"Wait... There's a chance Gerard might be like before all this happened?"
Gerard wipes his hands on his jeans frantically. They’re sweaty. Because he’s sweating all the time, these days. He can feel the salty drops trailing across his temples, reaching his chin and taking a wild leap at freedom in the end. He wipes his face with the sleeve of his hoodie and puts his hands on his thighs again. They’re shaking slightly. Shaking and sweating all at once. He wants to stop them but he can’t. His hands just keep trembling slightly, sometimes more violently so that he can’t even doodle properly on the corner of a page. He feels like Muhammad Ali or something. He wonders if he has Parkinson’s disease. He actually voiced his concerns to Frank the other day and the guitarist helplessly tried to assure him that he doesn’t have it. Gerard isn’t convinced, though. He tries to remember whether he hit his head somewhere really hard so that he had a head trauma or something similar. He is pretty sure that sort of thing is one of the main causes of Parkinson’s disease. And he knows that he probably should have showered last night instead of sitting on the hotel bed with his sketchbook in his lap, stubbornly trying to draw something straight. Hell, he must be smelling worse than the city dump at the rate he’s sweating but there’s really nothing he can do besides wiping the irritating liquid with various pieces of clothing. He just wants to be able to draw a straight line, right now. But he doesn’t know if the fault is at his trembling hands or at his wandering mind. He can’t seem to focus his thoughts on anything in particular lately. Actually, it even took him a long while to come to the realization that his mind is scattered all over the place. His brains are fucking dripping from the ceiling, for all he knows.
He blinks as his eyes catch movement from the entrance of the front-lounge. Mikey shuffles in quietly, followed closely by Frank who has his serious face on and Ray, whose afro is looking a bit down. As they walk further into the room, Gerard’s fingers start trumpeting on his thighs. The rhythm reminds Gerard of Crazy Little Thing Called Love. He realizes he has missed that song. He probably should listen to it while it’s on his mind. Or on his fingers… Speaking of fingers, chicken fingers would be nice. Now, he feels hungry.
Without him noticing, his right foot has joined the rhythm game and is now tapping on the floor with solid beats. Maybe he should have been a drummer. Huh?
Mikey comes and sits down on the couch next to him and Ray takes a seat on his other side as Frank flops down on the floor, facing him and crossing his legs Indian fashion. They all seem like they want to start a conversation but they don’t know how.
His brother clears his throat quietly, in a brave attempt to get his vocal chords to produce coherent sounds in the form of words. “Hey, Gee… What’s up?” is what he ends up saying.
Gerard jiggles his knee as he shrugs. “Nothing, really,” he replies, “’m feeling a bit weird. We don’t have a show tonight, do we?”
“We do, don’t you remember?” Frank answers from the floor.
Gerard’s eye brows rise high, dangerously approaching his hairline. “Oh…” he mumbles silently. “I thought we didn’t… The show tonight…” he trails of, scrunching his face as he tries to focus his thoughts enough to remember, “… is it the one with, ummm, with D-Days Away?”
“Yeah, man,” Ray responds, putting a hand on Gerard’s wiggling knee to bring a stop to the distracting motion. “You remember them, right?” he asks, a bit panicked.
The lead singer blinks a few times, then rolls his eyes, irritated. “Of course I remember them! We’ve met them before and the show tomorrow… They’re gonna be there, too, right? And Funeral For A Friend, too… I’ve just been drunk, not amnesic.”
Frank thumps his leg with a loose fist, then. “Yeah, they’re all gonna be there. Along with The Bled. And you know Ray didn’t mean that. He just asked that ‘cause you seemed a bit unsure about them when you asked about the show.”
Gerard nods half-heartedly, still feeling a bit offended.
“Anyway we, uhhh, we wanna talk to you about something,” Frank spills the beans finally. Mikey stirs next to Gerard.
“Oh…” Gerard mutters, his eye brows shooting up high in the air, “What is it?”
Frank’s hands are flexing and relaxing, wriggling; his fingertips chasing each other in his lap as he asks: “Have you… uhh… Have you seen any bad dreams lately?”
Gerard frowns, contemplating whether he is expected to give the more than obvious answer but Mikey cuts into his thought-chain with a silent “You know, after. After the one with G –. With…”
Gerard’s eyes stay open wide for a few moments and then he blinks a couple times and shakes his head as he finally understands. They’re asking if he saw anything after that terrible one with Elena and without Mikey. He hasn’t. And that makes… Whole five days without seeing anything remotely frightening. Without wondering if he’s astro-projecting himself between two different realms. At least, not wondering about that most of the time.
Apparently his friends are not sure about the meaning of his head-shake so Ray feels the need to ask:
“Really? You haven’t seen anything?”
“No,” responds Gerard sincerely, “I haven’t seen any dreams since… But. I, uhh, I haven’t slept all that much, so…”
He feels ashamed admitting to his brother and his friends that he has not been able to get much sleep, lately. He doesn’t know if it’s merely his good-old insomnia kicking in or his unbelievable fear of the so-called “dream”s he sees. He just knows that he has approximately got two hours of sleep a day for these last four, five days. No matter how hard he tries, he can’t fall asleep most of the time. And in those fortunate times he can, he wakes up with a start not half an hour later, panting to breathe properly with the deflating feeling deep inside his chest, his heart pounding erratically for no apparent reason.
“Insomnia?” Mikey asks him, placing a comforting hand on his shoulder. Gerard nods a few times before hesitantly voicing his thoughts.
“I think… I got. I mean, my body or my brain… Just, I-I got so used to the pills that I can’t sleep without them,” he explains, his hands making nervous flailing gestures in the air in front of him, desperately trying to illustrate his point. “I can only go to sleep if I take them…” he trails off silently.
Gerard feels Mikey’s body move next to him as the younger brother sighs deeply, adjusting his glasses on his nose with his hand that’s not gripping Gerard’s shoulder. Then Frank’s deep voice rises up to the surface of his consciousness and breaks him free from his thoughts.
“So you’re not taking the pills?” the guitarist asks.
“Not as much as I used to.”
“But you’re still drinking.” There’s no questioning lilt at the end of the sentence. It’s not a question. Just a statement. Gerard doesn’t mind.
“Not as much as I used to,” he replies again, simply.
Frank nods promptly, suddenly seeming excited.
“Yeah, but… For a few days there, you didn’t drink anything. I mean, after…”
Gerard knows exactly what he means. Frank means those few days after he failed to commit suicide how he didn’t drink anything. Yeah, he didn’t drink. Because he was so very scared when he saw what the alcohol and drugs had reduced him to. But he still yearned for it like the true alcoholic/addict that he is. Wanted it like burning. Like dying. But he realized that he didn’t want to die. Or, honestly, he shouldn’t want to die. There is just something seriously wrong with thinking 'If it gets any worse, I’ll just do this and it’ll be fine.' It will never be fine if he does that. He knows it now.
But he doesn’t understand where Frank’s going with telling him he didn’t drink then. Is he going to tell him he can manage to stay away from the alcohol now, too, since he could do it then? Because that’s just bullshit. He wouldn’t be called an alcoholic if he could just quit it in a moment. He’s not that strong. Because addicts are weak. They’re always weak and they’ll do anything to get their fix. He knows he’s weak. And sometimes he feels like a hypocrite for getting up on the stage and telling all those kids who look up to him to be strong and not take anyone’s shit. To never let them get you alive. But he takes his own shit. It’s that simple. He’s anything but strong. And by the look of things, he sometimes thinks, they really might not get him alive.
He glances around to see if he can read Mikey’s or Ray’s faces. They look like they know something but they’re not sure about it. So he directs his gaze back to Frank and waits for him to explain his point. If there is a point, of course.
Frank’s eyes dart between Mikey and Ray for a flash before he starts again.
“I, uhh. I did some research. About, you know, alcohol withdrawal.” He pauses to gather his thoughts in a neat bunch and continues after a second. “You know anything about delirium tremens?”
The lead-singer blinks confusedly and gives a sheepish little grin. “Well… I know I’m gonna sound like a real hopeless alcoholic but the only thing I can think of is that Delirium Tremens is a brand of beer?” he states with an unsure lilt to his voice.
The rhythm guitarist shoots him a tiny smile as he goes on. “Yeah, you’re right, actually. But I wasn’t talking about that.”
Gerard only nods.
“It’s a, well… It’s a form of ethanol – alcohol – withdrawal, apparently an–”
“Oh!” Gerard cries suddenly and Mikey nearly jumps on his seat. Gerard immediately shoots him an apologetic look and starts: “I think, yeah, I remember that now… I kinda remember reading about that somewhere when I was going through that whole Edgar Allan Poe obsession way back… Yeah,” he pauses, his hands rubbing on his thighs once more to wipe off the sweat, while his brain tries to buy some time to sort through the jungle that is his mind and make him remember. “Umm… I think that was… I’m not sure if I. I remember right but…” he trails off this time, looking uncertain and grim at the same time.
Frank bites his lip in front of him, worry evident in his eyes. It’s obvious that he knows what Gerard’s going to say next. It doesn’t make the singer feel any better, though.
“I think… delirium tremens was one of the speculated causes of Poe’s… Poe’s death.”
Ray’s hand clenches unconsciously on its resting place on Gerard’s knee as Mikey’s head snaps towards Frank’s direction, his eyes shooting daggers behind his glasses. “Frank?” he inquires, his voice holding something tangible and scorching hot.
“That’s why I wanted to talk to Gerard about this as soon as possible,” Frank snaps, from between gritted teeth.
Gerard looks at him intently, without even blinking, and begins: “You think –”
“No!” Frank’s voice shuts him up, “Just listen to me first. I don’t think anything. I just wanna tell you what I’ve learnt about this thing, so far. Just… I was hoping you didn’t know anything about DT. I didn’t want you to be scared.”
He searches Gerard’s face for any sign of fear but finds none. He’s pale as ever and the dark, tired crescents under his eyes are no surprise. His thin lips are closed in a tight red line against the white of his skin. Frank can feel the softness of their wet touch under his if he concentrates just hard enough.
He shakes himself out of the sudden wave of affection and continues examining Gerard’s face. His eyes; Frank’s almost afraid to look into his eyes. But there’s nothing unusual about them. They’re just not… sparkling. Like they used to. But they haven’t been sparkling for some time now, Frank can’t really decipher when exactly they stopped doing that. In the end, he can’t help but notice that Gerard’s eyes are a couple shades darker than their usual honey. It’s almost like his body is unconsciously shielding them from the world with a few extra layers of cornea or something. Frank doesn’t really know much about biology… All he knows is that if something’s wrong with Gerard, or wrong-er than it already is, they’re going to fix it. Together.
“I’m not scared,” Gerard lies smoothly, bringing Frank back to his head. The guitarist gives a curt nod and starts explaining.
“Well, it says that delirium tremens is like a really acute kind of delirium caused by alcohol withdrawal following heavy drinking for a long time, or use of benzodiazepines and some other tranquilizers. But apparently, it only occurs in about 5% of people with alcohol withdrawal…” As he takes a seep breath to continue, Gerard mutters with a ghost of a lopsided, knowing smile on his lips.
“I’ve been doing both for a long time…”
“Huh?” Frank asks, not able to catch his silent statement.
“Alcohol and benzodiazepines… You know, Xanax…”
Frank takes another breath as he nods nervously and keeps talking at Gerard’s silent waving hand gesture for him to go on.
“It says that DT is characterized by a complete hallucination without any recognition of the real world. And that made me think about your drea –”
“But I don’t understand,” Mikey intervenes, “You’re supposed to be awake to see hallucinations. Gerard sees dreams. When he’s asleep.”
Frank gives an anonymous shrug. “I don’t know Mikey, I’m not a doctor. I’m just telling you what I read on the internet.”
“And where did you read that, Frank? Urban dictionary? Wikipedia?” asks a taunting voice from the direction of the door. It’s Matt, leaning against the door frame. He has probably been listening to their conversation for some time. It’s weird that he didn’t care enough to listen to Frank before when he tried to explain to them why they had to talk to Gerard about this and yet, he’s listening now.
“C’mon guys, Gerard’s fine. You’re gonna make him a hypochondriac if you keep squeezing him so tight. Give the guy some space. Right Gerard? You’re fine, aren’t you?”
Gerard looks at him for a moment before shrugging helplessly. He doesn’t know what to say to that. Except he really doesn’t feel very fine. But Matt takes his shrug as an affirmative response, apparently.
“See? He’s fine. Just let him be…”
“Just… You don’t understand…” Mikey mumbles in his direction, frowning and shaking his head hopelessly. Gerard can almost feel his brother’s painfully tightened chest from his place right next to him. But it could be his own painfully tight chest he’s feeling, too.
Meanwhile, Frank is answering the drummer’s sarcastic question.
“Yeah, I read some of it on Wikipedia, Matt. But that doesn’t mean it’s not true. You weren’t interested in this from the beginning so please don’t come here now and try to make light of this. We’re just trying to help our friend.”
Gerard thinks that might have sounded at least a bit harsh. But he is sure Frank didn’t mean it like that. He is just over-reacting because he’s feeling all protective over Gerard.
The drummer’s brows come together in a heated scowl.
“Oh, you’re all trying to help your friend. And I’m not? Is that it? I’m not trying to help Gerard? I just told you to leave him the fuck alone. He’s doing fine without you guys stuffing his brain with nonsense.”
“It’s not nonsense!” Frank exclaims a bit too loud, “It’s a potentially fatal form of alcohol withdrawal. You might not have noticed but Gerard’s been going through a hard time this past week and a half trying to give up the alcohol and the drugs. And if you can honestly look at him and not see the ever-present sweat on his face, his trembling hands or his confused eyes, there’s no point in trying to explain to you the withdrawal symptoms.” Frank is trembling himself when he’s done with his little speech. But his is not because of substance abstinence, no, it’s because of the pure anger-triggered adrenaline running through his veins.
“Oh, little Frankie thinks he’s Iero, MD. When did you graduate from med school, huh?” asks Matt, his anger level rising even more with every passing moment.
Frank opens his mouth to retort something equally sarcastic and outrageous but a soft brush on his shoulder stops him. He turns his head to see who dares to keep him from giving the drummer what he deserves. But when he sees the sorrow-filled glow in Gerard’s worried eyes, he shuts his mouth immediately.
“Don’t,” the vocalist pleads quietly, “Please…”
But as far as Frank is concerned, he needn’t have vocalized his request. Just the broken look in his big, honey-spilt olive eyes is enough for the guitarist to keep his words to himself.
“This is something so stupid to fight over,” states Gerard seriously. His low voice is the only sound that dares to break the death silence in the little room. “So please don’t.”
At his final request, the drummer turns around in one swift motion and retreats in the direction of the bunks. Gerard feels Frank’s shoulders sag as the guitarist leans his back against his legs, resting his head against Gerard’s thigh in relaxation. Only after then the singer lets his own head fall back against the couch cushions in exhaustion as a ragged sigh escapes his lips.
The relief at averting a possible fight because of him is overwhelming in its victory. He doesn’t know how or why but the sudden feel of ease running through his veins brings a dense sleepy fog to wrap around him like a blanket, soothing his mind and lulling him to unconsciousness. His eyes close as he smells an awfully familiar antiseptic smell with the last conscious breath he takes. The scent fills his nostrils and then it conquers his head all together: He hates that hospital smell.
Just before he’s gone, he realizes Mikey has been talking for a while, now.
“… should find out if his condition is really different from any normal withdrawal case. If it’s so extreme… I mean, we should check out all the…”
“… possibilities for a full recovery. But we have to proceed cautiously. If we’re not careful –”
“Wait… There’s a chance Gerard might be like he was before all this happened?” Donna interrupts the doctor’s monotonous ramble with a conversely excited tone.
Gerard blinks; he thought it was Mikey he was hearing. He tries to comprehend the meaning behind what’s happening but it’s a lost cause. He can feel the chair beneath him but he doesn’t do anything to understand the something that is obviously wrong. He should be sitting on a couch… He can only blink again. He feels like he’s peeking through a veil of some sort.
The doctor’s gaze slithers towards him at his mother’s words and his eyes somewhat soften, his tone gaining personality in the form of gentleness as he sees that Gerard is completely out of it.
“Mrs. Way, you have to understand the severity of what has happened to your son. Only after you have fully accepted his condition, you can help him… For the last three years, he’s been in an undifferentiated type of schizophrenia –”
“We know what his condition is!” snaps Donald, his brows furrowed in an angry scowl, “That’s not what we’re asking.”
Now, the doctor looks as if he’s in some type of an inner struggle. He frowns and hesitates before answering as professionally as he can.
“There is a lot about schizophrenia that we still don’t understand.”
“What do you understand?” asks another, kinder voice from outside of Gerard’s peripheral vision. He starts to sway in his seat slightly at the unmistakable sound of her voice. He’s starting to remember, now.
The doctor speaks up again:
“Gerard’s delusion is multi-layered. He believes he’s in some type of a rock band –”
“My Chemical Romance,” Elena states softly.
“My Chemical Romance, right,” the doctor acknowledges. “But that’s only one level, I’m afraid… He has also created an intricate lattice work to support his primary delusion. In his mind, he’s slowly becoming the central figure in a world of violent stage performances and manic summer tours. He’s surrounded himself with friends – some in his band and others in their own rock bands – who are as real to him as you or me. More so, unfortunately. Together they get up on the stage and play for hundreds or thousands of devoted fans. They share a stage with other bands both imaginary and present in today’s world… They release singles and albums, they give out interviews to magazines and the TV… Every time we think we’re getting through to him, something or someone else appears to support his delusion, giving him more reasons to hold on to his hallucinations and he –”
“Hallucinations…” mutters Gerard from his curled up position on the chair in front of the doctor’s desk. He still feels confused and a bit scared but he also feels like there’s something really urgent he is supoosed tell them about. His stammering gets more coherent as the urgency to explain takes over his mind.
“… Frank… he said alcohol did this… tremens… Matt… they were…”
He unwinds his arms from around his body and staggers as he tries to stand up.
“Gerard –” his mother starts but the doctor is already out of his seat, guiding Gerard back to his seat gently. Gerard’s eyes dart around the place, drifting in and out of focus. The white walls are sickly familiar. He trembles in fear as the doctor tries to soothe him.
“Sshhh… It’s all right. They’re not here. They’re not doing anything. You’re with your family.”
“Mikey?” Gerard asks in a squeaky voice, so very afraid of the response he’ll get.
“Not again…” his father mutters as he shakes his head in hopeless misery.
“But we already talked about that, Gerard, don’t you remember? You inserted Mikey into your delusion to accommodate your need for a familial bond.” He stops immediately once he notices that Gerard has started trembling once more. He decides not to press the issue further as to not lose him like before. He turns and addresses his family silently.
“Mikey is apparently a really sensitive matter for Gerard. I suggest we do not press the issue any further with him in this condition. Like I said before, we have to proceed very cautiously or there is the possibility that we might lose Gerard for good.”
Gerard stares at him in silence, his eyes coming in and out of focus as he tries to comprehend the meaning of ‘we might lose Gerard for good’ but the doctor doesn’t give him much time for that as he turns his attention back on his patient and asks:
“Your brother… Your friends, all the people you created… They’re not as comforting as they were, are they? You don’t feel like you used to around them, right? They’re coming apart…”
The term ‘coming apart’ makes Gerard moan in pain and confusion. His mind travels to the moment Frank and Matt were snapping at each other. And then he remembers Ray having a quarrel with Matt about his drumming. Something about a click-timer. And he remembers the drummer has been missing beats on stage for some time. Five brothers who care so much about each other. What happened to them? He desperately tries to avert his gaze from the white-coat’s. Tries to look away, cowering in his seat.
He takes a sharp breath, shutting his eyes tight, as a soft hand lands on his shoulder.
“Gerard, listen to the doctor. What he’s saying is important,” says his grandmother to his ear in the most soothing voice ever.
Gerard shakes his head weakly, becoming even more confused and agitated every passing second. He doesn’t want to listen. He’s so scared it would make sense if he listens…
“Gerard,” calls the doctor, “We want to help you get better. And I think you want that, too… Isn’t that why your friends are in such a hassle? It should be getting better with the new album but it’s not. Your band is slowly but surely falling apart, isn’t it? And you, yourself. You used to be the energetic, lively, strong-willed singer on stage, conducting the crowd to his every like. And now what is it? Just and ordinary guy with alcohol and drug problems, spitting on people from the stage. Barely able to stand on his own, stumbling over the very lyrics he has written himself.”
Gerard listens to him quietly, gulping every few seconds. Unable to stop his mind from reeling with doubts.
It really does make sense.
A/N: Here's another chapter. I've been meaning to write this forever. I've just not had the opportunity to. And I could have finished it days ago but I lost my Grandmother on the 29th. Only now I've had the chance to write. It's good. A good distraction from what's really happening around me. So... I hope you like this.