you can shine like silver all you want
Mikey loved his brother, and loved that Gerard could draw and write and sing and just do everything creative that he ever put his mind to, but he wasn't sure he liked the new person Gerard became when he went on stage. That person--his stage persona, Gerard called it--demanded things of people, yelled and taunted and beckoned, secure in the knowledge that he was permanently inaccessible. It was snide and caustic and not at all nice. It was more sexy and more violent and more angry than anyone Mikey had ever met, and the persona was proud of being all those things and wanted others to be more sexy and violent and angry and laughed in their faces when they tried.
But it worked.
The fans loved it, loved them, loved being told to "get off your fucking asses" and asked whether they were "sick of taking life's shit" and haranged to "kill, kill, kill." They screamed their approval and tried to rip Gerard off the edge of the stage and kicked the shit out of each other to get closer to him, and Gerard would step back, just out of reach, and smile over at Mikey or Frank, a sly smug smile that wasn't anything like his normal smile at all as if to say "see? I told you," only he hadn't told them anything at all.
And Mikey really didn't like the fact that he couldn't even talk to Gerard about it, because there wasn't really anything to talk about. The stage persona could never be caught because when it wasn't on stage it wasn't anywhere. Off-stage, Gerard was just as stupid and goofy and moody as he ever was and he looked at Mikey the one time Mikey had brought up how maybe the act was a little extreme like Mikey had grown a third eye or something.
But then there was the fact that when Gerard was on stage, when the stage persona had him in his grip, Gerard was entirely happy. The stage persona made him feel as beautiful as he actually was. It was hard not to like that.
Frankie first saw Gerard when his band played with Frankie's band at some high school bonfire party thing. It was one of those situations where some kid heard from some other kid that there was a field and there would be a bonfire and somehow a bunch of bands heard about it and showed up at the same time, their equipment trailers looking like the world's smallest port-a-potties, and negotiations had to be conducted about who was "opening" and who was not.
Frankie, who didn't really care when they played, mostly because his band was already signed to a label and therefore was pretty much guaranteed a good position unless someone with an actual EP showed up, was sitting in the open door of the band van smoking and dangling his feet in the wet grass when this kid came up to him.
"Hey," he said.
"Hey," Frankie said.
"You're Frankie from Pencey Prep, right?"
Frankie nodded. The kid seemed all right. He was taller than Frankie, like most everyone, but he looked young, like maybe seventeen or eighteen. He had a round face and short spiky hair and big eyes. He looked young and maybe sort of like a girl.
"I'm Gerard," the guy said. "From My Chemical Romance."
"Cool name," Frankie said. It was.
Gerard smiled an unbelievably dorky and perfectly straight smile. "Thanks. I've seen you before."
"Yeah?" "You're really good." Frankie smiled an obligatory smile. This kid, Gerard, he was nice and all and Frankie knew he was sort of required to be nice to people who liked the band, but he just wasn't interested. "Thanks," he said. He hopped out of the van. "Look, I gotta figure out when we're playing, so ..." "Oh, sure." Gerard took a step back. He was taller than he had seemed when Frankie was sitting down. "Well, nice to meet you, man."
See you later." He stuck his hand out, like he was some sort of fucking accountant or something. Frankie shook his head, bemused.
"Yeah," he said, shaking Gerard's hand. "Sure."
He didn't think about the kid again until he was standing by the keg and heard the scream. The music had been going for a couple hours or so, one joke of a local band after another, all loud, all desperate, all miserable, but the scream sounded different, like someone had actually fallen into the fire only it was into the microphone, so that didn't seem possible.
"Who's that?" he asked the kid standing next to him. The kid shrugged.
Frankie edged his way through the milling crowd until he could see who was playing. It was that Gerard kid and his band. The rest of them, three or four nondescript guys, could play well enough, but it was Gerard, his young face contorted with misery and danger, his eyes dancing in the firelight, that made them, that stunned the crowd into attention.
When the song slowed down, Gerard gasped for breath, choking out more lyrics, stepping forward into the crowd. He grabbed a girl's hand and fell to his knees, still singing, his long dark bangs falling into his eyes. Frankie watched, stunned, as the girl broke into tears. Gerard hugged her and moved on. He saw Frankie as he turned, and pointed at him, howling something about something. Frankie lifted his head in acknowledgement and there it was again, Gerard's straight smile, a flash of suburban privilege and innocence in the middle of a dark night. Then the guitar took over and Gerard went back to the microphone stand, wrapping the chord around his wrist as he went.
"Who's this?" some guy asked.
"Umm, Chemical Love," a girl answered.
"My Chemical Romance," Frankie said aloud, more to himself than to anyone else.
Gerard had always acted like he knew they were going to make it big, but he'd been like that about his comic, too, and before that, writing books, and before that back in middle school, about professional skateboarding, which even Mikey knew wasn't going to work out. Gerard still had a scar on his elbow from that one.
So, but, anyway, Mikey had grown so accustomed to Gerard's big dreams and deflated let downs that it was sort of a shock when the band thing didn't fade away after a few months, but kept growing and growing. Like, first Gerard and his friend Ray were playing, just the two of them, at these old dingy bars where they would let anyone play for two songs, and then they got a drummer and started opening for other crappy bands at places that didn't pay, and then there were house parties and Mikey joined and noticed that there were kids that showed up no matter where they were, kids with dyed hair and ripped t-shirts, kids with hard faces and sad eyes.
Then there were bars that paid in beer (except that they paid Mikey in soda because he wasn't old enough to drink) and, then, miraculously, actual money. The first time, Mikey had looked at his share -- twenty-five dollars -- as if someone had handed him a chunk of gold. Someone had paid them money to play music.
When the guy from the record company came up to them after one of the shows where they played with two other bands and got a cut of the door -- almost seventy-five dollars a piece -- Mikey was stunned.
Gerard wasn't. He smiled at the guy and pushed his hair back off his face, flashing his eyes and his brilliant smile.
"You guys are fantastic!" the record company guy said. He had on jeans and a black t-shirt, but it was still pretty easy to tell that he was a suit.
"Hey, thanks," Gerard said. "We really appreciate it."
"You guys talking to anyone?"
Gerard shook his head even though Mikey knew that wasn't true. There had been a guy a couple of weeks ago, but they'd turned him down without too much thought about it, but that guy had been fat and slimy looking, like Jabba the Hut. This guy just looked older. "Nah, not yet," Gerard said. "We're looking for the right place."
"I may have it," record company guy said. Gerard smiled wider and leaned in, tilting his head back. Mikey had seen him do it a hundred times before -- it was the way that Gerard got things he wanted, by directing all of his attention at the person -- but for the first time Mikey realized that it looked sort of like a come-on, like Gerard was offering more than just friendliness. The record company guy smiled back and lowered his voice and he and Gerard went off to a corner booth to talk business, while Mikey stayed with Ray and Matt at the bar and didn't look over his shoulder.
Afterwards, after the record company guy had said his piece and handed his card to Gerard and slapped him on the shoulder, they drank themselves silly and stayed up until the night sky had begun to melt away into daylight. "So," Mikey said from the bottom of Gerard's bed. Gerard, curled around a pillow, blinked at him. "A record deal, huh?"
Gerard smiled a sleepy cat smile, his eyes half closed. "A record deal," he said.
Frankie had been in enough bands to know the two cardinal rules: first, do not fuck anyone in the band; second, when you do fuck someone in the band, don't let it fuck up the band.
"How do you explain this, then?" Gerard asked him, running a hand over Frankie's naked stomach. Frankie laughed.
"How good at following rules am I?" he asked.
"Point," Gerard said. He leaned over and curled in to Frankie's side. He was bigger than Frankie but he liked to seem smaller, resting his head on Frankie's chest, wrapping himself around Frankie's body. It was a thing with him. Frankie didn't mind -- he sort of liked feeling like he was looking out for Gerard. Like Gerard was his responsibility. "So far, though, you've only broken one."
"I'm batting .500," Frankie said. He threaded his fingers through Gerard's hair. It was longer, almost to his chin, like a girl's hair. When he washed it, it even felt like a girl's hair, silky and shiny and soft.
"You're not going to be all jealous and whatever, are you?" Gerard asked.
"I don't get jealous," Frankie said.
That turned out to be a lie.
He hadn't meant to lie, but it hadn't occurred to him at the time, lying in Gerard's messy bed with the stereo on and the door shut, locked up in Gerard's little room, that there would be anything to get jealous of. And he'd never been jealous before of the other people he saw, girls or guys. People should do what they wanted to do -- that was sort of his motto -- and he always did what he wanted to do, so what was the point of jealousy?
"Oh," Mikey said, while they were in the green room waiting to go on. It was just him and Mikey in the green room. Everyone else had gone in search of food. The Warped Tour thing was cool, and it was great exposure and they were meeting a whole bunch of awesome people, but it was a lot of bullshit standing around and waiting for things to happen and it was sort of run sloppily, so people were always scavenging for food or bottled water or the right scheduling sheet.
"Oh, what?" Frankie said. He was a little annoyed with himself for even bringing it up, the whole sort-of jealous thing, especially with Mikey, who was so Gerard's bitch. He'd probably tell him.
Mikey shrugged. "Just. Um. You just never cared before."
"That's why you never got jealous or whatever. You didn't care."
"Oh fuck off," Frankie said. "I don't know why I even brought it up. And don't fuckin' tell Gerard, either, okay?"
Mikey nodded. "Okay," he said.
"I'm gonna go get some pizza or something," Frankie said, and left before Mikey could say something else. He was such an idiot for even telling him.
Still, though, having told did make him feel a little better, especially when they were onstage and Gerard was being grabbed by some stupid girl in the crowd and he could glance over at Mikey, who would look up right at the right time and roll his eyes. That was all right, Frankie supposed.
although i know it i never learn
The problem, or at least what Mikey wanted to believe was the problem, was that they all did it, so no one could really go up to Gerard and take the dollar bill away from him and say "okay, you've had enough." Not even him, because Gerard had been the one who had found him in the hotel room three months ago with the stuff all cut in lines on the mirror just like it would be in the movies and said "well, how is it?"
So it was sort of his fault. Mikey's.
But the thing was, it also sort of wasn't because for him doing drugs, drinking, partying, it was like a movie, like something "rock stars" did, so it was cool and fun and everything, but it wasn't real and after a night he could just turn around and go back to his normal life and be himself again, just having a beer with dinner or something. But Gerard couldn't. Or didn't. Or something.
Either way, it was pretty clear that someone was going to have to do something and it was also pretty clear that it was going to have to be Mikey, because no one else seemed to think it was that big of a deal.
"Eh," Matt said, when Mikey brought it up. "You know how it is."
"No, I don't," Mikey said, but Matt just shrugged and went back to his magazine. He wasn't about to say anything, Mikey thought, because there had been some fights about how maybe Matt wasn't good enough for them anymore and maybe he should move on. Move out, is what they really meant although no one would say it out loud except Gerard, when he was high.
Ray also didn't think it was a big deal, not because he was worried about his place in the band, but because, except for Mikey, he'd known Gerard the longest and thought he knew what was happening. "He's Gerard," Ray said. "He goes totally off the deep end and then he comes around. You know that."
Mikey did know that, but he didn't know how to tell Ray that this wasn't the same thing. Cocaine was doing something to Gerard, changing something on his insides, something fundamental, but Mikey didn't have the words to say that. He'd never had much to say before -- Gerard did all the talking for them -- and now he was beached on an island and had no way to call for help. He went to Frankie as a last resort, hoping that maybe he could see the same things Mikey saw, since he loved Gerard almost as much, but Frankie was too busy being scared to see anything.
"Shut up," he told Mikey. "He's fine."
"He's high all the damn time except when he's on downers, Frankie! Come on!"
But Frankie had just held up his hand and walked away and Mikey was left standing there, scared, but also disappointed. Frankie had never struck him as a coward before.
So he went on his own in the afternoon, after Gerard had woken up but before he really got going. He knocked on the hotel door.
"'m in," Gerard's voice mumbled.
Mikey opened the door. The room was dark, drapes pulled across the windows so that they overlapped, but Mikey could see the pale outline of his brother illuminated by the flicker of the t.v.
"Mikey!" Gerard said, sounding pleased. "What's up?" He lit a cigarette and held it out to Mikey, who shook his head.
"Stop doing it," Mikey said. "The, um, other stuff. You're just. It's messed up. You're getting messed up." He knew as soon as he said it that it was the wrong thing, that Gerard would take it badly, but he hadn't expected the laughter.
"I am fucked up? Me? I'm the one that's fucked up? Shut up, Mikey."
"Gee, man, it's just like, onstage you're so, I dunno. Out of it. Or something. I just - -"
Gerard sat up. "Shut up, Mikey. You're full of crap and I'm sick of listening to it. Take a hike." He jerked his thumb toward the door.
"Buh-bye, Mikey." Gerard waved at him. Mikey left, pulling the door shut behind him.
That night, he called his mother. They were having pot roast for dinner and suddenly he wanted to be home, eating with them, instead of out on the road with the Warped tour watching people sing along with Gerard, even though his mother's pot roast sucked and always had too much salt in it.
"Well, what'd you expect?" Frankie asked after the show, when they were loading up on diner coffee for the drive ahead. "It's none of your business."
Mikey slapped the table and the coffee cups shuddered in sympathy. "He's my brother, Frankie. It is my fucking business. I don't see why you don't care, since he's --"
"He's not my boyfriend," Frankie said, quickly. "He's." He shook his head. "Anyway, he's fine. You're just worried is all. But he's fine. So. Don't." He crossed his arms over his chest, daring Mikey to say something. Of all of the guys Mikey knew, Frankie was maybe the toughest. Mikey thought that maybe it had something to do with his size that made Frankie stand up to guys twice as big, but whatever it was, Frankie didn't take shit from anyone. Now, though, he didn't look tough sitting across the diner table, slouched down with his elbows on the Formica, glaring intently at Mikey daring him to say something. He looked miserable.
It was Frankie's expression, his thin veneer of control that made Mikey change his mind. Frankie didn't need to help him; he could do this on his own. "Okay," Mikey said. "Sure, Frankie."
"Whatever," Frankie said. "Do you have any money? I didn't bring any."
"Yeah," Mikey said. "I'll pay."
I have to leave, Frankie thought. He watched Gerard smile up at the security guy, shifting his weight and shifting so that his hair fell back away from his face. The guy shoved his hands in his pockets and moved back and forth, like he wasn't sure what Gerard was doing, what it meant. It would have been funny if it hadn't been his boyfr-- if it hadn't been Gerard.
Frankie turned. It was Ray, holding up his guitar and Frankie's. "C'mon, we're gonna jam with what's-his-name, Andrew, from. That band."
"Tidal," Frankie said.
Frankie looked back once. Gerard slapped the security guard on the shoulder and laughed a deep throaty laugh. Frankie closed his eyes.
"Frankie, are you coming?" Ray called.
"Yeah," Frankie said. "Sure. Anywhere but here."
illuminating just what you want to show
Frankie and Gerard weren't exclusive, Mikey knew that, but it was still a surprise to come around the corner and see Gerard on his knees sucking the dick of some fan. He wasn't sure why he was surprised, whether it was seeing Gerard with someone that wasn't Frankie or seeing him suck someone's dick period, which wasn't the kind of thing he generally watched his brother do, but either way it shocked him, made him take two steps back.
A few minutes later, after Mikey had barricaded himself in the rehearsal room backstage, playing his bass with headphones on, Gerard found him. He looked up from the strings and there he was, his brother, hair falling into his eyes, a conciliatory smile playing around his mouth. "Hey," he said.
Mikey pulled his headphones off. "Hey," he said.
"So, um, what you saw --"
Mikey shook his head. "Whatever," he said. "It's just. Um."
"What, honey?" Gerard rubbed his hand over Mikey's wrist, gently. Reassuringly. His hand was warm.
"What about Frankie?"
"Isn't he. I mean, I know that you and Frankie." Mikey sighed. He didn't know what to say. He didn't know about Gerard and Frankie, and it wasn't his business anyway, but Frankie. Sometimes he saw Frankie sitting next to Gerard, their hands touching, and Frankie looked different, like there was a light shining on the inside of his face. Mikey liked the way they looked.
Gerard shook his head. "It's not like that, Mikey." He squeezed Mikey's wrist. "It's okay. Don't worry about it."
"People keep saying that," Mikey said.
"You were always a worrier," Gerard said. He hooked his arm around Mikey's neck and pressed their foreheads together, until Mikey couldn't see anything but his brother's luminous eyes, ringed in dark shadow. "It's cool," he said. "Okay?"
Mikey nodded, and was rewarded with one of Gerard's fine smiles. Gerard leaned in and kissed him, quickly, on the cheek. Mikey smiled back. He couldn't help himself.
you'll never rust but i'd never know
They had sex in sleazy motel rooms and the backs of vans and sticky restrooms that Frankie didn't even want to wash his hands in afterwards, and it was fantastic and maybe the most beautiful thing that would ever happen to Frankie. Gerard had soft hands and soft hair that fell over Frankie's face when he leaned forward, a black curtain cutting them off from the rest of the world.
Gerard wasn't tough or hard like most of the guys Frankie had ever known. His soft hands were only the beginning. His skin was pale and smooth and he was shy about his weight and brazen about his cock, which was also smooth but not pale, at least, not when Gerard let Frankie slide his hand into Gerard's tight jeans and pull it out. Gerard liked it when Frankie tugged on his hair, and sucked him off, and when he called Gerard's name right before he came.
"Yeah," he would breathe into Frankie's mouth while Frankie was still gasping for breath, his skin wet and tingling.
And he kissed, really kissed, unlike any of the other boys Frankie had ever been with, who would at most put their mouths up against his like he was their grandma or something, in the least sexy kisses imaginable, but Gerard really kissed, holding Frankie's face in his hands, opening his mouth. Sometimes, when people were around or they were too tired or too lazy to move, they would lie together and just kiss, Gerard's hands under his shirt, until Frankie was dizzy with the closeness and the warmth.
The times when they weren't having sex were almost as good, but in a way Frankie didn't ever think he'd really care about because it was all chick stuff -- hand holding and hugging and Gerard's arm over his waist as Frankie was falling asleep -- but that Frankie liked anyway. He liked knowing how Gerard smelled, even if sometimes Gerard smelled bad, the musty sweet scent of his sweat or cigarettes or booze or all of those things enhanced by two or three days on the road. He liked standing across the room and listening to Gerard make some smart comment and looking up to find Gerard smirking at him, one eyebrow raised. He liked being a part of something.
And he and Gerard were something. It overwhelmed him, sometimes, when he would become aware of it. He'd be sitting there, next to Gerard on a hotel bed, shooting the shit with Ray or something, and Gerard would lean in an put his head on Frankie's shoulder for no reason, just because he was tired or bored or felt like leaning over or something, and Frankie would feel something shift inside him, like the light bulb in the fridge coming on when he opened the door, and Frankie would think "yes" and not know why.
Frankie found him, them, on the bus. Some fucker had dumped beer on his t-shirt and the sun and sweat had made it start to reek, so he was trotting up the bus stairs to change it when he heard them mumbling and laughing in the back, Gerard and Bert, the stoner buddies.
"Hey, fuckers," Frankie called, digging through his duffel bag. He pulled out a clean t-shirt and yanked the smelly one over his head. "What are you guys --"
They had their shirts off, too, Gerard and Bert, and Bert's head was in Gerard's lap like he was passed out or something, Gerard's fingers woven into his hair. "Hey!" Gerard shouted happily. "Frankie! Party!"
Bert's head popped up. "Frankie!" He wiped his mouth.
Frankie took a step back, his shoulder banging into the wall of the small hallway. "Hey," he said. "Um." He waved his shirt, trying not to look at Gerard's cock, hard and wet and poking up out of his lap. "I just came to get a shirt. So."
"Don't wear a shirt," Bert said. "Shirts are overrated."
"Soooo overrated," Gerard said. "C'mere baby." He flapped his hand, holding it out.
"Oh, I can't. Um. I." He waved the shirt again, like a white flag.
"Oh, Frankie," Gerard called, but Frankie was already stumbling down the stairs, shirt in hand, the rush of the pneumatic door closing behind him. He wasn't looking where he was going, he couldn't see where he was going, so the impact made him cry out and fall back, his body banging off the side of the bus, his shirt falling into the mud.
"Holy shit, Frankie!" Mikey. It was Mikey. "Are you okay?"
"I." Frankie shook his head.
"Frankie?" Mikey grabbed his shoulder and that was it, he lost it, grabbing onto Mikey's waist and pressing his face into Mikey's shoulder and bawling, just bawling, like he hadn't since he was a little kid, clutching fistfuls of Mikey's t-shirt.
"Oh," Mikey said. His hands on Frankie's shoulders were tentative and gentle. "Um. Hey."
"I'm okay," Frankie said, backing up. He swiped the back of his hand over his eyes. "I'm, um. I'm okay."
"Okay, man. That's a total lie."
Frankie smiled, despite himself. Mikey was sort of hunched over, his hands in his pockets, leaning down to see him. "No, I am. You know. It's. They're in there."
Mikey looked up at the bus. "Oh," he said. "That. Wow. That sucks," he said.
"Yeah." Frankie nodded. He pushed his hair back out of his eyes. "Yeah."
Mikey reached out and brushed his thumb over Frankie's face. "What are you gonna do?"
Frankie shrugged. "Nothing," he said. "What. I mean. Nothing."
"Oh. Okay. Well." Mikey patted his shoulder. Then he took a step forward and hugged Frankie a second time, squeezing him tight, rubbing up and down his spine. Frankie sighed. Mikey was so narrow. Frankie could feel his ribs under his hands. "If you need something," he said.
Frankie nodded. "Thanks," he said.
"Yeah," Mikey said. "Can I ask you something?"
Frankie shrugged. "Sure."
"What happened to your shirt?"
when you leave, you leave only regret
Mikey took it up again, the drug use, the drinking, the fucking, after he walked in on Gerard snorting heroin off a groupie in a plaid mini-skirt and a black bra. He'd left then, closing the door silently behind himself, but he'd waited outside in the hallway leaning against the cold cement block wall beneath the stage until the girl came out, stopping the in the doorway to throw her arms around Gerard's neck and kiss him sloppily. Mikey waited until she had started on her way, then stepped forward and pushed the door open.
"Mikey!" Gerard grabbed him and hugged him tight. "Mikey, my brother!" His hug was vice-like and hot and he smelled of mildew and beer. Mikey patted his back gently.
"Hey," he said. "I have to talk to you."
Gerard leaned back, smiling. He was stunning when he smiled. Mikey closed his eyes against it. "Talk," he said.
Mikey untangled himself from Gerard's grip. "Okay," he said. "um, look. I. There's." He pressed his fingers into the corners of his eyes up under his glasses. "Can I tell you something without you getting mad at me?"
"Mikey." Gerard grabbed his arm, folded their hands together. That was something else, too, how affectionate Gerard became when he was high, how he put his hands all over everyone and leaned into them and smiled. It was almost like he really liked you. "What?"
Mikey squeezed Gerard's hand tight. "You're doing too much drugs. Too many. You're doing it too much."
Gerard shook his head. "No, Mikey, not this." He tried to pull his hand away, but Mikey held on.
"Gerard, please. I'm not saying. It's just that it's all the time and I don't know what - -"
Gerard yanked, hard, and Mikey let go of his hand. "You're right," he said, shoving his hair back out of his eyes. "You don't know. I'm not fucking talking about this."
"What? Gerard --"
"No!" Gerard shook his head. He looked like a rabid dog. "Shut up, Mikey. Shut up!"
The shove was hard and solid, Gerard's hands landing square on his chest before Mikey could even blink. Then he was on the floor, his wrist and his ass aching from the impact with the cement, Gerard standing over him, chest heaving. They stared at each other.
Gerard had hit him before maybe a thousand times, when Mikey would get into his stuff or bug him too much or, once, when Mikey had leaned over him and poked him in the ribs to wake his up out of a sound sleep, all the normal times that a big brother would pound on a little brother, but it had never been like this, Gerard's eyes, his red face, his hands clenched at his sides.
"Just. Don't," Gerard said. "Just shut up. Okay, Mikey?"
Mikey nodded, mute.
"Okay." Gerard ran both hands through his hair, yanking it back from his face. "Okay," he said again, although he didn't seem to be talking to Mikey anymore. Mikey stayed still on the floor until he left.
Frankie found him sitting on the couch in the green room, his arms looped loosely around his knees. "Gee says get ready. We've got, like, ten minutes or something."
"I'm ready," Mikey said.
"You don't look ready. You look like ass."
Mikey scowled at him. Fuck Frankie, who wouldn't do anything about anything.
"Okay, what the fuck, Mikey? What was that look for?"
"He's not fucking okay, Frankie, okay? So don't even fucking talk to me if you're not going to say something to him, alright? 'Cause I'm fucking sick of it!" Mikey heard his voice crack on the last words and he pressed his palms against his face trying to hold it back, whatever was burgeoning in his throat, but he couldn't cover his mouth and his eyes at the same time. He was surprised to feel tears slide beneath his fingertips.
"Jesus, Mikey." Frankie came up to him and touched his wrists, his hair. "What the fuck?"
Mikey jerked away, but he was sitting down and Frankie was in front of him, squatting between his knees and pulling him in, his hands on Mikey's shoulders, his neck, murmuring "don't cry, don't cry, it's okay," in Mikey's ear. "I'll tell him," he whispered after a while. "I will, Mikey. Don't worry. I'll tell him."
Two days later, Frankie and Gerard starting sleeping in separate beds. Frankie looked like death, his eyes red and bruised even out of the makeup. He lost weight, but he wouldn't talk about it, not even when Mikey cornered him on the bus after everyone else was asleep. "I told you not to worry," Frankie said, and that was all he would say, although he did touch Mikey's hand. Mikey watched Frankie head down the hall to his bunk, his hand brushing the closed curtain of Gerard's bunk as he passed by.
He wanted to say no, but it was Gerard leaning into him, smiling at him, pulling him close, and it was something to be wanted by Gerard now that he could have anyone, and Frankie just couldn't bring himself to say no.
So he didn't, and Gerard kissed him and during the sex and for a few minutes afterwards it was perfect. Then Gerard fell asleep and Frankie was left alone, listening to the sound of Gerard's steady breath. He lay there for a while, willing Gerard to wake up, then he got up and pulled a blanket over his shoulders and went to the bus lounge to watch a DVD. Maybe they'd have something good, something familiar and comforting and easy to sleep to.
It was Mikey, sitting in the corner of one of the sofas, his arms wrapped around his knees. Frankie went over and sat next to him, draping the blanket over his shoulders. Mikey's arm was chilly against his.
"Can't sleep," Mikey said.
"No." Frankie pulled his legs up underneath him and leaned in, tipping his head against Mikey's shoulder. "What about you?"
Mikey shrugged underneath his cheek. "Sometimes, I'm just. Awake. You know."
"Mm." Frankie turned his head into Mikey's shoulder. "Yeah, I'm awake."
"Gerard's asleep," Mikey asked. He shifted, turning on the sofa, and Frankie moved with him, sliding his arms around Mikey's waist and throwing one leg over both of his.
"Yeah," Frankie said.
"He loves you," Mikey said. His hand stroked Frankie's bare arm. He reached over and yanked the blanket up until it settled over both of them. He smelled like Gerard. Frankie knew it was just because they used the same laudry detergent -- hell, everyone smelled like Gerard at this point on the tour, even the roadies -- but lying in the dark with Mikey's thin arm around him, it seemed particularly significant. Frankie couldn't say why.
"Yeah," Frankie murmured. He closed his eyes.
Their warmth gathered under the blanket and enveloped him, seeping into his skin, lulling whatever in him needed to be lulled. Mikey sighed beneath his cheek. "Are you asleep?" Frankie asked.
"No." Mikey's hand moved again, up and down, up and down, gently over Frankie's shoulder blade. Beneath them, Frankie could feel the hum of the bus wheels covering pavement, the occasional bump of gravel, the slight vibration of a bridge crossing. "The lights, they flash by like stars," Mikey said. Or at least that's what Frankie thought he said, before he fell asleep.
The first week was the worst, because they were in Europe and because they were still on tour and because the first week of cold turkey detox always sucked, at least that's what Frankie was led to believe from watching Trainspotting.
They watched Trainspotting maybe seventy times in the week since Gerard swore off the drugs and the alcohol and every time they got to the part with the dead baby on the ceiling Gerard said "well, at least I'm not that guy," and laughed a little and then cried. It reminded Frankie of something, but it didn't hit him until day three that the atmosphere in the hotel room after each show was like his grandmother's wake. People had laughed so that they wouldn't cry there, too.
The most dangerous time was the time after the shows. They would go back to another dreary hotel room and order food and sit together and Gerard would be fine and first, naturally high from the thrill of the crowd and the beauty of performing straight and remembering what happened. They would eat and watch television and maybe Ray and Gerard would write some songs. And then Gerard would remember something about the show that had gone wrong, or the writing would go poorly or Ray and Bob would want to go out somewhere instead of sitting watch over someone who was supposed to be an adult and capable of taking care of himself and the downward spiral would begin.
It would end with vomiting or crying or both.
"I'm sorry," Gerard said once, wiping his mouth with the washcloth Frankie handed him. He looked like death, paler and more fragile than the make-up ever made him look. Frankie tucked a strand of Gerard's hair behind his ear. He had a sweet face, soft and childishly round, even though he'd been losing weight recently. Frankie touched his cheek.
"It's okay," Frankie told him.
Gerard closed his eyes and rested his forehead against Frankie's forearm, his cheek faded and white against Frankie's tattoos. "This sucks so bad." He cried a little.
Frankie stroked his hair, and held it back when Gerard threw up again, and wiped the sweat off his forehead afterwards. "Here," he said, handing over a glass of water. Gerard swished and spit. He set the glass down carefully on the edge of the sink. His hands trembled.
"Frankie," he whispered. His pressed his palms flat on the counter. His head was down; his hair hung in his face.
"I've been an ass to you."
Frankie rubbed his back gently, steadily. "Hey," he said. "Forget about that. Forget it."
"I love you," Gerard said.
Frankie stopped. Everything, his breath, his hand on Gerard's back, maybe even the beat of his heart. Gerard loved him. "Well," he said.
Gerard shook his head. "It doesn't matter," he said. "I just wanted you to know. You know. In case." He looped his arms around Frankie's waist and tucked his chin over Frankie's shoulder. He trembled a little in the embrace, like he was trying to shiver out of his skin, but Frankie didn't let go. They were still standing there, hugging in a hotel bathroom, when Mikey came in.
"Hey," he said, slouching in the doorway. He had Gerard's mouth, Frankie noticed, the same pretty curved lips, only he didn't smile as much. Maybe, unlike Gerard, Frankie kept his happiness on the inside.
"Hey." Gerard stepped back away from Frankie, wiping his nose on his sleeve, tucking his hair back away from his face.
"You okay?" Mikey asked.
"Heh." Gerard smiled a rueful smile. "No."
"You want to go to bed?" Mikey asked.
"Yeah, okay." Gerard followed Mikey out of the room. Frankie ran water in the sink and splashed his face. Gerard loved him.
He opened the bathroom door. Gerard was on top of the blankets, curled up on his side. Mikey sprawled in a chair near the bed, his hand dangling over the arm of the chair, twined with Gerard's.
"I'm going to take off," Frankie said. "You know. Get some sleep."
"Okay," Mikey said. He smiled. He had a really nice smile.
"Night, Frankie," Gerard said. Frankie went over to the bed and sat down on the edge between them. He brushed a strand of hair off Gerard's forehead. His other hand, the one away from Gerard, cupped Mikey's knee. After a moment, he felt Mikey's fingers over his own.
"Night, sweetheart," he said. He leaned down and kissed Gerard's forehead. Mikey's fingers squeezed his.
They had started as a sort of resting place for one another, each the one other person that would listen to endless worries and complaints about Gerard's drinking and drugs and whoring around, but by the time Gerard had dry-heaved into a garbage pail in France and sworn off drugs "forever, man. I totally swear," his face pale and sweaty and still reeking of vodka and vomit, Frankie and Mikey had been sleeping together for three weeks.
"Should I tell him?" Frankie asked after the second week, when it became clear that, no matter what they told each other in the sweaty minutes after they both came, they weren't ever going to stop.
"I don't know," Mikey said. He didn't. On one hand, he was having sex with Gerard's boyfriend. On the other, Gerard was having sex with everything that moved and didn't seem to care what Frankie did, so it wasn't entirely like cheating, except that was exactly what it was. And on the third hand, like there was such a thing, he really liked Frankie and thought he was hot and enjoyed being kissed by someone who had already kissed Gerard and so wasn't using him as some sort of substitute or stand-in but actually wanted to be kissing him, Mikey. Someone who had actually chosen him.
"I might tell him," Frankie said.
"What will you say?"
Frankie rolled onto his back, pulling Frankie's hand onto his chest and folding it between both of his own. "I dunno. Um. 'Hey, Gerard. Your brother has a hot ass.'"
"You think I have a hot ass?" Mikey craned his neck over his shoulder.
Frankie looked at him. "You are a fucking idiot," he said, holding Mikey's hand tight.
"Seriously, you're ass is sooo hot! I will put up a website to worship your fine fine ass, Mikey Way, and start a mailing list where all we talk about it the hotness of your ass. And maybe your mouth."
Mikey smiled. "Okay. But I meant are you really gonna tell him?"
Frankie sighed. "No. This is so fucked up, man."
Mikey inched over until his shoulder was touching Frankie's, his bicep lining up against Frankie's New Jersey tattoo. "Completely," he said. He slid his hand over Frankie's flat stomach and curled it around his hip. Frankie was the most perfect person Mikey had ever seen in real life. He fit together like a puzzle, the muscle of his arms and his chest, the slope of his shoulders, the width of his thighs, not too skinny or tall or bony, like Mikey was. "Okay," he said.
"Okay, what?" Frankie rolled onto his side until they were face to face, Frankie's breath breaking over his mouth.
"Okay, don't tell him."
Frankie closed his eyes. "I'm going to tell him," he said.
Mikey closed his own eyes and moved in closer to Frankie, feeling his way to Frankie's skin by touch until they were wrapped together and Mikey could no longer tell which were his limbs and which were Frankie's. It was okay. He didn't want to know.
They had kissed for the first time in Los Angeles, a place so desolate and awful that Frankie could hardly understand why people lived there, let alone what made it so great. Everyone and everything in Los Angeles was bright and hard-edged and flat and shallow. Los Angeles had no hidden depths.
It did have awesome clubs, though, if you knew where to look. Not on the strip or at any of the "hip" places, but in the side neighborhoods where the tourists never went, and where they sometimes got booed off the stage. Those clubs, places like the one where Green Day had first been born, and The Cult and Henry Rollins Band, those were the only places Frankie could even stand in Los Angeles. They were the only places that even seemed real to him.
"I hate L.A." he remembered moaning into his beer.
"Tell me about it," Matt had said. "This place fuckin' sucks."
"It's okay," Mikey had said. He'd been sitting on the very edge of the booth, leaning out into the aisle, bobbing his knee in time to the jukebox. Frankie rolled his eyes. Mikey was such a fucking optimist.
"Two more weeks, my pretties," Gerard had said. He'd been leaning back in the cheap vinyl booth seat, his arms spread wide over the back, like wings unfolding over them all.
"God," Frankie had muttered. Two more weeks. Fourteen more days until they could leave and even then they were only going up the coast to fucking Seattle. Frankie'd never thought he'd feel this way, but he missed New Jersey. He missed the shitty weather and the run-down cars and the seventies paneling and shag carpet in his parent's basement. Gerard wrapped and arm around him and hugged him close. Frankie's face pressed into his collar. It smelled like cigarette smoke and sweat and Gerard's weird cologne.
"Maybe we should cut you off," he had said. Then he'd kissed Frankie's forehead. "You're a depressing drunk."
"It's just L.A." Frankie had said, lifting his head. "It's just this stupid place, you know? You know what I mean, Gee?" He had blinked, his eyes slowly focusing on Gerard's face, his big eyes. His hand had patted Gerard's chest. "You know?"
Gerard had smiled. "I know, baby," he had said. He'd leaned in until their foreheads touched. "I know." When he blinked, Frankie could feel Gerard's eyelashes flutter against his own. Frankie remembered lifting his chin a little, a test. Gerard had licked his lips. Frankie had wrapped a hand over Gerard's shoulder, and then it was all over but the shouting.