'But they’re blindingly alive, and that makes them sort of amazing, despite their suffering. There’s no mask, and they hold onto me like no manufactured gaze ever could.'
Oh, and anyone who read Be My Detonator, I have now started re-writing it, and the first re-written chapter is now up- check it out? :D http://www.ficwad.com/story/158058
Chapter Twenty Six
My voice is small and threadbare in limitless indigo dusk, just a wispy mumble that mingles nervously into the icy December air, almost inaudible- but the second I speak, his head snaps up, and cagey, skeletally-emerald eyes consider me warily from behind a tangle of onyx. The bitter air sweeps my hair into my eyes and stings my skin as I take in his crushed demeanour and something ugly punctures my chest.
His flawless cheeks glisten with tear-trails that glitter in the dwindling light, his fragile eyes full of liquid agony waiting to overflow, and, resting beside him on the frozen grass, is a half-empty bottle of cider and a mangled sketchbook. Its hacked-about pages flap and flutter desperately in the breeze, their ribbons like superficial moths trying to escape up into the snow-laden cloud.
I bite my lip and shift awkwardly from one foot to the other, heart thudding fiercely and hotly in my chest as I wait for his reaction to me. But there is none. I expected anger or distress, but his eyes just stare emptily at me, as if they’re the unending, darkening sky that stretches overhead and their stars have been stolen.
Instead of his usual arrogance, after several bitterly cold moments, he just blinks blankly at me and two, salty tears to spill lucidly down his cheeks as he drops his gaze and huddles back against the slashed, silvery bark of the weeping willow, clutching the half-empty bottle in silent desperation. I look at the way his knuckles protrude from the skin, bulbous and white as they try to hold something together that’s already broken.
I wait. He makes no move to welcome me- not that I would have expected it- but he makes no move to get me to leave either.
So I don’t.
I’m not sure why I don’t want to leave- I just know I can’t. So, tentatively, I edge under the stark canopy of leafless branches and sink down onto the frozen, grey grass beside him, pulling the wool of my grey fingerless gloves as far over my raw fingers as possible, in some vain attempt to keep the cold out.
I find that my heart is suddenly beating fast in my chest, hot and alive compared to the icy wind that whistles through the branches and caresses the mounds in the grass before us, as if it’s scared. I bite my lip and glance sideways at Gerard, not quite sure what I’m doing here.
He sniffs quietly, dragging the sleeve of his battered leather jacket across his tear-stained face and shakily setting down the cider bottle on the frost-tinted grass. His knuckles stay contorted and screaming at their papery-skin confines, despite the fact he’s not holding anything visible now.
For several dusty seconds, silence laments between us, because I don’t quite know what to say- if anything- and, sometimes, silence is a far more powerful thing than words ever could be, no matter how eloquently laced they are.
So I just sit on top of the small hill of the graveyard under the weeping willow tree, exactly where I used to sit and dream as a kid, staring down at the graves below and the stormy winter sky above, just letting the indigo dusk and its silence soothe me. It was one of the things I loved about the graveyard- it’s so quiet, so undisturbed, you can almost imagine you’re alone in the world. The only sign of the city is the unhealthy, grungy orange glow on the heavy, deep indigo skyline and the way it oozes blackly up into the snow-laden clouds.
“…You always turn up when I don’t want anyone, don’t you?” Gerard’s voice is raggedly quiet in the silence, making me jump, because I hadn’t expected him to speak at all. His head is bowed, raven hair tumbling forwards and shielding his face as he delicately traces patterns on the glass of the cider bottle, index finger trembling slightly. Breath spills from under the mass of black hair, the only sign he’s not just empty.
He sniffs again and his eyes fleetingly flit up from under their shrouding to hold mine, just for a split, beautiful second, then they’re gone again, sunken back into the darkness that can’t be lit up.
“I…Sorry…?” It comes out as more of a question than an apology. My throat aches in the cold that leaks frostily into my lungs, tainting them with wisped ice as I look anxiously at him, not quite sure what to expected.
Gerard traces a long, wavering line down the misted-up glass of the bottle. “What for?” he asks hollowly, his words slurred slightly.
“…I…I’m not sure…” I admit, biting my lip and ducking my head, pulling at an unravelling thread in my gloves and watching my breath seep out into the dusk before me, sparkly with the oncoming ghost of frost. I glance back at Gerard. “…For…” I bite my lip harder. “For shouting at you this morning…I, um, shouldn’t have.”
Gerard’s breathing hitches, and I see his finger pause on the bottle. Then he sighs bleakly, wiping his face again with his sleeve and hiding further behind his tangled midnight hair, reminding me horribly of myself- but further immersed in the darkness.
“Why should you apologise?” he asks brokenly from behind his inky hair.
I wind the frayed thread of grey round my little finger, feeling uncomfortable. “Because…I shouldn’t have got so angry with you. It’s just…I find…What you were trying to talk about…difficult,” I summarise badly.
“Do you ever talk about it?” Gerard asks quietly, taking an unsteady swig of cider and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
I drop my gaze to the frozen grass that shimmers dully in the orange light seeping from the floodlamps by the gate. “No.”
Gerard doesn’t say anything in reply, but he nods slowly.
My heart thuds fiercely at my ribs, trying to escape the inevitable. I clench my fists, feeling the familiar, crushed feeling of panic escalating and trying angrily to squash it down, down, so far down it’ll never resurface, even though, deep down, I know it always will.
“Do you want to?”
I blink and look round properly. Gerard is still staring at the ground, hair shielding his tear-streaked face from view. He takes another gulp of his drink, awaiting my answer.
“What?” I stammer, feeling caught out.
“Talk about it,” he says unevenly, pushing his inky hair out of his eyes unsteadily and looking at me in a slur of drunken honestly. “You know, verbally.”
“No,” I say abruptly, snapping the thread on my gloves. “Why would I?”
Gerard’s shoulders jerk very slightly in a weak sort of shrug. “I dunno. Not to me, obviously- like, to a counsellor or somethi-”
“You think I’m crazy?” I demand angrily.
He shakes his head lucidly, reeling slightly. “No… I think you’re like… too proud. There’s nothing wrong with admitting you’re hurting. You know- sort it out before it’s all…too late,” his voice breaks a little on the last word, grip tightening on the bottle as his head dips forward in defeat.
I bite my lip, regretting my instinctive, defensive outburst.
“Look, I’m fine,” I insist, dully. The words are so familiar a lie these days I barely notice the heavy, lead tang of them tainting my tongue anymore. I can almost pretend they’re real. “Honestly. Fine.”
Gerard suddenly looks up properly, eyes glittering with pain and salt and alcohol in the dwindling light. They look destroyed, hacked-up, screaming. But they’re blindingly alive, and that makes them sort of amazing, despite their suffering. There’s no mask, and they hold onto me like no manufactured gaze ever could. “Really?” he asks, very, very softly, eyes not leaving mine.
I duck my head, retreating behind my hair and pulling the frosty grass at my feet. “Yes.”
Silence sweeps the graveyard for several unfathomable azure moments, cold and bitter and beautiful with imploding sadness that is resurrected in his ragged, vulnerable sigh beside me. I bite my lip, pulse clamouring to be released from its prison. Gerard traces a finger idly round and round the bottle in an odd, uneasy, content-with-his-ruins sort of way.
It makes something at the back of my chest ache to watch, but I can’t quite bring myself to look away. There’s something inexplicably compelling about it- about him, but I could never define exactly what it is that draws me to someone I’ve hated.
“I think you’re crazy brave, Frank Iero,” he says suddenly, his gaze reaching for mine through the wisps and swirls of December darkness and he smiles- a proper, beautiful yet agonised smile, because it’s all made of broken pieces. “I wish I was like you.”
I laugh hollowly, but my heart’s beating oddly fast. “Oh, trust me. You really, really don’t want to be like me. Ugly. Alone. Grumpy. It’s no picnic, y’know.”
“Oh please,” Gerard snorts a little too wildly, waving the bottle. “You’re none of those, midget boy.”
“And I’m small,” I add, raising my eyebrows. “See? Why on earth would you want to be like me?”
“Why not?” Gerard challenges quietly, taking a long swig of cider and groaning slightly. “Ugh. I feel sick,” he comments, but continues to drink. “God,” he sets the bottle down queasily and touches his temple, wincing. “I’d give anything not to be me- to be someone like you.”
I look incredulously at him, trying to work out whether he’s serious or not. “…But…Why would you want to be like me? I suck,” I point out maturely.
Gerard’s lips twitch and he leans his head back against the tree. “Good argument, Elfie. I’ll have to remember that one,” he says with a hint of his old sarcasm, only slurred and a little bit darker- but then he looks seriously at me. “You’re lucky, okay? Think about that. It’s the truth. You just need to figure it out.”
I stay silent, oddly touched but unsure of exactly why. It’s like one of those passages you have to analyse in an English Lit lesson and the language is fluid with a kind of overflowing beauty you can’t quite understand.
Maybe that’s why it’s beautiful.
After a moment, another groan breaks through my thoughts, and I look round, concerned. “What?” I ask, frowning worriedly.
“I’ve finished it,” he slurs miserably, gesturing to the bottle. “Need to…Need to go get more.” He groans again and tries unsuccessfully to push himself up.
“Why do you need it?” I blurt out suddenly.
Gerard surveys me with bleak eyes. “It stops it hurting,” he says simply.
“…Your arm?” I venture tentatively.
His crepuscular green of his eyes clouds completely, and he shuts down completely, retreating to his leather shell, all empathy and defeat eclipsed by bleakly angry defence once more.
But I can’t be eclipsed.
“Gerard, what happened to it?” I ask nervously, not quiet sure why I so desperately need to know- but I really, really do.
“Nothing,” he hisses, jaw clenched, shrinking away from me.
“I’m not stupid,” I tell him determinedly, although inside, I’m trembling. “You looked as though it was killing you earlier. What happened to it?”
Gerard looks up at me, eyes full of pleading, desperate venom. “Fuck off,” he spits brokenly, pushing me away. “Just…Leave me alone. I don’t need anyone. Fuck off,” He struggles to his feet, as if to go, staggering drunkenly against the tree before lurching out into the blustery, December darkness.
“What, is that what you think everyone will do?” I call after him, suddenly angry. I push myself to my feet and follow him, stumbling on the uneven ground as the freezing wind lashes at my skin. “Gerard!”
“Shut up!” He screams, whirling round in the shrieking winter wind and dwindling light. He looks almost deranged with his bedraggled onyx hair, wild, screaming eyes and tear-streaked face hollowed out from the gate floodlamps. He clutches his hair, as if he’s trying to pull it right out of his scalp.
“Leave me alone! Mikey was the one who got hurt, and you saved him. I couldn’t. He doesn’t need me anymore. No one does,” he whispers bleakly. His eyes are far more agonised than they were when Alan’s friends were torturing him earlier; it’s as though they’re bleeding, being hacked right open and mutilated as he flings his empty bottle out into the darkness with all his might, and its shatter reverberates right through him, the serrated shards slicing open his eyes.
“No one needs me,” he whispers to me, the words snagging in his mouth and on my heart as the bleak, December dusk blusters bitterly against him. He suddenly looks so fragile, I half expect its icy darkness to sweep him away and into nothing but tendrils of the softest, charcoal coloured smoke.
But then he’s turning away, just a bundle of broken bits, and an unstoppable, haggard sob wracks his alcohol numbed body as he lumbers out into the darkening cemetery alone, his parting words ringing their vicious blades in my ears.
“Stop!” I shout, flinging myself after him. I grab onto his leather jacket and pull him back, smelling leather and fear and alcohol as his brimming eyes question mine emptily in the dusk. My heart is thudding and thudding and thudding in my chest, but when I speak, my voice is oddly even and quiet.
“I think I do.”
I watch as the impact of my words hits Gerard. His features contort and the tears threatening to fall spill over and down his cheeks, making his tangled black hair stick to the pale skin, as he bites his lip furiously and in vain. I can smell the alcohol on his breath as he chokes out another slurred sob and pushes his trembling fingers up to his skull, like he’s trying to hold it together.
“No, you don’t,” he chokes, his whole body contorted as he shakes his head fiercely and drunkenly, fingers digging into his temples. “You don’t, you don’t, you don’t.” He clutches his windblown, onyx hair desperately, frantic.
One second I’m watching him unravelling before my very eyes, the next, I’m standing up on my tiptoes and suddenly, my arms are round him and I’m hugging him as tightly as I can, because suddenly, it’s the only thing I can think of to do- the only thing I want to do.
He splutters slightly and hiccups brokenly, stumbling, but I don’t let go. The leather of his jacket is cold, but his skinny chest is warm from his heartbeat as I cling to him as tightly as I can, trying to hold him together, because I’m scared of what will happen when I let go. He sniffs fiercely into my shoulder, shaking uncontrollably for a second- but then he weakens and winds his arms round my body, crushing me against him and burying his face in my hair, clinging to me as if he’s more scared than I am, his grip on my back so tight I can feel the pressure of every long, pale finger trembling.
I don’t know how long we stand there in the howling December dusk on the hill of the cemetery, while the wind howls and the clouds darken and the cold lashes at our skin- just two, lost, people holding onto each other because there’s no one else.
Or because no one else will do.
When I eventually pull back, something warm and soft has replaced the horrible, jagged feeling that commandeered my chest’s capacity previously. It’s like all the jagged things have been sanded down and now they’re smooth and gentle, despite the rawness of the night and the outside wind cutting into my flesh.
Almost shyly, I look up at Gerard and gently wipe the tear-trails on his flawless cheeks away with trembling fingers, feeling the tender heat and the slight stickiness from the salt that still spikes his long lashes vulnerably. He closes his eyes as though in relief to great pain and rests his forehead weakly against mine, breath shaky and pure in the air between us. I taste alcohol and the ghost of salt, and the thing tugs in the pit of my belly again, making me shiver and suddenly want to hug him all over again.
“Thank you,” he murmurs softly against me, still not opening his eyes. “You have no reason to be so nice to me. But you are.” He opens his eyes suddenly, vibrant, glistening green staring right into my own and sending something shock-like through me.
I try and say something, but I find that I can’t quite gather my thoughts.
“I never said thank you for helping me on Saturday,” he continues softly, breath brushing my lips, hot in contrast to the icy air howling round us. “I thought you’d leave me alone, but you didn’t. You sung to me.”
My cheeks burn in humiliation, because I sort of hoped he’d forgotten the details- I’d never sung like that in front of anyone before.
Something that might once have been a smile dusts Gerard’s lips. “I think you’re really talented, you know,” he mumbles, and I realise he’s not slurring half as much now- just staring, unblinkingly, beautifully, devastatingly into my eyes as his forehead leans against mine, his black eyeliner smudged down his pale skin like an unfinished painting.
“Thanks,” I say awkwardly, my voice sounding too loud for the small space it’s in, and I feel my heartbeat quicken with embarrassment.
Softly, Gerard pulls back, and I’m shocked find myself instantly missing the warmth of his pallid skin against mine- but it’s not for more than a split second, because he’s leaning forward unsteadily in the cold dusk, breath laced with alcohol, eyes a constellation of silently shattered emerald, unblinking and rimmed with black, tear-spiked lashes as he uncharacteristically gently tucks my hair behind my ear with long, cold fingers.
My breath catches in my throat as he brushes my hair back on the other side too, and my face is left completely exposed to his gaze and the bewitching, icy dusk that’s too afraid to snow just yet.
I shift uncomfortably under his obliterating gaze, knowing the repulsive sight he’s seeing and hating it- hating me, because it is me. It’s my biggest flaws, written right across my face, and I hate that he can read how much of a failure I am.
“Please…” I mumble, bowing my head, ashamed to look up at his reaction in case it reflects the real me- the me I never let anyone look at, yet he’s gazing at it right now. “Please don’t look at them. I hate it. I don’t even look at them myself,” I plead.
“Why?” Gerard murmurs, barely slurring his words at all as he strokes the hair behind my ear and twines it round his little finger, making me shiver. I can feel the intensity of his gaze burning into my face, but I’m too ashamed to meet it, afraid of what I might see in it.
“Because they’re disgusting,” I whisper bitterly, struggling not to pull away from him completely and run so as I’ll get lost forever in the wind that howls around us, icy and bitter like the truth that’s frozen me into silence for so long. Panicked self-hatred writhes up in my lungs, making it hard to draw a breath of snow-promising darkness as the liquid salt starts to build in my throat.
“They’re not disgusting,” he slurs gently, fingers trailing across them softly, so softly- as if he’s caressing something beautiful, not repulsive. Something pulls in the pit of my stomach, but it’s not entirely ugly. “They’re the last thing from ugly, Frank.”
I snort, and then blush, because it seems totally inappropriate in the closeness.
“What?” Gerard questions, running his finger down my neck now, eyes still gazing intently at me with that blazing sort of expression I can’t quite seem to meet.
“Have you seen them?” I stutter awkwardly, wincing as his green eyes linger on them, reading them, understanding them.
“I’m looking at them right now,” Gerard murmurs, tracing his hand back up and cupping the sides of my face earnestly.
I try to remember to breathe, but suddenly I can’t quite remember how, because all I can taste is the mellow lilt of alcohol and ghostly smoke and the salt of tears in the dusky wind, and Gerard’s so close, breathing softly, eyes full of something I can’t quite explain, all broken and beautiful and I don’t know what to do and my heart’s beating and beating and beating and my pulse won’t stop and I can’t find air to breathe and-
“Your breathing’s gone all funny, Elf boy,” Gerard whispers in broken amusement, blinking lucidly. He’s so close that I can almost feel the soft sweep of his lashes against my cheek.
“I-It has?” I stammer, struggling to remember exactly what it is you need to do in order to get oxygen, because the ability seems to have failed me completely and my thoughts are spinning fast that I feel dizzy and disorientated as I try and work out what they are. Maybe I should just forget about thinking for a moment.
“Mhmm,” Gerard murmurs, his icy fingertips still cupping my jaw and holding back my hair, stroking it softly, running the tangled strands through his nimble fingers in a way that makes all the hairs on my neck stand up on end and the breath spill needily from my lips like vaporous icing sugar into the indigo night. The thing at the back of my chest tugs again, and I tremble nervously.
His shadowed face is so close now that I can see every, minute and tiny detail there is- and it’s amazing, because now I can see that his features aren’t perfect; his tiny nose is a little snubbed, his lips, still moist from the cider, are slightly lopsided, and his eyelashes crimp together in dark clumps from crying, or where the smoky eyeliner has run. My stomach pulls again, because somehow, these tiny little imperfections are beautiful. Maybe it’s because they’re the truth- and the truth is never flawless, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful.
“Why are you so brave?” he murmurs softly, the alcohol and vulnerability on his breath grazing my lip as his grip on my face tightens, his pale, spidery fingers with the bitten down, painted black nails intertwining with my hair and tilting my head up so that I have no choice but to get drowned in his gaze.
The winter howls around us, but I can barely hear anything but the resonating red pump of my heart as I swallow shakily, trying to get rid of the fluttery palpitations working their way up into my throat and blocking my airways.
Gerard’s eyes aren’t so full of agony now- but they aren’t masked either. They’re still brilliantly alive and scintillating emerald in the blustery darkness- and they don’t let mine fall for a second as he leans closer and closer and closer and-
I jump wildly and spring away from Gerard as my phone suddenly starts ringing loudly, shattering the tension and bringing me crashing back to the ground as I scrabble frantically in my pocket to answer it, my heart thudding and my knees weak and my cheeks burning, because I have no idea what just happened.
“H-hello?” I stammer breathlessly into the receiver, my grip all clammy with sweat so that the phone slides irritatingly from my grasp.
“Hey, Frankiestien!” Ocean’s voice crackles cheerfully over the receiver.
For some reason, I’m suddenly choked with annoyance, inexplicably hating her for phoning right at this particular minute, but my mind is still all blurry and reeling in the darkness, so I can’t quite piece my thoughts together coherently.
“How are you?” she asks when I don’t respond.
“Fine,” I sigh tiredly, nibbling my lip and glancing sideways, half afraid that Gerard will have disappeared and left me all alone in the dark with a racing heart and a mind that’s too scared to place logic together.
The icy, charcoal air whips my hair from my eyes, and my heart swells in relief as I look around; Gerard is sitting cross-legged against the trunk of the weeping willow, huddled into his black leather jacket and staring up at the starless sky. He’s pushed his hair out of his eyes so as they shine brilliantine green into the frosty darkness, looking oddly vulnerable and naked without the eyeliner that he’s cried away- but also more real. More beautiful. He suddenly looks round, catching my eye and small smile plays at the corner of his lips- but he looks away, trying to bite it back as though it’s as shameful as one of my scars.
“Frank? Frank! Are you still there?”
“I have to go, Ocean,” I say distractedly, eyes still fixed on Gerard. “Sorry.”
I push the ‘end call’ button, stuff my phone back into my pocket, and feeling extremely self-conscious, I shuffle over to sit beside Gerard on the grass, heart thudding heavily, relentless and red. For several seconds, we just sit in silence, listening to the wind whistling tunelessly through the sorrowful branches overhead and watching dusk stitch its wispy fingers more intimately through the sky, while the tentative warmth of him beside me in the dark makes my chest do that powerful, tugging thing again.
It feels as though the harshly-interrupted moment is a silent space between us, burning my ears and making my thoughts run wild, building and building and building until I feel as though it will explode.
I spend the next several moments staring out across the cemetery to the gates where the floodlamps spill pools of unhealthy orange up into the overcast, dusky clouds that are laden with cold, grey snow, but still haven’t summoned up the courage to let it fall and dust the world.
“Before I get too sober to say anything I mean, I just want thank you for sticking up for Mikey,” Gerard mumbles suddenly, breaking the almost unbearable silence and turning to look at me seriously. “You didn’t need to do what you did.”
“Of course I did!” I exclaim instantly, though my voice feels oddly separate to my mind that’s still churning and spinning wildly. “It wasn’t just for Mikey, either,” I add, almost to myself.
Surprise clouds Gerard’s features. “I…I didn’t need sticking up for,” his voice is suddenly guarded again, eyes braced with hostility.
“Gerard, you looked like you were dying,” I say quietly, because the image of him writhing and contorting in pure agony, just trying to stay silent, still plagues me whenever I shut my eyes for more than a heartbeat.
“I…” Gerard breaks off and puts his head in his hands, clutching at his dishevelled ebony hair and I can hear the tears in his voice again. Nervously, heart searing, I shuffle to sit right beside him and reach out, touching his clenched hand gently.
“What happened to your arm?” I ask very softly, though inside, I feel like I’m choking as Gerard releases his hair and pulls his head, up, eyes glittering with torment. “…Gerard?”
He doesn’t reply, just closes his eyes and clings to my hand as though letting it go will drown him in the memory- as if my hand is the only hold he has on the present moment.
Trembling, I disentangle my fingers from his and touch the sleeve, glancing fleetingly up at Gerard for some sign of permission and biting my lip anxiously, heart hammering in my chest. He doesn’t say anything, but closes his eyes again and clenches his jaw as though preparing himself for the worst, face gaunt with memory.
Now that the moment’s here, I’m not quite sure I want to see the truth- but I refuse to let myself stop. Heartbeat shaking as much as my fingers, I gingerly roll back his sleeve, feeling the warm, soft skin of his arm under my fingertips and watching the fluid blue beat of his pulse in the veins. Gerard winces as I pull the sleeve back to his elbow joint and freeze in utter horror- the kind of real, alive horror that scrapes through your insides like jagged blades on open, tender flesh.
The night howls on and a whole city decays just over the horizon and the clouds are still too scared to snow- but I don’t notice any of them, because, carved painstakingly into Gerard’s chalk-white skin, are four, bloodied, dark red letters that spell a lie, still oozing their scarlet agony onto his swollen forearm.
“‘U.G.L.Y’?” I whisper eventually, looking up beseechingly at Gerard’s blank face for explanation. My heart’s thudding and I feel sick with utter, horrified disgust as the serrated lettering sneers up at me, twisted and soaked in red. “…Did…you-”
“No,” Gerard replies quietly, shaking his head. His eyes are wide as he stares at the letters too- as if he can’t quite take them in either. “Not me. I don’t do that.”
“Then…” The obvious answer clicks sickeningly into place. I drop his arm. “Danny?” I don’t quite realise I’m shouting until the single, obscene name splinters through the peaceful dusk and makes Gerard jump anxiously, darting behind his hair and I see his eyes flitting desperately to the spot his cider was earlier.
“Sorry,” I bite my lip, but my heart still beats furiously. I take a deep breath of the icy air and trace a tentative fingertip down Gerard’s arm, wincing more than him as it nears the oozing wound tainting his perfect, pale skin. “Sorry,” I mumble again.
I suddenly want to cry.
But Gerard laughs emptily, the sound sending chills through me.
“I don’t really think you’re the one who should be apologising when it comes to this,” he slurs, sounding much drunker again- as if pain itself is alcoholic.
“I-” I don’t really know quite what I’m going to say, but before I can find out, my mobile blares out for the second time this evening and, almost relieved to have an escape from the horror etched on my stepbrother’s forearm, I scrabble to answer my phone.
“Frank?” Steve’s voice replies instantly, sounding worried. “Are you alright?”
“…Y-Yes,” I blurt, feeling all churned up.
“I don’t suppose you’ve seen Gerard?”
“He…He’s with me,” I tell Steve, looking at Gerard as he rolls his sleeve back down and drops his gaze to the frosty ground, looking tormented as the bitter wind blows tendrils of his midnight hair into the dusk. He looks so vulnerable, so lost and alone that I want to wrap my arms round him again and never let go.
“He is?” Steve’s voice brings me back to the phone call, full of hope.
“Yes, right here,” I say hurriedly, dropping my gaze.
“Is he okay?”
“I…” I look at Gerard. “I think so. For now,” I say quietly.
“Can you guys come back home now?”
“Yeah, we’ll set off now,” I promise Steve.
“Great!” Steve heaves a sigh of relief.
“See you soon,” I say.
“Oh, Frank?” Steve’s voice halts me, sounding a warm.
And then the call disconnects, and I bite my lip, feeling oddly nervous as I stow my phone back in my pocket and look over at Gerard’s questioning face.
“Steve,” I tell him, fiddling with the fraying thread on my glove again.
“I bet he’s pissed off with me,” Gerard says, raking a hand through his midnight hair and sighing a little as he gets to his feet. He seems oddly more sober, although his voice still slurs slightly. Maybe the alcohol’s wearing off- or maybe he wasn’t as drunk as I thought in the first place. Maybe the main thing he was drunk on was agony.
“I think he’s just worried,” I say honestly as he follows me down the overgrown hill towards the dusk-bathed cemetery gates, stumbling slightly.
"Ha," Gerard spits. "That'd make a change."
“I said we’d come home now,” I say awkwardly, not really sure how to react.
Gerard’s eyes cloud angrily in the half-light. “Oh, well thanks a fucking lot for telling him I was with you,” he snaps, falling into step with me as we cross the graveyard. “Now I’ll have a whole lot of explaining to do. Fanfuckingtastic.”
I try to ignore the way that stabs a hole right through my ribs, catching on my heart and puncturing my lungs so that drawing a breath suddenly really, really hurts. Instead, I go quiet and hunch over, walking faster to try and block everything out.
But as we go through the cast-iron gates and back into reality, Gerard’s hand suddenly snakes out and grips mine, linking our fingers fiercely together in the dark as we slowly walk back towards a world we loathe.
And, from the leaden, indigo clouds, snow suddenly starts to fall, feather-light and pure white, dusting the grimy pavements with something rare and beautiful.
He doesn’t let go the whole way home.
What did you guys think? I really hope it was okay, as I'm honestly not sure if I managed to pull the chapter off okay or not. If it's shit, I'll take it down tomorrow and re-write...Up to you guys. I really hope it wasn't and that you all enjoyed it, though- sorry for being a bit of a killjoy (hahaa, you just can't use the original version of that word now :L), but I'm for some reason totally lacking confidence in this story right now, which sucks. Anyway, thank you all so much for reading...Rates and Reviews would be utterly amazing. Love you all.