Word Count: 16,600
Summary: A MCR AU where Ray has his own gardening firm, and one day he does a job for the Ways.
Huge thanks go to my beta readers, sperrywink, ephemera_pop and msktrnanny I couldn't do this without them. I've changed things since they've seen this story, so all mistakes are mine and mine alone.
The alarm begins to bleep at six am.
Ray groans and pulls his pillow over his head, trying to block out the incessant noise. It feels like he’s fallen asleep only moments before and he wants nothing more than to hit snooze and slip back into sleep.
He doesn’t. Instead he opens his eyes and blinks against the sunlight that’s flooding into the room. Kicking off his blanket, Ray pushes himself up in bed and swings his legs to the floor, dislodging the textbook that was resting against his side. It’s going to be another hot day; the temperature is already rising, scorching away the last cool of the night.
It’s painfully bright outside and Ray squints as he stretches then runs his hand over his hair. As always it’s a disaster, an explosion of frizzy curls that are sweat-damp against his neck. Grimacing, he stands, scratching at his belly and then slides his hand down to his balls as he makes for his bathroom.
It takes seconds to wiggle out of his shorts, yawning as he pees and flushes and reaches out to switch on the shower. Ray yelps as he steps inside the cubical, the water barely tepid as it hits his skin, but he also welcomes the chill, the rivulets of water that slide down his shoulders and back. Tipping his head forward, he drenches his hair, shakes his head and spreading water everywhere as he reaches for his shampoo.
Squeezing a blob into his hand, he works it into his hair, fingers catching on knots as he washes and rinses and squeezes. His hair always takes the longest in the mornings, taking time to wash and condition, but once it’s done, lying cold and clammy against his neck, Ray eases into the remainder of his routine. Body washed, teeth brushed, spitting the toothpaste down the drain, jerking off with unhurried leisurely strokes before beginning the rest of his day.
Appointment book open in front of him on the breakfast bar, he bites into his slice of toast as he double-checks each booking, mentally calculating the route from one to another.
The schedule for the day is a busy one. Five lawns to mow, two walls of ivy to clip, a bunch of general tidy ups and a pond clean. Ray has left that one for last. Pond cleaning is always messy, and he knows he’ll be coming home drenched and covered in gunk.
When the back door opens, he looks up, smiling a greeting as Frank walks in.
Frank has been working for Ray for almost two years, helping out after school and through each long summer, changing from a gawky kid to the person Ray knows now, confident and competent, ready to work throughout the summer before heading off to the local college in the fall. Today Frank’s dressed in cut off jeans and a sleeveless shirt, gardeners do it outdoors scrawled in red across the front. He’s dyed a matching red stripe in his hair and is wearing scuffed work boots, messy scarlet skulls painted on the toes.
It’s a typical Frank gardening outfit, and Ray stuffs the remainder of his toast in his mouth and picks up a second slice, using it to point toward Frank’s feet.
“Like the boots.”
“I did them this morning.” Frank pulls out a stool and sits, plucking the toast from Ray’s hand. “I thought about going traditional with white, but the red matched.”
“Good call,” Ray says, resigned as his toast is eaten in three quick bites. “Hungry?”
Frank grins around a mouthful of chewed up toast. “Aren’t I always?”
Ray narrows his eyes and taps his fingers on the counter. “Well, there was that time when….” In a flash of movement, Frank stands, yelling as he charges and leaps at Ray’s back. Well used to sudden Frank attacks, Ray plants his heels against the ground and turns his head, and is faced with a full on Frank grin before he presses a kiss against Ray’s cheek.
“I’m still hungry. Take me to the toaster, minion.”
“You know, you could walk yourself,” Ray says, but he’s already standing and locking his knees, Frank clinging to his back like some kind of tree frog, one that giggles and nips at Ray’s ear as they walk across the kitchen to the remains of the loaf of bread.
It takes some careful movements, and a dicey moment when they both nearly pitch forward onto their heads, but Ray manages to lean forward enough that Frank can grab two slices of bread from the loaf on the counter and drop them into the toaster. Then they shuffle back to the breakfast bar, where Frank finally lets go, dropping down with an audible thump of ass against stool.
“My savior,” Frank says, his grin wide and impossible to resist.
Ray rolls his eyes and hides the traitorous curl of his own mouth by gathering his hair in one hand, deftly maneuvering a band from his wrist and twisting it, so his hair is tied against the nape of his neck. It’s cooler like that, but more importantly, it’s his own distinction between work time and relaxation, a signal that the day’s work is about to begin.
Humming under his breath, Ray picks up his backpack and places the appointment book and his accounting textbook inside. Every day he plans to read a chapter during his lunch break, but most days that just isn’t possible, a combination of piled up work and the attentions of Frank meaning his text books tended to remain unread. Still, he adds it anyway, along with a wrapped pile of sandwiches and a flask of iced tea.
“Is Matt meeting us there?” Frank asks, his words measured and careful. He’s buttering his toast, but Ray doesn’t need to see Frank’s face to know he’s frowning. It’s Frank’s default expression when they talk about Matt lately. Both Frank and Ray knowing Matt isn’t working out, but neither wanting to be the one to finally say the words.
Of course, in the end this is Ray’s business, and it’s his responsibility to deal with any problems, and Matt is a problem. The thing is, he’s also a friend.
“Yeah,” Ray says, and fastened his bag. “He’s picking up the gas for the mower. It needs filling before we can use it.”
Frank puts the knife in the sink, the butter back in the fridge. The words he wants to say are apparent in the sharp angles of his shoulders, the way he bites savagely into his toast. Ray sighs and slings his bag on his shoulder, saying nothing as he heads outside. Frank follows close behind.
Gerard wakes tangled in the mess of his blankets. Kicking his legs, he twists in bed until he’s lying on his side, face away from the damp patch on his pillow, and looks at the world through the lank strands of his hair. Not that there’s much to see. His shelves, filled with an assortment of dust-covered loved junk, his clothes thrown on the ground.
Occasionally, Gerard is appalled by the mess, but mostly, he just doesn’t care, drifting through life not thinking at all.
He moves when his bladder protests, hacking out coughs as he crawls out of bed, tripping over his pants as he makes for the bathroom. He pees, glances at himself in the water-spotted mirror and leaves before he’s forced to face his own reflection. To see himself looking back and be forced to admit that he isn’t okay. Not at all.
It’s hunger that forces Gerard upstairs. The house is quiet; it always is since his parents went away. They’d left on a Monday morning, two days after Mikey officially left school, driving away with waves and promises to call. They don’t, and Gerard knows they won’t return. They’ve got another life now, leaving Mikey and Gerard in this house, inhabiting the space like two co-dependent ghosts, held here but not living at all.
Gerard’s hands tremble as he opens the fridge. It’s almost empty, the shelves holding a carton of milk, a bowl of tuna, and half a takeout pizza. Gerard picks up a slice, bites into stale dough and rubbery cheese. He swallows, washes the slice down with a glass of water and eases himself into one of the kitchen chairs.
There’s a pile of mail stacked at the edge of the table. The envelopes torn open and the contents exposed. Bills mostly, and Gerard remembers Mikey sliding into his bed a few nights ago. Mikey had been shivering as he wrapped himself in blankets and talked about utility bills and cutting back and how his wages at Eyeball just weren’t cutting it.
Gerard had felt bad then. He’d tucked his brother against his side and lay awake long into the night, promising himself that tomorrow he’d go outside, get a job and contribute in some way.
That tomorrow has never come. If Gerard is honest with himself, he thinks it never will.
Trailing his hands over the envelopes, Gerard dislodges a sheet of paper. It’s covered in sums, the numbers black and precise against the white page. He runs his finger across each neat figure, traces the curves, the straight edges and imagines the eights wearing capes and crowns made of thorns. The ones breathing fire as they battle the threes. He can see it easily, and his fingers itch to pick up a pen, pull these images from his imagination and make them real.
He looks for a pen, but there’s none to be found, and the urge dies, withers away leaving behind nothing but the need to sleep.
“He’s not coming,” Frank says flatly.
He’s sitting on the wall that edges the driveway swinging his legs, the heels of his boots thudding against the stone. Each dull impact seems to resonate in Ray’s head, amplifying the headache that has hovered for the last hour. Glancing at his watch, Ray looks along the street, hoping that this time he’ll see Matt’s car.
“I can drive to the store, it won’t take long,” Frank says, and slides to the ground. “You can get a start on the beds.”
“I don’t think so. No driving the van until you pass your test.” Deftly dodging Frank’s grabbing hands; Ray pulls the keys to his van out of his pocket. He’d bought it second hand years before, paying outright with cash earned after a summer of mowing lawns. Since then the business has grown, expanding year by year, and each time he sees, Ray’s Gardening Service in block print against the blue paint, Ray can’t help a prickle of pride. He’s worked his ass off for this van, and the tools safely contained inside.
Unconcerned at the rebuff, Frank shades his eyes and looks up at the tree that grow in the corner the back yard, its branches swaying high above the ground. “I could start pruning the ivy.”
Ray shakes his head. Frank loves climbing, and can climb the highest ladder and make it look effortless. He also has a habit of plummeting to the ground. In Frank’s book, personal safely isn’t an issue, and he holds an un-swaying belief that his body will always bounce back, whatever abuse he puts it through. Ray isn’t so sure, and two trips to the ER led to a new rule. No one is allowed to be alone while working more than a few feet above the ground.
“Or I could start to weed the beds,” Frank says easily, giving Ray a grin. “Let me get the tools and you go get the gas. Otherwise we’ll never catch up today.”
It’s the only logical plan. They’re falling behind and Ray isn’t about to let Frank drive the van. Swinging the key on his index finger, he looks up the street. “If Matt comes…”
“I’ll tell him you want to speak to him.” Brow furrowed, Frank looks up, and Ray knows this is it. The line has been crossed.
“Yeah, that.” Ray closes his fingers around the keys and walks away. When he looks back, Frank is already kneeling, a trowel in his hand as he leans forward, examining the flower beds for weeds.
Ray finally fires Matt late that night.
It’s a painful meeting, filled with see-through promises and pathetic excuses, but Ray steels himself by remembering how Frank had looked as he was dropped off at home. Soaked through and quiet after scrambling to complete his own job and take on half of Matt’s workload too.
Now Ray stands outside of Matt’s house, and mourns the end of a friendship as he picks up the Ray’s Gardening Service ball-cap that Matt threw before slamming the door. Twisting it in his hands, Ray watches as curtains are closed and lights switched on and he leans against the van, exhausted and painfully aware that he owns a fully booked business that needs more than two workers to survive.
The only option is to hire someone new, and he pinches the bridge of his nose as he thinks about the low wages he can offer, the lack of benefits and long seasonal hours. Never mind finding someone who knows the difference between a flower and a weed.
Ray sighs. He’ll ask around tomorrow, put a help wanted ad in the local paper. That’s all he can do.
It’s in the early hours when Mikey comes home.
Gerard’s on his bed, lying on top of the covers and staring at the ceiling when he hears the sound of the front door opening, footsteps, and then Mikey’s walking downstairs.
He’s wearing tight jeans and a blue t-shirt that clings to his body, darkening at the curve of his back and under his arms. His hair is teased into fullness, and he wipes the back of his hand across his forehead, takes off his glasses and rubs the bridge of his nose.
“Have you eaten? I could make toast.”
“I’m good,” Gerard says, and he watches as Mikey comes close, sitting on the bed with no regard for personal space at all. Mikey curls up one leg so his sharp knee pokes against Gerard’s side and this close he smells of cigarettes and alcohol, and he’s riding a buzz that blows his pupils and makes him flex his fingers against his thighs. It reminds Gerard of before, when Mikey took bass lessons and would come home with band aid wrapped fingers and beaming smiles.
Now Mikey’s job is to listen to others, but his love of music is still there. He shares the fragments of tunes, the melodies in his head and pretends not to notice when Gerard can’t bring himself to care.
“The band sucked tonight.” Mikey snorts dismissively and bends forward so he can pull off his shoe. It clunks to the floor, followed quickly by a damp sock and Mikey moves his leg so he can wiggle his toes in Gerard’s face. The smell is immediate, and Gerard pretend-gags, and pushes at Mikey’s leg until his foot is safely on the floor. That burst of activity over, Gerard moves back into place.
It’s been a bad day. The sadness almost overwhelming and Gerard has spent the afternoon and evening lying still, trying to keep breathing through the relentless pressure that burrows bone deep. Sometimes he imagines that his body is riddled with black ribbons, choking and tightening until it’s all he can do to move. Other times he can’t think at all.
“We got a letter, about the yard,” Mikey says. He’s bent forward, unfastening his other shoe and his t-shirt is pulled tight, highlighting the knobbles of his spine. “We need to tidy it up, the grass at least.” He straightens and looks at Gerard, says hesitantly, “it won’t take long.”
Gerard knows what his brother is asking, and he hates himself for even needing to think about this because mowing the lawn is so simple, so easy, and he’s already making excuses to explain away how he’ll fail.
“I’ll try,” he says finally.
Mikey takes off his glasses, tugs at the covers until he can squirm under them, presses himself against Gerard’s body and says, “I know.”
Ray’s sitting on a bench drinking soda when he sees Jepha barging past a group of people, walking into the library with a stack of books in his arms. When Jepha sees Ray wave he nods and abruptly changes direction, heading for the bench. He sits, and Ray is reminded how Jepha always smells of chemicals and sweat. It’s a smell that’s unique to the guy, and Ray knows one day Jepha’s experiments will change the world. If he doesn’t invent a new class of hallucinogenic drug and retire on the profits first.
“Some light reading,” Rays says, and smiles when Jepha sneers and drops the text books to the ground.
“Required summer reading for chemistry,” Jepha says, and kicks at the books with his foot. “I did this shit when I was twelve.”
“Sucks to be you, man.” Ray laughs when Jepha flips him off, and the laughter feels strange, his mouth curled into a smile for the first time in days. Realizing that, his smile slips, and the worry comes rushing back. It’s been almost a week since he let Matt go, and he’s no closer to finding a replacement. Even if they’re willing to accept the wages and lack of benefits, he can’t take on someone who won’t believe that cabbages don’t grow on trees. Or the woman who maintained she could dig in heels and several inch-long nails.
“What’s up?” Jepha asks, sneer still in place, but sounding genuinely interested.
Ray sighs. “I’m looking for someone to help with the gardening business. It’s not going well.”
Jepha nods slightly, considering. “There’s this guy I talk to in the lab. He’s insane, a master at mixing chemicals and seeing what’ll happen. He needs a job.”
Hope takes hold, because while Ray doesn’t know Jepha well, he knows that, despite his outward appearance and attitude, he doesn’t suffer fools and chooses his friends with care. If he’s recommending someone, that someone has to be okay.
“Give him a call,” Jepha says, and bends forward so he can rip a page out of one of the books. Writing a number along the margin, he gives the page to Ray, then stands, walking away without another word.
Draining the remainder of his soda, Ray digs out his cell and calls. Within minutes he’s set up an appointment to meet Bob Bryar the next day.
They meet Bob at the local McDonalds, arriving at seven am, an hour before their first booking of the day.
When they pull into the parking lot, Frank spills out of the van and immediately starts scanning the outside tables, one hand held up to shade his eyes. His hair stripe is dyed purple today, matching his overalls, the legs of which are torn and exposes both of his knees. One strap has fallen off his shoulder, and he impatiently hitches it up as he looks back at Ray. Ray shrugs, he hadn’t asked what Bob looked like, all he can hope is he’ll see the van and approach them first.
He looks at the people who’re sitting outside, eating breakfast and sheltering under huge red umbrellas. Then, finally, someone stands and walks forward. He’s blond, hair shaved short and his nose is burnt red, and when he comes closer Ray sees the muscles in his arms and legs. Ray crosses his fingers, hopes that this is Bob.
The man looks at the van, at Frank and Ray, and Ray can’t help his beaming smile. “Bob, I assume.”
The man, Bob, nods his head and Ray is relieved. Despite knowing they’ve still got an interview to get through, the signs are good, especially when they walk to Bob’s table and he pushes a greasy paper bag toward them and says, “I bought breakfast.”
Immediately Frank sits down and pulls the bag close. He takes out individually wrapped hash browns and egg McMuffins and when Bob pushes a cup of coffee his way, Ray knows. Even if Bob doesn’t know a petal from an acorn he can learn.
Gerard pushes aside a pile of clothes, and sits, Indian style on the floor. Back pressed against his bed, he picks up his pen and pulls a sketch book from under a pile of comics. They slither across the carpet, blocks of vivid colors and lines. Gerard looks at them, at the blank page that’s balanced on his lap and tries to unearth his own imagined designs. He knows they’re there, hidden behind a veil of drugs and apathy and he hates that they slip from his grasp.
Pen against paper, he draws a line, adds more and frantically tries to hold onto the half formed images in his mind. Then he slows, the pen nib digging into the page, hating himself even more for this inability to finish even the simplest thing. Gerard loves drawing, but he knows that in a disconnected way. Like it’s a truth told by others, and Gerard holds onto that, a piece of himself that he can’t really feel.
Listless, he pushes the sketch book to one side, drops the pen onto the floor and pushes himself up. It’s tempting to fall back into bed. Gerard’s tired, sleep pulling him down, but he picks up the note left by Mikey. A sheet of paper and Mikey’s writing, saying Try and do something about the grass. Please.. Stars and music notes decorating each corner and Gerard knows if he could concentrate they’d spell out a song.
Carefully holding the note, he walks upstairs. There’s a crumb filled plate on the kitchen table, a mug with the remains of Mikey’s morning coffee. Picking it up, Gerard swallows, grimacing at the cold thick taste, then heads for the window so he can look outside. It’s bright, and Gerard screws shut his eyes, letting the curtain drop back into place. He knows he won’t be going out. Not today, and knowing that amplifies each pathetic part of his life, the sadness surging as he presses his hands against the counter, knuckles white as he tries to breathe.
It’s Bob’s first day and they’ve been hired to install a pond. It means digging a good sized hole, and Ray rubs his hands down his thighs before picking up his spade, pushing it into the ground. Bob starts digging too, a blue bandanna wrapped around his forehead and his arm muscles flex as he works.
There’s a sense of satisfaction as the hole steadily grows, team work with a hint of competition and Ray feels good, increasing the pace until his muscles burn, especially when Bob matches that pace and then makes it more.
“Okay, I give,” Ray says finally, and he leans forward on his spade, laughing as Bob does the same, satisfaction evident as he wipes at his face, leaving grimy marks across his cheeks.
It’s then Frank strikes. He’s been working on the rest of the garden, dead heading flowers and digging up weeds, and when he comes close he’s holding the hose, intent obvious in the way he’s giggling.
“You’re looking a little grimy there, Bob,” Frank says, and he’s beaming as he squeezes the trigger, squirting a steady stream of water at Bob’s face.
At first Bob does nothing, just stands and gets soaked, his scowl occasionally revealed through the spray. Then he suddenly yells, leaps out of the hole and grabs Frank around the chest before he can even think to run away. Grabbing hold of Frank’s shorts, Bob lifts, and Frank is laughing as he’s flipped on his back and held down with Bob’s foot against his chest.
Ray’s laughing too. Bob’s not pressing hard enough to hurt, and he even smiles when he looks at Ray before picking up the snaking hose and methodically ensures that every inch of Frank’s body is soaked.
“I give!” Frank yells, squirming under Bob’s hold, but he’s still grinning wide, droplets glimmering in the air as he flails his arms and legs.
“Who’s grimy now?” Bob asks, and he throws the hose aside, leans down and presses his hand against the drenched ground so he can draw a muddy line across Frank’s face.
“I guess that’s me,” Frank says and he’s still giggling when he sits and allows Bob to pull him to his feet. Both of them dripping wet and wringing out their clothes.
All Ray can do is smile. He knew Bob would be perfect.
Mikey doesn’t come home that night. Gerard’s wide awake and listening to the ticking of a clock, the creak of pipes. He imagines accidents that make his heart thump until he feels dizzy, and staggers from his bed to find his cell. It’s dead, and he pulls out drawers to find his charger, his hands shaking as he plugs it in and attaches his cell so he can switch it on.
It beeps as he types out a text, and keeps beeping as he sits on the floor, watching the screen for Mikey to reply. He doesn’t. Finally, hours later, Gerard sleeps.
When he wakes his back is agony and his head is thumping and Mikey’s sitting on Gerard’s bed. He looks pale, glasses at his side and his eyes are hollow and dark. He’s hunched up on himself and sways slightly, as if the ground is shaky beneath his feet
“Mikey,” Gerard says softly, and it hurts to see Mikey like this, unguarded and vulnerable. All the emotions he keeps locked away, never allowing Gerard to see. “Mikey,” he says again, and painfully sits up and crawls toward the bed. Gerard rests his hand on Mikey’s knee, rubbing with his thumb. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Mikey says finally, and he swallows hard.
This close Gerard can feel Mikey pull himself together, retreating behind his defenses as he sits up straight and rubs at his eyes. He gropes around the bed and smiles slightly when Gerard passes him his glasses. Mikey puts them on and his eyes are shielded too.
“I need to get ready for work.”
Gerard keeps his hand on Mikey’s knee. “Where were you last night?”
“I told you, I had to go check out The Cougar Chasers.” Mikey purses his lips. “They weren’t bad.”
Which is only half an answer, and Gerard keeps holding on. “You didn’t come home, though.”
“Can’t I have one night without watching you?” Anger flashing, Mikey stands, his fists clenched as he looks down at Gerard. “I met some friends; we had some drinks, some fun. I don’t have to answer to you.”
“I know,” Gerard says, and he does know. He knows that Mikey’s working too hard and partying too hard and Gerard feels helpless because he can’t even help himself, never mind anyone else.
“Yeah, I know you do.” Anger already depleted, Mikey holds out his hand and pulls Gerard to his feet. “Come on, you can make me breakfast, and I’ve got a number for a cheap gardening service. You can call them later.”
Gerard follows Mikey upstairs and doesn’t ask why he looked up that number even before he knew Gerard had failed.
Ray places the bread near the toaster. Studying well into the night has led to burning eyes and a lingering exhaustion which he’s trying to head off with strong coffee laced with heaped spoonfuls of sugar. He grimaces when he takes another drink and rummages in the fridge for jelly and peanut butter because somehow his house has become the place to meet before work.
Not that he minds. Frank is one of Ray’s closest friends, and despite knowing him for a matter of days, Bob’s already become a part of Ray’s life, slotting effortlessly into place.
When he hears an engine Ray drops slices of bread in the toaster and grabs two mugs from the shelf. He’s taking a drink when the kitchen door bursts open, Bob appearing with Frank jammed between his arm and side. Frank’s eyes are crossed and his tongue is lolling out but the effect is ruined by the way his lips twitch as he uses his fist to beat at Bob’s back.
Bob doesn’t react, just walks to the counter and picks up a mug, holding it out to Ray.
“I’m not your servant, Bryar,” Ray says, rolling his eyes as he takes the mug from Bob, filling it well away from Frank’s flailing hands.
“Don’t forget about me.” Frank looks up through his faded violet bangs that have fallen forward into his eyes. He huffs, blowing at the hair and then finally lets his hands drop and sighs. “Okay, fine. You could take Chuck Norris, now let me go already.”
“You know it,” Bob says, and relaxes his hold, a grin momentarily slipping free as Frank rubs at his ears.
“You suck.” Franks sticks out his tongue and takes refuge behind Ray, plucking the mug out of his hand on the way. He takes a long drink, then splutters and coughs. “Fuck, how much coffee is in this? It’s strong enough to put hair on Bob’s chest.”
“It’s fine,” Ray says, and grabs back the mug. “You know what to do if you don’t like it.”
“I know. I know. Make my own.” Sounding put upon, Frank opens the cupboard where Ray keeps the instant coffee. Scooping a spoonful into his mug, he fills it with water, and sighs happily when he drinks. “See, this is perfect.”
“So was mine,” Ray points out, but Frank’s not listening, more concerned with grabbing the freshly popped toast before Bob.
“You want this?” Frank holds out the toast, then takes a big bite, chewing with his mouth open the whole time. “You sure you don’t want it?” Then he blinks when Bob snatches the slice, taking a bite of his own.
“Thanks,” Bob says simply, and quickly finishes the whole slice.
“You toast thief!”
Seemingly uncaring that he’d offered, Frank leaps forward onto Bob’s back, clinging on, his arms wrapped around Bob’s neck, which is a clear sign of Frank affection. To be loved by Frank means a lot of up close and personal attention from Frank, something Bob’s already taking in his stride.
“We’ve got a new house today,” Ray says, pitching his voice above Frank’s giggles. “A lawn mowing. It shouldn’t take long so I moved things around a little, so we can go there first.”
Frank props his chin against Bob’s shoulder, and looks at Ray. “Mowing lawns is boring.”
Which is true, and it’s certainly not a three man job but Ray’s built his business on taking any job, big or small. It gets his name out into the community as someone reliable, cheap and most importantly, good at any job. It’s why his service is so successful, word of mouth providing the only advertising he needs.
“At least there’ll be no roofs for Frank to fall off.”
Ray shakes his head, because Bob has no idea. Frank’s managed to hurt himself pulling weeds before. It’s his thing.
Frank stretches out one leg, exposing the scrape down one shin. “It was a shed, I didn’t fall far.”
“You shouldn’t have been up there in the first place,” Bob points out, and whaps Frank gently on the knee.
“I had to…”
“We should go.” Ray cuts Frank off before they’re subjected to a lengthy explanation about why he was clambering on the roof of the shed. What it comes down to is, Frank’s nosy, and wanted to see what was on the other side of the wall.
Within minutes the rest of the coffee is drunk and the toast eaten and Ray’s putting the appointment book in his bag, next to the pile of sandwiches -- much bigger now because Bob’s appetite is a wondrous thing -- and a text book he knows he won't touch until much later tonight.
They head for the van, Frank complaining as he’s squashed in the middle once more. Ray switches on the radio, listens as Frank talks and Bob listens and can’t help smiling, because this is his life, and he loves it.
When Ray pulls to a stop Frank scrambles forward, his bony elbow impacting against Ray’s side. Ray winces
“This is... You didn’t tell me we’re working for the Ways.” Frank says their name like it's the title of this summer's blockbuster horror film.
Ray steps out of the van without comment and Frank scrambles after him, eyes wide as he looks at the house. It doesn’t seem anything special, just an ordinary run down house, one with a lot of dry, pathetic-looking, long grass. A dragon bird bath is something Ray hasn’t seen before, though, especially as the dragon seems to be carrying a limp figure in one red-painted talon.
“You have to remember,” Franks says excitedly, looking from the house to Ray. “Mikey used to sell DVDs and Gerard sang and liked art shit. He was weird.”
“As opposed to you, you mean?” Bob cut in, already opening the back of the van and taking out the mower.
“I’m secure in my weirdness, thank you very much.” Frank shot a look at Bob, and then turned his attention back to Ray. “Once, my friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s cousin went to the house to sell Girl Scout cookies. She said they’ve got a skeleton hanging in the hall and the mom offered them vodka in Hulk Hogan mugs. That was before the mom disappeared though, her and Mr. Way. They say it was in suspicious circumstances too.”
“You’ll disappear in suspicious circumstances if you don’t give me a hand.” Bob looks around the open back doors of the van, scowling as he looks pointedly at Frank. “This stuff won’t shift itself.”
Franks huffs and rolls his eyes. “Fine, fine. I’m coming.”
“I’m going to go look for the money. Gerard said it’ll be under the unicorn.”
“Wait.” Franks twists so he can look at Ray. “You talked to Gerard, and unicorn?”
“Yeah,” Ray says, amused at Frank’s expression which is somewhere between puzzlement and excitement. “It was Gerard that called, and he said he’d leave the money for the job under the painted unicorn that’s on the porch.” He shrugs. “I guess he’s going out or something.”
“Or hideously disfigured after trying to dissolve his parents in acid,” Bob says, sounding utterly serious.
“That’s… You’re an evil genius.” Frank’s grin widens and he looks up at Bob, utter adoration written across his face.
“Or he could just be at work.” Ray feels the need to point out, because talk is fine, as long as they’re working too. “We need to find the unicorn.”
“I’ll find it!”
It’s no surprise when Frank runs forward, and with an apologetic look at Bob, Ray follows. Mentally tasking at the state of the yard, he finds Frank kneeling on the porch, staring down at the floor. There’s a unicorn statue there, almost a foot high, painted in rainbow colors, its coat pink, its horn a dull silver. The paint is faded and scuffed, and parts of the unicorn are worn, smoothed by time and what Ray likes to imagine are loving hands.
It’s something made to be touched and enjoyed, and seems out of place on this neglected porch. Frank obviously agrees, and he runs his hand over the unicorn’s back, tracing the whorls of its mane with his fingers.
“It’s beautiful,” Frank says, and while Ray wouldn’t go that far, he does see the appeal, especially when Frank lifts it up and reveals an envelope.
Grass Money is written on the front, stars and music notes scattered to each side. A simple melody that Ray hums, imagining how it would sound on the guitar he barely has time to play.
“Did you find the money?” Bob asks. He’s pushing the mower, trash bags stuck under his arm, and just looks when Frank picks up the unicorn, holding it in the air.
“We found the unicorn!”
“And the money,” Ray says, and he tucks the envelope in his pocket without bothering to check inside.
It takes them almost an hour to cut the grass to acceptable levels. When they’ve finished they cart away four trash bags of brittle grass and assorted rubbish. The toys they leave on the porch, a small metal car, a ball, one roller skate and a bike with a side attachment that they found strangled with grass at the back of the yard.
It’s Ray that carefully sets that next to the wall, and when he walks away he thinks he catches a glimpse of a face in one of the windows -- one that’s almost at ground level and covered by material that conceals the inside -- but when he looks again, there’s nothing there at all.
Still, as he walks away, all he can picture is a pale face, dark hair and sad eyes.
Gerard’s room is his sanctuary, but at times it feels like his jail, when he’s capable of doing nothing but lying on his bed, watching the shadows crawl across the ceiling and down the wall. Today he’d lain on the musty covers, and listened to laughter, the sound of voices and the hum of a mower. Happy sounds, far away from the ingrained noises of this house, the careful tones with which Mikey talks.
They’d itched at his consciousness, made him sit up and listen, body pressed close to the wall as he pushed aside the curtain and craned to look outside.
It’s been hours since they’d gone, but the echoes of that noise remain, and Gerard’s sprawled on the floor, sketch book open in front of him as he remembers the short one with the wide smile. The one with the wild hair that’s barely contained in a ponytail, and the blond that pushed the mower across the lawn, arm muscles straining, cursing when the blades hit yet another stone.
For the longest time Gerard has felt disconnected, Mikey his only tie to the world, and Gerard knows he holds on too tight, has done for too long, Mikey never saying a word. It’s why he’s frantically drawing now, those sounds pushing against the clouds of apathy as Gerard creates his own memories, a reminder of that brief burst of lightness
He draws until his fingers cramp; pens littered across the floor, trying to translate laughter into lines, the short one with dark eyes and violet hair, flying on a dragon in the sky. The one with the curly hair, lips curled, looking up, grass snakes curled around his feet. Then the one who was mowing, holding aloft a sword, his strength magnificent. Gerard could see them all.
Mikey walks downstairs. There’s no parties tonight, no bands to watch and describe, his voice hushed in deference to the darkness of the night. Gerard’s glad, because Mikey looks tired, washed out as he brushes past to sit on the bed, all awkward angles and too-sharp cheekbones as he bumps Gerard with his knee.
“Have you eaten today? I can order in.”
Gerard finishes coloring the tail of the dragon and holds up the book when Mikey inclines his head.
“The gardening service came. They were laughing,” Gerard says, adding softly. “For real.”
He looks away at Mikey’s indrawn breath, because Mikey laughs too, but it’s always fake. Brittle smiles and falsified amusement as he tells Gerard some tale, but Gerard remembers when Mikey used to laugh for real, throwing back his head, his eyes scrunched up into narrow lines. Before Helena died and their parents left and Mikey took on responsibilities with no concessions for his age.
“I saw,” Mikey says. “The yard looks better.” He looks at Gerard, unashamedly staring. “You drew something.”
“They sounded happy.” Gerard waves his hand in the air. “It was… nice. Really nice.” “He looks at his picture again, rests his hand against the page. “Do you want to watch TV? We can order pizza.”
Mikey looks surprised. They don’t watch TV because Gerard can’t concentrate, getting frustrated at the snatches of life that slip past his attention on the screen.
“We can do that.” Mikey’s mouth curls at one side, and he stands, waiting for Gerard to carefully close his sketch book and gather together all his pens.
They go upstairs, and the living room feels cold, dust on the TV screen, on all the surfaces, but Gerard switches on the TV and flicks through the channels until he finds a nature channel, a pride of lions snarling against a blood red sky.
Mikey orders pizza, then settles against Gerard’s side. He’s all bones and pale skin and his hair scratches as Mikey’s eyes close, and he slips to the side, pillowing his head on Gerard’s shoulder. Carefully, Gerard curls his arm around Mikey, holds him close as the lions hunt and Gerard listens to his brother breathe.
Ray’s concentrating on carrying trays full of marigolds, stacking them carefully, his fingers brushing against the ruffled petals as he stacks them in place. The air is full of the scent of flowers, and he flexes his hands as he steps away from the van and says, “We’re going to the Ways’ first.”
“We finished there yesterday,” Bob points out.
Which is true, but if Ray puts in the hard work for being his own boss, he can take advantage of the benefits too. If that means half an hour of unpaid work in the hopes of cheering an unknown person, that’s exactly what he’ll do.
“We should check behind the house, I think I saw disturbed earth yesterday,” Frank says. He’s holding a pot filled with yellow pansies, their sunny color the perfect accompaniment to today's blue tipped hair. He places them into the van and when he turns back he looks contemplative, lost in thought. “You think Gerard killed Mikey too? I haven’t seen him since we left school.”
“Is there a reason you would? It’s not like you were friends,” Ray says.
“I am friends with everyone, Ray Toro” Frank protests. “I talked to him a few times. He was nice. I liked him.”
“Was?” Ray shakes his head as Frank stares back at him, eyes dark and intense. “You can’t be killing him off like that. He’s probably working somewhere that’s not here.”
Bob walks up to the van, a bag of compost draped over one shoulder, casually held in place with one hand. “Or chopped into pieces somewhere, while his brother wears a suit made out of his skin.”
“See! Bob knows!” Expressing his love, Frank leaps at Bob, making the compost tumble to the ground and Bob scowls, even as he hooks his arms under Frank’s legs so his assailant doesn’t fall.
It's typical Frank and Bob shouldn’t encourage him, but still, Ray’s smiling as he picks up the spilled bag and hefts it into the van before slamming the doors shut and slipping into the drivers seat. Once there he quickly selects a CD from the assortment they keep in the glove box and is already tapping his fingers against the steering wheel, humming along to Iron Maiden when Bob peels Frank off his neck and physically throws him inside. If Frank wasn't such a good worker a well as hyperactive crack monkey …
“Alright!” Frank yells and sticks out both arms, hands in devil horns as he tips back his head and sings along.
They drive, both windows down, Bob drumming on the dashboard as Frank and Ray sing. Even when they stop at traffic lights and end up sandwiched between a school bus and an SUV. Ray just smiles at the mom driving her kids and Bob scowls at the school girls that giggle and wave. It’s just that kind of day.
It only takes five minutes to get to the Ways’. The cropped grass leaves the house looking even more stark and run down. Ray can see the indent of flower beds and the remains of planters that are cracked and empty. A once-vibrant place, now devoid of life. It makes him sad.
“Does he know we’re coming,” Frank asks, “because I’d hate to be greeted by the barrel of a gun?”
He’s standing at the end of the drive, and somehow, in the last minute, he’s managed to thread a pansy behind his ear. In his cut-off overalls and pink t-shirt he reminds Ray of some kind of rainbow fairy, not that he’s about to say that out loud. Frank’s a mean fucker at times.
“Or a flame thrower. He could be waiting behind the door, listening for footsteps, and when he hears them, will burst outside, ready to flambé some trespasser flesh.”
“Bob Bryar. I love you.” Frank says, and produces another pansy out of the pocket of his overalls which he gives to Bob, then takes a deliberate step behind Ray. “You should go first.”
“Why?” Ray asks, because while he knows Gerard won’t be there with a flame-thrower, it’s a bit much if there was a threat, Frank would sacrifice him like this.
“Because you’re taller,” Frank says, as if that explains everything. “And you have a lot of hair. That would burn first and you’d have time to get away.”
Which makes no sense at all, but if Ray’s learned anything, it’s that trying to work out the ways of Frank’s mind is a thankless, and impossible, task. Sometimes it’s best to just go with the flow.
“Fine, I’ll go first. I want to see what’s under the unicorn anyway. Gerard said he’d leave something there.”
“And you didn’t tell me?”
Frank takes seconds for an exaggerated hurt look, then he’s running forward, heading straight for the unicorn. This time both Ray and Bob follow, and when they step onto the porch they find Frank kneeling, a sheet of paper in his hands.
“That’s. Wow,” Frank says, and Ray has to agree. It shows three figures in front of a blood red sky. They’re obviously based on them. Bob wearing armor, holding up a flaming sword. Frank astride a dragon, his hair scarlet, flying behind him in a shining wave, and Ray, his hair a curtain of curls, with serpents curled around his legs.
It’s one of the most beautiful things that Ray has seen, and when he feels the prickle against his back, he knows. He turns so he can see the window, mouths thank you and smiles.
Mikey’s still asleep when Gerard hears them arrive. Gerard’s feeling anxious, he hasn’t shown his art to anyone but Mikey in a long time, and he imagines them screwing up the paper, throwing his work aside. They don’t, and he feels sick with relief as he watches them examine the paper, all bent forward and talking softly. Gerard wishes he could hear what they’re saying, but they’re too far away.
“Is there a reason you’re hugging the wall?”
Heart thudding, Gerard turns and looks at Mikey who’s uncurling from the bed. His hair is a disaster, sticking up in every direction and his eyes are screwed shut as he yawns and stands, pulling the blanket with him so it hangs around his shoulders like a cape.
“Captain Bedtime,” Gerard says, remembering night-time stories from long ago. “The defender of sleep.”
“He’ll fight your nightmares and make them weep,” Mikey finishes, and he reaches for his glasses before shuffling across to Gerard. “Who’s outside?”
“The gardening people, they phoned last night and left a message, said something about finishing edge work.” Gerard shrugs. He’s got no idea what edge work is, but they hadn’t mentioned being paid so he wasn’t about to tell them no. “I left them a drawing.”
Mikey raises an eyebrow, looks at Gerard and then out of the window. “That’s Frank,” he says, sounding surprised.
“The one with the blue hair, Frank Iero, he went to the Catholic school, we met under the bleachers once at a football game, he didn’t like watching either so we talked a while.”
Gerard pushes Mikey a little so he can look out too, watches as the men outside all examine the picture with varying degrees of smiles. He’s trying to remember Mikey ever mentioning a Frank, but Mikey knows so many people, the names tend to blend. But he can see how Mikey’s eyes never move as he watches blue-haired Frank, and if Gerard knows anything, it’s his brother.
“You think he’s hot.”
Mikey gathers the blanket more closely around his shoulders, and steps away from the window. He looks at Gerard coolly and says, “I like the color blue.”
Which is the Mikey equivalent of a definite expression of interest, and Gerard is already smiling when the curly haired one turns around and mouths thank you.
Ray isn’t sure why he keeps wanting to go back to the Ways. He’s finished the job he was paid for and then some, but that doesn’t seem to matter.
Despite what Bob says, Ray’s not some soft-touch, thinking his gardening skills will save the world. Anyway, what Bob says and thinks are two different things, Ray had seen how he’d looked at the unicorn before they’d left the previous day.
It’s just. Ray keeps looking at the drawing, and remembering the way Gerard had smiled. That's why, when they’ve got a tray of lavender left, he decides he’ll give it to the Ways. He can plant it near the window, using one of the small pots he keeps in the van.
“We’re going the wrong way,” Bob says levelly, not even looking up from where he’s leaning against the window, eyes half closed as they drive toward home.
“We’ve got lavender left; it’ll just go to waste.” Refusing to feel embarrassed, Ray concentrates on driving then glances to the side when no one says a word.
“It’ll look nice next to the window,” Franks says, thoughtful. “Though lavender’s a bit girlie. We should get something bolder next time, to match the dragon bird bath.”
It’s one of Frank’s favorite things, finding the perfect plants for the perfect place, and he talks about foxgloves and irises as Bob nods in agreement. Plans that Ray knows he should veto, because what it comes down to is they’re not getting paid. Still, he stays silent, and can’t help wondering if they’ve both seen the face at the window too.
This time when they arrive there’s no talk about grisly deaths, just Frank holding the tray of lavender as Bob selects a pot and they all walk toward the space next to the window. There’s no one looking outside, not that Ray expected there to be when they’re all working so close to it. Still, he can’t help watching for a twitch of fabric, a flash of pale skin and those sad eyes as he kneels on the hard ground and carefully upends a plant out of the tray.
This is what Ray loves to do. The feel of soil against his fingers, the sun against his back as he teases roots into place, and gently anchors them into the earth. This is why he’s dividing his time between work and school, so he can make his business the best it can be.
“Listen,” Franks suddenly says, his voice soft when they hear the creak of the door. They all look up, but all Ray sees is a blur of black, a figure running back inside, and the unicorn out of place on the porch.
Ray reaches out his hand, rests it against Frank’s arm until they hear the snick of the door. Then there’s no holding Frank back, and he runs to the porch, where he carefully lifts the unicorn, running his hand gently across its mane as he lifts it to the side, revealing a sheet of paper.
This time the drawing is simple. Still, it’s obviously Frank, his hair hanging forward into his eyes, a pansy tucked behind his ear. Except his eyes are in the shape of hearts, and under the drawing it says My brother thinks you’re hot.
“I guess you’ve got an admirer,” Ray says, breaking the silence as they all read the note.
Bob smiles. “Or a stalker, being Mikey’s a skin suit and all.”
“Shut up!” Franks says, and frowns as he uses his elbow to dig Bob in the side, but he’s still looking at the note, examining the picture, and Ray knows that Frank’s pleased.
Mikey doesn’t yell, he glares and scowls and looks through you as if you don’t exist at all. It’s what he’s doing now, draining a glass of water and ignoring the fact that Gerard’s even in the room.
“It was one picture,” Gerard says. He wishes he hadn’t told Mikey now, but it had been the one highlight of an awful day, when things had been too much and he’d spent most of his time curled up in his room, exhausted, the black ties around his body pulled painfully tight. Except for those minutes when Gerard had frantically sketched, calling on every reserve of energy to run outside, to do this thing for Mikey.
Mikey puts down the glass and leans against the sink, hands back braced against the edge. “I meet plenty of people without your help.”
Gerard knows that’s true. Mikey’s been part of the scene for a while, too long for someone who left school only months before. He’s everyone’s friend and has mastered burning the candle from both ends. It worries Gerard, especially as right now he can’t even look after himself.
“You like Frank, though. You think he’s hot.”
“I talked to him a few times when I was a kid,” Mikey says, and he slumps back, his weight balanced on his hands. He hesitates, says finally, “I’m going to bed.”
Gerard’s rests his chin on his hands, his whole body heavy, weighted to the ground. He doesn’t tell Mikey he’s still a kid, he’s only seventeen. If he puts that thought into words Gerard thinks he would cry.
Bob stands at the entrance to the garden centre and looks back at the van. “Before I go get the plants, should I add one extra so we can pretend it’s spare?”
“You can,” Ray says. “Maybe one of those grasses that you can’t kill.”
“Make sure it’s the kind that rustles.” Frank opens one eye, shades his face as he peers along the length of his body and smiles cheerfully at Bob. He turns his head, looks at Ray when Bob flips him off and walks inside. “Think we should have gone to help?”
“You know he likes to threaten a discount out of the manager, why spoil his fun.” Ray stretches lazily, enjoying sitting against the van, the metal hot against his back. “Anyway, this way you can tell me about Mikey.”
Frank closes his eyes. He’s stretched out on the ground, his t-shirt off and boots kicked off and to one side, revealing toe nails that are painted red, an exact match to today's hair.
“There’s nothing to say,” he says finally. “I saw him around. We talked a few times. He likes music, so do I.”
“He was hot though?”
“Kind of geeky. He had these thick glasses that he wore at the end of his nose, awkward too and it didn’t help half the time he was with his brother.” Frank trails off and lifts his head so he can look at Ray. “Yeah, he was hot. If we hadn’t gone to different schools, who knows?”
Ray closes his own eyes as he tilts back his head. He’ll never admit it but he’s enjoying this. The way Frank smiles when he looks at the note or remembers how that garden looks with its new pot of flowers, like life has started to return at last. Which is idealistic and stupid, but Ray’s always had a romantic side. It’s just how it is
The grass looks great when it’s planted next to the pot of lavender, both carefully positioned so they don’t block the window, but can still be easily seen from inside. It’s only when the earth has been trampled, the grass secure in the ground that they head for the unicorn, and the tempting white corner that juts out from under one hoof.
It’s Bob that lifts the unicorn, cradling it in his hands as Ray picks up the paper, and unrolls it so they can all see. The drawing is much more elaborate today, and there are five men instead of three.
They’re all wearing black uniforms, white stripes on their chest and Ray sees how his hair is loose, how he looks fierce, solid as he stands surrounded by flowers, each one complete with a gaping mouth and thorn-edged leaves. They all look serious, and Ray examines the two new figures. He thinks he recognizes Gerard, the sadness in his eyes resonating inside Ray as he looks. Gerard on his knees, being pulled down by a sea of grasping thorns. Then someone standing at his back, his hands bleeding, holding strands of vines that are coiled around his wrists and digging in painfully tight.
It’s Mikey, it has to be, and Ray looks across at Frank, sees he’s staring at the picture with no hint of a smile.
“I think that’s Gerard, so I guess that’s Mikey.”
Frank looks at Bob, reaches out his hand and holds his fingers just above Mikey’s face. “That’s him. He didn’t used to look like that.”
He stands then, and takes a step back, looking solemn and Ray understands, because this drawing is terrible in its honesty, and he can’t help feeling he’s been shown things that he wasn’t meant to see.
“We should go,” Bob says, and they all agree. Standing, Bob replaces the unicorn and Ray rolls up the picture, holding it carefully and Frank goes to fetch the spade that they’ve left next to the new grass.
It’s then it happens. Somehow Frank trips and he’s falling forward, hands outstretched to break his fall. Except he manages to catch the edge of the spade and when he holds up his hand his palm’s oozing blood. It’s a typical Frank accident, occurring for no reason other than this is Frank and things just happen to him. They’ll patch him up, it’s why Ray’s got a fully stocked first aid box in the back of his van, and already Frank is standing, his hand clenched into a fist.
And then Gerard appears, looking painfully pale as he stands at the door and looks over at Frank.
“Is he okay?” Gerard says, and he looks anxious as Frank walks toward them, a thin stream of blood trailing down his wrist. “You should come in. there’s water and band-aids.”
Ray’s about to say it’s okay, that they’ve got their own supplies but Frank minutely shakes his head, smiling reassuringly as he follows Gerard inside.
There’s nothing unusual in the kitchen. No coffins or skeletons, not that Ray expected there to be, not now. There are dishes in the sink, days worth from what Ray can see, and the counters are lined with an insane number of dirty coffee mugs. Twenty seven that Ray counts as he stands next to the door, watching as Gerard turns on the faucet and guides Frank’s hand under the water.
“Keep it there,” Gerard says, when Frank hisses, looking more in control as he hunts out a tube of antiseptic salve and a box of band-aids, as if he’s done this countless times before. Acting on instinct as he takes the clean bandanna Bob hands him to blot dry Frank’s hand, and then carefully rub in the salve. It’s only when Gerard’s smoothing down the band-aid that he seems to realize what he’s doing, flushing red when he sees he’s being watched.
“Sorry. It’s just. Mikey’s always….”
“It’s okay,” Frank says, and his smile is wide as he looks at his hand, and then giggles as he lifts it up. “It’s got sparkly unicorns on it.”
Ray steps closer and sees it’s true. The band-aid is covered in tiny unicorns, their horns various sparkly colors.
Gerard is even redder now and he runs his hand through his hair. “Sorry, Mikey likes. I mean, I could try and find something else.”
Frank shakes his head and steps closer to Gerard. “This is fine, I like it.”
“I’m glad.” Finally Gerard smiles, even as he looks away and twists his hands together as he looks at them all. “Do you want a drink? We’ve got juice, or coffee.”
Gerard looks unsure, as if he doesn’t know if he wants them to stay or go, but Frank is already wandering around the kitchen, and Bob’s planted next to the sink, mouth curled into a small smile, as if this is the most interesting thing to watch, ever. Ray knows they’re staying.
“Juice will be fine,” Ray says, and he waits as Gerard washes four glasses, and takes a carton of juice out of the fridge. He pours them all drinks and then retreats to his own side of the room, taking sips as he looks at them through his hair that falls forward into his face.
For long moments the silence is awkward, then Frank swallows his juice in one. He places the glass close to the sink, and then looks at Gerard. “How’s Mikey? I haven’t seen him for a while.”
Immediately Gerard lights up, awkwardness vanishing as he smiles at Frank like he’s his new best friend. “He’s good, he’s interning for Eyeball right now and he loves it. They’re lucky they have him.”
There’s no mention of the drawing of Frank, just Gerard almost glowing with pride and Frank beaming back at him. It would be sickening if the situation wasn’t so entertaining, and if Ray couldn’t see how Gerard’s wearing dirty clothes, and smells bad, as if showering doesn’t feature in his life at all. It’s obvious cleaning house doesn’t, but somehow, as he finishes his drink and indicates to the others it’s time to go, he knows he’ll be back.
He suspects Gerard will let him.
Tags: my stories:bandom