Guitar Hero

by Takiguchi Aiko (滝口アイコ)
illustrated by sairobi

(mirrors http://s2b2.livejournal.com/67080.html)

illustrated by sairobi

You couldn’t even count the benefits of Roger getting clean but one of the unexpected ones was Jeremy got at least six hours of sleep a night, more or less uninterrupted. He’d had insomnia for as long as he could remember, and managing to drift off only to have Rog and those assholes from Up, Up and Away bring their coked-up groupies on the tour bus and smash the Playstation open with a hammer, do not even get him started. So having grown accustomed to the new order, he was less than charitable when Finn sat on his bed, basically only molecular repulsion between his ass and Jeremy’s head and said, “Get up, man.”

“Fuck yourself on your mother’s motherfucking cock, you fucking tardfaced motherfucker,” Jeremy would have said if this were a Judd Apatow movie. But in the real world swearing still didn’t always come naturally to him and his mouth didn’t know how to work right at, what was it? Seven? Fuck. “Muh?”

“Up,” Finn shoved him lightly. “Get up. I’m taking you to Denny’s.”

“I will not be tempted by your pitiful attempt at seduction,” Jeremy also did not say in favor of curling into a tiny, protective Jeremy-cocoon and hoping Finn would go away.

“Jeremy,” and that was a humid feathering right in his ear as Finn’s hand curled around his shoulder, steady and sure. “Come on. I have a revelation.”

“What the hell ever, revelation,” Jeremy groaned, but he rolled over on his back and squinted at Finn out of one eye. “You’re buying?”

“I’m buying.”

“I want to go to IHOP.”

Finn laughed, warm and indulgent, and Jeremy turned over to smother his blush in the pillow. “We can go to IHOP.”

***

As the frontman, Jeremy got the most attention – interviews, airtime, the fans generally knew his name. He had grown accustomed to it and then to love it, like steady exposure to an exotic food. But while Jeremy was gushed over on his fair share of call-in radio shows, Finn was categorically the pretty one, the one who got all the bras thrown at him. Sometimes he would use one as a makeshift headband when he got too sweaty and the crowd would go absolutely nuts, buzznet turning into a swamp of badly-lit jpegs the next day.

That was the thing about Finn – Jeremy would be screaming, spitting, doubled over, writhing around the stage as if consumed by the very essence of music, but Finn would barely move the whole show. Then on the second to last song, he’d throw his head back as he struck a hard chord and the audience would scream until Jeremy’s ears rung. “I’ve just been doing it longer,” Finn said once. “I know what people like.”

Early on, when they were signed with New Day, Brian The Suit suggested in that way that would not hold up in court as suggesting that maybe part of their stage show could be making out. The band groaned and kvetched, but honestly, they were just that side of queer-friendly pop punk and the guitar duels could get a little, well, blatant, so they said they would give it a try.

At the show that night Jeremy handed his guitar off to the tech just before Four Generations Will Water Your Blood Into Wine and took the mic off the stand, twirling the chord. “So, you guys having a good time?”

The crowd roared approval. Jeremy grinned. He would never not get off on this. He took a moment just to smirk and the crowd cheered again. “Oh, sorry. Not just guys. The ladies. Never let it be said that Three Tickets To does not support gender equality in rocking out. Although I guess we could old-timey grade school it up in here, girls on the left of the pit, guys on the right… great, you’re all following me.” He shook his head, self-deprecating, letting the audience in on the joke. Jeremy raised his eyebrows and dropped his register half an octave when the laughter began to die down. “Anyway, we always hope the ladies have a good time.”

A higher decibel to the screaming this time and Jeremy felt himself smiling again. Then Finn said it: “We guarantee the ladies a good time.” Laughter at that too.

Jeremy felt a little loony, unhinged, maybe what the moon felt like sometimes. He prowled closer to Finn, not unusually close, not really. He purred, “Gotta make sure someone’s having a good time,” and licked Finn’s neck. Finn tasted like sweat and stage makeup and something dark and cloying that lingered in his mouth. It wasn’t all that different from usual apart from the complete sensory overload of the crowd losing its mind. The lighting made Finn’s eyes flash a strange, liquid gold.

He had thought about it all that after the show, about drowning in their approval, when the thousand little things he knew about Finn’s body were small and secret, private jokes between the two of them. Finn’s exposed skin was indistinguishable from tiny whispers late at night. They told Brian the Suit the next day that the gay felt too contrived, too forced; they didn’t think it worked with the sound.

***

Jeremy stopped drinking when Roger quit, a solidarity thing. He wasn’t much of a smoker either, given that his job more or less hinged on his lung capacity. But it was too early in the morning to be up without indulging in at least one vice unless you were Finn or a magical princess with your own bluebird helpers. They were in New Jersey or Pennsylvania, somewhere north and disapproving of smoking, but one of the perks of being the poster child for the post-emo movement was the waitress, seventeen if she was a day, her lipstick like wax, just went big-eyed and pretended to be too cool to recognize them and didn’t say anything when Jeremy ashed onto his bread plate.

Finn bought him pumpkin pancakes with whipped cream and Jeremy poured half a bottle of rum-pecan syrup on them while he said, “So?”

“You’re going to give yourself diabetes,” Finn said, his eyes tracking the movement of the pitcher with morbid fascination.

“Revelation, Finn?” Jeremy prodded. “I’m in a chain restaurant, humoring your whims. I need revelating to be going on.” He was proud he could sound so blase when he was telepathically beaming into Finn’s brain please don’t quit the band or have a terminal disease or need to go find yourself by backpacking through Asia, because I will have a nervous breakdown or a pulmonary embolism and have to go to an institution in Arizona and we will have to stop touring and that will void our contract and you do not want that on your hands, Finneus Ruefenacht, you do not.

Finn was the usually the most decisive member of the band, the practical one. When Jeremy and Jamie and Rog were blithering around like the neurotic, high-strung idiots they were doomed eternally to be, Finn was making sure the monitors were working or Vintage wasn’t fucking them over in a sub-clause or Rog and Jeremy were up on their prescriptions. When Finn made up his mind he acted, a cavalcade of charismatic bluntness, like it never occurred to him that anything could get in his way. So it was understandable that Jeremy nearly stroked out when Finn hesitated, staring down at his unfairly elegant hands.

“Finn?” he squeaked.

Finn looked up finally, his eyes that weird undefinable hazel. “So I’m a god.”

***

Finn hadn’t been the first they recruited for the band, or the last, but he was the one they fit themselves around. He was the long, skinny Tetris piece that wedged perfectly into a combination you didn’t even know you had been making.

“I found us a rhythm guitarist,” Roger had said walking into the practice space. He had been going through an unexpected pot adoration phase back in their last days in Utah and had sounded dreamy all the time. Jeremy hated himself, deeply and forever, that he couldn’t pinpoint when exactly Rog had turned inward and become jumpy and mean, that he hadn’t been paying enough attention to remember.

Jeremy had been fucking around with his guitar, The E-string wouldn’t tune or something. “Yeah? Where?”

“You won’t believe this. So I was just in line at-”

“Starbucks. Hey.” A shaggy head poked itself in. “Sorry, I could hear you through the door. Hi, Roger. 4:30, right? Can I…?”

Rog waved. “Yeah man, it’s cool. Come in.”

Finn was tall, poet-thin, willowy instead of angular. The pale skin and dark hair worked for him, when Jeremy just looked consumptive half the time. He had chipped purple nailpolish and green and blue live strong bracelets and an old tattoo of a foreign alphabet on the inside of his wrist. Jeremy had wondered how cool came so effortlessly to some people, how it was instinct rather than practice, decision rather than observation. “Jeremy, right? I ran into Rog at Starbucks and we got to talking. He said you guys were starting a band.” His voice stayed even at the end, declarative. Jeremy would have winched the pitch up, asking permission.

So he said back, “Yeah, we’re a band,” not “Yeah, we’re a band?” He had practiced this in his head, going up and down the tone like scales, trying to sound like a guy who could be in a band, could front a band, not like the short kid from the church choir. He wanted to sound like the kind of a guy a guy like this would want approval from. “So you want to play something? Let’s see what you got.”

Finn had pretty much sealed the deal when, instead of taking Roger’s extra guitar from the open case, he walked over to Jeremy and lifted his off his shoulders, smiling when he saw Jeremy swallow at the touch of Finn’s hand on his hip. It was the first time Jeremy had seen that smile. But then, oh. Finn began to play.

***

“Eff you, god,” Jeremy said. “What is it?” And then the thought came from deep in his abdomen, the subterranean, queasy level of his stomach he’s breaking up with me. Which was ridiculous, since they were years past that level of dating. “Did you, like, join a cult? Did you go all Jesus-y with Roger? Is that what this is? It is too early for Jesus, I’ll tell you that for free.”

Finn was a gentleman and only gave him a pointed look, that look that said it was never too early for Jesus with Jeremy, that Jeremy had written three songs about Jesus for their last album alone and lied and said they were break-up numbers. Jeremy squirmed and looked away.

“Apollo,” Finn said, talking around Jeremy the way he did.

“Pardon?”

“I’m Apollo,” Finn repeated, like he thought this was actually helpful.

“You’re appalling,” Jeremy said, which was lame but the best he had at the moment. “Finish your waffles. We got that meeting with what’s-her-face at 9:30. That stylist.”

“I thought it was time you knew.” Finn sounded calm, philosophical. “I mean, I knew you wouldn’t believe me, but I couldn’t keep lying to you about it either. I want to let you know this won’t change anything between us. I just needed it to be out in the open for my own peace of mind.”

Jeremy stubbed out his cigarette with a long-suffering sigh. “Well, that was some great sharing. Tip that waitress really well, okay? She gave me extra bacon.”

***

When Jamie was promoted to band member and they moved from practicing covers to writing their own stuff, they were all a little surprised to find that it was actually good. Incredibly good even, not professional yet but with potential written in the chords. It took Jeremy longer than the rest of them. It sunk in around Roger’s thirty-fourth repetition of ‘we’re gonna get out of this town and change the world‘, and then he had a panic attack in Finn’s car.

In interviews they went on about how they all had that special feeling of purpose and cohesion right from the beginning, how they had always dreamed big. It was true, in its way. Jeremy couldn’t imagine a life divorced from music, but he and Roger were still fundamentally those high school geeks who had started a band as a last-ditch attempt to meet girls.

“Breathe,” Finn had instructed, putting a hand on Jeremy’s back. Jeremy could feel the imprint of each finger – the pads of the tips, the bones of the joints – burning through his shirt. Finn was always warmer than most people.

“My parents are going to kill me,” Jeremy got out mid-hyperventilation. But he got himself together like Finn wanted, with slow, steady breaths.

Finn rubbed between his shoulder blades. “Yeah,” he said, a little sadly. “I know. But still, it’s going to be okay.”

It was only a few months later that Jeremy’s mom had discovered, pretty much within an hour, that he had asked his seminary leader about postponing his mission until the band got off the ground and the tube of glitter eyeshadow in his desk. Between the yelling she had said, tearfully, “You were always my special little boy. Maybe I smothered you.”

Christ, Mom,” Jeremy had said. He ended up sleeping at Roger’s house and crept back home the next day for breakfast. The red of the slap had faded by then.

So Finn’s words were vague but prophetic. Jeremy’s parents still weren’t on more than Christmas and birthday phone call contact with him since he refused to go to college and left the church, but yeah. It was okay.

***

“Shouldn’t you be blond?” Jeremy asked irritably six hours later. He felt over-caffeinated. Usually when Finn played a joke he plodded it along with a dogged tenacity, but he seemed happy to let this one drop.

“I have been in earlier incarnations,” Finn said easily, not looking up from his sketchpad. “But this body fits the contemporary aesthetic standards. Besides, going blond again felt a little played-out.”

“Blond isn’t played-out if you’re a freaking sun god. You should be all…” Jeremy waved a hand around feebly. “Glowy.”

“That’s actually a common misconception.” Finn closed his sketchpad, looking as earnest as a really enthusiastic TA. He had a smudge of ink on his forehead that Jeremy stubbornly refused to find endearing. “Helios, a titan, is the charioteer of the sun. Diana has associations with the moon, and it’s true, the Hellenists sort of worked a sun angle in on me, but back in the day, not so much.”

“Diana?” Jeremy asked, before getting it and feeling dumb. “Whatever. So what are you the god of?”

Finn meditated on it for a second. “Basically, I’m the god of being incredibly, totally hip.”

Jamie bounded in from the lounge, his DS dangling from his hand. “Who is?”

“Finn,” said Jeremy. “Apparently.”

“Shit, tell us something we don’t know!” Jamie said, throwing an arm around Finn and giving him a jostling little squeeze. Jeremy loved Jamie; Jamie was the most unrepentantly nice guy Jeremy had ever met. He should have been having sex with Jamie all this time, as Finn was clearly either a sleeper asshole or going insane. Finn beamed up at Jamie, who peeked over Finn’s shoulder – Jeremy noticed his sideburns had teetered over to this side of ridiculous. “You were drawing?”

“Yeah,” Finn said, flipping his pad open again. “Just a couple of Jeremy.”

Jamie turned a few pages. “Oh hey, that’s really good. Rog and I were gonna have a Halo party in the lounge if y’all are interested.”

“Nah,” Finn said. “I’m good.”

Jeremy held up his book. “I want to finish this before we get to Boston.”

Jamie shrugged. “That’s cool. Later.”

They were companionably silent for a while. Then Finn said, “It’s cool, you don’t have to hold so still. I’m not doing, like, a portrait. I sort of want to convey the potential for movement in your position anyway.”

Jeremy turned a page. “You being a god explains your name, anyway,” he muttered. “Finneus Claude Ruefenacht. Freaking ridiculous name.”

“Hey,” Finn said mildly.

***

In the period before he officially left home but spent half his nights on Roger’s couch, back when they were the best on the local scene, for the little that meant, and he and Jamie endlessly trolled myspace trying to drum up those tantalizing, elusive contacts, Jeremy and Finn started hanging out a lot. They spent hours in Finn’s dingy little studio apartment, heads bent over his iPod, talking about Ginsberg and Palahuniuk and free will. Finn lent him The Hidden Cameras, The New Pornographers, Thursday, dog-eared copies of Sartre and Pindar, the DVD of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, cigarettes. He cut Jeremy’s hair for him, sang the Rainbow Connection in a perfect froggy voice that left Jeremy helpless with laughter.

Jeremy would jerk off in the shower thinking about Finn’s hands on the fretboard of his guitar, how his calluses would feel on Jeremy’s cock. He knew, intellectually, that his life was imploding, but it felt inevitable. Late enough at night, click-wheeling their way through Ted Leo, it almost seemed necessary, desirable. They could destroy all the components of Jeremy except maybe Bowie and Radiohead and that one memory of his father giving him his first six-string when he was eight, and Finn could build the rest of him back up. The guilt Jeremy had been wrestling with since he was maybe twelve (fucking wrestling, like tucking in an octopus for the night) was evaporating, a new simmer on the boil.

They had started writing lyrics for Kiss You; Kill Me almost accidentally halfway round the bend to morning on a school night. Jeremy had skipped the next day, falling asleep on the floor at two o’clock in the afternoon when they were nearly done. He woke up to Finn playing with his hair, giving Jeremy a sharp look heady with interest Jeremy itched to define. Finn’s apartment had been musty from Salt Lake’s humidity. To Jeremy, at that moment it felt fertile, full of the potential for growth.

“You are so fucking beautiful,” Finn said. “You’re going to be a legend.” His lips were dry against Jeremy’s at first, his face oddly smooth, and Jeremy wanted to write a completely different song altogether, a ridiculous one about sunshine sneaking into dark corners.

Three weeks later, Jeremy and Finn slept together for the first time. Ten months after that Kiss You hit the Billboard charts at number eight and kept climbing.

***

His midday bemusement had given over to a mild, gnawing frustration by the sound check. The show in Boston was fucking hardcore, mostly because Jeremy performed his best when he was pissed-off. He strutted around the stage, queening it up, and got into Finn’s space, yelling lyrics into his ear. Finn kept his cool, just raised his eyebrows at Jeremy once or twice, shooting him that ‘I understand that you are upset, but keep your shit together and we’ll discuss this later’ look, of which the implications of long-term intimacy usually made Jeremy feel sort of goopy and married.

Right now, it only made him madder. Because his gullible, traitorous brain kept mulling things over. Like… the fact that he had never met Finn’s family. He knew they were old money, that Finn and his sister were sort of black sheep and didn’t talk to them much, but who had told him that? Not Finn, to his recollection. The knowledge had just percolated out of the ether and lodged itself in Jeremy’s general stores. Finn was only two or three years older than him (and why didn’t he know Finn’s exact age? His birthday? Why hadn’t it ever occurred to him to ask about information this fundamental?), but no one at school or in the scene had ever heard of him before. No, though, that made sense, because Finn had just moved from Ohio. Or Minnesota. Or Canada. The point was, Finn had just appeared out of the blue sky one day when they needed him, gorgeous and preternaturally talented at everything, and lead the band out of purgatorial obscurity into meteoric success, and Jeremy had never even thought about any of this.

He was still pretty sure that Finn was fucking with him. From his toes to the tips of his ears sure, as Jeremy’s mother used to say. Roger was probably putting him up to it. Jeremy and Roger had been friends since second grade and loved each other like brothers, which meant Roger could often be a colossal dickweed.

Finn was sort of adorably meek and apologetic after the show, hooking two fingers around Jeremy’s belt and giving excuses to the crew and the venue people and Jenna, their tour manager, as to why they couldn’t make it to the party. Jeremy caught Jamie and Roger rolling their eyes commiseratingly at each other, but whatever they were always quiet.

Gerald, the awesome, tattooed sixty-six-year-old bus driver, sometimes hung out in the lounge doing a crossword or playing Guitar Hero, but he was probably off bumming a smoke from security and the bus was dark and empty. Finn led him to a bottom bunk, Roger’s actually, crooning, “Here, come here, baby.” And Jeremy, who wasn’t really as angry as he was hurt and bewildered, trickled into Finn’s lap at the endearment.

Sweet, cuddly sex was reserved for hotels, where it was physically possible, but they did the best they could tonight, improvising. Jeremy rocked against Finn’s thigh, absorbed with his mouth, while Finn cradled his jaw in his hands, keeping things slow, tender. He unzipped Jeremy’s fly and didn’t bother with pretense, just jacked him off dry, his hand hot and rough. That was enough for right now; Jeremy wanted the simplicity, to strip sex down to the basic drive. He came with a strangled little gasp against Finn’s belly. Finn laughed a little, just happy.

He let Finn hold him, sighing into Finn’s neck while Finn absently pressed kisses into his hair. Their pants were rapidly cooling into one stank, congealed mess though and Finn made a soft noise and moved to push him off.

Jeremy clung on though, a determined koala. “The thing is… you got to prove it to me.”

Finn pulled back just enough to look at him with a curious expression.

Jeremy laughed awkwardly, looking away. “Because, it’s ridiculous, you know? I’m not going to just say okay whatever and go along with this. So you got to prove it to me. Because either you’re just crazy, which I know you’re not, or you’re messing with me or you’re… and either way you’re not being nice. So you got to prove it.”

“Okay. So. Jeremy,” Finn said, deliberate and slow, with a tiny tense edge, like this was a hostage negotiation. “The thing is, I would love to do that. Seriously. There’s nothing I want more than to convince you. But if you saw my actual form, the radiance of it would… well.”

“Blind me?” Jeremy guessed.

“You’d explode.”

“I’d explode?”

“It’s just, it’s a human thing. Any human. You guys aren’t meant to see gods.”

“That is retarded,” Jeremy pointed out.

“Look, some bad shit went down the last time my dad tried it,” Finn said stubbornly. “It’s not something I’m gonna risk.”

“Then demonstrate or something,” Jeremy said. “Use your godly powers, jackass.”

Finn made a thoughtful face. “I guess I could heal someone,” he said carefully. “But we don’t know any sick people and it seems ethically dubious to injure a dude just to heal him in order to prove a point.”

“I’m going to take a shower,” Jeremy sighed, starting to swing his leg over Finn’s lap.

Finn caught him by the hip at the last second. “No, hey – wait. I got an idea. Jamie still has Photoshop on his computer, right?”

“Yeah…?”

Finn sat Jeremy on the bed, pushing him down firmly. “Don’t move, okay? Until I tell you, just don’t move.” He dug through Jamie’s dufflebag, pulled out his laptop and went into the lounge, closing the curtains completely behind him. Well, it had been nice having a boyfriend, Jeremy thought dully, tugging on a pair of Roger’s semi-clean pants. It might be hard to work together after this though, professionally. Maybe they could contract an extra bus.

Then there was a flash of light, yellow-gold like the flicker of a candle except it was the apocalypse. “What the eff?” Jeremy yelped, scrambling back, but it was gone just as quickly leaving the bus in grainy half-dark.

“Okay, I took the picture!” Finn called. “Now I’m just going to run it through some filters.”

“Filters?” Jeremy echoed, red sparks careening behind his eyes.

“You know, to tone things down a little. I don’t think you’ll explode if you see it distorted. You might be driven into a state of pure madness, but I’m pretty sure you won’t die.”

“Oh,” Jeremy said listlessly. “Neat.”

Finn flicked the lights on when he came back to the bunks, the laptop tucked under his arm. He handed Jeremy a cigarette, propped the computer on his lap and tilted back the screen.

Jeremy looked. After a moment he asked, voice hollow, “You got a light?”

Finn wordlessly handed him his lighter. Jeremy smoked the cigarette halfway down, slow, contemplative drags, staring at the photo. Finn had struck his usual jaded camwhore pose, except that wasn’t Finn at all.

“Well,” Jeremy said. “Fuck.”

***

So, okay, it was possible that after signing the first record contract and moving to LA, Jeremy went through kind of a thing. Not like Roger’s thing, which was long and protracted, shameful and brutal, where Roger’s brain just didn’t know how to work right and he was trying to fix it the best he could. No, Roger was always the quiet one, and Jeremy was sloppy and unsubtle. His thing was one big flip off to the Latter Day Saints, Vegas billboard style.

Okay, even like that, it wasn’t Behind the Music material in retrospect. Roger, the child of two ex-Mormons himself, was the first to point out that when your idea of rebellion was a cup of Earl Gray, self-destruction was a relative process. And even as a nascent badass rock star, Jeremy was fundamentally a very boring person who would rather stay in and teach himself to play the oboe. But he had been eighteen and grieving for things he couldn’t name, and before the album dropped he went out to clubs and drank Jager bombs, snorted blow once or twice, and hooked up with a lot of people of various genders.

In the second month of his thing, when it had been long enough that Jack, their then-manager, had been whispering nervously into people’s ears, Finn was petting his head awkwardly as Jeremy threw up in the toilet and he said, “You got to stop this.”

“I’m not done yet,” Jeremy protested. He was resting his cheek on the porcelain, too wiped out to lift up his head, glaring at Finn between heaves. They hadn’t had sex in a while; there had been a fight, somewhere, blurry and loud. Well that was great, that was perfect. The whole point of being a rock star was not being tied down. Jeremy was just going to float, float all the way away.

“You know what I mean,” Finn had said. “This is no self-control, cliched bullshit, Jeremy.”

Jeremy closed his eyes. “Look, I appreciate what you’re doing here. But the last thing I need right now is a good talking to.”

“Fuck you, you need a talking to,” Finn said. He sounded angry now and Jeremy winced. “You want a talking to. You’re hoping if you’re bad enough your mom or your bishop is going to come and drag you back home. That’s not how it works.”

“Effing jay,” Jeremy groaned. He dragged himself up so he was sitting up and scrubbed at the gunk in his eye.

Finn sighed, rocked back on his heels. It was so stupid, the two of them squatting on the bathroom floor of the label’s house. The white of the tile hurt Jeremy’s head, made it difficult to focus.

“Look,” Finn said. “It’s okay to miss them.”

“Shut up,” Jeremy grumbled. He couldn’t stop himself from blinking, but he felt his anger deflating. “I know that.”

Finn, sensing the change in tone, and obviously uncomfortable with actually dissecting Jeremy’s psyche, sighed and messed with his hair. “You can talk to me, man. You know that, right? Whenever you need to.”

And that was the line in the script that signaled the conversation was winding down. Jeremy staggered to his feet and flushed the toilet. He gave Finn a weak grin. His head was ringing like it had been cracked opened and this whole thing had been kind of cliched, Finn was right, but he sort of did feel better. “Yeah, I know. I mean, I don’t say it enough, but thank you. Seriously, thanks. Sometimes I think you’re the only one who cares about my stupid ass.” He tried to make it into a joke but it had trailed off into pathetic by the end.

Finn stilled a little at that, looking away. Jeremy went to rinse out his mouth and when he looked up, he could see Finn behind him in the mirror, staring at their reflections, Jeremy bent over, still clammy, Finn tall and so thin he barely looked solid and beautiful as anything Jeremy would ever see. “I wouldn’t mind being the only one caring about you. If it’s okay.”

Jeremy swallowed. “You… really?”

Finn’s eyes met his in the mirror, his expression tender and wary. “Yeah.”

“Okay. I mean, it goes both ways, and…” Jeremy turned around and Finn was on him, apparently not even caring that Jeremy hadn’t brushed his teeth. “Yeah, that’s… that’s more than okay.”

***

“So I guess the big question is pretty obvious.”

They had moved to the parking lot. Spring at night in Boston was still cold, but not in that crisp, invigorating fall way or even vicious like winter. It was just sullen and stubborn, resentful of change. But Jeremy was on his fourth cigarette and the others shouldn’t have to eat his smoke just because he was having a nervous breakdown. He tugged his hood closer around his face. Finn, sitting next to him on the curb, was still in his t-shirt from the show. His I LISTEN TO BANDS THAT DON’T EVEN EXIST YET shirt, because Finn had a lame but touching Threadless fetish. Jeremy wondered if he didn’t feel cold at all or if he could sense the temperature, it just didn’t register. He looked down at the tobacco stains on his fingers. They were the same color the streetlights were casting on Finn’s face. Jaundiced.

“Um,” Finn said. “I can’t say it immediately springs to mind.”

Jeremy rolled his eyes. “What are you doing in a band?”

“I’m the god of the arts,” Finn said like it was obvious, but held up his hands when Jeremy glared. “Yeah, okay. Look,” he ran a hand through his hair and blew out a breath. “This is sort of embarrassing.”

“I’m sorry to say that I really do not care about your comfort level right now,” Jeremy said.

Finn gave him a dark look over his shoulder. “You can be such a bitch.” His eyeliner had smudged and his hair was still sexed-out, standing up in random tufts, making him look more Tim Burton-y than usual.

“Just,” Jeremy couldn’t finish whatever he meant to say, suddenly tired. “Please.”

Finn tapped his fingers on his knee, looking a little sheepish. “The thing is, gods watch people. Back home, there’s not much else to do. It’s like there’s the world’s best TV but the only channel you get just plays this one reality show.”

“That’s poetic,” Jeremy said.

“Shut up,” Finn said, no heat to it. “Like I said, I’m the god of high arts. Music has always been my favorite. I’m drawn to talented people. So I started watching you.” He picked at his cuticle. “I liked watching you.”

So. Well. That was flattering. “Oh,” Jeremy heard himself say faintly.

“Yeah,” Finn said, acknowledgment of mutual discomfort.

Jeremy waggled his thumbs through the holes in his hoodie’s sleeves. “Are you… are you really Finn? Is Finn real? Or is he some kind of, I don’t know, illusion.”

“The body is a construct,” Finn said. “Like I told you before. But it’s all me in here. For all intents and purposes, I’m Finn.”

Jeremy was too relieved to keep from pushing the issue. “You don’t really sound godlike. Your speech and stuff.”

Finn shrugged. “Got to roll with the times.”

“Oh,” said Jeremy. “Like American Gods?”

“No. Nothing like American Gods,” Finn said flatly.

Jeremy nodded slowly. He swallowed with a dry throat. “And you didn’t… do something to make us successful, right? The Finn I know, he wouldn’t do that.”

Finn looked at him with a little half-smile, his eyes gone soft. “Hey.” He rubbed his thumb along Jeremy’s jaw, against the grain of his stubble. “No way I would do that. Look, I’m here with you because I knew you would make it. I just… wanted to be part of that.”

“Okay,” Jeremy said. He rested his head against Finn’s shoulder. “Okay.”

“Okay?” Finn sounded surprised.

“Can we… can we just stay out here a little longer?” Jeremy asked. Finn put an arm around him and they sat there. After a few minutes, Jeremy realized that Finn was absently fingering the right hand piano solo to Your Kiss; My Kill against Jeremy’s arm.

***

Weirdly enough, after a few days of adjustment, Jeremy woke up, brushed his teeth and realized that actually he was pretty okay with it. Taking stock of his life, he had: two platinum albums, several begrudgingly positive Pitchfork reviews, a Video Music Award, enough money to need to hire someone to tell him what to do with it, a nearly full passport from traveling around the world with his best friends doing what he loved and a Greek god for a boyfriend. This was not so bad for twenty-two.

Still, they fell into the habit of not acknowledging it, not letting it touch the rhythm of their lives. If Finn was the same, Jeremy told himself bullishly, then Finn was the same. He did ask once, hesitantly, if Finn planned to tell the other guys, but Finn just looked perplexed and shook his head, saying, ‘it’s none of their concern’, and Jeremy had nodded and pushed his vague sense of unease as far away as he could.

So momentum and their obligations, not to mention the bus, kept barreling them along. They had been touring long enough that it had become routine but not so long that it felt like a punishment. Headlining this time around was still awesome: harder work but bigger dressing rooms. Roger kept going to AA meetings, and Jamie started growing a beard, as sometimes he was a beardy kind of guy. They picked up an extra drum tech in New York, Andy, a dude Jamie knew. Gerald kept the crew up all night at diners telling them about his protest days. And Jeremy and Finn made out in empty bathrooms and hotel elevators and in the lounge once for twenty minutes when they lost that bet to Jenna that she couldn’t shotgun a Redbull in under four seconds.

Jenna was awesome. She was this tiny, blond tornado of efficiency who could kick everyone’s ass at Super Smash Brothers. Roger was kind of pitifully in love with her, except she was dating Seth, this keyboardist from Philly they worked with for a few months. Jeremy trusted Jenna with his hotel reservations and his keys and his favorite velvet jacket, but even her enviable powers of keeping their shit together were bound to let them down one day.

“Hey,” she caroled, backstage after a show in Durham, North Carolina (Durham was where Jeremy found a confederate flag sticker in a rainbow palette, so he was simultaneously always really excited and weirded out to be there). Her arm was around a much younger girl, a kid really, who had a backstage pass sticker on her hip pocket. “Look, who I found.”

Finn glanced away from his argument with Armin and Vicky the sound techs about the amps clipping. His eyes went wide and then crinkly at the corners. He launched himself out of his chair, picking up the girl and swooping her around in a hug. “Didi!” The girl laughed, a silvery sound, and wrapped around him tight. Finn had put her down but kept one arm around her shoulder, gazing at her with this intense adoring glow. “Damn, Didi! What are you doing here?”

“I just wanted to see you!” Didi was giving Finn the same look except she had to crane her neck up to do it. It was like affection reverb bouncing between the two of them and growing. “It’s been way too long!”

She was dressed all scenester-chic, black tanktop, raccoon eyeliner, unironic scarf. But Didi couldn’t have been more than twelve, her body flat from every angle and her face rounded out with childhood. They had fans that age, but not many who could independently decide to visit a member of the band. She was painfully skinny, like Finn, with the same sharp, aristocratic features and… oh. Didi. Jeremy felt his pulse do something, a little painful half-beat, understanding now.

Finn was motioning him over, the gesture big and jovial. “Jeremy! Dude! You gotta meet my sister!”

“Yeah,” Jeremy said. His mouth was moving weirdly, sort of like on Novocaine, clumsy and over-exaggerated. He was self-conscious around kids at the best of times, let alone when a goddess was wearing one as a suit. He wiped his hand off on his pants circumspectly and extended it. “You must be Diana. I’ve heard a lot about you.”

She shook his hand like she was weighing it. All the sweetness in her expression had morphed into narrow-eyed assessment. Her lips thinned out slightly in concentration. Jeremy was painfully aware that post-show, flushed and sweaty, he did not look particularly impressive and tried for a casual ‘I’m totally the sort of dude who hangs out with superior beings and it ain’t no thang’ smile.

“You too,” Didi said, slowly. Jeremy had no idea whether he was passing or not.

Jamie came out of the bathroom just then, flipping his cellphone closed after his nightly call to his girlfriend. Didi broke the handshake at the movement and Jeremy could miraculously breathe again. Jamie took a drumstick out from his back pocket and tapped her lightly on the head. “Holy shit, is this a little Ruefenacht? Finn, why didn’t you ever bring her to meet us before?”

“Didi does her own thing,” Finn said. He hadn’t taken his eyes off her.

Jamie crouched down a little to be at her eye-level. Didi, thank the sweet baby Jesus, just looked amused. “Well, Ruefenacht, your own thing include coming to a diner with us after we wrap up here? I’m sure you got embarrassing stories about Finn we really need to hear.”

Didi smiled, twisting her hands behind her back in a sweet, nervous little-girl gesture. “Yeah,” she said, casting Finn a glance out of the corner of her eye. “I’ve got lots.” Finn hit her arm gently and Didi whacked him back, a lot harder.

Everyone just fell all over themselves about Didi at the diner, bought her cheese fries and turned her into a one-night-only mascot. She ended up sitting half on Jamie’s lap and half on Jenna’s, bouncing a little after too many coke floats. She put away two hamburgers too, officially cementing the crew’s worship. They gave her a trucker cap and an official logo hoodie that drowned her tiny frame.

Finn didn’t say much to her, but he didn’t say much to Jeremy either, just watched with tired amusement. He held Jeremy’s hand though, under the table, his thumb tracing the whirls of Jeremy’s palm. Once or twice Finn kissed him behind the ear, not to show off, not a production at all, just a quiet, domestic gesture. Jeremy wondered if that itself wasn’t the production.

It was hotel night, which meant after the diner run everyone drifted off to their rooms pretty quickly. Finn and Didi though hung behind in the Holiday Inn lounge, curled up on catty corner couches, sitting on their feet. Finn looked up at him when Jeremy walked by yawning. “You don’t mind if I stay up, right? I’ll be there soon.”

Jeremy squeezed the back of his neck. “Of course not.” And then he made the executive decision that since these gods seemed to like slumming it, there really wasn’t any point to treating Didi as anything but Finn’s little sister (but weren’t they twins, actually? that didn’t make much sense). He smiled at her, big and welcoming. “Didi, again, it was great meeting you. Don’t be a stranger.”

She twirled her hair around her finger, giving him a stare like headlights. “Night, Jeremy.” She still was wearing the hoodie, the words Three Tickets To… twisted around her torso in gold.

“Night,” Jeremy said. He leaned down and kissed Finn lightly. “Night,” he said again, softer. He felt a little triumphant walking over to the elevators.

He woke up later to whispers in the bathroom. Jeremy woke up two or three times a night – the few times a year he managed to sleep dead through ’til morning, he felt disoriented all day and vaguely cheated – so he turned over and snuggled back in when he heard Finn say, “Look, Mom’s happiness isn’t my responsibility!”

“She’s just worried about you!” That was Didi, hissing. “We all are! This is getting kind of weird! What’s it been now, five years?”

“Exactly, five years! That’s a drop in the bucket.”

“For Aphrodite maybe. Not for you. You usually get bored way before now.”

“Shut up,” Finn said sullenly. Jeremy realized this power dynamic might be different than he had previously believed.

“No,” said Didi. “I’m sorry. You usually just get dumped before now. This one seems pretty high-strung. I’m surprised he’s been putting up with you this long.”

Finn shushed her. “He’ll hear you! Look, this is, it’s important to me, okay? I’m not wired like you. I’m not going to be happy being aloof and alone forever.”

Didi sighed. “Just, okay, I get that. But still, Finn,” Except she hadn’t said Finn, but she had said a name that meant Finn, buzzed in Jeremy’s spine as Finn. “Remember when it went down with Zeph? Remember how broken up you were? Look, this one seems like a nice kid, but you always say you feel like this and it always ends up the same way. You just gotta grow up.”

“We don’t grow up, Didi.” And there wasn’t anything strange at all in how Finn said her name. “That’s the point.” The door opened and Jeremy flattened himself out as much as he could, but Finn didn’t even look over towards the bed, just stalked past him and out into the lobby.

A few seconds later the lights turned on. Didi came out, perched at the end of the bed and stared at him, her arms folded.

Jeremy sat up. “I take it-” his voice cracked and he cleared his throat. “I take it you meant for me to hear all of that.”

Didi sort of tilted her head from side to side. His own sister when she was at the age Didi was pretending to be did that sometimes. “It’s nothing personal. But I figured he wasn’t telling you the whole story.”

“He told me who he was.”

Didi shrugged, swinging her legs. “He’s a lot of things. I bet he never told you he really misses archery right now.”

Jeremy rested his elbows on his knees. “I don’t make his decisions for him, so it’s really not up to me whether he goes home or not. And I won’t lie, I like that he’s here.” That was probably not the safest thing to add, but she didn’t look up to smiting at the moment and four o’clock in the morning conversations tended to be honest.

“I meant what I said in there,” she said. “You seem like a nice kid. And his nice kids… look, this isn’t a great idea for you either.”

Jeremy peered up at her. “What do you mean?”

“Just,” she sighed, shaking her head a little. “Just check up on him. You deserve to know what you’ve gotten yourself into.”

“What I’ve gotten myself into?”

Didi stood up, adjusting her scarf. “I gotta go. When he comes back tell him… tell him I miss him too, okay?” But there was a twitch, like a synaptic misfire, and she was gone before Jeremy could agree to or not.

***

Finn and Jeremy spent the last two Thanksgivings with Roger and his family. Jeremy had known Rebbecca and Jake since he was six; they had taken him to his first concert, to the doctor once when he had a bad allergy attack. They basically let him move in when he was eighteen, giving him Roger’s older brother’s room no questions asked because they saw the answers coming a mile away. Jeremy had grown up idolizing them for the same reasons his parents kept subtly urging him to make a new best friend: the liquor cabinet in their den, the Clinton bumper sticker on their car.

So they were his family too now, he guessed, except not enough of family to let him confront them when he accidentally overheard them talking in the kitchen while they were unpacking groceries. “You’ll never guess who I saw at Albertson’s,” Rebbecca said, opening the refrigerator. Jeremy had hung back when he heard the bustle; vacation, too early, get involved in chores later.

“Who?” asked Jake.

“Brenda Monson.” Rebbecca had her back to him, putting the new milk behind the old. Jeremy bit his lip. “I was getting those Amy’s Enchiladas and she was right across the aisle from me.”

“Huh,” said Jake reflectively. He was a shorter man than Roger, balding now. If the band stayed together like the Stones, what would Roger do when he went bald? “Did you say hi?”

“I kind of had to,” Rebbecca said, sounding like she regretted her manners. “I have never seen anyone less happy to see me.”

“She really does hate you,” Jake said. Jeremy shouldn’t have been surprised that Roger’s parents knew that or that they didn’t seem to mind.

“Well…” said Rebbecca. “So, we made smalltalk, as much as we could. And I told her that Jeremy was in town for a few days, that he was staying here. And do you know what that woman said to me?”

“What?” asked Jake. Don’t say it, thought Jeremy.

“She said, ‘that’s nice. I’d hate for him to be alone on a holiday.'” Rebbecca slammed the fridge closed, holding up her hands in frustration. Holding them up like saying, ‘fine, I give in.’ “Who can do that? Who can totally write off their kid like that? It’s a sin.”

Jeremy padded back softly to Roger’s older brother’s room before he could hear Jake’s reply. Just the sound of it, equally outraged, followed him upstairs. Finn was still sleeping. He had kicked off the covers since Jeremy had gotten up, and Jeremy dragged them back with him as he climbed into the bed, fitting his body around Finn’s and closing his eyes.

***

“What the hell is this?” Jeremy demanded as he stalked into the bus’ lounge, slamming his print-out on the coffee table.

Finn peered down at it. “I could probably use some feedback here, but it looks like a stack of paper.”

“Real funny, asshole,” Jeremy said.

“Uh, hey,” said Roger.

“Hey Rog,” Jeremy said, not breaking eye-contact with Finn, who was trying to slowly shrink into his chair. “Mind leaving us alone for a minute?”

“Uh… us too?” Jamie asked, gesturing to himself and Andy.

“You look good, Jamie. Still bearding it up?”

“Yeah, still growing the fucker out.”

“That’s awesome,” said Jeremy. “Yeah, you three, get the fuck out so I can talk to Finn.”

“Must have found porn,” Andy murmured to Rog on their way out. Roger paused for a second at the door to glower menacingly at Finn. That was nice; Roger still had his back.

“So,” Finn said cautiously when they were gone. “You’re mad.”

Jeremy pushed the paper forward. “So, I’m on Wikipedia, right?”

Finn looked down at the pile for the first time. He groaned. “Oh man.”

“And not only did you sleep with everyone in Ancient Greece-”

“That is an exaggeration,” Finn said. “At best.”

“They all end up dead!”

“Um,” said Finn.

“I mean, all the girls turn into like, fountains and trees and stuff, or you fucking curse them-”

“Okay, the Daphne thing wasn’t my fault,” Finn interjected hurriedly. “I felt really bad about that. And as for Cass, okay, you know that one really shitty breakup everyone has?”

“No!” Jeremy was practically howling. He felt shaky and divorced from his own hysterics, just impassively watching the show. “Because I’ve only been with you and now I’m going to die!”

Finn rolled his eyes, like he found this incredibly juvenile. “Oh for the love of- You are not going to die.”

“All your other boytoys have!” Jeremy slapped the paper and made air-quotes. “Accidentally. I’m not even the one doing the quote thing! Wikipedia is doing the quote thing! You and Wikipedia are ironically quoting me to death!”

“Huh,” said Finn, reading. “They say it’s a metaphor for the end of childhood and one’s rebirth as a man. That’s pretty clever.”

“Focus!”

Finn stood up and took Jeremy’s hands in his, stroking the insides of his wrist on the pressure point, everything soothing. “Hey, hey, okay. You’re going to be fine. I’m not going to let anything happen to you.”

“You let stuff happen to the rest of them,” Jeremy said, suspiciously snuffly.

“Yeah, well you’re not going to let yourself waste away because you accidentally killed a deer,” Finn said patiently. “Times are different now. People are a lot better adjusted than they were back then. You’re not going to die.”

Jeremy took a deep breath. “I will though. Eventually.” His tone sounded challenging even to him. “What’re you gonna do then?”

“I’ll be very sad,” Finn said. He sounded quiet, patient, and Jeremy had a weird flash of the first time they fucked, how he was awkward and skittish and, well, Mormon about it, hands everywhere, barely able to look directly at Finn’s dick. And Finn had said no, it’s fine. Finn had said, go explore.

“And until then, what?” he asked. “Are you going to get old when I do? Are you just going to get bored?”

Finn shrugged. “I hadn’t thought that far ahead.”

“It seems worth thinking about!” Jeremy snapped. Fucking musicians.

Finn took a step back, tilting his head speculatively, crossing his arms. “All right. What’s really upsetting you?”

Jeremy bristled. “You don’t think I have a good reason to be upset?”

“You’re just reacting…” Finn searched for the diplomatic term. “Particularly strongly.”

“What, I’m not taking it in stride like your hordes of beautiful Mediterranean concubines? Fuck you!”

Finn’s knitted his brows together. “Okay, I understand that this is a lot to digest. But doing three minutes of research on the Internet doesn’t give you the right to judge me.”

Jeremy put his hand to his forehead, rubbing gently. He smiled, feeling sick. “This is, it’s just so stupid. Isn’t it? This is an absurd situation. Look what we’re fighting about here. It’s just surreal.”

“Jeremy?” Finn sounded worried.

“Maybe you should just go back,” Jeremy said. He didn’t know if it was spur of the moment or if he had to force the words out, but he felt incredibly drained after saying them. “Playing house with me, playing rock star. You’ve got a life and a family and I’m just a flash in the pan for you… just go be with them.”

Finn didn’t look angry anymore, or stricken. His expression was just wide-open and earnest, syrupy and sincere with pity. “I get it.”

Jeremy felt his face flare red, blood pounding in his ears like jungle drums. “This is not about my family.”

Finn just nodded placatingly and started going for him again. The last thing he wanted in the entire world was to hug it out right now, none of this would be fixed by feeling tactile and safe. And suddenly Jeremy was just enraged at being patronized and coddled, at being assumed a pet. He had escaped from mandates a long time ago – commands without explanation, orders as tests – or he had figured that anyway. “I’m not your fucking disciple,” Jeremy said, shoving passed Finn and slamming the door hard behind him.

***

“No,” Jeremy had said. “No, no, no, no, no. No. Not happening.”

“They gave us a vocoder. Maybe we should at least try using the vocoder once or twice,” Roger said again. It was his new thesis statement and apparently he felt it did not require any supporting evidence. “And in total you’ve said ‘no’ twenty-eight times during this single conversation.”

“We are not going to be one of those bands who gets a record deal and goes, ‘Gosh, I’ve never even been inside a studio before! Since we don’t have talent, we’ll just totally warp the sound!'”

“Yeah, playing around with the mixing board is bad but having all our songs be in 5/16 time, that isn’t pretentious at all.”

“We need something to tie the album together! Just this once could we not be naive assholes, okay?”

“You know what would make us naive assholes?” Finn said. “If we were so busy arguing, we didn’t end up writing any songs.”

“I hear that,” Jamie said from the beanbag chair in the corner, flipping idly through his copy of Spin.

Roger made a face like he had drunken sour milk but Jeremy felt a little more grounded after that. By the end of the afternoon they were pretty solid on how the track would go. That made five complete so far and three little song embryos to be picked at. Roger and Jamie went out that night, producting their hair the hell up, but Finn and Jeremy stayed in the house with a bottle of Morgan and Roger’s Labyrinth DVD. Jeremy had already had three shots and his head in Finn’s lap by the time Jamie and Rog were headed for the door. There was never an official band meeting about what was going on; Finn and Jeremy just quietly and organically knitted themselves together and Rog and Jamie watched out of the corner of their eyes and they all reorganized their routines where necessary. Rog gave Jeremy an appraising look on his way out though, then elbowed his bent knee slightly and smiled.

Jeremy was starting to drowse, maybe drooling a little on Finn’s cords, when Finn said, “I’m glad you chose this.”

Jeremy scooched around to look at him the best he could, with a lopsided smile. He’d been laughing all night and his voice was hoarse. “Yeah… I mean, The Dark Crystal sort of imprinted on me real early, but this one’s just a better movie.”

Finn traced the bridge of his nose. “I meant sticking with the band.”

“Oh,” Jeremy rolled over and kissed Finn’s thigh. “Stuck with you.” And then he fell asleep.

Thinking about it now, Jeremy had to wonder how much Finn had done to mold him and how much Finn considered himself to be just along for the ride. Maybe he had been fucking with humans for so long he wasn’t able to distinguish between the two. Or maybe just being around Finn’s, like, otherworldy aura infused Jeremy with whatever feebling greatness he had.

There was also the option, the most depressing one, that it wasn’t a supernatural thing at all, that it was just Finn with his crooked smile and his tendency to forget to shower for five days straight. That Jeremy was just in love, uncomplicated and rare, and that love let him bloom into the person he always wanted to become. Which meant Jeremy was freaking out for no reason, and pretty much an asshole.

On the mythical day he came out (and Jeremy didn’t delude himself, Vintage would love it if he came out. They would send him a fucking fruit basket. He was never coy in interviews, in the thousand ‘can I go ahead and get the question out there’ interviews, just said that who he slept with was his business, who everyone slept with was their own business, that because part of his life was public didn’t mean he wanted all of it to be. His lyrics were all he had to say on the subject and the sad, repressed queer teenagers of the world could draw inspiration from them like they were meant to, so whatever, disparaging article in The Advocate.) Jeremy would have to explain, although no one would believe him, that he didn’t leave the church because he liked guys. Because the thing was, Jeremy had loved LDS, had wanted to stay cradled in it forever. He loved the hymns and the mission, the message of compassion and charity, the genuinely nice people, the salads with pudding and marshmallows. He had never felt more wanted than when he belonged to a community that loved God enough to better itself for Him, that lived for a higher purpose of kindness. Finding out he wanted to kiss boys and sing about people who weren’t Jesus didn’t dampen his faith; Jeremy could work around that because the church came first and always would in the jagged recesses of his heart.

He thought the world was big enough to contain a lot of dazzling contradictory things. But he told his parents and his parents told God, and the house came down around him. Jeremy never in his life rejected the church. God apparently just couldn’t believe he could write music about anything else and still love Him best. And what kind of fucked-up, insecure attitude was that, anyway?

One that Jeremy shared, apparently, because the minute he believed Finn, something had started crumbling inside his head. He wasn’t observant anymore, or even spiritual, but it turned out he hadn’t stopped believing in God just because God refused to take his phone calls. And he did love Finn, he loved him enough to throw away everything that kept him tethered and docile and leap into a terrifying uncertainty. But Finn was giving Jeremy an existential crisis. His faith was being tested, but God was still safe in Israel after all this time. Finn was the one he needed to cross the desert for.

He hung out with the crew for the rest of the day, jammed a little. It had been a while since he played the keyboard and he and the guys did Queen covers. Behind the chord progressions and the Freddy Mercury imitation, Jeremy gave himself time to think.

They were driving overnight to Pittsburgh and Jeremy switched buses when they fueled up and got McDonalds at a pit-stop off the highway. Jeremy had never considered himself a very scary dude, as getting thrown into lockers was basically his extracurricular activity in high school, but apparently when he told Jamie and Rog to stay gone, gone they stayed. Finn was the only one on the bus when he crept back, sitting at the table and drawing something in the dying light.

“Hey,” Jeremy said softly.

Finn turned around in his seat to look at him. “Hey,” he said with no particular inflection.

Jeremy came and sat down, elbows resting on the table. His shirt sleeves covered his hands. “I’m sorry I was a dick.”

Finn shrugged. “You’re usually sorry.”

Jeremy winced. Finn was a mellow guy, but when he was annoyed, kitty could scratch. “I deserved that. I just, I think I’ve figured out what’s been bothering me about all of this. And it’s really got nothing to do with you. You’re… seriously, Finn. You got to know that you’re the best thing that ever happened to me.”

The corner of Finn’s mouth twitched and he scowled down at his sketchbook to compensate. The tightness in Jeremy’s chest began to unravel. Finn was his Finn if he could forgive him before he even wanted to. it He leaned forward a little to rub Finn’s hand. Finn had been drawing an empty stage in thick, smokey strokes, guitars discarded on the ground, the drum kit disassembled.

“There’s just one thing I got to ask though,” Jeremy continued uncomfortably, settling back in his chair. “And then… I don’t know, it’ll probably come up again, but I promise I won’t try to push you away anymore.”

Finn put down his pencil. “Okay.”

Jeremy played with Finn’s hands. “If you’re a god, than what’s the deal…” It sounded so stupid and squeaky outside his head. “What’s the deal with Jesus?”

And Finn was quiet for a minute, clearly weighing his words. Finally he said, “It’s complicated.”

“…Oh,” said Jeremy.

“You’re not right,” Finn continued. “But you’re not wrong either. It’s just that the whole issue is…”

“Complicated,” Jeremy finished. And it was such a relief, to be back where they had begun. Texture was everything. Any half-decent musician knew that.

“Yeah, but don’t, you know, worry about it,” said Finn. “Your parents are the way they are because they love you and they’re scared for you, but they’re wrong,” He twisted his mouth up, looking for the words. It looked silly but still made Jeremy’s cock twitch in his pants. “There’s not a god out there who wouldn’t… You’ve got a light in you, Jeremy.”

Jeremy had to blinked, hard and suddenly. He shook it off a second later, felt himself grinning like a cartoon cat, unhinged and smug. Jeremy slid into Finn’s lap. “So… wanna fool around?”

Finn nodded. “I want make-up sex.”

Make-up sex meant now sex, which meant bus sex, which meant hard and fast and cramped into Finn’s tiny bunk. Jeremy’s leg wrapped around the perfect expanse of Finn’s back, his cock bobbing flushed and red between them. Jeremy kept reaching up, mouthing whatever part of Finn he could reach: shoulder, jaw, cheekbone. He moaned like he sang, throaty and immediate. Finn’s hands – his fucking amazing hands – kept clutching at his arms, his neck, the pressure leaving red blotches on his skin. Finn thrust hard and Jeremy grunted, letting his head fall back, keeping Finn tight inside him.

Finn shuddered at the pressure, his back arching into a breathtaking bow, fucking him harder now, deep, amazingly deep, Jeremy’s mind was whiting out at the edges. He tried to grab at his own cock clumsily but Finn batted him away and jerked him off, hard, his face tight and hungry. Jeremy held out for as long as he could, but he came all over Finn’s fist, groaning, “Finn.” Except it wasn’t really Finn, but it echoed as Finn in the empty shell of the bus.

Finn grinned, proud and feral, wrapped Jeremy’s leg higher around his waist, caught one of Jeremy’s hands and sucked his fingers into his mouth. Jeremy let his eyes close, his body loose and boneless, just felt Finn in him and around him, the hot pulses as his body stiffened and he came and collapsed, breathing hard. “They would have written odes to you,” Finn mumbled, tucking his nose into Jeremy’s neck.

Jeremy smiled against his cheek, and petted the back of Finn’s neck in time with the melody forming in his head.

***

Television interviews were the worst because they meant hair and make-up and Jeremy wasn’t allowed to fidget. Well, they meant he fidgeted anyway and Jenna took him aside afterwards and gave him a hushed and conciliatory lecture about it. Whatever, Jeremy was a fidgeter. The fans found it endearing.

They were running on about four hours sleep and a thermos of coffee each. He felt a little bad for the interviewer that they were, as a group, inarticulate and giggly. Finn was uncharacteristically quiet. He did the whole segment with one foot resting on the other thigh and his arm draped around Jeremy’s neck. Occasionally Jeremy would reach over him and grab something from the fruit plate, which usually threw the interviewer’s rhythm off.

But she rallied well. “So, Jeremy! The new single, Salvation Isn’t…”

“Salvation Isn’t Just For Stars or Stories, yeah,” he confirmed.

“Did that come from personal experience or literature… we know you’re a well-read guy. Does it mean something in particular for you?”

Impressed by her ability to talk around asking him what his inspiration was, he decided to be nice. “It’s personal, yeah,” he said, tucking a little into Finn’s side. “For me, it’s probably the most personal song on the whole album.”

—-
Author’s Notes

AND I DON’T EVEN LISTEN TO PANIC! AT THE DISCO.

Seriously though, I make no pretense that Jeremy is loosely based off Brenden Urie, the lead singer of Panic! While I’m not a huge fan of their work (which should have been made fairly obvious by my mean spirited song titles), the more I learned about Urie, the more fascinated I became. I mean, a twenty-year-old queeny ex-Mormon who apparently got kicked out of his home for following his dreams and became an international rock star? That kind of thing happens? In reality? So this is my attempt to do something with my interest in those specs, with some Greek gods thrown in because apparently it’s very hard for me to function any other way.

Of the three main themes of this story (the music industry, Mormonism and Greek myth) it should be fairly obvious which one I majored in and which ones I know nothing about. I’ve done research, but if there are any glaring inaccuracies, I apologize.

Immeasurable thanks to all the usual suspects: relvetica, drmoonpants and jokersama for giving it a read through. beeblebabe found me a bunch of Mormon last names and ladysisyphus and I had a fun time coming up with an accurately pretentious name for the band.

And of course the most thanks goes to sairobi for the fantastic picture of Jeremy.

I hope you enjoyed reading this, as I so much enjoyed writing it.

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