The atmosphere on the tour bus isn't exactly blissfully peaceful – peace and unwashed socks, dog hair, and whatever Bert stuck to the ceiling when he was making Greg throw him up there two nights ago, these things aren't exactly buddies. They're not complicatory to peace. Compliantly. Conductory. Something like that. Whatever the word is, they're not it, so it doesn't matter if Quinn's not altogether certain he's got it.
But the thing that isn't peace is comprehencemanly shattered, at least for him, when Quinn discovers that he has some shitty itchy herpes-type thing on his left hip.
He discovers this because it starts fucking itching, obviously, and after five minutes of feverishly scrubbing at the spot through his shirt and rubbing up against the corner of a cupboard and whining at Bert that he has better nails and should totally get it for him, Quinn gives up and yanks up his shirt to get a proper good hard go at his stupid shitty skin.
It's all inflamed. Angry and sticky-outy and really fucking itchy. He considers getting a cheesegrater or something, but … okay, they have never, ever had a cheesegrater on the tour bus ever, and Bert will pitch a loud and angry fit if he even looks like he's thinking about using his grinder to scratch his scabby bits with.
"The fuck?" Quinn digs his nails into the flaky red patch and scratches like he's trying to dig to China through his hip. "Fuck laundry, look what all that detergent shit does to my skiiiiin—"
"Aww, poor sensitive ickle Quimpers," Dan pouts, throwing a beer can at him. Quinn yelps and ducks out of the way; Dan's overarm is fast and hard. Kind of like everything about Dan. Dan the man, fast and hard and fruity and weird.
"Think what that detergent shit does to your insides," Jepha points out with a happy smirk. He's stretched the entire length of the couch, his bare feet on the TV and his head on the edge of the counter – bus couches are short – and a fatty-fatty-blunt dangling from his fingers. Bert's either asleep or pretending to be, his head in Jepha's lap and his fist in his own mouth like a baby.
"Fuck you," Quinn snaps, remembering to be offended. Bert mumbles into his hand and Quinn scratches at his hip again. "Motherfucking hives."
"Maybe bees will fly out of your hip," Bert gives a sleepy stoner stretch and nearly punches Quinn in the thigh. Probably on purpose, too.
"The fuck?" Quinn repeats, retreating into a corner with his arms raised defensively. Dan's in a throwing shit mood, Bert's lost all sense of … where his bits are (Jepha knows the word for that, Quinn feels it is not a necessificate to his talkimation, to know a word like that when Jepha can just say it for him, even if he does then laugh at Quinn for like an hour afterward), and it's looking like a bad day for all of Quinnkind right now. "Bees?"
"Hives," Bert sings, "bees. Bee hives. Behive. Behave. Quinn! Behave."
"Fuck you," Quinn insists, sticking to what he knows. He gives his hip a good hard scratch, and his fingers come away bloody – motherfucker. He liked this goddamn shirt and now it's all ruined and shit.
"If you pay me thirty bucks," Bert beams, his eyes shut, his head rolling softly in Jepha's lap.
"Huh? Why should I pay you thirty bucks? I don't owe you thirty bucks, asshole." It occurs to Quinn that he's not stoned enough to keep up with this lightning-speed conversation…al… topic and all its shifting around the place like a, a, a, shifty thing.
"Standard international rates." Bert opens one eye and shoots at Quinn with gunfingers. "If I'm gonna be your whore you gotta pay up. No book tokens this time."
Jepha starts laughing at the ceiling, his free hand draped over his face to keep the madness out. Quinn lunges and steals the fatty from him before Dan can get there and do the same thing.
"Haha!" Quinn gives it a victory flourish and – holy shit, he's got blood on his fingers! – Quinn licks them and is reminded that blood, real blood from real people's real bodies, does not taste as tasty delicious as fake blood made from corn syrup and chocolate sauce and whatever else goes in there.
"Hey, Quinn," Dan asks, leaning back on the counter beside Jepha and fluffing his hair – Jepha makes a low, beast-y-al kind of noise and cuts it off half-way by biting his lower lip – "Hey Quinn, hey-hey Quinn, hey Quinn hey …"
"No, seriously, what's that on your hip?" Dan points not with his fingers but with the bill of his cap and a nod of his head, his fingers still lost deep in Jeph's hair, scratching his scalp; Quinn'd be jealous, headrubs from Dan's great big spider hands feel fucking fantasublous when you're high (and pretty good when you're not) but he knows all he has to do is ask.
"What? Hives, motherfucker," Quinn sprays a … flume? Plume? Spume? One of those … of smoke at him. He goes to scratch again and freezes as his fingertips encounter a lump in the blood. "Oh my god. Oh my god." Quinn holds his hand over his own eyes, nearly poking himself with the hot end of the fatty (and not for the first time). "What is it, is that my bone?" He makes himself not wave his hand around and look, y'know, gay. "BERT. I can't look. Fuck. FUCK!" Quinn gets close to touching it again but doesn't quite put his hand on it. "Did I scratch through to my fucking bone? Oh my g- I feel … I'm gonna puke, that shit's so fucked up." He squeezes his eyes shut behind his hand. "Oh my god. BERT. IS THAT MY FUCKING BONE?"
"Chill," Jepha advises.
"Fuck you, my bone's sticking out," Quinn mumbles, as someone takes the fatty away.
"It's not your bone," Bert says, close to his crotch. Quinn screws up his face as some surprisingly gentle fingers rub over his fucking hives and touch whatever the lump is. He shivers. "Does that hurt?"
"Yes. No … it." Quinn inhales through his nose and tries to think how to describe the feeling. "It feels … weird."
Bert flicks it. "Does it hurt now?"
Quinn roars in unfaked pain. It's like stubbing his goddamn toes, which he also did today, and, "FUCK YOU THAT HURTS YOU SADIST MOTHERFUCKER!"
"Yes," Dan translates, like Bert might have missed it, "I think that might hurt."
Quinn inches his fingers apart so he can peer through them; Bert looks thoughtful rather than worried, which is kinda a relief but not that much of one. "Is … is it cancer?" he whispers.
"You can't tell by looking, Quinn," Jepha says, and he still sounds floppy and stoned. Asshole.
"Does it look like cancer?" Quinn persists, grabbing for Bert's head.
"Quinn," Jepha sighs.
He gets a handful of Bert's fingers instead, a mess of greasy, reassuring bones with wool at the bottom, squeezing his hand. Quinn tries not to wail into his palm in paranoid despair but Jesus fucking Christ, what if it's hip cancer? He's too young to die. He hasn't even peed in Jared Leto's latte yet. No one should be asked to die without poisoning Thirty Seconds To Pussy.
"It's really not cancer," Bert says, poking the lump again, apparently fascinated. He's digging his fingers into the sore patch, which is uncomfortable but not as painful as it should be, he's digging them around something – Quinn can't stand it any longer and whips his hand from his eyes.
"What. The. Fuck." Quinn clutches at his temple.
"Okay, you're right," Jepha says, almost smacking heads with Bert in his eagerness to see. "That's a definite what the fuck."
"Fuck," Dan agrees, leaving Quinn to shriek and slap at Bert's curious fingers as one of his ragged fingernails catches on something tender.
"STOP TOUCHING IT!"
"Look at it," Bert says, trans…forced…fixed…thing, "it's like a … it's like a … wow, fuck this shit, look, Quinn, it's like a tiny little fucking wing."
"No feathers," Dan points out, waving the fatty around like he's swatting flies.
"Gimme that," Quinn groans, reaching for it, "I'm gonna throw up—BERT DON'T TOUCH IT—" but it's too late. "Owwww." Every time Bert gets his fingers into the weird little bendy bit, the … the joint part, Quinn guesses, every time Bert touches the tiny blood-covered fold of bare skin it feels like someone's dragging their fingers right over Quinn's gag reflex and smacking him in the small of the back at the same time, only, like, the actual touchy … sensation thing … is where the wing … thing … is. It's gross.
Dan passes the fatty to Bert instead, leaving Quinn's hand to strain pathetically into the air. "Hey Quinn."
"Hey fuck you."
"You have a wing growing out of your hip," Dan says, and he makes a face. Dan's faces are pretty involved. It's cuz he already looks like he's pulling stupid shit expressions even when he's not.
Quinn looks down at it. It's the size of a pigeon wing with all the feathers pulled out. It looks ugly and nubby and it has blood and clear stuff like the inside of a runny zit, that clear liquid stuff that isn't real pus but isn't water either, it has that all over it. Pus, or whatever it really is. That weird clear stuff, and blood. Smeared around with his fingers and Bert's.
There's smoke in his eyes, stinging them. Quinn blinks. The wing is still there.
"No I don't."
"We can all see it," Jepha says, going to touch it but apparently too grossed out to actually put his hand on it. He looks serious. "It's not like that Smurf."
"Fuck you," Dan says half-heartedly. "You were all just too slow to see the Smurf. If you weren't such lazy stupid pussyholes you'd totally have seen the Smurf. It was just a very very very speedy Smurf."
"Or you were a very very very stoned Dan," Jepha corrects, ducking before Dan can swing one of his giant Dan Man Hands at him.
"My … wing … thing … is not like your fucking Smurf," Quinn says crossly, folding his arms until his hands are hidden in his armpits. There's blood on the hem of his shirt, on Bert's hands, and in smeary, sticky fingerprints over his hives and the rest of his hip. He's nowhere even close to stoned or drunk enough for this bullshit.
"I wonder what happens if I do this," Bert says dreamily, and before Quinn can stop him, he grabs the very tip of the scrawny little wing-nub and yanks it straight, extending it to full length.
Three things happen almost at the same time: as a bolt of acute fucking agony shoots through Quinn's hip and up his entire left side, he lets out a very loud and very pained yell that might actually probably be more of a girly scream; Quinn's gorge rises so fast that he has no way to warn anyone before he pukes right down his shirt front and onto Bert's already shitty hair; and pretty much before he has even finished heaving, right before Bert even has a chance to start cussing him out, Quinn's vision goes grey and blurry, his knees turn to rubber, and his head bounces off the corner of the counter on his way down to the floor.
It can't be much longer till he comes round, the puke's not even dry on his shirt when Quinn gropes for his chest to make sure all his clothes are still on.
"Stop feeling yourself up, you freak," Bert advises. Quinn squints around for him, but staring makes his head hurt.
"That's not an apology," Quinn squeezes his eyes shut again. There's something soft under his head – the warmth and a sudden gurgle from it say it's a belly, and the long and wounding knowledge of precisely how much sympathy Bert and Dan jointly … have … contain … are likely to show … says it's totally Jepha's tummy that's serving as such a comfy pillow.
Bert sounds stunned. "You want an apology?"
"Motherfucker believe I better be getting sorry from you," Quinn growls, reaching up to feel the tender place where he smacked his head – Dan (it has to be Dan, no one else has hands that could grope the 50ft woman's boobs) grabs his wrists and yanks his hands back down before he can poke his own skull.
"The fuck did I do?" Bert sounds genuinely hurt, but Quinn has years and years, like, more than ten now, of Bert's manipulative BS. It's funny when he does it to other people, okay, just not when he tries it on Quinn.
"You pulled my … wing." He feels dumb saying it. Quinn settles back huffily into Jepha's stomach or his balls or whatever, his wrists still clasped together in Dan's hands. Quinn's also had just enough fights with Dan to know he's more likely to break his own wrist than get out of this hold on his own.
"Wang?" Bert scowls.
"Wing, you fucking motherfucker, don't even pretend –"
"What the shit are you babbling about, you fucking … remedial school shithead?" Bert prods him in the shoulder. "What the fuck? Wing? Did you smoke the grown-up weed, Quinnling? Wing?"
It's possible he's telling the truth. It's possible Quinn hit his head harder than he realised. It's possible he smoked more than he thought. It's possible he's not in freaking Kansas any more. But it's likely that Bert's fucking with his head.
Quinn lifts his head a little and opens his eyes properly, squinting between his elbows to cancel out the slight double vision. The first thing he sees are Bert's big bastard baby blues boring into his like Bert can read his goddamn mind and Quinn's first thought is wandering if there's a word for still getting a squeezy chest when someone looks at you more than a decade after you first meet them. Apart from "dumb".
"…it's still there, right?" Quinn asks, straining to look at his own hip. He catches Bert's eye again. "The wing. It's still there?"
There is a really fucking long silence before Bert cracks.
"It's still there, fuckhead." He begins excaberating his nose. Picking it. "Did you eat like voodoo chicken or something?"
Quinn chokes. "No?" What the hell would voodoo chicken even look like?
"Maybe you're allergic to something," Dan suggests, releasing Quinn's arms slowly and giving his hair a totally unwanted ruffle.
"That well-known allergic reaction of sprouting tiny wings," Jepha snorts, somewhere close to Quinn's head. Quinn's head bobs up and down with the movement of his belly and normally he'd smack Jepha for making him uncomfortable, but now's not really the time for it. He struggles upright instead and his head throbs. Also, his wrist is really fucking itchy, the left one, but shit like being covered in puke and having a goddamn fucking wing growing out of his hip is just a little fucking bit more important right now. Quinn belches.
"Voodoo chicken," Bert says, in a Well That Just Confirms It voice.
"That's what you get for giving up veganism," Jepha sniggers, but Quinn guesses he probably doesn't mean it. There's a wet sound that's probably Dan blowing a raspberry on Jepha's neck, he's been doing that a lot recently, but Quinn's kinda preoccupated.
"You know what else he got giving up veganarianism?" Dan grunts, and Quinn turns in time to see him smack Jeph in the shoulder and Jepha mouth OW as he crinkles up in exaggerated pain. "He got protein, he got protein—"
"Pro teens, proteens in the peen," Bert sings.
Dan starts tapping out a rhythm on Jepha's neck … bone, his collar bone, thing, in time with Bert's singing. "Pro teens, pro tins, pro tins, pro-pro-pro your tins," he corrects, still tapping.
"Insane people," Jepha says in the same voice of despair he always uses, "all my friends are insane people. All the people I live with are insane people."
"I have a wing on my hip," Quinn says loudly, before they can forget. It's not doing much to prove Jepha wrong, but he'd kind of like them to do something about his … wing cancer allergic reaction mutant hives voodoo sit-u-ay-shun.
"Whaddaya gorna doo?" Dan taps an imaginary cigar on Jepha, then flicks imaginary ash at Bert, who makes panicky brushing motions while giggling like something's come loose in his brain. "You warnah geddaridda eet? I get reeda eet for you."
Quinn snorts. "Bullshit." Just in case Dan's feeling inventive, he scrambles to his feet and backs into what's kind of becoming the Hiding Corner. It's like the only non-bathroom place on the bus you can defend yourself from without lying down, that's all. Or, the plan is to scramble back there and fend off any attempts to gangster off his … growth, but what happens is he gets his legs tangled in Jeph's, falls, and smacks his wrist and elbow on something or someone very hard. "Ow."
"You can't keep it, you look like a freak," Bert blows his nose into his fingers, spreads them out so's everyone can see the stringy net of wet snot like Spiderman got grosser, or something. "I won't have freaks in My Band." It's the Gerard-voice, the one he uses for mocking that dick Way, though he does it less now (Quinn hopes that doesn't mean Bert's forgiven him, because he hasn't fucking done it, not by any shot).
"Who's band?" Quinn asks, because he's meant to.
"Ahem," Jepha gets to his feet and raises his eyebrows.
"You guys," Dan says, pointing a wooden spoon at them all, fuck knows where he got it from, a threatening waggle of kitchen shit to go with the sudden return of Valley Girl voice. "You guys, let's not all fight, you guys, 'cuz, you guises, if we like fight, you guys, like Jem and the Holograms won't never go nowhere! Guys!" As Bert starts laughing hysterically, pushing his knees up to his own face, slapping his own ass as he rolls around on the couch, Dan adjusts his grip on the spoon and his dumb voice slips off. "And if you don't play nice Dan have to spank Jeph with spoon."
"What did I do?" Jepha asks, trying to wedge into the Hiding Corner with Quinn – Quinn shoves him away and fuck, his wrist aches and fucking itches at the same time now, so fucking unfair…
"Objections?" Dan raises the spoon above his head like he's gonna peg it fucking hard at Jepha (and probably miss and hit Quinn, thanks Dan).
Jepha raises a hand half-heartedly to ward off flying … utensils! That's what they were called, fucking … utensils! Hah. Them. And he says, "A spoon, Daniel?"
Dan shrugs. "Blunt. Hurts more." The look Jepha gives him is definitely not the kind of look you're meant to give dudes in the semi-public, so Quinn clears his throat and when that fails to stop Jepha getting his fish taco all soggy over Dan's beating arm, Quinn thumps the counter with his fist.
"Gimme a fucking knife," he yells.
"No way was my flirting that obnoxious," Jepha shakes his head. Bert's stopped laughing, thank fucking god, though Quinn's not so sure him spitting at Dan's sneakers is much of an improvement.
Quinn holds out his hand, palm-up. "Knife."
"You going to cut off your wing, Angelhips?" Dan asks, blank-faced and spoon-wielding.
"Knife," Quinn repeats, maybe kinda sorta ruining his I Can Wait All Day gesticure by scratching furiously at his wrist bone – then again, Quinn's never been known for his massive amounts of patience. "Knife."
"It's gonna hurt," Dan warns, dropping the mystery spoon on the counter and fishing a knife out of his pocket instead. He palms it, folded, into Quinn's outstretched hand, and Quinn fumbles it open. It's warm, probably from being pressed up against Dan's balls or something, but since he's not actively jerking off right now Quinn doesn't really want to think about Dan's balls.
He lifts the hem of his shirt – stiff with dried blood, fucking great – and clamps it in his teeth to keep it out of the way. Quinn's not exactly filled with motherfucking joy at the idea of having to look at or touch that icky, ugly growth on his hip, but he's even less overfuckingwhelmed with glee at the idea of letting anyone else he knows at him with a knife. "M 'eady."
"You're not really going to –" Bert rolls up to sitting on the couch and gives Quinn one of those fucking Deep Looks, but holding his gaze makes Quinn's neck ache like this, so he goes back to squinting down at the ugly lump distorting the usually smooth lines of his goddamn sexy hips. "—no, don't."
"'ant ig gone," Quinn mutters, sticking the sharp edge of the knife under the bit where his hip's red and itchy skin turns into a sore, rough, naked pigeon fucking wing. There's a prick like testing a knife for sharpness on the back of his hand, but nothing bad, just a prick and some pressure – his goddamn wrist is itching again – and Quinn, t-shirt in mouth, holds his breath and jerks up the knife blade.
It hurts a fucking load, but Quinn can hardly hear his own grunt over Jepha's wince of sympathy and this is no time to pussy out. He wants that gross thing gone from his fucking hip.
Quinn jerks the knife again and grits his teeth; the blade hits something solid, Quinn's stomach churns, and for maybe the second time in an hour the world kind of vanishes on him.
This time when the haze clears someone's got their arms in his armpits, holding him half-up, and since Jepha's folding up the knife and passing it back to Dan, process of illumination says Bert's got him.
"Okay," Jepha says, sitting on Quinn's legs, "that was a dumb fucking plan and you're not doing it."
Quinn looks down at the enormous blood stain on his shirt and the waistband of his pants and acknowledges that perhaps Jepha is right. He scratches at his wrist and Bert gives him a friendly pinch to the armpit that makes his eyes water. "What 'm I going to do then?"
Jepha, who shows no signs of getting the fuck off Quinn's legs, shrugs. "Whatever, cutting yourself like a thirteen-year-old Goth girl with PMS isn't the answer, okay?"
"Fuck off." Quinn digs his nails under the skin on his wrist. It's goddamn itchy, like a spider bite or something. Kinda stings. "How the fuck do I play with that there?"
"Could strap it down," Dan suggests, rubbing the back of his neck. "We got loads of bandages."
Quinn catches Jepha's eye. "Oh I wonder why."
Bert pinches him again and tries to bite the top of Quinn's head, but only scrapes his scalp with his teeth. He's been trying to do that for years and apparently not being able to get a proper grip on Quinn's skull the last million times isn't going to deter him. "I sprained my ankle, dickhead."
"No kinky sex games?" Quinn scratches. He's pretty sure almost everything on the bus has been used for Dan and Jepha's kinky sex games at some point or another, and it's no big deal, really, he just sometimes forgets to wash shit and then Jepha knocks it out of his hands and pours detergent on it or Dan'll say something like I wouldn't put that near your eyes if I were you and then Quinn usually ends up throwing it at him.
"I didn't say that …" Bert cackles into his hair.
Quinn deflates. "Someone roll me a … fuck it, pack a fucking bowl, I need to think about this properly." He scratches his wrist some more, and Bert pulls him back into Bert's chest and kisses him on the vanishing hairline. S'nice. S'also normally reserved for when they're epically fucking stoned but whatever.
"We'll make it go away," Bert murmurs, biting Quinn's cheek for emphasis. Quinn worries at the spider bite, and Dan thumps down the bus for the gear, the pipes and the papers and pretty pretty Mary Jane.
"Uh, Quinn, you might want to not do that," Jepha says slowly, his face screwed up.
"Fuck you," Quinn points at Jepha so that he's in no doubt as to who is being fucked here, and Bert gnaws lazily on his shoulder. "I earned this. It's … trauma weed, that's what it is. I earned it."
"I meant your wrist."
Quinn looks. His fingers are bloody and so is his wrist, smeared in red-brown fingerprints and … there is a lump …
"No," he groans. Normally Quinn would accompany that by putting his hands over his face to shut out whatever, but right now, with another fucking wing protrusioning out his wrist, the last thing he wants is that wrist anywhere near his mouth or eyes.
It usually takes Quinn kinda a long time to sleep anyhow, he's a 5am to 3pm kinda guy and fuck all those 'morning' people with their stupid shitty wake-up calls and sleeping before the sun comes up and whatever, but with a pair of freaking fucking wings sprouting outta him that he keeps knocking on shit (really, really painfully), it's even harder.
He's just about snuck up to the edge of sleep (lying on his back to protect his hip, with his arm folded over his chest to keep his wrist safe) when Bert jabs him in the belly and scares sleep right the fuck away again. "I hate you," Quinn shouts, so no one else gets to have any of that delicious sleep he's missing out on. "Cut that out."
"You can't play with a wing on your wrist." Bert is just about visible in the low orange light from the power socket where Quinn's iPod is charging. He looks sleep-mussed, but he can easily go several days looking sleep-mussed without actually sleeping. "It'll get stuck. It'll stick on the strings and you'll make teh-bul noises and sound like Lindseeeeeey Looooohaaaaan. Waaah waaaah wwwwwwuuuuuurk."
Quinn makes a grab for Bert's face, but Bert's too fast and he ends up smacking his fingers on the bunk roof instead, his face crumpling up with a curse of pain. "I know that, asshole."
Bert pokes his tongue out and tries to stick his finger in Quinn's ear. Quinn jerks his head away and hits it the plug of his iPod, and Bert tickles him behind the ear instead. "But because you're a pussy—"
"—you're too much of a pussy-ass pussyhole pussycunt pussy to cut it off yourself sober," Bert pinches his own lower lip, makes spooky fingers at Quinn in the dim light like he's sending magic into his head.
"What are you propositing, Dr McCracken?" Quinn frowns. He's pretty sure he knows what Bert means but sometimes shit kind of comes out of left field with him (even if they do normally finish each others' … sandwiches), a long long way out of left field. So far out of left field they're in a different ballpark.
"Get you really drunk," Bert randomly grabs and twists Quinn's nipple, but Quinn's ready this time and doesn't even fucking squeak, not when Bert drives his pointy-fuck chin into Quinn's chest, not even then. He's close enough he can smell the puke Bert didn't quite scrape out of his hair, and the comfortable cushion of pot smoke, and the salt crystals still sticking to Bert's eyelashes from where Dan accidentally made him cry laughing. "Get you really fucking drunk then slice those wings off with like a hunting knife or something, I think, a hunting knife would be best." He sounds like he means it.
"Do we …" Quinn wriggles down so he can free his arm and pet Bert on the back of the head. "Is there a hunting knife? I thought there was only Dan's kinky sex and beer opening knife?"
Bert shrugs and tweaks his nipple again.
"OW. STOP IT." Quinn squirms and tries to punch him, which turns out to be harder than he might have expected.
"Skibar's got a hunting knife for hunting pussy emo eyeliner whores with…" Bert starts tickling him instead. That's cool, Quinn's not ticklish … then his sleeve brushes the wing on his wrist and it's not cool at all. He's all fucking tingly now.
"Don't," Quinn mutters.
"What? You can't play with them," Bert says, jabbing him in the tummy with one dirty, bitten nail. Because Bert understands that, if he can't play, Quinn's pretty much got no purpose at all, no real reason for being, he says "can't play" like he's saying "no point living" – Bert gets that because Bert gets him. All the same, he's also talking about cutting parts of Quinn's body off with a fucking hunting knife. Parts which make him tingly if he touches them lightly, like, y'know, like his balls or his asshole or whatever. Which means … Quinn's good at logic … which means, right, that it'll be like cutting his balls off. That painful.
He's had way too much pain today already. For this week. The rest of this week, Quinn wants nothing more uncomfortable than a bus bunk in his life. Or, if someone's granting wishes, he wants a squashy bed and a buttload of beer and a blowjob. Lots of blowjobs. Ten million bajillion blowjobs.
"Do it again," Quinn adds.
"This?" Bert puts his thumb at the base of the … hip wing … and presses into the flesh.
It's right on the dividing line between actively hurting him and mind-numbing hotness; Quinn shoves his wrist in his mouth so he can't make some embarrassingly gay noise, forgetting, forgetting…
"MMGOLHgijhefohgfeooohghgg pleh pleh pleh ppffy pleh--"
"Fuck off, you asked me to!" Bert snaps, slapping his stomach hard enough it echoes around the bus like a gunshot.
"Not that – ugh ugh ugh ugh – it went in, it went in my mouth, my mouth ugh ugh—"
Bert presses on the bottom of the wing again, rubbing the base with the side of his thumb, and Quinn's so busy trying not to choke on his tongue or get a boner – his hips pushing up against Bert's hand already, goddamn it, them, goddamn them, did he ask them to do that? No, fuck-damn-it – that he almost doesn't process Bert saying, "You've drank my piss before, whiner."
"Difference," Quinn chokes. "That was an accident-mmm—nng."
"Mm," Bert inches his fingers along the … the sticky-up bit … of the, of the wing, and Quinn sucks his bottom lip into his mouth and chews on it. "No, I pretty much deliberately pissed in that beer bottle, Quinn."
Quinn's face is pre-e-etty hot all of a sudden. Not because he gives a fuck if he accidentally drank Bert's deliberate piss, because he was drunk and he only knows it happened at all because Dan filmed him and his stubble stank of urine when he woke up, not that. It's because Bert's tickling the fold of now-dry skin in the little jointy bit of the wing on his hip, and as well as making him feel a bit pukey and a bit giddy, it's also making him feel like he does when he's stroking his dick just … slow and kind of pre-jerk-off. That feeling. Is a good feeling.
The quiet voice half the world doesn't even know Bert has makes an appearance then, sneaking up to Quinn's ears and muttering, "Is that nice?" just as Quinn's thinking, this is pretty nice, weird, but nice. It doesn't freak him out any more, he figures Bert can probably read his mind occasionally and so long as he doesn't do it while Quinn's thinking grumpy bitchy thoughts about him or when he's jerking off Quinn totally doesn't mind.
"It's nice," Quinn says, because he will end up saying something much more open to mocking if he doesn't just parrot Bert's words back at him at this stage. Not that Bert isn't going to mock him so hard that he, like, bleeds or something after all this; looking like he might get off on someone touching whatever the fuck it is growing out of his belly like a conjugated twin is probably the beginning of all the mocking ever. "It's nice."
Bert strokes the underside of the pathetic little rubbery end-sort-of-bit and Quinn discovers that it's actually possible to want to throw up and hump something at the same time.
"This is so fucking weird."
There's a thump and a tired groan from one of the opposite bunks, and someone kicks the side of Quinn's bunk hard enough to shake it. "Yeah, yeah, we get it, you have wings growing out of your fucking bones. Shut up and go to sleep, asshole."
He gropes around the mattress for something to hurl at Dan, but there's only his iPod and Quinn's not drunk enough to think throwing that will make things better. "FUCK YOU, no one asked you."
"No one asked you to keep freaking out about your stupid cancer wings all night either," Dan kicks the bunk again, and Bert digs his fingers into Quinn's hip to steady himself. Quinn bites the inside of his mouth and smacks Bert over the top of the head. Not good. Not good. Bert raises his hand like he's gonna slap the wing, Quinn tries to worm out of the way and ends up hitting his fucking wrist – the one with the wing - on his own face. No idea how.
"Seriously," Jepha says sleepily, his mouth muffled by … probably part of Dan … whatever. "Maybe you should see a doctor."
"Maybe I should let them sell my Quinnface to a travelling freak show?" Bert retorts, stretching over Quinn's stomach. Quinn puts his hand on Bert's head. Could be a friendly gestimacuture, could be a precaution. Like, stopping Bert from knocking any of these new and delicate … profusions… he seems to be collecting on his joints. "Fuck no. They'll do experiments on his ass."
"His ass doesn't have wings," Jepha points out with the ped…peda…pedagogury… of the very tired.
"His ass doesn't have wings yet," Bert corrects. "But when it does those doctors will be waiting."
"I'm right fucking here," Quinn points out, grabbing Bert's hair. "Right here with my ears and my … listening bits." He pulls, and Bert makes a cranky-cat noise. "And I don't have wings on my fucking ass."
"Maybe if you grow enough wings you'll be able to fly," Dan offers. Apparently he's abandoned sleep in favour of getting on Quinn's balls and annoying him.
"I think they need feathers –" Jepha begins, ever-sensible. Everyone ignores him.
"I think shut up," Dan murmurs, and there's a wet sound.
"Your homofaggotry isn't making my wings go away," Quinn snaps into the damp silence, because he's nothing if not a hypocrite, a big noisy cranky hypocrite who can't sleep. "I can't play with these … fucking … appendoodles."
The silence gets a little less damp, and Bert reaches up abruptly to poke him in the chin. Quinn screws his face up, but not much. It's a soft poke, not a painful one. "Oh, yeah," Dan amends. "Shit." Bert pokes Quinn in the chin a second time, a questioning poke. Quinn catches his fingers. "Shit. Are … there has to be some way of getting them to go the fuck away. Maybe if you get really stoned I can cut—"
"No, no, no no, no, no," Jepha shouts, and there's a yelp of pain from Dan. Fuck knows what Jepha just did to him, but for a laid-back doormat of a guy, a guy who turns to putty when you smack him in the leg, Jeph Howard can be a savage motherfucker when provoked. "No no no NO cutting bits off Quinn when he's stoned."
"That was my plan," Bert says, sounding offended. Quinn squeezes his fingers.
"Your plan was drunk."
"No cutting bits off Quinn when he's drunk," Jepha says firmly. There's a rustle and a thump and a sigh, "Mmmffmmff mmmf mmm mmfmm." A pleh. "Yeah, you think it's funny but who has to go with him to hospital and how many shows do we have to cancel if our guitarist's had his arteries severed?"
Dan makes an offended sound. Quinn gives Bert's fingers another squeeze, of, like, reassurement. No motherfucker's going to slice his arteries. "Quinn's going to be drunk, not me," Dan says patiently.
Jepha says slowly, "Has Quinn ever, ever been drunk or stoned without you getting drunk or stoned?" which is totally unfair and totally fair, because Quinn's fucking generous, he's a fucking generous guy and if people are always drunk or stoned when he's around that means all that bullshit about him being a shitty beer-thief bogarting bastard is just that, bullshit. But it's totally unfair because that's like suggesting he's not capable of having medicinal mari-juan-ah without turning it into a fucking party.
Bert says, "Quinn, you motherfucker, how come Dan gets all your goodies?"
Quinn sinks deeper into the bunk mattress and tries to ignore Bert poking him in the throat like he's trying to mine his voicebox for answers. "I have a wing on my wrist," he says as plain…plant…complaintily-sadly… as he can. He's never going to be a match for Bert's Sad Face, the horrible pout that makes people do whatever he wants them to (even Quinn, who should know better and knows he should know better because he fucking laughs hard enough when he catches Bert pulling that shit on other people), but he's going to fucking give it his best shot. Because he does have a fucking wing on his wrist. And on his hip. They should not be allowed to forget that.
"Quinn," Jepha says, serious enough to get his attention over Bert jabbing at his throat. Quinn snatches Bert's fingers and Bert lunges and bites his knuckles; Quinn winces, but doesn't fucking let go. "Just … fucking sleep and we can fix it in the morning."
Oh, that's so fucking easy for him to say.
Jeph doesn't have Bert stretched over him like a lumpy bumpy bitey fighty occasionally grindy handjobby comforter, that smells of pot and pee and armpits and all the other things he's not meant to find super-comforting but does anyhow. So it's easy for Jepha to say. Also, Jepha doesn't have wings sprouting out of his body parts, and the world's itchiest ankle ever.
"Berrrrt," Quinn grumbles as another wet sound from the other bunk suggests he's not getting more words out of Jeph and Dan tonight, "BEerrrrttttt Bert Bert Bert Bert."
"Scratch my aaaaankle." It's not exactly the weirdest thing he's asked Bert to scratch for him; they're lazy motherfuckers and sometimes someone else's hand is closer to your balls than yours is and after this time they all know pretty much how to chase the aches and itches away. It's kind of awesome. "Scratch."
"Fuck no," Bert curls his fingers up like a disgusted T-rex. "I'm not touching your itches ever again."
"What the fuck?" Quinn glares in the very low light. That fucker. That fucking fucker.
"Every time you itch you sprout a fucking wing, dickbreath," Bert grins. "And then you bitch because it huuuuurts wah wah waaaaahh aaaaahhhh AAAAAhahaaa AAAAAAAaaaaaahhhhh Mommy."
He wriggles his ankle against the mattress. It's really, really fucking itchy.
They're not a dream.
They're not gone in the morning like Quinn hoped.
He finds this out almost immediately when he rolls over – Bert's already fucked off back to his own bunk, and Quinn's a heavy enough sleeper not to notice when someone vanishes on him in the night, which is totally one day going to end in him being robbed by a hooker. Not that he's ever picked up a hooker (at least not on purpose, some of those guys in downtown L.A., it's hard to tell the difference even when they're demanding money) – and whumps his wrist on the edge of the bunk.
"Ow," Quinn mutters through his morning-mouth.
The bus is rumbling on towards somewhere he's going to have to fucking play, and he can't even roll over in bed without catching those motherfuckers on something. This is bad, bad, heavy-duty shit. Quinn groans pitifully.
To no response.
He groans louder.
"Stop making sex noises," Terry thumps the bunk as he goes past, and Quinn blinks to himself in the gloom behind the bunk curtain. Oh yeaaaah, roadies on the bus. Roadies on the bus means they're closer to the gig. It's like … like birds near shore or something.
Quinn reaches down and touches his hip very carefully. It's … still there, but all the gook and ick has rubbed off at least. There's just this slightly crusty … fucking … wing. Sticking up like an unwanted boner. Which he also has, but that's fucking normal for waking up on a moving bus at… he rolls over and checks the screen of his iPod, or he would, but Bert's fucking stolen it again.
Time. Waking up at time on a moving bus. Quinn ignores his boner and pokes the wing gently with his middle finger. It moves – moves like a bird wing, not like it's going to drop off – and he gets another wave of the pukey-sexy feeling. That is so fucked up.
"Quinn, you lazy fuckass," Dan calls from the bus lounge, "I'm smoking your weed."
That sounds like a wake-up call to Quinn. He stretches – a bit more cautiously this time – and reaches down to scratch his motherfucker of an itchy ankle.
His fingers make contact with another lump.
"Noooooo," Quinn whispers, prodding it. No no no. Not another one. How's he going to walk without fucking … it's on the inside side of his ankle too, it's just going to catch on his other leg every time he tries to sit comfortably, and when he walks, and … fucking … fuck. "Noooo noooo."
"What?" Dan shouts. "I'm still smoking all your ladyfriend, motherfucker. Quiiiiinnn. I'm tonguing your laaaady."
"I said 'NOoooooo'," Quinn shouts back, snatching his hand away from his ankle and pressing it to his face instead. It's been a while since he felt like crying over anything, he's not as much of a pussy as Dan repeatedly tries to make out, even if he does sometimes get a bit teary-eyed over Finding Nemo when he's really really baked. But he's never had random growths sprouting out of his body before … since … since puberty … and none of them ever stopped him playing.
Quinn rubs his eyes with his hand and rolls off the bunk, landing on his knees. It hurts, but he doesn't knock any of the wings doing it; even when he sinks back onto his ass, on top of the backs of his legs, like, like, like Jepha giving a parking lot blowjob that one or two times, and … here he is. He can't play, he's got really gross stuff poking out of a body he's usually pretty happy with (and sometimes even proud of, okay?), and, and, and. And. He definitely feels a bit like crying.
Or throwing up.
"Noooo?" Dan echoes. Quinn can't hear Jepha or Bert, but that doesn't really mean anything. Bert's probably ignoring him and Jepha's probably … busy. "Nooo? Mooo? Hey, Jepha-ree, Quinn's turnin' into a cow."
"Fuck you," Quinn croaks, examining the wing on his wrist in full daylight at last. It looks … fucking gross. There is no way he's going to be able to strap something that big down, either. Hah. Ha. It looks like melted flesh, that's what it looks like. But there's a bone in it, he can see there's a bone in it. Growing out of his arm like some sick mutant fuck-up thing, distorting his tattoo, making him look ugly and freakish and … oh fuck, now he's crying.
There's a scuffling noise and Jepha's head appears around the end of the row of bunks. Quinn hides his face against his own shoulder.
Jepha crouches down beside him and puts his chin on Quinn's opposite shoulder, his arm over his back, and says, "Are you okay?"
"I keep growing fucking wings all over," Quinn croaks angrily. He'd probably sound more convincingly manly-enraged if he wasn't also sniffing back loose snot and getting the sleeve of his t-shirt wet with frustrated tears but sometimes these things just fucking happen.
"Bert," Dan says from the lounge, "Beerrrttttt don't make me carry you over there."
Quinn hiccups into his own armpit.
"Interviewwwww," Dan calls, and there's a bump and an insane snicker which is definitely, definitely Bert. "C'mon. C'mon, c'mon-c'mon, Bert, Bert, Beeeert, get up and do-do-dooo your interview-view-view." There's another bump, a smack, and a sound like an angry cat; Quinn doesn't need to see to guess that Dan's just picked Bert up and turned him up-side down.
The bus slows down.
"Okay," Jepha admits, kissing Quinn very briefly on the neck, "that was a stupid question."
"This is shit," Quinn elaboldabates, because it is fucking shitty, and because Jepha needs to really appreciate that. Properly.
"I know," Jepha says in Soothing Voice, petting Quinn awkwardly on the back of his neck. "I'm sorry. Maybe they'll just … fall off?"
"… yeah, maybe they'll just fall off," Quinn growls, trying to jerk away from Jeph's concerned arm. Sure, that's exactly what they'll do. And he's going to … to … to … apparently what he's going to is start feeling like he's about to throw up again. He's beginning to wish he could just puke and get it over with.
"I'm sorry," Jepha repeats, sounding kinda pissed, "I don't know what else to say, okay? I'm sorry you got wings growing out of your --- oh Quinn, is that another one on your ankle?"
"It looks like a –"
"I KNOW WHAT IT IS."
The bus stops. The door opens. There's a "Hi," from the front that sounds like someone is very confused (probably at seeing Dan with Bert draped over his shoulder like an unused jacket). Quinn scratches his shoulder, round at the front, and wipes the snot off his face.
"Sorry, Jeph." His shoulder's fucking itchy. And Quinn's got it figured out now. It's really itchy, and he can't avoid scratching it, and soon he's gonna bust out another one of those horrible lumps-full-of-wing and bleed on his t-shirt and then he's definitely not gonna be able to hang his guitar strap off that shoulder and. Fuck this.
Jeph sticks his hand between Quinn's fingers and the itchy sore shitty scabby bit on the front of his shoulder. "Don't do that."
Quinn makes a frustrated noise that means why the fuck not, I'm going to sprout another shitty horrible mutant wing thing anyhow, and Jepha strokes the back of his head for a minute. Which he should not, not, not do because otherwise Quinn's going to start angry-crying again and there have been too many pussy moments in the last day already. "Cut that the fuck out."
The distant sounds of interview float through the bus. He should probably be there, even if it's just to make sure Bert doesn't get bored and start spouting bullshit and … Dan can totally do that. There is no way Quinn can go and sit in front of someone with a video camera, looking like this.
"Don't scratch it, you'll make it worse," Jepha says, still wrapped round Quinn like a bony comforter that smells of Hi I Haven't Showered For Two Days and pot smoke and some pretty weak aftershave, what the actual fuck. "Seriously, Quinn, don't –" he smacks Quinn's fingers as Quinn tries to worm them under Jepha's hands. "—don't do that."
"WORSE HOW?" Quinn snaps, and gives up.
"Er," says the quiet voice of the person who is probably an interviewer, "is everything … okay … back there?"
"It's graaaand," Bert's voice drawls, and Quinn waits for him to blow it. Any second now. Yup. There he goes: "Just Quinn freaking out about his mutant fairy growths."
The interviewer starts laughing. That's the thing about Bert, no one believes him and 98% … like, 98.something-or-other-% of the time he's telling the truth. Not even being a little bit … symbologicalistic about it. But no one believes him.
Quinn sits still and rests his head on Jepha's shoulder like he's going to go back to sleep again. Jeph pets him one last time and they both strain to catch the next thing the interviewer says.
"So, you're playing tonight at the …"
"Actually," Dan says, and Quinn winces, "it's cancelled."
"Post…poned." Bert corrects. He's using And I Mean This For Reals voice, which Quinn doesn't like very much because serious Bert about anything other than how this song should go is usually a bad sign. Quinn slumps into Jepha and nearly knocks his ankle-lump in the process – Jeph catches him, fingers digging into his side-ribs like … like … like a man-bra or whatever. It hurts, but not as much as smacking his stupid wingcancers does.
"Postponed?" the interviewer repeats like a fucking parrot or something. Quinn kind of wants to go in there and yell at her to stop being such a fucking moron.
"Quinn's mutant fairy growths are getting in the way, we'll come back and play a show when they've gone," Bert says nonch…nonchal…non-chalfondly. Like he's talking about athlete's foot or a stomach flu outbreak. Something gross but normal. Not fucking wings.
"Ooo-kay," the interviewer laughs. Quinn sticks his face in his hands and pretends not to exist. "So you're postponing tonight's show until further notice, what about the upcoming shows?"
Bert is probably shrugging at that. Dan breaks in with a, "When Quinn's stopped being a mutant fairy freak and can play guitar again we'll play two for each one we missed."
Quinn looks down at his wrist and wonders if he can just bite the stupid fucking thing off with his fucking motherfucking teeth and get the fuck rid of it, and how much it will hurt, and if it will really hurt more than knowing he's just fucked up god knows how many shows by growing it in the first place.
And Jepha, who is kind of almost as good at mind-reading as Bert sometimes, pushes Quinn's wrist down onto his lap and says, "No, don't do that either," right in Quinn's ear.
"Well, good luck to, er, to Quinn with his … whatever it is, we all hope he's feeling better soon," the interviewer says, winding down. Almost like a fucking answer to that, a snotty kind of no-type answer, Quinn feels sick again. His shoulder's itching and aching and if he just leans forward into Jeph's hand he can pretty much trick Jepha into scratching him anyhow and … just a little bit further …
The puke's out of his mouth before he even realises he's heaving. Jepha stumbles back from him and starts rubbing his back even though Quinn's fucking retching all over the floor of the bus, not into the toilet, not into a bucket, just rubs his back and murmurs some shit or other and presses his face into the back of Quinn's neck.
It keeps coming for a while, all over Quinn's legs – these pants are so fucking beyond saving now – and some on his shirt and mostly on the floor and as he retches, all folded up, his stomach brushes the wing on his hip and makes him feel even more sick. Splatter, splatter. He keeps heaving until his stomach muscles burn and the stink of puke gets up in his nose and makes it worse.
"Whoa," Bert says, apparently done with his interview. "Quinn. That's … fucked up."
"Yeah, Quinn, you're going to see a fucking doctor," Dan mutters. He sounds grossed out, which isn't exactly surprising. Quinn belches and more puke drops down over his chin as he looks up. Shaky and fucked up and still feeling like he's gonna throw up again, Jepha's hand on his back definitely not fucking helping.
"A voodoo doctor," Bert says thoughtfully. Quinn squints at him. Bert looks actual-facts fucking concerned now.
"Do you know a voodoo doctor?" Jepha asks. It would be a stupid question, but Bert probably does; he knows all kindsa fucking weird people. Slipping on Quinn's puke, Bert steps carefully between the bunks to lay a kiss on Quinn's forehead and doesn't answer the question.
"Whoa, what the fuck," Dan says, pointing. They all look down, down at the vomit on the bus floor between Bert's already fucked-up sneakers. Quinn's seen enough weird shit recently that he doesn't need to blink in disbelief any more but that really is fucking fucked up. "What the fuck have you been eating, Quinnery Allman?"
Right there, ruining Quinn's fucking jeans and Bert's sneakers and sticking to the floor and stinking just like normal, Quinn's puke – splatters and chunks, just like normal – is sparkling and shimmering like someone spilled a tub of glitter on an oil slick. It's rainbow, rainbowing differently every time he moves, and sparkling, and there are little tiny … little tiny …
"Flowers," Dan says, pointing them out. "Look."
So Bert pretty much spends the rest of the day on a cell, mumbling shit about money to a growing string of people; Quinn's got his own problems to concentrate on, like if throwing up fucking pixie dust puke or whatever is better or worse than mutant wings busting out of his bones, which quickly becomes immaternal as a question anyhow in the face of the next slice of fucking bullshit his life hands him, which is fairydust-laced, tingling, stingy, stinky diarrhoea.
It blocks the bus toilets and fills the air with such a stench that even the bowl Dan gives him to make him feel better doesn't blot out the smell, just makes his eyes red. With a red raw asshole and a suspiciously itchy big toe knuckle … thing, Quinn's pretty much at the zenape … zen… thing … peak of his total fucking misery when Bert makes Tyler stop the bus for them.
"We're meeting someone," Bert explains, swinging off the steps like a monkey off of a tree branch. Like he does. "Don't wait uuuup."
"I'm gonna get yelled at for unscheduled stops," Tyler complains, already pulling a magazine out of the side pocket in his huge jacket. Like he really gives a fuck about that.
"We're meeting someone to fix Quinn's gay wings," Bert says, jumping up and down on the hard shoulder. Tyler waves his copy of Barely Legal at them as Quinn steps off into the dusk and the weeds and nearly loses his footing because his fucking legs feel weird with a fucking wing sticking out of the ankle.
"Who're we meeting?" Jepha pulls a hat on over his uncombed hair. There are like bats and shit flapping around. It's spooky, creepy, not Quinn's thing.
"Pedicone knows a voodoo priestess," Bert says shortly, picking his way through a churned-up parking lot, full of rubble and shit, and weeds and shit, and sharp things. "She said she can fix Quinn's sit-u-ay-shon."
"Pedicone knows a voodoo priestess?" Dan snorts, and Quinn rolls his jacket sleeve up over his wrist. It hurts, but not as much as his toe – the sneaker is pressing right into the beginnings of another motherfucking wing, and his ankle-wing is chafing again already. "Jesus."
"Shocked?" Jeph lifts his hat to grin at him, all gold tooth and dirty corners. Asshole. Bert's way ahead, disappearing into the dark. Quinn would jog to keep up but he can't put his feet down hard without them hurting and the ground is uneven and he's whining in his own head and fuck that metal thing just knocked his fucking ankle wing—
"OW," Quinn squawks, hopping on one foot to precisely no sympathy.
"No, shockingly," Dan slaps Jepha on the ass – Quinn can hear it – as Quinn hop-stumbles through the crap after Bert's disappearing shape. Good thing he's wearing a white hoodie or Quinn'd have lost him already. "Pedicone's a freak, Freakface."
Bert stops abruptly and Quinn limps up to his side; a random white chick in a skirt suit steps out of the shadow of a toll booth with smashed windows. This is totally not what he was expecting; voodoo priestesses are meant to be black chicks with huge dreads and slinky dresses and wooden Catholic beads, not fucking American Mothers of Tomorrow in record exec grey suits who look impatient and pissed, like the guys are wasting their fucking time before lawyer school or some shit.
Quinn feels a fucking itch building in his elbow and squirms. No, no. No.
"Do you have my fee?" is like the first thing out of her mouth.
Bert scrabbles in his hoodie pockets and his shorts pockets and pulls out a couple of handfuls of grubby greens. He dumps them into her hands and the voodoo priest chick looks like she'd rather not touch it at all as she counts it all out.
"You're short, McCracken."
"I'm tall for a dwarf," Bert retorts, but he also turns round and yells, "Jeph, I need your wallet."
For once Jepha doesn't complain about Bert treating him like a walking money box, just digs his dumb purple snakeskin Hello Kitty wallet out of his pants pocket and tosses it to Bert; Bert doesn't even try to catch it – he sucks at catch – just picks it up from the dirt and crumples more bills into the voodoo chick's hands.
"All right," says the voodoo chick, eyeballing Bert, "what's the problem? I don't do height changes."
Before Bert can get mad or say something stupid and make the voodoo chick mad, Quinn takes off his jacket to show this chick exactly what the problem is. It catches on a lump on his elbow and he swears under his breath as fucking pain hits him up to the shoulder. "I keep growing … wings."
Voodoo chick is not impressed. She's doing that face Quinn's teachers used to whenever he tried to do something that wasn't noodle with a guitar or flick spitballs at people. The tiny-mouth face.
"He's puking pixie dust too," Dan says helpfully, leaning on Jepha like Jepha's a railing, and Jepha bares his teeth at him, "and he's shitting flowers."
Voodoo chick wrinkles her nose. "You have a very simple problem." She sounds pissed off, like Quinn coulda had a more interestingly shitty twenty-four hours for her motherfucking pleasure. "You need to clean your bus—"
"—what the fuck does that got to do with it?" Quinn barks, trying not to scratch anything. He's feeling a bit … worrying … in his guts. Like something bad and probably stinky is going to happen to the inside of his Spongebob pants.
The voodoo chick folds up Bert and Jepha's money real neat and sticks it away in her suit somewhere. She just looks like she's about to serve them papers or something. Quinn knows that fucking face.
"Pixies are attracted to human skin flakes and … other detritus," Quinn's got no idea what 'detritus' actually means but he's guessing from the look on her face when she says it that it's probably like 'shit' or something.
"Yeah, but we all live on it," Dan points out in his special I Don't Like You But I Have To Be Polite voice which Quinn really loves because no one seems to realise that's what it is.
"And no one else is getting bitten? Or no one else is getting bitten and reacting like this?" Voodoo chick with her stupid blonde hair holds up a hand for stop before any of them can say a fucking thing else. "Don't even think about bringing up 'allergies', do you know how often I have to listen to that crap? Please. There's a perfectly good explanation."
They wait for it.
She screws up her mouth like a cat's asshole. "Oh, fine, if you're too stupid to figure it out for yourselves … you want a cure for this, right?"
They all nod. Quinn nods so hard he nearly gets a crick in his neck. If there's one thing he's really sure of right now, apart from that he's going to shit himself at some time in the next ten minutes, it's how bad he wants this shit over with. Wings are not fun. Shitting lilies and daisies is even less motherfucking fun.
The voodoo chick writes down a list of instructions with a sigh, on like a legal pad or something, and gives Bert this baggie of something that looks wet and squishy in the really low light. Bert looks fascinated and a bit grossed out and that's never a good sign.
Quinn thinks that's it, they're done here, they can go back to the bus and fix him and not miss any more shows and everything'll be cool again, but the voodoo chick gives him this totally icy disgusted look and says, "You really haven't figured it out for yourself?"
Jamming the baggie into his pocket, Bert says, "Who cares, as long as this fixes it? C'mon, Quinnfuck."
Quinn glares. "What? Figured what out? What the fuck are you talking about? What?"
The voodoo chick stares at them all in turn and says, like they're the dumbest fucks she's ever had to meet, "You're all getting fairy bites from living in that trash-can on wheels you call a bus. You're the only one vomiting fairy dust and growing wings—"
"And shitting flowers," Dan adds helpfully. "Don't forget that."
"—and having a bad reaction to the bites." The voodoo chick – who is like, three inches taller than Quinn, whatever – looks Quinn right in the face and snaps, "It's because you're. a. fairy." And she turns away into the shadows again.
Quinn looks around at his band and frowns as this sinks in. He's pretty fucking sure he's not Tinkerbell. He's never granted wishes and he can't fly and sure, it hurts when someone says they don't believe in him and he likes applause but that doesn't really mean he like, actually dies without it. "Did … she … just…?"
"Call you gay?" Jepha finishes, waving a limp wrist at him in the near-dark. "Yup. She definitely did."
The instructions don't make a whole lot of sense. Even when they get Tyler and Terry and all of the crew to come and look at them and read them through and have a huge-ass argument about semitics or whatever that word is. Quinn gives up trying to work out what the fuck everyone's arguing about and just snatches up the piece of paper after like maybe an hour – his sneaker's making his foot hurt so bad now he can't put it down, and he doesn't really know if he can take the fucking thing off any more without catching it on the fucking fucking wing.
"That lady writes like she's having a seizure," Bert says, poking the paper as Quinn tries to get out of the way of an argument about, like, what half-a-spoon actually means. Never let stoned roadies make important decisions about your future, that's what he needs to learn from this fucking thing. If this was the Brady Bunch, that would be his lesson for the end of the show. Don't let stoned roadies near your instructions for getting rid of your stupid-ass fairy wings.
"Call for Mr Kettle," Jepha interrupts, shoving phone fingers against the side of Bert's head. "It's Mr Pot, will you take the call? He says it's urgent."
"If he's calling about my RACE," Bert shouts, "He can fuck off."
"Mr Kettle, Mr Pot wants you to know that you're of an African-American per-sway-see-yon," Jepha says, shoving his fingers into Bert's face again. "Blaaaack black blaaack blaaaack black black."
"Mr Pot is a racist," Bert says, batting his hand away. "What does that say?"
Jepha peers at the legal pad paper thing instructions in Quinn's hand. It's got bloodstains on it now, because Quinn's only human and his elbow-wing was itchy and wouldn't stop itching until he'd dug it out from under his skin and then it bled everywhere and got pus on his new t-shirt and fuck. "It says, rub the giblets on the existing bites."
Bert holds up the squishy baggie of ick and grins. Jepha makes a face.
"I'm not volunteering for that, just so you know."
Bert shrugs. Quinn scratches his elbow. Fuck it, he might as well. It's already got a wing on it and he's already got blood all over his arm. Jepha takes the paper off him and keeps reading.
"Chant the incantation over each of the bites," Jepha says – Quinn's pretty fucking impressed he can read those chicken-scratches – and he pulls a face. "What the fuck? Okay, when we're done with that we have to … cleanse the afflicted with purifying liquid."
Bert starts humming, then bursts into, "Cleanssssse the aff-lick-ted with pur-i-fying lick-wid," over and over.
"What the fuck is purifying lick-wid?" Dan ducks around Terry and Tyler – who are still fucking arguing – and flicks Bert in the back of the neck with his huge ridiculous man hands of hugeness. If Dan grew a wing on every finger joint he'd still have room to bend his fucking hands. Quinn's a little freaked out to find himself thinking like that.
"It says here," Jepha pokes some little brackets, "beer will do."
"Awesome," this is the first good fucking thing Quinn's heard since this whole bullshit started. He's at least used to smelling almost entirely of beer and having beer in his hair and beer in his socks and beer in his eyes. Bathing in beer on purpose is a new thing but it's not new-new.
"Guuuuuys," Dan flicks something at Terry and Tyler and the other crew. "Guuuuys we need beer."
"You always need beer," Tyler says. He's practically got Terry in a stranglehold.
"No, we always want beer, this time we need it," Jepha says, waving the paper at the cluster of roadies. Quinn's starting to feel sick again. He puts his hands over his belly and tries to force the stupid fucking fairy dust to stay down. He's so completely not up for more fucking rainbow-shiny vomit fountains. "To get rid of Quinn's fairy wings."
"What the fuck?" Terry wrenches himself out of Tyler's headlock and stomps off the bus. He's got to be going to the trailer, the trailer's where the beer is, the trailer's the thing none of the band have the keys to for exactly that reason. Unfair, unfair, but probably a good idea.
"Hey Quinn, get naked," Dan says, peering at the instructions.
Normally Quinn's got no qua…qua…problems with taking his clothes off in front of other people, he's fucking hot and he knows it, he might not be quite as washboardy-abs as he once was but fucking hell yeah his hips still stick out enough to hook people the fuck in. Normally Quinn'll get naked on a dare, a bet, on Bert's giggly-serious say-so, and whenever the temperature gets above 85F. "Normally" is pretty much fucking defined by "times Quinn doesn't have ugly-ass wings growing out of his ana-to-my", though.
"Get naked faster," Bert says, yanking on Quinn's t-shirt hem impatiently.
Quinn peels off his t-shirt. It catches on his shoulder-wing, his elbow-wing, his hip-wing, and just randomly on his head; he swears and struggles and throws it at Bert. "Ow."
"You look like a freak," Bert says with fascination. Fond fascination, but he's still staring at Quinn like Quinn's a sideshow monster.
"Fuck you. Wedding's off. I don't love you any more." Quinn starts unbuttoning his jeans fly slow and awkward, because every fucker is staring at him and he hasn't done a strip-tease since he was in high-school and that was just this one time when he was too high to really care what he was doing. He hits his wrist-wing on his hip wing and for a second it looks like they're gonna tangle. "Ow."
"Hurry up hurry uuuuup," Bert starts squishing the baggie of giblets around between his hands. "Hurry up up up up hurry up up up."
Quinn rolls down his jeans really, really slowly. They catch on his ankle wing, and an itchy lump on his knee, and pool around his sneakers. "I can't get my sneaker off—"
"Dan fix," Dan says, raising his hand.
"No. No, no, no, no, no, OW DAN OW AAAAAARGH." Quinn flails but hits the floor hard as Dan picks up the foot with the wing on the toe and just yanks his fucking sneaker off without even undoing it. It feels like someone's taken a sledgehammer to all the bones in his foot and for a minute Quinn's not sure whether he's going to throw up, pass out, shit himself, or all three.
But the black dots in his eyes fade away and his heart stops trying to bash through his chest and he sits in a miserable pile on the floor wearing just his blue "little-boy cartoon underpants" (what Bert calls them), while Dan picks up his other foot and actually bothers to unlace that sneaker. Like someone's fucking dad.
"Giblets!" Bert announces like it's the best thing in the world. Quinn puts his hands over his face.
Even without looking the guts are gross. They feel gross on his skin and for no fucking reason he can work out they sting like a bitch whenever they touch his hives or the wings; like he spilled battery acid on himself. Quinn whines and writhes and Bert pinches him and yells at him to sit tight and stop being a pussy, and there's a shush as the bus door opens again and cold air hits him everywhere at once.
"This is the shittiest week of my entire life," Quinn says as Bert – and possible Jepha, there's more than one set of hands there – smears stinky gritty animal guts all over his hip and his elbow and his… "The shittiest shittiest."
"You can have the rest of my weed," Dan says. His huge hands are splatting … splath… slathering guts onto Quinn's feet. "Like, all of it."
Quinn pulls his hands away from his face in shock.
"Hold still," Bert snaps.
"Seriously fucking hold still," Bert smacks him in the back of the head with a gutsy hand.
"Seriously you can have the rest," Dan says, still painting giblets onto Quinn's ankle, and he, like, catches Quinn's eye and gives him Serious Eyes so Quinn knows he actually fucking means it.
"I love you guys," Quinn says, deeply touched.
"I got your beers," Terry shouts from the bus door. There's a loud clink. "Don't bitch me out when there's none later."
Jepha practically fucking bounds down the bus to get the beers, and Bert straightens up over Quinn's head. "Okay, I got it. It's like, French or something."
"That's not French," Dan says, craning his neck at the piece of paper.
"It's totally French. Look. That word there is haut. It's … something to do with clothes." Bert stabs the paper with his finger. "Haut … haut… boat … haut…"
"That's not how you say it," Jepha shouts. There's more clinking.
"Shut up, asshole, I'm going to do magic now." Bert coughs, clears his throat, coughs again, clears his throat, coughs some more, and finally shouts, "JEPHA HURRY THE FUCK UP."
Jepha comes clink-clinking back to them with a whole crate of beers balanced between his hands, sticking his fucking tongue out. "I hurried. Beer! Beer is here."
"You pop, I'll chant," Bert says kinda grandly, waving his blood-smeared piece of paper around.
"Maybe you should rap it," Dan suggests, reaching for one of the beers and opening it off his Kinky Sex Games and Beer-Opening knife.
"Maybe shut up," Quinn shouts, putting his hands over his head; getting guts on his chin and his ear. "Maybe fucking get rid of these fucking wings."
There's a tinkle as Jepha pops the cap on the first bottle of beer. Quinn takes his hands off his head and looks up at Bert with the best pleading face he can do, and Bert starts mumbling some random shit and waving his hands around.
After a couple of minutes Quinn realizes he's probably chanting the stuff from the voodoo chick's instructions. He screws up his face in case magicking off the wings hurts as much as magicking them on in the first place did, but he can't feel anything at all. No tingling, no swooshing noises, no sparkly shit, nothing at all.
"Is it wor—"
"Shut up. Beer!" Bert yells.
There are several more pops and Quinn screws his face up even tighter. Like almost immediately he gets hit by a bottleful of cold, beer-smelling beer over the top of his head. Then another one over his shoulders, and another one over his knee, and the guys just … keep on going. Pop, fizz, pour, beer, until Quinn's sticky and wet and freezing cold and smells almost entirely of beer.
"Is it wor—"
"Whoa," Dan says slowly.
"What? What?" Quinn opens his eyes and looks down. First things first, those motherfucking wings have gone. Oh thank God. Thank everything. Thank fuck. He stretches his arms out and looks around, looks up at his band, looks up at their … grinning … grinning faces. "…what?"
His voice sounds funny.
"Whoa," Bert agrees, grinning so hard he looks like he's going to fucking split in half. It's cute but it's giving Quinn the creeps. The wings are gone, right? The wings are definitely gone.
"Dude," Jepha smirks, patting him on the shoulder. "This is much better."
Quinn stares at him suspiciously. Jepha has a pretty freaky idea of what better means. So he looks the fuck down again. And blinks.
And blinks again.
"Those weren't there before," Quinn says, poking them. "They definitely weren't here before."
"Yeah, but I like them," Bert says, reaching down to poke them as well. "They can stay."
Quinn stares down at his boobs and reflectificates that whatever Bert fucking thinks, they are not going … to … he peers between them at his … unusually flat … underwear.
"You look good," Dan says in a hushed voice, keeping his hands to himself. "Seriously good."
"Fuck that," Quinn yells, folding his arms over his new tits. "I WANT MY DICK BACK."