"For any of you out there who didn't already know - that was the Misfits with Astro Zombies. And if you didn't already know that, what the hell are you doing listening to this show? I've got some classic Ramones coming up in a bit, but first here's little three piece all the way from Sydney, Australia. This is Zombie Ghost Train with Go Go Mummy."
Frank pushes up the faders on the CD player and grimaces when there's a tell-tale crackle. It's only a few seconds, but he heard it, so the listeners did, too. He pushes down the fader on his mic and rolls his chair back across the studio, throwing his hand up to tap on the glass. He spins his chair around and points at the mixing desk, "Bob! The fucking thing is-"
Well, fuck. The tech room next to the studio is completely empty. Bob is totally not supposed to go for cigarette breaks during the show, but try telling him that. Frank frowns and stomps over to throw open the door of Studio A and leans out into the hall awkwardly.
"Bob! Motherfucker, where are you? My channel one and two is crackling again, you've got about two and a half minutes to work your magic! Bob!"
Of course it isn't Bob who comes around the corner at Frank's impassioned call. It's Brian. Because if Frank's doing something he's not supposed to be doing, Brian is going to be the one to be there to witness it. Frank should fucking know this by now.
"Frank, you're on air. You see that flashing light? You cannot open this door when you're on air!" Brian's glare could melt steel.
"I'm still in the studio!" Frank argues, pointing at his right foot that is totally still planted on the peeling linoleum inside the studio. "I'm not in the hall! And my fucking fader is crackling. You want that on air?"
Brian rolls his eyes so hard they look like they might fall back into his head. Luckily, Bob comes rushing in at that moment, nearly pushing Frank over in his haste to get inside. Frank gets a noseful of cigarette smoke which only proves he was totally right about where Bob was.
Frank lets Bob slide into the booth first, hunkering down in front of the mixing desk with a spray bottle of some kind of wonder solution in his hand. His jeans are riding nearly low enough to give him plumber's crack, which is always the sign of a good tech. Frank leans past him to check the countdown until the end of the song - they've got a minute and a half. They should be fine.
Frank turns around to close the door, since Brian's being so damn specific about how the door needs to be closed he supposes he should fall in line. Except Brian's still standing there, right in the way.
"In or out, Schechter, don't you know I'm on air?"
Brian shoots him an unimpressed look, but takes a step back. Except he catches the heavy door when it's halfway closed, telling Frank, "Look don't disappear after your broadcast, okay? I've gotta talk to you. It's important."
He doesn't explain further. Frank's about to ask for more details when Bob nearly knocks him over in his hurry to get out of the studio.
"Fixed?" Frank asks. Bob doesn't answer, just shoots him a look that says duh very loudly. "When are we gonna get a new mixing board anyway? This one's only being held together with safety pins and duct tape."
Bob shrugs, "We're not exactly rolling in dough, dude."
Frank casts a glance around the studio, taking in the peeling linoleum floor, the giant desk covered in aging gear that takes up way more room than it needs to because is actually dates back to the 80's, the tangled cables held in place with gaff tape and string. The cracks in the wall that have been spackled over only to crack again. Yeah, the place isn't exactly the most shiny radio station, but, "We've got character." Frank says cheerfully.
"Character doesn't get you a new mixing board," Bob says, his voice full of sombre wisdom. He leaves the words to hang in the soundproof room, puling the heavy door closed behind him with a familiar sucking noise.
Frank slides back into the booth, fitting his headphones back on just in time to catch the totally awesome solo near the end of the tune. He closes his eyes and listens, foot and fingers tapping until the song ends.
He fucking loves his job.
After a little Cramps and some Stooges, Frank's nearing the end of his three hour slot. He fades down Iggy (there's no crackle at all this time, Bob's a fucking wizard) and leans into his mic.
"That's about all we have time for, kiddies. Stick around though, Jurassic Jeff's up next taking you up to the witching hour with a whole lot of swampy music you forgot you knew. Or maybe you'll just wish you did. I'll be back same time next week, with more of your favourite monster music. Don't forget you can listen in on Wednesday's at 7pm when I'll be spinning all the best new punk and hardcore, and if you're really committed - or you need to be committed - then tune in for the Carnival of Horrors that is my graveyard shift on Fridays from midnight til 3am. Even I don't know what I'll be playing then, you'll just have to pay attention. Yeah, I know, I'm crazy, right? But you love me anyway. This is Frankenstein saying 'sayonara suckers' with the help of some dudes called the Velvet Underground."
Frank stretches out his goodbye a few seconds longer to make sure he misses the skip in the CD that always happens right at 0:31, then fades up the song. It's a little bit of a sombre tune to end his set on, but he's feeling it tonight. It's a longer day than usual for him and he's about ready for a beer and maybe a goddamn bubble bath. He really needs to spend less hours of his life working. What kind of a sucker chooses to have two jobs anyway?
Now he just needs to book it out of there before Brian shows up. Frank knows what "I need to talk to you" means. Last time he was calling out Frank for accidentally cursing on air. The time before that it was to give Frank an earful about the correct way to treat the gear. In short, nothing good has ever come of those words leaving Brian's mouth and Frank's got to make a quick getaway.
Frank grabs up his possessions that he's managed to scatter all over the studio, as usual. He's kicked his shoes off under the table and he's left a bunch of papers all over the mixing desk. Bob gets cranky if he leaves the place in a mess, so he wriggles his feet back into his shoes, shoves the papers into his backpack and heads for the door. When he opens it, Brian's waiting on the other side.
"Oh shit, Schechter, give me a goddamn heart attack!" Frank says, because there's nothing more unnerving than skulking station managers stalking hallways.
"I thought I said stick around after?" Brian says, raising an eyebrow at Frank's backpack because it's totally obvious Frank's on his way out the door.
"I um… forgot?" Frank lies.
"You're still a shitty liar." Brian tells him, "You're gonna have to work on that."
"Nah, it's fine. I don't think being a good liar is on my list of childhood dreams." Frank tells Brian with a charming grin.
Brian doesn't comment, just shoulders his way into the room and drops onto the couch, waiting for Frank to follow suit.
Frank dithers by the door. "Do we have to do this now?" he whines. Frank's a little tired and a lot hungry and he doesn't really feel like a lecture right now.
"It won't take long. Sit down." Brian is being misleadingly nice, and there's been no sighing or face rubbing yet which would usually precede one of his lectures. Frank's starting to get suspicious. He perches gingerly on the arm of the couch down the opposite end to Brian.
"Oh god, you're pushing my timeslot back, aren't you? The goths are taking primetime and I'm gonna be doing the late shift two nights a week and I'll never sleep again? I swear I have an audience, man, just because the phone doesn't ring off the hook every show doesn't mean they're not listening! Punks don't like to talk on the phone."
"Frank, shut up." Brian tells him, holding up his hand like a word-shield.
Frank bites his lip. He occasionally gets bouts of post-show verbal diarrhea. After three hours of filling air between songs with whatever's in his head, sometimes it's hard to switch it off.
"Okay," Brian says, when Frank's petered off into silence in the extra-quiet of the soundproof studio. "So you know how Gabe put together that godawful audition tape for the Chicago station?"
Frank nods, because of course he knows, the whole station has been giving Gabe shit for it ever since he sent it off.
"Well, I don't know how, but it fucking worked. Or maybe he just knows somebody. He's been picked up for a show on WDKD."
"Wait," Frank says, raising a hand like he can stop the flow of words with his fingers. "You're fucking with me. That piece of shit audition tape actually worked?"
"Apparently stations in Chicago have very low standards." Brian says with a shrug and a grin. The thing is, as much as they all loved to give Gabe shit for his very mainstream, very energetic audition tape, it was actually pretty good. Comparatively. If you're actually someone who's interested in mainstream radio. Which Frank is most definitely not.
"So what, he's gonna bounce between the two places, or is he gonna fuck off to Chicago and leave us high and dry?"
"Option two." Brian says, pressing his lips into an unimpressed line.
"Right," Frank says, still trying to get his head around it. Gabe does three shows at WZZZ and they're pretty damn varied. He spins 80's, 90's and other flashback-inducing tracks on his Tuesdays Retrovirus show and he also does the Hot Mess on Fridays before Frank's graveyard shift. The Hot Mess is exactly that - Frank's never been able to describe it in terms of genre, it's a really weird and wacky mix-up that somehow works.
Skeletons In The Closet on Thursday nights is by far Gabe's most popular show. It's part interview, part guest DJ as Gabe hosts a celebrity guest (or as close to celebrity as one can get in a radio station with WZZZ's audience) who selects a playlist of songs that hold meaning for them. Between songs Gabe picks their brain about why each song is special or meaningful and he has a real knack for making it interesting. It's easily the most popular show on all of WZZZ and it'll be the hardest show to keep running if they're going to lose Gabe.
"When's he leaving?" Frank asks, wondering how much time they have.
"Wait, what? That's like, not even a weeks notice, man. Is that even legal?" Gabe's a good guy, and sure it's a big opportunity, but it's a bit dickish to leave Brian in the lurch like this. "You gonna let him?"
"I kinda have to." Brian shrugs, "I'm not gonna be the guy to say, no, you have to stay, when he's only got a tiny window to take this. Anyway, it's not like he'll be giving it his all with a new job on the horizon. May as well let him do it."
Suddenly the impromptu meeting makes more sense and it has nothing to do with Frank being in trouble. In fact, Brian is the one who's in trouble.
"So, what, you need me to cover one of Gabe's shows?" Frank shrugs, "I can probably fill in on Retro til you find someone, but I don't think-"
"Nah," Brian interrupts with a flap of his hand, "I'm getting Richmond to fill in on Retro. With all that new romantic shit he keeps putting in on Oh My Goth he's more than qualified to spin the 80's. If he does okay I might let him take it permanently."
Frank nods, it makes sense, Richmond pretty much lives like it's still 1985 from day to day. So if it's not Retro then, Brian must mean… "Oh, so what, you want me to cover Hot Mess?" Frank pulls a face, "I don't know, I mean that's right before the Carnival of Horrors, I don't know if I could do them both back to back like that-"
"No, Frankie, I don't mean Hot Mess either, Jesus, do you really think I'd do that to you?"
"So what? I don't get what you want from me. The only other show is Skeletons." Frank says, dismissively, because there is no way Brian wants him to host their flagship show. That's ludicrous.
"Yes." Brian says, with that oh my god how can you be so stupid expression on his face.
"Yes, what?" Frank asks, still totally not getting it.
"Yes, Frank, I want you to take over Skeletons In The Closet. I want you to host it."
Frank doesn't actually process that straight away. He blinks at Brian and plays back the sentence in his head. Wait, what? Brian actually seems serious about this. Brian is insane.
"Are you insane?"
"I think you'd be a good fit for the show."
"No way, man! That is an interview show. I don't do interviews. I just spin tracks and talk shit."
"You talk to callers all the time on Carnival of Horrors, and you're really good at it." Brian says, turning that no-shit stare on Frank.
Frank throws up his hands, because Brian is just not getting it. "That doesn't count! They're all stoners or students trying to avoid writing their term papers. I can't interview actual guests. No way, man, try again."
"I don't need to try again, I know I'm right about this. You'd be good for the show, you've already got a following among the listeners, and you're here pretty much every Thursday anyway, even though it's not a show day for you."
Frank shrugs, Brian makes him sound like a such a loser when he puts it that way. Frank totally has friends and places to be, it's just, "Bob brings beers on Thursdays," he explains, even though it sounds weak to his own ears.
"C'mon Frank, I need you on this one. Don't desert me like Gabe, I'm fucking begging here."
"No. No way, not doing it." Frank is steadfast. Frank is a rock. "Why don't you ask Jeff? He'd go nuts for it."
Brian levels a look at Frank that would wilt grass, "No way would I expose our guests to Jeff. You know he'd hit on all the chicks in that creepy way he does."
Okay, so Brian has a point.
"Well, you should give Richmond a try. I'm sure he'd be up for it." Frank is maybe just throwing random names out now. So what?
Brian is unimpressed and he lets it show. "Setting aside that Richmond would probably frighten off half the guests, can we try to remember that this is an interview show? Which means that his inability to hold a conversation with a living human being might get in the way?"
Frank takes a breath to offer up another name, but Brian talks over him, "And before you say Alex, I'd like to remind you that he's a spitter - which Is why you don't do shows right after him anymore - and James is stoned all the time and Nate? He actually fell asleep on air last week and snored over the Smashing Pumpkins' Tonight, Tonight, which was a pretty damn special display of professional inadequacy in my book, to be honest."
"You know this little pep talk is really boosting my confidence here." Frank says, because there's telling a guy you want him to do your show and then there's telling him you basically have no other reasonable choice.
"What do you want me to say? Help me, Frank-Kenobi, you're my only hope? Jesus Frank, half the guys at the station would leap at this opportunity."
"I'm not half the guys at this station." Frank points out.
"Which is one more reason why I think you're the right person. You actually love this station Frank, and you love to play music. You're not here build up a following or try to get noticed by some flashy commercial station. And I think that's why you'd be good for this."
It's funny, Brian isn't even saying the words like it's a sell, just honest fact, and it has so much more resonance because of it. Brian pushes up off the couch, dropping a light hand on Frank's shoulder and giving a brief squeeze, "Just think about, okay Frankenstein? Let me know tomorrow, if you can."
"What'll you do if I don't do it?" Frank asks, genuinely curious.
Brian shrugs, "I'll figure something out." He says it like it's no big deal, but then, that's Brian all over. That's pretty much the story of WZZZ. Brian's been figuring it out for years, keeping a station running on a shoestring budget and somehow convincing sponsors that it's not about ratings, it's about loyalty. With Bob keeping equipment alive that should have been retired years ago and Brian's canny management skills, WZZZ stays on the air. The team who work there a mixed up mess of subcultures and backgrounds but they're dedicated as hell and what they lack in technical know-how they make up for in sheer enthusiasm and a love of music.
Frank certainly wouldn't still be here otherwise.
It feels like Brian really needs him on this one, enough that when Frank says, "I'll think about it," he actually means it.
When Frank's alarm goes off at ass-o-clock in the morning, he hits snooze and rolls over to face-plant the pillow.
What kind of an idiot takes on a night job at a goddamn radio station - and one that doesn't even pay, at that - when they have a day job that starts at 7:30am every day?
"This kind of idiot," Frank mumbles to himself, rubbing a hand over his face before dragging his ass out of bed. Peppers is jumping around his feet before he even makes it out of his bedroom and he coos at her in a distracted way, making sure she doesn't squeeze into the bathroom behind him. She's adorable, sure, but it's just weird to have her bouncing around his ankles when he's peeing.
He feels vaguely more human after he's showered and nearly ready to face the day once he's had a few sips of coffee, armed with a thermos and a brown paper bag of apricot and sunflower muffins. He feeds Peppers, gives her some pets and cuddles then he's got to get going.
He turns the key in his cherry-red Mustang, listening to the engine purr happily to life, the leather of the bench seat cool under his fingers as he waits for her to warm up. He gets a few more sips of coffee and wolfs down half a muffin before she's ready to face the road. He winds down the window in lieu of air conditioning, appreciating the roar of her engine as he shifts her into gear.
It's not a short drive, but it's a nice one and Frank prefers to get to work under his own steam than be at the mercy of trains and buses. Plus, it's a good drive in an excellent car, even if he does say so himself. He'd know, after all - Frank knows cars.
He pulls into the lot at Ray's Auto and counts the number of cars already parked in the receiving area. It's going to be a busy day. He locks up the Mustang and heads inside, saying a cheerful good morning to Ray's ass that's hanging out the front of a bumblebee-yellow Triumph.
"Morning, Frankenstein! You've got a special guest in bay one." Ray sounds altogether too cheerful for this time of morning but what else is new? Frank dumps his jacket in his locker and strolls over to bay one, where it's love at first sight all over again.
"Oh, Izzy, you are such a tease," he coos at the camo-green Trans Am with yellow racing stripes. He takes in her gorgeous lines before walking over to lean in the driver side window and stroke his fingers over the leather of her steering wheel. "One day you'll figure it out. Run away with me, you fox, Dewees doesn't appreciate you. I'd take such good care of you, you sweet, precious thing." Frank croons, trailing a finger down her dashboard.
"Stop hitting on my car, Frank." a droll voice sounds behind him and Frank turns to see the owner of his dream car glaring at him. Dewees has been bringing Izzy here for years for regular tune-ups and Frank takes very good care of her.
Frank shoots Dewees a shit-eating grin, "She started it."
"Stop victim-blaming and tune her up."
"I thought that's what I was doing." That gets a laugh out of Dewees, so Frank calls it a win. "Regular tune-up then?"
James tosses his keys at Frank, who manages to snatch them out of the air through sheer luck. "I want her back by the end of the day."
"Oh Dewees, why won't you let me spend the night with her?"
"'Cause you'd give her back all sticky."
Frank giggles and clutches his chest like he's been shot, "You wound me."
"Nothing you don't deserve. Now, I think she's idling a little low and I'm getting a rattle in the back when I corner."
The conversation switches gears and then it's all business. Frank gets the lowdown on Izzy and assures Dewees, however reluctantly, that he'll have her back before close of business. Then he straps on his tool belt and gets down to business changing her oil.
It's a busy day, but not a stressful one and by the time they break for lunch, Frank's hands are black with grease. He washes the worst of it off, annoyed when he can't get black out from the line of his fingernails. He complains to Ray as they settle in on the set of outdoor furniture tucked up in the corner of the parking lot with their sandwiches.
"Why don't you just paint them black? You are the resident punk, after all."
Frank frowns at his hands thoughtfully, "That might actually work."
They dig in, eating in a comfortable silence but for the sound of passing traffic and the radio blaring. It's tuned to WZZZ of course, Frank made it a rule years back and no one at the garage has bothered to challenge him on it. The music appeals to most of their regular clientele, anyway - the car enthusiast population definitely crosses over with plenty of rockabilly types - a style of music that gets a lot of spin on WZZZ.
Ray didn't actually set out to run a specialist auto shop. He just happened to be really fucking good at what he does and word got around. People who care about their cars tend to come to Ray's Auto to keep their street machines, show cars and hot rods in good working order. Ray knows his shit and he's a good guy to work for, he's very supportive of Frank's second job at the station - and not just for the free shout-outs he gets.
Between songs, a promo for Gabe's last-ever Hot Mess show airs and Frank nearly spits his sandwich. Guess it's not a secret anymore.
Ray's eyes widen and he rushes to swallow what's in his mouth, "Dude, Gabe's leaving? When did that happen?"
Frank lowers his sandwich, "I only found out yesterday."
"Wow, that's late notice. Brian's really letting him go like that?"
Frank shrugs, "Doesn't have much of a choice. He got a gig at WDKD."
Ray's looks thoughtful, "Isn't that that big Chicago station?"
Frank wills Ray to drop the subject so he can go back to ignoring the decision he promised Brian he'd make today. Unfortunately, Ray is far too canny, "So wait, who's gonna do Skeletons In The Closet now?"
"Oh god," Frank moans, dropping his head onto the table next to his sandwich. Life just isn't fair.
"What?" Ray asks, giving Frank a gentle shake.
"Brian offered it to me."
"What, Skeletons?" Ray's voice pitches a little higher with intense interest.
Ray's fingers tighten on Frank's shoulder, pulling him upright. Frank gets an eyeful of Ray's giant, proud smile, "Dude, that's so great! Congratulations! That's like, the most popular show at the station!"
Frank closes his eyes before he goes blind from all the sunshine Ray's spouting, "I didn't say yes."
"Why not?" Ray sounds confused, the are you nuts goes unspoken.
"Well, I didn't say no yet either."
"Why would you say no? It's like, the best show on the-"
"No, no, no, no, no, no. Ray. Dude, you are not getting it. It is an interview show. I would have to, like-" Frank does something with his hands that might be the word 'interview' in sign language (if you were blind or didn't know sign language,) "-interview people."
"So?" Ray asks, and Frank is certain that Ray's being dense on purpose.
"So? This isn't my thing, man. I can't do it."
Ray considers that for a moment and counters with, "But Brian thinks you can?"
"I guess," Frank shrugs, picking some lettuce out of his sandwich and eating it.
"I don't know, Frank, why don't you just give it a try? What's the worst that could happen?"
Frank sighs, a big lung-stretching sigh. "Oh, nothing big. Just public humiliation and failure and the end of my career in radio. Nothing major."
"Not that you're over exaggerating or anything." Ray rolls his eyes at Frank.
Whatever, it's Frank's crisis. He can be dramatic if he wants to.
Frank's dramatic existential crisis lasts until roughly the end of his work day, at which point he is beset by a strange calm about the whole situation.
He calls Brian when he gets home from work.
"Okay, I'll do it, but you're not allowed to get shitty with me when I fuck it all up."
"Sure, Frank, I'll remember that." Frank can hear the grin in Brian's voice, the asshole.
"Who am I interviewing anyway?" Frank asks, suddenly wishing he'd thought to ask before he said yes. With his luck it'll be someone he can't stand and he won't be able to lie his way through it.
"You ever heard of the Way Brothers? They make horror films."
"The Way Brothers? You mean, Gerard and Mikey Way?" Frank asks, feeling suddenly lightheaded and kind of tingly in his arms like his fight-or-flight response is kicking in.
"You know them? They made that film, You Sent Me Your Bullets I Sent You... Something."
"I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love," Frank corrects, because he maybe saw that film three times at the cinema and got it on DVD the day it came out.
"Right, of course you'd know them, you're like a horror film bible. They're from Jersey, right?" Brian doesn't even sound that interested in the conversation anymore and Frank is maybe freaking out a little.
"Yes, they're from Jersey. They shot that whole film in a month for like, no money and it's the best new horror film to be released in at least a decade." Frank tries to keep his voice level and probably fails.
"Wow, this is great Frank, you don't even have to do research for this, you already know so much about them." Brian sounds mildly amused and Frank wants to reach through the phone and smack him upside the head.
"Brian-" he interrupts, a take-back already on the tip of his tongue because fuck, he can't do this. It's one thing to face an unfamiliar situation you're probably going to be shit at, but it's totally another thing to fail completely in front of a couple of dudes you have a medium level of hero worship for.
Brian, the asshole, doesn't let him get a word in edgewise, "Oh look, Bob's here! Looks like an emergency - gotta go!"
The line goes dead before Frank can get another word out and Frank glares at the phone in his hand. Brian totally did that on purpose.
Frank hits the button to play the intro music for the show. It's weird to be the one playing it rather than just listening to it. When it ends he takes a breath, leans into the microphone and says, "Hey folks, Frankenstein here and no, you don't have the time wrong. Yes, this is Skeletons In The Closet and no, I'm not Gabe Saporta. Our tall friend has skipped off to Chicago and left me with some pretty big shoes to fill - and you know what they say about big shoes. Big feet. So please bear with me for the next couple of hours as I try to figure out how this whole talking to people thing works."
Frank finally nerves himself to look up from the mixing desk display to where the two guys dressed in black sit across from him. He takes a breath and just keeps talking.
"We've got a real treat tonight for all you horror fans out there - the Way Brothers, Gerard and Mikey, are joining us in the studio. Now for those of you who don't know who I'm talking about, let me ask you - when was the last time you saw a movie that actually made you jump, or itch 'til you want to peel off your own skin? If it's been longer than a year then you really need to watch I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love - a really creepy, true mind-warp of a horror film that's being compared to the likes of Dario Argento and John Carpenter. And it was made by the two dudes sitting right in front of me now, for probably about the same cost as Tom Cruise's food budget on Rock of Ages."
"So guys, or do you prefer the Way Brothers? Or the Brothers Way? Or just like, Gerard and Mikey?" Fuck, he's not even a few minutes in and he already knows he's talking too much. Luckily the brothers seem to like his half-assed joke. Gerard - the one with shaggy dark mane - giggles, throaty and high pitched, and Mikey - the one with the distracting cheekbones and blond hair, smiles in a way that lights up his whole face.
Gerard answers, "Gerard and Mikey is fine. Though if we do have to be addressed collectively I think the Way Brothers sounds nicer than the Brothers Way. That makes us sound like a couple of priests."
"Or a folk duo," Mikey adds with a small smile.
"Yeah, but also, the Way Brothers sound like the Cohen Brothers, or the Hughes Brothers," Gerard adds quickly.
"So, this is like a standard format for co-director brothers, then? Or just the good ones?" Frank interjects, the words coming way too easily.
"Just the good ones," Mikey states firmly, with a nod.
Frank finds himself grinning, already charmed by both of them. "So, you guys are from Jersey, do you ever listen to WZZZ? Are you familiar with the show? Do you know how this works?"
"We get to pick five songs and you play them and we tell you why we picked them," Mikey says, and Frank is once again surprised by how deep his voice is.
"Well put, Mikey. So do you guys have your list ready?" Frank asks, even though he's already seen the list to cue up the songs - this part is more for the listeners.
Gerard laughs and leans into the mic. "We've been arguing over it all last night. I can't believe we got it down to five."
"And you're not allowed to just choose songs that you think will make you look cool - you have to have a connection with them, or a story for why you picked them," Frank adds, even though they've been over this, too.
Mikey laughs, "I don't think anyone's gonna think we're cool based on this list."
"I'll be the judge of that, let's see, what's the first track?" Frank glances at his own copy of the list even though he already knows what it says.
"Run To The Hills, by Iron Maiden," Gerard says, and then immediately launches into a spiel about how underrated Iron Maiden is, complete with wild gesticulating hand motions. Mikey just looks on, smiling fondly at his brother and nodding occasionally.
Frank lets Gerard finish his sentence before jumping in - jeez the guy can talk - "That's quite the sell, Gerard. Shall we see if the song lives up to it?"
"Oh, yeah," Gerard grins and rolls his eyes, like he realises he's been rambling. Frank cues the track and fades it up, pulling down the mic feeds.
"You're safe to speak off-air, if you need to, like, cough or anything." Frank tells them, and is met with relieved smiles.
"I'm talking too much, aren't I?" Gerard asks, looking pained. It's so close to what Frank was worrying about earlier he has to stifle a laugh.
"Don't worry about it, I get the same thing when anyone puts a mic in front of me. Mikey, feel free to jump in whenever you like." Frank sends Mikey a smile, telling himself this is just part of the gig, this is his work persona. He's just making sure Mikey is at ease and it has nothing to do with how cute he is.
Mikey laughs and Frank is struck by how gorgeous he looks when he smiles. He swiftly tells that part of his brain to shut up because he needs to keep his concentration for the show.
"I'm not gonna try and interrupt Gerard when he's talking about Maiden. I like my face the way it is."
"It's a very nice face." The words are out of Frank's mouth before he's even finished thinking them, and fuck if Brian were here he'd be getting so much shit for this. As it is, he doesn't dare a glance through the glass to the tech room where Bob is no doubt making a face at him. Bob is such an asshole.
Luckily, the song is getting close to the end so Frank has a reason to get back on topic. He lets the guys know he's bringing the mics back up and they listen to the end of the song together.
"So Bullets was a bit of an underground hit for you guys. Has it opened some doors for you? Got any new projects on the horizon?"
"Oh, we've always got tonnes of potential projects whirling around," Gerard says, "There's one script in particular we're trying to get up, and we've got some interest from places, but Hollywood hasn't exactly come knocking as yet."
"Is that the plan? Do you want Hollywood to come knocking?" Frank asks, actually interested.
Gerard looks at Mikey and they exchange small smiles, "I don't know if Hollywood is really ready for us." Mikey says with a droll kind of humour. It pretty much says it all.
"Well, if Hollywood's not interested I'm pretty sure I will be," Frank says and then immediately wants to take it back. He really needs to work on not just saying everything he's thinking out loud. He switches tacks quickly, hoping Gerard and Mikey don't notice and ignores Bob through the window behind them, making kissy faces at him. "So, the next song you've chosen is pretty old school as well. Why the Misfits?"
Gerard and Mikey both fight to talk over each other to tell Frank exactly why, and their enthusiasm is endearing. Frank might even go so far as to say they love the Misfits more than he does, and that's saying something.
After the Misfits is Blur, followed by Morrissey. Frank has to admit he's impressed - these guys have good taste. Every song has a charming story to accompany it - The Misfits as a right of passage, Blur for nostalgia, Morrissey for breakups.
Gerard definitely does most of the talking - the guy could fucking talk underwater when he gets going - but when Mikey speaks it's always quietly confident and he has a knack for summing everything up in a few words. Frank finds he agrees with the bulk of Mikey's opinions about music, which is a rare thing. In fact, after spending the last few days dreading the broadcast, Frank finds himself checking the time remaining on the show clock and willing the numbers to tick down slower.
When the mic feeds are down again and Morrissey is crooning about a double decker bus, Mikey notices the little stack of business cards Frank keeps on the mixing desk for Ray's Auto and picks one up. "Where's this? Are these guys sponsors or something?"
Frank laughs, "Sort of. It's my day job. They keep me gainfully employed fixing cars so I can keep up the pretense of being a radio DJ. This job doesn't really pay well. Or even, like, at all."
"Wait, you do this for free?" Mikey asks, shocked.
"Most of us do. There's no way the station could run if it had to pay all the announcers, and most people are just doing it for the love."
"Wow." Mikey leans back, looking at Frank like he's trying to figure him out. It makes Frank shift in his seat to be the centre of Mikey's focus. "Don't you do, like, three shows?"
"Four now, since I'm filling in for Gabe on this one." Frank keeps the words as neutral as possible, glancing down at the mixing desk display, unable to bear Mikey's reaction. God, he must think Frank's such a loser, hanging around the station all the time and not even getting paid for it.
"That's really cool," Mikey says, and Frank looks up, startled, meeting Mikey's level gaze, "You must really love it." Mikey states it like it's fact, and his voice is warm with approval.
Frank can feel blood rushing to his cheeks, but he shrugs like it's no big thing. "Or maybe I'm just a sucker."
"I doubt that," Mikey says, just before the end of the song, so Frank doesn't have time to reply. He doesn't know how to reply anyway, because something about Mikey pushes his buttons backwards and he feels excited and jittery and uncomfortable all at the same time.
He lets the last few bars of the song play out before he slides the mic feeds back up again. "Ah, Morrissey. Probably not someone I'd like to meet in real life, but he makes good music."
The comment earns him a chuckle from Gerard and another smile from Mikey. Frank has to remind himself to ask a question before he leaves dead air for too long. "So, one more song, guys - why this one?"
Gerard leans in, "Mikey has to talk about the one. This is Mikey's choice."
"Gee-" Mikey whines, but Gee keeps talking.
"It's the Smashing Pumpkins. My brother is a Pumpkinhead." Gerard seems oblivious to Mikey's glare and Frank can't help being amused
"Is that right, Mikey? Big Smashing Pumpkins fan?"
"Voices like that don't come along very often. Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness was my jam for a really big part of high school."
"That's not a very upbeat jam."
"I wasn't a very upbeat kid." Mikey confesses, "Gerard and me, we didn't really have it easy in high school. It's funny, when one part of your life isn't working, maybe it's not the right solution, but you just need a place to escape to in your own mind and this was one of my places."
"So which song have you chosen from that album?" Frank asks, knowing it's his job to ask but it still feels invasive. Mikey's really throwing himself open with this one.
"Zero. I know, so emo, right? But it really spoke to me and clicked with a lot shit I had going on in my head at the time, so I keep coming back to it."
"That's a good enough reason for me, let's hear it."
Frank cues the song and slides up the faders. He kills the mic feed again but this time none of them speak, they just listen to the song play through their headphones. Even though Frank's heard this song before, he can't help feeling like this might be the first time he's really listened.
About halfway through, he dares a quick glance at Mikey. His eyes are closed, and the set of his mouth seems tense. Frank gets stuck looking at him for a moment, wondering exactly what he's thinking, what happened to him all those years ago that he sought solace in this song. Frank didn't exactly have a stellar time at high school himself - he's seen the inside of a lot of lockers. He wonders if Mikey can relate.
When the song starts to wind down, Mikey shifts, blinking his eyes open and it's only then that Frank realises he's been staring like a creeper. He glances at Gerard and then at Bob to see if either of them noticed. He can't tell if Gerard did, but the way Bob is smirking at Frank through the glass, he totally did and Frank is absolutely going to hear all about it later.
Bob better have brought beer tonight, Frank's gonna need it to deal with this shit. He slides the faders back up and back announces the song and show, starting the wrap-up.
"Thanks so much for coming along and hanging out with us, guys. When are we going to see another film from you?"
Gerard leaps in, talking excitedly about… Frank's not sure what. Two hours ago Frank would have been hanging on every word, but now all he can do is nod and make appropriate noises while he watches Mikey in his peripheral vision. Mikey hasn't exactly been talking his ear off during the show, but his silence feels louder right now.
When Gerard stops for air, Frank rattles off the thank you's and promos the next show - two hours of rockabilly with their resident greaser, Jack - and plays to a commercial. He glances up, waiting for the ON AIR light to go dim before letting out a long breath. He feels suddenly exhausted.
He shakes himself out of it, reminding himself he's not alone. He slips off his headphones and stands up to shake hands with the Gerard and Mikey. "Thanks for coming along, guys, that was way less terrifying than I thought it was gonna be."
Gerard laughs, "Maybe for you! God, I need some kind of muzzle, I couldn't shut the fuck up."
"What else is new?" Mikey asks with droll sarcasm before turning to Frank. "Are we really that terrifying?"
"No, not you guys," Frank assures him, "This is just a new experience for me, and Gabe's pretty popular around these parts, it's kind of a big thing for me to take over his show."
"Well, I thought you did great - don't you think, Mikes?" Gerard asks, looking to Mikey who says, "Yeah," in a startled way before shooting a raised eyebrow at Gerard that Frank can't read. It's on the tip of his tongue to ask the two of them to stay for the post-show beers, but suddenly Brian's in the room, shaking hands and talking a mile a minute. Bob buzzes through on the internal phone to ask Frank something technical and by the time Frank hangs up, the Ways are gone.
Ah well, it's probably better this way, there's no telling how obvious Frank's crush could get with the addition of a little alcohol.
"I think that went pretty well," Brian says, which Frank immediately translates to I was right. The thing is, Frank can't bring himself to disagree.
"Actually, that sucked a whole lot less than I thought it would." Frank says, swirling the beer around the bottom of his bottle. The usual WZZZ crew are gathered down at the back entryway to the station, people spilling down the stairs from the kitchenette into the loading dock, cheap beers in hand.
It's a ritual of sorts on Thursdays, though it feels a little weird to be doing it without Gabe.
"So, do I get to say 'I told you so' now?" Brian asks, leaning on the railing next to Frank, nursing his own beer.
"Sure, why not?" Frank says, with a grin, feeling a little light-headed with relief that it all went okay.
"I told you so." Brian says, drawing out the words like they're a fine wine he has to savour. Frank smushes a chuckle into the back of his hand and takes another swig of his beer. He casts his eyes around the motley collection of crew. Bob's in a deep discussion with Dewees about something that seems to involved a lot of hand motions, which means it's either technical or highly annoying. Richmond and Jurassic Jeff are in an intense argument that Frank would guess is either Bauhaus versus Cradle of Filth or Siouxsie Sioux solo versus Siouxsie and the Banshees. (Frank once got stuck between Richmond and Jeff and the door out when they got in one of these discussions, he wound up having to fake that he was gonna puke to get past it.)
Other than that, people seem to be getting along. All the usual crew have made it - Brandon who does the death metal show, Penny who spins for Saturjazz, Jarrod who fills in teching when Bob's not around. It's a weird mix of people, but somehow it works. Probably has something to do with them all being nuts about music.
They occasionally get career hunters at the station. They're usually pretty easy to pick. They come, they do the announcer's course, they tick all the boxes to get on air and they start trying to get noticed by the other stations. It's not that Frank is against them - he understands there aren't that many ins if you want to be on air in radio - it's just that folks like them come and go, and while it's one thing to keep the place fresh, Frank has got a loyal streak in him a mile wide. It's hard to deal with people who don't.
"It's weird not having Gabe here," Frank admits, taking another mouthful of cheap beer.
Brian shrugs, "Sometimes people have to do what works for them."
"If the words 'when you love something, set it free' leave your lips I want you to know you'll never, ever live it down."
Brian laughs, "I'll keep that in mind." For a moment they're both silent, letting the cacophony of the gathered crew roll over them.
"Anyway, it all worked out in the end," Brian says, pushing up off the rail to toss his empty into the recycling bin. "You were good Frankie, thanks for doing it."
"What would you have done if I hadn't?"
Brian shrugs, "I knew you'd come through."
"How'd you know?"
Brian looks sideways at Frank, like he's considering if he wants to say the next part, then he shrugs. "You're as much of a sucker for this place as Bob and I are."
Brian doesn't wait for Frank to respond, just goes off for another beer.
Frank leans back on the railing, surveying the group. A couple of the guys from the blues and roots show walk past and when their dreadlocked heads clear Frank's field of vision he finds himself looking at Mikey. Mikey Way, who is still here at the station, one hand leaning on the horrid vomit-green countertop of the dated and very 70's kitchen.
Frank sucks in a startled breath, his heartbeat tripling. Mikey finishes talking to the girl with all the piercings whose name Frank can't remember and starts to cross the room. He's heading right for Frank and this is either the best or the worst thing to ever happen to him. He tries to take a breath to calm himself, but he breathes too deep and just winds up feeling dizzy. He grabs at the railing behind him for support, trying to come up with something casual and witty to say - with zero success. He's got nothing.
Luckily, Mikey leads. "Good show," he says with a small smile and raises his beer to clink with Frank's.
"Thanks," Frank wills his skin to stay the right colour. "Glad it didn't suck."
"No, it was really fun actually! I'm usually shit at all this press stuff - Gerard's great at it. He lives to tell the same story to a bunch of different journalists over and over. He knows how to keep it fresh. Most of the time when people want me to talk up the movie I wind up just saying 'watch it'. Which is not exactly a great sell. They should watch it though, then they'd agree with me."
"I wish I had your confidence," Frank says, "I hate promoing my own stuff. Hate it."
"I don't know if it's confidence or just a really fucking low care factor." Mikey counters, "Beside I've got Gerard to do all that stuff."
"He's the mouthpiece, you're the brains?" Frank jibes, and immediately wants to kill himself because insulting a guy's brother is a terrible flirting strategy.
"So, you're the looks then," Frank says with a grin, and that totally earns him a chuckle.
Mikey takes a swig of his beer before gently changing the subject. "So that was really your first time doing that show?"
"Yeah. Not my first time doing any show, just this kind of show. You and Gerard are the first people I've had to interview on air."
"Oh, so we popped your interview cherry. Lucky us."
Frank nearly spits the mouthful of beer he has in his mouth. He manages to turn the laugh into a cough, but it's not terribly convincing. "Did you wait 'til I had beer in my mouth on purpose?"
"Of course I did," Mikey answers blithely. Frank grins and wipes off his mouth. He glances up to find they've been joined by Gerard, who grins at Frank.
"Frank was just saying we're the first people he's interviewed on air."
"Really?" Gerard brightens, "Dude, you couldn't tell at all. And the show was so fun! Even if it is cruel and unusual to make us pick only five songs. That's fucking impossible, man."
"Hey I don't make the rules. Blame Gabe." Frank says, throwing up a hand.
"Of course!" Gerard exclaims, like he's just remembered something important. "How is Gabe? When did he leave for Chicago? When does his new show start up?" Gerard races out a slew of questions, but Frank's still stuck on the first one.
"Wait - you know Gabe?"
"Does anyone not know Gabe?" Mikey smirks.
"It was his Gabe's idea to get us to come on the show! We've known him for years." Gerard glances over his shoulder theatrically before leaning in to tell Frank, "Gabe and Mikey used to date," in a conspiratorial way.
"God Gee, dating makes it sound so official."
"What am I supposed to say then? Hooked up? Courted? Oooh, 'courted' sounds nice, I'm just gonna say courted from now on." Gerard clears his throat and swishes his beer around like it's a glass of fine wine rather than a bottle of Bud. "Yes, darling, so Michael and Gabriel courted, sporadically."
Mikey gives Gerard a not-too-gentle shove, "Don't listen to him, he just likes drama."
"Not my fault your love life is so dramatic," Gerard mutters, and Frank's pretty sure he's not supposed to hear it. Mikey sends a fiery glare Gerard's way until Gerard raises both hands and backs away, "Fine, fine, I'm going."
He's out of earshot when Mikey tells Frank, "Brothers," with a put-out sniff. "You got any?" he asks, sounding genuinely curious.
"Only child," Frank admits, taking another swig of his beer because he's not sure what else to add to that.
"You lucky fucker," Mikey shakes his head and sends Frank a small smile.
"I don't know, I always wondered what it would be like to have a brother, someone to look out for you." Frank's not sure exactly why he's admitting this to someone who is mostly a stranger, but there's something about Mikey that puts him at ease. "I was a pretty lonely kid." Frank turns to face Mikey more, remembering what he and Gerard were like during the interview, their shared memories, the way they could finish each other's sentences. Some part of him always longed for that.
"That sucks," Mikey says, understanding. "I guess it's easy to want what you don't have, everything always looks better when it's different to what you've got."
Frank nods, searching for a change of topic - things got really serious all of a sudden. He doesn't have to think too hard. "Okay, so can I ask you a question about Bullets?"
Mikey lets out a startled laugh. "You mean, you didn't hear enough on the show?"
"No way, man. I hate to have to tell you this, but I'm a horrifying fanboy of that film, and if you let me I'm gonna ask you so many questions."
"How about we start with one and I'll see how I'm feeling."
"Okay," Frank agrees easily, he already knows what he wants to ask. "So, given your budget was pretty much nonexistent, how the hell did you pull off the car crash stunt?"
Mikey bursts out laughing. Frank waits for him to stop. It takes a really long time. "Okay, okay," Mikey says, taking a couple of deep breaths, "So here's the thing we-" Mikey blinks a couple of times and somehow manages to set himself off again, hooting and giggling like it's the funniest thing in the world and Frank waits as long as he can - far beyond what is polite - until he finally can't help but ask, "What?"
"Oh man, Frank. If you knew…"
"Okay, okay." Mikey takes a breath and manages to stay calm this time. "It really wasn't much of a stunt. We were in our last days of shooting, we'd spent everything and we'd started to put shit on credit cards - things were in really bad shape. We couldn't afford to pay a stunt person - we couldn't afford to pay anyone, right? But we needed this stunt. So, we tried a few things, but in the end we-" Mikey snickers again, shaking his head.
"What?" Frank says, so fucking curious now.
Mikey nods, still snickering, "We… we just kind of… wedged the accelerator down with a brick and um, pointed the car in the right direction."
"You're shitting me."
"And it worked?"
"Um, well, not exactly the way we expected it to work. It was just supposed to crash. It wasn't supposed to crash… and explode."
"Um. Yeah. I mean, we were down to a handful of crew by that stage and everyone was fine, we were all at a safe distance, but fuck, it could have gone so badly. None of our gear was insured and we had a guy up in a tree with a camera who could have been in real trouble. Damn, we were so lucky."
"Wow." Frank boggles at Mikey for a moment, trying to imagine being in a situation like that. "It's good you can laugh about it."
"Believe me it took a long time to get to this stage. Gerard flipped right out and I wasn't much better, either. Fuck, you mind keeping this off the record? I'm pretty sure I'm not supposed to talk about it."
"I love the way you're mistaking me for an actual media professional. Dude, I play songs about zombies and change people's oil. I'm hardly the LA Times."
Mikey narrows his eyes and looks sideways at Frank, "Okay, I guess I can trust you then."
Frank giggles, "Trust me enough to tell me about your next movie?"
"You actually want to know?" Mikey sounds surprised.
"Duh, yes!" Frank should probably be embarrassed by how eager he sounds, but the beer has loosened him up enough that he doesn't care right now. Mikey glances around the room with theatrical care, like he's checking for spies before leaning in and whispering, "Demolition Lovers," in a way that sends a shiver down Frank's spine. He's not sure if his reaction is to the words or just having Mikey so close.
"Can you explain that?" Frank asks, hopefully, his eyes lingering on Mikey's neck as he straightens up, "because so far it sounds awesome."
"We're thinking, vigilante lovers, sorta like Natural Born Killers but edgier."
"Natural Born Killers was pretty edgy,"
"Well, less arty then. Gerard has this vision of a bride and groom, spattered with blood."
Frank can almost see in his head, "I like it."
Frank asks Mikey a bunch more questions, hanging on every word as Mikey answers. It's different to talking to him on the show, Mikey's more free with his words off air. He also keeps smiling and Frank's crush is quickly getting out of control. He's not sure how late it is until looks up and suddenly the room is nearly empty. He glances at his watch: it's after midnight.
"Shit, is it that late already?" he asks, and Mikey leans closer to eye Frank's watch.
"Fuck, sorry, I didn't even notice." Mikey says, "I keep pretty weird hours, so this is still early for me. What time do you have to start work tomorrow?"
Frank groans and tells him, "7:30am"
Mikey hisses out a sympathetic noise, "Dude, that's harsh. Sorry, I didn't mean to keep you so late."
Frank shakes his head, "Don't worry about it man, it was so worth it."
Like he was waiting for a cue, Gerard leans in the doorway, calling for Mikey and they say their goodbyes. Frank shakes Mikey's hand and memorises his smile. He's gonna be tired tomorrow, but he wasn't kidding - it'll be so worth it.
Frank's tired and gritty, but on time, when he rolls in to work the next day.
"Nice work on the show, Frank! Told you you'd do fine." Ray's voice is muffled by the engine bay, no doubt concentrating so hard on what he's doing he wouldn't dare straighten up. Frank's pretty sure he sees more of Ray's ass than his face on any given day at work.
Ray reaches up from the depths of the car engine he's currently digging around in, stretching out his greasy hand for a high five.
Frank gives slaps his palm to Ray's. "Thanks Toro, it didn't suck that much at all."
Ray says something that sounds suspiciously like "I told you so," into the engine bay as Frank walks away.
He dumps his gear in his locker and checks the run sheet for the day. It's not overly busy, but he heads for bay three, grabbing his tools before preparing to pull this Chrysler's spark plugs into line.
It's getting close to lunchtime by the time Frank finishes the Chrysler. It was tricky - the older ones tend to be - and now he's sweaty and covered in grease. He's wiping off his hands when Ray walks up, his hair stuck out in disarray from the heat and streak of grease on one cheek. He's got the day's runsheet in one hand, checking it, "Hey Frankie, you got time for a drive-up? This guy's not booked but it doesn't look like it'll take long."
Frank shrugs, "Sure."
"Okay," Ray says, looking relieved, "It's Way, in bay two."
Frank does a double take at the name 'Way', but when he turns to ask Ray's already disappeared back into the workshop. It's probably just a coincidence, or Frank hearing the name wrong, he tells himself.
Except, when he walks in to bay two, there's Mikey Way, all sharp lines and angles in skinny jeans, his blonde hair hidden under a grey knit cap. Well, shit.
"Hello again," he says, grabbing a rag from his back pocket to try and wipe the grease off his hands at least. He's probably got streaks on his face too, damn.
"Hey," Mikey says with a grin. "Fancy meeting you here." He sticks out a hand to shake, not seeming to care that Frank's are mostly still filthy. "I stole one of your business cards from the studio, hope that's okay."
"I don't think you can actually steal business cards," Franks says, shaking Mikey's hand way too energetically. "The whole point is to give them out freely. It's good to see you again." He can't help the small smile that crosses his face. He didn't expect to run into Mikey again, especially not this soon.
"Well, I thought you might be able to help me out with this one." Mikey taps the roof of the grey station wagon that desperately needs a wash.
"What's wrong with her?" Frank asks, casting an assessing eye over the vehicle. It's a fairly old model and looks to be in okay shape, if very dirty.
"Well, Gerard says it's been making a noise."
"A noise?" Frank asks, "What kind of noise?"
Mikey shrugs. "Kind of a ka-choonk ka-choonk noise," Mikey says obliquely. "He didn't go into much detail."
'Not going into much detail' doesn't sound at all like the Gerard Frank met yesterday. Frank narrows his eyes and considers. He can't think of a tuning issue that would result in a ka-choonk ka-choonk noise. "Where was the noise coming from?"
Mikey waves a vague hand towards the rear of the vehicle. "Sort of, from back there. I don't know, I didn't hear it."
Frank walks over to the car. "You didn't hear it when you were driving over?"
"Oh, um." Mikey glances at the car and back at Frank, sounding unsure. "I had the music up pretty loud, I don't know."
Frank's stumped. He pops the hood and peers inside, checking a few basics. She's a little low on oil, but not dangerously so, and while everything is a bit old and dusty, it all looks okay. He straightens up and closes the hood, "Maybe we should take a quick spin, see if you can get her to make the noise again."
"Oh, good idea," Mikey says brightly, and climbs in the passenger seat, leaving Frank to take the driver's seat.
He starts the engine and takes a turn around the back block, listening carefully. Mikey's quiet, too, sitting stiffly beside Frank as he waits for the car to tell him what's wrong. Except either the car isn't talking, or there really isn't anything overtly wrong with her.
"I can't hear it." Frank admits, after they've gone several blocks with no ka-choonk, ka-choonking.
"Yeah, I can't either," Mikey agrees, but doesn't offer anything more, so Frank just keeps driving. He's about to ask Mikey if he should just head back when Mikey asks, "So that was really your first time doing that show?"
Frank's glad he has the road to focus on, because it's a little out of left field. "Um, yeah." He glances at Mikey, who looks thoughtful.
"You couldn't tell. You were really natural."
"Thanks. Um, I mean, it wasn't my first time being on air or anything, but it was the first time I've had to do a real interview. I was kinda nervous about it."
"Really? Well you did great. I had fun - I mean, Gerard and I, we both had a lot of fun. Nearly killed each other picking out songs though."
Frank laughs, "Sorry about that. Which one did you agree on first?"
"Morrissey. That one was actually pretty easy. Well, the part where we decided on Morrissey, not the part where we had to pick just one song. That part, I think I've still got bruises from." Mikey talks Frank through the difficult song selection and despite taking the scenic route, he still gets back to Ray's too soon.
He pulls up in bay two again and kills the engine. "So what do you want to do? I mean, I can tune her up for you, just a basic service, but to be honest, it's probably a waste of money. She's running fine."
"Yeah? Um, okay. Should I just bring her back if she starts making that noise again?" Mikey looks somehow hopeful.
"Sure, that's probably a good idea." Frank taps his fingers on the steering wheel. He should tell Mikey goodbye and go back inside. He should. Instead he says, "I gotta say, this isn't the kind of car I pictured you driving."
Mikey laughs, quiet and a little startled. Frank likes what it does for his face. "I know it's not very sexy, but we need the big trunk for our gear! You can fit two cameras, tripods and two four-head lighting kits in there if you stack it right."
Frank turns in his seat and glances over the back seat at the generous storage area, "Yeah, you could fit a lot of bodies in there."
"It's true." Mikey nods sagely, and Frank gets stuck looking at him a little too long again. He shakes himself out of it awkwardly, "I should probably get back," he admits reluctantly.
He's just cracked the door open when Mikey says in a rush, "So hey, are you free tomorrow night?"
Frank's hand spasms involuntarily on the door handle and he tries not to stutter, "Um, yeah?"
"Oh, cool. We're having a kind of Kickstarter party thing for the new film tomorrow night, to like, raise some interest and shit. You should come."
"Oh, um, sure?" It's possible there is a tiny voice inside his head screaming is it a date is it a date is it a date, but he struggles to shut it up.
"You'll come?" Mikey asks, a smile playing at his lips.
"Yeah." Frank says, feeling an answering grin pull at his lips.
"You never go home, do you?" Frank jibes at Bob's ass where he's bent over the mixing desk, fiddling with the cables at the back.
"You can talk," Bob retorts, not even bothering to straighten up. "You're not even hosting a show tonight and you're here."
"Details." Frank dismisses Bob with a carefully aimed whack on his ass.
Bob just grumbles. "I thought you'd be off mooning over the blond half of the Brothers Way."
"It's the Way Brothers. And I saw Mikey today, he brought his car in to Ray's for some work."
The comment isn't enough to make Bob straighten up, but he does peer back over his shoulder with a raised eyebrow.
"He invited me to a party at their studio." Frank says, trying to keep his voice casual. "Tomorrow night."
"You mean that Kickstarter shindig?" Bob asks, "I'm going to that."
"You are?" Frank's voice squeaks with surprise.
"We all are, they invited everyone at the station."
"Oh." Frank's not sure why that piece of knowledge makes his stomach drop in disappointment, but it does. Luckily, Bob doesn't seem to notice, he's too focused on his cable spaghetti. His voice a little muffled when he asks Frank, "Want a ride? I can swing by yours and pick you up."
"Nah that's okay," Frank says, "I probably won't go." He leaves the room before Bob can ask him why.
Saturday shifts are easily the shittiest part of Frank's job at Ray's Auto. Not that the work is any harder, (if anything, it's tends to be basic upkeep stuff) or that he doesn't understand why it's necessary that they be open one day of the weekend (a lot of their clients can't make it during traditional business hours), but… it's a Saturday.
It doesn't help that Frank's regular Friday night slot at WZZZ is from midnight to 3am. Not that Frank doesn't love doing the Carnival of Horrors, it's definitely the show he has the most fun with. It's his weekly opportunity to torment insomniac college students, try to confuse the stoners, and to play whatever whacked-out music he wants. The thing is, even after Ray slid his Saturday start time a couple of hours later to 10am, Frank still spends most Saturdays running on five hours of sleep or less.
It means he has less fuel to run on when the weekends roll around, and it's a sad thing to admit but he's become a bit boring on a Saturday night - couchtime and DVDs often winning out over actually being social. He'll probably end up doing that again tonight, the other guys can represent the station at the shindig, they don't need him.
Ray's not on his game today, looking pale and not really sparking on all cylinders like he usually does. Frank catches him weaving on his feet after standing up too fast and grabs him by the arm. "Dude, you nearly fell over, I think you better go home."
"I'm fine," Ray insists, but his voice sounds weaker than usual and Frank's not buying it. He's really pale, and sweating even though it's not that hot.
"Seriously dude, how many cars you got lined up?" Frank grabs the runsheet and checks it, it's a medium-busy Saturday, but not too bad. "Man, Hambone and I can take these. You should go. You look like you're about to faint."
"It's cool," Ray insists, "don't be a drama queen." He turns back to the car he's working on and accidentally knocks a spanner into the engine bay with a loud clank.
Frank shakes his head, "Not cool, yo. Go the fuck home, Toro, or I'll drive you myself."
Ray sighs, and Frank knows he's got him. He pushes his advantage, grabbing Ray by the arm and dragging him to his locker to get his stuff.
"Okay," Ray groans, and grabs his keys and his jacket. They start for Ray's car together, but Ray stops, "Wait, I need you to do something for me."
"Call me from home and tell me, just go."
"No, I mean," Ray pauses and Frank's pretty sure that's the most colour he's seen in Ray's cheeks all day. "Look, Christa's bringing the Belvedere in this afternoon at two."
"I can do that one man, it's just a tune up and she keeps that car in perfect condition anyway. Go home." Christa's one of the girls from the rockabilly scene. She's got a gorgeous purple 1960's Belvedere that's probably worth half what she spends keeping it up, and she's cute and sweet and the guys at the shop always take good care of her, Ray especially.
"No, I mean." Ray cuts himself off, and Frank fights the urge to roll his eyes, "Can you just make she knows I'm not here because |-"
"Because you're sick, I know. I'll tell her you were at death's door and I forced you to leave with brute strength, now take your massive crush and fuck off home."
"It's not a crush," Ray argues weakly.
"Whatever. She likes you, too, you know, you should ask her out. But first you should go home and not die." Frank shoves Ray into his car and shuts the door. Ray dutifully doesn't argue and does, in fact, drive off. Frank heads back inside, shaking his head. Sometimes tough love is necessary. Then he chuckles because he totally knew he was right about Ray's massive boner for Christa.
By the time Frank clocks out at the end of the day, he's pretty exhausted. As much as he insisted to Ray that they'd be fine without him, being down a guy made for a damn busy day. He climbs into his Mustang and breathes out. Maybe he'll just go home and fall down. No, he should go and check that Ray's not dead first - there's nothing worse than being sick and alone, Frank's been sick enough times to know. He fires the engine up and makes for Ray's apartment.
Ray answers the door, looking tired and pale and a little confused, "Frank, what?"
"I brought soup!" Frank holds up a bag containing some house-made minestrone from his local grocer. He pushes past Ray into the apartment. "Sit down I'll go and heat it up."
"It's cool, Frank, I'm fine-"
"Shut it, Toro, I'm feeding you and you're gonna like it," Frank shouts on his way to the kitchen. He heats up the soup and pours out two portions, because it's fucking good soup and he wants some, too. He knows he's pretty much just invited himself over to Ray's for dinner, and Ray's too sick to argue, but it's easier to focus on playing nursemaid than going home and being faced with the decision of whether to go to the Ways' party or not.
Ray puts up a token protest, but he shuts up once he's tasted the soup. He and Frank settle in with some WWE on the TV and Frank feels less and less like he wants to get off this couch anytime soon.
His phone beeps. It's a text from Bob. Where are you? There is beer here.
Frank ignores the text and keeps eating. About ten minutes later he gets another text, this time from Brian. why aren't you here? mikey way keeps asking where you are
Frank doesn't squeak when he reads that but it's a close thing. Ray peers over his shoulder to read and says, "Dude, if you're supposed to be somewhere you should go. I'm-"
"I know, I know, you're fine." Frank sighs, trying to find a way to explain what's going on without it sounding pathetic. "The WZZZ guys are at this Way party thing tonight. I don't think I'm gonna go."
"So don't go then, what's the problem?"
An image of the little smile Mikey gave Frank in the car flits through Frank's head. "I kind of want to go," he admits.
"So then go, I still don't get what the problem is." Ray makes it sound way too easy.
"It's complicated. I can't figure out if Mikey invited me to go because he wants me there, or if he just invited everyone from the station because he wants more exposure for the movie they're trying to get up."
"Does it matter? If you want to go, then go."
Frank opens his mouth to explain but is cut off by the doorbell. Ray gives Frank a this conversation is not over look and heaves himself up off the couch to get the door.
It's Christa. She's wearing the same cute rockabilly dress with a zombie geisha pattern she had on when she came to the shop this afternoon and Frank assured her quite enthusiastically that Ray was dying of the plague and devastated he wasn't there to see her. She's carrying what looks like a tray of lasagne. Frank's mouth twitches up in a grin, he totally should have seen this coming.
"Oh hi," Ray sounds startled but pleased.
"Hey," Christa says, sounding awkward, "Frank said you were sick and my mom always said feed a cold, starve a fever so…" she glances past Ray and sees Frank on the couch, "Oh sorry, you're already, um, hi Frank!"
"Hey!" Frank waves at her and bounces up off the couch, "I was actually just going." He stuffs his phone in his back pocket as it beeps again, and glances at Ray, "I've gotta be at this party, anyways. Feel better, Toro."
"So, you're actually going to the party then?" Ray asks.
"Why not?" Frank shrugs and heads for the door. Better give the lovebirds some space.
The Ways' studio is nothing fancy. It's one floor of a repurposed warehouse in an industrial part of town. Frank knows he's found the right place from the Halloween-themed decorations spilling down the sidewalk from the building. When he gets into the clanky industrial elevator, there's a picture of zombie stuck next to the button for floor four, so Frank dutifully presses it.
Floor four is packed with people already, and Frank dodges down the hallway through the crowd, winding his way through a small rabbit warren of rooms that lead him into a studio about the size of Frank's apartment. One wall of the studio is painted a lurid green, and there's a bunch of weird and interesting props and models scattered around that act as decorations. Frank recognises a few of them from Bullets, but a lot of them just seem to be random interesting items: disembodied doll's heads, tattered parasols, gas masks, replica swords and the like. Frank wants to pour over every one of them, but he should probably find Bob or Brian before he takes such liberties. First though, he needs a beer.
He finds a giant ice bucket full of beers and takes one, putting five bucks in the donation box next to it. He takes a swig of the beer and starts to make his way through the crowd. He hasn't gone far when a heavy hand settles on his shoulder and he turns to find Bob glaring at him. "You're late."
Frank shrugs, "Ray was out sick today so it was super-busy."
Bob looks doubtful, but he grabs Frank by the wrist and drags him through the crush to where a knot of WZZZ crew are gathered. Brian raises his beer in greeting. "Took you long enough."
"Some of us have to work for a living," Frank says, then settles in to listen to the latest argument between Jeff and Richmond, still not quite sure what he's doing here.
He's about to throw himself into the fray on the New Order versus Joy Division debate when there's a light tap on his shoulder. He turns around and finds himself face-to-face with Mikey Way. If there was any hope that maybe his crush on Mikey had faded with time, it's extinguished almost immediately. Mikey is wearing a skin-tight Stooges t-shirt, jeans that might as well be leggings, boots he must have stolen from a stormtrooper and his hair is slicked back in a way that makes his cheekbones look amazing. Frank nearly swallows his own tongue before he manages to stutter out a greeting.
"Nice to see you again, Mikey. Looks like half of Jersey is here."
"Oh, it's just a few friends, and a whole lot of rich bastards we're trying to convince to give us money to make a movie." Mikey says with no real trace of irony.
"How's that going?"
"Not sure so far," Mikey gestures across the room and to where Gerard's talking and gesticulating enthusiastically to a guy in a suit. "That dude Gerard's talking to is Craig Aaronson, he's this guy from Warner Bros Pictures, they're pretty interested in funding us on their independent arm."
"I'd say that's going pretty well then? Warners is a big studio."
Mikey's mouth presses into a line, "Yeah, but that's not always a good thing. Big studio means big power and they might want to have more creative control than we're really ready to give up. Bullets was a rough ride because we had like, no money, but at least we had the final word on everything, you know? I don't know how we'd go doing a studio picture."
Frank nods, "I guess it's a lot like the difference between what we do at WZZZ and those commercial stations with all their corporate sponsorship and high rotation playlist demands?"
"Exactly." Mikey agrees. "So, you want the tour?"
Frank can't even try to hide his excitement, "Fuck, yeah."
Mikey flashes another of those disarming smiles. "This way."
Frank follows Mikey through crush of people, who are getting more rowdy as they get more drunk. Mikey has to shout a little, "So this is the actual studio, it's too small to really shoot in, but Gerard does sketch and model work out here, and you see the greenscreen wall? We shot some pickups for Bullets against it, just some basic keys, nothing big."
"Oh really?" Frank glances back at the bright green wall, "What parts were they for?"
Mikey smiles mysteriously, and taps his nose. "Trade secrets. But maybe I'll tell you later."
Mikey leads Frank through the rabbit warren of hallways and a couple of small offices. He stops at a closed door. "So, if I show you inside here I need to swear you to secrecy. We've got a lot of storyboard and concept art for the new film lying around. I can trust you, right?" There's a smile playing at Mikey's lips as he asks, like he knows he's offering Frank's inner fanboy the Way Brothers' equivalent of his own Hobbit sword.
"I can absolutely keep a secret. I mean, if I were you I probably wouldn't trust me as far as I could throw me, but if you want me to sign something I will." Frank really needs to stop talking now.
"You know, you're not that big, I could probably throw you pretty far if I tried," Mikey jokes. Usually Frank would be put out at insults to his stature, but right now he's having trouble caring. Partly because he's really curious what he'll see on the other side of that door, but mostly because of the way Mikey's smiling at him.
"Okay, fine, I guess I trust you," Mikey flips the lock and slides the door open.
Inside, it's a fairly small office, with a few computers and a drafting table, but that's not even the half of it. The walls are covered with drawings and storyboards, ranging from rough sketches to full colour graphic art and some photographs as well. Frank gets lost looking at all the art, his eyes jumping from image to image. A colored sketch of a guy in a blood-spattered WW2 uniform, a medic bent over him, desperation in every line as he struggles to revive him. A series of storyboards show a somber funeral, a pale beauty in a coffin leaping up and dancing down the aisles of the church before falling back into the coffin, her black clad mourners looking on. A ripped-out sketchbook page features an inked picture of five guys in private school uniforms, bloodied and bruised, raising croquets sticks like weapons.
Frank's transfixed, his eyes skittering over the crowded pinboard to where the pictures and sketches spread onto the wall, held up by sticky tape and thumb tacks. There's phrases scrawled in Sharpie like "this hole you put me in wasn't deep enough" and "thank you for the venom" scattered around the pictures like punctuation. Frank's mind ticks over too quickly, trying to fit the pieces together. The images don't seem necessarily connected, except that each one is raw, emotional and most of them are bloody.
"Wow." Frank breathes, trying to take it all in. His gaze settles on a photograph, his eyes drawn by the WW2 uniform, the same one as the earlier sketch. The picture is warm-toned like it's aged and the guy in the uniform is Mikey.
"Hey, is this you?" Frank asks, even though he's pretty sure it is. Mikey's hair is scraped to the side and he's wearing awkward large spectacles in the photo, "Are you going to be in the movie?"
Mikey laughs. "That's just a concept piece. Though I might do a small cameo if Gerard gets his way."
"Oh really?" Frank asks.
"Yeah, though I'll probably just be some extra that dies in an action sequence, let's be real."
Frank grins and turns around to look at Mikey. He notices suddenly just how small the room is, and how close they're standing. Even in the greenish glow of the fluorescent lights Mikey looks dangerously attractive.
"I think you'd look good on camera," Frank says, and wow, he really needs to work on that filter between his brain and his mouth.
"Yeah?" Mikey says, looking unsure, but there's something in the way his eyes lock to Frank's as he says it that makes Frank heart trip over.
Frank eases a little closer to Mikey, not sure if he's reading the signals right, but hoping, "I think you look good off camera too, just for the record."
Mikey hesitates for a moment and Frank holds his breath, preparing himself for the inevitable smackdown that's no doubt on it's way. He nearly leaps out of his skin when the next sound he hears is a loud knock on the door, followed by Gerard sticking his head in, "Mikey? Mikey! Thank god, I was looking all over for you! I've got Craig Aaronson and he's talking numbers at me, my head's about to explode, I need you!"
He grabs Mikey by the wrist and starts to drag him out the door before he's even finished speaking. Mikey goes reluctantly, throwing a "Sorry, Frank," over his shoulder as Gerard drags him off.
The door slides shut behind them, cutting off the noise of the party and leaving Frank alone with only the sound of his own breathing and too many thoughts. He sighs and leans back against the desk, feeling suddenly tired.
He sticks around at the party for another couple of hours, but doesn't catch another glimpse of Mikey or Gerard. When he's really starting to feel the effects of a too-busy work day on not enough sleep, he gives in and goes home.
It's not like there was a reason to stick around, anyway.
Frank zombies his way through Sunday, napping and watching a lot of bad TV with Peppers curled up in his lap. He's had a busy week, he figures he's allowed a day of sloth.
Ray's back at work on Monday, looking a lot less like shit. In fact, Frank catches him humming and whistling a lot more than usual. Frank has his suspicions, which are totally confirmed when Christa comes by at lunchtime to eat with Ray and kisses him hello and goodbye. Frank waits until after she's peeled off in the Belvedere before giving Ray a subtle fist-bump of congratulations.
He rolls up to the station half an hour before his broadcast as usual, and spends the time getting his shit in order. The Monster Show is still his favourite - it was the first show he ever put forward and the only one that was truly his idea from the word go. Over the years it's gotten harder to find new or new-old horror-themed songs, but it's a challenge Frank enjoys. He's glad he took the time to pre-plan his playlist tonight though, he's still not quite running at full speed today. Maybe he should talk to Brian about dropping one of his shows and going back to three. He could probably hand the punk/hardcore hour to some bright young thing.
Bob gives Frank the five minute warning and Frank settles in to play some monster music. He's three tracks in and spinning some Cramps when Bob buzzes through.
"What?" Frank asks, after checking his mic feed is down. "Is my panning off again?"
"No, I've got a caller."
"What are you on, Bob? It's not Friday, I don't do callers on Monster."
"I think you'll want to take this one." Bob sounds serious, and when Frank meets his eyes through the panes of glass between the studio and the tech booth, he nods solemnly and taps the phone.
Frank shrugs. "Okay, fine." Apparently all his shows are interview shows now. Whatever.
He waits for the Cramps to wind up and pushes up his mic feed back up.
"Hey, so I know I don't usually take calls on this show, but Bob is insisting. Hello caller, please don't try to sell me something. Did you have a request?"
"Hi, um, am I on air?" The line is a little muffled, so Frank pushes the volume up and twists a few EQ knobs to try and even it out.
"Yes, you're on air. What can I help you with?"
"Um, I wanted some advice." The caller's voice is still kind of fuzzy and there's a pretty evil-sounding hiss, so Frank winds the EQ back a little the other way.
"I hate to break it to you, but if you're looking for the advice column you've called the wrong show. I'm probably not going to give you great guidance unless you're asking about punk music."
Frank sends Bob a death-glare through the glass. He hates this phonecall bullshit, he should have just said no.
"Could you try? It's important," the caller asks, and Frank probably should have asked him his name and location, whoops.
"Sure man, hit me." Frank says, still riding the EQ in the hope if cleaning up this shitty line. He finally hits the sweet spot and the hiss drops away just in time for him to hear the caller's next sentence, clear as a bell.
"Okay, you see. I like this person, and I've been trying to figure out if they're interested too and I just can't tell if they are."
Frank's mouth drops open and he really hopes the mic doesn't pick up his sharp intake of breath. Because that's Mikey's voice.
He clutches at his headphones and scrambles for something to say.
"You there?" Mikey asks, sounding unsure.
"Um, yeah," Frank says quickly, his voice sounding higher than normal. "Uh, you might have to give me more details. What have you done so far to show your interest in this, um, person?"
"Well, I asked them out on a date."
"You did?" Frank blurts, way too quickly.
"Yes." Mikey's duh isn't spoken aloud, but it's absolutely present.
"Uh," Frank struggles to find an explanation he can say on-air. "Was it obvious that it was a date? Is there any chance they thought it was just some kind of…work related gathering?"
"I guess so? I don't know. I went and saw them at work as well." Mikey sighs and the sound hits the earpiece like static. "Maybe they're just not interested."
"Wait but," Frank jumps in, talking way too fast. "Now, this is just my advice and we've already established that I'm no advice column - but maybe it's worth giving it one more shot. I'd suggest you ask this person out on what is quite clearly a date, to something you know they'll really like to do, maybe a movie, or a show? And if they say yes, I'd say that's your answer."
"I guess that sounds pretty reasonable." Mikey's tone is giving nothing away.
Frank fingers are twitching on the sliders, desperate to say more and reminding himself forcefully that he's on air. "You want to request a song as long as I've got you on the line?"
"Nah, it's okay, I'm sure whatever you play next will be awesome."
"Thanks, sorry, what was your name?"
"Thanks Mikey, stay on the line, please." Frank's hand is shaking a little as he fades Mikey's line down, scrambling for his professional persona and the next track on his playlist. "Okay guys, that was my attempt at giving life advice live on air, not sure how I did there and please god, don't tell me. How about a little Murderdolls?"
Frank hits play on Gravediggers USA and pushes up the feed, dropping his mic feed down. He glares hard at Bob through the glass, who just laughs at him like the asshole he is, and switches the phone call through the pre-fade mixer so he can hear it off-air.
"Hey Mikey, it's Frank." Frank should not feel this nervous right now, but he absolutely does.
"Hey." Frank thinks he can hear a smile in Mikey's voice, but he's not sure.
"You know, you could have just asked for my number, I'd have given it to you."
"Gerard said I had to do something embarrassing. That was embarrassing."
"But worth it?"
"I don't know yet." Mikey hesitates, just for a moment before asking, "You want to go see a back-to-back screening of Dawn Of The Dead and Day of the Dead with me this weekend?"
"Original?" Frank asks, a smile already tugging at his lips.
"Of course, duh."
"Like, as a date?" Frank presses, because he wants to be totally sure this time.
"Yeah, like a date."
Frank knows he's grinning like an idiot and he doesn't even care when he answers, "Fuck, yeah."