Your Shadow Keeps Me Bright: gift for [livejournal.com profile] alpheratz

Jan. 2nd, 2013 09:13 pm
[identity profile] stuffitmod.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] bandomstuffsit
Title: Your Shadow Keeps Me Bright
Author: [livejournal.com profile] lucifuge_5
Pairing(s): Ray/Gerard, background Mikey/Alicia and Frank/Jamia
Rating: PG-13 for language
Warnings: None
Word count: ~7,100 words
Summary: Gerard never meant to fall for his mechanic.

An AU in which MCR never existed. Also, taking a page from Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, everyone's soul manifests as a solid entity in the shape of an animal.



Gerard never meant to fall for his mechanic. Even if said mechanic was one Ray Toro, owner of a pair of mighty-looking thighs, strong arms and the kind of smile that would melt the coldest heart.


("Don't forget the hair," Ursula said, her bat-like ears standing at attention.


"Maybe you don't want me to start talking about Ray's hair." Gerard gave her a knowing look. For the umpteenth time since his entity settled, he wondered what had prompted him to make her final shape that of a fennec fox.


"Because fennecs are cute. Everybody knows that," Ursula said while stretching her tiny front paws. "Anyway, I'm the physical representation of your soul. If there's anyone who knows how much you'd like to run your fingers through Ray's hair it's me."


"It is fucking epic," Gerard agreed, picking up a pencil and doing a quick sketch of Ray in dirty jeans and an Iron Maiden t-shirt, socket wrench in hand.


"You're hopeless." Ursula studied the finished drawing. "Hmm, you should add a hint of stubble. Give our boy some character, won't ya?")


The point was, Gerard had what most people would call a 'decent life'. He worked hard ("way too many hours," Ursula grumbled) and lived in what had once been his grandma's house on the outskirts of Belleville. While it was true that he wasn't anywhere near as famous as Neil Gaiman or Mercedes Lackey, Gerard sold plenty of books to keep him on a steady diet of coffee and comics. His first book stayed on the number one position of the sci-fi/fantasty bestsellers' list for almost ten months. The advance for his next novel was enough for him to stop worrying about applying for a job at any of the publishing houses he was familiar with.


His fans were enthusiastic. Meeting and talking with them were the highlights of flying all over the country--occasionally overseas--to attend conventions.


He wasn't lonely. He wasn't. Really.


Sure, his last serious relationship had faded into the ether a couple of years ago. And he didn't brave much of the bar scene--alcoholics never got a day off. Especially if they wanted to stay on the wagon. His occasional hook-ups with friends of friends of friends, i.e. book groupies, were mostly a thing in the past as well.


Besides, Mikey, Geoff, Becky and Shaun kept him from becoming a total hermit. So, he wasn't exactly lacking in company when his life crossed paths with Ray's.


oOo



The reviews on House of Wolves, Gerard's short story collection, hovered around the edges of a C grade. No one, save the book critic for the New York Times, came right out and said that the book had been a weak follow up to Give 'em Hell, Kid.


Gerard tried to shrug the mixed reviews off, making self-deprecating jokes about earning enough money to buy 'a six-pack of Dr. Pepper'.


Truth was, he'd been happy with Wolves. The stories--tales centered around a mythical parade in the afterlife--were introspective pieces. He'd been newly sober when he'd began writing it and he made no excuses for how the collection turned out. He had wanted to show people the uncomfortable parts of Life and why, in the end, it was worth it not to give up. Darker than anything he'd written before, the book became one of those 'love it or hate it' things.


A lot of people had expected another Kid: a noiresque saga of a man in search of a thousand souls to deliver to the Devil. Strangely enough, he was equal parts relieved and excited when he turned in the final manuscript. ("You had demons to exorcise," Ursula said, the liquid black of her eyes reflecting compassion.)

At 33, Gerard teetered between getting labeled as "a has-been" (as per the New York Times critic) and "a writer who could potentially be the voice of his generation" (according to none other than Grant Morrison). It'd been Mikey who had suggested taking a break after reading a nasty article debating the validity of Gerard winning the 2010 Nebula for 'Best Novella' for Wolves.


"I'm not 'burnt out'," Gerard protested. "My stories aren't the usual Character X goes off on a quest for a rare jewel that will unlock the power to get rid of Generic Villain B. Critics will be bitter. They expect me to pander to them and, well, they can hold their breath if they want to." He'd seen the article, too. Next to him, Ursula growled her discontent.


"No. You aren't," Mikey said, crossing his arms. Leia, his entity, sat on her haunches. For a kit fox that was only slightly bigger than Ursula, Leia had a lot of presence.


"People write all kinds of stupid shit to sell magazines, Mikey. I--I try not to let it get to me, OK? I'm fine." Gerard put his hands on his hips, his pose defiant. Ursula's growl got louder.


"Gee," Mikey sighed. "I'm the last person to agree with what that hack wrote about you. However, I know that you've been pushing yourself way too hard for months now. There's, what, one more book to deliver as per your contract, right?"


"You're my agent, Mikes, you tell me."


"I'm also your brother," Mikey added, "and I worry about what could happen because of the pressure to come up with another bestseller. Why don't you take some time off, learn a new hobby, travel the country. Hell, go around the world! Recharge your batteries and then sit in front of your laptop to write whatever the hell is floating inside that noggin' of yours."


"Yeah, well, when you put it like that . . ." Gerard twisted his mouth and made a conciliatory gesture.


Mikey arched a perfectly-shaped eyebrow. Leia's whiskers twitched with delight.


Little brothers are such know-it-alls, Gerard thought, his shoulders slumping with defeat.

oOo


Gerard looked at Ursula once Mikey and Leia went home. "You think he's right?"


Ursula scratched behind one ear in lieu of an answer.


oOo



The following day was a whirlwind of planning what to pack, making "I'm sorry I was such a petulant ass" coffee for Mikey and taking it over to his house and emailing Lindsey, Patrick and Chantal, not-so-subtly pointing out that he was going to be in Los Angeles by week's end.


Despite the fact that both he and Ursula hated flying, he caved in and bought a plane ticket. Driving across the States was a romantic idea, but Gerard wasn't too sure his beat-up Jeep would make it past Pennsylvania.


In hindsight, this turned out to be a good decision...




Two nights later


"Hold on, Mikey, I think I see the tow truck coming." Gerard squinted, trying to figure out if the approaching car was the tow truck or just another jerk driving a massive SUV who'd try to run him off the road. Lying on top of Gerard's messenger bag, Ursula sat up and cocked her head to the side, her huge ears flickering to and fro.


"Gerard?" Mikey's voice was tinny.


"Tell him it's our white knight in mechanic overalls," she said as she yawned and then, stood up on all fours.


"I don't care if it's Freddy Krueger if it means we get someplace warm," Gerard replied, ignoring Ursula's huff. He exhaled with relief when the truck slowed down and backed up before placing his cellphone against his ear."Yeah, it's them. I'll call you as soon as we get to the garage, OK?"


"All right, Gee. I'm waiting for Alicia so we can give you a lift back to your place, deal?"


"Cool. I'll call you and give you directions when we get to the garage." Gerard ended the call and put his phone on the hood of his car, shivering a little at the cool temps. "Come on," he told Ursula, picking her up tenderly and placing her inside his leather jacket, waiting for her head to pop out before zipping up.


"I'm OK, Gee," Ursula said after sniffing the air.


"Wouldn't want to leave you behind, Urs. That's all," Gerard commented. He slid his phone in one of his front pockets, and then shouldered his messenger bag.


The driver turned off the engine and stepped down. He was a tall guy, his light winter coat and jeans making him look like he was a college student. The heavy steps of his booted feet echoed on the deserted road. His long, curly hair was impressive.


("You also thought he was good-looking," Ursula said from somewhere underneath a big pile of laundry.


"I'm not blind," Gerard replied evenly while deleting a really wordy paragraph from his latest draft. "You find me anyone who wouldn't feel weak-kneed after meeting Ray the first time and then we'll talk.")


Backlit by the full moon, the driver waved like he and Gerard were old friends, radiating a kind of friendliness that Gerard clung to.


A small monkey sat on the driver's right shoulder. The broadness of the guy and the diminutive profile of the monkey should've been a kind of visual pun. A guy like this dude would usually have some kind of powerful-looking entity: a pit bull, a tiger or any animal that would broadcast to everyone that this wasn't a guy you'd want to mess with.


Gerard couldn't help wondering why the contrast seemed so appropriate this time around. He bit his lower lip, hoping that he didn't look as helpless as he felt.


"You called for a truck?" the guy asked when he was a few feet away. The monkey's tail swung to and fro, impatient.


Gerard nodded. "Yeah, yeah. I was driving home, taking the scenic route for nostalgia's sake, when my car made this weird, loud noise and then it slowed down and died. So I called you, erm, I mean, your garage 'cause I know jackshit about cars." Gerard blushed, poking Ursula's side through his jacket when he felt her snickering at him. Such a pain in the ass.


"Don't know what to tell you, man, other than it was a miracle you even got cellphone reception in this area," the driver said when he stood in front of Gerard. "I could check your Jeep now, try to see if we could get it restarted. But they announced a snowstorm for sometime tonight and I'd worry thinking you've gotten stranded again."


Gerard tucked a strand of his shaggy hair behind his ear. "Yeah, that would suck."


The driver extended a hand. "I'm Ray and this is Nati," he said, pointing at the monkey with his other hand.


"My name's Gerard and this here is Ursula," he replied, looking down as Ursula tilted her head up.


Ray had a strong grip. Not in the
"I'm-so-macho-I-must-prove-it-to-you-by-pulverizing-your-hand" way. There was a refreshing self-confidence in Ray that Gerard couldn't help but react to.


"Nice to meet you," Ray said, his eyes (and Nati's) flickering between Gerard and Ursula before settling back on Gerard. "So, I was thinking that we'll tow your car to my garage; I'll make sure that there's nothing funny going on and then you can go on your merry way?"


"That sounds cool."


"Awesome" Ray said. "Let me hook your car up and we'll get back on the road, yeah?"


Gerard scratched the nape of his neck. "Um, there's a slight problem? I locked my keys inside." He could've sworn Ray's monkey rolled her eyes at him.


"Eh, no worries. Why don't you go and defrost in my truck and I'll take care of that? The temps are dropping fast and I wouldn't want you to catch a cold."


"All right," Gerard said, giving Ray a thumb's up sign, immediately feeling like the dorkiest man alive.


oOo



Less than ten minutes later, Gerard was inside the warm truck, Ursula resting on his lap. Led Zeppelin's "Good Times, Bad Times" came through the speakers at a moderately low volume. Next to him, Ray kept his eyes on the road, both of his hands gripping the steering wheel like it was an extension of himself. Gerard stole glances at him, the focused expression on his face contrasting with the monkey. Ray was serious, but his monkey kept making faces at Ursula.


"Nati, behave," Ray warned casually.


"Party pooper," Nati said, settling down and curling her tail around Ray's forearm.


Not wanting to distract Ray, but trying not to fall asleep, Gerard stared at the darkened blur of the woods.


"You don't remember me, do you?" Ray said, making Gerard nearly jump out of his seat. Ursula kept her head down but opened an eye.


"I'm sorry?" Gerard turned his head, frowning at Ray's smiling profile. He'd watched way too many horror movies that began this way. "Have we met before?"


Ray glanced at him for a second before nodding and going back to looking at the road in front of them. "Belleville Elementary, Second Grade, Mrs. Morin's class? I don't think we ever talked to each other. This one time, though, you lent me one of your pencils when mine broke."


Gerard opened and closed his mouth several times. Elementary school had been a while ago. "That's some history we have then."


"Oh, you really don't remember me, do you?" Ray's voice was even, but Gerard could've sworn he saw some of Ray's curls deflate before his very eyes.


"I'm sorry. We switched a few different schools from the time we were in elementary all the way to high school."


"We?"


"Yeah, my brother and I. We kinda got into trouble a few times. There was even talk of homeschooling."


"Wow. It sounds serious."


Gerard shrugged. "Kids can be cruel." He started to chew on one of cuticles, and then put his hand down. "I once got into this epic shoving match with this kid named Johnny Briggs. He really hated that Leia, Mikey's entity, was a butterfly at that time. Mikey was 5! He had, like, 13 more years to figure out what Leia's final shape was going to be."


"Right," Ray said, tapping his fingers in time with the song.


"I spent my teen years trying to decide whether Urs here should be a gazelle or a chinchilla," Gerard continued. "Anyway, if Mikey wanted Leia to look like something that had pretty wings and fluttered around, whatever, you know? It really pissed off Johnny, though. Some bullshit about how there were entities for boys and girls and Mikey was using the 'wrong' one. Long story short, he and and his cronies ended up picking on Mikey a lot. It was pretty fucked up."


"So you stood up to him?"


"Yup. My mom was pissed 'cause I ended up with a week-long suspension. I didn't care." It'd meant two whole months of doing a lot of chores and not being able to buy any comics. But, given a second chance, Gerard would've done it again.


"When I was in fourth grade, this one friend of my brother Lou thought it was ridiculous that Nati was a baby panda," Ray said conversationally. "He gave me hell for a few days before anyone noticed. Lou and my other brothers played a prank on him to teach him a lesson."


"Oh, yeah?" Growing up, Gerard hadn't heard of many kids who had gone through the same kind of thing.


"Don't forget about the time you cried because you wanted me to look like one of the Ninja Turtles," Nati said, smiling at Gerard.


"I was 10!" Ray offered and down-shifted the truck's gear.


("In my defense, I did try to stop giggling," Gerard said mulishly. "I think I did a good job of that."


"Yeah, because if there's something you're known for is for being Mr. Smooth." Ursula put her head down and covered her muzzle with her front paws.


Gerard sulked. "Drama queen."


"Pot meet kettle," Ursula sassed back from behind her paws.)


oOo



Gerard soon found out that 'easy-going' was an apt description of Ray's temperament.


The Zeppelin song came to an end, the static of the radio filling up the truck's cabin with awkwardness. Ray cleared his throat. "So, um, what were you doing taking the 'scenic route' anyway? This is Belleville, ain't much to 'ooh' and 'aaah' at."


Seizing the opening for what it was worth, Gerard smiled. "Was saying good-bye," he said before realizing how that could be misinterpreted. "Um, for just a little while, I mean."


"Oh?"


"We're flying to L.A. the day after tomorrow, catching up with old friends, dipping our toes and, erm, paws in the Californian sands..."


"Sounds like a nice vacation," Ray said wistfully. "I--I haven't travelled much."


It wasn't as if Gerard was a world-traveler, but he'd been in a few places. "So, where would you go if, like, money and time were no object?"


"Probably somewhere that was totally different from here. Like, I dunno, Tokyo? I don't speak the language, but it just looks like such a fucking cool place, you know?"


"Yeah. I mean, I've never been. It'd be cool to go."


"We're here," Ray said, parking the truck in front of a one story building. A huge sign read "Toro and Sons, est. 1970" in blue neon lights. "Let me get you in the waiting area," he said, holding onto his keys as he opened his door. "I can put a pot on and get you a nice cup of coffee in a jiffy."


"Coffee?" Gerard perked up at once. He swooped Ursula up with his left arm, unlatching the passenger door in one graceful movement. A few steps behind Ray, he let his eyes wander down, slightly disappointed that Ray's coat covered what looked like a great ass.


"Caffeine first, ogling at our mechanic later," Ursula whispered, yawning.


Gerard did the mental equivalent of waving her off. He opted to go back to checking out Ray's ass, only to find Nati staring back at him, her dark brown eyes knowing, as she hung upside down from Ray's shoulder.


"Huh, I don't think I've ever seen this place," he said as casually as he could. The last thing Gerard needed was for Nati to tell Ray he'd been perving on him.


oOo



Soon as they walked in, Ray began to set everything up to brew a new pot, declaring coffee being 'the best drink that is known to mankind' and then stepping out of the room. Gerard hmmed his agreement as he watched the machine drip slowly, inhaling the bitter aroma that started to permeate the air.


Ray made a mean cup of coffee: dark and packed with enough punch to have Gerard making contented noises in between sips.


Fifteen minutes later, Gerard was on his second cup.


oOo



"Well, I've got bad news and good news," Ray said after nearly an hour of looking under the hood of Gerard's Jeep. He poured himself a small cup of coffee. Gerard noticed Ray had wiped his hands with care, but there was a smudge of grease right in the middle of his forehead. Gerard's hands itched to clean it up. "Which one do you want first?"


"Bad news and then good, please," Gerard said, crossing one leg over the other and hoping the Jeep wasn't destined for the junk yard.


"Bad news is that we'll have to keep your car, possibly for the next day or two. I think there might be a problem with the electrical system, but I don't want to give you a misdiagnosis."


"Small mercies," Ursula mumbled.


Ray made an apologetic face. "I'm going to start locking up," he said, drinking the rest of his half-cup and going back to the work area.


"OK," Gerard sighed.


"Maybe you should call Mikey?" Ursula lowered her right ear.


"Oh, yeah, yeah. I'm going to call him right now," Gerard said, putting his cup down and taking his phone out of his pocket, hitting the number one. Mikey picked up by the second ring.


"Gee?"


"Hey, Mikes, we're at Ray's garage."


"Damn."


"Problem?"


"Yeah, it's Alicia. She's stuck on the 280. There was an accident and it's bumper-to-bumper."


Gerard chewed on a hangnail. "Is she OK?"


"She's fine. Just, you know, bored and annoyed." Mikey sucked in a breath. "I don't know how late it'll be before she gets anywhere near here."


"Fuck. I'll call a cab? It's almost ten and shit." Gerard made a face. He wasn't looking forward to the cab fare, but it wasn't as if he was going to spend the night at the garage either.


"Something wrong?" Ray peeked in from the (still) open door. Nati was by his feet, probably laughing at the totally undignified GAAAAH! Gerard made whenever he was startled by loud noises or tall and hot men who walked very softly when needed.


"I'll call you right back, Mikey," Gerard said, wishing like hell that Ray would overlook his moment of dorkiness. "Um, my ride can't make it. I was thinking you could recommend a taxi company that could send someone to pick me up?"


Ray frowned. "What for? I can give you a lift. Where do you live?"


Gerard told him his address, happily surprised when Ray said something along the lines of 'yeah, that's near me'.


Ray then walked up to the table with the coffeemaker. Nati jumped up to the counter and held the thermos while he filled it with the remaining coffee. The end of her tail curled in a way that was really cute.


Gerard had to restrain himself and not do a double-take when Ray screwed the thermos top on and offered the whole thing to Gerard.


"It'd be a shame to throw this down the drain," Ray said, his cheeks pinking.


This was the exact moment when Gerard felt his heart twirl.


He was in deep trouble.


oOo



Buoyed by the caffeine buzz, Gerard had no trouble holding up his side of the conversation as Ray drove him home. He and Ray talked about things such as 'sickest horror movies', 'favorite comics' and 'best metal albums'.


"No, dude, you can't dismiss "Technical Ecstasy" just because it's not a 'typical' Sabbath album. They were trying something new. Give them points for that," Ray said, shaking his head at Gerard. "Just you wait. One day, 'Rock n' Roll Doctor' will be considered a rock classic."


"I'm calling it as I see it, Ray. There's no one person I can think of who would admit to liking that album. In public, that is," Gerard said, making a face. "Take the next left."


"I'm not saying that Sabbath didn't have any low points, man. Sometimes, I wonder why I try to teach people that you've gotta give any new album few listens in order to figure out why you do or don't like it. Pshhh, you're just like Frankie."


Gerard's earlier glee started to fizzle out. Who's that?. Ursula nipped his thumb. He dipped his gaze downwards, his eyebrows furrowed. She gave him one of her 'Stop-being-a-social-weirdo-and-ask-the-dude-if-he's-already-paired-up-before-you-begin-to-obsess-over-him' looks.


Fine. Fine. I'll ask him. "Is that your, um, your--"


"What? Who?" Ray raised both eyebrows, his confusion obvious. Nati narrowed her eyes.


Gerard did his best to play it cool. "Frankie. He's your . . ."


"My best friend. Happily married to an awesome lady named Jamia who'd find it hilarious to imagine me rolling around in bed with her husband." Ray stopped at the light and then turned.


That wasn't a clear answer. Gerard changed tactics. "You never know. Maybe she'd think it's hot. Human sexuality is not a definite thing like numbers or the table of periodic elements! Like, say you've considered the idea of 'maybe' liking apple pie. You've never tasted it, so you don't know, right? But then, when you finally have a slice, it's too sweet or not satisfying enough or you like it without the scoop of vanilla ice cream. Maybe it turns out you don't even like pie."


Gerard's ability to ramble was on an Olympic level.

Ray slowed down and put his car in park. "Door-to-door service," he said, smiling like he hadn't been at the other end of a babbling Gerard.


"Thanks," Gerard muttered, gathering his messenger bag and a supposedly-asleep-but-actually-wide-awake Ursula, struggling with the door handle because he'd been holding the thermos with Ray's coffee in it. He'd finally gotten out of the car so it wasn't until he was about to close the door that he realized he was practically stealing Ray's thermos right in front of him. "Oh, I'm sorry," he said, glad that Ray had lowered the windows when Gerard got out of his car.


"Keep it for tonight, enjoy the coffee and bring the thermos to the garage, you know, whenever," Ray said smooth as hell.


"All right. Thank you." Gerard knew he was blushing--his face felt like it was on fire--but he could make it to his doorstep with some modicum of dignity.


"I'll give you a call when your car's ready," Ray said. "Oh, and Gerard?"


Gerard dropped Ursula gently on the pavement and faced Ray. "Yes?"


"Apple pie's okay, but my favorite dessert is Mazamorra. Night!" Ray honked once and waved as he drove away.


"Motherfucker!" Gerard scrunched up his nose with delight.


"You're a goner," Ursula said sagely.


oOo



Gerard's original plan was to play it cool. Ray was the first guy he'd been interested in a long time and he didn't want to fuck things up. He went online, Googling places he wanted to see in L.A. ("Don't forget about that Indian restaurant that serves the super-hot chicken curry," Ursula pointed out when Gerard surfed on over to a Cali foodie's site), re-read his entire Sandman collection and then spent the next day diving into the Zero Stone series and American Gods. Ursula stayed close, letting Gerard escape into imaginary worlds in order to sort himself out.


His resolve to wait broke two days later when Mikey invited him to a bands' showcase.


"Come on, Gee, it's been ages since you've left your cave. Plus, I miss you."


Gerard picked up a pen and started doodling. He held his cell phone between his ear and his shoulder. "I saw you last night. We played Magic, kicked James and Becky's asses and had tasty pizza."


"That's not the same."


Gerard closed his eyes. In his mind, he saw Mikey pouting, Leia curled up in his lap.


"Besides, you've already postponed your trip West once."


"That's why I paid extra for a refundable ticket," Gerard said, shaking himself out of his stupor. "I don't want to be all the way across across the country to hear that my car's a goner."


"Uh-huh."


"OK, fine. I'm in."


"Cool. The show starts around 9 so I'm picking you up around 8-ish? I got us on the guest list and a table as well."


"I'll make sure to wear my raddest t-shirt. The Madonna one, you know? Look all hipster-suave."


"You do that, Gee. You do that. OK, I gotta take Piglet out. See you tonight."


"Bye, Mikey," Gerard said. A quick glance at his sketch revealed Ray holding a small plate with some kind of ambiguous dessert on it. He made a point of ignoring Ursula's snickering in the background.


oOo



Gerard squeezed through the thick crowd, cradling Ursula with his hands. Touching someone else's entity was really taboo and most people respected that. They were in a bar though and, along with alcohol and whatever else some people smoked or snorted, inhibitions lowered to an uncomfortable level. "Is this, like, the only concert in the whole town?"


"The Anti 9 to 5's are headlining tonight." Mikey answered like that meant something to Gerard. He jerked his chin at a couple of people, high-fiving others and finally led Gerard to their table.


"The Anti who's?" Gerard wasn't always hip to the local music scene. At one time right after graduating high school, he'd considered forming a rock band. His crippling stage fright took care of that.


Mikey leaned over, raising his voice over the din of the current band onstage. "Oh, they're this massively popular rock group. Lots of promise, killer guitarists and a good sound, you know? It's a shame though."


"What's that?" Gerard checked out the bar wistfully. The air in the club was hot (too many people in a tiny venue) and he was feeling thirsty for a soda or a bottle of water.


"The band members only do this thing for fun," Mikey said, placing Leia on his lap and petting her head. "They usually play on weekends so, this is, like, super-rare." Mikey looked at Gerard and then signaled at a waitress who was nearby. "You want something?"


"Water," Gerard answered, taking off his leather jacket.


Mikey ordered two bottles of water and settled in for the show.


oOo



As showcases went, there was an even mix of good musicians and bands that were absolutely tone deaf. The crowd by the stage was eating everything up though. Bouncing and singing along to the songs.


It was close to midnight and the Cha-Cha Heels--an all-girl punk band that had both Way brothers headbanging--had just left the stage.


Gerard bumped his fist against Mikey's bony shoulder. "Dude, thanks for dragging me here."


"Don't thank me yet," Mikey said, a mischievous glint in his eyes. "The Antis are up next and they're going to blow you away. Thank me after their set."


"Okay?" Gerard gave Mikey a quizzical look. Little brothers were fucking strange.


A little after midnight, The Anti 9 to 5's walked onstage and Gerard figured out what Mikey had tried to tell him in his own cryptic fashion.


He was absolutely speechless when Ray Toro plugged in his guitar and stepped up to the center mic.


"Good evening! How are y'all doing? We're really fucking happy to see you here supporting local music," Ray said, one hand resting on his guitar.


The crowd roared with joy. Gerard couldn't take his eyes off Ray.


"All right, all right. How about I shut the fuck up and we get down to business?" Ray grinned. He twisted around, nodding to the drummer and then at a short and heavily tattooed guy to the his right who stood up facing the crowd, his hands behind his back.


Gerard looked on, open-mouthed as Ray, backed by his band, became a force of nature. Moving past the fact that Ray seemed to have a fantastic time onstage, the Anti 9 to 5's were simply amazing.


Their music was definitely rock (Gerard cheered along with everyone after one powerful guitar solo that he felt all the way to his toes) but it also had feeling and was pretty catchy, too. By the middle of the third song, Ray was covered in sweat, his fingers flying up and down the neck of his guitar, and Gerard felt his heart lurch toward Ray. Even Ursula looked dazed.


"Ray's really good," Gerard said, seven songs later as The Anti 9 to 5's brought the showcase to an end.


"He didn't tell you he was guitar god when he drove you home?" Mikey asked, hiding a smirk behind his second bottle of water.


"Why didn't you tell me?" Gerard made a grouchy face.


"Honestly? Alicia made a bet with me that you wouldn't come to the show if you knew Ray'd be here." Mikey shrugged apologetically.


"But, Mikey, I didn't know Ray was in a band."


"Exactly," Mikey said as he stood up and stretch up his arms. "And now, thanks to you, 'Lish owes me a pair of tickets for next year's Wrestlemania. It's gonna happen here in Jersey, you know? Anyway, crush or no crush, admit it: the Antis were awesome."


"Yes, Mikes, your taste in musical acts remains unparalleled," Gerard said, not taking his eyes off Ray.


Onstage, Ray wished everyone good-night and then the house lights came on. People and their entities started to either rush for the bar or head to the main exit. It was way past 1 A.M. and Gerard felt wide awake.


"You wanna go say 'hi'?" Mikey pointed a finger at the backstage area the Antis had disappeared to.


Gerard was tempted--he really, really was--but he was also nervous about what his reaction would be to meeting Ray face-to-face after practically drooling at him and his guitar playing. "Nah, dude. I'll say something ridiculous and will have to send someone else to pick up my car. Or, you know, risk dying of embarrassment."


"I'm pretty sure he doesn't bite, Gee." Mikey put Leia on the table and slid into his coat.


"Yeah, well..." Gerard glanced back and allowed himself to wonder for second. "Nah, forget it."


"OK then. Don't ever say that I stood in the path between you and true love."


Gerard poked Mikey's shoulder as they started walking to the exit. "Ever since you got serious with Alicia, you think everyone should be paired up with the whole world."


"Not everyone, Gee. Just you. And, not the 'whole world' either. Just your rock god mechanic."


oOo



Fate, having something of a sense of humor, intervened via a phone call the very next day.


Gerard knocked his alarm over while he searched for his ringing phone. He'd fallen asleep in his Madonna t-shirt and his boxers briefs. "Morning?" he slurred when he answered. Ursula's nose peeked from under the comforter.


"May I speak to Gerard Way. This is Ray? From Toro and Sons?"


"Oh. Hi!" Gerard sat up, feeling slightly self-conscious that he was sitting in his undies talking to Ray. "What's, um, what's up?"


"I was calling about your car," Ray said brightly. "It's ready. Well, it was ready yesterday but I had this thing to do and I ended up closing the garage way earlier so--"


"The showcase?" Gerard grimaced. His brain-to-mouth filter didn't turn on until he had coffee in his system.


"Erm, yeah. How do you . . . ? Wait a sec, were you there?"


"Maybe? I mean, yes. Mikey got us on the list and so, yeah." Gerard started to gnaw his right thumbnail.


"Oh, dude, you should've come and said hello!" Ray sounded a little disappointed.


"I thought you'd be, you know, busy. Next time?"


Ray hmmed. "I'll hold you to it," he said after a few seconds of consideration. "Anyway, like I said, your car's ready so feel free to come by the garage any time today."


"Will do," Gerard replied. "I'm gonna go have breakf--" he checked the time. "Erm, lunch and then I'll come by afterwards."


"See you later, then."


Gerard hung up his phone and plopped back into his bed. Coffee, maybe shower, call Mikey, coffee again and then face rock god mechanic and try not to make a fool of himself.


"Don't forget to return the thermos," Ursula muttered as she squeezed out from under the bedspread.


oOo



"I don't even know what I'm doing here." Mikey rolled his neck to the right and then to the left, holding until there was a mild pop while waiting for the light to turn green. Sitting right behind him, Leia murmured "That's what I want to know."


"Simple: I needed a ride to Toro's, and you're going to give me moral support because you played a dirty trick on me." Gerard sipped his coffee. Ursula, who was curled up on his lap, huffed into her tail.


Mikey grunted and turned on his iPod, pressing play. Soon, Pulp's "Miles End" came through the speakers.


Both Ways' tempers had cooled off when Mikey parked the car in front of Ray's garage. "I don't think I've ever seen this place," Mikey said as he unclicked his seat belt.


"That's the same thing I told Ray that night," Gerard commented, handing the rest of his coffee to Mikey.


"Yeah, yeah, Gee. We're cool," Mikey said, greedily drinking the hot liquid in one go.


oOo



The reception/waiting area was empty.


"Looks like all the action is happening at the bays," Mikey said after they walked in.


The garage looked like a completely different place in the daytime; there were a lot more people around for one thing. In addition to a cute woman who had a black cat as an entity, Gerard recognized the tattooed guitarist and his pigmy goat from the concert last night. There was also a beefy guy who could've been a security or body guard in another life and his boa constrictor. The Ramones music came through speakers in surround sound, the one-two beat providing a rhythm that mingled just fine with the whirrs and clangs of the garage.


Gerard and Mikey stood by, waiting for someone to acknowledge their presence. Ursula and Leia chased each other, darting around and play fighting with each other.


"Go on, Gee," Mikey said, looking extra-vampiric while wearing his sunglasses inside. "Let's see what Ray's going to say about your Jeep."


Two short steps later, Gerard knocked on the glass door between the waiting room and the garage bays. The tattooed guitarist looked up from the Kawasaki he was working on and jerked his chin. He yelled at whoever was tinkering under the gold Trans Am nearby.


Just then, Ray rolled out from under the Trans Am and sat up, twisting his head in Gerard's direction. "Gerard!" He mouthed, waving excitedly.


Gerard felt Mikey softly elbowing him on his ribs. "Nope, I don't think you'll need my wingman powers this time around." He sat down and took out his phone, slouching as he started to text someone. Probably Alicia.


Ray walked in a few minutes later with Nati perching on his right shoulder. He'd put his long hair into a ponytail and his overall were light grey with a patch that had Ray stitched on it. The only hint as to his shortened sleep were the dark circles under his eyes. "Oh, dude, sorry about keeping you waiting. I sent Lou to grab lunch and he's taking his fucking time."


"Wish I'd known. We could've brought something." Gerard gave him a side smile.


"Hey, you brought me my thermos. We're even," Ray said as Nati climbed down his body and settled near the coffeemaker, her clever eyes following Ursula and Leia's ongoing chase.


"I washed it and everything," Gerard said, handing it over to Ray.


"Awesome," Ray said. He leaned to the side, one eyebrow raised, before looking back at Gerard.


"That's my little brother Mikey," Gerard said.


"Nice to meet you." Ray nodded.


"Same here," Mikey said, fingers tapping on his phone. "You guys kicked ass last night. I really liked the bridge you added to "Stiff."


The smile on Ray's face grew wider. "Thanks. Frankie rewrote that part."


Gerard looked into Ray's warm brown eyes. "Last night's show turned me into a lifelong fan of The Antis for sure."


"Oh, thanks," Ray beamed. "Playing guitar is one of the most important things to me. If it hadn't been for Frank, I'd have never thought of joining a band, let alone playing live. I do it for fun, well, we all do."


"So, you wouldn't think of going on tour, maybe getting a record deal?"


Ray shrugged. "Performing under hot lights, people singing along. . . It's a rush. But I understand cars and I like getting my hands dirty. Right now, I'm happy balancing both running this garage and doing weekend gigs."


"Oh." Gerard sagged a little. "You looked like you belonged onstage. I don't think I've seen anyone who is as good as you or the Antis in a long, long time. Shit, I wish I was half as good as you."


Ray perked up. "You're in a band, too? Do you play an instrument?"


"No, no." Gerard made a ridiculous face and waved a hand in front of him. "Like, I think I can play a few chords on an acoustic guitar. Could've been in a band, chose to earn a living by writing epic love stories involving outsmarting the Devil and things like that."


"Sounds, you know, intense. You ever want to learn guitar, like how to really play it, hit me up. I could have you doing some rad chords in no time. A lot of it is practicing until fingering becomes second nature." Ray widened his eyes. "Um, I mean. . ."


Gerard bit his lower lip, his body shaking with the urge to laugh. He heard Mikey's snort from somewhere behind him and that was all he needed to start giggling. Soon, Ray joined him.


"Sorry." Gerard wiped a tear away once they had calmed down. "I--"


Ray licked his lips. "I--" He stopped. "You go first."


"I was going to say something stupid. Go ahead," Gerard nodded.


"This might be a shot in the dark." Ray exhaled. "OK, here I go: I know it hasn't been too long since we've met and that there's a chance you're not interested. But, um." He scratched his forearm. "Would you like to have dinner with me? You can come over my place, I'll order us some really good Chinese food and we can get to know each other. I could also teach you a few chords?"


Everything seemed to stay still as if the universe itself waited for Gerard's answer. His eyes traveled over Ray in his uniform, grease-stained but content, and he thought about the Ray he'd seen the night before in tight jeans and a Randy Rhoads t-shirt, arms shiny with sweat as he jammed along with his band. He couldn't wait to see what else there was to find out about his rock god mechanic.


The Ramones' "Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World" started playing.


"I'd love to," Gerard said at last. Then, feeling emboldened by the shy smile on Ray's face, he closed the space between them, tilting his head up to press his lips against Ray's.


At their wedding reception, a few years in the future, Gerard would mention that there was no better sign about taking a leap and accepting Ray's invitation than getting the OK from a classic punk band.


THE END

Date: 2013-01-03 03:49 am (UTC)
gorgeousnerd: #GN written in the red font from my layout on a black background. (Mikey Way.)
From: [personal profile] gorgeousnerd
That was absolutely adorable! Gerard being Gerard was great enough on its own, but the daemons were such a nice touch.

Date: 2013-01-07 01:57 am (UTC)
ext_28340: Credit: <lj user=aiken_4graphics> (Cat Ears Hat! Gee)
From: [identity profile] lucifuge-5.livejournal.com
Thank you! I love Gerard's, well, Gerardiness and I enjoyed having the opportunity to write a nifty fic with it. :D!

Date: 2013-01-03 04:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alpheratz.livejournal.com
Ohhhhh. A daemon AU. *___________* I LOVE THOSE.

Of course Mikey's is named Leia :))) They have foxes! And Ray obviously has a monkey. AND FRANK HAS A GOAT. HOW DID YOU KNOW. *______* The daemons are so perfect.

I just love how Ray was so unflappable in the face of Gerard being Gerard. The whole apple pie conversation and Ray's parting shot made me squeal. They are just so great and Gerard is so faily and apologizing to Mikey with coffee. And of course Ray just went for it in the end. He's so SENSIBLE and hot and sweet.

Thank you, mystery author. <3

Date: 2013-01-07 02:45 am (UTC)
ext_28340: Credit: <lj user=aiken_4graphics> (Gerard SQUEEEE!!)
From: [identity profile] lucifuge-5.livejournal.com
Yays! I didn't know if you ~knew~ about daemons but I couldn't shake the idea of Gerard having a fennec fox one so... I actually spend a lot of time trying to figure out what would Ray's daemon would be. Mikeyway and Frank's were the absolute easiest to figure out. :P

NGL, the apple pie ramble and Ray's reply made me giggle as I was writing it.

I'm seriously ecstatic that you liked your fic! It was an absolute pleasure to write it. \:D/!

Date: 2013-01-03 12:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] annemaris.livejournal.com
Ohh, this was so adorable! Ray/Gerard! Ray being a rock god mechanic! Gerard being faily and adorable! Daemons! All their daemons were perfect. Such a sweet story. <33

Date: 2013-01-07 02:46 am (UTC)
ext_28340: Credit: <lj user=aiken_4graphics> (Cat Ears Hat! Gee)
From: [identity profile] lucifuge-5.livejournal.com
Hee, my plot bunnies tend to be sweet and ridic. The daemons thing almost didn't happen because I thought it was going to be OTT? *hands*

Thank you for letting me know you dug my fic. :D!

Date: 2013-01-03 02:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] monkey-pie.livejournal.com
This was just perfect! I love Gerard being all faily and rambly and of course Ray just handling it like a champ and taking the initiative. And I liked the bit of them talking about when they were kids, and of course Gerard would have defended Mikey against anyone who gave him shit about having a butterfly entity.

Date: 2013-01-07 02:53 am (UTC)
ext_28340: Credit: <lj user=aiken_4graphics> (Cat Ears Hat! Gee)
From: [identity profile] lucifuge-5.livejournal.com
I will forever admit to having a fondness for failboat!Gerard. Ray, of course, is totes mellow. Theirs is a pairing of contrasts and that's part of the reason why I like this ship so much. ^_^

Gerard would ALWAYS have Mikeyway's back. &Waybros;

Thank you for commenting and letting me know how much you liked this fic. :D!

Date: 2013-01-03 11:35 pm (UTC)
turlough: deckchairs on Brighton Beach, June 2013 (*heart*)
From: [personal profile] turlough
This was so sweet! I love your Gerard, he's so rambly and faily and totally adorable. His and Mikey's relationship is awesome and his crush on Ray is so cute. The daemons are such a neat addition and I the animals you've choosen for everyone are just perfect. Wonderfully warm and happymaking story!

Date: 2013-01-07 02:55 am (UTC)
ext_28340: Credit: <lj user=aiken_4graphics> (Cat Ears Hat! Gee)
From: [identity profile] lucifuge-5.livejournal.com
\Sweetness/! I waffled a little about the daemons because I didn't know if there would be anyone else who would like them. (Idek, Turl!)

I'm tickled pink you liked this fic. Warm and happy was totes what I was aiming for when I sat down to write this. :D!

Date: 2013-01-04 01:16 am (UTC)
akamine_chan: Created by me; please don't take (My heart tattoo)
From: [personal profile] akamine_chan
This is just the sweetest story ever; I love pacing of it and the romance that blooms between Ray and Gerard is just awesome!

Date: 2013-01-07 02:56 am (UTC)
ext_28340: Credit: <lj user=aiken_4graphics> (Cat Ears Hat! Gee)
From: [identity profile] lucifuge-5.livejournal.com
*blushes* It wouldn't have happened without your support and ear-pulling. :P ♥

Date: 2013-01-06 02:39 pm (UTC)
ext_1650: (Gerard ( turloughishere))
From: [identity profile] turps33.livejournal.com
This is such a fantastic story.

I loved your Gerard and Ray so much, your Mikey too, and especially loved when Gerard started to babble.

The daemon's were an excellent addition.

Date: 2013-01-07 02:57 am (UTC)
ext_28340: Credit: <lj user=aiken_4graphics> (Cat Ears Hat! Gee)
From: [identity profile] lucifuge-5.livejournal.com
Gerard's babble is a tremendously disarming thing, isn't it? ;)

I'm totes beaming that you liked the daemons, T. ^_^

Date: 2013-01-07 12:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] andeincascade.livejournal.com
This story is jam-packed with awesome. Here are a few things I just adored.

Even if said mechanic was one Ray Toro, owner of a pair of mighty-looking thighs, strong arms and the kind of smile that would melt the coldest heart. Um, yeah. Gimme.

Ursula is snarky gold and I love how you envision House of Wolves. I'd read the hell out of that collection.

Gerard sketching ambiguous dessert. *glee* You can find out what it is, Gee, when you ask Ray for a date. :D

And now, thanks to you, 'Lish owes me a pair of tickets for next year's Wrestlemania. There may have been snorting at this. Hee!

"Don't forget to return the thermos," Snarky and useful. I could use an Ursula. Especially where my keys are concerned.

A lot of it is practicing until fingering becomes second nature." Ray widened his eyes. "Um, I mean. . ." Ahahaha! You boys get right on that, yeah?

The last line is perfection.

Great job, mystery author!

Date: 2013-01-07 02:58 am (UTC)
ext_28340: Credit: <lj user=aiken_4graphics> (Cat Ears Hat! Gee)
From: [identity profile] lucifuge-5.livejournal.com


(That's all)

Date: 2013-01-10 07:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] art-brutal.livejournal.com
This is so cute - and their daemons fit them perfectly :)

Date: 2013-01-12 03:44 am (UTC)
ext_28340: Credit: <lj user=aiken_4graphics> (Cat Ears Hat! Gee)
From: [identity profile] lucifuge-5.livejournal.com
Thankies! I kinda knew what Gee (and, by extension, Mikeyway) would have a as a daemon. Ray's proved to be a little tricky. Frank having a pigmy goat seemed pretty much inevitable. :P

I'm glad you dug my story. :D!

Date: 2013-08-24 01:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] idkupick.livejournal.com
Omg *flails* I love the how faily Gerard is. I love the whole story. I also love your music choices. Technical Ecstasy is a really good Sabbath album I like fucking love it and some people are like just so into the more popular stuff and they miss out on delicious juicy music like this. Black Sabbath is one of my favorite bands ever in the history of ever since ever. The Ramones are also one of my most favorite bands in the history of my being. Seriously these two compete daily for the number one spot of favorite band. The Randy Rhodes tshirt! I love Ray in the Randy Rhodes shirts, I flail so hard when people post pictures of him in them and point it out to everyone because Randy Rhodes is awesome and deserves love and respect. Ok back to story comments. I love what you did with the albums and books I think the songs you picked for titles are so perfect. I'm not familiar with the soul creature thing but it seems interesting and I think I kinda like it.

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