Foxy Shazam was definitely on point that night. Not that they hadn’t been the other nights, but the crowd had been thrilled, brimming with energy and ready to dance as soon as they had started.
And they had certainly delivered. Alex wouldn’t have been surprised if people had started throwing shirts onto the stage, with the way Eric was prancing around, charming the unsuspecting, running his hands all over himself. They did their usual tricks, Eric jumping on everyone, but mostly him, throwing a bony little arm over his back, pulling him close as they sang together. Alex had also knelt down, helping Eric onto his leg, balancing his trumpet in one hand while the smaller man fisted his fingers in his hair, raising the microphone back to his lips. If Alex didn’t know any better, it was like the crowd had come there specifically to see them. He loved the guys in Panic, but just the thought of how great the night had been so far made him smile. He hoped everyone else did just as well.
They had walked offstage together, sweaty and hugging and howling, pleased with themselves. Alex waited to hug Eric last, pulling him tight against his chest. Eric squeaked with laughter, cupping the back of his head to ruffle his damp hair, grinning.
“Thanks for not letting me fall.”
“Of course,” Alex answered simply, voice hoarse with overuse. Eric just held him for a few seconds longer before darting off again, slapping Daisy on the back, weaving in and out of the others as he shouted dibs on the mirror first.
Alex watched him go, a fond smile curling his lips. Even after a show, he had so much energy. It had stopped surprising him a while ago, but he didn’t think it’d ever stop amusing him.
Everyone decided to have an impromptu “hey this tour is going really well!” party, since they had a day off the next day. Someone ran to get beer, and everyone crammed into one hotel room, shouting and dancing. Miraculously, the hotel staff hadn’t been called yet with how packed and loud the room had become. Alex ended up on the couch that had been pushed against the window, beside Brendon, who had hurt himself the day before, his leg wrapped in all sorts of bandages, his crutches balanced against the wall. Alex had gotten up to get Brendon another beer at Dallon’s insistence that Brendon get up as little as possible, but now he was pretty sure Brendon had finished that beer, too. It was killing him to sit still, Alex could tell.
“How are you holding up?” Brendon turned to look at him, quirking his lips.
“Well, considering. It doesn’t hurt. Honestly, if it were up to Zack and I, I’d be off crutches at this point. But Dallon and Spencer would fucking rip me apart before that happens,” he replied, quick, like he needed to speak or he was going to die. Alex laughed. “I guess I should be lucky they let me go on stage tonight without them, even if I wasn’t allowed to move around much. I felt bad, you know? I like to give those kids a show.”
“I’m sure it was fine. You sounded great from backstage,” Alex told him, taking another sip of beer. “You were injured, they love you; I’m sure they forgave you as soon as you hobbled out.” Brendon went to take another drink, chuckling.
“That’s what I did, too. Hobbled. Like a wounded gazelle.”
Eric sauntered over then, delicately planting himself in Alex’s lap, turning to look at Brendon as his lips twisted around his cup. Alex sighed, but said nothing, instinctively lifting a hand to steady Eric, resting it on his hip. This wasn’t unusual at all.
“You look like a soldier coming back from battle. It’s rather heroic and beautiful. You won’t have any scars, so might as well take this chance to really play it up,” he advised, nodding sagely.
“I’ve been trying! Spencer told me I couldn’t do the ‘I fought a bear and won’ story, though. He told me no one would believe that.”
“I’d believe it,” Eric replied. “You’re a superhero, remember? If anyone is going to fight a bear and come out victorious, it’s you.” The singer laughed, waving his free hand.
“You flatter me, thank you.” Brendon tipped the bottle to take another drink, but frowned when he realized it was empty. “You wouldn’t mind getting me another beer, would you? I’d do it myself, but you know.” Eric popped up, taking the bottle out of his hand. He turned to look at Alex, too, pointing one finger at his bottle. The strange thing about him and Eric was that there was very little talking necessary for them to completely understand each other. They’ve always been able to tell exactly what the other wanted, even where Sky and Daisy couldn’t. It was easy in this case, but Alex could recall times where Eric had read him like a fucking book, and he hadn’t said a word.
“Oh, yeah, please.” Alex replied after a moment, dazed. Eric grinned rather wickedly, taking the bottle from him as well. Once he left, Alex relaxed back into the couch, exhaling a breath he didn’t realize he had been holding. He met Brendon’s eyes a second later, confused by the strange expression he was wearing.
“Why are you…” he ventured before Brendon full out beamed, leaning in closer.
“You are so obvious, did you know that? Like. Painfully obvious. I’m dying by proximity over here.”
“What? What do you mean?”
“Is it the mustache?” he asked, practically buzzing with excitement. “It’s either the mustache or his ass, because even I’m almost jealous of his ass, and you’ve seen my ass.”
It wasn’t until then that Alex began to catch on to what exactly Brendon was so pumped about. He froze, feeling his face turning red. Was it really that easy to tell? Had Eric noticed it too? Brendon was usually oblivious to everything around him, so this wasn’t comforting to Alex at all. He felt his heart rate quicken tenfold, his hands beginning to tremble.
“Brendon, seriously, quit fucking with me, what are you talking about?” He just had to make sure. There was always a chance…
“You’re head over heels for him.” Well, so much for that chance. “It’s so obvious the way you look at him, and watch out for him,” Brendon proclaimed, feeling triumphant. Alex felt like quite the opposite. He wanted to die.
“How?” he croaked, coherent thought just out of his reach. He knew he just gave it away for sure now, with the way Brendon laughed, probably mentally high-fiving himself a bunch of times.
“You look at him like he’s Jesus reincarnated. Or the president. Except like. Romantically. Does that make sense?” Brendon was definitely tipsy. “You’re so,” he began again, moving his hands around in front of his face, trying to work out the words somehow. “You’re very gentle with him. Like, he’s not fragile, but you don’t want to hurt him anyway. You let him use you in whatever way he wants, and you guys are friends, definitely, but it’s more than that, too.”
At that moment, all Alex wanted to do was sink into the couch and maybe waste away. If Brendon knew, no doubt everyone else did. And whom had he talked to about this, already? He was trustworthy, but he tended to have a very big mouth. Brendon seemed to take in the look on his face, though, somewhere between shock and utter horror.
“Don’t worry! He totally doesn’t know, I promise,” Brendon replied quickly, waving his hands around rather comically. “No one else does. I mean, that I know of. They might, but I didn’t tell them or anything. So you’re good. I think.”
“You sure know how to make someone feel better,” Alex huffed, folding his arms. Brendon looked apologetic though, patting his shoulder.
“Let me make it up to you. Listen, I’ll. I’ll set you up. What about that?” Brendon proposed, that wicked grin returning. “Fancy a candlelit dinner? I could make it work!” Alex knew he probably should protest, since Eric finding out was very high on the list of Things That Don’t Need to Happen. All of the warning bells were going off, but every time Alex tried to get a word in, to tell Brendon no thank you, Brendon came up with an even better thing to add to his plan. The trumpet player recalled a conversation he had with Spencer, where the drummer had fondly explained how irritatingly persistent Brendon is, especially when it came to things that weren’t really any of his business.
At some point later, he’d be having a talk with Spencer. He knew that for sure.
“Tomorrow, okay? Ian and Dallon will help me, okay? It’ll be awesome. I’ll come grab you tomorrow,” he winked, clapping his hands together. Alex swallowed, about ready to launch into an explanation about why this shouldn’t actually happen, but a cold bottle of beer met his cheek first, Alex whipping around to see that Eric had returned, holding it out. He took the drink, nodding in thanks.
“Welcome back,” Brendon greeted Eric as he grabbed his drink, gulping it gracelessly, that stupid shit-eating grin still on his face. Alex could only imagine that hell would be so much nicer than this.
Fortunately, or rather unfortunately, Brendon did call, this time sober but still very excited for his operation to go down. Alex hadn’t heard any details from anyone else, though, except that Ian had casually mentioned that Eric should keep his evening open. Thank god it had been Ian, since Brendon or Dallon would have given it all away. Eric had smiled easily, nodding, asking Ian why. The curly haired man just smiled in return, declining to comment. Eric had spent the rest of the afternoon questioning Aaron and the rest of the band as to why Ian would request that. Was it someone’s birthday? It wasn’t his, so it couldn’t be a surprise party for him. Alex made sure to make himself absent whenever Eric started thinking aloud. He might have been able to tell, just by looking at his friend’s face, and that wasn’t a risk Alex was willing to take.
The evening rolled around soon enough, and Alex felt like he was going to throw up. Or die. Or both. He stared at his feet in the elevator of the hotel, even though Spencer was standing beside him, looking rather calm for all of this. Spencer always looked calm, though. He was jealous.
“Brendon hasn’t shut up about this all day, you know. As soon as he could run to wal-mart, he did. He really went all out.”
“I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, though.” When they made eye contact, Spencer laughed.
“Don’t worry, I policed it all, made sure it wasn’t too bad. He worked really hard. I think you’ll be impressed.”
“I hope so. Impressed is better than mortified. Which I already am,” he mumbled, running a hand through his hair, willing his hands to stop trembling. Spencer led the way out of the elevator, into the lobby.
“Don’t be, it’ll be fine. You look nice, too,” he added, gesturing to Alex’s black jacket and clean black jeans and neatly combed hair.
“Thanks,” Alex replied, halfhearted. He appreciated it, but he could barely hear Spencer any more over the sound of his thoughts screaming at him to back out. What if Eric is angry? What if he doesn’t want to talk? What if this hurts the band?
“We’re here,” Spencer’s voice cut in, dismissing the spiraling thoughts. “Table for two?” he teased, walking up to pull out a chair.
In between the tour buses, which were strung with Christmas lights, sat a little folding table with two chairs, one candle sitting in the center of the table, surrounded by plastic plates and a bunch of cheap plastic utensils. The cups were the same red plastic ones from the night before. Carefully, Alex sat down in the chair Spencer was holding out for him, stifling a laugh. Tugging up the edge of the tablecloth, he inspected it.
It was definitely a bed sheet. Who the fuck’s bed sheet did Brendon put on their table?
“Spencer, whose bed sheet—“ Alex turned around to ask, but found Spencer had disappeared. Laughing to himself, he put it down, picking up the bottle of wine, reading the generic label. It couldn’t have been more than ten dollars. He poured himself some, taking a drink.
“Should I close my eyes?” He could hear Eric asking on the other side of the bus. Oh god, oh god.
“You really don’t have to,” Ian chuckled in return. “We’re pretty much here.” Alex sat as still as possible, as if Eric, who had just walked around the corner, couldn’t see him.
“Oh,” he gasped, looking from Alex to Ian, then to Alex again, mouth hanging open. “Ian, you could have told me this was a date! Now I’m just under dressed!” Eric cried, pulling at his old shirt, like Ian couldn’t already see it. Ian just laughed. Alex suddenly felt relaxed. Why had he been nervous in the first place? Eric was his friend. His friend that knew pretty much everything about him and loved hanging around him and singing with him. Even if this didn’t work out, it will have been fun.
“You look wonderful,” Eric crooned, leaving Ian’s side to sit down in front of Alex, who had finally stopped visibly shaking. He played with the fork, then the knife, twisting them between his fingers. It was almost relieving to be able to tell that Eric was just as nervous as he was. “Is this why you’ve been avoiding me all day?”
“You noticed?” Alex answered, weakly. Busted.
“Of course. Whose lap was I going to sit on? Whose hair was I going to play with? Loren’s? No. You think I don’t notice when you’re gone? Of course I do,” Eric murmured, looking hurt. “You’re the only one I can do those things to.”
“I’m sorry, I just didn’t know how to…explain this, really.”
“Did you plan all this?” Eric asked, fingers slipping over the wine bottle before picking it up to pour himself some.
“Brendon did, actually. He wanted us to go on a formal date or something.” Watching Eric drink, he felt like he needed so much more wine for this. Setting his plastic cup down, Eric met Alex’s eyes again, lips quirked up in a smile.
“You know, if you wanted to take me out on a date, you could have asked.” Alex’s hand stilled on his cup.
“Really? That’s not strange?” Eric giggled, shaking his head.
“Strange? Please. We’re strange. What we do is strange. What is any stranger than things we’ve already done before?”
He had a point.
“I just didn’t think it would be that easy, I guess,” Alex exhaled, suddenly feeling very light. “You’re the lead singer of the band I’m in, it just seems so—“
“Babe, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to just fuck the song and fuck singing, walk over to you and kiss you. I don’t think you realize how goddamn attractive you are, screaming and playing your horn. I don’t know if you’ve been seeing the same show I have,” Eric interrupted him, a sneaky smile curling his lips as he touched his mustache.
Alex suddenly felt very dizzy.
“What?” he asked, voice suddenly hoarse. Eric leaned forward, draping his hand over top of Alex’s wrist.
“I said if I could just fuck the song, I would, and I would walk over to you and kiss you. A lot. Because you’re fucking hot, Alex. You always have been.”
Vaguely, Alex was pretty sure that’s not exactly what he said the first time, but he wasn’t complaining. Remembering to breathe, Alex flipped his hand over, squeezing Eric’s, which he returned.
“You still with me, darling?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I think so,” he laughed, smiling wider than he had all night.
The door to one of the buses opened, revealing Brendon, a crutch tucked under one of his arms, the other holding a large plate.
“Your dinner,” he announced in his best French accent, setting the platter on the side of the card table as he distributed a steak to each of them, then bowls of various vegetables. “Bon appétit.” They watched Brendon hobble back onto the bus before looking at each other incredulously. Once the bus door shut, Alex could hear music playing from the open windows, the tune familiar, though he couldn’t place—
“Is that Barry White?” Eric asked loudly, as if he was talking to Brendon. They looked at each other again, and burst into laughter.
“How did you know I love cheesy fucking dates?” Eric asked, picking up the plastic fork and knife, attempting to cut the steak, grumbling when it wouldn’t work. Alex just laughed, trying to saw the steak into pieces, but to no avail. “These knives don’t work!” Eric sing-songed, hoping Brendon heard him. “You should have thought this through!” Alex couldn’t help his laughs as he tried again, before giving up and tearing the steak with the fork and his fingers. Eric mimicked him, satisfied when he finally got a piece off.
Practically simultaneously, they both began to cough, spitting out the half-chewed piece of meat.
“Fuck, Brendon,” Alex began. “This isn’t even cooked all the way! It tastes like shit!” He exclaimed, beginning to laugh again, clutching his stomach. Eric joined him, rubbing at his eyes.
“Are you trying to fucking kill us? I don’t want to die on my first date with the man of my dreams! I’ll come back and kill you!” Eric shouted, throwing the unused plastic spoon at the tour bus, letting it clatter to the ground. Laughing was all Alex was capable of doing anymore, with his heart pounding in his ears. Even if the steak sucked, Alex still was going to have to thank Brendon.
Their laughter turned into sobs, Eric’s head hitting the table.
“Should we even try the vegetables?” Alex snickered, poking at them. He wasn’t really hungry anymore, after the mess that was the steak. Eric finally lifted his head, smiling over at Alex.
“All we need for dinner are cigarettes and coffee,” he reminded him, finishing his cup of wine before moving forward in his seat, pulling a cigarette out of his back pocket, lighting it in the candle on the table before standing. Alex stood with him, crossing the table to pull the cigarette out from between Eric’s lips, pressing their mouths together. It was a long moment before they separated, Alex exhaling curls of smoke into the air, smirking. Eric stood, shocked for a moment while Alex licked his lips, taking a drag of his cigarette. He felt good. No, amazing. This was amazing.
“Damn, you’re lucky I think you’re hot,” Eric smirked right on back, turning to leave, holding an arm out by his side. Alex followed, pressing close into his side, letting Eric wrap his arm around his waist while he returned the cigarette to the singer’s mouth. Wordlessly, Eric thanked him, and Alex caught it right away, nodding a ‘you’re welcome’.
“Should we have left a tip?”
“Babe,” Eric spoke around the cigarette, fingers tightening around Alex’s waist as they walked. “You only tip if the food is actually good.”
He had a point.