Eleven years later. Scars, and unspoken secrets.
Also, sorry if asshole!Gerard offends anybody.
The birthdays were the worst.
That sort of shit.
Because you had to go. There was no weaseling out of it.
“We need to go. It's Jamia's birthday.
“We need to go. It's Christa and Ray's anniversary.”
Gerard smiled to himself, as he sat in a corner next to the refreshments.
But you have to go.
We have to go.
And look at him. And wish for him.
And wonder if it all really happened, as you both nurse your fresh wounds and you try to forget the scars that infest your minds.
He tried to remember why they were there, but he was already too drunk to even think about standing up and managing to catch a hold of Lindsay as she chittered and chattered and was oh so very happy and ask her just why she'd had the magnificent idea to drag him all the way to the fucking Ambassador Hotel in the middle of Goddamn Atlantic City.
I guess alcohol just runs in this sweet little family.
Alicia had spent the better part of the last ten years in and out of rehabs.
Or hospitals, for attempted suicides.
Or mental facilities, for said attempted suicides and various cases of “severe depression”.
She'd never remarried.
She'd never had a kid.
She was nothing but the poor broken girl everybody in the family and neighborhood talked about in hushed whispers and corrosive, ugly lies.
“She's had an abortion.”
“She's slept with Mikey's brother.”
“The child was Gerard's.”
And the saddest part was that some of it actually was true.
Bluntly put, bluntly said.
They'd fucked for a year, right after the war.
Because she felt lonely.
Because he couldn't possibly make love to Lindsay.
She wasn't him. She wasn't his smile.
She wasn't his voice, the touch of his calloused hands against his skin. His breath along his neck, his whispers in his ear.
And neither was Simmons, obviously. But going to bed with his dead brother's wife had proven to be less emotionally painful than going to bed with his own wife.
After that, he'd just gone whoring.
Boy after boy after boy, not caring, not giving a fuck where the kid was from or what his face looked like or how old he was.
“Just fuck me. Just do me right. I'll pay you good. Just as long as you don't mind scars. I'm a war vet.”
“Sure – the other would say – My brother was one too.”, or some idiotic bullshit like that. And then he'd blow him in the back of his car.
Lindsay just pretended not to know. For the “sake of the family”, for “Bandit's sanity”.
But the boys he'd pick up were never like Frank.
Iero was tender, and kind. Scared and confused.
Precious. So precious. So small.
After Frank, it all felt so right.
After them, he'd force himself to rev the engine up and drive to the nearest bar, trying to erase the nausea.
After Frank, he'd shut his eyes and feel alive.
After them all he wanted was to die.
“And look how sweet Cherry is here, and look at this picture of Frank here, and look--”
Look at how perfect our lives are. Look at how happy we are.
Look, my life will never be like yours. Look, I haven't had sex with my husband for the last eleven years. Look, I've dedicated my life to trying to keep the ghost of a wrecked marriage alive, for the sake of my daughter.
Look, this is Gerard, the only man I've ever loved.
Devoured by alcohol. He doesn't love me.
He never has.
Lindsay stepped away from Jamia. From Jamia, from her squeaky clean life, from her fucking pictures. She needed to escape. Nestor's voice, her happy, sweet voice was ringing in her brain.
In made her stomach churn, her head scream.
She knew that she and Gerard were perfect on the outside.
Their family was immaculate. The war vet and the secretary and their sweet, smart daughter, who always got As on every single test.
What a smart little girl indeed. What a pretty little girl indeed.
Does she know her Daddy's fucking her Auntie? Does she know her Mommy cries herself to sleep every night?
Does she know? Does she?
She stopped in front of the buffet, pretending to stare at the deviled eggs so carefully positioned on a plate, orange yolk forming a perfect mound that ended with a little, twisted tip.
“It looks like dog shit.”
Gerard giggled at her idiotic little joke. It hurt, for some reason.
She sighed, looked towards him.
He didn't answer.
“Do you realize what you're doing, Gee?”
She'd used his nickname. She'd stupidly used it.
It was something she hadn't done in years.
But I can't stand to see him destroy himself this way.
I just can't.
He looked at her, clearly annoyed.
“No, Ballato. I don't. Any interest in illuminating me?”
She surprised herself tearing up. Rage or shame. Probably both.
“You – don't stammer don't stammer don't stammer – God. It's as if you don't give a shit. About anybody. Or anything. You don't care about me, or your friends, or—or Bandit. ”
He took a sip.
“That's right. I don't.”
Her rage was starting to grow.
“Not even about your daughter?”
“She needs a father, Gerard. Not some drunk who--”
Way stood up, refilled his glass.
He calmly put the bottle down.
“Why should I, Ballato?”
“Because I care.”
“I don't care if you care. I honestly don't give a shit about what you think of me. I thought I had made it perfectly clear by now that—”
He froze for a moment, genuinely startled.
“Now, there's no need--”
His calmness. His fucking calmness, and his lack of interest.
You could go crazy and undress right here right now while screaming the national anthem and he wouldn't give a shit, he'd just sit there and pour himself another drink.
“Why are you doing this to me, Gerard? Why do you torture me, continuously? Why do you always put me down, no matter what I do?”
“God...God, you haven't called me Lyn in so long—Gerard, Gee, what did she have that I didn't? Why her? Why not me?”
Because you're a woman.
Because he smiled at me. Because we held hands. Because he kissed me when I was too afraid to kiss him. Because he knows everything about me. Because I know everything about him. Because he saved Ray Toro's life, even though he hated him.
Because he's my hero.
Because I love him, and he will never be mine again.
“I married you because you were already pregnant.”
Which was true. Which was so horribly, horribly true. But it wasn't the real reason.
Baby, you're never ever gonna know why.
She shut her eyes, hugged herself.
She didn't care about that stupid party anymore. She didn't.
She didn't. All she wanted to do was smash his skull in.
For making her live a lie for so long.
But it's your fault too, you know. Because you held on. You fought, until the very last.
“I wish I were dead, Gerard. I wish I had never met you. I wish I had never fallen in love with you. I—I wish I'd never had sex with you.”
“You could've left me long ago. You could've found somebody worthy.”
Lindsay could feel her heart beat, hysterical. The conversation she'd never wanted to have.
The conversation she should've had many years before.
“But I love you. And I want you.”
She was desperately trying to keep her voice down. Keep herself calm.
“But I don't love you. I never have.” He had spoken slowly, as if he were talking to somebody particularly stupid whom he wanted to get rid of, and fast.
For some reason some part of his mind enjoyed seeing her eyes well up with complete, total pain. For some reason, he wanted to see what the face of somebody whose world has just been destroyed looked like.
He wanted to know what he had looked like, eleven years before.
Because words had destroyed his hopes and dreams. And now words were going to destroy hers.
He didn't feel guilt, nor remorse. He wanted to see what Frank had seen, wonder if he'd felt something, or if Iero's feelings had been completely blank.
Just like his were right that moment.
And then she started crying.
In front of him.
In front of everybody else.
And the whole place fell silent.
“NO. JUST SHUT UP! Why, if you never loved me, have you lied to me for so long?”
“Please, everybody's looking.”
“I don't give a shit, Gerard. I don't give a shit!”
She was sobbing, and hard.
“We haven't made love in eleven years. Eleven fucking years during which you fucked your dead brother's wife. During which I've seen you, every single night, go out the door to her. I know it's her. I know it, even though you've never said it, even though--”
“If I actually were going out to fuck Alicia every night, why, my dearest Lindsay, why would I bring cash with me?”
“But—but – And then it hit her. She was silent for a moment, and then her eyes widened even more - God. Oh God. No. NO!”
Because the idea of him fucking Alicia had somehow been bearable. But the idea of her husband cheating on her with whores was beyond devastating. It made her feel ashamed.
Gerard looked at his glass, looked back at her, at her wide, pain-stricken eyes, at her shaking hands.
And then he laughed. A hearty, cruel laugh.
He laughed, right to her face.
Frank ran a hand through his hair. Swallowed.
What's happened to you. My God, Gerard.
Lindsay's sobbing filled the air.
It was heart-wrenching.
He buried his face in his hands.
Why did you have to hurt her so bad.
She didn't deserve it.
She has nothing to do with this story. Nothing at all.
She was the last person you were supposed to blame.
Blame me. Blame me for hurting you. For letting you down.
But don't smile as you see her squirm. Don't laugh because you know she's hurting.
Don't laugh because for some reason you think she's suffering the same way you did.
Nobody suffers the same. Nobody deserves to suffer.
Way looked at his wife, the woman he was supposed to love, the mother of his child, and all he saw was shame.
He'd finally said things he should've said years and years before.
Maybe it wouldn't have been so dramatic, if you'd had had the balls to do so eight, or nine, or even ten years ago.
But he knew that the only reason he had stayed was Bandit. Seeing his daughter grow up, and her first steps, and her first word - “Dada”, which had made him sob like a baby – had been worth the price of seeing Lindsay crumble, slowly but surely, because of him.
And he looked around, uneasy. And his eyes met Frank's.
For some reason, he instinctively looked for support.
All he found was rage and disappointment.
It hurt more than anything else.
You've let him down.
Gerard put the glass back on the table, and immediately regretted that. The glass gave him comfort.
It gave him a defense, and now that defense was gone and he could sense himself starting to sweat.
Everybody was looking at them.
Everybody. Every single person in that Goddamn room.
Just spit out an apology and then it'll be all right.
Even though you hate her.
He took a step forward, tried to grab her wrist.
“Don't touch me, Gerard.”
Her voice was low, a cold, sharp whisper.
“I said DON'T FUCKING TOUCH ME!”
She backed away, chest heaving.
“You come near me one more fucking time and I swear I'll scream.”
“Lindsay, please, this is ridiculous--”
“I'm not joking. I'm not joking.”
She smiled, eyes glistening with tears.
Gerard swallowed, smiled for a moment, and grabbed her wrist.
The scream was deafening, high pitched, desperate.
It rang through the hall. It chilled their blood.
“Oh you little fucking psycho bitch--”
And he raised his hand, ready to hit. And he would've, unless Frank hadn't rushed to his side, and grabbed him by the shoulder.
“Don't you dare!”
He dragged Way out onto the beach which was right outside the convention room.
“Are you proud of yourself, Way?”
Frank punched him. He couldn't help it. Couldn't control it.
Gerard cursed between his teeth, fell to the ground.
Frank towered over him, and his hands were shaking.
“I'd kick you right in the teeth, right in the fucking teeth--believe me, I could, but I won't because I'm a fucking decent human being.”
Gerard propped himself up on an elbow, wiped the blood from his face.
“Christ, Gerard! - he grabbed him by the shirt, pulled him up, shook him - “What is fucking wrong with you?”
And Way stared right into his eyes, and licked his lips from the blood that was still pouring from his nose, and smiled a sad, sad smile.
“It's you, Frank.”
Iero let go of him, started tugging at his hair.
“It is. And you know it.”
“Why? Why can't you let me go?”
“Because I love--”
“Don't say it. Please don't say it.”
“Because I can't afford to hear you say it. I've fought an entire decade to get to this point, and I'm happy, I'm finally happy and my therapist's just said I can start thinking about going every two weeks instead of every Monday and my life is perfect just how it is and I had just started to forget you.”
Frank nodded and hoped Gerard wouldn't have noticed his eyes: red and tear filled.
“Yes. To let—to let you go.”
Way subtly shook his head. No.
No. You can't want to forget me.
“I love Jamia.”
Telling that lie had cost him an immense amount of effort.
“And we have kids. And I have a successful business. Don't ruin it, please.”
“I've missed you eleven years. I've held back eleven fucking years.”
“Do you know how it feels to look at you, knowing everything that's happened between us?”
Oh. Gerard, believe me, I do. I do, every single day.
But this is necessary.
“Frank—you act as if nothing ever happened.”
“Because it didn't.”
Gerard stared at him in disbelief.
“You honestly thing France was something other than two guys fucking because there was no one else available? Is that what you honestly thought?”
“Yes, Frank. Yes. That's what I thought.”
Gerard's voice was nothing but a whisper. And Frank felt the tears start to choke him.
Why are you hurting him? Why are you doing this to him? Why are you lying?
You're only going to make matters worse.
“That's what I thought...because making love with you was different from anything else. Making love to you made me feel alive. I gave you everything, I gave you my soul and my heart and my fucking body, Iero, and this is how you repay me? By swearing that you'll love me no matter what, by leaving me with the faint hope that you'll come back when the time is right and then dismissing it all as some kind of—of experiment? Everything I did, it was for you--I killed with my bare fucking hands for you. I watched my brother die and thought that I would've made it through because I still had you.”
“I know. You've already told me this.”
“Eleven years ago. You think I'd forget, just like you did? You think I'd be strong and valiant and go on with my life? You think I could've made it okay while I thought of you fucking your wife? Of you fucking somebody that wasn't--”
“HOW DO YOU THINK I FELT WHEN I FOUND OUT ABOUT YOU AND ALICIA, WAY? HOW THE FUCK DO YOU THINK I FELT?”
“I CRIED, I CRIED HIDDEN IN MY FUCKING GARDEN SHED, BIGHTING MY NUCKLES BECAUSE I DIDN'T WANT MY FAMILY TO HEAR. I CRIED FOR YOU! I CRIED THAT DAY IN FRANCE, I CAN BARELY FUCKING MAKE IT BY WITHOUT YOU. I--”
He stopped talking abruptly, chest heaving, shaking. They were both on the brink of tears.
“I love you, I—”
But Way didn't let him finish. He grabbed him, held him tight.
They kissed, voraciously searching for one another's tongue, they kissed, after so many years.
They kissed, and tasted each other's pain.