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Bob caught Gerard drawing on a napkin a couple of weeks after the whole Niguero thing. He said, "What are you--" and then, catching the picture, "Oh." It was a picture of Mikey. He was laughing, which Bob had never seen, so he assumed it was a Mikey before this place. The softer curves of his face suggested that as well.

Gerard said, "It's nothing."

Bob said, "It's good." It was. Even with just a napkin and a pen at his disposal, there was depth and emotion to the portrait. Gerard smiled a little--more a cautious quirking of one side of his lips--and went back to drawing.


Ilya brought him an art pad and some charcoals as requested, and Bob told Gerard, "I don't know if this is, um, what you like to work with--"

Gerard stopped Bob's train of thought by touching the edge of the pad, not even moving to take it, just running his fingers along its edges. Bob put the charcoals atop it and placed it carefully in Gerard's hands. "If there's something else, y'know, colors, or something, you could just--"

"They wouldn't make sense in this place anyway," Gerard said. Bob thought of the way Gerard could shine Camaro yellow or even Corvette red at times, and didn't say anything. Gerard pushed back the cover to the notebook, soothed his hand over the creamy consistency of the first page. "I actually know a way to say thank you."

He let Bob watch as he drew a perfect little car, something sportier and yet more masculine than Bob had ever seen. When Gerard handed Bob the finished product, Bob asked, "What is it?"

"Your ride," Gerard said. "You tell me."


Two days later, Bob woke to the sound of Gerard retching. Bob was aware that Gerard had been consistently cutting back on his doses, but he hadn't been sure of where in the process Gerard was, and he hadn't asked. He wanted Gerard clean, but Gerard had to get clean for Gerard. It was no good if it was because he was afraid of Bob or just thought that was part of the deal for being kept safe.

Bob padded the few steps over to Gerard and put a hand to his back, intending to rub, but Gerard made a sound of distress so he pulled off. It took him all of ten seconds to realize that whether he wanted to help Gerard get through this or not, the cell wasn't the right place for it to happen. Bob fucking hated prison. He walked to bars and shouted, "Guard."

Roughly four people shouted back at him to shut the fuck up. Bob ignored them with the ease of someone who had spent a lifetime not really caring about other people's opinions. Well, unless the other people were his mom or his adopted family. These guys were neither. The guard came, though, and asked, "What is it, Bryar?"

Bob let the sounds of Gerard--who was probably puking actual internal organs at this point--speak for themselves. The guard mumbled, "Shit," and then, "Stand back."

Bob went and sat on the bunk. No use getting in the way. The guards got uppity at night and Bob didn't really feel like getting smacked around. The guard stepped in, radioed to the infirmary about the situation and asked for someone to bring a bucket so that he could get Gerard down there. It took about ten minutes, most of which Bob spent internally wincing in sympathy. Gerard sounded like protracted death might have been preferable to what he was experiencing.

When they finally managed to get Gerard on his feet and walking--sort of--toward the infirmary, Bob said, "See you when you get back," and made it sound as much like an order as he was willing to give.


Bob didn't go through any of the channels that he knew could get him information about Gerard, didn't ask anyone at all. He didn't want to know. Either the detox would go well, and he would have Gerard back in a few days, or it wouldn't. In the meantime, Gerard deserved rewards if he came back and Bob needed to set about getting them. Bob used the complicated system of bringing in contraband to distract himself from the situation, that Gerard wasn't with him, that Gerard was being held by doctors.

It wasn't within Bob's nature to give a car over to another mechanic period, but doctors were the worst, the kind of tech Bob avoided with his whole being. They were the sort that were hired on the basis of their academic credentials rather than their experience. Pretty much guaranteed to fuck up any car that came under their care.

Bob's mom had died of breast cancer when he was sixteen. She shouldn't have, she caught the problem early. His mom was college-educated, believed in taking care of herself, did regular monthly self-exams. He knew because she told him all this before she died. He knew because there were certain things she had wanted remembered. The HMO that they were insured by wouldn't pay for the more thorough surgery, though, and the cancer came back and back, until it took her with it one time. After that it didn't come back, but then, neither did she.

Bob hated insurance companies, but he hated doctors more. If something was broken you fixed it, and if someone couldn't pay you, you figured out a trade or a payment system, or you took it up the ass, or something, but you fixed the fucking problem. If Gerard came back more broken than he had left, Bob was going to find a way to kill every last doctor in this place and never have anyone be the wiser. He wasn't giving any more of his life to this place than it was already planning on taking.


Gerard came back skinnier. Bob let Mikey have him for the whole of their free hour, because Mikey had been quietly, unrelentingly frantic while Gerard was off the ward, and Gerard needed to get him settled as badly as Mikey needed settling. Bob tried not to watch, at least too much, but he liked the way Gerard was with Mikey, the way he seemed to slow a bit, the way he softened around the edges. It wasn't the haziness that the drugs had caused, but a valid softening, much like Bob used to witness in Yuri with the members of the ring. Gerard was good at being a big brother, and it was nice, watching him at the things he was good at. Bob wondered if Gerard would have liked watching him fix cars. Probably not, Bob figured. He was the one with the weird fixation. Gerard was just grateful to be kept safe.

Once they were back in the pod, Bob handed Gerard the package of forty-eight high quality colored pencils. Gerard's intake of breath was sharp. "I thought I said--"

"I know," Bob told him. "Just in case maybe you changed your mind. Started to see color, or something, and needed them. I-- You should have what you need."

For a second, Bob thought Gerard wasn't going to pursue it, but evidently the drugs had been hiding an aspect of Gerard's personality that Bob should have guessed at from the combination of facts that Gerard had the willpower to take himself off the drugs and that he was still alive: unrelenting perseverance. "You already gave me the stuff I needed."

Bob shrugged. "Not an artist, I don't know this shit."

Gerard looked at Bob for a long moment. "Do you actually get away with that with other people?" The question was asked quietly, so quietly that Bob had to lean in a bit to catch it.

"Don't know--"

"Yeah you do."

Bob wasn't entirely sure what Gerard wanted to hear, what was the right thing to say. "Either you want them or you don't, I'm sure I can--"

"I want them. I don't need them, but I sure as fuck want them."

Bob nodded a little. "Then just take them."

Gerard tilted his head slightly. "Look, man, it's not that I don't appreciate the things you've done for me and that you've left me alone and all, but if you could maybe be a little bit more clear about what your game is, I could possibly play along."

"It's not a game," Bob said. He knew it wasn't an answer, but it was the only thing he had to say in response to that.

"I was being metaphorical."

Bob knew from metaphors. "It's not a game."

Gerard sighed. "All right, I'll just--"

"You were broken," Bob said. "No game."

Gerard frowned. "You don't like seeing things broken?"

Specific things. Special things. Bob just nodded. Those were unnecessary details.

"Oh," Gerard said, seeming as speechless as Bob generally felt. "What happens now that I'm almost fixed?"

I get to enjoy taking you out for a spin. Bob took a breath, and could almost smell air that wasn't recycled. "You should have what you nee-- want."

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Skin by egelantier, photo by microbophile