this is a prank it's not funny and you really need to cut this shit out."
"Stop talking to me like you all know me!" Frank half-shouts, because he's really starting to get the shits with all this now. All the wide-eyed concern is getting under his skin and he just came to do a fucking job and get out.
"Frank?" the one with the fro says, all concern, and jesus, it's not fair all these people calling him by name when he doesn't know any of them. Frank glares at the guy.
"How do you all know me?" he asks, trying to place them, any of them. Maybe he's met them and forgotten them? He scans their faces in turn, looking for any recognisable signs, but there's nothing until - wait. The skinny blond. Frank squints at him, mentally comparing him to a half-remembered scene kid from years back. "Did you ever wear glasses?"
"Yeah, you know that, though. Frank…?" he stares at Frank, brow furrowed.
Frank overlays thick specs on the kid's face, adds some crazy fucked-up hair and yeah, okay, it could be him. That kid from Eyeball who used to go to all the gigs, "I know you," he says, trying to remember something - anything about him except that he was a scene kid. "You were… your brother died, right?"
Definitely not the right thing to say. The room goes fucking silent and the kid reels back like Frank slapped him. He looks like he's going to cry.
"Don't you say that," he says, his voice cracking a little on the words. "Don't you fucking say that, Frank."
"I'm sorry, what?" Frank utters. He's accumulated a lot of weird client stories over the years, but tonight is shaping up to be one of the weirdest. What's this Jersey kid doing out here anyway and what the fuck, it's not like it's Frank's fault the guy never got over his brother's death.
"What's wrong with you?" Tiny Angry Guy yells at Frank and okay, he's really living up to his nickname now. They all start talking at once, barking questions and babbling nonsense and fuck, Frank's just got to get the hell out of there, already.
"Guys. Guys!" the bearded blonde shouts and they all shut up. He does have a pretty commanding voice. "Look," he says, pointing at Frank. He takes a couple of steps closer, reaching out a hand all slow and careful like he's trying to catch a rabid dog. Frank doesn't move, just lets the guy put his hand on Frank's hoodie, tugging the neckline down on one side. "Where's your scorpion?" he asks, and all the others crane their heads to look at Frank's neck. Frank's bare, and totally normal neck, what the fuck?
"What scorpion?" Frank asks, wondering if this is some kind of code or something. When he looks around they're all staring at him, shocked. "What?" Frank yells, because for fuck's sake he just wants to know already.
"You're not our Frank," the black-haired one says, looking like he's about to cry.
Frank looks at each of them, trying to find any clues but all he gets is more shock and sadness. This is the weirdest, most confusing thing ever and he's had fucking enough, thanks. "You know what? Fuck this. This is not as advertised. I'm out." He turns and heads for the door. He saw a bus stop not far back; it shouldn't be too hard to get back to town. There's still enough time for him to find an actual paying client tonight if he gets back to his corner soon enough.
Tiny, Angry Guy grabs him by the arm. Frank shakes him off more out of habit than anything, "Hey, no money, no touching. You obviously don't want to party and I got fucking bills to pay. Leave me alone."
"Wait," the guy says, and something in his voice makes Frank pause, and listen. "How much for the night?"
Frank huffs out a breath. Fuck this fucking Twilight Zone bullshit. He should just go. He knows he's got a shitty chance of catching another job tonight, though. He bites his lip and asks, "For more of this weirdo bullshit?"
The guy just shrugs, which is confirmation enough.
"Fine," Frank says, "Five hundred, half up front." He's bluffing a little, and if he gets pushback he'll drop it down, but the guy just nods and reaches for his wallet.
They've got photos. Lots of them. With a guy who could be Frank's fucking twin. The fro guy scrolls through them on a laptop, image after image. The Frank lookalike - with twinky makeup and emo hair - glowers at the camera, surrounded by the other weirdos. All of them except Tiny, Angry Guy - who must be their pimp, or manager or whatever. Some of the pictures are from magazine spreads and Frank's trying to figure out if he's heard any of these guys' songs on the radio. He used to be really into the music scene, but that was a long time ago now. Another life. He only tends to hear what's piped into the stores or what's on people's car stereos these days.
Fro guy clicks through pictures, and Frank tries to keep his reactions calm, to blink and nod vacantly even as his brain starts to spiral. Who is this guy? Why does he look exactly like Frank? How do they have the same name?
No. No. He can't let this crazy get to him. It's just a job. He just needs to get through the night and he can go the fuck back to normal already, with a nice fat wallet he didn't even have to put out to earn.
He thinks maybe fucking would be easier than this bullshit though. Black-Haired Guy keeps asking him questions, then comparing notes with the skinny blond, that mostly seem to consist of "he's just wrong". Tiny Angry Guy is on the phone to who the fuck knows, talking about travel plans or cancellations or something. The heavier dude with the beard hasn't spoken again, he just sits on the couch watching it all go down with a frown on his face. It's a little unsettling.
"Where did you go to school?" Black-Haired Guy asks,
Frank sighs and scratches a hand through his hair, "I went to a private school. Pencey Prep."
Fro Guy gasps, and Frank's getting really tired of these "oh god, you're getting it wrong" reactions already.
"What?" he asks, when they all just stare at him like he's an alien. "This is really fucking creepy, you guys," he points out.
"So, you grew up in Belleville, but you went to Pencey Prep? And you were raised by your dad, whose name is-" Black-Haired Guy lists off the facts like they're questions and fuck, Frank is over this already.
"Henry, yes, I told you all that stuff already." Frank grumbles, rubbing his hands together, "God, do you want to see my fucking driver's license?"
"Yes. Please?" Black-Haired Guy answers, and he looks at Frank all hopeful and earnest. Frank knows he shouldn't give out his real name, but this is a weird circumstance and he can't explain the pictures of the lookalike anymore than these guys can. He bends down and slides his license from the inside compartment in his boot where he keeps his emergency money and hands it over.
Black-Haired Guy looks at it a moment and gasps, "You weren't born on Halloween!" at the exact same time Skinny Blond leans in and says, "Your name is Frank Lero?"
Ray, Gerard, Mikey, Bob, Brian. Frank wonders if he could ask them to wear name tags. They're in a band called My Chemical Romance and Frank knows a few of their songs from hearing them on the radio. They're touring their second album to some pretty major venues. It's a life Frank dreamed of once, years ago, before reality became a place where dreams didn't fit anymore.
This other Frank, this lookalike who knows these guys - who belongs to these guys - has been with them for years. They all love the shit out of him. Their concern for him is blatant and they don't even bother to try and hide it. Frank can't help but wonder himself where the fuck the other Frank is. This doesn't seem like a life anyone would walk away from.
Brian's pacing, on the phone to the police, giving details even though it hasn't been 48 hours yet so they won't let him put in a missing persons report. Gerard's gnawing on his nails with single-minded fixation. Ray looks up every time he hears a car slowing down nearby. They're acting like someone cut off one of their arms and every breath is a ghost pain.
Brian hangs up the phone. "So the fucking police won't start looking for another eighteen hours, so we should start ourselves. Bob, you take the rental with me. Mikey, Ray you take the van. Gerard-"
"I'll stay here with Frank." Gerard says quickly, with a nod. He meets Brian's eyes and Brian nods back.
Frank hops up abruptly, "'M going for a smoke," he says, heading outside. Anything to get away from their suffocating concern for this guy who isn't Frank.
He ignores the flurry of activity as they divide into cars, staring into the flame of his lighter as he lights his cigarette, sucking down nicotine that does nothing to calm him.
This Frank guy has barely been gone a day and they're going out of their heads. Who would worry about Frank if he suddenly disappeared? Would anyone even notice if he didn't make it back from a trick? His landlord maybe, when he didn't make rent. Possibly his neighbour would notice eventually. It would take months before Henry figured it out.
Frank inhales smoke and tells himself he doesn't need that kind of concern. Doesn't want it. What the fuck would he want with a bunch of fussing weirdos who freak out if you're gone awhile? Crazies, he tells himself, but he doesn't manage to make it very convincing, even to himself.
Gerard plops down beside him, already lighting his own smoke. Frank sighs out a smoky breath. So much for being alone.
Gerard waits until Frank's finished his cigarette before he asks him, "How long have you been doing it?"
"Turning tricks?" Frank asks, even though he knows that's what Gerard means. It's what that question always means. Gerard just nods, looking earnest. It seems to be his default expression. "About six years." It's really closer to seven, but whatever.
Gerard just nods, his expression carefully neutral. "Why do you do it?" he asks, like he can't help but say whatever jumps into his head.
Frank sighs. He's already told these guys his life story, why stop now? "Why does anyone do anything? To survive."
He fumbles in his boot for his cigarettes, lighting up another one rather than thinking back to the lean years. To the day he shoved a handful of condoms in his back pocket and headed for the street, having already sold everything he had that was worth anything. All he had left to trade was his body.
He can feel Gerard's gaze like a weight, so he turns to look at him. He's staring at Frank, his eyes huge and sincere. "It shouldn't just be about surviving," he says, "It should be about living."
Frank shakes his head, catching a bitter laugh before it can leave his mouth. "Maybe for you."
That shuts Gerard up for a while. They smoke in silence until Gerard's mouth gets away from him again.
"Did I… I mean. Mikey's brother. The one that you remember… did he…" Frank looks up from the burning cherry of his cigarette to see the agony in Gerard's face, "did he kill himself? Was that how he died?"
Frank puts it together in that moment. Well shit, Gerard is Mikey's brother. His breath catches in his throat. There was talk all over the scene about Mikey's brother, about how no one would take that many pills by accident. "You sure you want me to answer that?" he asks, because what better way to avoid a question than by putting another one next to it?
It doesn't work though. Gerard looks at him like he figured it out anyway, "So that's a yes then." His voice sounds weak and brittle. He turns away, grinding the butt of his cigarette into the dirt with rough motions. "Fuck," he breathes, so softly Frank almost misses it.
"That guy isn't you," Frank says, because it seems like the thing to say, "Just like I'm not your guy."
He can feel Gerard looking at him, his eyes boring into the side of Frank's head. He doesn't look though. He already knows Gerard's wearing that fucking earnest expression again.
"You are, though." Gerard says, sounding so fucking sure that Frank can't bring himself to argue.
It's well into the early hours when the other cars return. Frank's gone past curiosity, to exhaustion and only the coffee Gerard keeps brewing that keeps his eyes open. He doesn't want to fall asleep - he can sleep anywhere, sure, but he makes a rule of not sleeping on the clock.
When the guys walk back into the bus and they've got the lookalike with them, Frank doesn't even have the energy to be shocked anymore. He pushes himself up off the couch, weaving a little with fatigue as Gerard rushes to wrap his arms around the other Frank in the same hug Frank already got hours ago. Only this Frank responds properly, wrapping his arms around him and saying "Hey, Geeway," with a fond smile.
Frank stares, feeling tired and brittle and just… weird. When Gerard finally pries himself off the other Frank he turns to gesture at Frank and say, "So Frank, this is Frank."
"Holy shit," the other Frank says, getting up in Frank's face, staring at him unabashedly. Frank gets it though, he does. It's like looking in a mirror, but not, because this other Frank isn't doing what he should be. It's more like looking at your face in those video camera displays where you can watch yourself back on a monitor, you go left and it goes right and you just can't figure out how to put yourself in frame. He can't predict this guy like he can his own reflection.
It's a shock when the other Frank hugs him. Frank stiffens up before he can stop himself, before he can reprogram his body into 'touches are good' mode. He's not on his game tonight, it's been too strange.
"Wow. Wow!" the other Frank says, pulling back and running his eyes all over Frank. "Holy shit, this is incredible. It's like having a twin." He grabs at Frank's hands, pulling off his own fingerless gloves and lining up their fingers. This other Frank has "HALLOWEEN" written across his knuckles where Frank's are bare. He's got more ink running up his arms too. His hair is longer than Frank's, but only by a little and shorn off at the sides where Frank's is all one shaggy length. The other Frank runs a hand through Frank's hair, ruffling it. It's weird, because it's not like Frank doesn't get touched pretty much every night by strangers, but the way this Frank touches him, without any expectation of more, just with a casual care like a brother would, it fucks with Frank's heartbeat a little.
He's never had so many people hug him in one night without it being part of a sexual demand. He doesn't know what to do with it. He fucking likes it, and he can't afford that. Can't afford any of this.
Mikey comes up behind the other Frank and winds his arms around him, resting his chin on the other Frank's shoulder. Gerard's clinging a little to the other Frank's hand like he's afraid to let go. Frank can't bring himself to look away. It's so fucking obvious what this guy means to them, how relieved they are that he's back.
Frank should go now. He's not needed here anymore, they've got the real deal back, he should head off. It would be the sensible move, for sure.
Frank says, "You'll stay right? I have so many questions but I'm dead on my feet, at least hang around til morning so I can ask them?"
Frank opens his mouth to say no, but the others talk over him. Brian says they're all tired and they should just fucking sleep and Gerard says they need to figure it out what it all means when they're clearer-headed. Fatigue hits Frank like a freight train and even though his Sensible Pro voice is telling him to get the fuck out, his instincts are telling him this is okay.
In the end he doesn't say yes out loud, he just lets the other Frank drag him to the bunks and put him in one, pulling off his shoes and tossing them somewhere. Frank wriggles out of his belt so it doesn't stick him and curls onto his side, already feeling the exhaustion tug at his consciousness. He's tired enough that he doesn't even react when a warm body presses in behind him, an arm thrown across his chest. Frank squints down at the "HALLOWEEN" tattoos on the other Frank's knuckles, the shapes blurry and soft in the dark.
The other Frank falls asleep first, his breaths floating warm and steady down the back of Frank's t-shirt. Frank slides his fingers between the other Frank's and holds on, feeling the other Frank solid and safe behind him, surrounding him.
He stays awake as long as he can.