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every man

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Frank is coming out of the bathroom, still half-asleep, when he hears Gee in the kitchen. "No. Fuck, no, I'm not gonna—no," Gee says, too loud and shrill for fucking-o-clock in the morning, so Frank drags his hands through his hair and shoves his knuckles into his eye sockets and goes up to the front of the bus. At least if Gee's up there'll be some fucking coffee.

Gee and Marc Webb are sitting at the table, storyboards spread out between them and anchored down by three coffee mugs, two half-full ashtrays, a scattering of pencils, and Gee's watercolors. Gee is dirty and rumpled, last night's eyeliner a dark smear around her eyes. She also looks pissed—ideologically pissed, not just annoyed—and Frank had forgotten that Marc was going to be here, today, but it makes sense. Their video shoot's in two weeks.

"I won't—we're a band, Marc," Gee says, "I'm not—shit. I'm not the girl who stays home." And yeah, Frank and Ray saw that one coming from the first moment Gee mentioned doing a World War II video. Gee never does see it coming, though. It's one of Frank's favorite things about her.

"Is there any coffee left?" he asks. Gee and Marc turn to look at him, startled. He wonders how long they've been arguing.

"Hey Frank," Gee says, after a moment, "Yeah, there's still like half a pot. I think. I don't know, I've been up for a while." More like didn't ever go to bed. "There're a lot of problems with the storyboards."

Calling Marc's work out in front of Frank is pretty shitty, but Marc just shrugs and shuffles the papers into a neat pile, displacing the ashtrays and the watercolors. "It's a pretty complicated idea," Frank says carefully, pouring himself a cup of coffee and then bringing the pot over to the table to top off Gee's. "You said Saving Private Ryan, Gee, and that's not standard music video fare, that's a fucking movie."

It isn't anything they haven't said before, but Gee narrows her eyes at him and says, pointedly, "I thought you were into it."

"I totally am," Frank says, because he really is—guns and acoustic guitars and World War II re-enactment societies and all—"I'm just saying that it's a big concept, and it's not going to be perfect right away."

"Yeah," Gee says, not mollified in the slightest. Frank takes a long swig of his too-bitter coffee—Gee always makes the pot too strong—and doesn't look at Marc. Finally, Marc sets the stack of papers down on the table and stands up.

"I have to go," he says. "Talk it over with the guys, Gee, and call me tomorrow. We don't have a lot of time."

"I'm not going to change my mind," Gee says quietly.

Marc sighs, and scrubs a hand over the back of his neck, "Fine, whatever, but you get to figure out the alternative. I've got nothing." He picks up his backpack and turns to Frank. "Do us all a favor and talk some sense into your lead singer," he says, and goes out the bus door.

Gee puts her head down on the table. "Fuck," she says, and then, half-muffled, "It was such a great fucking idea, Frankie. Wasn't it a great idea?"

"It's still a great idea," Frank says, sliding into Marc's abandoned seat. He sets down his coffee and lays out the first few pages: the band, in dress uniforms and slicked-back hair—except for Gee, at the old-fashioned microphone, in a dress and high heels and gloves and a hat. Even in the sketch, she's gorgeous. Frank flips past the drawings of the audience until he hits the war footage: Frank and Ray and Mikey and Bob and a host of World War II re-enactors storming a beach. Gee isn't with them again until the scene returns to the dance hall, and then she's there in her pretty dress, toasting the soldiers and hugging Mikey good-bye and watching them walk away to war. Back on the beach Mikey is shot, and Frank and Bob can't protect him, and Ray can't save him, and Gee sits alone in the empty bar with a blood-stained letter, tears in her eyes.

When he finally puts down the stack of storyboards, Gee is watching him with dark, uneasy eyes. "That's not what I meant when I said World War II," she says.

"It is kind of World War II, though," Frank points out, "You shouldn't really be angry at Marc. I think it's—" He looks down, again, because he can't meet Gee's eyes while he says this, "I think it's where most people would have gone, given the makeup of our band."

"But I wouldn't," Gee says, "I wouldn't stay home, Frank. I'd—fuck—if you and Mikey and Ray and Bob went off to war, I'd cut off all my hair and bind my breasts and steal a uniform and fight in the fucking trenches next to you, and that's the—that's the point, because anti-war messages and grand statements aside, isn't that exactly what we're fucking doing in this band?"

Maybe it is, but Frank wants to make music, not fight a war. "I don't—" he says, and then he looks back up at Gee, at her big eyes and round cheeks and messy hair, and he think that maybe their war is making music, one day at a time, against all obstacles. "Fuck Marc anyway," he says, instead, "there's more than one war story we can tell."

Gee smiles, wide and bright, and Frank's breath catches a little in his throat. "Hey," she says, suddenly, "I think I read something once about there being a lot of women who dressed as men and fought in the war." She frowns, "I don't know, but I bet Mikey would remember."

"There you go, then," Frank starts, but Gee is off and rolling, talking about gender stereotypes and subverting social norms and opposing war and sexual discrimination in the same music video. Frank reaches for his coffee and then stops, cup halfway to his mouth, and deliberately turns it over on top of the storyboards. The coffee pours out sluggishly, covering the papers and dripping onto the table, and Gee cuts herself off in the middle of a sentence, caught in a shocked, hiccuping laugh.

Frank grins. "Come on," he says, "let's go cut your hair."