Sara has something to show Gerard and Frank which confuses things even more.
Anyways, I digress. Thank you for all the reviews, they also make my week, right next to those big ass posters of Billie Joe Armstrong. Keep them coming, I love to see what you think! And without further ado, roll on Chapter 7!
After taking a moment to enjoy the feeling of being able to breath again they set off pretty much straight away. This time Mikey took the lead and he walked with a confidence that definitely hadn’t been there before, his arm around Alicia’s waist in a protective kind of way. Frank followed from behind Alicia, his hands in his pockets and Gerard came last, keeping his eyes alert for the slightest movement in the long grass.
It had stopped raining and now the sun shone bright in the afternoon sky. It bounced off Mikey’s sopping yellow head, illuminating it so that it seemed almost Gabriel-esque. The air was warm and humid, so warm in fact that Gerard, Frank and Mikey discarded their jackets and tied the sleeves around their waists. Frank proceeded to undo the top buttons of his shirt so that the flimsy material flapped around him, displaying his bare chest and causing Gerard’s breath to catch in his throat. The other’s looked back at him questioningly and he glanced around for a plausible explanation for his sudden quickening of pulse.
“Thought I saw a buzzard,” he explained sheepishly. “Damn, I love those birds.”
The others rolled their eyes and turned back to face the front. Gerard breathed a sigh of relief.
Trees had begun to sprout from either side of them, their leafy canopies offering some protection against the sun’s harsh glare. They stepped gratefully into the shadows, allowing their coolness to tickle their skin and the fresh green smell of the undergrowth to replace the fishy, muddy stink of the lake. Suddenly, Alicia let out a gasp and pointed.
“Look!” she said. “Over there, through those trees!”
Gerard squinted through the branches ahead of him and then felt his eyes widen. The striped top of a huge red and white gazebo could be seen just a little further on.
“Look’s like a circus tent,” said Frank.
They looked at each other, all of them thinking the same thing.
“Clowns,” Mikey frowned. “Which one of us is afraid of clowns?”
Gerard shrugged. He didn’t have a big problem with clowns. They were decidedly not funny, but he didn’t exactly shit his pants whenever he saw one. They were just people, after all. People who painted their faces and threw pies at one another to earn some dough.
“Inside, you think?” he asked the rest of the group and they nodded in agreement.
He began to head in the direction of the tent when the sudden snapping of a twig sounded from amongst the bush. Everyone froze, looking hard for the source of the noise.
“What was that?” Frank whispered.
“Well, how the fuck would I know?” Gerard whispered back.
“Asking annoying questions makes me feel better about situations like these.”
“Guys!” hissed Mikey. “Shut the fuck up! I think I just saw something move!”
They shut up at that and watched as Mikey began to move cautiously forward into the bush. Frank moved closer to Gerard so that he could feel the heat of his body pressing against him and hear his shallow breathing. Shivers ran up his spine that had nothing to do with the footsteps that were growing increasingly louder.
Mikey stood, his back up against a tree, waiting for whatever was coming to show itself. The leaves rustled as they brushed against something, something large and heading straight for them. It broke through the obstructing walls of bracken and Mikey jumped, arms outstretched, wrestling whatever it was to the ground.
“Gerroff...me...Mikey...” came the muffled voice from beneath Mikey’s body. “It’s...me...gerroff!”
“Ray?” Mikey stood up, allowing his friend to clamber to his feet.
“Hi,” said Ray, massaging his limbs with a disgruntled look on his face. “Nice to see you too.”
“I’m sorry dude,” said Mikey sheepishly, ignoring Gerard, Frank and Alicia who were splitting with laughter. “I thought you were...something else.”
“No kidding,” Ray replied. “Where were you guys?”
“Well,” Gerard answered, thinking back to the first square. “I woke up on a giant chessboard. Found Frank in a cave full of gargantuan spiders, Alicia was in a chamber surrounded by hungry snakes and Mikey was wondering aimlessly around a never-ending field. We got out of there by going through a tunnel at the bottom of a lake. That was after we got past the giant squid, obviously.”
Ray raised his eyebrows. “Right,” he turned to Frank, Mikey and Alicia. “Explain what the hell is going on?”
“Gerard’s not kidding, Ray,” Mikey replied regretfully. “Somehow we’ve been...transported...inside the board game we were playing at Gerard’s party. The Rule’s state that we’ve each got to face our fears before we can look for some kind of gate that will take us back to the real world.”
“What?!” exclaimed Ray, his eyes wide. “That is so unfair! Why us? What did we do?”
The others shrugged. Gerard looked down at his feet.
“So...what do we do now?” asked Ray. “I mean, I’ve been wondering around this forest for hours. Or maybe days. I don’t know, time isn’t what it used to be.”
“No it isn’t,” Gerard agreed. “At a guess our way out of here is through there.”
He pointed towards the circus tent. Ray’s eyes grew even wider. “Th...there?” he whispered. “But...the clowns...”
“Aw, you guys are catching on so quickly I feel almost proud.”
Although Gerard whipped round quickly at the sound of the voice he wasn’t entirely surprised to see Sara standing amongst the bracken, brushing dead leaves off her shoulders.
“I have to say,” she continued and she was smiling, albeit creepily. “I was impressed at how you handled the kraken, Michael. Very impressed.”
“Thanks,” replied Mikey uneasily. Frank looked indignant.
“Hey,” he said resentfully. “I killed off a monster arachnid with it’s own poison! That is so more skilful than dropping a roof on a squid’s head!”
Sara studied him carefully, her blue eyes staring into his. He held her gaze unwaveringly and she smiled again. “You know what?” she said thoughtfully. “I really like you, Frank.”
Frank’s offended expression changed to one which looked rather taken aback, but quite pleased. Sara turned away from him and faced Mikey once again. She tossed him a bloodstained card which he caught in one hand.
“What do I have to do?” asked Mikey.
“Tell me something I don’t know,” replied Sara wickedly. “You get 3 tries.”
Gerard felt his stomach drop as Mikey looked doubly confused. He glanced at Frank who shrugged and bit his lip.
“Um,” started Mikey. “My middle name is James?”
Sara lowered one of 3 raised fingers. “I know that, dear. Do you not think I would have done my homework before kidnapping you?”
“Ok...” Mikey glanced round at his friends. “Does it have to be something they don’t know either?”
Sara shrugged. “Give it a go.”
“Well,” a pink flush coloured Mikey’s cheeks. “I didn’t have my first kiss until I was 17.”
Gerard’s mouth fell open in shock. “You’re shitting me!” he exclaimed. “And here’s me desperately trying to get one over you when you said you’d lost your virginity at 14!”
Mikey turned the colour of beetroot. “I was embarrassed,” he said in a tiny little voice.
“I actually knew that too,” replied Sara. “I sort of know pretty much everything there is to know about all of you.”
“Then this is hardly a fair deal,” said Mikey.
“No it isn’t,” Sara grinned again. “But I thought it time The Game got a little bit trickier. You’ve been winning this way too easily.”
“Do you know the meaning of life?” asked Mikey hopefully.
Sara raised a perfectly arched eyebrow. “I don’t,” she said. “But you don’t either.”
Gerard groaned as Mikey deflated and Sara snapped the Chance card away. “I win!” she exclaimed happily. “And Ray gets to face his fear with absolutely nothing to help him out!”
“You bitch,” spat Gerard savagely but she had gone. Alicia tugged on Ray’s arm.
“Come on,” she said softly. “You don’t need her help. You can do this on your own.”
Ray nodded at her kind words though Gerard couldn’t help but notice that he was shaking all over and he dragged his feet slowly as they made to approach the circus tent. It wasn’t long before the number of trees had dwindled and finally they were once more standing in a large field, most of which was taken up by a magnificent red and white striped. They could hear the music coming from inside it. It carried across the long grass until it reached them, an eerie, daunting sound. They drew near the entrance cautiously, Ray hanging back.
“I don’t want to go in,” he stated.
“Here we go again,” Frank sighed.
“No, you don’t get it,” Ray insisted. “I have this...thing with clowns. I won’t do it. I won’t.”
“Yeah, you have a thing with clowns,” said Gerard impatiently. This whole thing was starting to become quite repetitive. “Just like Frank has a thing with spiders, Alicia with snakes and Mikey with water. They dealt with it. It’s your turn.”
“No, you don’t get it,” said Ray. His eyes were starting to water. “When I was a kid my dad used to take me to the circus. There was this guy, he used to catch knives. In his mouth.” he shuddered at the memory. “He was good. Really good. But...no one’s that good.”
He paused and squeezed his eyes shut. He didn’t have to go on, Gerard had a pretty good idea of what had happened. But he did anyway. “One time he missed. There was blood everywhere and he just had this sick grin on his face from where the knife had cut...”
“Stop,” Mikey grimaced. “Please...stop.”
“Okay, so I can imagine seeing something like that that would scar you for life,” said Gerard fairly. “But if you don’t go in then we’ll be stuck here forever. We’ll die.”
So Ray took a deep breath and went in. The others followed.
It was dark inside the tent, so dark that they could not see whether it was red and white on the inside as well. And quiet, very quiet. The seats surrounded a huge circular patch of ground which was backed up by a velvet curtain but it was empty. There was no light which meant that Gerard could only see his friends as cast into silhouette.
As they took the steps down into the centre, Gerard became acutely aware that Ray was whimpering behind him. He savagely wished he’d shut up, the place had a distinct menacing feel about it. They stopped in front of the red velvet curtain, their feet sinking into the sand that bore tracks of unicycles and huge shoes. Slowly, Frank turned to face the others.
“Guys,” he spoke quietly. “Can you hear...whispering on the other side?”
They knelt closer to the curtain and nodded, alarmed. There were voices behind it, soft whispers and then suddenly a high pitched, maniacal cackle.
“Oh fuck,” Ray groaned.
“Ray,” said Gerard forcefully. “It can’t hurt you. It’s just your imagination that makes it so scary. If you let that go then they’ll just be random people with wigs on.”
“And chainsaws,” said Frank who had is ear pressed against the curtain. “I’m pretty sure I can hear a chainsaw.”
Gerard shot Frank a dirty look but thankfully Ray ignored him and nodded. So Gerard grabbed a handful of velvet and slowly lifted it away.
The first thing they knew was light. It was streaming from the ceiling, the walls, the floor, so bright Gerard had to blink repeatedly before coming to grips with it. Opening them, he realised they were standing in a Room of Mirrors. The walls were lined with them and the door was too. As it shut behind them he realised, the ominous feeling becoming more and more pronounced, that they couldn’t get back.
“Stay together,” he told the rest of the party and they jerked their heads in assent.
They moved around the room very warily, Ray even more so than the others. Their faces looked back at them in the mirrors, all of them identical, all of them terrified. But then, turning around Gerard caught sight of a reflection that definitely did not match the rest.
The clown was huge and fat with padded stuffing and it made towards them with huge clumsy steps due to the enormous plastic red shoes on its feet. It wore a dusty orange wig and its painted face was grinning grotesquely at something only a sadist would find amusing. Gerard let out a yelp and ran blindly into any direction, Frank following after him. They could hear the slapping of the clown’s shoes but didn’t dare look behind them.
“Where are Ray, Mikey and Alicia?” Frank panted as they stopped to gain their breath back after checking that the clown was not in view.
Gerard shrugged, breathing heavily. “Must have gone a different way.”
Frank’s reply was broken off by another evil cackle. He raised his head only to meet hundreds of pairs of eyes, all wide and bloodshot in the mirrors. In one hand it held a rusty machete which it raised and lowered, aiming right between the shoulder blades.
Blood spurted, speckling the glass bright red. Frank scrambled to his feet in awe as the clown swayed left, right, then finally fell with a thud to the floor. And standing behind him, a gory shard of glass in his hand, stood Ray.
“I got him in the eye,” Ray explained. His fist was covered in the clown’s blood and he was shaking. “Did he hurt you?”
Frank shook his head and laughed. Ray cracked a relieved smile.
“Come on,” grinned Gerard. “Let’s get the hell out of here.”
The tent disappeared as soon as they left it. No one bothered to comment on how “just like magic” it was. They were all too aware of the impossible becoming possible wherever they were now.
They slept under the stars again, in the long grass. Mikey and Alicia were wrapped around each other, their breathing unison, bodies one. Ray slept with a smile on his face, the joy from beating his worst fear had not left him quite yet. But Gerard wasn’t smiling and Gerard wasn’t asleep. He was worried. He was worried about LynZ, Jamia and Christa and he was worried that this was all his fault. Which, he supposed, it was.
A hand on his shoulder caused him to sit up straight away. “What the hell are you doing here?” he hissed.
“I am sentenced here for all eternity,” Sara replied snidely.
“Yeah, but I thought you were only supposed to come up to give us Chance cards and shit?”
“I follow Rules Gerard,” she replied. “Believe me, if it was up to me I wouldn’t be here right now either. But I have something to show you. Both of you,” she added, gesturing to Frank who stood next to her, rubbing his eyes tiredly.
“Yeah?” Gerard jumped to his feet, immediately filled with curiosity. “Show us then.”
Sara inclined her head curtly and snapped her fingers. The familiar jolt from somewhere behind his navel and he was spinning through darkness again though this time he landed, quite softly, on a bed of dew-green grass. He could hear from somewhere the rushing of a waterfall and looking up he saw it, cascading over emerald rocks into a crystal-clear river that danced upstream as if it could never end. Gerard faced Sara in bewilderment.
“It’s beautiful,” he told her and he meant it. “What is it?”
“Heaven,” Sara shrugged. “Paradise. Dreamland. Nirvana. Somewhere safe.”
Frank raised an eyebrow. “And why are we here?”
“So ungrateful,” she flicked her dark hair over her shoulder. In the soft, dappled light of where they stood she looked even lovelier. “Just go with it, why don’t you?”
She picked a fallen lily from off the floor and fixed it in her hair. “I’ll be back, so don’t get too comfortable,” she said before vanishing straight afterwards.
Gerard stood near one of the rocks and looked into the diamond river water. Frank watched him carefully.
“Weird place this,” said Gerard. “Beautiful and all. But...really strange.”
“I get you,” Frank nodded. “Like, it’s too good to be real?”
“Yeah,” replied Gerard. “Exactly.”
Silence except for the rushing of the water and the gentle whispering of the trees. Frank was lent up against one of the trunks, strands of shadow black hair falling gently into his eyes and Gerard had a sudden bizarre urge to hook one behind his ear, his fingertips brushing over that perfect marble skin...
“Fuck it!” Gerard cried in exasperation, throwing his hands into the air. Frank stared at him in shock.
“Um, what?” said Frank.
“I can’t do it,” Gerard’s hands covered his face, as if he made to claw it off. “Goddammit, I can’t handle this!”
“Handle what?” said Frank.
“You,” Gerard practically breathed the word. Frank was silent. In a desperate attempt to win back some dignity, Gerard moved his hands from his face and crossed them, defiantly, across his chest. “You want the truth? The absolute truth?”
“It’d be nice.”
“I can’t stop thinking about you,” Gerard rushed and then felt the colour of his face clash horribly with his hair. “About us. From back then. And now. And I can’t handle it.”
“Okay,” said Frank and Gerard wanted to punch him. Why was he so damn calm? He should be panicking. Screaming. Clawing his hair out. Like Gerard was.
“”Okay”?” repeated Gerard. “”Okay?” No, it’s not O-fucking-kay! I’m not supposed to fancy you! I’m married, for Chrissake! I’m married to a beautiful, wonderful woman who I love and I fancy you too? It’s not okay!”
“Fine,” said Frank. His face was still completely calm. “It’s not okay.”
Gerard threw his hands into the air in exasperation. “I don’t get it!” he cried. “Why are you not freaking out over this?”
“I am,” Frank replied. “I’m very surprised. In fact my insides are dancing the conga right now. I just...fail to see what the problem is.”
Gerard’s armed dropped back down to his sides as he looked quizzically at Frank. “You don’t...you don’t see what the problem is?”
Frank smiled embarrassedly as his cheeks also blushed faintly pink. “I can’t stop thinking about you either,” he scratched the back of his neck sheepishly. “Or about...back then.”
Gerard shifted his weight awkwardly from one foot to another. “Don’t get me wrong,” he stated. “I’m not...I’m not in love with you or anything, I just-”
“-Yeah,” Frank cut across him. “Yeah. Sure. I get you. I just...don’t see what the problem is. I mean, guys start liking other people all the time when they’re married.”
“Not...other guys though,” said Gerard. Frank shrugged.
Another awkward silence before Frank cleared his throat uncomfortably. “What I mean is, I don’t wanna come between you and LynZ or anything. You guys are great together. Why should we let the past change anything? Why can’t we just walk away and pretend we never had this conversation?”
Because I don’t want to? Gerard thought privately but didn’t say anything. However, Frank seemed to sense what was going through Gerard’s mind because he looked down at his feet. “Or,” he spoke slowly. “We could make out.”
Gerard looked up so quickly his neck cricked. “What?”
“To break the tension,” he answered quickly. “It wouldn’t, you know, mean anything. Just one last kiss to say goodbye to the past forever. A je ne regret rien kinda thing.”
“We can’t do that,” said Gerard’s head but there was another voice screaming out something different entirely.
Frank shook his head. “No we couldn’t,” he said. “Sorry. Stupid thing for me to say.”
“I mean, I’m married,” said Gerard, taking a step towards Frank.
“Exactly,” nodded Frank, also taking a step forward. “Totally immoral.”
“A gross betrayal of trust,” Gerard took another step.
“She’d never forgive you,” they were no less than 6 inches away.
“And she’d be right not to,” they were so close, Gerard could feel Frank’s breath on his face.
“Completely within her rights,” he could count every tiny individual freckle on his nose.
“And then there’s Bandit,” his voice was barely more than a whisper.
“Right,” Frank murmured back. So close, their faces were barely a hair’s width away and suddenly all Gerard could think of was how good it would be to feel Frank’s lips on his once again...
“Gaylord,” breathed Frank suddenly.
“Fag,” Gerard retorted.
“You know if Sara sees us like this we are so screwed-”
“-Oh, shut the fuck up and kiss me.”
So Frank shut up. Their lips grazed across each others, gently and then with gradually more pressure. Gerard felt the cold metal of Frank’s lip ring press against him as he moved his hand to comb through those thick locks of dark hair, aware that Frank’s arms were also snaking around his waist. He held him closer, wrapping his arms around his tiny torso and in that moment he experienced true perfection. There was nothing there to bother them, no stupid game, no mysterious past, just Frank and Gerard and this paradise that seemed to be created for them and only them. His smell, his taste, it was all so real that he never wanted it to end, never.
But all things do.
A piercing scream ruined that beautiful moment and Gerard and Frank came apart.
“What the hell was that?” Frank spoke fearfully.
“Sara,” said Gerard. “Sara, take us back!”
And at his words came the jerking sensation and again they were spinning through black, landing, stomach first, in the field they had just left. Mikey, Ray and Alicia were all awake and sitting upright, Alicia sobbing into Mikey’s shoulder whilst he pat her on the back consolingly.
“Bad dream,” Mikey explained. “The snakes won’t leave her alone.”
“Where did you guys go?” asked Ray suspiciously.
They muttered something indistinguishable about needing air and lay down to sleep next to Mikey and Ray. But as the lull of breathing became steadier and slower and Ray’s snores came rumbling into the quiet Gerard couldn’t help but wonder what exactly would have happened if the snake in Alicia’s mind hadn’t chosen that exact moment to strike.
[*Dum dum dum!!! Sorry I wasn’t focusing much on Ray battling out his fear, I was more focused on the Gerard and Frankness. But plz stay tunes, we're actually kinda nearing the end!
Next chapter Monday.]