Stranded in Washington hours before a show in Vancouver, Bob is forced to call an old friend for a ride. She brings with her a new side to Bob nobody has seen before, and a past nobody imagined wou...
The story is set from Frank's point of view.
Disclaimer: I do not own or claim to own My Chemical Romance or any of it's affiliates. The following is fiction, and I do not claim any of it to be true. I have no slanderous or malitious intent. However, I do own all other fictional characters & this plot.
A lot can happen in a few short days,
Day 1 : The most enigmatic Mermaid in Washington State.
“I don’t.. Think I can fix it. I mean, if we had something to jump it from..” Bob straightened up, one hand on the small of his back as it clicked back in place after leaning over the engine for almost twenty minutes. He used a corner of his black t-shirt to rub the motor oil from his fingers, and somehow, the oil was blacker than the fabric, leaving dark stripes along the hem.
“..Maybe if we got someone to pull over?” Mikey asked, glancing up and down the deserted straight as if him looking could summon the traffic that hadn’t been there since the bus broke down forty minutes earlier.
“If you can find someone to pull over, go ahead. How long did Tony say for the tow guys to get here?” Bob asked, looking around for the illusive driver.
“They’re two hours away, at least, and it could be another two before they get the big enough truck..”
“Fuck.” Was Gerard’s addition to the conversation, as he threw a burnt out cigarette to the ground and crushed it beneath the heel of his shoe. “I’m such a fucking idiot.”
I cringed. He’d taken to doing this recently. “No, you’re not.” And I’d taken to reassuring him. “We all wanted to stay for a bit – nobody protested when the crew said they’d let us catch up.”
“Can’t we reach them anyway?”
“They’re already in Vancouver, and unloading.” Ray added as he joined our small congregation of hope that maybe Bob could fix it. We all knew now, though, that Bob couldn’t. So I’m not really sure what we were.
“What’s up?” Mikey asked, and I had to turn my head around for a few moments to figure out he was talking to Bob, and even then it took me a moment or two longer to realize that Bob was wearing an uncertain expression. I was so glad Mikey was back. None of us noticed anything about each other while he was gone.
“Just..” His lips twisted to the right, and I knew from the tightening in his jaw that he was chewing on the inside of his mouth. “I know a mechanic in Port Angeles. She could probably get us over the border and then get the bus back to her garage to fix it up..”
“Well what are you waiting for? Go! Call her!” Gerard flapped, his dark mood replaced with one of childish excitement.
“I.. Maybe she..” Bob was almost stammering. I didn’t need a hint from Mikey to notice how unlike him this was. “No.” He let out a long breath, and the older Way flinched. “No, it’s okay. I’ll call her.” Gerard was placated, and Bob took his cell phone from his pocket, flicking it open and walking away. I didn’t need Mikey to notice that was odd, either. One of the things we liked so much about Bob in the first place was that he had nothing to hide. He said what he meant, and he didn’t care who heard.
I lit up a cigarette as he walked away, and it wasn’t finished by the time he got back.
“She’s on her way.” He mumbled, sitting down next to me on the guard rail and offering no more information about the mechanic.
“How long?” Ray asked, standing up from where he’d been leaning against the bus door.
“Fifty minutes, maybe.”
“I’ll go tell Tony to call off the tow truck.” I watched Bob nod towards Ray as he tugged a crushed packet of cigarettes from his pocket and flipped it open, never once making eye contact with anything but his knees, and his fingers as they pulled the foil from the pack. I offered Bob a box of matches when he started his search for a lighter – I’d lent mine to one of the sound guys and not yet got it back, so I was stuck with the Bryant & May’s I’d stolen from Mikey. He’d probably go nuts when he found out I had them – he’d been trying to learn to light one on the calluses on his fingertips. Bob was obviously aware of Mikey’s current task, a slow smirk lighting up his features as his blue eyes sneaked to look over at what I was holding out.
“Thief.” He muttered as he took the box.
“Beneficiary.” I replied, taking another drag from my cigarette and leaning back. He let out a breathy laugh around trying to light up, and threw the box back. “So why were you so reluctant to call your mechanic friend?” Obviously, subtle is not my forte.
“Could have been awkward.” He said softly, turning the cigarette between his fingers.
“Oh, Bob, you’ve really gotta start calling girls after you sleep with them.” I paused for barely a second before; “Though, I don’t really see you with some butch mechanic..”
“I have not slept with her.”
“Wow. She’s that ugly?” I snorted, noticing the emphasis.
“No. It’s not that. We’re,” He paused for a moment, smirking at what I guessed must be some inside joke. “We’re kind of related.”
“Oh.” I suddenly understood. Bob didn’t really get on with any strain of his step-dad’s family, or most of his mom’s or.. Basically, Bob didn’t really get on with his family.
She only took forty minutes. I have to say I was impressed. We were quite a ways out from Port Angeles – she must have driven like a hell hound. When she got out of the cab of the tow truck she’d arrived in, though, I realized why Bob had been so quick to deny she was ugly. The small, slender woman seemed to be made from hundreds of perfectly sharp edges, rounded off by long, smooth limbs – unusually long, for someone of such short stature. Her angular, lightly freckled face was molded into a smile that lit up every one of her features warmly, even the lethal looking angles of her high cheekbones.
“Need a hand, there?” She called, and for a moment, it struck me as odd that she spoke with the exact same unusually soft Chicago accent that Bob did. I suppose I’d expected her to be a bit more.. Well, a bit more Washington.
“Hey, Mer.” I could hear the smile in Bob’s voice as he stepped up off the low guardrail and started over to where she was standing. She slammed the door of her truck, and I was surprised to see a taut, limber muscle push against the skin on her arm – it didn’t look like muscles so strong could possibly be wrapped around the bones inside her delicate frame.
“Hey, stranger!” She replied, and I didn’t think I was imagining things when her greeting started with a laughing ‘Rar’ as they embraced. I couldn’t see any of the awkwardness Bob had been expecting. “So what time have you gotta be up in Vancouver?”
“Soon as we can. Show’s not till eight, but the earlier the better.”
“Know what’s wrong with your bus?” She asked, leaning around Bob to look at it, flashing me a quick smile before looking back to the open engine.
“I was hoping it would just be the spark plugs, but after looking at it I’m pretty sure one of the overheads is blown, too.” As Bob replied, she reached up, sweeping her ash blond dreadlocks into a ponytail, snapping them into place with a rubber band. I noticed as she completed the movement that one of her forearms – the left – was heavily, colorfully tattooed from elbow to wrist.
“Man, what the fuck’d you do to it?” She smirked, skirting around Bob and walking over to the bus with a steady lope any dancer would be jealous of.
“I didn’t do anything!” Bob grunted, following her to lean against the headlights as she crouched in front of the open flap, taking a mini Maglite from the back pocket of the steel blue, all-in-one coveralls she wore with the sleeves and jacket tied around her hips. The shoulders of her oil smudged white t-shirt crinkled beneath the elastic of her button on suspenders as she leaned forward, gently picking apart a few wires with long, supple fingers.
“I won’t place bets without a proper fucking look, but from this leak I’d say it was a valve, not the whole camshaft..” I started to tune out, but not before noticing she used the word ‘fuck’ like Bob did – punctuation.
Ray appeared from the back of the bus as I gazed listlessly around the damp mountainside road we were stranded on, starting towards me and pushing handfuls of his frizzy mane from his eyes. Damp was almost as bad as humid, when it came to Toro haircare. In celebration of Mikey’s return, I thought I might manhandle him into straightening at least a bit of it for that night’s show.
“Hey, Frankie.” He smiled warmly, crunching his long legs up as small as they would go in order to take a seat beside me. “Wow, trust Bob to know the hottest mechanic on the Olympic Peninsula.” I didn’t think hot really fitted her. She was so unusual that it didn’t sound right.
I chuckled anyway. “Don’t worry, Torosaurus, he said they were related. Well. Kind of.”
“Kind of related? Huh.” It wasn’t quite rhetorical, but I knew he wasn’t looking for an answer, either.
“Does that truck belong to Bob’s mechanic friend or Tony’s insurance people?” Gerard asked, tramping down the bus steps, lit cigarette drooping from his fingertips, Mikey in his wake.
“Bob’s friend.” I replied, nodding my head over to where she was elbow deep in engine, chatting with Bob in mechanic around the flashlight between her teeth. Gerard’s eyebrows shot up when he spotted her, and he turned to look at me, then back to her, making a little ‘Hmm’ noise. Mikey stepped around his brother, sitting down on my free side and taking my hand into his. I wasn’t completely sure why he did it, but I was completely sure it gave me butterflies. He tucked both of our hands beneath his thigh, shuffling closer so it wasn’t noticeable at all.
“Can she fix it?” Gerard asked.. Well, me, for some reason.
“I don’t know! I can only understand the ands, buts and ifs!” I reply, almost indignantly. Shouldn’t he know by now I am not a car person?
“.. I don’t see why this would have gone unless your timing belt..”
Bob’s friend’s voice filtered back in, if a little wonkily, as Gerard moved towards them, preparing to interrupt what was probably a conversation, but sounded more like a long exchange of facts.
“Hello!” Gee said happily, prompting Bob to look towards him and the mechanic to tilt her head to do the same, tipping her jaw a little so the flashlight wasn’t aimed right at him. “Any major problems?” He asked, and I noticed that ever since the mechanic had turned her one blue, one green eyes on him, his fingers had tightened around the filter on his cigarette.
Bob leaned over the kneeling mechanic, taking the flashlight from her mouth with two fingers, switching it off and holding it by the bulb end a little way from his body.
“Thanks,” she smiled to him, licking her wind chapped lips and turning back to Gerard. “You have issues with your timing belt, a faulty valve, and one of the runners on the double overhead is offset. That’s why you broke down. Other than that you’ve got an almost blown out spark plug and are in desperate need of an oil change. I’m surprised you’ve survived this far.. Does your driver completely ignore the dash?” Her head whipped around as a blue spark crackled from inside the engine, in which half of both her arms were still embedded. Bob grabbed her right elbow in one hand, tugging her hand out of the engine in one smooth movement, revealing the whole oil blackened forearm. She took a few moments longer to untangle her left arm from the cables it was woven between, but as the engine shuddered to life, her left hand and wrist were still inside the greasy machine. Things went a little slow motion as Bob grabbed for her shoulder, popping two wires as he dragged the grease slickened limb out, the engine cutting out the second the wires disconnected.
“Hey! What’d you do? It was working!” Tony shouted from inside the bus, and I wasn’t the only one who felt an irrational spark of anger at his ignorance. For all he knew, it was still Bob poking around inside the engine - did he not care?
“Hey, Tony, don’t start it again!” Ray shouted, the first to react – taking away the slow motion, underwater feeling and pushing us back into real time.
After a brief, shaky check that all her fingers still worked, the mechanic shot up from where she had been sat back on her heels, balling her right hand into a fist and hitting the front of the bus. Hard. I watched the thick glass windscreen shake with the impact, and then both of Bob’s hands move to lie gently on the glass, fingers apart and palms wide to stop the pane trembling itself to shattering point, and was again, surprised by the hidden strength inside her. She darted past Gerard, light on her feet, which I only realized now were bare, and started for the bus steps, her sharp, striking features pulled into a mutinous expression, and her mismatched eyes sparking with anger.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?!” She yelled, managing to get onto the first step before Bob was behind her, one hand closed around both the elastic bands of her suspenders, dragging her backwards like she was a puppy who needed to be restrained. I hadn’t moved at all. Mikey’s hand gripped mine a little tighter.
“Calm down, Mer.” Bob murmured, closing his left hand above his right, bunching the suspenders together firmly between her shoulder blades as she struggled against him.
It probably would have been comical if I wasn’t still in shock from seeing someone nearly have their hands fried off inside a bus engine.
“I had my hand in the cylinder! What were you fucking thinking?!” Fuck was more than punctuation, now. “You can’t have not noticed that there were people working on the engine!”
“Don’t worry about it, Tony, we’re all okay. C’mon, Mer, relax.” Bob insisted, keeping a strong hold on her suspenders with his left hand and grabbing the waistband of her coveralls with the other. She stopped struggling when she realized she wasn’t going to escape, letting her shoulders droop and putting one hand up to her face, rubbing one temple with her fingertips, sure to leave an oil smudge.
“Is she completely insane?” Gerard hissed in my direction. Again, I wondered why he would expect me to know anything about her. I’d only met her ten minutes before he had – and even then, I only knew her name because Bob kept using it. Mer. The French for sea. Or maybe it was short for something.
“Okay, Cory, I’m okay.” I frowned a little. I’d never, ever heard someone use Bob’s middle name. As far as I was aware, he didn’t like it. For some reason, though, he didn’t seem to mind her using it.
“You haven’t been mad in a while, then.” He smiled as he let her go, allowing her to turn back to face him. Tony appeared in the doorway of the bus, and I felt obliged, despite my earlier hint of anger, to make him go back, stay away from this woman who was strangely over-angry with him. I nodded my head a little at him, but angled towards the bus. He obliged, his patent dress shoes disappearing back up the stairs last.
“No. I haven’t had the freedom to be. Guess it feels more secure to be back with my..”
“Don’t go getting sentimental on me, semi-mental.” Bob interrupted, tapping a finger against one of her shark fin sharp cheekbones and smiling, before any of us could hear what he was to her. I was interested to find out – they were so, so similar, and so, so different in the same breath.
“So, I could have onset that overhead for the time being if our genius up there,” she nodded her head back towards the bus. “hadn’t tried to have my fucking fingers off, but tugging out those electrics makes it a bigger job – so I guess I’m giving you a ride to Vancouver.” She smiled again, easy, lazy, and Bob nodded at Gerard from behind her back – conveying She’s fine to drive and Trust me in one simple incline of his head. She pulled a piece of rag from inside the pant pocket of her coveralls and scrubbed it up and down her arms, rolling it in between her fingers a few times and returning it to her pocket considerably greasier, and completely blackened. “There’s two free seats up front and four in the back. Check the seat before you sit in it, though, or you might end up with a GI Joe up your ass.” She smirked a little, and straightened out her t-shirt, which I only then noticed had an almost complete crossword printed on the front, the only uncompleted word being ‘Alc-h-l’, with the caption underneath saying, ‘Sometimes Alcohol is the answer.’ I allowed myself a smile at this, thinking about all the awards parties we’d missed because Gerard didn’t think he could be in a room with so much alcohol and hold out, and of course, as his closest friends, we wanted to stand by him.
Apparently, I was destined to be the one sharing a seat with GI Joe.
Gerard discovered a tiny plush Kermit in the crease between the seat and back of his place beside me, and I thought this was mightily unfair. I would have appreciated plush Kermit far more than the hard plastic six pack and creepy little rubber fingers of America’s favorite action doll.
I was right about Mer’s driving, though – and her name. Firstly, she drove like someone was setting fire to the highway behind us, but with a precision that made me trust her, despite my fear to glance over at the needle on the speedometer. And second, her name. After we had all found a place and strapped in (except Bob, who suffered from claustrophobia when it came to seatbelts, but I could see his fingers itching to put one on as we drove away – he’d obviously not remembered or not before experienced this woman’s driving), she had finally introduced herself to the group, dropping her name casually like it was the most normal christening in the world. From a car full of Gerard, Frank, Michael, Raymond and Tony, there were obviously a few raised eyebrows. Bob, as suspected, already knew that Mer was short for Mermaid.
She chatted away in the driver’s seat, masking the silence born from fear of her driving, and we slowly learnt of her two sons, (the reason for GI Joe and plush Kermit) Syler and Jacoby. She only mentioned them, though, after Bob asked how Syler was doing. I didn’t fail to notice that, or that he only asked questions about Syler, the older of the two. That was when my curiosity came about. If they were really related, why would Bob only be interested in one of her sons?
She never mentioned her last name.
We arrived at the venue in time for our already late scheduled sound check, but didn’t get the chance to run back to the hotel before the show. What would have been the point, anyway? All our luggage was still in the bus – we just had stage clothes and the vague semblance of an overnight kit shoved into our pillowcases and Mikey’s hiking rucksack. I wondered briefly after realizing that I’d left my best eyeliner pencil on the bus, how Mermaid was getting on with the engine. She’d mentioned before we arrived that her pickup was far from front heavy enough to tow it back to her garage in Port Angeles, so she’d have to fix it on the mountain road it was stuck on, trying to complete before the impending dark and working by some battery operated flood lights if she didn’t make it.
I knew I wasn’t the only one who glanced up at the overcast night sky fifteen minutes before show time, and wondered if she had managed to beat the dark.
After the show, Bob kept his cell phone in his hands, fingering it nervously, not just leaving it on a counter for anybody to answer like he usually did. She’d promised to call once she was done with the bus, to say whether she’d managed to fix it completely and would be driving it up to us tonight with her apprentice following her for the ride back, or if she’d only managed to patch it over, and would need someone to come and collect it from her garage the next morning. She’d been adamant it would be finished by 11am the next day at the latest, a kindness meaning we’d not have to miss a single show.
We paired off as usual at the hotel, earning the same surprised look from the receptionist as we did from every receptionist who recognized us. We were rich enough by far to have a hotel room each, but still chose to pair off the way we always had. Gerard and Mikey, of course, Ray and Brian, mastermind and manager, and me and Bob. We only really had our own rooms if we had girlfriends or (more recently) wives with us, or if our roommate of the pairings few people guessed had one of the two with them.
Somewhere along the line, there’d been a mistake in the reservations, leaving Gerard, Mikey, Ray and Brian in conjoining rooms, most of the crew in the rooms surrounding them, and myself and Bob on the floor above, opposite the lighting manager and his programmer.
When everyone but myself, Bob, Josef the programmer and Klaus the monstrously tall lighting manager exited the elevator, Mikey shared a warm smile with me, waggling his fingers in a goofy, Mikey sort of way as the metal doors groaned shut. Bob nudged me and moved his eyebrows up and down, biting his lips against a smile. Obviously, I was not the only one who noticed Mikey’s extra affection.
Our room was typical hotel. The bedcovers matched the curtains, the sheets matched the carpet, and the ancient coffee maker nailed to a table between two armchairs that matched the lampshades looked like it was poised to burst into flame. I was quite relieved to see the obligatory fire extinguisher (even if it did match the plastic wastepaper basket).
“Mind if I get the first shower?” Bob asked me, ditching his stuff on the bed nearest the door. He was thoughtful, like that. Asking me first, and leaving the bed by the window for me. Usually we alternated who got first shower, but I preferred second as it was – it just saved me from switching between scalding my ass and freezing it while I tried to work out how to use the dial.
“Knock yourself out.” I replied, tipping my pillowcase of things out over an obnoxiously patterned bedspread.
Six minutes after the water started to run, Bob’s phone, left alone for the first time since our breakdown, started to vibrate on the counter by the TV. I bit at my lip for a few seconds, wondering whether or not to answer it, and then realized I was being stupid. I’d answered Bob’s phone hundreds of times before – everyone had. He didn’t really care who answered it, only that we passed on the message eventually. I leapt off the bed to answer it before it rang itself out, pushing answer as I brought it to my ear.
“Cory?” The voice on the other end asked, disbelieving. I faltered. This was not a voice which held similarities, like Bob and Mermaid’s – this was Bob’s voice. No doubt about it. Again, I was slightly confused by the use of his middle name.
“Bob?” I asked, coming to no other conclusion and glancing at the bathroom door. For a second, I wished Bob sung in the shower like Gee did – just so I could be certain of if he was actually in there, or if he had, for some reason, escaped the bathroom with the water still on, gone downstairs and called me from a.. I checked. Washington number, to remind me of his middle name.
Well, stranger things are sure to have happened sometime.
“This is Grant Bryar – who’re you?” Bob’s voice asked me, and I wasn’t surprised to hear the matching surnames.
“Frank!” I replied, then realized he might want me to embellish. “I’m Bob’s friend. He’s in the shower right now.. Do you want me to pass on a message?” As if on cue, the water turned off. “Oh, the water’s shut off. If you hold on a minute you can talk to him.”
“Okay. Thanks, Frank.”
“Alright.” It was creepy to be listening to someone who sounded so much like my friend. I smirked to myself as the far-fetched notion that Bob was hiding his secret identical twin from us floated into my conscious.
“So how do you know.. Bob?” Grant asked me, hesitating over the name Bob, and I suspected he had been about to say Cory again.
“We’re in a band together.” I replied, wondering how distantly he must be related to Bob to not know about My Chem.
“My Chemical Romance. You’re in that too?” So maybe he had heard of us. Just not explicitly.
“Sweet. He always said he’d be a drummer.” And, again, as if on cue, said drummer exited the bathroom, black sweats hanging low on his hips, hands vigorously rubbing a towel over his dark blond hair.
“Okay, he’s out. I’ll pass you over.”
“Nice talking.” Grant replied, and I held the phone out to Bob.
“Grant Bryar,” I said, making it into a question.
“What?” Bob’s head shot up, staring at the cell phone I was holding out. He snatched it up from my hand, dropping his towel and using one palm to cover the mouthpiece. “You talked to him? What did he say?!”
I’d never seen Bob react quite so hysterically.
“Nothing! He just wanted to talk to you!” I replied, continuing when Bob kept staring at me. “He mentioned how you always said you were going to be a drummer. I only picked up a few seconds before you came out here!” My blond friend gave me a small frown, then lifted the phone to his ear. “Frazer?” He asked.
“Grant,” I corrected.
“Fraze, what’s up?” Bob turned away from me, making his way towards his bed.
So suddenly we found that there was a group of people in Washington who knew Bob as Cory, one of whom introduced himself as Grant but was actually called Frazer, and the other bizarrely named Mermaid. And judging by the voice, Grant/Frazer was Bob’s secret identical twin.
I picked up my shampoo and sweats, locking myself in the vaguely steamy bathroom. This was all far too confusing.
“So who’s Grant?” I asked Bob when I exited the shower a quarter of an hour later to find the drummer lying across his bed, torso propped up on the headboard and his phone on the nightstand.
“He’s.. An old friend.” Bob replied, not looking away from the TV, which he had muted and tuned to CNN.
“Secret identical twin?” I asked, flipping on the coffee machine a little warily and rooting through my belongings for the clean t-shirt I knew I’d brought.
“Something like that.” He didn’t bother to force a smile.
“How does he know Mermaid?” I risked, only for Bob to practically break his spine jerking to a sitting position.
“Mermaid. How does Grant know her?”
“You did not say he talked about Mermaid!” Bob almost yelled, staring at me like I’d just aimed a rifle between his eyes.
“Whoa! He didn’t! I just figured it for myself, you know – he asked for Cory when I answered the phone, and Mermaid called you Cory!”
“Great work, Sherlock.” Bob snapped, and my mind went reeling. He did not normally act like this.
“Christ, Bob, why are you all antsy?!”
“Fuck,” He pushed the heels of his hands against his eyes, moving them to his temples and then sitting there, hunched over, elbows on his knees, face in his hands. “I’m sorry.” His shoulders heaved as he sighed heavily into his wrists, and I moved over to him, ignoring the coffee machine as it buzzed to a halt and started to pour liquid into the cup beneath it. I knelt carefully beside him on the bed, wrapping my arms around his shoulders and rubbing one of them gently as his broad, warm body leaned into me.
“Don’t worry about it.”
“I’m just fucking freaked out y’know. I haven’t even spoken to Mer in about four years – she’s had her second fucking kid since I last said a word to her.. And Grant! Jesus Christ. I can’t even begin to..” His hands moved back over his eyes, and I got the horrible revelation that Bob, nothing-bothers-me, take-no-shit Bob was /crying/.