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Bob thinks he probably shouldn't be talking to this kid from Panic, because, well, kid. And not in the abstract sense. Bob's pretty sure Smith's at least seven years younger than him. Maybe eight. The only reason Smith isn't jailbait is because Bob is actually old enough that someone can be that much younger than him and still be legal. The thought makes Bob's head hurt.

Smith started it.

Okay, "started it" might be accusatory and completely unfair. Smith walked up and said, "Good set," which is not, in most countries Bob has visited, an act of aggression or even seduction, really.

Although, the way Smith is peeling back the label on his root beer could count as either one.

Bob says, "Thanks," because his mother raised him with manners, and Smith clearly just complimented him.

Things go downhill from there. Smith says, "Hey look, this is sort of an asshole question, so you don't really have to answer, but was it hard, coming into My Chem as a replacement?"

Bob reminds himself that Smith is not trying to be charming with his honesty. He says, "Maybe. Sort of. They needed me."

Smith nods thoughtfully at that. He drinks from his bottle, a neat, quick swig.

"Worried about your new guy?" Bob asks.

"We needed him," Smith says, clearly confident in their need if not in how things are going to work out.

Bob should walk away, walk away now, because he's seen an interview or two with this kid, knows this isn't who he is for the cameras. He's honest in different ways, then, honest with his silence and his discomfort and the fierceness that can come out when he senses that one of the others is being threatened. The way he lets his words mean something is stripping away eight years of age difference, and Bob knows that really should be too much.

Smith asks, "Oh, hey, I meant to ask, you've heard First Impressions of Earth, right?"

Bob doesn't know anyone who hasn't, but he just nods.

"Did it ever make you think, yeah, okay, I made the right choice with the drums in a way that makes you feel sort of sorry for your bandmates, or is that just me?"

Bob laughs. "I kind of think that all the time."

"I know, but there's that moment--"

"I know, I know exactly what you're talking about." And Bob does, is the worst part.

"Okay. Okay. Because I asked Mrotek and he looked at me like I was a tool."

"Well, you were, but only for talking to Mrotek."

"We were touring together."

"I go whole months without talking to Ray and we're on a bus together."

"No you don't."

Bob laughs. He really doesn't. "I could, though."

"Yeah, okay," Smith says, and rolls his eyes at the same time as he kind of leans to his side and swipes his lips over Bob's. They're warm, sugared.

Bob steps back. Smith sighs. "Thought you'd do that."

He looks away, some of his bravado seeping from his posture and Bob thinks, fuck, pulls the kid back by his arm. Smith cocks an eyebrow. Bob says, "You're, like, twelve."

Smith says, "But you like me anyway," and it's not conceited just true, maybe a touch hopeful.

Bob's too honest to say otherwise.

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Skin by egelantier, photo by microbophile