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Isn't That Something

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Maybe some people would find it difficult to brood at a house party where a couple dozen people with varying amounts of tattoos were drunkenly dancing and shouting along to the Bouncing Souls’ “Olé” in between fits of laughter. Maybe a few weeks ago Frank might have been one of them. But now Frank knew the truth about the world and so he was quite happy to brood in a corner and angrily glare at everyone else over his beer, thank you very much.

The truth was this: everything sucks and nothing good can ever stay.

Simple enough.

This was a send off party of sorts, or at least that’s how Frank chose to interpret it. Their album release was in a week, and then it was a smattering of shows around the local area before they headed off to Warped. They’d all landed back in Jersey a couple weeks ago after putting the finishing touches on their next record. They’d listened to the final mix together in their L.A. hotel room, but Frank had listened to it himself once more on the plane ride back home. It was incredible, like something holy. He couldn’t believe it was his band. Couldn’t believe it was his guitar on that record. Wouldn’t have believed it if he didn’t know those songs in his bones, if his fingers didn’t have the memory of them imprinted into their muscle fibers.

There were still things to do--hammering out details with the label, finalizing tour dates, shooting real videos with real directors and real budgets--but it was happening and it was happening now. Everyone they knew was stoked except for the half of Jersey that fucking hated them for selling out. Luckily, the host of the party wasn’t one of those people--a friend of a friend with a house and beer and other friends who didn’t hate them and who maybe was angling to try and get in the good graces of a band on a major label poised to make it big. They were cool with feeding that illusion for one night. Free beer was free beer, after all.

The landscape of the party was like so many others: Gerard was holding court perched on the back of the couch, talking with his hands and laughing at his own jokes while people around him beamed at him, sucked into his inevitable gravity. Matt was in the kitchen, leaning against the counter and trying to look cool while he told any attractive girl who would listen about the glamorous life of being a touring rock star, leaving out all the parts where he slept in a van with four to five other dudes every day, didn’t shower for weeks, and vomited on a diverse array of sidewalks. Mikey was passed around from group to group. He knew everyone and worked his way through every party like a game of hot potato, never in the last place you saw him until maybe he found an opportunity to pick up and lingered. Watching Mikey flirt was weird. He didn’t look particularly different, didn’t do anything special, and it kind of gave off the impression that he Jedi mind-tricked his way through seduction.

Frank and Ray were usually a team. They knew the same kind of people and had developed a rhythm of keeping each other entertained while melding into friend groups and avoiding anyone who even had the passing semblance of a groupie. Neither of them were usually very interested in flirting--Ray because he was too kind to be very into the idea of a one night stand, and Frank because he had Jamia.

He always had Jamia, until he didn’t.

Tonight, Frank didn’t know where Ray was. He’d lost track of his hair bobbing above the crowd some time ago. Frank couldn’t blame him. He was miserable company. As soon as they got back to Jersey, he went to see Jamia, like he always did. He missed her like he missed a limb. He’d brought her a copy of the record to listen to because she was the only person he’d trust with it. He didn’t even plan on giving a copy to his own mother early. But as soon as she’d opened the door, Frank knew this wasn’t going to be the homecoming visit he’d imagined.

He’d never seen that expression on her face before, like someone had handed her a shotgun and told her she had to shoot a puppy. Frank might have preferred that. It would have hurt less than sitting at her kitchen table, staring at the wood grain while the woman he’d expected to marry one day told him they couldn’t be together, that she didn’t feel the same way anymore, that she didn’t know why, that it wasn’t his fault, that she was sorry.

Frank was usually ready to fight tooth and nail in the dirt to keep what was important. But Jamia had always been an open book to him, and all he had to do was look at her face to know there wasn’t anything left to fight for. He had a lot of questions: what changed? Did she meet someone else? Had he been gone for too long? Had he treated her badly? Why was he so easy to fall out of love with? But that night, at that table, looking at her teary, broken face while she told him that everything he’d planned for their future now had to be set on fire, he couldn’t find it in him to say much more than, “Okay.”

He walked out of her house like a zombie, mindlessly wandering to his house, to friends’ places, to bars, until he ended up back in his favorite tattoo parlor and found himself asking the artist to start a cover up over Jamia’s name on his chest. To his credit, he only gave Frank one “I told you so” before getting to work.

“Dude, getting a girl’s name is never a good idea,” he’d said when Frank first came in a year ago, giddy and thinking of how much Jamia was going to flip when she saw it. And she did. She’d laughed and shaken her head and kissed him before she drove him home. She was different. This was different.

They were supposed to be different.

Now there was an outline of a bomb on his chest, the webbing around it going right through the old letters: not hidden yet, but soon. A bomb seemed thematically appropriate, and not just in a “fuck love, burn it all down instead” kind of way. Frank was a bomb. His heart was a bomb. He was dangerous. He was ticking down to the destruction of himself and everyone around him; he just didn’t know how long the clock was set for.

Frank tipped his beer back but found it was empty. How long had they been at this party anyway? Too long, if he had anything to say about it. With a huff he pulled away from his corner, weaving through oblivious drunks and discarded bottles until he managed to cross the threshold into the kitchen. He tossed his bottle into the bin with the other empties, but the chime of glass on glass could barely be heard over the din of chatter and music and laughter.

Fuckers.

He turned and reached back behind him for the fridge handle, but ran chest first into a body instead and recoiled, hissing. The ink was still healing and tender as all hell.

“Fuck!”

“Oh, sorry, Frankie,” Ray said, pulling back from the fridge with two fresh beers in hand. “Didn’t see you.”

His cheeks were flushed, eyes a little glazed, and he generally had that giddy, happy look people got at good parties. It was annoying. “S’fine,” he grumbled. He tried to reach around Ray for the fridge handle again, but Ray stepped into his path, pushing on his shoulder to get him to meet his eyes.

“You’ve been standing around like a gargoyle all night. How ya holdin’ up, kid?”

Frank frowned and pushed his hand off his shoulder. “I’m not a kid and I’d be just fucking fine if you let me get a goddamn beer, mom.”

Ray raised his hands in surrender and backed away from the fridge to let Frank through, which he did with no small amount of childishness, swinging the door shut a little too hard behind him, cracking the top open on the side of the countertop and leaving the cap wherever it landed before he tipped the beer into his mouth.

Ray watched him with a raised eyebrow, and Frank glared back, not enjoying the feeling of his boorishness being scrutinized. “At least you’re in a good mood,” he said. “I mean, adding alcohol to this charming equation is definitely healthy.”

Frank snorted. “At least I’m not the one double fisting,” he said, looking pointedly at the beers in Ray’s fingers. Ray’s other eyebrow raised, almost disappearing into his hair and Frank sighed. The fight was draining out of him. Being a dick was exhausting when all he really wanted to do was go home, get into bed and stay there, maybe forever. “Anyway, listen, I think I’m gonna head out soon. I think I’ve done my time. Come with?” he said, trying to sound a little more companionable. He could usually count on Ray to stick by him even when he was being less than sociable. Ray often found himself on the outskirts of parties anyway.

But this time Ray shot him a sympathetic look. “Sorry, man. I can’t. I, uhh… I have to… I mean I met--”

“Ray?”

Frank turned to see a girl walking into their space. She was blonde, and largely wholesome looking except for her Iron Maiden t-shirt and the snake bites in her bottom lip. “Been lookin’ for you. Come on, I talked Xan into letting us look at his Showman,” she said cheerily, and Frank didn’t miss the way she tugged on his elbow or the way Ray’s entire body tilted towards her.

Oh.

“Uh, fuck, yeah. Totally, I was just grabbing another--oh, uh, Katie this is Frank. Frank, Katie,” he said, hastily gesturing between them.

Katie turned to him and grinned, extending a hand towards him. “Hey, nice to meet you,” she said.

Frank waited for a beat too long, caught staring dumbfounded at her face. He suddenly couldn’t remember ever having seen Ray pick up before, and he didn’t like it one bit. She faltered, and Frank’s muscle memory finally kicked into gear, giving her hand a short shake and mumbling something that seemed appropriate before hunching back into his place against the wall.

Ray stepped between them, slipping one of the beers into Katie’s hand before breaking the silence. “Well uh… We gotta go. I’ll see you tomorrow I guess? Be safe, man,” Ray said, clapping him on the shoulder. Frank just shrugged and nodded and watched as Ray led Katie out with a hand on the small of her back, whispering something into her ear that made her giggle.

They disappeared into the crowd, and Frank stared at the place they had been before tilting his head back and draining the rest of his bottle in one go.

Chapter Text

In Frank’s opinion, Warped Tour could be described in three words: dirt, beer, and dudes. At least they’d managed to snag a bus this time thanks to some real label money, but the fundamental facts of Warped Tour were still the same. You baked in the summer sun, sweating so much that every speck of dirt in the air stuck to your skin. Showers were few and far between. A lukewarm bag of water on a fence looked like heaven. Dudes wearing too much black for the weather were everywhere, hanging in clusters around buses or tents, all buddies until the sun got to their heads and they broke out into fights that could only be soothed by the presence of a cooler of booze, which calmed them until morning, when it started all over again.

Frank remembered this being more fun, somehow. Even crammed into a hot oven of a van for a month, he could have sworn he had a good time before. There was music: new bands to listen to and to befriend, new fans to win over by laying utter waste to each and every city they hit, new territories to explore onstage with his band that crackled with energy like five individual live wires whenever they first counted in. Somehow, at some point, this had thrilled him.

Now, he was sure he couldn’t be more over it. Something wasn’t right. This tour wasn’t right. Sometimes when it was late and his stomach hurt and everyone was stumbling individually back to their bunks, Frank wondered if this band wasn’t right.

It had become clear since they first set off from Jersey that they had a problem on their hands. Gerard had always been Gerard--kind of on the edge, always looking for a beer, the kind of guy who smiled and joked about hanging himself from a pipe in a venue--that wasn’t unusual for him. And yeah, Frank knew he’d been doing a grab bag of pills during recording in LA, but Frank did that shit, too. Everyone did. That didn’t seem like a big deal. But ever since their record release, Gerard seemed to be getting more and more crazed. I mean, none of them showered a lot on Warped but Gerard NEVER did, and yeah, they all drank with the other bands and Ray even did a fucking kegstand once, but Gerard somehow always managed to have a handle of vodka in his bunk, even when they hadn’t hit a liquor store in ages.

And maybe those things weren’t a lot in and of themselves, but there were other things, too. Like Gerard flubbing words on stage, going on rants in between songs that seemed less like his usual spiel about saving the world and more about some kind of inevitable darkness, flailing and screaming on his back on stage for two whole songs not in the name of performance but more because he couldn’t coordinate his limbs enough to get up. None of them talked about it, but Frank at least sure fucking noticed it, just like he noticed how sometimes on the bus Gerard would be sitting completely still, staring at nothing. It was the kind of shit that made the hairs on the back of Frank’s neck stand up like he’d just seen a ghost, because Gerard was never so still, never so quiet.

But you couldn’t think about those things all the time, because you had a show to put on and cities to hit. More than other tours, Warped was one that consumed your life for the whole time you were on it, so you learned to deal.

Warped was closing for the day, and there was a butter zone of time in the evening when the stages were being broken down, the sun had set, it was cool enough to be outside, and they all had a few hours before everyone had to get ready to shove off to the next city. The most industrious bands went on ahead, but the rest? They stayed to party. Usually MCR wasn’t your “raucous party” kind of band, more of a “stay in the bus and read DC Universe” type. But Warped was an exception. Everyone spilled out of their vans and buses, mingling between the parked gear trailers and equipment trucks. Beer came out, even more than was usually there during the day, and if you saw some guys disappear back into a bus, it was because they had something more fun to share than just alcohol.

MCR, Thursday, and Taking Back Sunday often found themselves in a loose, friendly circle, but tonight’s had disintegrated a little quicker than usual. Ray had shut himself in the back of the bus, doing something mysterious and intense with a guitar and ProTools. Mikey and Adam Lazzara had left together to hang out with some Warped stars that were cooler than Frank could stomach right now. Gerard had disappeared some time ago, maybe vaguely in the direction of the Alkaline Trio guys, and that left Frank drinking moodily with Geoff in some shitty lawn chairs, watching the rest of the guys try and set up a makeshift version of beer pong on top of the hood of a van.

Geoff, it turned out, was the perfect guy to brood with. Ever since signing to a major label, people kind of hated Thursday, and due to some drama in the band, Thursday kind of hated Geoff. That kind of lonerism was something Frank could work with.

“Frank? Frank!” Geoff’s voice broke through his thoughts, a pair of snapping fingers interrupting his staring contest with the beer bottle in his hands.

“What?” he grunted, scowling.

“Dude I’ve been saying your name for like an hour, did you die?”

“Impressive since we’ve only been out here for forty minutes…”

“Oh, don’t be a brat,” Geoff said, rolling his eyes.

“Fuck off,” Frank said without any real bite behind it because he just didn’t give enough of a shit. “Go hang out with someone else if you don’t like my attitude.”

The part of him that still felt things stung from being such a dick to Geoff. Frank loved Geoff, he really did. Geoff was the only reason Frank had this fucking job, but he couldn’t stop the bitterness that seeped out of him like poisoned sap.

Luckily, Geoff seemed to understand, maybe because he was just as miserable. “My chairs,” he mumbled. Frank rolled his eyes and sank deeper into his, taking a long pull from his beer before cradling it to his chest and scowling at their friends who seemed to have found a stash of bass picks that worked as a stand in for ping pong balls if they whipped them hard enough.

“Those better not be ours,” Frank said, scowling. Picks weren’t free, and they weren’t rich. “Fucking… Can’t take our shit for this dumbass--”

He made to get up to tell them off, but Geoff caught his arm before he was halfway out of his chair. “Whoa! Dude, sit down. It’s fine.”

“They’re picks. We need them for work.

“Yeah and if you run out I’ll give you enough to fucking bathe in, okay? Sit down,” he said, and yanked Frank back down into his chair.

Frank huffed and crossed his arms petulantly. He felt Geoff’s eyes on him and knew he was overreacting, but he was too committed to being annoyed that he couldn’t back down now.

“Wow,” Geoff said. “Jamia really did a number on you, didn’t she?”

Frank’s head snapped around so fast he almost gave himself whiplash. “What?”

Geoff was eyeing him, unimpressed, with that look Frank had seen on him so often in the studio when he listened to a track they did that he didn’t like for one reason or another, marking corrections in his head. “You’ve been like this the whole tour. Hell, maybe since you landed in Jersey.”

“Like what?” Frank challenged. He noticed as soon as he said it that he sounded more like a petulant teenager than he had planned.

“Like a moody asshole,” Geoff answered easily, and Frank winced at the sting of his words. “Jamia broke your fuckin’ heart and you’ve been taking it out on everyone ever since and soon, Frank, they’re gonna get sick of it. Your band’s gonna get sick of it. Your friends are gonna get sick of it.”

Frank’s jaw clenched, but he didn’t say anything, didn’t look at Geoff, glaring intensely at his beer instead. Like, ok, maybe he was being an asshole, but it wasn’t like everyone else was a fucking saint. Why did it fall on him to be an angel all the time when his entire fucking life was unraveling before his eyes?

Geoff seemed to soften a little, leaning towards him. “Frank,” he said, “Look, I get it, man. I saw you and J. I know she was important to you. You had something real, but you’re keeping yourself miserable for nothing and it’s gonna bite you in the ass sooner rather than later. You’ve gotta leave her behind, dude.”

A muscle in Frank’s jaw twitched, his hands gripping the bottle hard enough to turn his fingertips white. “I get that you’re trying to do your ‘Geoff the fucking Wise Man’ act,” he spat, “But just because you’re older doesn’t mean you know a goddamn thing about--”

“What’sssssUP bitchezzzz!”

Frank’s head snapped in the direction of the screech and the fight melted out of him in an instant. “Oh my fucking god,” he breathed. Gerard was stumbling into their little circle, barely keeping himself upright on two legs, wearing some black fur-lined coat that was not at all seasonally appropriate. Maybe that accounted for some of the sheen of sweat on his sickly colored skin, but the rest, Frank knew, came from whatever chemical cocktail he’d mixed up for himself tonight.

“Well if it isn’t our Sleeping Beauty, come down from her tower to grace us with her presence,” Matt said in a mocking tone, flicking a pick at Gerard as he passed. Gerard swatted wildly at it but didn’t do much more than put himself off balance, stumbling for a second before catching himself again.

“Fffuck off!” he said, flipping Matt the bird. “You fffuckin… you fuckin WISH! Fuckin wish, mo’fucker, fuckin…” Gerard sniffed, rubbing his hair out of his face maniacally with his palms before grinning with a wide, small-toothed smile. “Yeeeah, I’m a fuckin… fuckin PRINCESS, donchyou think so, Frankie? Doncha think ssso?” he slurred, body lurching in Frank’s direction.

“Wha--” was all Frank had a chance to get out before Gerard fell gracelessly in his lap, knocking the air out of him and missing kneeing him right in the nuts by centimeters.

“Jesus, fuck!” Frank wheezed, grabbing at Gerard to shift him into a more comfortable position, a task which was not made easier by Gerard swaying and slumping against him in his lap, fucking deadweight in Frank’s hands.

They finally managed to reach some kind of equilibrium, with Gerard sitting almost next to Frank in the chair, one leg tucked under and one leg slung across his lap as Frank held up most of his weight with an arm around his back. “So,” Geoff said cooly, watching them both with the same critical eyes he’d given Frank earlier. “How’s your night been, Gerard?”

“S’been great,” he said, leaning heavily against Frank’s chest so suddenly that all the air whooshed out of him again. It was probably for the better, anyway. The less Frank could breathe the less he could notice how Gerard absolutely reeked of vodka and stage sweat. "I hung out with sssome… ssome friends. And--oh Frankie y’gotta listen t’ this--Dan was tryna like, shave his balls and--”

“Look! It’s a coupla fags!” someone shouted from the general direction of beer pong in a fake deep voice, drawing laughter from the group around the van.

Gerard whipped around and would’ve lost his balance if Frank hadn’t reached out to steady his body. “Yeah so fucking what!” he shouted back. “I wouldn’t suck yer dick fer… fffer a hundred cups a coffee. Y’wanna suck mine?” He palmed at his crotch in a way that was supposed to be suggestive, but when he tried to rock into it it turned into more of a drunken sway, so it didn’t quite come off.

Matt laughed and waved him over, shaking his hips. “Yeah, bring it over here, G!” he called.

“No!” Gerard snatched his hand away from his crotch and hunched further into Frank. “Homophhh...homphh… homoPHOBEs dun getta touch it.” He circled his arms around Frank’s neck, smiling down at him. “Iss only for Frankie ‘n me,” he said, before dramatically sweeping Frank’s face forward and crushing their lips together. Frank had been ready to protest, his mouth parted, but it just ended up creating a deeper kiss than Gerard had probably intended, his tongue slipping into Frank’s mouth automatically.

And then suddenly it hit Frank like a freight train. Not the kissing, that wasn't atypical for them. Gerard whipped out an impromptu make out session like a party trick, saying something about the fluidity of sexuality and fighting homophobes with gay shit, last time Frank got him to explain himself. No it wasn't that. It was that beyond the nicotine, vodka, coffee mix he’d usually expect from Gerard, there was something more, something distinctive. Once Frank tasted it it was like it filled his whole mouth: the weird, bitter metallic taste of cocaine leaching from Gerard’s gums.

Gerard pulled away from Frank with a theatrical, wet, smacking finish, smiling smugly as he looked back over his shoulder to the boys who were wolf whistling at their display. Frank could only stare at him in shock.

Suddenly he felt so fucking sick. Drinking was one thing. Pills were one thing. But cocaine? Frank had done it once when he was young and stupid and even then felt like he was going to have a heart attack at any moment. Were they a band that did cocaine now? Were they a band with one of those coked out lead singers? Fuck, Gerard could barely stand, could barely talk. His pupils were so wide his eyes looked black, and he was laughing so much it sounded manic. Didn’t anyone fucking notice? Couldn’t anyone fucking fix it? God, he was going to throw up right then. Throw up or scream or just fucking run. Anything.

“Hey.” A warm, familiar hand landed on Frank’s shoulder and snapped him out of his panic spiral as he looked up to see Ray grinning at them. “I heard a commotion and came out to see what it was. Glad to know it’s just a little bandmate softcore action and not, you know, someone falling into a fire pit again.”

“That only happened once!” called Matt.

“Once is enough, dude!” Ray shouted back.

“Ray!” Gerard beamed and reached for him, lurching unsteadily across Frank’s body to grab onto Ray’s arm. “How ya been buddy?” he asked excitedly.

Ray patted Gerard’s hair fondly and he leaned into the touch like a fucking cat. “I’m all good, man. You seem pretty good, too.”

“I am,” Gerard sighed contentedly.

“I think it’s his bed time,” Frank muttered, giving Ray a pointed look that he caught with an understanding nod.

“His, too!” Geoff interjected, gesturing at Frank. “Your boy there’s been a little temperamental lately. Maybe he can sleep off his bad attitude.” Frank glared at him but Geoff just raised an eyebrow and shrugged. “What can I say? I’m a ‘wise man.’”

“Alright, alright,” Ray said. “We have to shove off in a couple hours anyway. Let’s all tuck in. Come on.” He gripped Gerard’s arm and started to haul him up as Frank shoved him off his lap.

“I don’t wanna go t’ bed,” he whined as he was forced back up on his feet.

“Well, that’s life, honey. Frank?”

“Yeah, I got it.” Gerard had started to sag in Ray’s arms, so Frank quickly got him supported on his right side, one of his arms around his neck, while Ray took the left and together they slowly shuffled him back towards the bus.

“Goodnight John Boy! Goodnight Jim Bob!” Geoff called behind them.

“Fuck off!” Frank yelled over his shoulder, only to hear him cackle.

Gerard grumbled as Frank managed to shoulder open the bus door and start pulling him up the first step.

“Seems like you and Geoff had a nice time,” Ray grunted, lifting Gerard’s weight up to Frank to get to the next step. “Though not as nice as you and Gee, apparently.” He smiled suggestively and Frank just sighed.

“I don’t wanna talk about it,” he grumbled.

Thank god there were only three steps. Frank almost lost him on the last one, stumbling back for a moment when Gerard leaned on him too heavily, but then Ray caught him and they got back on track, steering Gerard past the couch and table, through the kitchen and managing to get him through the bunk door with only a couple bruises from bashing their arms against the doorway. Ray held him up while Frank stripped off Gerard’s coat, pointedly ignoring his whining as he wrestled it down his arms. The jeans were harder, with Gerard almost kneeing Frank in the face every time he lost his balance, which was a lot. But finally Gerard was down to a shirt and boxers and that was good enough for now. They lowered him on his side into Mikey’s bunk since it was on the bottom, and maybe they accidentally bumped Gerard’s head against the bunk frame and maybe Frank didn’t really feel all that bad about it because he was being such a brat. It’s not like he’d remember it anyway. As soon as he was down and his head hit the pillow, it seemed like all the fight drained out of him and he sunk into the mattress like a limp noodle.

Frank sympathized, sinking down to sit on the edge of his bunk as the stress of the night began to weigh him down like a giant, black anchor. “Here.” Frank watched as Ray pulled a water bottle and a bottle of Advil out of his bunk and tossed them into bed with Gerard. “Drink water when you wake up and try not to throw up in Mikey’s bed.”

Gerard gave a vague groan of acknowledgement, and Ray seemed to be fine with that. He kicked a trash can over to the side of the bunk before shutting the curtains with a sweet, “Nighty night.”

Suddenly the bus seemed a lot quieter, even with the muffled sounds of Warped parties outside and Gerard’s little moans and snuffles.

Ray found a spot on the edge of the bed and sat next to Frank, and Frank was relieved not to feel his eyes on him. He was done with being criticized for the day. He was tired of having to answer for himself. And also tired of being a prick.

Ray was a comforting presence, and Frank was grateful.

“Thanks,” he said. “I couldn’t have gotten him up here myself.”

“Yeah. It looks like he went a little too hard tonight.”

“Yeah…” Frank chewed at his lip ring, thinking back to the taste of cocaine. He had no idea Gerard had been doing that. But maybe it was just this one time. Maybe it wasn’t, like, a thing. Part of him wanted to tell, to narc, but he didn’t know how Ray would take it. He’d never been as into that kind of thing as the rest of them. Maybe he’d tell Brian and maybe Gerard would just get freaked and take off more often, disappearing into whatever other buses he got swallowed up in night after night. That would be worse. The less Frank could keep his eyes on him, the more likely he was to get into something he couldn’t get out of. No, he could handle this. He could look out for Gerard more himself, now that he knew…

“Do… do you think he’s okay?” Frank asked, and he had to cough against the hoarseness of his own voice because he was definitely not getting choked up. Definitely. They didn’t talk about Gerard, as a rule. He didn’t know when the rule was made, but it was there. They would all maybe look at each other whenever he came stumbling into soundcheck, but none of them breathed a word about it to each other. Sometimes it drove Frank crazy.

Ray considered it for a moment, glancing back at the closed curtains of the bunk next to them. “I think… he’s been overdoing it lately. But it’s Warped, you know? It’s like a crazy, jacked up summer camp out here. I think he’ll settle in soon. I think… I think he’ll be okay.” He looked at Frank for confirmation and Frank nodded, swallowing back his doubts and staring down at his knees. Ray thought he would be okay. Frank was officially worrying about this too much.

“Frank,” he said, reaching out to touch the back of Frank’s hand that was clutching the edge of the bed frame tight. Frank looked back up at him, into eyes so sincere they hurt for some reason. “Are YOU okay?”

No, he wanted to say. I’m scared. I’m sick. I’m terrified Gerard’s gonna fuckin launch himself off a bus or choke on his own vomit. I want to run away. I don’t wanna be here. I don’t wanna be anywhere. I don’t wanna be anything. I don’t know what to do and I hate it.

But he didn’t say any of those things. “Yeah,” he said instead, giving Ray a small smile to reassure him. “It’s just Warped, you know? Long, summer tour. It’s tiring.”

He nodded. “Yeah, it really is. But if you ever need to talk, you know? Or a break or a day off. I mean, I’m--”

“Yeah,” Frank said. “I know. Thanks.”

They lapsed into silence again. Gerard’s noises had turned into heavy, slow breathing, which was comforting. Fuck, at least he was breathing at all.

“Well, I’m gonna try and catch some sleep before we have to go,” Ray said, getting up from the bunk and stretching out. He reached down and clapped a hand on Frank’s shoulder. “You good?”

Frank nodded. “Yeah, I’m good.” Ray smiled at him and turned to climb up the short ladder leading up to his bunk.

Fuck. “Ray?”

Ray stopped on the top rung, raising an eyebrow at Frank. Maybe he was wrong about this whole thing. Maybe he should tell, about the cocaine, about how fucking scared he was. Maybe it would help. “I…” he trailed off. As soon as he opened his mouth to speak, the words wouldn’t come out of his throat. He felt tongue tied and dumb. It was too much. He was making too much out of this. He would deal. “I… just, thanks… a-again,” he managed.

Ray just gave him a confused little smile. “Any time, Frankie. You’re all my brothers, man. Try and get some rest while you can, okay?”

“Yeah,” he said quietly. “Yeah, I will.” And with that Ray hauled himself the rest of the way into his bunk, pulling the curtain shut behind him and leaving Frank alone at the edge of his bed, listening to the faraway sounds of everyone having a great time at Warped Tour but him. And somehow the summer had barely begun.

Chapter Text

Even with monitors, Frank’s ears still rang after shows. He staggered off stage, dripping with sweat like he’d just taken a shower in it, the arm Mikey had around his shoulders not helping the situation at all, though they were so used to being cooked alive on this tour that it’s not like it fucking mattered anymore. It sounded like Frank was in an aquarium, behind the glass. Everything was a little muffled except for whatever touched him, like his clothes or his hair, which were sharp, distinct rustles in his ears. But he could still hear Gerard and Ray laughing behind them, high off the adrenaline of the show.

Techs brushed past them at a quick pace, hustling to clean up their mess and get the stage set for the next band. One ran into Frank’s elbow and made him stumble, steadied luckily by falling into Mikey’s body.

But nonetheless he must have looked pitiable because suddenly a towel and two green Gatorades were thrust in his face.

He registered a voice speaking to him but the words were lost in between the din of the crowd and his muddied hearing. When he looked up instinctively, it was into the face of an expectant-looking tech, her expression turning towards annoyance as he stared blankly at her.

She grabbed his hand and forced one of the bottles into it, squeezing his fingers as she met his eyes. “Drink. This. Before. You. Keel. Over. Fucker,” she said, deliberately emphasizing each word before shoving his hand and the bottle in it towards him.

“Uncalled for,” Mikey protested weakly, but it only earned him a Gatorade in the chest, which he caught just in time.

“I’m pretty sure I get fired if I don’t keep the talent alive,” she said, throwing the small towel skillfully over Frank’s shoulder. “Like it’s not one of my explicit job duties but it’s sure as hell implied.”

“You’re not one of ours,” Mikey said with a frown and she quirked an eyebrow at him, somehow looking like she was rolling her eyes even when she wasn’t.

“No,” she said, with the air of someone impatiently entertaining a particularly stupid child. “I’m not ‘one of yours.’ I’m tour staff and also a concerned fucking citizen, how dare I! And for fuck’s sake--” She cut herself off and reached over to yank open Frank’s Gatorade herself, tipping his hand up to bring it towards his lips. “Hydrate this kid before he looks even more like a rat dying on the sidewalk in summer, Jesus.”

“Hey!” Frank said, indignant even as he began to drink because okay, maybe he was a little scared of her. She wasn’t much bigger than him but she had that kind of face and attitude he’d seen on plenty of Jersey girls, that kind of look that said she knew how to beat you up and wouldn’t mind doing it.

Mikey’s arm tightened around him. “Yeah, hey!” he said, glaring at her. “He’s our dying rat!”

Frank spluttered, almost choking on his Gatorade. “HEY!”

The tech cracked a smile, and Frank heard her chuckle to herself. He’d seen her before on this tour, he realized. She was hard to miss with her hair in a neon purple ponytail. And, well, the fact that she was... a she. Female techs were definitely few and far between.

And that was why it was just so wildly inappropriate that Frank found himself thinking she was pretty. She was working. She was a woman cracking into a man’s job and he shouldn’t be fucking sexually objectifying her because fucking everyone probably sexually objectified her and he shouldn’t be part of the fucking problem. She was just a nice person--no, not nice exactly--a rude person who’d force fed him electrolytes, nothing more, and oh shit, he was staring, wasn’t he? Fuck, he was definitely staring. He was staring and he was a gross patriarchal pig and she was pretty and he was staring. FUCK, stop staring!

His thoughts were interrupted by an arm slinging around his neck, almost accidentally giving him a half-nelson but at the same time finally forcing his eyes away from the tech. He recognized Gerard by his god awful stench before even seeing his face, but despite that he could’ve fucking kissed him for keeping Frank from making even more of an ass of himself. “The train’s leaving the station, boys!” he said in an affected conductor voice. “Come on, let’s blow this fuckin’ pop stand. Adam promised me he’d try a game of D&D today.”

“I picked up extra dice back in Tucson!” Ray piped in excitedly.

The tech bit her lip to stifle a laugh and Frank felt like maybe he could actually change his phase of matter through the sheer power of embarrassment and melt into the floor.

Gerard’s arm tightened around his neck and then he was being dragged away.

---

D&D with Adam Lazzara, in retrospect, went exactly how D&D with Adam Lazzara was ever going to go. It mostly featured Adam constantly trying to set things on fire and Gerard explaining you couldn’t do that unless you had a high enough spell or found a tinderbox or something, which led to Adam rolling to find tinderboxes every turn and Frank and Mikey constantly dropping “tinderbox-like objects” which mostly turned out to be Orc erotica books and bundles of used underwear until finally a roll came up in his favor. The look of utter defeat and bewilderment on Gerard’s face when Adam finally set the whole damn forest on fire was kind of worth it though, even if Frank’s rogue did get burned to a crisp in the process.

They mostly seemed to settle their differences when they all filed out for the ritual Warped barbecue, Gerard easily slipping into his “entertaining ham” mode which left no room for tabletop rpg grudges.

It was all a little much for Frank: the din of hungry band members talking, laughing; the heat that still clung even as the day slipped away; the food smells, the bass of a stereo somewhere, the faraway bangs and clunks of stages being deconstructed and their parts loaded onto trucks. He hung on the outskirts of their group, picking at the edges of the bun on his veggie burger. He couldn’t really eat it, anyway. It just made his stomach hurt.

A nudge against his shoulder shook him back to awareness. “Sup?” Mikey said, quirking his eyebrows at him.

Frank shrugged, like a kid who didn’t want to tell their parents about their day.

Mikey hummed and looked him over, making Frank squirm a little under his gaze. Finally he looked meaningfully at his burger. “You gonna eat that?” he asked.

Frank looked at it, considering. He hadn’t much besides cereal today. Hadn’t really eaten much on the whole tour so far. But fuck, even just looking at it made his stomach twist. With a sigh, he handed the burger over to Mikey.

“Thanks, man,” he said, and proceeded to scarf it down. How he managed to eat so much and still look like a twig, Frank would never figure out.

“So,” he said through a mouthful of burger. “Why are you being such a... fuck, whatever it is--a Sad Sally? Why’re you being such a Sad Sally over here by yourself?”

“I think the word you’re looking for is Debbie Downer,” Ray said, walking up to them with a mini-bag of sour cream and onion chips in his hand and positioning himself as the third wall of their little triangle. “You being a Debbie Downer, Frankie?” he asked, munching on a chip.

“We should rename it to be more specific,” Mikey offered, stealing one of Ray’s chips. “Like.. like Fickle Frankie or--ooh, wait! Better: Frowny Frankie!”

Frank glared. “You can’t call me Frowny Frankie!” he snapped.

Mikey looked at him with wide eyes and backed up a step, holding his hands up in astonishment. “He speaks! And here I thought he’d gone mute, but behold! His age of silence is broken!” he exclaimed in mock shock, and Frank rolled his eyes. Sometimes his band could be supremely annoying.

“Maybe I just don’t always feel like talking to the most annoying people on the planet,” he said pointedly.

Ray clutched at his chest in mock hurt. “Ouch, bro. Way to get us where it hurts. Why so crabby?”

Mikey shook his head, looking seriously at Ray. “He’s been like this the whole tour. At this rate we’ll end up murdering him and hiding his body somewhere in Tennessee.”

“Please, Mikes. We can’t leave him in the south. Connecticut, at least.”

“Only if we can fit him in the mini-fridge. We won’t be able to stand him long enough to make it north.”

“Oh, I’m sure we could make that work. He’s so tiny it’s--”

“Excuse me! I’m right fucking here!” Frank interjected, glaring daggers at Ray.

“Oh no,” Ray spoke over him, giving Mikey a concerned look. “We’ll have to audition more rhythm guitarists. That’ll be exhausting.”

Mikey just shrugged. “Nah, shouldn’t be too bad. We can swing a Les Paul in Jersey and hit a couple good contenders.”

“Oh fuck the both of you!” Frank spat, earning smirks from his band mates. “You’d be ruined without me. You especially, Toro,” he said, waving an accusing finger in his face. “It can’t just be… Dave Murray/Brian May soloing underneath all of Gee’s batshit screaming that’s just… just chaos! Worse than chaos, it’s fucking… it’s fucking prog and you and I both know that Gerard Way will never shower enough to front a prog rock band!”

It was silent for a beat. And then Ray cracked a smile and Frank couldn’t help but match it, his outraged facade crumbling pathetically as he and Ray descended into a fit of giggles.

“They think you can’t front a prog band, Gee,” Mikey said as way of explanation to a newly-arrived Gerard who was looking at his laughing guitarists like they had two heads.

Now he was offended. “Excuse me?” he sniffed, pushing his greasy hair off his face where traces of pale makeup and Gash eyeshadow still lingered. “You think Yes wouldn’t be fucking lucky to have me?!”

Ray and Frank took one look at Gerard, one hand on a sassily cocked hip, bat belt buckle gleaming underneath his blood-stained striped tie, baby face pulled into a perfect pout, and promptly lost their shit again, clutching onto each other for balance as their laughter threatened to bring them to their knees.

Gerard crossed his arms and glared at them. “Rude!” he exclaimed, half-heartedly kicking up dirt in their direction. “And to think I came over here to invite you assholes to a party. Never-fucking-mind.”

Frank’s chest ached from laughing so hard, and he gripped tight to Ray’s arm as he tried to pull himself together, which truthfully wasn’t that helpful given that Ray was still shaking like a leaf from his own laughter. “A… a… a party?” he asked breathlessly, trying his hardest not to giggle between words.

“A gathering,” Gerard hedged. “Skiba and co invited us over to hang with some friends, but I believe only people who think I could front Yes are invited, so…”

“Wait!” he said, staggering up and forcing his feet to find some balance. Hilarity kept bubbling his throat like someone had poured soda and pop rocks in his stomach, and he wanted to just will it the fuck away because this shit was not a joke.

No way was he going to let Gerard go to Skiba’s alone.

“I wanna come,” he said, trying not to sound as freaked as he felt. He slung an arm around Gerard’s neck, cuddling his head up against his shoulder and pulling his best pouty face.

“Hmph!” Gerard said, dramatically turning his face in the other direction.

“I mean it! Listen, we’ll do a Yes cover. You’ll be great. Ray wants to come, too. Don’t you, Ray?” he said, flashing his eyebrows in Ray’s direction. No way he was doing this solo.

Ray hesitated, glancing back in the direction of their bus for a moment with a wistful look in his eye.

“You can’t hibernate in the bus all the time,” Frank said, trying to shut that down. “People will think we lock you in there and then they’ll call us names.”

“Yeah, come be social, Toro,” Mikey added. “When the guitars start to talk to you, it’s time to get out of the house.”

Ray grumbled something about that only being one time and he was just brainstorming, but it didn’t matter. They all steered in the direction of the Alkaline Trio bus, with Frank trying to quiet the anxious fluttering in his chest.

---

“A gathering,” Gerard had said. A gathering, sure, of most human beings on the planet. It felt like half of Warped was here, packed into a rough circle surrounding the Trio bus. As soon as they arrived, Frank felt instant regret, the noise and crush of bodies and pulsing of music making his anxiety ratchet even higher. Any hopes he’d had of keeping an eye on Gerard seemed foolish now, as they’d all been separated almost immediately, the tides of the party pulling them in different directions. Frank felt pressure to be social. He was passed along from group to group: the Bouncing Souls guys, both Chrises from Anti-Flag, Avenged Sevenfold. He liked these guys. He really did. Couldn’t he at least try and be fun for them?

He took every Solo cup offered to him along the way, and by the time he found himself spat out of a group again, between clusters and circles of people, the world had become tilted at an odd angle. But that was cool. He was cool. He had the distinct impression of being in the eye of a hurricane: a welcome bubble of calm surrounding him while outside, chaos reigned.

The chaos closest to him took the form of a keg, some heavily tattooed dudes with their shirts off, and some poor sap being held above the keg by his legs. And--oh, wait. The hair, the mom jeans. He knew that poor sap.

“Ray…”

The time between sighting Ray and being by his side, steadying him back onto his feet as he giggled and received praise from some dude who looked like maybe he was in All-American Rejects was utterly lost to Frank. He blinked and then there he was.

“Fifteen seconds!” Ray was saying, his voice at a noticeably higher pitch. “I c’n do better. Frankie, Frankie tell ‘m I’ve done better.”

“You have! He has!” Frank insisted, but it didn’t seem to matter because the All-American Rejects dude was shoving at them, pointing insistently in the direction of a card table a few dozen bodies away.

“Water!” he said, shoving at them. “Water! One to one, assholes!”

You onetaone,” Frank said intelligently, but it only earned them another shove, and then they were stumbling in the direction of the table, sometimes feeling like maybe people were helping them and passing them along like a fucking conveyor belt. But then they were there and Frank leaned heavily on the water cooler so it sloshed, and someone shot him a dirty look--the Keeper of the Water, Frank assumed--but he managed to get a cup full and then held Ray still to tip it messily into his mouth. This perhaps was not the best solution given their height differences and the fact that it made Ray giggle madly and get more water on his shirt than in his mouth, but Frank was a problem-solver, god damn it.

Still, they managed to get another cup each and scored a primo leaning spot against a trailer as they drank.

“Fun?” Frank asked, still feeling eerily calm, almost like a disinterested observer if he would just stop wobbling so much.

“Yeah!” Ray said, grinning. His hair was wilder than usual, any sense of a style completely obliterated, and his cheeks were pink and dewy. “I been… been too, like, hermit-y, ya know? S’good ta talk ta people, ya know?”

Frank nodded sagely, looking at the crowd over the rim of his cup. Talking to people was good. Definitely. With drinks in him, he could pretend that he actually enjoyed it, that it made the vile blackness in the pit of his stomach actually go away. That was good, he guessed.

“...get too into the computer ‘n shit but iss like, an experience, right? So you gotta, like, partisss’pate.” Frank tuned in halfway through whatever Ray was saying, suddenly realizing he’d spaced. He nodded again.

“Totally,” he said, and felt like maybe the geography of the storm had shifted, the eyewall creeping closer than he’d thought.

Ray’s hand clapping onto his shoulder brought him back to the present as he nudged Frank meaningfully towards his right. “Hey!” he said. “S’that the tech from today? The girl?”

Frank frowned for a second before he saw what Ray had spotted: a girl with a purple ponytail swishing back and forth like a giant. flashing neon sign drawing Frank’s attention. She was with friends, he supposed, pretty and casual and relaxed and laughing at unheard jokes.

“Dude, it totally is!” Ray said, his voice pitching even higher in excitement. “She w’s totally inna you. You should talk to her.”

Frank’s stomach turned, a box of dark Jamia-related thoughts he’d managed to lock away for the last few hours now rattling noisily in his brain. “No,” he said, jerking away from Ray automatically, though he didn’t lose his grip on Frank’s shoulder.

Yes,” Ray insisted, crowding close to Frank again. “Dude, yer like, already in. You could have like a real fuckin summer romance thing, c’mon.” He started nudging at Frank’s shoulders, forcing him feet to stumble a couple steps in the tech’s direction.

“No, Ray!” he protested, digging his heels uselessly into the dirt. “Fucking stop, I can’t. I--” Frank glanced up in his panic as he tried to resist Ray, and stopped dead in his tracks when he saw a pair of eyes locked in on his.

There was a God, and He hated Frank.

The tech was staring straight at them, an odd little grin on her face. She waved when she saw Frank notice her, and he had that same feeling from this morning that if he could sink and become one with the ground, he would gladly take the opportunity.

“Shit,” he murmured. He was paralyzed for another moment before his brain, heavy and slow with alcohol, kicked back into life and he turned on the spot, employing the age old “I don’t see you, you don’t see me” method of avoidance that nine out of ten toddlers agree really works.

Or it would have worked if he hadn’t turned to see Ray grinning and waving back at the tech.

“Wh--Stop that!” Frank said, hysterical as he yanked Ray’s arm back down as if that were enough to just take it all back.

“What!” he said. “Listen, y’can’t hide now. Ya gotta go talk ta her. Now, go!” In a flash he turned Frank around and shoved him forward hard enough that he almost fell on his face but managed to stumble and catch himself at the last minute. And his heart was hammering and the Jamia box was rattling and he was going to kill Ray, but the tech was still looking at him, laughing at him, smiling at him, sending so many signals that surely she was causing some radio tower interference nearby. And he didn’t really have a choice, did he? No choice but to keep putting one foot in front of the other and head towards her, unless he wanted to look like a complete dick.

There was a different feeling now: the sense that he’d passed through the eyewall and into the thick of the storm. The alcohol in his system was dizzying, jumbling everything in his head like one of those scrambler rides at a fair. Frank hated those.

Suddenly, he was right in front of the tech, and he stumbled back a step on instinct, surprised at how close he’d gotten. “Hey,” he said. Stupidly.

He opened his mouth to try and find something more intelligent to say, but she beat him to it. “Took you long enough,” she said, smirking. “I should’ve clocked you. Two minutes, maybe? Pretty sure I’ve seen toddlers move faster.”

Frank frowned, narrowing his eyes at her. “Hey, I take ‘s much time ‘s the task at hand requires.” he insisted. She smiled a little but hid it in the rim of her Solo cup as she took another sip. Frank felt his shoulders relax. Maybe he was still good at this. “I don’t think I know your name,” he said, and his head it sounded smooth as hell, like Clark fucking Gable. He slipped his hands in his pockets and let his weight relax onto his hips, trying to look steadier than he felt.

She raised an eyebrow and Frank finally noticed a silver stud piercing above her left eye and how her eyes were actually a little blue-ish, and how that looked kind of nice contrasted with her bright hair. “That’s because you don’t,” she said simply, drumming her fingers against the cup.

Frank’s mouth felt dry, and he flicked his tongue out to wet his lips. He wasn’t used to this. Hadn’t done it since he’d met Jamia. He wasn’t sure how he felt about it, only that it made his lungs tight. “Can I?” he asked. “Or ‘s it a secret?”

The corner of her lips twitched up into a brief smile for just a moment and she paused to think about it, considering him before she spoke. “My name’s Samantha. Some people call me Sam,” she finally said.

“Some people,” he said, fingering at the box of smokes in his pocket. “What do I call you?”

She thought about it again, smiling to herself. And she took another long pull from her cup before finally answering, “Samantha.”

“Oh,” he said, a little deflated. “Well… I’m Frank.” He busied himself with pulling out a cigarette and lighting it to cover his bruised ego, but his fingers kept fumbling on the lighter. He flicked and flicked but never caught the flint right, and after about a dozen failed attempts he was cursing under his breath.

Suddenly the lighter was being pried from his fingers, another hand expertly striking the flint and holding the flaming to the end of his cigarette until it caught. He breathed in a grateful lungful of carcinogens and nicotine, and when he flicked his eyes up again, he noticed how close Samantha had gotten, that her blueish eyes had a little bit of gold at the top. “I know,” she said, leaning away to fish her own cigarettes out of her pocket.

He watched her light one with his lighter and frowned. “Y’ called me a dying rat earlier.”

She chuckled and shrugged. “I guess I was wrong about the dying part,” she answered, reaching out to slip the lighter back into his pocket, and the touch rang a million bells in Frank’s head. The Jamia box rattled violently, shaking him to his core. Her hands on his hips, on his jeans, her fingers elegantly holding a cigarette, the pads of them soft on his face. He could swear he could feel them, and that it all felt like a graveyard.

“You’re welcome, by the way,” she teased, pulling Frank back to the present. “I expect a cut or something from your management for keeping your ass alive.” She was smiling, looking at him intently. Her body tilted towards his. She looked up at him through her lashes in a way that probably wasn’t strictly necessary, even considering that fact that she was a few inches shorter.

She was into him, and all Frank could think was that the freshly healed lines of the tattoo on his chest were throbbing.

He couldn’t do this. He didn’t want to.

He pulled back, the gale force winds of the storm in his wind suddenly picking up again, filling his brain with noise. “Yeah,” he said distractedly, trying to think over the noise and make a clean exit. “I… y-yeah thanks. I’ll… I’ll see… see you ‘n try… try not to die.” He stammered out the words, backing away from her confused face until he could turn and stumble back into the crowd. It felt like there was a fucking earthquake under his feet. Nothing was steady. He was bumping into people, muttering apologies. He dropped his barely smoked cigarette somewhere along the way. His eyes searched for Ray’s hair above the crowd, but everything was doubled and hazy and noisy and Frank didn’t see a sign of him anywhere. He kept walking, almost falling, being pushed upright by passers-by, not sure of where he was going except that he had to go away from all of this.

Finally he slipped on a discarded beer can and fell, landing heavily on his knees and elbows, pain bursting bright white and yellow through the chaos in his mind. He groaned and sagged, and gave in, letting his body fall onto the dirt, rolling on his back and closing his eyes to try and shut out some of the sensory input. It still felt like there was an earthquake underneath him. Everything was rolling, including his stomach. Fuck, he was definitely gonna be sick soon.

Maybe he’d be one of those people that vomits on their back and then chokes to death on it.

Maybe he would just die here in the the dirt.

Before he had time to ponder the idea more, there was a voice coming into focus, louder and louder until it was right at his ear. “Frankie!” it said, and then there was a sharp slap to his left cheek, snapping his head to the side.

“Ow,” Frank said, frowning and cracking his eyes open to see Matt Skiba crouching down over him and sniggering.

“Sorry. Had to make sure you were, like, conscious. Need a hand?” he said, and he didn’t wait for Frank’s answer before he had a grip on his arm and was hauling him to his feet. Frank stumbled immediately, almost falling down again if Matt hadn’t put his body in the way, catching him securely around the shoulders. “Whoa, okay. To the bus it is. Figures. I’ve already got one of your boys here anyway. I think we’re becoming a drunk tank for you My Chem kids.”

They made their way jerkily and slowly to the bus, like they were in some terrible three-legged race. Skiba’s words swirled around in Frank’s head before they slowly started to click into place. “One’f… my boys…” he said, focusing in on the phrase.

It hit him as soon as they got to the bus door, Skiba pulling him up the steps just like Frank had done not so long ago.

Gerard. The whole reason he’d come to this damn thing was to keep an eye on him and he hadn’t seen him all night.

Frank was definitely going to be sick.

Gerard was there of course, his body slack on the couch but his eyes bright and huge and black as he laughed at some joke someone had just made. He spotted Frank and broke into a huge grin, slurring an excited “Fr’nkkie!” and making a weak, half-hearted grabby hand motion in his direction as Skiba dumped him on the couch next to him. Gerard launched his whole body weight clumsily onto him, which wasn’t really something Frank could take in his current state, and they both went sideways, Frank’s stomach lurching as they landed hard on the stiff bus cushions. “Misss’d choo,” Gerard said. “‘Ve been lisss’nin a Yes records ‘n Dan finks… th’nksss… th’nks ‘m a shoo in.”

“He looks green, Matty,” a voice said from somewhere across from them. “Better get a bucket.”

“On it!”

Gerard kept rambling, mumbling about Yes and Queen and Rush and other bands he was sure he could front, and Frank wasn’t listening, couldn’t listen for the sound of blood rushing in his ears that built and built to a fucking cacophony until someone pulled him to an upright position again and pushed down on his back so he bent over, and then he threw his guts up into a waiting trash can.

“Woo!” Skiba cheered. “It’s a party now.”

Gerard clumsily pet at his back in an effort to be comforting while Frank vomited the alcohol out of his system. By the end he was shaking, his lashes wet with extra tears. He spit out the disgusting saliva in his mouth and even that gave him full body shudders. He barely resisted the urge to dry heave. Skiba ruffled his hair. “Good lad there!” he said in a fake British accent, pushing Frank to sit back on the couch. “You two can crash here for the night. We’re all going to the same place anyway.”

Frank cracked open his eyes, blinking away the tears. Skiba was grinning, which seemed pretty fucking weird for a guy who just watched another dude puke out at least a liter of alcohol. And were his eyes black too? He disappeared for a second, rummaging in the mini fridge before reappearing with two cold water bottles he placed by them, and then he pulled a baggie out of his pocket, humming to himself as he sorted through it on his palm.

“Here,” he finally said, holding out his hand with two familiar looking white pills on it. “Take one. You’ll be asleep and wake up in the next town before you know it.”

Gerard leaned in and grabbed his instantly, resting his head against Frank’s shoulder as he cracked his bottle. “Ferreal,” he said dreamily. “Sleep ssso good, Fr’nkie.”

Frank only hesitated a moment before he took his, his head buzzing with thoughts he couldn’t stop to fully hear. The pill washed down easy, the drug familiar and tasting like so many lost weekends in Los Angeles. “See you two in the morning,” Skiba said, nudging the trash can a little closer to the couch.

Frank slipped sideways again, this time lying mostly on his back, staring up at the bus ceiling as his eyelids started to get heavy. He felt sick again, but not in a way that throwing up could ever help.