Gerard is left alone.
June 6th, 1944
His eyes snapped open.
He was shaking.
No he can't he can't he can't--
But you know. You know he's gone.
Your little brother. Michael.
Michael, why? Why you? Why not me? God, why?
If you're fucking up there, why?
He couldn't move. Pain weighing him down.
There was something missing; a deep, dark desperation that froze him in place. Now that he was gone, there was no use. No purpose. No motive.
Half of his body, half of his soul, half of himself had been burned in an instant, erased by humanity's madness.
Those eyes. Pleading, desperate. Don't let me go.
Don't forget. Never forget. Everything we've shared. Every breath, every smile. Keep them safe. For me. For Alicia. For the children I'll never have.
The children. He suddenly pictured his brother, how he could've been, he would've finally opened that bookstore of his, and every Sunday after church they'd go out and have breakfast at Rosie's. Bandit running after Michael's children, the adults laughing.
But he's gone.
There would be no children. No bookstore. No Sunday afternoons. Nothing.
Nothing at all.
I need to get up.
But he couldn't bring himself to.Trying to calm the turmoil. Swirling darkness.
He couldn't think, couldn't fix a single thought. They all ran after each other, rapid heartbeats.
He felt somebody lean against his shoulder.
Heavy breathing, shuddering.
Frank was crying.
They'd hidden behind a small hill, dragged the hurt and dead with them. Him and a few other men.
Michael's body was lying in the mud next to him. Somebody, he didn't know who, nor did he care, had taken the time to shut his eyes. But there he was. His brother. The shell of what his brother had been.
His glasses had gotten lost during the battle, and that was the thing that bothered him the most. Seeing his face so empty unnerved him. He wasn't used to it.
He would've never been used to it. Used to the fact that he was gone.
He found himself staring at his brother's face.
So pretty even though the glasses weren't there. Angelic, almost. Michael had always been the handsome one.
And now, he was at peace, finally. Away from sorrows.
Away from pain and fear.
There was calm and tranquility. Blankness.
A delicate, terrifying pallor.
And then his brain clicked. And then his brain realized.
Because the boy lying in front of him, clothes covered in mud and stained with blood, his chest torn open by the silver bight of unmerciful bullets was his brother, the one person he cherished the most in this world, even more than Frank, even more than his daughter.
The person he'd grown up with, the person he'd shared everything with.
He would've never heard his laugh again.
The simple, devastating truth.
A light, delicate rain started to fall. Washed away the blood, the dirt, the grime.
It felt as if what remained of his brother, the echo of his breathing, was trickling away too.
So he desperately grabbed onto a memory.
Because that's all you have left.
That's all there's gonna be from now on. Memories, nothing more.
Scraps of paper. Scraps of your life.
The medal they're going to give him.
The books you shared – quick instants, heartbeats of him yelling at Mikey for underlining passages he found inspiring, Michael yelling at him for drawing on the pages.
Suddenly, the weight of his pain crushed him. He felt small.
He needed to see him. Needed to talk to him.
After everything you did to him. After punching him.
After nearly killing him.
I'm sorry for hurting you. I'm sorry for causing you so much pain.
I'm sorry for the times I wasn't fair. I'm sorry for the times I didn't wait for you. I'm sorry for the times I didn't share my five cent piece of toffee.
I'm sorry for treating you badly. I'm sorry for making you cry. I'm sorry for throwing you off the porch.
I'm sorry for not always being there.
I'm sorry for letting you die.
The rain intensified and so did his urge to scream, to let it all out. And then he realized that Frank could've died, too.
That Ray could've been killed.
That he could've lost them all.
That he could've lost the love of his life, the blood coursing through his veins.
That although a part of his life had been ripped out of him and burned and destroyed forever, he still had something left.
Something worth fighting for.
Suddenly, he found himself needing Iero. Needing their skin touching. Their breath mingling. Feeling him press against him. That tiny body, shaken by sobs.
He desperately searched for Frank's trembling hands, held them tight, pressed them against his chest, his heart beating so fast.
He started sobbing, although he didn't want to. He started sobbing and they held each other, feeling the emptiness and the shock engulf them completely.
Never letting go, locked in a convulsing, hysterical embrace. Not caring about being seen.
Not caring about anything.
Giving each other strength among the madness.
Trying to fill the darkness.
Rain fell, quietly. Washed away their pain.
If you're going through Hell, keep going. - Winston Churchill