Written for: limmenel. I am LAME, and LATE, and I beg your forgiveness.
Prompt: Gerard/Frank and Lyn-Z/Jamia, a wife-swap type thing.
Other nonsense/summary/spoilers/notes: Full disclosure--I love this prompt, but I still had to email MCee in a state of angstful brain-fail: "I think I'm going to do the "wife swap"ish thing for the exchange, but probably in a really dumb way. IDK? Like, next tour, and it starts out with the girls, and I think maybe Jamia's pregnant? A universe where this stuff was new, where Frank and Gerard were never together, where the old stage gay really was just stage gay, and there was some poorly-understood, inadequately-self-aware pining, and then everybody got married, and it was awesome. And now they're all together, and the ladies are out on tour with them. I DON'T KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT LYN-Z. Or even Jamia really. My canon is so shaky. I'ma just call it a future AU maybe? *INEFFECTUAL*" So that's what you get. *INEFFECTUAL* It's not really a wife swap, I guess, in the traditional sense. Beta'd in my actual real life by Meggo, who doesn't deserve that sort of abuse, and did it anyway. I've never written anything like this, and I hope it works for you, because I have no idea if it works at all.
Jamia gets up and feels a little, dunno, different, and she's late, and she doesn't worry about it too much, and then she gets up the next day and feels the same thing and takes a pregnancy test, and it's positive, and she starts jumping up and down in the bathroom and making this really embarrassing high-pitched oooooooo-ing sound, because she's going to have a fucking baby, and, even more amazing, she really wants to have a fucking baby, and when stuff like that lines up sometimes you can't control the noises you make. She runs back into the bedroom with no pants on, jumps back in bed with Frank, and proceeds to blow his mind. He makes an embarrassing high-pitched aaaah-ing sound, kisses her, scrambles up to find his phone, and sits down on the bed, his hands shaking a little, fixing her with a look that's equal parts mania and awe and dumbfounded adoration.
"Who can I call? Who can we tell? God, I wanna tell everybody, that's so crazy. Can I call mom? Do you want to call my mom? Or your mom? Shit, you have to call your mom right now--"
She grabs his hand and tries not to laugh too hard.
"Um. We can tell whoever. But yeah, I think I'll start with my mom."
He lets out a huge gusty sigh and looks at the ceiling, waves his arms spastically, not trying to shake her off, just trying to express something big. She kind of knows how he feels. He looks like he's going to burst.
"Sorry, I'm nuts, right? I just. A baby, Jams."
He leans over and buries his face in her shoulder, and listens and squeezes her while she talks to her mother on his phone, laughs when she has to hold it away from her ear because of the happy screaming on the other end of the line. They spend the whole morning in bed calling people. It's a pretty good time.
The thing is, Frank is supposed to leave for tour in two weeks, and he's freaking out. He is so fucking excited about this baby thing he can hardly stand it, and then there's all the usual excitement of going out for tour, of having a new record, of wanting to play hard and put in the miles, and he basically doesn't know what to do with himself. He wants to leave, wants to leave yesterday, wants to be on the road, and at the same time wants to just follow Jamia around with a dazed expression on his face until the end of time. He knows he's getting bad, knows that it's probably annoying that every third word out of his mouth is "baby," but he's all knotted up at the idea of leaving her this time. Jamia goes to the doctor and gets an A-Okay. Frank continues to lose his shit. He calls Gerard a lot.
He calls Gerard and says "What am I gonna do? I don't want to postpone the tour. We've been off for so long, I can't wait to get out there, but. She's. Shit. Gerard. What should I do?"
"What?" Gerard sounds confused, like he hasn't really processed all of Frank's inner conflict about his semi-adult life.
"The baaaaaby, Gerard, I can't just pick up and leave Jamia right now."
"Wait, what? Leave her? What?"
Frank takes a deep, calming breath. He actually misses the hell out of living practically on top of Gerard, but sometimes the guy is just slow.
"I mean, the tour, I'm freaking out about going on tour, maybe you noticed, I've been doing it pretty solid for the past few days and I called you a bunch."
"You always call me a bunch. Isn't Jamia coming out with us? I thought?" Gerard sounds totally relaxed and unconcerned. Actually, he sounds like he's fucking making coffee or something. Fucker.
"Gerard. She's pregnant. I think we can assume. Well. I figured she's staying home." Suddenly that sounds dumb in his head.
"Dude," Gerard snorts into the phone, "I think you better quit that before Jamia cottons on and kicks your assuming ass. Heh."
"Don't 'but' me, Frankie. Did you even ask her? I bet she's still coming out."
"But. Pregnant." Frank has lost his syntax.
"People have been having babies since fucking forever, and it's a three month tour. She's gonna be barely showing by the end of it. She'll be fine. Find something else to freak out about. Like the fact that you're going to have a damn baby and you're obviously mentally challenged."
"Oh, fuck you." Frank feels like an idiot, and it's a vast improvement. "Is Lindsey coming out?"
"Yeah, married folks bus is going to be awesome."
Lyn-Z's been on tour with MSI for most of the past six months, so it's probably weird that she's all psyched up to be going out with Gerard, hopping back on a bus after less than four weeks of down time, but whatever. If she weren't crazy, she'd be out of a job and short a husband. She loves doing the tour wife thing. It's really different from being out with her own band, there's more space and time because it's just her. She always ends up having these amazing unexpected fan experiences because people don't expect to see her, plus she gets to bum around in random cities, see awesome bands, and torture Gerard about his stage persona. Which she also loves, make no mistake, but some things just invite mockery.
Anyway. The shows are fun, she's used to buses, and it's kind of more like being at home than home is.
It's hard to explain.
People are stupid on tour, yes, and sometimes it's hard to have everybody up in your face all the time, but mostly it's good. It brings something out in these guys, in Gerard, in her. A kind of us-against-the-world rock-solid love, and it feels very right. It's good for Gerard, good for her. There are big chunks of him that just belong to the band, period, important pieces that Lyn-Z feels lucky to see. She knows Gerard's the same way about her. She can't look at him standing side-stage at an MSI gig and not know that. It's obvious what he sees up there in her is big and real and necessary. It's even bigger with Gerard, though. Her band is family, the best, but the My Chem guys are a world, are the thing that made Gerard who he is and then finally let him be happy and safe.
For all the bad food and scarce showers and cramped quarters, it feels comfortable and righteous to go tearing across the country with the person she loves, a band she loves, a troupe of competent freaks who've accepted her more fully than she ever guessed they would. Lyn-Z does laundry, and packs early.
Gerard knows he acts like a head case right before tours, but he can't help it. It's just so much, it's so important to him, and it's weird and exciting and still a bit scary after all these years, because it's a new album, and you never know, and just, everything.
He looks at the US road map. He listens to their old albums. He looks at photos, and normally he hates looking at photos, but it's always like this, like every feeling he's ever had is bum rushing him, piggybacking in on the anticipation, the nerves, the pull of the stage rush. A little nostalgia is the least of it. He usually goes around in a daze for the week before they head out. He calls Frank like four times a day to hear him yap about nothing, about Jamia, about painting the house, because hearing his voice is like a head start on the blood-sweat-et-fucking-cetera closeness that he's heading toward, that he actually misses, though he wouldn't say it that way. He gets really horny, too. Extra energy, too many thoughts, and no shows yet even though he's all geared up.
It's fucking mercy that he's married to a musician, that she doesn't think he's certifiable.
He never packs until the last minute, the night before they leave, has to wait for the pressure of going-going-going to build up, cut through the fog, convince him that yes, he really is leaving, yes, he really does need to bring underwear, yes, it will be fine, it will be great, we're going-going-going.
He calls Frank, and Jamia answers his phone.
"Frank's in a fight with the washing machine, what's up?"
"Oh hey, um. Nothing!" Gerard waves his hand around, dismissing himself. "Packing. Trying to pack? I can never do it until right now, and then it's right now, you know? Lyn-Z's been ready for days, and I'm like, where are all my black socks, where is my good pencil box? I suck at this until I'm out there." He realizes he may be babbling. "What're you, how're you doing?"
Her funny little low chuckle.
"I'm good, Gerard," she says. "I hate packing, too. Frank is such a freak about it."
"I know, right. You'd never think he'd be the dude with band-aids and lint rollers and shit. He's like a tiny angry mom." Gerard pauses. "I can't even complain about it. We'd fall apart without him, and nobody would ever have condoms. Brian would despair."
"Yeah, he's all right." He can hear the fondness in her voice, and in the backgound, Frank. (Is that Gerard? Are you running me down behind my back again? I gotta go turn the water back on, tell him I...) "Frank says he'll probably be up all night, so you can call him when you go nuts at three in the morning and try to pack all your paints."
"Fuck you guys," Gerard says, smiling so hard, "It's hard to get to art stores on the road."
"Sure. I'm gonna go get some sleep before Frank gets on my ass about my delicate condition. You okay for now?"
"Yeah. See you tomorrow."
The married folks bus is herself and Frank, Gerard and Lyn-Z, Nick (driver), Heather (light tech, possibly invisible), Kaveh (drum tech, sleeps all the time), sometimes Michael (bass tech, inscrutable, large), sometimes Bob when he gets sick of the other bus, Mama (they left the other dogs with Frank's mom), and a shitload of merch and assorted tour stuff that you never think about until you've been on a tour. The studio bus is Bob, Ray (Krista doesn't like to come out on tour), Mikey (no Alicia, and the less said about that right now the better, shit), Cortez, Alan (driver), Robin (guitar tech, new), and Neil the pyro guy, and more gear.
There's another bus that's only crew and merch and gear, not just for My Chem, and a lot of the tech people hang out over there, sleep there half the time, so Jamia doesn't feel like there are too many people in her space, but still. She always forgets how gigantic tours are, in terms of piles of bodies and everybody's crap everywhere. She's not even getting into counting people from Headroom and Corsair (opening bands), or the van that's just ride-along for merch and people who join up for short trips. So many people. When they met up at the buses that morning, by the loading docks at the studio, roll call was fucking intense. An army. A hopeful army, and nobody tired yet except for Gerard, who had been clutching a travel mug and looking like he definitely stayed up all night and tried to pack everything that wasn't nailed down.
They're just traveling today, taking their time, and the guys are all over on the studio bus, getting it set up. The tech bus is doing a stopover to bring on the rest of the gear and the new PA tech that goes with it. The tour starts off with a festival gig tomorrow night in Vermont, only six or seven hours away, so there's plenty of cushion. The buses can break down, new people can flip their shit, and it can all get sorted out by showtime. Brian has gotten really good at this.
Jamia pokes around in the kitchenette, finds a bottle of Advil and a flashlight in the drawer with the coffee filters and emergency backup non-dairy creamer. Really good.
She goes back into the bunk room and Lyn-Z's there, taping drawings and photographs and clippings to the ceiling of the biggest bunk. She's leaning back, looking up, and she's got a roll of scotch tape in her mouth, and her stripe-socked feet are sticking out into the aisle. It's sweet. She's so. She's always been sweeter than Jamia expects.
"Hey, Lindsey." She hates this ridiculous shy feeling. They've only been out on tour twice together after all this time, and one of those was really short, and Jamia's still not completely sure what to make of Lyn-Z. She likes her. Actually, she likes her a lot, and just hasn't quite figured out how to fit it into her normal life, how to convey it in a way that's not slimy and annoying. Basically, Jamia doesn't have a lot of girlfriends, and Lyn-Z throws her for a loop.
"Jmmhhh." She spits out the tape. "Jamia, hey, hey, sorry, come sit. I'm like, decorating."
She grins and scoots over, and when Jamia climbs in, she lies on her side, leans on her elbow and looks up, bright and open.
"I heard your big news, lady." She makes it sound the way Jamia wants it to sound, the right kind of happy, and Jamia straight-up blushes, for no reason.
"Yeah. We're breeders, it's gross, I love it."
"No, it's awesome. Cool people have to have kids or the earth will be overrun by the spawn of all the very, very not cool people who are always having kids all the fucking time." She says this in all seriousness, plain and smiling. This girl is meant for Gerard, Christ, and she's just so nice.
"So I'm doing my part, I dig." Jamia lies down on her side, too, because it's strange to be looking down at somebody and talking to them, and then they're facing each other, not too close, resting like dolls in a box. It seems like it should be awkward, they just got here, they're not best friends, but Lyn-Z brings these things out, this kind of goodness. Maybe they'll be better friends. "I should probably be scared shitless, but mostly I'm too happy to bother."
"That's so cool." She's still smiling. "You guys are going to be so good at this, I think. I don't know. You seem ready, is that weird to say? It's really beautiful to see."
"I'm not even showing." And Jamia is still blushing, so she has to joke it off.
"No! You know."
"Yeah. I get it, I am ready. I didn't, you know, put a date on it, a plan, but it happened at the right time." It's satisfying to say that out loud to somebody besides Frank, someone with a cell-deep reason to understand her decision. Someone who seems to have nothing but flattering ideas about her fitness as a parent. Who knew.
"Gerard was on the ceiling when Frank told him."
"I know, I could hear him."
"I'm really happy for you, I'm glad you came out." Lyn-Z's voice is serious again, and she's looking Jamia right in the face. It's a little hard to take. She has an almost Frank-like sincerity. "It's. You're a good thing to see."
What a nutty way to say that.
"I mean." Jamia's a little flustered, but she doesn't drop her eyes. "You, too. I'm glad to be here. I'm having a good summer." She laughs at herself, and Lyn-Z lightens up.
"You wanna help me tape stuff up in here? I hate beige. I'm going to cover everything in pictures of plants, it'll be like sleeping in a garden."
Jamia glances up at the top of the bunk, one corner already covered in flowers, leaves, a glossy collage Eden. It takes a certain kind of person to do this. It's a good thing to see.
Frank used to live straight out of a bag for whole tours, but he's gotten soft in his old age. Now he unpacks into the bus, gets comfortable. He spends most of the first day setting up in the studio, practicing, fucking around, running on the new-tour high, and then switches buses to crash out with Jamia. They have the big bed in the back, courtesy of how they're the ones procreating. He caroms through the bus and says goodnight to Gerard and Lyn-Z, who are watching MST3K in the front lounge. He could stay up. Soon, he knows, he'll be staying up, he'll be on tour time. He wants to get in some quality normal time while he still can.
Jamia is sitting up in bed, sticking her toes out of the covers like she does, reading.
"What've you got?" He flops onto the bed, and she tilts the cover of her book toward him.
"Born Standing Up. Steve Martin writing about doing comedy. It's good, actually." She smiles. Jamia likes funny, but she likes smart-funny. "Did you see the door?"
"The thing, our door. Gerard made a sign." She points.
Frank gets up to look: On the outside of the door, on a stick-on hook, is a hanging cardboard sign. One side has a note-perfect caricature of him and Jamia, hands clasped. Jamia's grinning fiendishly out at the world, and he has red cheeks and steam coming out of his ears, looking down at his (accurately gross) sneakers. Under the picture it says "Go away, we're working on the baby." On the other side is a drawing of his old Pansy guitar, down to the pickups, except the peeling stickers spell out "Welcome." It's just the kind of thing that Gerard does without even thinking about it, and it gives Frank this heavy, tight feeling in his chest, part worship and part family warmth and part something messier. It's not a new feeling. It sneaks up on him, though, sometimes.
He pulls his hand away from the sign, like it's hot, and closes the door behind him. Jamia is watching him with her head tilted to the side.
"You have your Gerard-hangs-the-moon face on."
"Yeah?" He shakes his head, rubber-faced. "Well, he does. I think he does." It's not something he can't admit.
"I know, stupid, come here." She drops her book and stretches out her arms. He jumps back on the bed and lays his head in her lap. She's always super warm.
"I think you do, too."
"I know." She works her hands into his hair, grabbing and tugging, pulling, but not too hard, kneading at his temples. His eyes fall shut. "You have a different look for me, though."
"It's just as good, though, right?"
"I just," Frank feels kind of opened up, grown up, responsible for himself and the way he is, "I love him to death and I don't know what to do with it, because it's not a romance. It hasn't been. It's not you." They've had this conversation before. It's never bad, but it never really goes anywhere.
"You know what to do with me?" He can hear her smirk.
"Yes." He pinches her thigh, rolls and smushes his face into her stomach. "I know exactly what to do with you."
Her face is laughing and bluntly appraising at the same time. She grabs him by the ears and holds him steady, away from her.
"So you should figure out what to do with Gerard. You know what I think about it." She raises an eyebrow.
He does know. His stomach flutters. It does that a lot, lately. His life is full of things that make his stomach do a dance. It would be ungrateful to complain. He leans down to kiss her. He's grateful.
Tour is just tour, once you're on it. Lyn-Z loves it, some people hate it, and whether you love it or hate it, chances are you spend a sizable chunk of time bored, dirty, and hungry. They're crawling down the east coast, sometimes hitting cities further in, mostly big club shows. A few amphitheater gigs, mostly outside, a few festival days.
Yesterday was Pittsburgh, and Lyn-Z got a car and acted like a normal person for the day. Gerard was wiped out. She went and bought him a bunch of new paper and a Dictionary of Modern Scottish Words and Phrases, because once she picked it up she could not put it down. It took two and a half hours, but she eventually found the little middle eastern market that Jimmy raved about, and she bought fresh dates, and dried ones, and still-warm pita bread, and homemade halvah, and a ton of stuffed grape leaves, and most of the food is vegan so everybody can eat it.
Today is an outdoor gig in Philly, some huge city festival, weirdly enough. She's tired but not grouchy, and it's sunny and hot already, and all the cement shines because it just rained.
Jamia and a merch girl are setting up the Skeleton Crew booth, and Lyn-Z turns toward their voices, pulling like gravity, Jamia especially. Being around her is a trip. She's so much like Frank, and at the same time so not, so solid and incisive and extremely female. Lyn-Z has this perverse urge to stay close all the time, to watch, to soak it up, and she'd feel like a hanger-on, except Jamia either doesn't notice or really doesn't mind. Gerard has started to get a massive kick out of it.
(You have a thing, he says, a crush, a big fat girlie crush, and she says yeah, I do, what of it, you have no room to talk, and bites his neck. That's not a crush, he says. Well, she says. Well, he says. Well, what are we going to do about it, she says. Do we even need to do something, he says, do I? She raises an eyebrow. You know what I think about it, she says. I do, he says, and he laughs hard, and they rush rush rush to get each other off before call.)
She walks up and leans on the table, straightens a pile of stickers. Jamia is talking, cell phone clamped between her ear and shoulder while she rips packing tape off a box.
"No, it's good, Ma, thanks, send it to the hotel."
"I'll tell him."
"Yeah. Same. Yeah. I have an appointment in DC, it's fine."
Jamia looks up and sticks out her tongue and rolls her eyes, fast and goofy.
"I don't know, next week, maybe?"
"Thank you, Ma, seriously. It's great. Smack the dogs for me. I hafta go."
"Love you, too."
She flips the phone shut and gives Lyn-Z a pleased grimace.
"I swear, you would think no one had ever been pregnant before, including my mother, who I know for a fact was running around like an insane person and working at the bakery until a week before she popped. What's up?"
Lyn-Z holds up her plastic bag and pushes her sunglasses off her face.
"I come bearing foreign munchies with no animal products."
Jamia's face lights up. "I love you and I will give you the baby for some actual food."
"Grape leaves and stuff. From Pittsburgh yesterday, but they're still really fresh."
It's early and there aren't very many people wandering around yet. Mostly crew. They clear off part of the table and eat with their fingers.
"These are so good," Jamia mmmm's and closes her eyes, "I wonder if it's hard to make them. Lately all I want to do is cook and write, and the bus is totally cramping my style on the first one."
"Don't know." Her eyelids are so smooth and round, hardly any wrinkles at all when her eyes are closed, so she looks like a painting, and then when they're open they're crinkled and pointy and sharp. "Did you bring real kitchen stuff this time?"
"I tried. I don't feel like eating garbage the whole tour. I'm a grown-up person. I have needs." Her expression is flip, but her voice is knowing. Lyn-Z's brain slows down a little.
"No kidding. Also," she gestures at Jamia's middle and makes her voice low and gruff and patriarchal, "responsibilities."
"Yep." She looks thoughtful. "You know, I thought I'd be ready to kill for a cigarette, and it turns out I don't even care, but I'm really fucking looking forward to having a drink. It's summer, I want beer."
"I have lemonade?"
"You are a prince among men."
Lyn-Z's face feels warm, and she can tell she's staring. Jamia's easy to stare at. She doesn't clamor for attention, doesn't visually shout at you, but once you do look it's hard to stop looking. Sort of like Gerard. Lyn-Z can sure pick 'em.
"No problem." She opens the bottle and hands it over, and Jamia takes a long drink. Her nose and the tops of her cheeks are covered in freckles and shiny with sweat. Everything looks glittery in the early afternoon brilliance, summer jabbing at the corners of Lyn-Z's eyes everywhere she looks.
Jamia sets down the bottle, mops her face with a black bandanna, and says "You and Gerard are both starers." She doesn't say it in a mean way, more in a way that says she notices, and isn't brushing it off.
Lyn-Z isn't shy, and she's not afraid of herself, but she's not confrontational by nature except on stage. On stage, she's Wonder Woman. Off, she's got a lot of soft spots, and she knows it. She works with it. Soft spots or no, some opportunities have to be jumped at, or they pass, and sometimes it's just easiest to tell the truth.
"You're good to stare at," she says, "and I could stop if you want."
"No," Jamia cuts her eyes sideways, and her tone is dry and half smiling, "don't do that."
"Okay." Lyn-Z clenches and unclenches her hands, and eats another stuffed grape leaf. They pass the lemonade back and forth until it's gone, not talking, listening to the merch people tearing open the t-shirt packs. Intermittent clanking and loud sounds from the stage area inform them that soundcheck is about to get underway. She should probably get going. She sits a little longer, quietly, pointedly not looking at anything.
"I'm not mad, I'm interested, I think you're interesting, I'm not sure what that means, but I notice, because I notice you all the time," says Jamia, all in a rush.
Lyn-Z's face gets hot again, but she looks straight ahead and sticks to her guns.
"It's not--I understand. We're interesting." She glances over. Jamia's biting her lip and looking brave but disconcerted. "I guess I'll stop staring when we both stop being interesting." It sounds like bravado, but it's just true.
Jamia lets a quick smile through, and she says "Not gonna happen."
Lyn-Z stands up to go, and looks hard at her, and the air seems very thick and shiny, and Jamia pulls a couple of fresh dates out of the lunch bag before giving it back.
"What are these?" she asks, turning them over in her hand.
"Fresh dates. You ever had one?" They're crisp but they bruise easily; one of them already looks a little sticky.
"They're good. They don't taste like anything else. They grow in the desert."
Jamia gives her a long look and takes a bite. Lyn-Z doesn't move forward.
"Whoa, it's so sweet!"
She remembers how surprising they were, when she first tried them. They don't look like much, but they taste like candy, like something that couldn't possibly just grow on a tree.
Jamia looks up through her straight, sweaty bangs, and grabs Lyn-Z's wrist with her sticky hand, just for a second.
She says "Thanks."
Lyn-Z takes a very quick step back. She waves, and she doesn't run, but she gets going.
Insomnia is never surprising to Gerard anymore. It doesn't make it any less of a pain in the ass, but it makes it less threatening. He can't sleep, sometimes he can't sleep, whatever, he'll sleep tomorrow. It sucks, but he knows it won't last. It's a chronic irritation instead of a scary symptom.
He sits on the little couch in the front lounge and watches the highway lights wash across the dark TV screen, dull reflections. The movement of the bus feels slow and lurching even though he knows they're booking along at sixty-something miles per hour.
Everyone else is asleep. He went to bed with Lyn-Z and watched her drop off, and then crawled out of the bunk when it became clear that he wasn't going to follow. She sleeps heavily, comfortably, and she didn't wake up. The last person he saw was Kaveh, trundling into the bunk room like he couldn't get to bed fast enough, taking off his socks and shirt as he went, but that was more than an hour ago.
Mikey's probably awake. Probably on the other bus texting Pete, finally, curled up with Frank and Jamia's dog, because he's adopted her for the tour and won't let her out of his sight. Mikey's probably awake and lonely and sad in a way that Gerard can't fix, and he doesn't think calling him at three in the morning from another bus will help. Gerard sighs, and in the kitchenette, Frank coughs.
Gerard jumps and flings out several limbs in less-than-useful directions. Frank cackles under his breath.
He gets a bottle of water out of the fridge, replaces it with a warm one from the bin, and drifts until he's leaning one hip on the counter. He's not naked, which means he suspected somebody else might be up and is therefore being nice. Black and pink boxer-briefs and the old Homophobia Is Gay shirt. He's slimmed down a little, again, so it looks just like it used to. He takes a drink and scratches his leg, open and guileless. He points at Gerard's pile of blankets and discarded graphic novel.
Frank grins. "Me neither."
It was probably the show, for him. It was a great show, and Bob and Frank had been over at the tech bus until right before they hit the road, whooping it up. Bob stayed over there, actually, and earlier he sent Gerard a series of ludicrous text messages involving pictures of Worm's feet. Hours ago now, and Frank came back to ride on their bus, but sometimes if he gets revved up he just stays revved up until something takes it out of him, and Bob is, as stated, on the other bus, so.
"Is Jamia asleep?"
"Ages ago, yeah."
Frank puts the cap back on the water bottle and tosses it from hand to hand. He looks tense. Not worried, just. Waiting? Gerard scooches over to one side and Frank hops over into the other end of the couch. They sit there, facing in like bookends, knees up in front of them, for a long minute. Frank is definitely waiting for something, but Gerard can't tell if it's something internal or something he's supposed to do. It makes him nervous. He roots around in his insomniac nest, looking for a his sketchbook, a pencil.
"Why'd you do that, tonight, in the show?"
Gerard doesn't flail around this time, but it's a close thing. He holds the pencil between his two hands, sets them still and neat, resting on the black cover of the sketchbook. He doesn't know.
"I don't know? I don't. I used to do it a lot."
He'd gone over to Frank during the anthemic shouting of Welcome to the Black Parade and stood behind him, a little beside him, clutching him around the waist. He'd sung the words out right next to Frank's head, holding him very tight ('Cause the world will never take my heart; you can try, you'll never break me; want it all), and in the roaring after the song, he'd bent forward and kissed him on the neck, almost gently.
Looking back, it has the feel of a confession.
"Not in a while, though." Frank doesn't look upset. He looks contemplative, dangerous, patient. That might be worse.
Because. Patient implies there's something to wait for, something to speak about, something to handle, and the great miracle of whatever's between them has always been that nobody had to handle it. Every kiss was independent, simple, honest and artful at the same time, and whatever produced those kisses had no ambitions. It didn't follow them off the stage and climb into their beds. It didn't even come up in conversation except in a purely political or abstract sense. When it got unweildy or unnecessary, they backed away.
Gerard's not sure why it was back tonight, why he listened to it, and why it won't leave. It's hanging onto his ankles, and it looks bigger than it used to be, hungrier. Ambitious. Gerard sort of wants to kick it.
Gerard can't think of anything to say that would cover his ass, and is forced to stick to the facts.
"I felt like I was supposed to leave it be, before. Not scared, just. We never said. We got married."
"Yeah." Frank's face is quiet. "She knew, though, even when she first met you, when I first met you. I told her."
"You know." It's uncharacteristic of Frank to hedge, and it sets Gerard's heart thumping in his chest. He stares at Frank for a long time, willing him to talk again, and his mouth goes slowly dry, because it's all written in his face, and he can't ask for more than that.
"I know, what do I do?" says Gerard, wilder and louder than he means to.
Frank shrugs, loose and young looking, and it dawns on Gerard that he still doesn't look upset.
"Keep it up. I don't know. I never know. See what happens." He settles down into the corner of the sofa, and the expression on his face is almost a tease, would be one if Frank were a person who had a lot invested in having the upper hand. He's not, though. He never has been.
Gerard gawps, quietly. Frank gets comfortable, steals one of the blankets and nestles his head into the cushions. Bedroom eyes.
"You should go back to bed," Gerard says, and fidgets. He's not as terrified as he was a minute ago, but something very odd is happening. Change is weird. He doesn't like being so aware of it. He needs time to think.
"'m sleep out here. You can keep an eye on me." It is a smirk, fuck, and it's Frank, and he hasn't flirted that blatantly in a few of years. Gerard's stomach twirls.
He draws for almost an hour, and his hands shake, and eventually he hunkers down and tangles his feet with Frank's and half-sleeps. He dreams about birds, he feels hands on his face, and he makes a moaning sound and wakes himself up. He's sweaty and confused and hard. The last drawing of Frank's face and arm looks so intimate, so inviting, it's almost inappropriate.
1 and 3.
Jamia has to go to the doctor in DC, and Lyn-Z says she'll go help the merch people set up the Skeleton Crew stuff, because Jamia won't be back by load in. The doctor thing is totally uneventful. Still pregnant, still fine, still amazed that people think she needs a medical team to reproduce.
She gets back in plenty of time for the show, though, slips in and watches from her usual spot on the side of the stage. It's a smaller place, nice and dark, and she's got a good view. Frank seems kind of keyed up. She stands shoulder to shoulder with Cortez, watching, monitoring, and Frank comes over and drops to his knees and plays a whole song to them, facing the side. Jamia feels sweat run down the backs of her legs, sees Gerard look at her over Frank's head, eyes wild, sees Lyn-Z in the shadows on the opposite wing of the stage. It's all getting to be a bit much, all these things passing between them. It's okay, she knows it's okay, but it's slow and straining and suspenseful, like watching a penny flip and fall in slow motion. It's going to be fine, however it lands, but she's sick of holding her breath.
When Frank steps out of the lights, slinging his guitar off for the set break, looking for water, she grabs him and pulls him back with her. They fetch up against a stack of amp cases, the tough black sides air-warm and immovable at Jamia's back. She's holding Frank by his shirt collar, which is soaked through.
"What--" he breathes.
She bundles up whatever courage she has and holds it tight.
"You don't have to wonder, you don't have to wait, you can do what you want, and I can do what I want, and I promise that I will always want you the most. I can't. I'll still be here. I want to see what happens. It's not bad. I think you should fucking do it." She has to say it right in his ear, because the venue is loud.
Frank freezes for a second, and then he wraps his arms around her waist and pushes his face into her throat. He draws back and looks her in the eye and says "Only if it's right, and only if you go try yours, too."
She doesn't have to ask what he means. She shivers. He pushes his hands up under her shirt, palms resting in perfect symmetry on the two dimples in her lower back. Her head tips back. He pants into the side of her neck, runs his tongue up into the hollow at the corner of her jawbone, breathes into her mouth, deep and longing, and kisses her like he's trying to talk to her on the level of muscle fibers, nerves.
"Jamia." The break is over. "I'm coming back to you in the morning so you can smell it on me. I'm never leaving." His eyes are bright.
She pushes him back out toward the blazing light, the crowd, Gerard, and stands rooted to her spot, watching. When she feels a hand on her shoulder she startles, jumps a mile. She turns around to see Lyn-Z, wearing a face that only makes sense if she was paying close attention to Jamia for the last ten minutes.
She's at a loss for words, for a way forward. She watches as Lyn-Z twists one foot against the dirty backstage floor, and leans closer, and tilts her head.
"Come with me. Do you want to come with me?" She asks it low, just loud enough for Jamia to hear, and Jamia's head spins, and she nods and grabs at Lyn-Z's hand like a four-year-old. It's so funny and scary. She follows. She feels like she's moving through a hot fog, vision blurred and senses heightened.
Hotel night. Lyn-Z talks on the way out, smooths the way, acquires her key card, speaks to Worm, and then they're standing on the sidewalk with no bags and no boys, and Lyn-Z has her arm up for a taxi. They don't talk anymore. Everything is going so fast. Taxi. Hotel. Elevator. Hallway. Doorway. Jamia doesn't ever go home with girls; it shouldn't be this easy, shouldn't be so simple to get so freaked out and excited and shocked silent.
They sit on a bed, and it looks awkward, and it feels stupid and exhilarating.
"I. Lindsey." Jamia frowns, and speaks slowly and evenly. "Why'd you want to? Why'd you ask me?"
Lyn-Z scrunches up her eyes and nose, looks like she's going to laugh at herself, but in kind of a sad way. She lets out a sharp puff of air and says "I couldn't stop staring." She pauses. "I don't need to keep you. I could keep looking at you, though. I could show you what I mean." She rubs her face. "It's not. I'm not trying to steal you. That's a lame way of saying that, but, you know. I'm not."
"I don't think I can get stolen."
"I know. I just." Her mouth is so expressive, almost clownish, so wicked it's like she has the red lipstick on even when she doesn't. "I like you so much more than I can usually fit into how I deal with one girl, some woman I know who's married to Frank, who sells t-shirts, who has a big brave normal life, and I can't think of a better way to tell you." She shrugs, and she leans in and kisses Jamia on the lips, mouth closed, warm and pressing and full and restrained.
Jamia takes a giant breath in through her nose and makes an embarrassing low-pitched hhnnnnn-ing sound and opens her mouth, because sometimes people say the right things and you can't control the noises you make.
And then it's hands everywhere, frantic, like everything they've both been saying is understood, and all that's left is to demonstrate how much they mean it. Undressing a young female person in jeans and a v-neck is not that different from undressing Frank, except for the fact that she looks like a fucking pinup girl when Jamia peels off the shirt, and she's going "Wait, wait."
Jamia sits back, palms hot.
Lyn-Z stands and puts her hands up, facing out, the international sign for "don't touch, wait," and then she makes short work of her boots and her jeans and her aggressive jewelry, and she's standing in front of Jamia in a cherry red bra and a pair of black guy's boxer briefs and all her beautiful tattoos. She sits on the floor at Jamia's feet and unties her sneakers. Off. She undoes Jamia's belt and zipper. Pants off. All of her movements are unhurried and efficient, and then all the outer clothes are gone. Lyn-Z crawls up her body and pushes her back, up the bed. They kick the bedspread away. Lyn-Z stops, tense, on all fours above her, black braids hanging down. Her face is dark.
"I was going to go slow, and now I want to go fast." She grasps the front clasp on Jamia's bra. "If you ask me to stop, I'll stop, I promise."
"No," Jamia has a profound twinge of deja vu, "don't do that." She reaches up to tug at Lyn-Z's straps, and that's all the encouragement needed.
Bras off. Jamia's used to people noticing her breasts. It would be hard not to notice Lyn-Z's. Breasts are flashy, porny. Lyn-Z kisses Jamia's shoulders, collarbones, drags one pad of one flat finger over and over and over her nipple, kisses the undersides where the wires of her bra usually press, sucks them, breaths hard on the thin skin of her sternum, teases until they ache and she arches and wishes people had two mouths and four hands, just for more of this, and Jamia forgets all about how they look and only knows how they feel.
Lyn-Z noses down her body and sucks at her stomach, her hipbones. She settles in between her legs, eyes low-lidded, and pulls her underwear down and off. Jamia hasn't felt this naked in a while, and it gets worse. Better. Lyn-Z bites at the insides of her thighs, soft and hot, and runs her fingers over the thick groin tendons, and her legs just fall open, like she can't help it, spreading herself.
Lyn-Z breaths deep and looks up, and pushes her tongue slowly just above Jamia's clit, and Jamia goes slack, like an invitation, and all she can think about is this, how much and how purely she wants it. She licks further down, still slow, humming against her, and Jamia's head snaps back against the pillow. Another push of tongue, and the muscles in her neck and shoulders re-engage. It's like coming alive. She so wet she can hear it, and she wants more, and she hopes orgasms make happy babies.
She throws her arms out on the sheets, as if she can get any more open, and Lyn-Z just goes for it. She keeps tonguing her clit, and she breaths raggedly, and she slides her fingers into Jamia quick and perfect, and pushes, pulls, strokes her from the inside out. There is nothing else like getting fucked with no teasing, no preparation, when you're really ready, and she does that, strong fingers pushing her wide, winding her up. She puts her other hand low on Jamia's belly and presses in toward her own moving hand, gentle and unrelenting, and between that steady grind and sharp fast tongue and the hand in her cunt, it feels like Lyn-Z's holding her entire body, like she has all the power in the world at her command and is using it to wring her out, pull a sound out of her that resonates everywhere. Lyn-Z pulls, and sucks, and Jamia's hips stutter and she grits her teeth on a shriek and she comes, and it's like a freight train slamming into every part of her brain that's capable of feeling good.
She curls instinctively to the side, shaking, after-tremors, and Lyn-Z comes up, and they share raspy breaths, and it smells like so much sex, and Lyn-Z is groaning, really small, over and over again, and every time she starts the sound her hips jerk forward the smallest amount, and she looks completely out of it, her face is wet, her eyes are black, it's breathtaking. Jamia works one hand down between her legs, twisting for the right approach, middle finger sliding against a spot that's swollen and slick and warm, and Lyn-Z grabs her hair with messy hands and mashes their foreheads together and comes fast and harsh, with rough sounds in the back of her throat.
They lie there on their sides, and Jamia thinks it's like getting a present, a gift you didn't know you wanted, a tool you didn't know you needed. She's glad Lyn-Z told her. She's grateful. She knows what to do with it.
2 and 4.
Gerard pushes at him for the whole rest of the show, dances around him, breathes in his face, pulls his hair, and Frank remembers this, and it makes him fucking weak in the knees. By the time they get to Helena he's at the end of his rope, and he looks for Jamia in the wings and can't find her and knows in his gut where she's gone. His heart gives her a flippy little salute, and that's that. He crumples at Gerard's feet, plays the last chorus gazing up at him like he always wants to, like he doesn't usually, anymore. Gerard leans down and holds onto his hair with one hand, angles his head back and kisses him like a benediction while Bob and Ray and Mikey file off the stage. The crowd is going apeshit.
Frank wrenches himself up and free, and backs away, not backing down. Agreeing.
The dressing room is the way it they all are, city to city, the same smell, the same cinderblock walls. Frank shucks off his wet shirt and stands directly in front of the tall fan, letting air and evaporation try to pull some of the lunacy out of him. Gerard is watching him, and Mikey is watching Gerard, and none of them say anything out of the ordinary, and Frank is seriously grinding his teeth trying not to yell or kick things or pin Gerard to the floor in front of God and everybody.
There are cars out back, and a hotel at the other end of them, and people are motivated. There are showers to be had, girlfriends to call, decent food right there in the same building as the beds. Ray and Mikey have a nearly non-verbal conversation at the dressing room door, and everybody hustles out, and they're alone.
"Jamia went--they went back without us."
Gerard is rotating his wrists in little circles like he does when he's itching for a pencil. He swallows visibly and says "I know. We should. We should go get in the car."
The screaming in Frank's head says yes, yes, fucking hell yes, and at the same time he wishes he could just stand here by the fan for an hour, looking at Gerard, on the edge of everything, avoiding all answers. He goes and tosses on a hoodie and picks up his bag. Danger is his fucking middle name.
They don't say much on the way over. Worm hands out key cards in the lobby, and Frank says "We're sharing," and nobody even blinks. It's surreal. Everything is quiet, the carpet is really thick and soft. It seems almost wrong to be walking toward a plain, smooth, hotel room with this kind of thing in mind. They should be back at the club, in a hallway, in the dressing room. He should be smelling electrical tape and beer and paper and stage lights. He's still got the speedy circulation from the show, his fingers twitching. His pulse doesn't want to slow down. It'll have to do.
The elevators have mirrors in them. Frank looks at the floor, holds his breath, anything. He's waited however long, he can wait three more minutes. He tunnel-visions along the hall, carefully not wondering about Gerard's face behind him, and then they're inside. Frank drops his bag. Gerard drops his bag. They're just standing there.
Frank tips his head up and closes his eyes and whines in his throat. He almost wishes Jamia were here. This is unreasonably hard. How do you tell somebody that you've loved them for as long as you can remember and now it might be a good idea to show it? How do you plan that?
"Frank," Gerard says. It sounds small but not hesitant. Frank doesn't open his eyes.
"Just. Shut up--I can--" Frank makes fists at his sides. "I have too much of this feeling and I've had it for too long for this not to be right, but it still seems crazy, and I'm trying to let it sink in."
He can hear Gerard step closer. He unclenches his hands and tries not to vibrate. They've kissed a lot of times, all told. Frank has lived in a van with Gerard, slept on him, hated him, gotten drunker than any person should be with him, fed him, watched him shower, talked him through a million nights he couldn't sleep, and on one memorable occasion they don't discuss, jerked him off in a venue bathroom. He's still sort of unprepared for the experience of Gerard kissing him with no audience, no song, no guitar between them, and he moans. Loud.
It's like pushing a button.
Gerard's arm wraps around his neck, the fingers of his other hand clutch at the waistband of his jeans, pulling closer. He's hard, Frank can feel it, it's a head rush, and it gets better every time Gerard's tongue pushes into his mouth, every time he rocks in. Their teeth knock and Frank rears back for air, thinking that there has got to be a better way to do this than standing up in tight pants. The possibilities are a little daunting, actually. There's a bed right there. He steps back and gets rid of his sweatshirt, pulls off his shoes and socks, starts to address his belt buckle.
"Jesus fucking Christ, Frankie."
He looks up to see Gerard staring at him like he wants to eat him alive, and unconsciously cupping himself through his pants. His hands stall out on his belt and he bites his tongue. It barely registers. Gerard drops to the floor in front of him and grabs him by the pockets, reeling him in, damp black hair and thick lashes inky in the dim room. Frank's fantasy life is catching up with him, unexpected and years after the fact. Gerard does the belt, unfastens his jeans, and pulls everything down. He puts his hands on the birds on Frank's hips, bare skin. Frank reels, and Gerard makes a sincere face that seems right on the edge of tipping over into hysterical nervous laughter.
"I'm not the best at this, but God," his eyes drop, "I wanna. Do things."
Frank shudders. He can't begin to express how good that sounds.
"So," he grits out, "do them."
"You hafta tell me, though, what you want." It's a pretty innocent request, but it's Gerard talking, inches away from Frank's dick, and that's pure evil leaning on about a decade of build-up.
Frank goes "Hnnnnnhh" when Gerard licks the head, and "Aah!" when he grabs on with his right hand at the base, and then he says, between gasps, "I wanted, but--shit--look--we played a show in New Haven, and you elbowed me in the face, you were so sorry, it was crazy, you kissed my cheek like--ahgh--five times, and I wanted to fuck you, I wanted you all the time, then, it was so hard," because evidently Gerard's crooked mouth on his cock demolishes whatever he's been using to stop himself from saying things like that. Because it's been such a long time. Because they all had such a shitload of growing up to do. Because it's Gerard.
Gerard keens around him and pulls off. That show was a long time ago. Surprisingly little has changed, underneath it all. Frank pants and Gerard stumbles to his feet and wrestles with his shirt buttons and kicks at his shoes and undoes his belt and shimmies out of all his stuff so fast it should be funny, but instead it's blistering fucking hot, seeing him stand there naked, soft muscles wound tight. White skin.
"I think it's okay now," he says, and now Frank does have to bite the inside of his cheek bloody to keep from giggling the tension out like a maniac, because that's the understatement of the century. That's so right it feels like getting punched and loving it.
He get his feet out of his jeans and underwear. Gerard laughs desperately and puts his hands over his face.
"What," Frank breathes hard. "What did I do?"
"I can hardly look at you, I never got to, like this. You're--" Gerard waves his hand, out of words.
Shit. Shit. They're such a mess for each other. How in the everloving hell did they last this long? Frank steps over and leans up, careful, and only their mouths are touching, and then Gerard reaches up to hold his face still, lick under his tongue and bite his lip. Frank gives up. He lets his jaw loosen and his eyes roll back in his head. He wraps his arms around Gerard and grabs him at the meaty curve right under his ass, both sides, and pulls forward. Their fronts press together, Gerard's dick twitches against his stomach, and Frank can feel everything. He stops himself from rutting, mostly, and turns Gerard around in his arms.
This is--Frank's going to black out before they even do anything if he doesn't get himself together, but he's standing flush at Gerard's back, keeping him close, dick hard as a rock and snug against the smooth split of his ass, and it's difficult to think clearly. He pushes up on his toes and bites the back of Gerard's neck, and his knees buckle, and there they go, down. The bed is right there, and they're not going to make it unless they do it now, because Gerard is pushing, moving his hips back, nudging, making a scratchy pleading noise, and Frank would gladly stay put and fuck him through the floor, but.
"Bed," Frank manages, and hauls himself upright.
"Stuff, in my bag," says Gerard. His face is a beautiful furious red.
They scramble, and Frank finds lube, a condom. He searches for his motor skills, he wants to be more graceful.
Gerard has all the grace in the room, like he sometimes does, as he turns down the bed and climbs onto it. Frank gets back on him as fast as he can, and he's not sure how to say this:
"How. Face down? Easier?"
"Yeah, yeah," Gerard intones, and turns over.
He puts his arms out forward, leaning on his elbows, and drops his head down. He looks paler, longer, younger. Frank kneads at his shoulders and kisses his spine wetly, runs the fingers of one hand slowly up and down his crack. He tries to keep himself in check, focused. It's all so hyper-real and fantastical it's like being high. He's stayed so far away from thinking he could ever do this that now it's hard to process. Gerard pushes back and hisses, and Frank quits thinking altogether.
The lube is good, not smelly, and he slicks up. One finger rubbing around his hole makes Gerard go silent and shiver, and then it goes in and he drags greedily for air, tenses up for a minute and then comes around. Frank takes his time. Two fingers with a bunch of lube is maybe the best, because he can bend them, move them, feel what makes Gerard twitch and groan and work himself open. Three fingers just for a little bit, for the stretch, and he leaves them there.
You're not supposed to open the stupid foil packets with your teeth, but it's good to be able to put on a condom with one hand. Lube with one hand is easy. Thanks to Gerard, touching himself without coming is not.
Gerard has been making noise, but he hasn't been talking. When Frank takes his fingers out and pushes his dick in, slow, he starts up, but so soft it's impossible to catch the words. Frank shifts higher on his knees, leans a little forward, drives in harder. He stays there, pushing the angle, aiming for whatever makes Gerard spasm and twist. His voice breaks on a murmur, and it gets louder. Turns out he's mostly saying "Frank" over and over, and Frank cannot handle that. He shudders to a stop, arms straight, hands knotted in the sheets.
"Gerard," he rasps, "okay, it's okay, are you okay?"
"Yessss, fuck, please, Frank, please--" Gerard grinds back against him and it's all he can do not to scream, it's so good. He's so fucking tight and moving smooth and mostly he's Gerard, doing this, rubbing his face into the sheets, looking like he doesn't even know how to be self-conscious. There have been times in Frank's life when he would have sold his soul to see that.
He bends his arm to get a hold of Gerard's cock, and from there it's the best kind of train wreck, because he can tell Gerard is a fine hair away from coming, his muscles are knotted up, barely holding it down. Frank strokes him fast with his slippery hand, fucks into him as hard as he dares. He gets to that place where the beat is right and it settles and for mind-altering minute there's no gravity, just Gerard bucking into his fist, holding him up, tightening around him. He slides his thumb back and forth over the slit and squeezes just that little bit harder, and Gerard bottoms out, his voice gone non-verbal and guttural. He comes quick and hard, and it rolls through his body and pulls Frank along, tears his orgasm out of him with a yell.
Frank has enough brain cells to roll them out of the sticky mess and pull out, which makes them both clench their teeth and makes Gerard's breath sound wet and pleading, but that's all he's got. He feels raw and strange, and looking at Gerard still makes his chest ache, it's amazing.
Gerard's eyes are half closed, but he sounds pretty lucid when he speaks up.
"I didn't think you'd do this."
"Well. I guess--no. I didn't think I could, and still, you know, be happy, live my life."
"I'm not a problem, not a secret identity."
"No, you're." Frank casts around for some way of conveying how much safer and older and better he feels now that this has happened. "You're the other half, the other thing. I suck at this, I can't explain it."
"No rush," says Gerard, unexpectedly mellow.
Frank mans up as much as he can.
"I thought you'd probably never kiss me again, and then once you did, it was like, shit, I actually have to lay this out and deal with it."
"Oh, thanks. Fucker."
"No, I mean. It was always there. Ask Jamia. I'm hard to shake. I should have done something."
"Plenty of time," says Gerard, in a way that could be a promise or a double entendre.
"She laughed at me. And then she basically kicked my ass into gear. I think I have to present you to her, like "I did it, can I have a sticker."
Gerard snorts. "She's interesting. I mean. I like her so much. She gets you more than I do, which is nuts. I don't know what to do next. I don't know what to do with her."
"It's okay, I do."
Title and cut tag from "Rene and Georgette Magritte, with their dog after the War" (Paul Simon).