My fist had barely touched the door when it was brutally yanked open and I was dragged inside. Gerard, panting slightly still, grabbed my collar and pulled me past the doorstep and into the room, shutting the door quickly behind him with a fearful glance outwards. I opened my mouth not only to protest the rude greeting but how Gerard apparently didn't even care what had happened before I realized what kind of scene was playing out in our small motel room.
Bob and Brian were standing on either side of Ray, their voices low and whispered. Ray looked petrified. Brian was shaking. Gerard was locking the door behind me.
I stepped closer, and Brian looked up at me. His face was pale and his eyes wide with shock. He opened his mouth, swallowing twice before finding his voice.
"It's shallow," he choked. "There's only a little blood."
He held out Ray's hand for him, which was jumping as violently as Brian was. There, on the side of his thumb where the hand connected with the wrist, were two small puncture marks.
"He was bit," Bob muttered, resting a hand on Ray's shoulder. "That fucking chick got him. She did something, like... transferred something. From her mouth. You know. Into the..."
Ray, looked up me, terrified, his eyes reflecting the moon's glow shining through the shoddy curtains, pleading with me. Praying that I could help him. I looked away. Tried to find something to patch him up. Avoided his gaze.
There was only a little blood. Only a shallow wound.
We treated it with the first aid kit we found under the bed and wrapped it in pretty stretches of cotton, but the blood seeped through and tinted the white fabric, mocking our fear and pain and emptiness. Spilling out and staining our efforts.
I was still shaking as I stood up, peering down helplessly at the second coating I had wrapped around his hand, still unable to recover from the shock of what I had been met with at the door to the motel.
Gerard's face was pale and shallow, his body still visibly trembling as it had been when he dragged me inside. Bob and Brian were still standing next to Ray, inspecting his bandaged hand and whispering urgently as Ray remained motionless, vacant eyes mirroring his gaping mouth, left falling open in shock.
Ray turned his eyes towards us, glassy and frightened in the looming darkness and glow of the moon and stars and fake luminescent light. He stared at us and we stared back, silently urging him to give us any sort of communication: waiting for him to cry, to throw a lamp against the wall, to fall apart. To plead. Plead for our help. To break down and crawl or stay strong and hold his head high.
But he didn't. He stood there between a whispering Bob and Brian, his ears unhearing and his voice lacking words. His face displayed no emotion save for the helplessness and lack of hope; the feigned, unconvincing sorrow that for the first time, we couldn't help him.
He looked out the window and said nothing as blood seeped through the bandage. The red slid down his fingers and dripped to the carpet.
Bob and Brian stopped speaking. I tried to decide whether to move forward or step back, and compromised by doing nothing. Nothing. Ray gestured to his hands and Gerard let his mouth fall open slightly in shock.
Our guitarist held out his hands, waiting for us to tie him up.
"It's not like the girls," I said, lost. I was... I couldn't do anything. I didn't know what to do. "That girl on the road. She was cut. It was different. It was a disease. She just..." I was rambling. Trying anything. Anything to make this whole nightmare disappear. "They did something funny to her. Something funny in that cut. But you weren't cut. You won't...you won't...like her."
I couldn't bring myself to say the word.
Ray didn't even blink. "No," he said. Calm. Shaking. Calm. "Not like her. I won't die like her. But I'll turn out like him."
He pointed at Mikey. I was lost. Disappear. I couldn't dislodge my jaws to speak; my tongue felt like a razorblade, cutting the edges of my mouth when I tried to swallow. The others remained shock silent. Like me. Like Ray.
He knew. We knew. We had lost him.
And Mikey, still tied against the bedpost, watching us with intensely amused eyes, laughed. He laughed. He laughed, and I couldn't find the breath in my lungs to cry, scream, or laugh right along side him.
Bob and Brian took Ray and left early that morning, hours before the sun had risen. We talked quietly about it after Ray, tied up and bound on the bed, voiced wearily that he didn't want to stay around any more.
And even though I didn't want to admit it--just like everyone else--I had never been so happy to hear those words come from his mouth so that I didn't have to voice it myself. There was a nervous trepidation in the air, hovering over our heads and waiting to crash down with another blow to our hopes and grasp on reality.
Brian refused to let him leave alone.
Gerard refused to leave his brother.
I refused to leave Gerard.
Mikey scoffed at us and said that he wished we'd make a decision or fucking untie him and stop being little emo bitches. We tried to ignore him, but it was making Ray uncomfortable. He kept shooting Mikey worried glances and rubbing the bite marks underneath the dressing on his hand, grimacing at the infection it truly was. Looking into the future, I could hear our minds collectively whispering. Look at what you'll become. What we'll all become.
So Brian and Bob packed their stuff, loaded it into the bus by the light of the neon vacancy sign, and stood awkwardly in the doorway after saying their goodbyes, waiting for Ray. He hugged Gerard, full bodied, and Gerard buried his face into his shoulder, biting back tears and whispering small, encouraging things that meant nothing to him and everything to Ray.
I stood against the bed opposite of Mikey, watching as Ray released Gerard and turned towards me; I took a step forward, and he shuddered and took one back. The room went silent. I retreated to the end of the bed and stared as Ray touched his would gently. Guiltily.
"Sorry, man, I just..." Ray started, continually making and breaking eye contact. "You hurt. I can.../smell/ you or something. It just. It hurts. You hurt. And I don't want you to, you know--" he gestured with his hands and I nodded, mute. He didn't want me to touch him.
"Bye Ray," I whispered, and Ray swallowed before nodding his head and disappearing out of the front door, a disbelieving Bob and a shaking Brian following silently behind him.
As soon as the door shut, the tears poured down my face in streams, and I collapsed to the floor. My mind was a haze, incapably filled with what felt like loss, and the emotion was boggling. Liquefying. My vision was swirling. Mikey was hissing something, and I could hear Gerard yelling at him to shut up. The scene in front of me--dirty brown carpeting and my best friend tied to the bed post, snapping his jaws at Gerard--faded and slipped white. Then black. And I felt nothing.
I woke up on the bathroom floor. Gerard was standing at the sink, running water over his face and hands, cleaning off the blood. When I moved, I was surprised by the thick pillow underneath my head and glanced up curiously, meeting Gerard's eyes through the mirror.
"I figured you'd be more comfortable in here," he said quietly, breaking eye contact to whip a towel off of the rack. "Mikey acts strange around you."
"Why didn't you wake me up?" I asked, sitting up groggily and feeling my head spin. I raised a hand to cup my face and left the other one on the hard ground beside me to keep my balance.
"You needed sleep," Gerard answered, drying his hands and tossing the towel out of the door and into the room, typical messy and careless Gerard fashion. "And I figured it was pretty convenient that you passed out, considering you wouldn't have fallen asleep willingly under the circumstances."
I brought my hand back down to rest on my thigh and sighed, low and defeated, remembering Ray. We were the only ones left now; Gerard, my band mate, my lover, my everything; Mikey, my best friend, the fucking vampire; and me. Frank. The guitarist. The Italian boy from New Jersey that couldn't even manage to avoid passing out (or feeling like it) every eight hours.
Gerard cocked his head inquisitively, watching me, noticing my inner turmoil. Bending down, he cupped my face in his hands and leant forward, placing a soft kiss to my lips.
"Frank...it's okay, alright? It's going to be fine," he said, kissing me again. "I promise." Kiss. "I promise."
He pressed his lips fully on mine this time, deepening the kiss. I turned my head and responded cautiously, before his hands were inching up my shoulders and I could feel the scum on my arms running against his fingers. I pulled back.
"Gerard, stop. I'm gross," I said, looking down at my blood soaked shirt, my mud-splattered clothing, and wrinkling my nose against the still lingering putrid smell of burnt flesh.
He moved closer. "I don't care."
I avoided his mouth and let his lips press against my cheekbone instead. "I do. Really. I smell."
He laughed lightly and pulled back, his hands rubbing my shoulders reassuringly. "Smell? Frank, you fucking reek, man."
"I know," I replied, smiling. "Now move so I can get up and take a shower."
He did as he was told and stood up, reaching out a hand for me to take and haul myself off of the floor. I shed off my clothing while he picked up each of the pieces of discarded material and threw them into the sink, running warm water over them and attempting to clean the smell off. I pulled back the shower curtain, the rings making small clinking noises in rapid succession before I turned the handle to hot and climbed in, pulling the brown and clear plastic covers a little more than halfway closed behind me so as not to get water all over the floor.
The stream was almost hot enough to be uncomfortable, but I let it pour down my back and shoulders like I could scorch off the pain and misery etched onto my body. I slowly began to rub my hands along my arms and neck, watching as the diluted red streams ran down my skin and swirled at the bottom of the tub, spinning in half hearted circles and refusing to be washed down the drain entirely. Each small trail of blood that leaked down my chest relieved a tiny part of me, and by the time Gerard stepped in behind me, I was calm enough to accept his hands as they circled around my waist.
"God, this water is fucking hot," he frowned, stepping away from the stream. I turned the knob to the right slightly and felt the temperature cool slightly, reaching to my side to drag his hand across my hip bone and onto my stomach.
"Not that strange," I replied smoothly, "considering you just joined me in the fucking shower."
Gerard smiled absently, his eyes closed against the water. "Couldn't resist..."
His other hand slowly made it's way across my side to land on top of my right sparrow tattoo. I tilted my head back as he lightly began to massage the skin there, the water spraying gently on the motion as he brought his lips down to my jaw line. His left hand circled across the neat swirls of 'And' before inching back and tracing the 'Destroy' along my lower side, causing my breath to hitch under his ministrations. After a few more caressing touches of the images and words I still couldn't quite remember getting inked, he grabbed my hips and forced them back against his, closer, under the spray of the shower head.
"We'll get them, Frank," he whispered in my ear, fingering the sparrows and bones along my hip. "You'll get the motherfuckers."
I could feel the water dripping from his lips onto my shoulder, different than the misty water coming from above us. It felt warmer. Nicer. I was going limp. His breath was against my neck as he rocked lightly behind me. His hands were captivating. Sliding along the ink like his fingers were the pen. I couldn't take it. The words poured from his mouth like the water and burned like the temperature. I couldn't.
I turned and kissed him deeply, so suddenly that I figured he would have been surprised, but he met it full on, pressing back against me instantly and bringing his hands up to cup the back of my neck and pull me closer. I could feel him breathing. Could feel his lips moving against mine. I could feel him. Against my body; with my body; in my mind; with everything I was. His tongue slid past my lips so fluidly it was hard to tell where the water ended and he began. It was everything. It was him. It was horribly wrong for it to be so perfect.
I pulled away and buried my face into his chest, my body shaking uncontrollably as I sobbed. His hands went to my back and rubbed soothing circles against my skin as he cooed words of meaningless support, knowing that neither of us cared what he was saying, as long as I realized he was there. He was there and I was with him.
He kissed the side of my face softly; lingering touches that I could barely feel, but his breath wisped across my skin as I cried. I cried for Ray, for Jamia, for the relationship that I lost, for the one I had gained. For Mikey, for Gerard, for me, for the kids that were dead. For our life and our comfort and that girl who died in my arms because somewhere, her family was missing her. Her friends were missing her. But it hurt most that I didn't know If they were even still alive. Alive enough to miss their daughter, their friend, their sister, their girlfriend. I knew nothing.
Gerard remained silent, but continued to pull me closer until I couldn't feel anything but the warmth of his bare skin, tanned in places, pale in others. I racked my brain furiously, insanely, trying to figure out a way to go deeper than his skin; to get beneath him; to complete us and be a part of something I had never felt, never known, never wanted. I knew the moment his skin left mine I would be in want. In need. Desire. Agony. Ache. That I would miss him when he's standing next to me, hidden behind proper society as interview after interview passed effortlessly and without incident. That I would act like a ADHD child just to get my mind off of my itching fingertips. That I would burn next to him, unable to touch him.
I cried until my throat was sore. Until my eyes hurt and stung and it only felt good to blink. Until the water turned lukewarm and all of our filth was long down the drain, resting with my resistance towards him and his fear of rejection towards me. His fingers lowered to hit mine, merging them into connecting knots of bones and skin and nerves. I raised my head, feeling slightly dizzy from my tears, and he leant in to touch my lips tenderly to his.
"Are you cold?" he whispered against me, subtly asking me if I was ready to get out.
I wasn't. Never. I wanted to stay and be with him. I didn't want to face the reality of what was waiting for us on the other side of that doorway: the small fragile body of Gerard's brother, smirking like he was finally able to understand what he was to me. I didn't want to remember that everyone was gone; that Ray was bit; that I was some sort of fucking savoir.
I put my head to his chest again, letting the water hit my back and run down it; the cooler water actually felt nice. Soothed the burn. His flesh still comforting when I shook my head against him. He sighed softly and pressed himself against the far end of the shower, letting his body slowly slide to the bottom of the tub, taking me with him, one hand holding mine and the other draped across my back.
And at the bottom of that motel bathroom shower, my arms clutched possessively around him as our legs tangled together, I drifted in and out of sleep as cool water rained down upon our bodies, splattering like blood onto the white textured surface. Like the murder before the crime scene.
If I closed my eyes long enough, I could almost picture our mutilated bodies.
And at that point, it didn't seem so strange.