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Written February 2011 for the Hearts & Guts gift exchange on LiveJournal.
It was a good thing Toki didn’t have a vagina.

For one thing, he and Skwisgaar would be the worst parents ever, a million times worse than Skwisgaar’s skank-ass mom and Toki’s abusive father. For another thing, their kids would probably be the dumbest creatures that ever existed, not to mention uglier than Satan’s asshole.

But Toki didn’t have a vagina, and he and Skwisgaar didn’t have to worry about having babies, which meant that they could pretty much bang each other until Ragnarök or the Apocalypse or whatever end-of-it-all those two believed in. Nathan didn’t care. He totally wasn’t bothered at all by the fact that two-thirds of the band’s guitarists suddenly decided to start fucking each other—hell, Nathan had done some pretty crazy shit himself back in the day—but this was just weird. It wasn’t right . . . somehow.

They didn’t act like a couple, for one thing. Skwisgaar still insulted Toki’s guitar-playing. Toki still punched Skwisgaar; not those love-taps, either—actual fucking punches that left bruises all over Skwisgaar’s skinny white arms. The closest they got to cuddling was when they sat down and played video games on the couch, but that usually ended in bloodshed or hair getting ripped out, so maybe it was wrong to equate it with “cuddling”. Sometimes when the band went out on the town for an all-night bender Skwisgaar and Toki would hang all over each other and slobber and grope like teenagers, but that was mostly a side-effect of being drunk. They didn’t really love each other. They just . . . no.

They may not have acted like a couple on the outside, but Nathan noticed the lack of women—young and old and geriatric alike—being escorted out of Mordhaus in the mornings, and the silly little crayon drawings Toki would make of himself and Skwisgaar. Normally they depicted Toki wearing a crown and laughing with glee while Skwisgaar died in a fire or was sucked up in a tornado or fell into a flaming crack in the Earth’s crust, but no matter the level of violence in them, they always read the same thing:

And Skwisgaar—that’s Skwisgaar Skwigelf—actually hung them on his bedroom wall, even though they clashed with his modern-gothic-whatever-I-don’t-even white minimalist “theme” he had going on. And sometimes, like right after a concert or on a really cold night, Toki would just look at Skwisgaar with these fucking eyes, and Skwisgaar would look right back at him and smile just a little bit, slip his arm around Toki’s shoulders and pull him close for a minute, and then let go.

Nathan knew after moments like those that these guys, no matter how hard they pretended otherwise, were crazy about each other. And watching them gave him the most aching, depressing, gut-wrenching feeling of loneliness he had ever felt.

It wasn’t fair.

It wasn’t fair that those two insanely-talented yet stump-stupid jackoffs were so happy with each other while Nathan, frontman of the most powerful musical enterprise in the world, king of all things brutal and metal, had been through more bad relationships than a New Jersey hooker. Where was the justice in that? Toki had all the emotional complexity of a goddamned infant, and Skwisgaar probably had an STD for every letter of the alphabet. And yet they were happy together. Happy. In that forever-and-ever kind of way, too, not the usual hot-sex-for-a-few-weeks-then-goodbye way. They were completely gay for each other, in every sense.

Though he tried to ignore them and pretended to laugh at all the queer jokes Pickles and Murderface would sling at them, Nathan couldn’t get over the fact that Skwisgaar and Toki were actually in this for the long haul. The thought kept him awake at night—well, he usually stayed up all night, but saying that his thoughts kept him awake all day doesn’t really have the same effect—and chewed its way under his skin, burrowing deep down and festering there, irritating him so deeply that it made his guts bleed and his spine turn into a gangrenous column of pus. Great inspiration for a couple of songs, but Nathan was ready for Skwisgaar and Toki to just knock it off already. Unfortunately, the only knocking they did was to each other. So Nathan took his bleeding guts and rotting spine and moved himself as far away from the nauseatingly happy couple as he could possibly get.

But it never felt far enough.

“No, no, likes in dat Tom Hanks movie, uhhhh . . . You knows, de one where he gets trappsed on dessert island and—”

“Oh yeah, Outcast!”

“No, dat’s not de names. Is, ahm . . . cast . . .”

“Cast . . . out? Cast . . . off . . .”

“Cast . . . cast . . .”

Toki sat in the hot tub with his thighs stretched over Skwisgaar’s lap, musing with him about the old “if you were trapped on a desert island” topic. Until they got derailed by trying to remember film titles, that is. They were completely relaxed in each other’s company, just two guys picking each other’s [puny] brains with simple questions and enjoying the relative quietness of the rest of the band, who by this time every Thursday night were either drunk, high, overfed, or all of the above. Pickles had passed out ten minutes ago and dropped the rest of his cocktail into the water; Murderface was in the midst of a garbled, half-asleep soliloquy about wanting to start a pig farm; and Nathan was brooding at the other end of the hot tub, nursing his twelfth beer and wishing he was drunk enough to not give a shit about how nice Skwisgaar and Toki looked together.

Seriously, they did look good together, in that kind of slutty-but-sweet way Britney Spears had going for her back before she and her white trash roots began to bear fruit. Like, if Nathan were them, he would take himself to Walmart or someplace and get a whole shitload of photos made. But, ugh, God, that was totally lame and not metal. And he couldn’t picture Toki or Skwisgaar dressed in anything other than their grody week-old jeans and pit-stained shirts they always wore. They’d have to have a redneck wedding or something to look normal, with cutoff flannel shirts and grungy camo pants and why the fuck was he even thinking about this, Jesus, time for another beer.

“Out cast . . .”

“You saids dat already.”

“Cast . . . off . . .”

Castaway,” Nathan grunted, popping the cap off his thirteenth Bud.

“THAT’S IT!” Toki shrieked gleefully, slapping the water. “Castaway!”

“Yah, Castaway! Dat’s de one—”

“Ahhh, I loves that movie! I loves Wilson! It’s was so sad ats the end, I cry so hard first time I sees it—”

“Yah, dat’s were kinds of sad. But I t’ought de plane’s crash was pretty good—”

“I wants a Wilson! Skwisgaar, we needs to goes to the store and gets us a Wilson, then we can draws a face on him and plays ball with him—”

“What’s kinds of a ball was Wilson?”

“Oh. I don’t know. Hey Nathan, what’s kinds of a ball—”

“Volley ball.”

The Scandinavians tried on the new word. “Val . . . Valley . . .”


“Vow-lee . . .”


“Vah, vahhhlee. Volley.”

“Ball. Volley ball.”

“Wilson was a . . . vahhhlley ball.”

Toki’s eyes looked like two watery blue moons. “Wilson the volley ball. Is so beautifuls!”

“Yah, we should totally goes to gets a volley’s ball tomorrow, Toki.”

“Let’s get all of thems! We can has a whole armies of Wilsons!”

Well, at least they weren’t talking about adopting kids. Because, yeah,  seriously, Nathan would rather ram chopsticks through his eardrums than listen to that. Of course, he’d rather ram chopsticks through his eardrums than listen to this, but he was too tired and too sick of being pissed off to have the energy to drag himself out of the hot tub, and really, he was here before the lovebirds swooped in, so if anyone was going to GTFO, it should be—


Nathan didn’t look up. He didn’t wanna look up. He didn’t wanna see Skwisgaar and Toki looking at him all quiet and worried and fuck, he just looked up. God damn it.

“What,” he rumbled, glaring at the two pairs of blue eyes crawling all over him.

Skwisgaar cleared his throat. “Ahm, you is actings a bits . . . uh . . .”

“Likes you mad at us or something,” Toki finished. His forehead was creased with worry. Nathan wished he would stop looking like that, like he actually cared about somebody other than Skwisgaar. “Does you have angries at us, Nathan? We your friends, you know, so you can tells us any—”

Ugh, God, just, God. Nathan visibly cringed. “No. Shut up. I’m not angry. I’m not . . . Just shut up and leave me alone. Make out with Skwisgaar or something. I’m sure he’d . . . whatever. Fuck it. Piss off.”

Toki turned to Skwisgaar. “I don’t thinks he’s happy about us, Skwisgaar,” he whispered.

“Yah, I knows,” the Swede whispered back. “I t’inks Nathan ams a bit, ah . . . what’s de word . . . jellyfish?”


“Yah, you knows, whens a person gets pissed off ats another’s persons ‘cause dey haves somet’ings dey don’t haves?”

“Oh! Likes they sad and mad at the same times? Yeah, that’s jellyfish. Nathan’s a total jellyfish at us, Skwisgaar.”

“You thinks we should ask hims abouts it?”

“I don’t knows. He may gets mad.”

“He’s already mad ats us, Toki.”

“Yeah, you right. Hey, Nathan!”

Nathan, who had heard every single word of their little-kid-top-secret-whispering-as-loud-as-possible conversation, grimaced and put on a snarl. “WHAT.”

Toki balked, afraid. Then Skwisgaar spoke up. “Are yous jellyfish?”

“You callin’ me fat?”

“No!” Toki cried. “We just, we sees you nots happies abouts us or something and we wants to knows, if you jellyfish of us?”

“What the fuck are you talking about? Jellyfish? The hell do you—you’re fuckin’ right I’m not happy about—”

Jellyfish, Nathan, jeez!” Toki slapped the water in exasperation. “Likes the mortal sin! Misunne! Sjalu! Skwisgaar, what’s the word in Swedish? Maybe he understands it better.”


“. . . Never minds.” Toki let his shoulders slump as he gazed pathetically at Nathan. “We sorries you feeling so bad about us. We never means for it to happen.”

“Yah, we just never pays a-tent’s-shown, you knows? We just basicallys going along.”

And then finally (finally) the light came on. “Wait,” Nathan muttered. “You guys . . . you guys think I’m jealous?”

Toki brightened. “Yeah! Jellyfish!”

“Jealous. JELL-US. A jellyfish is . . . That’s one of those see-through blobs that swims in the ocean and has these poisonous dreadlocks, and they wash up on beaches and sting the shit outta you when you step on ‘em. That is a jellyfish.”

Toki and Skwisgaar stared back with wide, blank eyes for a few silent moments. Then, hesitantly, Toki spoke.

“So . . . jealous is not jellyfish?”

“Yes. I mean no. I mean right, yeah, jealous is not jellyfish.”

“But . . . jellyfish kinda sounds like you, Nathan. The poisonous hairs, you know, and the stings.”

“Yah,” Skwisgaar chimed in. “And nobody’s steppings on yous ‘cause if dey does, dey gets hurts.”

“You a jealous jellyfish!” Toki laughed.

Nathan immediately went on the defensive. “I am not a jealous jellyfish!”

“But yous are jealous,” Skwisgaar pointed out, smirking. “And yous kinds of ams like a jellyfish. Yous a jealous jellyfish.”

“Would you STOP SAYING THAT, God. You sound like two stupid kids.”

“But is really such fun to say!” Toki grinned. “Jealous jellyfish!”

Nathan had had enough. “Okay. Fine. Fuck it. I’m a fuckin’ jealous jellyfish. But you’re a stupid squid.”

Toki’s mouth fell open like he’d just been dick-slapped. Then Skwisgaar started chuckling under his breath.

“Huh huh, stupid squid. Goods one, Nathan.”

Nathan, despite himself, felt his frown slowly start to bend in the opposite direction. Stupid squid. Like a retarded, big-eyed dick-looking thing with a Fu Manchu, swimming around and farting ink and blabbering in Norwegian. That sounded pretty funny. Even Toki started giggling.

“Hey, what’s ams I, Nathan? Come on, picks a fish for me!”

“You’re, um . . . heh, you’re a sea-whore.”

“No, dat doesn’t rhymes—gives me somet’ings dats rhymes.”

“Okay, okay. You’re a . . . douchebag dolphin.”

“Ha! Douchebag dolphin.”

“Ooh, let’s me picks one!” Toki cried. “Hey, what’s you thinks Murderface is?”

Nathan glanced over at the bassist, who had his head craned back against the edge of the hot tub and had a thick river of drool running out of his open, snoring mouth.

“Ugh. Something gross. Some kinda fuckin’ sea slug or somethin’.”

“Ugly octopus!”

“That doesn’t really rhyme, but—”

“He coulds be Manateeface!” Skwisgaar cackled. “You knows, slows and fat and ugly—”

Nathan chuckled. “Heh. Manateeface. That’s pretty good.”

“He gots the gap in his tooths like a walrus, though!”

“I t’inks he’s more likes a whale, actually . . .”

And just like that, like a switch flipping or the sun rising, everything was better. Nathan was talking to Skwisgaar and Toki after weeks of nothing but angry silence. It felt good. It felt normal. It felt like everything was old times again, even though nothing had really changed. Skwisgaar and Toki were still together. Nathan was still all alone. But it felt different now. He could laugh at himself—the jealous jellyfish—and he didn’t feel quite so low and shitty when he had a smile on his face.

Maybe things weren’t so unfair after all.

After abandoning Pickles and Murderface in the tub and wrapping themselves in black, skull-adorned robes, the three remaining bandmates trudged to their rooms, sleepy and drunk and happy. But as Nathan lumbered toward his corridor, he was stopped by a soft voice calling to him:

“Hey, Nathan?”

He turned and saw Skwisgaar and Toki standing at the end of the hallway that led to Skwisgaar’s room, their arms wrapped loosely around each other, gazing at him with bleary eyes and wry smiles. He watched Skwisgaar’s hand slide down Toki’s hip and disappear into the folds of his robe, right about where . . . oh. Wow. That was . . . wow.

“Toki and I’s wanting to know . . . ifs you would likes to swim wits us?”

“Yeah,” Toki murmured, nuzzling his head against Skwisgaar’s shoulder. “We likes all fishes, evens jellyfishes.”

Nathan’s brain locked up for a few seconds before finally clearing. He blinked. “You . . . really?”

Toki bit his lip and nodded like a little kid, and Skwisgaar . . . Skwisgaar just stood there and grinned, all tall and thin and wet, his eyes dark and hot. “Dere’s plenty of room ins de sea for alls of us.”

Nathan sucked in a slow, long breath and exhaled. Then he smiled a predator’s smile.

“Alright,” he said.

The two little fish, baiting and coy, melted into the shadows of the coral, and the hungry shark followed slowly behind.

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