“Hey guys,” Ray says after the show, while everyone is in that punchy, optimistic state that usually lasts for at least an hour after the screaming fades from their ears. “I have a special announcement to make.”
“Are you getting married?” Gerard asks interestedly. He’s been exceedingly keen on marriage lately, calling Bob and Ray old maids and making fun of them for being the last bachelors standing. Any day now, Ray thinks, he’s going to start setting them up with other people’s marriageable daughters.
(Gerard claims marriage is the best thing that could ever happen to anyone. Ray thinks he’s probably just awed by the fact that it means getting laid on a regular basis.)
“So what’s the announcement?” Frank asks. He looks to be growing bored with kicking Mikey in the shin and is starting to eye Ray’s hair, so Ray talks fast.
“I’m not getting married yet,” he says hastily, “but I am in a loving, committed relationship, and I wanted you all to know that.”
Bob grunts. This really means he’s thrilled for them, so Ray says happily, “Thanks.”
“So when do we get to meet her?” Frank asks. Ray isn’t sure whether the gleam in his eye means he’s happy for them as well, or he’s just looking forward to the prospect of someone new to harass.
“Well, the thing is,” he explains, “you actually already have.”
“Really?” Gerard asks. Guessing games are his second-favorite, right after pointless trivia. “Is it the girl you brought to the show last Friday?”
“No,” Ray says with a little frown, “That was my cousin.”
“Oh.” Gerard looks disappointed. He doesn’t stay down for long, though. “The one you chatted with after the meet and greet two weeks ago?”
“No,” Ray says again, and hurries on before Gerard can come up with anyone else. “It’s Gabe. Gabe Saporta.”
There’s a long silence. Frank starts laughing.
“Really?” Mikey says finally, brow furrowed. “I thought he was straight.”
“You would,” Frank says.
“Didn’t he used to grind on you, like, all the time?” Gerard asks carefully, like he’s pretty sure of the answer but doesn’t necessarily want confirmation.
“Yeah, but.” Mikey shrugs. “He told me he was straight.”
“Mikey,” Frank says patiently, in between giggles, “You thought Pete Wentz was straight.”
Mikey’s furrow deepens. “He is,” Mikey says, sounding confused.
Gerard pats him on the knee. “Gabe is Pete’s kind of straight.”
“Yes,” Ray says, relieved to have gotten that discussion over with, then declares proudly, “And he’s my lover.”
The silence this time is less long and more horrified. Then Frank laughs so hard that he falls off the couch on top of Bob and gets punched in the kidneys.
Two days later, Ray gets flowers.
“That’s so sweet,” Alicia coos, inhaling and petting the roses appreciatively. She pauses to send a meaningful look towards Mikey. “Isn’t that sweet?”
Mikey’s distracted by something on his laptop, but he blinks at Alicia a few times, nods and immediately picks up his Sidekick. “Yeah, absolutely.”
Ray’s impressed. Mikey may not be all that quick on the uptake, but Alicia has him well-trained. Ray expects another bouquet within twenty-four hours.
“Dude, are those little cobras?” Frank asks, with a mixture of awe and bewilderment.
“No one ever sends me flowers,” Gerard pipes up sadly from the couch, where he’s hugging a cushion and eyeing Ray’s bouquet enviously.
Frank lands beside him and wraps an arm over his shoulders. “I’ll send you flowers,” he promises. Gerard beams at him.
Ray clears his throat, because he’s the one with flowers, and he feels like attention is being diverted. “My boyfriend is the best,” he announces.
Alicia gives him a hug and kisses his cheek. “You’re so cute,” she says. “I’m happy for you.”
“Thanks,” Ray says. He’s pretty happy for him too. He takes the flowers to put them in a vase, and then has to rush off to answer his phone before anyone else can get hold of it, because Bob tends to answer phones when they annoy him by ringing, and Gabe has a habit of sending Ray naked pictures instead of text messages.
Gabe calls him between soundcheck and show time. Ray tucks his phone under his hair and says, “Hi, sugar-muffin.”
There’s a pause, and then someone who is not Gabe says, “Oh wow, that’s actually better than anything I could have imagined.”
Someone else says, “What?” and the first someone says, “Sugar-muffin,” and the someone else says, “We must never let him live this down.”
“Hi,” Ray says in confusion. “Who is this?”
“This is Alex,” the person on the phone says, and the other voice chimes in, “And Ryland!”
“And Ryland,” Alex allows graciously. “We didn’t have your number, so we used Gabe’s phone.”
“Oh,” Ray says, because that makes sense. He wishes he’d known before he answered the phone, though. “Can I help you?”
“We’re buying you relationship approval gifts,” Alex informs him. “Gabe insists. Only we didn’t know what to get you, because the only things on the internet are about your guitar and your thighs, and neither of those helps much when it comes to gift-buying.”
“You do have some great photos, though,” Ryland says in the background. “We printed one out for Gabe to hang in his bunk.”
“He does seem to enjoy it,” Alex seconds. “So, is there anything in particular you’ve been wanting? A set of steak knives? New metronome? The Joy of Gay Sex?”
“Maybe not that last one,” Ray manages. He’s not sure he should have a set of sharp knives around Mikey and Gerard on a moving bus, so he says, “Probably not the first one either. Thanks for the thought, though.”
“A metronome is it,” Alex replies. Then, “Say, have you ever thought of having Cobra Starship open for you on tour?”
Ray has a sudden, terrifying vision of preteens in sparkly shirts wearing purple nail polish, facing off with black-clad, white-faced goth babies in the front rows of the pit. “No,” he admits truthfully, wincing as the crowd in his head starts shrieking and tearing each other to pieces. “But I can mention it to Gerard.”
“That would be great,” Alex says cheerfully. “We’ll see you around then.” In the background, Ray hears Ryland say something that sounds like, “having sex all the time, like bunnies, nowhere will be safe,” and then Alex says loudly, “Toodle-oo!”
“Right,” Ray says in bewilderment, and then they hang up on him.
“So hey,” Gabe says, with that coaxing tone in his voice that means he wants something. “I’ve been thinking.”
“I really don’t think phone sex is such a good idea,” Ray says nervously, because it’s not like he wouldn’t go for it, he really, really would, but he thinks Bob might kill him and Frank would never stop making fun of him until the end of time.
“No, no, although that would be cool, you should think about it some more, bus life is lonely. Hey, I’ve got a picture of you in my bunk, did I tell you? Ryland and Alex got it for me.”
Ray stops himself from saying ‘they told me’ just in the nick of time. “So you were thinking?” he prompts hastily.
“Yeah, yeah,” Gabe says with renewed enthusiasm. “I was thinking, you and I should have our own name.”
“Our own name?” Ray repeats. He feels it might be safest to echo until Gabe has given him more to go on.
“Like how fucking William and Travis have their own name. It’s cute, right, but man, they’re not even together. We should have a better name than they do. Something catchy.”
“You’re not talking about…” Ray has to pause for a moment before he can say it. “Fanfiction?”
“Shit yeah,” Gabe replies immediately. “We’ll be everywhere, it’ll be amazing.”
“Gabe, I don’t want anyone to write fanfiction about us,” Ray says. He’s aware that he’s whining a little, but feels he’s entitled, considering. “It’s fundamentally wrong.”
“It’s awesome,” Gabe enthuses. “We read it all the time. The whole band is totally my bitch, yo, you should read this shit.”
“Wouldn’t we just be Ray-slash-Gabe?” Ray asks. He hasn’t investigated in depth, but he’s seen enough to be fairly sure that’s how it works.
“No, man, only the lame couples get the slash. We’re better than that. We could be…hey, hey, we could be Gay!”
“We are gay,” Ray says worriedly. “Isn’t that a little obvious?”
“You’re right,” Gabe agrees immediately. “We can do better. How about Rabe?”
“It sounds kind of like a disease,” Ray points out doubtfully. He tries to support Gabe in his times of need, and he knows William and Travis have been giving Gabe shit about the monogamy thing meaning no more drunken gay threesome weekends with them, but he still thinks this might be taking it a little far. “Or some sort of men’s hair product.” Ray has used a lot of those, he knows what they sound like.
“Yeah no,” Gabe admits. “I still like it though. Maybe we can do something with our last names, like Gabetoro. Or…fuck, that’s it!”
“Yes?” Ray asks apprehensively.
“Toroporta,” Gabe breathes, like he’s had another vision and this time it wasn’t a snake, it was a flock of teenage girls with internet access and their very own laptops. “We’re going to be huge.”
Two weeks later, Ray gets a shirt in the mail. It says TOROPORTA in white block letters, and there’s a note signed xoxo gabe. Ray wears the shirt every day for a week and just smiles when people ask him what it means.
He’s online idly shopping for limited edition Justin Timberlake memorabilia when Gabe calls. “Hey, sexypants,” Gabe drawls. “I’ve got a question for you.”
“Jeans and white briefs,” Ray answers immediately. “And that grey shirt you like with the hole in the armpit.”
“Nice,” Gabe says appreciatively. “But actually, I have another question. How would you feel about taking a few days to come down and help us out while you’re between shows?”
Ray frowns. “Did something happen to Ryland?” he asks worriedly.
“No no,” Gabe reassures him. “It’s actually Victoria. She needs to take a few days off, we need a fill-in.”
Ray blinks for a moment. “You want me to play the keytar?”
“Yeah, it’s just like, for a couple of shows, and whatever, you’re a music genius,” Gabe says. Ray blushes at the flattery and tries not to preen, but it’s hard. “Besides,” Gabe says, “I want to be able to play a few shows with my boyfriend next to me.”
Ray melts a little. “I’ll think about it,” he promises.
“Hey,” Gabe says, managing to sound suggestive and intimate without changing the tone of his voice even the slightest bit. “I could blow you in the dressing room every single night.”
Ray takes a minute to find his tongue. “I’ll talk to Brian,” he says finally.
Gabe crows. “You’re going to be so hot,” he says, and then calls Ray something in Spanish that makes the tips of his ears turn red.
“Wait, wait,” Ray says suddenly as his brain catches up with him. “You don’t want me to wear the dress, do you?”
“It’s the keytar trademark,” Gabe answers immediately. “Our band wouldn’t be complete without the baby doll dress. Besides, you’ll look fantastic. Come on, you have to.”
“No,” Ray squeaks, and isn’t ashamed of it. “I would look terrible in a dress.”
“Pigtails?” Gabe tries hopefully.
“No,” Ray says sternly. “No dress, no pigtails.”
“Blowjobs,” Gabe says enticingly.
Five days later, Ray is onstage, pigtails bobbing along to a dance beat while Ryland and Alex smirk at the crowd and pretend that they’re not really laughing at him. Gabe slinks onstage while Ray is playing the opening chords, licks a line all the way up his cheek and calls him something in Spanish that makes the tips of Nate’s ears turn pink.
Ray beams at the crowd and intros the next song.