The aftermath of the Killjoy's attack. Frank isn't sure of anything anymore, and he's finding it difficult to remember how everything used to be.
Also, thanks for your amazing comments on the last chapter
It was with weary steps that I dragged myself out of the car. The sombre mood which hung over all of our heads threatened to crush us at any moment. I could see a mixture of emotions etched into each and every face; pain, sorrow, hatred, guilt and fear all mingled in together with the relief of being alive, the shock of somehow making it back in one piece when we were so hugely outnumbered.
I noticed that 5 bodies had been pulled out of cars, and in the shock and confusion of the escape, mourners were only just discovering who had been dealt the fatal blows. Injuries were forgotten as the living silently overlooked the dead, intermittent sobs escaping their lips. The wave of despair cut deeper into our souls as the harsh cries of Rapid Fire and River Dragon filled the evening air. Hollow Flame had been Rapid’s wife, River’s mother… And we had allowed her to die.
Guilt penetrated my very being as I wondered whether I could have saved her. I should have done better; I should have stopped anyone from being killed. When we had found Ray I thought that maybe I could begin to forgive myself for leaving the radio on that day and allowing them to track us. But I hadn’t just caused initial injuries of the attack where Ray had been kidnapped, or anything that happened to Ray afterwards, I had also caused the deaths of 5 friends and multiple injuries of others. And for that I could never be forgiven, especially not by myself.
I jumped slightly when I felt a hand on my shoulder, having been deep in self-loathing thought. I turned around slightly to see Gerard giving me a sad yet reassuring smile. Ray and Mikey had come and stood next to us, and for a moment I was overcome with relief at having Ray finally back by our sides.
The silence was deafening after the hail of gunfire we’d escaped from, yet it seemed that nobody wanted to be the first to usher a word. I’m not sure how long the remaining twelve of us stood there, just looking at the bodies with a mixture of emotions washing through us, but we had hardly moved by the time the sun had begun to rise in the sky the next morning. It was starting to become uncomfortable standing there, especially due to my ankle, but Gerard was still standing close by with his hand rested on my shoulder, and I knew I needed him with me right now. It seemed that all injuries had been left forgotten as we embraced the sorrow of the consequence of our ambush.
It was Rapid Fire who started it. We all watched numbly as he walked over to the old caretaker’s shed, walking out with a shovel in hand. Dragging his feet behind him, we stared on as he made his way to where the children’s playground had once been, and began to dig.
It only took a couple of seconds for us to realise what he was doing, and we all marched in a slow procession towards the shed, pulling out anything and everything which could be used to dig, and working alongside him. Silent tears still cascaded down the cheeks of everyone whose face I glanced at. They were probably sliding down my cheeks, too, but I no longer noticed. Again Gerard stayed by my side, but I was too lost in thought, too numb to acknowledge his presence. As I dug I thought about how it could have been, what would have happened if I had died? If Gerard had? Or Mikey? What if we hadn’t found Ray, would we have stayed in the building for too long searching and all ended up dead? What if no one had died? And most of all, I wondered what everything would have been like if I had never made the mistake of leaving the radio on.
None of us would have been injured on the way to meet the others; Ray obviously would never have been captured. And we wouldn’t have attacked yet. We would probably still be training right now, and no one would have yet known the sorrow of fallen comrades.
Everything seemed so surreal. I knew I was standing there, but I felt as though I was miles away, still back in the fight at BL/ind. headquarters. My ears were still ringing from the noise, which reminded me of the feeling I used to get after I had been to a concert in my previous life. A life which seemed almost fictitious at this point; how could I be sure that it hadn’t been an over exaggerated hallucination, and that this daily battle for survival wasn’t the only life I’d ever lived?
In my dreamlike state I contemplated whether I had in fact repressed all memories of the first decades of my life and contrived a fantasy life in which I was in a band with my best friends. Music had always been my dream, and was one of the first things to be banned by BL/ind… So that dream would never have been able to come true with Korse in charge… Fuck. I think I was going crazy. Or maybe I always had been, and this situation just fucked with my mind even more. Did everyone else know I was crazy?!
We dug in near silence until a pit at least two-feet deep stood before us, wide enough to comfortably fit all of the fallen. The least injured of the group, which I was glad to see included both Gerard and Mikey, carried the dead to their final resting place. We neither had the time nor the equipment to construct coffins, so the bodies were just laid carefully onto the floor.
“Here we lay to rest the souls of five noble soldiers and loyal friends. Each had a great many gifts to give to the world, and it is with deepest regrets that we must say our goodbyes to them… But they will not be gone. And they will never be forgotten. I am sure you will all agree when I say that we will continue our fight, continue to strive for the goodness of the world just as they did, and they will not have left us in vain.” Dr D’s voice rung loud as he broke the silence. Always having been the leader, it seemed right for him to have the first words. I felt Gerard take my hand in his as Dr D continued speaking.
“I’m sorry that we couldn’t save you. Red Hurricane, Hollow Flame, Silver Bullet, Spyder Fang and Neutron Rocket; we will always miss you.” Everyone nodded in agreement, and there was a minutes silence following his words.
Dr D asked if anyone else would like to say a few words, and many others did, although Rapid Fire and River Dragon could not finish their speeches due to their sobbing. Mikey, Gerard and I didn’t know any of them as well as the others, but it didn’t feel right not to say anything. We each thanked them and said our goodbyes. Ray hadn’t known them at all, but he thanked them all for risking their lives for his, and told them he was sorry. That set me off crying again, because I knew he shouldn’t be apologising. I was the one who had gotten everyone into this situation, yet Ray was acting as though it was his fault that he was kidnapped. Gerard squeezed my hand tighter, as he must have known what I was thinking, and I guessed he wanted to show me that he didn’t blame me for any of this. Even though it was all my fault.
When everyone had finished speaking we began to fill the grave. It was only half filled when Venom Rose took those with the worst injuries into the school. I guess she hadn’t wanted to take away their chance to say goodbye, but their wounds could no longer be overlooked. By this point my ankle was throbbing from standing on it all day, and Gerard must have noticed my discomfort because he whispered something into Mikey’s ear before putting an arm around me and leading me inside the school to my room.
My bed had been taken from the room, probably being used by Venom Rose. Others were a lot more injured than me at this point, and they needed it more. Gerard sat me down on the floor on top of a few blankets which had been laid out as my new bed, and told me to wait before he left the room. Before I had time to wonder where he had gotten to he was walking back in holding some bandages.
“Take your jacket off.” He ordered, and I complied, wincing as the rough inside of the fabric stroked the torn skin underneath. He sucked in breath slowly as he surveyed the wound the Drac’s guns had left.
“Yep, Venom’s gonna want to take a look at this tomorrow…” He sighed. It didn’t look too bad... Sure it was a little bloody, but I could move my arm fine, and I’d gotten used to worse pain. “But for now it’ll be okay with a bandage.” He added as he began to wrap the material around my arm.
“Thanks.” I mumbled hoarsely, my throat dry from not having spoken for the past 24 hours. My mind was still buzzing with unanswered questions and ‘what-ifs’, but nothing would fit into the words I wanted to, and my mouth refused to utter any of my deepest thoughts.
When he was finished with my arm he took of his jeans in order to bandage a wound on his leg. It wasn’t as bad as mine, and must not have hurt too much because I hadn’t noticed him limping at all, but it was better to be safe. I laid myself down on the blankets, eyes open and staring at the ceiling. I wondered if Gerard would stay with me tonight like he had every night leading up to our attack, God knows I needed him, but I knew I didn’t deserve him.
I could feel his gaze on me for a while before he lay down beside me.
“I’m sorry.” I whispered after a few minutes of silence, turning to face him.
“Sorry? What for?” He asked, looking confused.
“For everything. To everyone. I mean… it’s my fault they’re dead. I-I killed them.” Tears began to roll down my cheeks once again – how did I have any left? – as I spoke almost inaudibly. “I can’t believe I was so stupid… And now good people are gone, and I’m still here. Still fucking everything up.” I rolled over so I didn’t have to face him anymore. I couldn’t deal with the look of pity clouding his eyes.
“Frankie..” He tried to pull me around to face him. “Frankie, please… Look at me.” I stayed facing the other wall. He sighed, and I heard him moving before his beautiful face appeared in front of mine, his hands cupping both of my cheeks in order to stop me from moving away from him again.
“Frankie… This wasn’t your fault.” He whispered gently, but I knew it was a lie. How could it not have been my fault?
“Gee. Of course it was. I led them straight to us. I led them to us and that got Jet captured. And then we had to attack way before we were ready. If it wasn’t for me, everyone would be alive, and not hurt, and they’d all be training for a better attack in the future. I should be the one out there, buried. I don’t deserve to live after everything I’ve fucked up.” It all came spilling out; I needed him to know how I felt. Part of me wanted him to blame me, to shout and scream and tell me how much of a failure I had been. I wanted him to hate me for what I’d done. But the other part of me craved his love. I needed him. I couldn’t live without him.
I was trapped between the struggle of the two conflicting emotions, torn so deeply between the need for affection and the knowledge that his sympathy is undeserved that the pain was tangible.
His hands fell from my face and his mouth dropped open at my outburst, and I could feel my heart thudding erratically in anticipation of his response, each perturbed beat pounding against my chest, trying to break free. I wasn’t sure what I was hoping for.
“Frank Anthony Iero. Don’t you ever say you don’t deserve to live.” He whispered frantically. “What happened was an accident. We got Jet back, and you know as well as I do that even if we were attacking on our own terms, not everyone would have survived…”
“I-I guess you’re right… But…” I wanted to argue, but I had to admit there was no hole in his logic. He was right… Jet was now safe and alive, and no matter when we attack there will always be casualties. Yet I still couldn’t shift the guilt from my mind. I still couldn’t undo the confusion I felt.
“But nothing.” He whispered softly, lying back down next to me. I didn’t reply, mostly because I couldn’t think of an argument back even though I was sure he couldn’t be right. How could I have caused so much damage and not be blamed for any of it? It didn’t make any sense.
In the hours that passed, neither of us fell asleep. I didn’t turn to face him, but after spending the night with him for the past few weeks I could tell just by hearing his breathing that he was far from sleeping. The soft rhythm of his deep breaths almost seemed like a distant memory considering the circumstances, and I wished he would fall asleep, just for that comfort.
The others came back in from outside, yet nobody came to our door to check on us. They were just as silent as Gerard and I, but we were close to the main door so we knew they had entered. I wondered if we were all supposed to go and have dinner, just go back to how it was before the attack, or if the others were just making their way to their rooms as we had. I couldn’t stop thinking about how things used to be, before the attack, and all the running, before BL/ind. Before all of this. Back when it was just me and my best friends, taking on the world in the only way I knew how. Trying to stop all of the violence and pain this harsh world could throw out, rather than being the one to cause it.
My memory of that time felt hazy. I could remember the melodies of some of our songs, but the lyrics escaped me. I couldn’t remember what my favourite guitar looked like. Some artwork flashed in my mind, but I had no way of placing which album they were from, if they were even our bands. I tried to recall the feeling I got whenever the lights hit me on stage, but I hit a blank. I couldn’t remember whether I was excited, or nervous, or maybe even fearful as I played in front of those huge crowds. I guessed it would be a mixture of the three, but it was disconcerting that I didn’t know for sure. After all, that had been my life for years, hadn’t it?
It threw me further when I could remember every element about certain things, and absolutely nothing about other things. I could picture my wife and children down to the very last detail; I could even recall silly things, such as their favourite breakfast cereal, and which character Cherry and Lily were for their first Halloween. I knew they were real, but if I didn’t remember other things as well as I could remember them, did it mean that those things had never existed in the first place?
“I don’t know what’s real anymore.” I admitted in a whisper, knowing Gerard was still awake to hear me.
“What do you mean?” He asked curiously, turning onto his side to face me. I followed his actions and turned myself around, glad that he was now on my other side so I didn’t have to lie on my wounded arm.
“Just… I had memories of all these things, of a life before all of this. But now it’s slipping, and I don’t know if it was ever real, or if I just imagined it. I guess today has made me realise how crazy I am… I can’t even remember my own life.” His face was inches from mine, his eyebrows knotted together in a way I could only describe as cute. But I tried not to describe him as that, even internally, because now was not the time to be thinking about how much I wanted him to be mine.
“You’re not crazy, Frank. What do you remember?” His tone sounded almost amused, which aggravated me a little. I was questioning everything I had experienced in my whole life, and he just thought it was funny. I went along with it, anyway, because I knew he could give me an answer. If he remembered the band, too, then it must have been real. I’d just have to work on the rest.
“Us. You, me, Mikey, Ray; all of us in a band.” He was silent for a few moments.
“Frank… Of course that was real! Why else would we all be here together? Best friends?”
“I don’t know. I was just thinking about it today, and I can’t remember everything. I thought I’d created it in some sort of dream land. It just didn’t make any sense.” I muttered, beginning to wish that I hadn’t told him anything, because the way he was saying everything in an amused, and slightly sarcastic, tone was starting to piss me off.
I started to turn away from him when he spoke again, honesty laced into every word, and all the anger just disappeared.
“I feel that way too, sometimes. But in my mind I know it’s real, because if this was all I’d lived, then how could I miss my family so much? It makes me so grateful for you guys, y’know, you’re like my family. I mean, obviously Mikey is my brother, but you and Ray are basically my family, too. I don’t know what I’d do without you.” A flood of emotions struck me at his words. Happiness, sympathy, guilt, for feeling so angry at him before, and a whole host of others I couldn’t even begin to explain.
“I don’t know what I’d do without you either.” I whispered, looking back at him.
Our eyes found each other’s, and although I felt myself blush, and I noticed Gerard’s cheeks darken, neither of us looked away. I gazed into his hazel orbs, noticing the pain etched into them. Pain from what he had seen, and what he no doubtedly would see as we carried on our attack. Pain from missing his family, and having no idea what had happened to them since he saw them last. I wanted more than anything to take all of the pain away, to leave him as the innocent and naïve, yet happy, child he once was. But that would be impossible.
I could feel his warm breath on my face, and I realised how close we were. I could so easily just lean in and kiss him. But how would he respond? He called me his family, and family members don’t go around kissing and declaring their love for one another. Well, family do tell each other they love each other, but not that they’re in love with each other. And what about our wives? How could he have any feelings for me when he missed Lindsey so much? I felt a tug in my chest thinking about Jamia. Yes, I still loved her and missed her so much it felt physically painful at times, but I had to admit that there had always been a place in my heart for Gerard that no one else would ever be able to fill. God, I was an asshole. But I couldn’t help it. I didn’t ask to have these feelings, but I couldn’t just snap out of loving someone.
Suddenly the light clicked out, and I let out a shaky laugh. I could barely see Gerard’s face in the dim moonlight seeping in through the window, but I was sure I caught him blush.
“I guess it’s time to go to sleep, baby. Night.” He whispered, pulling a blanket over both of us.
“Goodnight.” I whispered and turned over onto my back. His breathing slowed and deepened after just a couple of minutes, and the familiar rhythm I had craved earlier helped me get to sleep.
It was only as I was drifting off that a thought popped into my mind. Did he just call me ‘baby’?
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