"...and everybody knows that you're in trouble."
Everything was normal, up until and even after the kid lunged up on stage. Fifty fucking kids a day clambered up onstage somehow, no matter how many times Gerard bitched to security about it, so when Frank caught the movement out of the corner of his eye he thought, "here we go again," and braced himself for impact. He kept playing as the kid's arms closed around his neck and was about to try to shake him off, laughing, when there was a hot rush of breath and then, suddenly, pain, the dull red pain of someone biting him hard on the neck.
"Jesus fucking christ," Frank shouted, shoving the kid off of him, swinging the neck of his guitar around and slamming it into the kid's gut. His neck throbbed, but his hand when he pulled it away from his throat and looked at it was damp only with saliva and sweat and nothing more. The kid, a normal- looking kid in a black t-shirt and ratty jeans, his brown hair lank in his face, fell to the floor laughing and pointing. Gerard was still singing over on the far side of the stage, but Mikey had stopped playing and swung his bass around behind his back, ready, and Bob was standing up, both drum sticks in one hand.
"You're going to thank me later!" the kid screamed. "You're going to thank me!"
Maybe because they heard or maybe because they finally realized they had no rhythm section, Gerard and Ray turned around, Ray's guitar coming to a jangling stop like a woman being choked. The kid was scrambling to his feet when the security guards finally grabbed him, finally, wrenching his arms behind his back, but the kid still laughed and kicked his feet out. "You're going to thank me!" he said again as they hauled him off the stage.
"You're a fuckin' lunatic!" Frank shouted back. His neck felt hot and tight. He touched it again, carefully.
"You okay?" Gerard asked, coming across the stage, the mic still dangling in one hand. He grabbed Frank's shoulder with the other hand. "Let me see."
Frank allowed Gerard to lift his hand, wincing. The crowd roared, frustrated and hot, but man. The fucker had bit his neck. He tilted his chin back and let Gerard look. Gerard's fingers touched in the center of the heat, brushing gently. Frank closed his eyes and breathed through his mouth. "It's all right," Gerard said softly, his hand curved over Frank's shoulder. "It's just red or something."
"Jesus, what was up with that kid?" Ray asked, coming over. They were all standing around him, now, except Bob, who was still leaning over his drum kit. "He was nuts." Mikey didn't say anything, just looked over Gerard's shoulder at Frank's neck. "You all right?" Ray said.
Frank nodded. He didn't really feel all right. He felt hot and dizzy and shaken. And bitten. A kid just bit him. But that was sort of it, because he'd been bitten, but not really injured. It hurt, and it was fucking weird, but it wasn't really anything but fucked up. Not enough to stop the show. "I'm okay," he said.
"You sure?" Gerard said. He glanced out at the crowd. He meant "fuck them; we can stop this now," and Frank was grateful, he really was, but that wasn't fair. Not when he wasn't really hurt. Still, he wanted to kiss Gerard for the thought.
He nodded. "Let's just do this."
Gerard nodded. He slapped Frank's shoulder, squeezing it. "Cool," he said. He strode off to the center of the stage, Ray following after.
"You sure," Mikey said softly.
"Yeah," Frank said. "I mean, you know. I'll live." Mikey nodded.
"All right, you little fuckers," Gerard shouted into the mic. "Here's the rules: No fucking, no fighting, no punching, no biting, only moshing, RIGHT FUCKING NOW!" The crowd bellowed and turned into a writhing mass of hands and heads and open mouths. Frank smiled at them, but he was faking, fumbling through the chords. His neck hurt. And his head hurt. And these little fuckers were fucking insane and all he wanted to do was get back to the air conditioned bus and never hear the words "Warped Tour" again if it meant he had to put up with this shit. Fame was cool and everything, but there were fucking limits.
He made it through the rest of the set by watching Ray for cues, tossed his guitar to the tech almost before the final chords had finished reverberating through the amps, and leapt off the corner of the stage. The rest of them would follow him or they wouldn't, he didn't care. He just wanted to take a shower and get the sticky feeling off his throat.
"Frank! Frank!" Gerard caught up to him, draping an arm around his waist and pulling him close, making him stumble. The rest of them flanked him, walking quietly. None of them seemed to have their normal after-show exuberance, not even Ray, who lived for shows. "You all right, man?"
"I'm fine." Frank squirmed, trying to untangle himself from Gerard. There were people backstage, people who could see, but Gerard just held him tighter and finally, Frank gave up. It was how most of his relationship with Gerard worked. "One of our fucking fans just tried to draw blood, but I'm cool, man."
"We should call the doctor," Gerard said. "Just in case."
"In case what?" Frank said.
"The human mouth is seriously gross," Ray said. "You may have to get a tetanus shot."
"What?" Gerard released Frank. He was such a fucking baby about needles. It was maybe the one thing that had kept him off the horse.
"Yeah," Ray said. "When I got bit by a dog in the tenth grade, I had to have a tetanus and a rabies shot. It sucked."
"Frank has rabies?" Bob asked, coming up beside them. "You gonna start foaming, little man?"
Frank snarled at him. He wouldn't admit it if anyone asked, but their stupid shit made him feel all right. Not great, and his neck still hurt, but better. They all came on the bus with him, even Mikey, who hadn't been on the bus much lately. They all crowded around him and looked at the red spot on his neck and Ray called the tour doctor, who was a shockingly old guy named Steve.
Steve was also pretty fat and wheezed as he climbed up the bus steps, but it was strangely reassuring to have an old fat guy look at his neck and say, "nah, you're fine." The tour doctor on the Taste of Chaos tour had been whip-thin and had worn designer glasses and had had a tattoo on his neck, which had freaked Frank out when he saw him for a sprained finger. He knew it made him a hypocrite, but he didn't want his doctor to have a neck tattoo. Frank was pretty sure that Dr. Steve didn't have any tattoos. His fingers fumbled over Frank's neck.
"Nah, you're fine," Steve said. "There's not even a scratch. Just a bruise." He reached into his bag and pulled out a syringe.
"I thought you said I was fine," Frank said, leaning away from the needle.
"Sure," Steve said. "I'll give you the tetanus and some antibiotics and you'll be fine."
"Oh, jesus," Gerard moaned, and disappeared from Frank's line of sight.
Frank rolled his eyes. "Fine," he said. He pulled up his sleeve and turned his head, but the tetanus still hurt like a fucking bitch, so much that he didn't even really notice the antibiotics going in. He blinked back some water.
"All right," Steve said. "Let me know if it gets red or inflamed at all, okay?"
Frank nodded, swiping his hand under his eyes quickly. "Yeah, I will."
Gerard came back after Steve left and sat across from him, sipping a beer. "You want one?" he asked, holding the can out.
Frank shook his head, sighing. He didn't want one. He didn't want a goddamn beer and he didn't want Gerard to have a goddamn beer, but there wasn't anything he could fucking do about it. He'd had that conversation with Mikey three weeks ago. "No," he said.
"You gonna come out with us?" Bob asked. They meant out to see the other bands. There wasn't time on the Warped Tour to go off the grounds and see anything except maybe a club or a movie or a mall. They moved on too quickly, a punk rock carnival, packing up its tents and rolling on to the next town.
Frank shook his head. "Nah," he said. "I'm staying in."
"What about you, Mikes?"
Mikey shook his head. "I'm going to hang out here for a while," he said, meeting Frank's eyes. That was nice of him. He'd been spending most of his free time with Pete Wentz from Fall Out Boy lately in some weird sort of platonic boycrush way. Gerard said that they were fucking, but Frank didn't think it was true. Mikey didn't fuck as many people, boys or girls, as Gerard thought he did. Mikey wasn't Gerard, as much as Gerard sometimes forgot that. It seemed to Frank that, while Pete and Mikey might end up doing something sometime, at least if Pete's googly love eyes at Mikey were any indication, they weren't doing it yet. Probably.
"God, I thought they'd never leave," Gerard said, leaning across the empty space between them and putting his hands on Frank's knees. "How do you feel?"
Over his shoulder, Frank saw Mikey snag the beer from where Gerard had left it and chug the whole thing. He smiled. "I feel okay," he said.
"Let me see," Gerard said. He knelt on the floor between Frank's knees and tilted Frank's head back. Mikey stood up.
"I'm gonna take off," he said.
"Later," Gerard said.
Frank lifted his chin in farewell. On his way out, Mikey hooked the remaining three beers from the six pack Gerard had bought the night before. He waved them at Frank as he left.
Gerard's fingers on his neck were tender and careful. "This doesn't hurt, does it?" he breathed. He was so beautiful close up -- his brilliant eyes, his smudged makeup, his dark hair -- that sometimes Frank couldn't even believe he was real. He'd said that once, maybe two months ago, when he and Gerard had just started fucking "as friends with benefits," and Gerard had blushed madly and told him to shut up. Frank should have known that Gerard's newfound sobriety was doomed from that minute, he thought. Gerard had no idea what he was to other people, what he meant to them, not even to Frank. Not even to Mikey.
"No, it doesn't hurt," Frank said.
"It's just a little red," Gerard said. "Can I kiss it?"
"I haven't washed it yet; that's sort of..." he was going to say "gross. That's sort of gross," but Gerard was kissing it already, his tongue swiping over the sensitive skin, his hands spread like starfish on Frank's thighs. Frank felt the tingle of contact everywhere. "God," he said instead. His eyes fell closed.
They had done it for the first time on the last night of the Green Day tour, high on success and stadium tours and just the unbelievable coolness that was their lives at that moment. Frank remembered looking around at the empty stadium after the show, the crew already hard at work tearing down the set, the stage being dismantled almost under his feet, and thinking that this was what it was like to be fulfilling your destiny. He'd had to sit down.
Then, later, back at the hotel, Gerard spilled into his lap like warm honey, his eyes sparkling, his mouth wide with laughter. The first kiss had been friendly, like the stage kisses, affectionate and meaningless, but after a while Gerard was pushing Frank's t-shirt up, urging his arms over his head, and Frank was gasping that they were just friends, friends with benefits, that this was just friendly sex and they would still be friends in the morning, and Gerard was laughing and nodding and saying "quit saying the word 'friends.'" And that was that.
It changed at some point. Frank wasn't sure when, but Gerard no longer made out with other guys (girls had never been his thing, at least, not on the tour) and Frank had told Jamia that he needed to be on a break and find out what else was out there. She had thought that he meant "fuck groupies" and he didn't correct her and tell her that what he meant was "fuck Gerard." He thought maybe her impressions would be more forgivable in the long run, if he ever wanted to be forgiven.
At this moment, he didn't want to be forgiven. Gerard had climbed up on his lap and peeled Frank's shirt off (Frank spent a lot of time at least half naked when he was alone with Gerard) and was kissing his shoulder, hands running over Frank's naked and tattooed skin. "Grr," he said, and bit Frank right where his neck turned into his shoulder, hard enough so that it was a little painful but also made Frank feel pinned and helpless and hot. Gerard laughed when Frank squirmed and kissed the spot.
"This is your fault," Frank sighed. His hands curled around Gerard's arms. Gerard's laugh was low and sultry against his skin.
"That was one song," he said, rocking gently on Frank's lap. "On the first album, even. One song."
"Still your fault," Frank muttered. "'You and you're all 'vampires are so cool. I'd rather be a vampire than dead.'" The last word was swallowed by Gerard's mouth on his, the faint sour taste of beer and the overwhelming taste of Gerard, something Frank was just starting to think he could recognize.
"Over you go," he said, pushing Frank to the side and turning him over until Frank was on his stomach on the couch, Gerard pinning both wrists above his head with one hand. He slipped the other hand under Frank's body and undid his pants. Gerard seemed to like it when things were a little bit difficult, when Frank resisted, or still had some clothes on that Gerard's fingers had to work around, or when they were in danger of being caught. Nothing was ever vanilla with Gerard.
He managed to get Frank's pants open and down around his knees and Frank pressed his face into the couch cushion and groaned, because Gerard was licking his way down Frank's spine, slowly, his mouth hot and Frank's skin cool where it had already been. Gerard tongued the spot low on his back, right before his ass. "I'm going to do awful things to you," he said, his breath hot over the small of Frank's back. Frank shivered.
They fucked on the bus couch, with half their clothes still on, Frank pinned under Gerard's heaving body, feeling the moist heat of Gerard's breath on his neck . Gerard said his name -- "Frankie" -- his voice going up at the end like he was surprised. "You're so amazing," Gerard panted, slipping his hand underneath Frank's hip as he collapsed, pressing him down. Frank groaned. Gerard kissed his throat, nuzzling into his hairline. "Roll over," he whispered in Frank's ear. Frank did, squirming under Gerard's damp skin, his jeans still tangled around his ankles. Gerard's hands roamed over his body and then he was gone, rubbing his rough cheek gently over Frank's belly, tracing the outlines of the tattoos with his mouth, then one wet finger. Frank loved it when Gerard did this -- there was something about looking down the length of his body and seeing it happen, spreading his legs, feeling Gerard's hair on the inside of his thighs, Gerard's hands on his knees. "Gerard," he breathed, lifting his hips. "Oh, Gerard."
When Frankie kissed him afterwards, Gerard didn't taste of beer anymore.
It wasn't a permanent solution, taking Gerard's alcohol away. For one, it wasn't like he couldn't get more anytime he wanted, especially on the Warped Tour, where kids smoked bowls right in front of the security guards. And two, he was starting to get mad about it.
"Seriously, Frank, what happened to it?" Gerard was bent over, peering into the mini fridge, wearing only his black jeans. "There were, like, four or five beers in here."
Frank shook his head. "Don't know, man."
"This is bullshit, Frankie. You guys are cadging my beer and it's totally fucking wrong of you."
Frank sighed, pulling his jeans and underwear up all at once. The material bunched up in the crack of his ass uncomfortably, but that sort of fit his mood. "Dude, I have been right here in front of you the whole fucking time. I did not take your beer."
"Well, then who did? Mikey? Ray?"
"Why do you have beer in the first place?" Frank asked. "You quit."
Gerard stood up and banged the fridge shut. "I can have a beer or two when I want one, Frank. You're making a huge deal out of nothing."
Frank sighed. He probably was. Gerard had started drinking again maybe two or three weeks ago, at first just taking a sip of Mikey's beer, or Ray's, on the rare occasions when they had them. Frank remembered the first time he'd seen it, remembered the feeling of his eyes bugging out of his head at the sight, the line of Gerard's neck as he tipped his head back to empty the can. The thing was, Gerard hadn't fallen back into those old predictable patterns -- the binge drinking, the drugs, the partying. He had a beer from time to time, maybe one or two every few days, less than a six-pack a week. He did the shows sober, he met the fans sober, he talked to interviewers sober, he wrote the music sober. And then he had a beer or two. It wasn't such a big deal.
"You quit," Frank murmured, almost to himself.
"Whatever," Gerard said. He picked up his t-shirt off the floor and yanked it back on. "I'm going to listen to the new stuff Ray did. Try to write something."
"Okay," Frank said. Not five minutes ago, Gerard had been lying on top of him, his hands stroking over Frank's sides, his breath steaming up the back of Frank's neck. Not five minutes ago, Frank had been happy. It was funny, sometimes, how fast things changed.
Frankie woke up from a dream of Gerard holding him down, gnawing off his fingers, his mouth slack and gaping with black blood.
"You all right?" Mikey asked, pulling his headphones out of one ear.
Frank wiped a hand over his face. "It was just a bad dream," he said. Mikey nodded, but he didn't put his headphones back in. Mikey did that a lot, sat and looked at people with hardly an expression on his face, like a really warm statue. It had creeped Frank out when he first met Mikey, back when he was in Pencey and Mikey was just an intern at Eyeball, making copies on the shitty Xerox machine in the office and carrying expensive coffee drinks in cardboard trays. He would sit in rooms, in meetings where he wasn't supposed to be, and listen to things he wasn't supposed to hear and no one would even notice him or remember that he'd been there until three days later when someone would say something and Mikey would say, in his strangely deep voice, "actually, they're supposed to get seven percent of the revenue," and then everyone would turn around and gape at him. If it was Gerard who had made the band famous, it was Mikey who had made sure they hadn't gotten screwed on the Reprise deal. "How's Pete?"
Mikey's mouth tensed up in what passed for a smile. Frank sometimes wondered what had happened to make Gerard and his brother so different. Gerard told everybody everything and Mikey told nobody anything. "He's good," he said.
"You came back over here, though," Frank pointed out.
Mikey shrugged. "I was just. You know." He waved a laconic hand in the direction of the bunks. "But he's fine, I guess. I should have stayed over there."
"Well, tomorrow," Frank said.
Mikey showed his little half-smile again. "Maybe. Tomorrow's a new day."
"Wow," Frank said. "You're so profound."
Mikey shrugged and plugged his headphones into his ears. Frank stood up and picked his shirt up off the floor. He went back to the miniscule bathroom and brushed his teeth and splashed water over his face. The bite had faded to a faint red patch, only visible when Frank hooked one leg over the edge of the sink and pressed his nose to the glass. "I guess I'll live," he muttered. He dried his face on his shirt.
Gerard was asleep in his bunk in just his underwear, one arm thrown over his head. He slept in the bottom-most bunk, so Frank had to kneel down to really see him. He was so pale, his skin made almost translucent by the black cotton sheets and the dark hair tangled over his forehead. He'd been working out since he quit drinking, an hour four or five times a week, and while he was thinner, his skin was still smooth and androgynous. He was never going to have the sharp whippet-like definition Mikey had. That must have come from their father, who Frank had never met. Frank brushed his fingers over Gerard's hair. Gerard stirred. Frank wanted to touch him again, but Gee was a light sleeper and would wake up and be a bitch for sure, so he didn't. Instead, he stood up and pulled the heavy curtain on Gerard's bunk closed, shutting out the faint light from the lounge. Then he climbed into his own bunk and pulled his own curtain shut and fell into his own sleep. He didn't dream again that night.