The stamp was still melting on his tongue when the lights went out and they entered the stage as faceless silhouettes, greeted by a cheering crowd of 15.000 people.
By the time of the encore, reality was long since on its merry way out of his grasp.
They were backstage for water and a chance to catch their breaths, getting ready for their last four songs, and Mike could've sworn that Brad's fro was shimmering like ember, ready to burst into flames any second, and when Dave asked him if he was okay, because apparently he hadn't moved for several minutes, all he could do was grin and affectionately run his hand over his friend's head, who gently slapped it away with a bemused frown, before he grabbed his arm to drag him back onto stage with him.
The venue was endless, anonymous faces and arms stetching towards the sky as far as Mike could see, covering everything below the stage, blending with the ocean in the distance.
And when Chester screamed, wings spread from his back and Mike fell a little in love with him.
And later fell flat on his face when they went off stage and he missed a step.
It put a brief damper to his mood, though, when Chester took him by the side on their way to the vans and bluntly asked him what the fuck he was on.
For a split-second Mike almost felt bad, because he looked so serious and so concerned, but reality was still shifting and Chester's eyes were unnaturally large and his own arms and hands didn't even belong to him anymore and so he just shrugged with a smile, murmured a soft "acid" and enjoyed the confusion on his friend's handsome face.
Mike's smile just grew wider.
"For fuck's sake, why?"
He shrugged again. "I don't know. Why not?"
And when Chester couldn't answer him - which was kind of sad, given how he of all people should've known the answer to that question - he just kissed him on the forehead, turned away and joined the rest of the band who was already waiting to get back to their hotel.
A few hours later, still too restless to even consider sleep and unwilling to waste a second of his trip, he snuck out of his room after a quick shower and change of clothes, and roamed the streets a little. Just following whatever direction promised interesting looking people, shiny lights, music with a bass so heavy he could feel it clawing at his heart and lungs, until he landed in a small but crowded underground club.
His head was swimming and he felt like he was burning up a little, but he was sure he never understood himself, the world around him, the universe as perfectly as he did then.
And when a handsome stranger approached him and offered him a trip and, upon Mike declining because he already was on one, instead a kiss on his lips, a kiss on his neck, and some more later in a toilet stall, accompanied only by the flickering and humming of a broken fluorescent lamp, who was he to say No?
"Did you come down by now?"
Mike sighed, shuffling along in the eggs and bacon queue at the breakfast buffet and rolled his eyes. "I was joking, you know."
"So you weren't really tripping last night?"
"Of course I wasn't, Jesus fuck, Chester. If I ever felt like trying anything beyond pot I sure as hell wouldn't do it on stage."
Chester didn't believe him. But neither did he have any evidence and so he put the topic to rest.
Mike loaded his plate with bacon, eggs and vegetables, and grabbed a glass of freshly pressed orange juice on his way back to their table.
His surroundings still shimmered softly, almost opalesque, he still felt like he was running a bit of a temperature and actually wasn't hungry in the least. But since he hadn't slept in 24 hours and was more than a little dizzy from that, foregoing breakfast was out of the question.
Tiredness and a wave of nausea hit him like a brick wall not quite half an hour before the show and he almost collapsed leaving the interview tent.
Luckily this was a festival show.
Luckily he'd been in the business long enough to know exactly where to find someone who knew someone else who could help.
And when he stumbled onto stage twenty minutes later, his nose and throat still tingling, his blood was lava and his heart a jackhammer and the world was so bright and sharp it burned his eyes from the inside.
And he loved each and every one of these 100k kids who were singing along and they loved him, too, because he was a fucking god.
He was still a god when they left the stage 90 minutes later and he sure as hell also was a god to the singer of some yet-unknown-band that had played earlier that day when he fucked him in a spider-ridden broom closet only a few feet away from their wardrobe.
Mike couldn't remember making it to his room, but that's where he woke up the next day.
According to Joe he passed out in the van on the way back to the hotel and had to be carried into bed by Rob; how was he feeling anyway? His face was burning, so they figured he was sick.
Mike smiled and shrugged, ignoring Chester's piercing gaze, and admitted to feeling a bit dizzy, a bit nauseous, somewhat cold and still very very tired.
"The tour's coming to an end soon. Guess it's just time for the regular scheduled sickness."
And with that he hauled his bags into the car, climbed onto the back seat and just closed his eyes.
He wasn't a god anymore. Just a piece of shit. But he knew that was part of the deal with some drugs and would pass, so it was ok.
Another city, another nightclub not too far from their hotel, this time an oldfashioned pill with a happy smiley face on it.
There was only so much time left to finally do all the dumb things he didn't allow himself a decade ago when they still had to prove themselves as the clean and put-together band they decided they wanted to be - or later when one of his best friends turned out to be an addict who really didn't need any additional encouragement to kill himself with all kinds of available poison.
They were past this now.
Their image - his image - was set in stone to the point where photos of him snorting coke off a hooker's ass could go viral and people would still believe him if he told them they were fake.
Maybe not all of them, but enough.
He danced, probably looking positively ridiculous, but it was dark with only a few colorful spotlights roaming the dancefloor and no one saw him, recognized him or gave a fuck in general. He set one alarm on his phone to remind him to drink something, and another one so he wouldn't forget to eat a little on his way back to the hotel.
And when he arrived there, burger in one hand, a paper cup of pepsi in the other, he spotted a familiar figure outside absentmindedly picking off the label of a half-empty beer bottle, smoking, staring holes into the air.
Rob flinched and looked at him with wide, disbelieving eyes. "... Mike? What the hell are you doing here?"
The answer was a broad grin. "Clubbing. Or rather, coming back from clubbing." His eyes slipped off Rob's face and onto his chest and stomach. "... Fuck, man, you look comfy..."
"Are you high?"
"A little." Mike shrugged and took another bite from his burger. "And you?"
"If I'm high?"
"No, what are you doing here? And what's with the beer? ... Can I get a drag?" He nodded towards the cigarette.
Rob sighed, handing it over.
"My hands are full."
Rob sighed again, extending his arm a little further, a little higher, until Mike could put his lips around the filter with a mumbled "Thanks" without having to move at all.
They were silent for a while, just taking in the mixture of night air, smog and smoke, until Mike made a displeased noise in the back of his throat when tobacco ashes snowed onto the cold remains of his burger. And with a third sigh - but also a little smile - Rob took the cigarette away from him again, flicked off the excess ashes and placed it back between his own lips.
"Because of the beer?"
Rob shrugged. "I don't know. I mean, yeah. I'm not... not-okay." He hesitated for a moment, before carefully adding "It's my first one. Only one, I mean", and paused again, looking around if anyone could see them, before adding in a hushed voice: "I'm not Chester. I can, well. Have a beer or a glass of wine. And not want to just, uh, not stop."
Mike snerked, taking another bite from his burger and mumbling with his mouth full. "Thanks god. That you're not Chester I mean. Like, he's... well, he is himself and I love him. But it's good that you are you. And I like that being-you part of you."
"... God, you really are high, huh?"
"Not that much anymore, but Chester would give me shit nonetheless. So that's another reason why it's really cool that you're not him." He grinned, finished his burger, took a last sip of his pepsi and threw the trash in a nearby bin, before wiping his hands on his pants. "Also, like I said, you look really fucking comfy and I'm not asking you to make out or something-"
Rob choked on his beer.
"-but. Like. If you're having a not so great night right now and would like, uh, cuddles or something like that: I'm game. Like, seriously. You'd just need to stop me if I'm getting too... I don't know what. If you don't like it. Oh and I promise I'm not horny or something, if that helps?" Mike's gaze once again lingered on his friend's stomach and waist and his fingers twitched a little, because Rob really really did look ridiculous warm and soft and comfy and he was tall and his shoulders were broad, his arms strong and he had already proven himself in the past to give excellent hugs. "... We can make out if you want to, though." Ok, maybe he was still higher than he thought he was.
"Erika asked if I would be okay with a break."
"... Oh. I'm sorry, I didn't-"
"So I would be very much down for cuddling and maybe making out a little." And with that Rob placed his empty bottle down next to the trash bin, grabbed Mike's hand and took him up to his room.
Mike and Anna had talked a lot about this over the span of several months. About stupid things they never did but couldn't help thinking about.
She never had a girlfriend, despite always having been attracted to women at least as much as to men, if not even more. She wasn't missing anything in their relationship, it just... it just was on her mind sometimes, especially since it started to become a little more common to see in mainstream media.
She was also thinking about that tongue piercing she always wanted but was too chicken to get when she was younger.
And pot. Which she did try, though, back in college, but while she enjoyed its effects while they lasted, her anxiety always made her freak out about it afterwards and she didn't trust herself to not get addicted. So she stopped accepting offers. But she still missed it sometimes and was a little jealous of Mike, who could just casually get stoned with friends and then just go on with his life, not thinking about it anymore, once his mind was clear again.
He stupidly kind of regretted never having taken much advantage of being a rockstar. Sure, in the early days he was drinking a little more and got high every once in a while when a joint happened to pass his way (which, admittedly, was quite often since Chester lived by the rule "sharing = caring"), but aside from that...
Of course he never regretted not having cheated on his girlfriend-later-wife, but the memories of some of the opportunities to do so still turned him on sometimes.
Like that one time in Germany when a cute barkeeper slipped him his number on a napkin, whispering something about "casual fun" in his slighly chiseled accent into his ear. He was tall, lanky, with a sidecut, pierced eyebrow, pierced lip, pierced ears and big dark eyes, and his smile was strangely trustworthy, plain inviting and overall just distressingly kissable.
"I think that's the first time I hear you swoon over a guy."
"Uh, you know I like guys..." Their bisexuality was one of the things they bonded over when they still got to know each other, even.
"Yeah, but you usually don't go much into detail. You're just like 'oh, that's a good-looking man' or 'fuck, did you see this guy? Nice eyes'."
"Nice ass. That dude you're referring to, I complimented his ass, not his eyes."
"Point still stands."
"... I guess it does."
"I don't think we can do much about the things I wish I did when I had the chance to. I wouldn't know how to flirt with a cute girl if my life depended on it, also I don't think being in more than one relationship at a time is really my thing. Or that you would be fine with that."
"And I still don't think pot and I should be friends. But I might think about that piercing because. I don't know. It's not like everyone would immediately see it. And I pressed three children out of my vagina, it can't really get much more painful than that."
"I heard kidney stones are pretty close."
"Mike. I regret never having gotten a tongue piercing. Not never having had kidney stones."
"I'm just saying."
"Anyway. So, essentially, what you would like to catch up with is living the rockstar life. Like, do the Chester, only without the crippling depression and addiction and not giving a damn if you die."
"I think I could also very well do without the divorce part."
"I hope so!"
"So... what are you getting at?"
"I think I'm okay with you fucking around a little. And getting a bit fucked up every once in a while as well. Not forever, but like. I don't know. For a tour or so it should be okay...?"
"I don't need to know what you take or who you fuck. I mean, I wouldn't say No to a nice and juicy explicit story about a particularly hot encounter", she smirked and Mike remembered her having mentioned that she imagined him and another guy to be quite the hot sight, "or a video, but I think that could be a bit hard to organize with a casual fuck. Buy yeah. You heard me. I'm fine with you playing rockstar for a while."
He was shocked by and opposed to the idea and told her so, but she made him promise to think about it for a while before throwing the opportunity out of the window for good.
They were currently at a very stable and overall comfortable - but not boring - point in their relationship, and if they ever were to allow each other to stray, this was the perfect chance to do so without ruining everything.
Mike hated how much sense that made and he also hated how just the mental image of him allowing himself that experience already produced butterflies in his stomach. And after a few weeks of thinking it through, he agreed.
No fucking with bandmates or crew members, though! And never without a condom in general!
And only for one tour, maybe two! Those were the rules.
Mike and Rob didn't fuck.
They got undressed, though, down to their boxers at least. And they kissed a lot and there was a bit of grinding involved as well, but overall it was mostly snuggling and talking, and Rob couldn't help but think of Mike as adorable. He was babbling a lot, oversharing here and there but not too much, and kept rubbing his cheek onto Rob's chest, hugging him tightly, running his hands over his waist and even gently kissed one of his nipples once. And his huge eyes sparkled when he looked up at his friend before pressing his lips onto his mouth and softly chuckled into their kiss.
It was one of the nicest nights Rob had had in quite a while.
And so it stung a little when Mike couldn't really look him in the eyes in the morning and generally seemed embarrassed about all the things he told him and for coming up with the whole idea in the first place. And he blushed furiously when he spotted that hickey he left on Rob's collarbone, although he did have to admit that it was kind of hot.
"I really don't mind, Mike."
"Really. We didn't do much and you didn't tell me anything I'd consider weirder than some of the stuff you've told me when drunk. We're fine by my book."
Mike sighed and let his head sink onto Rob's chest, closing his eyes. "Good."
And after they got up and dressed and down to the breakfast buffet, they didn't talk about it again.
It was a week before the tour's end and Mike couldn't walk on his own anymore.
His head was spinning, his limbs lax, and he just couldn't stop smiling because it prickled in his chest and stomach.
He was also hard.
Chester, on whom he was leaning heavily and who in his opinion looked kind of cute with his little frown and pursed lips, didn't seem to notice, though. They were both still sweaty from the show and that damp salty smell only made Mike's head spin even more and he had trouble seeing clearly. His skin burned where it touched Chester's.
He fumbled for his phone to text Anna.
"The fuck, man. How much have you been drinking? And when ?"
"... I'm not drunk."
Chester snorted. "Yeah, sure, and I'm the pope."
Mike stared at him confusedly and was just about to say something when his phone vibrated.
He sighed. It wasn't like he didn't expect this answer, but he was still disappointed. And horny. Horribly, horribly horny.
He let his arm slip off Chester's shoulder and gently shoved him away a little. "I shouldn't... I, uh, I think I can walk by myself." He couldn't, though, and stumbled over the curbstone and it was only thanks to Chester's fast reflexes that he didn't go to the ground.
"Don't fucking dude me... dude."
Chester snerked. He was still pissed that Mike got wasted - that he was allowed to get wasted - but he also always loved drunk Mike, because drunk Mike was funny, especially when he tried to convince everyone that he wasn't drunk. And so he couldn't help himself but hug him. "You're such a nerd."
Mike whined a little but didn't really have it in himself to shove his friend away again, because he still smelled salty and like Chester and a bit like locker room, too, which reminded Mike of high school times and boys he was mildly crushing on stepping out of the shower in nothing but a small towel, although in his current mental image they were 10 to 20 years older, and at least one of them had tattooes and ear plugs and an awfully sweet smile.
"Chaz... I... we... we really shouldn't... ... Let go of me."
Chester immediately loosened his hug, but didn't fully let go yet. His smirk was audible. "Or else?"
'Or else nothing, I just don't want to be hugged right now' was what Mike wanted to say, but a slightly raspy "I don't think you want to know" is what came out of his mouth instead, and while trying to disentangle from Chester's embrace he lost his balance again and his erection brushed against Chester's hip.
And so did Chester, who was suddenly very quick at arranging some distance between them and just stared at him with wide eyes for a few seconds. And then laughed, openly mustering Mike's crotch. "Dude!"
Mike could see his friend's fingers twitching out of the corner of his eyes. "This isn't funny."
"Aw, nothing to be ashamed of! It's not the first time I see you with a hard-on."
"I know but. Just..." Mike sighed and closed his eyes, which made him sway again. If only the world would be kind enough to spin a little less... As much as he enjoyed the buzz, right now it was mostly inconvenient. He sighed again, when Chester stepped closer and gently grabbed his arm again. And when he opened his eyes, he caught him still staring at his crotch. "Why don't you just take a picture? Lasts longer, you know."
But Chester just smirked and, with a soft blush on his cheeks, awkwardly put his free hand on the bulge in Mike's jeans.
"Does your offer still stand?"
By the time they made it to the hotel, to Chester's room, Mike's legs were jell-o and judging by his way too tight pants and dizziness there was barely any blood left in his brain. And when Chester pinned him to the wall as soon as the door was closed and their faces were only inches away, close enough for them to feel each other's breath on their lips, he was sure he was about to pass out any second.
Chester didn't break eye contact when he gently laid his hand on Mike's chest, taking in his hammering heartbeat. When his fingers glided over Mike's stomach and came to rest on his belt. When he opened it. Unbuttoned the jeans.
When Mike moaned softly as he freed his erection and wrapped his slightly shaking hand around it.
It took a bit of adjustment of his grip and his movements, some trial and error, until he seemed to have found a technique that worked. Or rather, until he heard a first low moan. It had been more than half a life ago since the last time Chester had done this to anyone else but himself - but that particular memory lane wasn't one he felt like going down anyway. Not here at least. Not now. Not with Mike looking at him with hazy, half-closed eyes, blushing cheeks and slightly parted lips. His heavy breaths caressing Chester's lips. Giving him ideas of kisses.
Should they kiss?
Chester felt dizzy just considering it.
Mike, wondering the same, wasn't so sure if it was a good idea but he sure as hell wanted to.
... Okay, no, he was pretty sure it was a horrible idea.
It was one thing to make out with Rob while cuddling, because 1) it was Rob and 2) it had been all casual, no sexual tension. No, well, not much tongue either.
But with Chester... Things were never casual with Chester. Couldn't be. Every badly chosen word, every action that wasn't 100% harmless and positive stuck to his brain like a fly to a fly trap. And even though nowadays he was fast and easy to forgive, he would never forget and the next time he was in a not-quite-ideal headspace it would all boil up again.
Kissing him, with their shared past of flirty teasing and more than one instance of sexual tension so intense you could almost hear the crackling, could almost see sparks, with that immense adoration for each other... and with Mike being someone who was unable to let go of things he wanted until he got them, who needed not to know how it felt having their lips brush, touch, how Chester tasted... because if he liked it...
Mike's hands were shaking badly when he put them onto Chester's waist and gently pushed him away. "I... we... this is... w-we..." He gulped and the panic in his eyes and unsteadiness of his voice sent shivers down Chester's back. "Y-you're... this is... Too good. I. You. We. We shouldn't or else..."
"... or else?" Chester flinched at bit at the husky sound of his own voice and only reluctantly let go off Mike's erection, his head spinning when he realized how much he actually liked the feeling of it in his hand, and being the one responsible for Mike gasping, shivering, moaning.
Not just because it was Mike.
But because he was a man.
Confused by this train of thought - because wow, did he seriously forget he could be attracted by men? really? or was that just one of those things he associated with his not-so-sober past self too much and therefor decided to bury forever? - Chester blinked and dazedly watched Mike pulling up his boxers and jeans, fumbling with the buttons and the belt.
He was just about to open his mouth and repeat his question when Mike was done getting dressed, pushed himself off the wall, pressed an uncoordinated and slightly wet kiss onto his cheek and stumbled out of the room.
Should he follow him? To make sure he wouldn't get lost or fall and hurt himself?
Muffled voices from the other side of the door.
"Hey, what- ... woah! ... ... Need a helping hand?" Rob?
Mike's answer was either really quiet or he didn't answer at all.
"I'm gonna take that as a Yes."
And with that they were gone.
Leaving Chester feeling confused, relieved, offended and something else he couldn't quite put his finger on.
Even though it was kind of to be expected, it still took Mike by surprise how awkward things were between him and Chester when they met up at breakfast in the morning.
He tried his best to break the ice with his usual smiles and jokes, but only got half-assed grins in return.
At least from him.
Rob on the other hand seemed more relaxed than he'd seen him in quite a while and even joined in on some of his jokes. Which, admittedly, made it pretty hard to keep focused on Chester in the first place.
Especially since Mike really enjoyed that kind of spicy undertone his and Rob's friendly flirting had, now that there was actually a bit of meat behind it.
It was a shame they weren't allowed to fuck, really.
Okay, Mike was somewhat sure they also weren't supposed to keep kissing, but those harmless pecks they gave each other whenever they were alone didn't really qualify as actual kisses. In his opinion, at least. And they mainly did it for the thrill of potentially getting caught anyway.
Well, and maybe also because Mike was really fucking into having to tilt his head backwards and stretch a little to meet Rob's lips. He hadn't expected loving being the smaller one that much but there he was, getting hard because the best way to steady himself was to sling his arms around Rob's neck and pull himself up to him, while Rob's big but slender and warm hands laid on his waist.
Was that how Anna felt when she kissed him?
Did she like it that much, too?
Or did she actually dream of a short and cute girlfriend she had to bend down to for kisses? (Not that Mike would mind, since he very much liked being in that position when they kissed, too.)
It was twenty minutes before they were due on stage and a harmless peck or two had turned into a full-blown make out session in the bathroom of their wardrobe.
Mike was almost thankful for Chester walking in on him shoving his hand down Rob's pants before he got anywhere with it but couldn't suppress a giggle when Rob squeezed his ass, flinching at Chester's incredulous "WHAT THE FUCK??!?"
"I think he's jealous."
Rob shrugged, taking a swig from his water bottle, and stretched his shoulders.
"Why would you think that?"
"Because he's Chester."
"And it was his room you left with a boner and half-open fly last night. And he seems pissed at you. And... I don't know... kinda disappointed in me?"
"Disappointed?" Mike frowned and stretched his legs, trying not to get distracted by the sound of their singer warming up his voice next door by aggressively shouting the lyrics to Blackout (which wasn't even on their setlist).
"Yeah. Like he expected better of me."
"You look confused."
"You're a keen observer, Mr. Bourdon. I am confused."
"So I take it you and Chester don't..."
"... we don't...?"
"I don't know. Do stuff? Like what we do? Otherwise you would be less confused as to why I think he might be jealous."
Mike sighed, stretching his arms and shoulders now. "No, we... We don't do stuff like this. We almost kind of did last night, though, but I ran off before we went too far. We haven't talked about it yet, because he's been avoiding me all day. He also thinks I was drunk last night."
"No, I was high. I've been trying some stuff lately." He carefully rolled his neck, only speaking on when he was done. "Like, not the really hard stuff, but... Well. Stuff. Different kinds of stuff, I mean. Just out of curiosity. Anna knows about it and I promised to be careful, so..." He shrugged, avoiding Rob's gaze because no matter how laid back he seemed about that topic nowadays, Mike still remembered those high school and later college parties where they found Rob either passed out in the bathroom or tripping on whatever pills were currently making the rounds back then. Probably to fight his teenage social anxiety and to be able to join his friends at those parties at all.
He never went down the road of addiction as far as Chester did - not many people who were still alive to tell the story ever did - but he definitely struggled.
Mike was still contemplating whether or not to say more, when Jim stuck his head through the door and told them it was time to get ready for stage.
And as per usual, these words flipped a switch in them. Adrenaline and focus took over, leaving no place for unnecessary drama.
Rob still gently slapped Mike's ass as they left the room, though, but so did Chester when he sprinted past them - only his slap was harder and Mike's ass was still tingling when they met up with the rest of the band and went into their pre-show huddle.
And Mike kind of liked that.
- tbc? -