Neal plopped down in the lawn chair. He was glad his wife took off for the Bahamas without him for once. He always caught hell for sitting in his front yard like "some kinda freakin' garden display." Besides, he needed the neighbors to see him if he was going to make the sunburn excuse believable. Oh yeah. Sunburn. That's almost lamer than Jay's toga party excuse. He wondered vaguely about Jonathan, if he was okay, then laughed at himself. Like Jay wouldn't be on the phone, panicking in his ear if he weren't.
He fished under his chair for his newspaper and checked the calendar section. He passed the morning in much the same manner, nearly managing to forget his harrowing adventures the night before. Neal was almost ready to chalk the whole thing up to an over-active imagination when a familiar car pulled up. Nope. I didn't make that shit up. He looked at his red arms and sighed to himself. As if he didn't know that.
"Hey, Neal," Perry called from Neal's repaired vehicle. "I brought you a present. Come say thank you."
"Fuck you, man!" For emphasis, Neal extended his middle finger and went back to his paper. Perry couldn't do anything to him now. There was a big-ass gate between them.
"That's not very nice, Neal," Perry persisted, stepping out of the car. Neal watched him hobble on that damned cane like some cripple. "Besides, we need to trade car keys."
"I ain't got your fuckin' keys. Go home." He knew that sounded dumb, but he didn't really care how Schizoid Perry got off his property so long as he did. He went back to his paper yet again, through with the conversation. When he peeked over the top of the pages, he saw his old friend hobble back to the car, defeated. Score one, Schon. Neal relaxed, certain that crackpot was finished with him.
Steve was very glad no one could see his face. He didn't really want any of his fans to see how incredibly ugly anger could make him. Okay, Steve, calm, calm, you'll get him. Can't fly off the deep end till he's back at home, now can we? Steve sat in the passenger's seat of Neal's stupid car and shook his head. You're losin' it, Perry. We are referring to ourselves in the second person. He counted to ten backwards in Portuguese before trying again. Leaning heavily on his cane, Steve went up to the gate and looked at Neal.
"Come on, Neal, I promise no funny stuff. I just want to give you your car keys. You can even keep my old clunker if you want."
Neal slammed the paper down on his lap and glared at Steve. "Go to hell! You goddamn loony! Get the hell outta here!"
"You wouldn't talk like that if this fucking gate wasn't here!" Steve screamed. He didn't care what that dirty fuck's neighbors thought. "Now come get your motherfucking keys!"
"I ain't scared of you, bitch!" Neal stood up, waving his arms like an idiot. Steve's blood boiled at the sight. He put his hand on the gate to steady himself -and the beautiful door swung open on well-greased hinges. "Ummm... I mean..." Neal started to back pedal.
"Sure about that?" Steve wasted no time on the cane. Tossing it aside, he ran in the yard screaming like a madman and tackled Neal with all the force of a raging bull. Steve slammed the frightened man to the ground, scratching and slapping at Neal's exposed arms and chest. Neal tried to squirm away from his enraged attacker, but Steve rode him, kicking and hollering. "And don't call me a BITCH!!!"
"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Neal's high pitched screams were ignored all over the neighborhood. Steve knew they wouldn't dare come find out what the crazy rock star was screaming about no matter how loud he was or how long he went on. When Steve tired of the screaming, he sat up and punched Neal in the face until the guitarist was still. Shit, he thought, wiping his brow. So much for easy.
"So you think that it's all over..." Hearing was the first sense to return to Jonathan. "Yes it's the lovin' thangs, ooh baby..." Jonathan lay there a moment, hating that song. He opened his eyes, afraid of what he might see. Tiles. Lots of them. Up to the ceiling. On the ceiling. Tiles. Am I in a tile factory? Did Steve invest in tiles? What's with the fucking tiles? Jonathan closed his eyes again, unwilling to witness any more terrible tile. It was making his eyes itch. He tried to rub them, and realized his hands were tied behind his bare back. Naked again. He opened his eyes yet again and, ignoring the evil wall of tile in front of him, hazarded a look around. He was on the floor of the downstairs bathroom. I am surrounded by TILES!! Clamping down on the mother of all panic attacks, Jonathan looked for something to try to cut his ropes with. He sat up, to see if there was something by one of the walls, and saw a wonderful sight. He didn't tie my feet up. My feet are untied. This is good. Jay smiled. Maybe Steve was slipping up.
He pulled his feet under him, working up to a kneeling position, then planted one foot on the floor. It stung a little, but Jonathan ignored the pain, too intent on escape. He put his weight on the foot -and fell forward, howling with pain. Sweet Jesus, what did he do to me this time? Jonathan sniffled and rolled over on his back, staring at the tiled ceiling. I'm redecorating the bathroom when I get home. He sat up yet again, sitting cross legged so he could get a good look at his feet. There were a series of slices in each foot, across the balls of his feet, his heels, and down the centers, forming an I-shape on each sole. Jay leaned against the nearest wall and cried.
Steve let himself into Neal's house and went to the closets. He pulled out every article of clothing that could possibly belong to Neal and carried them to the expansive backyard. He dropped the pile of clothes and went to the pantry to find charcoal, lighter fluid and matches. Next he went to the shed and pulled out the garbage can. He stuffed the clothes in the can, dumped the coals on top, soaked the whole mess, and set it on fire. He found a lawn chair like the one Neal had out front and waited for the fire to burn some of the clothes down. When Steve was sure the place wouldn't burn down, he went to the front yard and dragged Neal inside.
Steve trotted back to Neal's car, retrieved the rope he'd stashed just in case, and locked up. He went back to the unconscious man and tied him to one of the kitchen chairs. Steve put the keys to Neal's car on a shelf near the front door and went back to the kitchen. He poked around in the refrigerator for a bit and grabbed some zucchinis and carrots. He turned back to the pantry and found a potato and a package of skewers. He chopped the vegetables, put them on the little wooden spears, salted them, and headed back out to his bonfire.
When Steve finished cooking his veggie-kabobs he went back to the kitchen to check on Neal. Sure enough, Neal was awake, scared, and -much to Steve's delight- looking at Steve's impromptu lunch. "Hey, you hungry?" Steve held a kabob out to Neal.
"No way. I ain't fallin' for it again, man." Neal's voice shook, but his face was steady.
Steve rolled his eyes and took a bite. "We're at your house, stupid. But if you're not hungry..." Steve took another bite, smacking loudly.
Neal stretched his neck out as if to get closer to the food. "It's really safe?"
"Except for the dirt. I couldn't get that off, being in this dirty house. How does the Mrs. stand it?" Steve knelt in front of Neal, holding the skewer in both hands like a corn cob.
Neal took a bite, rolled the food on his tongue, seemed satisfied, and swallowed. Then he looked at the stove. "How, exactly, did you make this?"
"What?" Steve was all innocence. "I just chopped some stuff, stuck it on a stick and cooked it."
Neal looked a little green. Surely he wasn't worried about food poisoning? "How did you cook it?"
Steve sighed and put his fists on his hips. "On the bonfire, silly!" When Neal looked confused, Steve slapped his forehead as if he didn't know Neal had no clue what was happening. "You know, the one with all your clothes?"
"WHAT?!??" Neal looked so pissed Steve actually took a step back. "What the fuck do you mean by that??"
"I mean I burned your clothes. What else would I mean?" Steve went to the counter and picked up a glass he'd filled with what appeared to be 7-Up. "Drink."
Neal laughed. "Sorry. You're gonna have to punch me again."
Steve bristled. "I don't want to punch you again. Now drink." He pinched Neal's nose hard. "Or I'll make you." Neal drank it. Steve took the glass away, found a napkin, and dabbed at Neal's face. "You fucking messpot. You're so messy."
"W-what was that?" Neal asked, eyes wide.
"7-Up." He went back to the garbage can, smothered the fire and returned to the kitchen. "Well, okay, doctored 7-Up. Don't worry," he sing-songed, "you'll be awake when I need you to be." Steve smiled as Neal lost consciousness yet again.
Jonathan was counting the number of tiles in the bathtub when Steve opened the bathroom door. "Hiya, beautiful," Steve said brightly. "Did you miss me?"
Talk about a loaded question... "Uhhh... yeah..." Jonathan looked the other way, hoping Steve would go torture some woodland creatures or something.
No such luck. Steve came into the bathroom and crouched by Jay. Steve opened a drawer by Jay's head and pulled out a small, blood stained knife. "Like my artwork?" He tapped Jonathan's foot. "That was for leaving without saying goodbye, pretty baby." He tapped the other foot. "That was for fucking up my car." He licked Jonathan's bare chest, stopping to suck on his collarbone. "That was for being so pretty." Steve put the knife back, got the toilet plunger, and whapped Jonathan on the head with it. "That was on general principle. C'mon, lets go play with your dirty fuck buddy." Steve put the plunger away and started to walk out of the bathroom. He turned back in the doorway and looked perplexed. "Aren't you coming?"
Jay wished fervently Steve would kill him or something. "You know I can't walk, you bastard." He regretted his words the instant they were out of his mouth. "That's not what I mea-"
SMACK! Steve's hand seemed to come from nowhere. Jonathan bit his lip, trying not to cry. When he bothered to look at his captor, he was surprised to see tears. "Steve..?"
"Don't." Steve wiped his eyes and started to sob. "Don't act like you like me. Don't pretend to care, you heartless bastard. I keep trying to let you apologize, and you keep... not apologizing!" Steve sank to his knees, not trying to put up a front of strength. "How could you just... put me out?"
Jonathan edged away from the nearly hysterical man in the doorway. "Steve, that wasn't my decision... Neal wanted you out of the band-"
"I'M NOT TALKING ABOUT JOURNEY, YOU IDIOT!!!" Steve pounded the floor in frustration. "I'm talking about us."
Jonathan looked pointedly at the ceiling. "I don't know what you're talking about." He'd spent the last two years trying to forget the affair. If Steve was pissed it didn't pan out... too bad. Jonathan was just gonna have to get killed.
"You love me. At least you did once. Say it." Steve crawled over to Jonathan and practically sat in his lap. "Say it, Blondie. You don't ever have to hurt again. I'll make it better. Just say you loved me." Steve tenderly laid a hand on Jay's face and smiled wanly. "Does the sun shine every day, pretty baby?"
"Even if I wanted to say it, I wouldn't. It wouldn't change anything. I'm not getting involved with you again. Besides, you haven't been exactly loving, here." Jonathan gestured at his cut feet. "Oh, yeah Steve, that's, what did my wife say? Sweet?"
Steve sat back from Jay, looking down in his lap. He sat there quietly, weeping. Then he growled. Like a goddamn dog. Quick as lightning, he'd grabbed Jonathan by the hair and smashed his head against the wall so hard Jay saw stars. "You think I don't love you?? Why the fuck do you think I'm so goddamn mad?" Steve jumped to his feet, and, not letting go of Jay's hair, dragged him to the dreaded rec room. Steve dropped Jonathan and ran to the stereo, turning it up so high they couldn't hear each other without screaming. Steve whirled around, red faced and wild eyed. He was still crying, but gone was the sweet countenance. Jonathan cringed at the sight. Hell hath no fury like a lover scorned... "I hate you!" Steve picked up the nearest object and threw it in Jonathan's direction. It missed by miles, which only made Steve angrier. "I fucking hate you!!!"
Steve ripped his shirt off and tossed it aside. Then he took off his boots, hurling them at Jonathan's head. One of them nearly hit him in the eye. When Jay looked again, Steve had come out of his pants and was charging toward him, wild fury in his eyes. Jonathan gasped. "Jesus, Steve, calm down!"
"SHUT UP YOU GODDAMN FUCKING BASTARD!!!" he screeched. "I HATE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" He grabbed Jonathan's ankles and yanked him forward. Jay tried to wriggle away, but Steve's grip was so tight he might as well not have tried to move at all. Steve shoved his legs straight up in the air and slammed into him with all his force.
Jay screamed. The shock and pain were so great that he couldn't even think. Steve was like a maniac. He pumped furiously, slamming into him again and again. Steve was screaming almost as much as Jonathan. He scratched and clawed at him, yelling over and over again, "I hate you! I HATE YOU!!!" Finally, Steve seemed to have exhausted himself. He looked at Jay and his eyes were filled with tears. "Oh my God." He scrambled off of him and backed away, not stopping until he touched a wall. Without warning, he started to vomit. When finished, he looked at Jonathan, who was trying to gather himself into a ball. "I... I'm sorry." Steve ran out of the room, crying hysterically.
Jonathan lay on the floor, shocked, sore and ashamed. Dammit, he thought. That fucking song is still playing!
Neal woke up back in Steve's bedroom. He was tied to the bed - naked yet again. "Dammit!" he cried aloud. Being naked just reminded him of the fact that Steve had set all his clothes on fire. He twisted his wrists tentatively. Figures. His bonds were tight. No chance of wriggling his way out of them. Maybe he could reason with Steve. Neal laughed aloud. Yeah. Right. Reason. And right after that, I'll fly to Jupiter in a little red wagon.
Suddenly, the door burst open and Steve ran in. He looked at Neal as if he couldn't believe he was there. Then he collapsed on the bed next to Neal and cried. What the fuck? Neal lay there watching Steve cry and generally feeling like whoever was in charge of the cosmos must have been extremely bored one day and decided to play an awful joke on him. Steve continued to cry for several minutes, his whole body shaking with the violence of his sobs. "Uh... Steve? What's... what's the matter?"
"He hates me," Steve sobbed. "Oh, dear God, what have I done?"
"Um..." Neal had no clue what Steve could possibly be talking about. "You... you mean Jay?"
"Yes," Steve wailed. "He hates me!"
"Well... uh... why don't you untie me and let me talk to him? Maybe I could bring him around." Neal patted himself on the back. This was a great plan. Steve was in quite a state. Maybe he'd fall for it.
Steve whipped his head up suddenly, glaring balefully at Neal. Or maybe not. "You've done enough talking to Jonathan," he hissed. "This is all your fault!"
"Wha... what's my fault?"
"I know you turned him against me!"
"Whoa! Wait a minute, Steve, what are you talking-"
"Don't try to deny it!" he screamed. "I know you convinced him to betray me! You're the reason he tossed me aside!!!"
Neal was truly panicking now. "Steve, please, I don't know what you're talking about! I swear to God!"
Steve drew closer to Neal, growling like some sort of wild animal. "Why did you do it, Neal?" he asked, his voice suddenly low and soft. "Was it revenge? Were you pissed because it didn't work out with you and me?"
Neal tried to bring some moisture to his dry mouth. "Steve, please," he said shakily. "That... that was a long time ago. I'd never try to sabotage you, man. I... I didn't even know about the two of you."
"LIAR," Steve screamed. He closed his hands around Neal's throat. "LIAR! LIAR!!!"
"Steve, please!" Neal choked. "Stop." Steve throttled Neal, still screaming like a banshee. Two thoughts occurred to Neal before he passed out. One was, Oh my God, he's actually gonna kill me. The other made less sense under the circumstances. Amazing. He still has that great lung power.