NASCAR bedspreads and...pasta? Hmm. Let's mess with Frankie's head.
It might be because I was the last added member (if you discount Bob of course, because we're all too scared to try and pat that guy on the head from fear of getting dismembered); it might be because I'm constantly sick and they feel the need to baby me; I like to think it's because I'm so fucking adorable.
It's not. It's because I'm short. Or, at least that's why they like to pet me. I can see it when I comment thoughtfully on something, or when I'm eating, or if I'm playing video games--I can see them thinking "Awww, how cute," and their smile widens and they just have to reach over and touch me, because it's the fucking parental instincts long abandoned in their screwed up little rock star heads finally coming into play.
I can't deny that the treatment is enjoyable sometimes, and the benefits that come with it are more than rewarding, especially in times like this; when I've finally fallen asleep and two hours later someone is gently nudging my shoulder instead of yanking the covers off of me and kicking me several times in the shins like they would to anyone else in the band. I appreciate the gesture more than anything else in my entire life, and I just feel like kissing the person until they drop something rather small and square and pointy onto my stomach, and even through the several layers of fabric, I can still feel it. Miraculously.
"Here, I got you something."
I can feel the smirk in his voice and I want to grind my teeth (another habit I need to break), but I withhold it and peer over my covers with heavily lidded eyes. It's a box of DayQuil. He drops another one next to it. NightQuil.
I sigh and look up at him. "I thought you didn't believe me."
His black sunglasses are perched on his head and I want to laugh because I know he's done it out of habit, since it can't be more than 60 degrees in the bleary, cloudy weather outside, but I just bite my lip and wait for his response.
"Yeah, well, if you do get sick, that'll be my fault, and you'd better not come bitching to me, because I'll just tell you that I bought you your fucking medicine and all you need to do is get your ass back in bed and stop bouncing around the bus."
I have to smile because we both know that's exactly what would happen, and most likely what will happen before the winter is over, and it's not so much a warning as it is an apologetic hope for the chaotic future of our normalcy.
He coughs lightly and licks his lips, just because that's what Gerard does, and I know I've forgiven him, and I start feeling stupid for exactly the same reason Mikey said I would.
"So why'd you wake me up?"
/I was finally asleep/, I wanted to say, but hold my tongue. I didn't want to invite any accusations.
I can see his jacket pocket sticking out at an odd angle when he shifts, and I know that there's a certain box of Marlboro Lights in there, and part of me wants to reach over and grab them, but I'm too warm and content and he'd just manage to get them back anyway, so I just lay there and wait for his explanation.
"The catering is here," he says, not quite stifling a yawn, "and we have sound check in an hour or so."
I slump back against my pillow, which feels flatter than it should underneath the NASCAR pillowcase, but I suppose that's a result of the constant tossing and turning that I do every night.
I need more sleep.
"Then why didn't you wait a few hours and wake me up for the sound check, then?"
He looks slightly guilty for a moment, and I feel bad, since he'd just bought me that medicine and all, but I really would've liked to stay asleep for just a little longer.
"You need to eat," he says, rubbing a gloved hand across the back of his neck. "Your energy isn't where it should be, and coffee is not a substitute for actual food," he adds, fixing me with a reprimanding glare, but I just roll my eyes and stretch out as far as the little bed will let me.
"Then go get me some pasta. You wouldn't want me wasting my precious energy, would you?"
He smirks before flipping me off and walking back out of the bus, making it rock gently back and forth, and I feel more like a baby than I did before.
He's gone for several minutes, and I'm starting to think I should just get out of bed like he told me to and get the damn food myself when I lapse into a state of not-quite-sleep, not-quite-awake, and I'm grudgingly aware that, as comfortable as it is, it's not helping me in the least. I'm again starting to contemplate the unconscious state and it's pros when I hear the bus door open and he's carrying two plates and I want to roll my eyes, but I really do love it deep down, so I don't.
He sets one of the plates on my lap and sits himself cross-legged by my feet, immediately picking up his fork. When his head is tilted, I can clearly see the jumpy line that parts his hair, separating it unequally and causing random stray pieces to fall in front of his face, which he absently tucks behind his ear, unfazed.
Several minutes pass, and I'm suddenly aware that he's been talking to me since he sat down, and that half of the food on my plate is gone, and it was actually good for once. I can hear myself laugh as he imitates Matt, our stage manager, and he grins, his small teeth making him look more human, and still, slightly more demented. But it's Gerard and that's how it's always been, and I can feel my eyes close as his voice filters in through my ear and wisps around in my mind, filling the holes and spaces and cracks.
My hand falls down next to my side and I fall asleep for the second time that day, feeling more comfortable than I think is allowable with a slightly battered NASCAR bedspread, the faint smell of good cooking, and the heat that comes from his body at the end of my bed, which I hadn't noticed I'd subconsciously curled my legs around.
I don't remember much before the sound check (or in the space between then and the actual show), except that Gerard woke me up an hour and half after we had eaten and I'm stupid enough to ignore him and try and hide my small body under the covers, forcing him to physically remove me from the bed, and I can see every regretful flash in his eyes as he does it.
And the next thing I know, I have a guitar strapped around my shoulders and I can hear all the roadies behind the stage and I can see the kids up top doing final checks on the lighting choreography and everyone is adjusting things and tweaking spots and conversing and all I can think about is how my left shoe is tighter than my right one. That was my fault though. Gerard put the right one on and I pitched a big fit that I could do it myself, so he let me, and I was so agitated that I had to get out of bed that I pulled the laces harder than was necessary.
Jamia did that sometimes. If she did my tie, it always seemed a little crooked to me, but I never fixed it because it'd just feel /rude/. And she'd smile and touch my shoulder and say something cute like "Go get 'em" and I'd smile back because we were best friends and I cared for her.
She's my girlfriend. And I do care for her. But the tie thing...it agitates me. And then there's the way she makes tea. And how she'll sniff every few minutes if there's ever a comfortable silence, and I know I wince every time I hear it.
But those are just things that I love about her. Annoying, agitating things that I just can't stand.
We're in the dressing room, and I'm dimly aware of the crowd noise, but I don't know whether it's As I Lay Dying or Taking Back Sunday or John Dewees that they're screaming for, since I can't distinguish what tour this is right now, or what time of day it is, or where the hell we are. I'm sitting on the vanity and staring at the make-up that makes me look like a radioactive raccoon, but I'm hoping that it'll hide the bags under my eyes...or something. It's just another habit.
Gerard and Ray are pissing around and shooting venomous insults at each other that everyone will remember and quote months from now, and Mikey is glued to his sidekick, messaging godknowswhat to godknowswho, but the look of concentration on his face and the slight raise in his eyebrows keeps attracting my attention, and my curiosity is piqued, but I don't bother him.
And then Gerard is next to me, hoisting his body up gently on the vanity and still laughing and talking to Ray, and the completely feeling of relaxation and fatigue mixed with the excited jumpiness of pre-show anticipation is enough to make me want to collapse in a fit of paralyzing emotions. And his shoulder look so deliciously warm and appetizing, but before I can decide to move or not, his hand is rubbing small circles on my lower back, and I shiver involuntarily and shut my eyes. His hands then place themselves on my shoulders and he's massaging me like he's trying to warn off a nervousness I haven't had in over a year.
I don't know how much time passed (I knew it was only minutes, and yet it felt like a combination of something both much too short and curiously long) before he's whispering "time to go," and I have to wake myself from the stupor I settled in and try and remember the set list.
I follow his form out of the door, wondering blankly why there was no one else in the room, before the darkness hits me and I can hear the chanting far better as I step out onto the stage. The flashing and screaming and the sight of Bob adjusting his drums slightly and Gerard tilting the microphone sends chills through my veins and I feel my fingers twitching slightly, begging me to do /something/.
And I transform from Frankie, the Italian kid that gets sick a lot; from Frank, the radioactive raccoon; and I become Frank Iero, the fucking lunatic with the guitar onstage. And my sickness is overpowered, and my troubles are overpowered, and my turmoil is forgotten as I start up the song and Ray follows my lead and Gerard...Gerard looks over at me as his liquid smooth voice pours into the microphone and out of the speakers and into the ears of tens of thousands.
But his eyes are green and he's singing only to me.