It became obvious the second they hit the floor that no one had realised they'd gone.
The party guests were still eating, drinking, talking aimlessly about nothing in particular, completely oblivious to their hosts' and friends' sudden reappearance as if for all the world they had never been away at all. The party continued without event until LynZ decided that she could no longer handle the pretence at normality and ushered everyone out the door with a hasty "goodnight" and a "thank you for coming" and everyone but the eight Players left feeling hearty, contented and more than a little bit tipsy, leaving Gerard and LynZ alone in the house.
He didn't even have a chance to open his mouth. As soon as the last guest had disappeared into the night with a loud chorus of "Amazing Grace", Gerard's wife ran upstairs and a few seconds later remerged carrying a bursting suitcase. He tried to reason with her, to explain himself but she closed her ears to his pleas. The door slammed shut, he heard the crunch of tyres and the car backing out of the drive and the next moment she was gone. Just gone.
He stood there, in the middle of the hallway, his brain struggling to get a grasp on what had just happened. LynZ had gone. She had left him. She wasn't coming back. And he hadn't even had a chance to tell her he was sorry.
He did the only thing he could think of. He rushed into the living room and grabbed the phone from its socket, fingers shaking violently as he punched in her number. No answer. Cursing fiercely he tried Mikey, his heart thumping against his chest as the silence stretched on, broken only by the sound of the dial tone until finally his brother picked up.
"Mikey," he hadn't realised he was crying until he spoke. "Mikey, she's gone. Please help me Mikey, I-"
"-You what?" Mikey's voice came harshly from the other end. "You don't know what to do? You're lost without her? Give me a fucking break, Gerard."
"I didn't mean to hurt them," he told him shakily. "It was an accident. Bob tripped and Sara...It was self defence."
"So you didn't mean to kill them," Mikey replied unsympathetically. "It's your fault they're dead. And you didn't even tell anyone. You let them rot in that house on they're own, didn't you? Would have been so easy to make it look like you weren't involved. An argument between a man and his girlfriend. Bob stabbed Sara, she pushed him back and he tripped. You weren't even there at the scene of the fucking crime."
The tears came faster then as Gerard tried hard to shut out all the events that had taken place. He tried to defend himself but all that came out was a self-disgusted sob which Mikey did not take kindly.
"How could you live with that?" he continued. "How could you lie next to LynZ at night knowing what you did?"
"I'm sorry," was all Gerard could muster. "I'm so, so sorry."
"It's not me who wants to know," said Mikey. "Goodbye Gerard."
He heard the click of a hang-up and then Mikey was gone. But still determinedly craving compassion, Gerard dialled Ray's number and waited for him to pick up. However, no sooner had he answered with "It's me," did Ray put the phone down and Gerard was left holding the receiver in his hand.
One call. His only hope. Gerard's fingers tapped out Frank's number, sweat dripping into his eyes and mingling with his tears. But he didn't even get the reassuring familiarity of Frank's voice. All he heard was an automatic fembot telling him that the person he was calling was unable to take his call. He slammed the phone down and a ringing sound echoed into the silence.
So they'd all gone. They'd all left him. Just as he knew they would. And now there was nothing left for him to do but break down and cry.
Seven days later life still hadn't improved any more for Gerard or his friends.
LynZ had taken Bandit and was currently living with her mother in the country. He'd tried to call her, many times, but all he got was a curt-voiced fifty-six year old telling him to stay away from her daughter if he knew what was good for him. Gerard supposed he should be reassured by the fact that LynZ hadn't told her exactly what he had done but by this time he was so far into his depression that he was unable to draw solace from anything. Mikey had taken to pretending that he was an only child while Ray settled for avoiding his eye and hurrying to walk on the opposite side of the street when they bumped into each other in town. He hadn't even attempted calling Frank up again.
They ignored him. Pretended he didn't exist. But despite their current hatred and disgust for the man who had formally been one of their closest friends none of them spoke of what he had done to anyone except each other. They had all made an agreement that if the police were to know of what had gone on it would be from Gerard himself. What would be the point in getting him to confess if they were merely going to have him taken by force? So they left him to himself. And to Gerard they might as well have tied him to a chair and tortured him into insanity.
The bottle caught the light in a very pretty way. Gerard looked upon it as the meeting of an old friend who he had not seen for a very long time. He caressed it with his fingers, held it close to him but he didn't drink. He kept telling himself that he was beyond that stage and wasn't going back to it. He'd restrained himself all week, letting it lie right at the back of the closet, out of sight out of mind. Until it got too much.
They hate me, he thought, not even bothering to wipe the tears off his face. And they're right to. I'm evil. I'm disgusting. I deserve to die. He lifted the bottle to his lips and he drank, relishing the burning in his throat that sat at the bottom of his stomach and spread to fill it with a warm, summery glow. He wanted to forget. He wanted to die. He raised the bottle again.
A knock at the door. He ignored it. Probably just some goddamn lynch mob, was all his distorted brain could come up with. Fuck that. He made to take another drink but a shout from the other side of the door made him jump and spill some of the amber liquid into his lap.
"Gerard!" came the shout. "Gerard fucking Way! Open the door right now, or I'm gonna break it down!"
It sounded familiar. A voice he'd been so desperate to hear since they'd come back but hadn't had the guts to call.
"No," he slurred. "You might have a pitchfork."
"OPEN THE DOOR, GODDAMMIT!"
Sighing irritably, Gerard scrambled to his feet and opened the door just enough to see Frank standing on his doorstep with his hands in his pockets looking very disgruntled.
"You look like crap," he said, pushing his way inside. He proceeded into the living room and raised his eyebrows at the bottle lying on the floor. "You've been drinking."
It wasn't a question so Gerard didn't answer it. "What do you want?" he asked sluggishly.
"To talk," Frank replied. "You've been avoiding us for long enough. It's time we sought things out."
"Me avoid you?" exclaimed Gerard indignantly. "It's you guys who don't wanna talk to me. And I don't fuckin' blame you neither."
"Sit down and stop trying to make a point when you're too drunk to stand up properly," said Frank warningly.
Gerard sat down. The fighting spirit had gone as quickly as it had come and the next thing he knew he was crying again, his head resting on Frank's knee, the tears falling into his lap like a torrential downpour. He cried for LynZ, he cried for Frank, for Sara, for Bob and for himself. And between sobs he tried desperately to explain himself, to tell Frank exactly what had been going through his head as he covered up all evidence of his being there and how he hadn't even made the 911 call so that absolutely nothing could be traced back to him. The drunken slur of his voice added with the sudden wet gasps in between words meant that Frank couldn't understand a word he was saying but he listened anyway, nodding sympathetically and stroking back his hair as Gerard told him exactly how sorry he was and how he felt that he deserved all the pain he was going through. And when he'd finished he held him and whispered that it was going to be alright, just as he always had done.
"You didn't leave me," Gerard murmured, blinking up at him with wide, child-like eyes. "Everyone else did but you didn't."
"I'll never leave you," said Frank, his voice full of sincerity. "That's a promise."
Gerard chewed his lip thoughtfully. "Before," he said after a while. "You told me you loved me."
"Yeah," Frank sighed. "Yeah, I did."
"Well, I love you too," said Gerard, smiling wobbly. "I always have, you know. Even when I said I didn't. And I said I didn't a lot. But I didn't then...even though I did...I mean, I loved you but I didn't know...But I've always known. It just took me a while to figure it out..."
"You are one wasted bastard," Frank stated bluntly.
"No!" Gerard jumped up violently. "Well...yeah, I am. But you gotta understand me Frank, I love you! I do, I swear..."
"I believe you," Frank laughed. "I really do. But you need to sleep. So tell me in the morning when you're sober."
So Gerard fell back into Frank's lap and was asleep the moment he closed his eyes. And Frank stayed up, stroking his hair and patting his back awkwardly when he murmured in nightmare until he too succumbed to dream.
Morning broke clear and sharp and sharper still for Gerard whose head sliced open at the whistle of every bird and the rumbling of every car starting outside on the street. He lay across the couch, skull throbbing, the clothes that he had been wearing the day before tangled around him and as he thought back on the events of last night he noticed that Frank was no longer wrapped around him. Probably fucked off sometime in the night, he thought cynically to himself but at that moment the living room door opened and Frank himself walked inside holding a steaming cup of black coffee.
"Morning sweetheart," he greeted Gerard sarcastically.
"Call me that again and I'll break your kneecaps," said Gerard before adding a begrudging "Thanks," as he accepted the mug.
"You look even worse than last night," Frank grinned. His sadistic pleasure at feeling perfectly fine while Gerard had a hangover was evident in his voice. "You stink too."
"Remind me again why we're friends?" Gerard quipped, taking a sip of coffee.
Frank laughed and Gerard scowled. Neither of them said anything as Frank looked thoughtful and Gerard continued to take steady swallows, feeling his headache ease little by little. Finally Frank spoke again.
"I've been thinking," he said.
Gerard raised his eyebrows in mock-surprise. "Are you sure that's good for you?"
"I've been thinking that we shouldn't go to the police," Frank ignored him. Gerard looked taken aback. "I mean, the case was closed two years ago. As harsh as it sounds Sara's got no one who really cares whether she's dead or alive and Bob...well, Bob's parents moved to Ecuador a decade ago and they never really liked him much. The police won't want to do any extra paperwork if they don't have to."
"But what about me?" asked Gerard. "I just sit back and lie again as if the Game didn't happen for a reason? I'm done with that. And I won't be happy until I can make up for what I did."
"And how the hell do you plan to do that?" Frank rolled his eyes. "Become a nun?"
"Nuns are women, dipshit," snapped Gerard. "No. I'm going back."
He watched as Frank's eyes widened and his mouth dropped open almost comically. "Please tell me you're kidding."
"I'm deathly serious," Gerard replied and he looked it too. "There's something I have to do. Some unfinished business I have to deal with."
"What's that, then?"
"I don't know," Gerard shrugged. "But things won't be right as long as I stay here. I have to do this. I'm going to do this."
Frank surveyed him curiously with his arms folded and after a while he sighed. "'Course you are," he said. "And so am I."
"You don't think I would let you go back there on your own, do you?" Frank smiled crookedly. "Hell no. I'm coming with you."
Gerard grinned back and for the first time in a week he felt totally at peace with the world. He was going to fix it. It was all going to be okay. "Thanks, dude."
"No problemo," Frank brushed his hair out of his eyes. "Now go take a shower. You smell like shit."
Gerard stuck his middle finger up at Frank and headed for the bathroom. As he let the hot water cascade over his body he thought about his decision. Why was he so sure that going back was the right thing to do? It was definitely a dangerous option. He cringed at the thought of how Sara would react at his sudden reappearance. No. She would not be too pleased.
He thought about Frank and smiled. How he'd stayed with him all night long, saving Gerard from the jaws of self-destruction when everyone else had deserted him and now he was coming with him on a possibly suicidal mission, regardless of the fact that Gerard had no idea whatsoever of what he was doing. He really was the best friend a guy could ask for.
And he loved him. Loved him. Not in a best friend, brotherly kind of way, not as a stupid experimental guy-crush. Gerard Way, a straight, married man and Frank Iero, a straight, previously married man loved each other. Were in love. The very thought made Gerard want to go to sleep and wake up when the world made sense.
Twenty minutes later Gerard was done showering. He grabbed a towel and wound it round his waist before stepping out of the bathroom and walking straight into Frank.
"Oh," said Frank, his face immediately taking on a vibrant shade of red. "Sorry. I thought you were done."
"I am now," Gerard replied. "It's all yours."
Frank nodded embarrassedly. Gerard wrinkled his nose in a very sheepish way. He was becoming uncomfortably aware of the fact that he was soaking wet, water glistening off every muscle and was wearing nothing but a towel. Then he realised he was blocking the door.
"Thanks," Frank muttered, avoiding Gerard's eyes as he moved out of the way and began to hurriedly march towards his bedroom.
Once safely behind the locked door, Gerard released the tense breath bursting through his chest and wiped the straggly, wet strands of stray hair out of his eyes. There were few things between Gerard and Frank that could be described as awkward but neither of them had been expecting that. Obviously they had seen each other naked before but that had been back when all they did was sex and drugs and rock and roll. They were in uncharted waters now with their new level of relationship and anything could happen which could easily ruin everything. It was already going to be hard enough explaining all this to LynZ. Then again, thought Gerard pessimistically. She's probably already filed for a divorce.
When he came back downstairs dressed in jeans and a T-shirt Frank was waiting by the door, leather jacket slung over one arm.
"I figured you'd want to go pretty soon, right?" Gerard nodded. "Well, I'm ready when you are. I just gotta go and sort some shit out with my landlady. Better get it over with, seeing as God knows when we'll be back."
Gerard nodded again, a niggling thought at the back of his head stating that Frank, creeped out by what had just happened, had changed his mind and wasn't coming back. But then he smiled warmly and all Gerard's doubts disappeared leaving only a ridiculous urge to kiss him there and then. But then Frank was gone and Gerard was left reminding himself that he was still married, if only for the time being. Which led to a mental argument orbiting around the question: "Do I Stay With LynZ?" which spun off a whole new branch of questions such as: "Do I Still Love LynZ?" etc and Gerard still hadn't made up his mind by the time Frank got back.
"'Kay, you ready?" was what he was about to say when he noticed that Frank was not alone. Standing next to him looking absolutely livid and ready to kill was LynZ.
"You're not going," she stated flatly after Gerard had closed the door behind her.
He turned round to glare angrily at Frank. "You told her?"
"She got it out of me!" Frank raised his hands in surrender. "I'm sorry, dude. She was waiting at my apartment, wanted us both to go talk to you and then she asked where I'd been and...you know I suck under pressure!"
"You're not going," LynZ repeated, her arms folded over her chest. "How could you even...What could possibly possess you to want to live through all that again?"
"I don't want to, I have to," said Gerard.
"What do you mean, you have to?" LynZ inquired. "Don't you think you've done enough?"
"There's something else."
"He doesn't know," piped Frank. "He has feminine intuition."
"Shut up Frank, I'm not a woman!"
"Oh great," LynZ flared sarcastically. "So you have absolutely no clue what you're supposed to do, but you know there's something? Jesus, why did I marry you?"
"Oh, so we're married now?" Gerard retorted. "Only, over the past few days you've been acting pretty distant. How's mom by the way?"
"Pretty good considering the fact that she doesn't know her daughter married a lying, cheating, MURDERER!" LynZ yelled.
"Alright!" Frank stepped in and LynZ backed away, steam bellowing from her nostrils. "That's enough. You guys can play domestic warhammer in your own time, okay? Lyn, I'm sorry but Gerard and I are going whether you like it or not."
"Fine," said LynZ, still seething. "Then I'm coming with you."
"That is not an option!" Gerard shouted.
"You just try and stop me!" LynZ yelled back. "I haven't called the cops yet but so help me if you leave they'll be on to you so fast you won't know what's hit you!"
Gerard, breathing heavily, searched his head for a counter-argument but one look at her face and she knew she was serious. She was coming.
"Why do you even care?" he asked her, his voice a little calmer. "I cheated on you. I killed Sara. Why do you care if I live or die?"
She looked a surprised by the question and took a little time to form her answer. "I've asked myself the same question over and over since we got back," she said. "I guess my baby needs her daddy. And I know how you were back then...and how I was. I can understand what was going through your head when you met Sara. And you were trying to defend yourself when you killed her." She looked remorseful for just a second but then the angry look was back. "But don't think that means I forgive you," she said warningly. "Because I don't think I ever can. I just don't want Bandit to grow up with only half a family."
Seeing the determination in her eyes, the determination that he loved so much about her, in whatever way the love was, made Gerard hate himself all over again. All he could do was nod dumbly.
The box was carried down from the back of Gerard's closet and spread out across the living room floor. Gerard, Frank and LynZ each took a counter and placed it on the Starting square, all of them feeling a strong sense of déjà vu as they did so.
"Okay," said Frank, holding the dice in his hand. "Ready?"
Gerard and LynZ nodded.
"3...2...1...We came to fuck-"
"-Frank, can you please be fucking serious for the first time in your life?"
"Geez, alright, alright! Planetary Go!"
And Frank rolled the dice.