*Sequel of-sorts to 'Jupiter moon'* Scattered pieces of past and present in the Europa!Verse. (I recommend reading 'Jupiter moon' before this)
He can’t imagine this to be another part of the planet, it looks just like New New Jersey with it’s tall buildings and humming shuttles and people everywhere. But he thinks he can see how the streetlights look a little taller and the lines marking out the streets a wee bit thinner. Maybe he’s just imagining things.
Then there’s a tap on his shoulder and there, just to his left, is Frank.
From all the emails they’d exchanged, Gerard had never imagined Frank to be shorther than him. Maybe the same height, or taller. He scolds himself for never thinking about asking things like that, or asking about what size shoes Frank wears. His feet look tiny compared to Gerard’s own.
”Hi, I’m Frank” Frank says, and Gerard found the difference between here and home. Frank’s accent is thick with something that reminds Gerard of his father singing old classics in the shower. It makes him smile wider as he says,
”Gerard. Nice to finally meet you”
”Hi Mrs. Barnes” Frank smiles wearily up at his neighbor, holding the puppy’s leash tightly in his hand, like a tight-rope walker holds on to his balance. For bare life. The old lady’s face falls, giving room for a concerned look.
”Frank, what’s up? You look a bit sad” She says in her warbling old voice, and Frank thinks that beside his own mother, she’s the closest thing to a family that he has.
”I can’t get hold of Gerard”
Mrs. Barnes, Emma, sets up cups and a tea-pot she’d inherited from her grandmother, apologizing for not having any real tea.
”No one really drinks real tea anymore” she says ”It’s become too expensive, but I know you like the old times” Frank nods and accepts the liquid she gives him. ”Honey, maybe he’s just busy with work, you know how that can be”
”I just thought he’d let me know if he was, that’s all” Frank sips his drink, trying to imagine how real tea might taste ”He’s usually so quick to reply”
”You should try calling him”
”I already did”
Emma frowns, making her thin lips disappear into the wrinkles around her mouth, somehow making the laugh-lines around her eyes even deeper. ”Let’s look at some old photos, to pick you up” She reaches out for her photo-tablet, petting Pansy’s head in the same motion.
”You know, if Earth is still around, it's supposed to be right there” Frank says and points.
Gerard cranes his neck, trying to see the spot Frank means, combing through the stars in the darkening sky and wondering if Earth would have looked like those, or different, somehow. ”Does it matter that I can’t see where you’re pointing?”
”Not really” Frank smiles ”To be honest, no one really knows if it’s gone or not. The only thing making it visible was the sun, you know? And that’s gone for sure, but Earth might still be there, only. Dark”
”You would have wanted to go there, wouldn’t you?”
”Yeah” Frank sighs ”More than almost anything”
”Almost?” Gerard asks, watching the way the corners of Frank’s mouth keep twitching.
”Yeah, I can’t leave this behind”
”You mean New Italy? Or Europa?”
Frank huffs quietly, a tiny puff of air that sends a million invisible particles swirling. ”No. You, you moron” Frank says through his smile, and his eyes meet Gerard’s for just a second before turning back to watch the star-strewn sky.
”Me?” Gerard feels insignificant where he’s sitting on the edge of the roof, watching the universe squirm around them. If Gerard would cease to exist right now, the cosmos wouldn’t even notice. It didn’t even flich when the sun died, the gas-clouds and the nuclear explosions were but a tiny cell dying in the body of space. That the radiation warmed up Europa’s frozen oceans, well. That was just luck. The entire human race is just riding on the momentum of a wave of luck. ”Would you go look for Earth if I came with you?”
”Yes” Frank says, taking Gerard’s hand and squeezing.
”Yes? No hesitating? Just yes?”
”Yes” Frank doesn’t tear his gaze away from the stars, from the cloud of dust that seems to be frozen in time, still. Unmoving and gigantic, the corpse of the mortal sun that’s now only a white dwarf star.
”A double latte, to go please”
Frank taps a few icons on the screen in front of him and smiles at his customer ”Your coffee will be ready in a few minutes”
Of course, Frank could have chosen to serve instant coffee like most coffee-shops these days, but his fondness for geniuine things made having an old fashioned brewer an easy choice. It’s noisy and hissy and a complete bitch sometimes, but it makes the artificial coffee-beans taste better. That’s all Frank’s asking.
”Goodbye! Have a nice day” Frank hollers as the woman leaves with her coffee. The door dings happily when she exits, and only a second later it dings again with a new customer.
”Good day, how can I...” The words get stuck in Frank’s throat, choking him. Behind him, the coffee maker is growling while it crushes a new batch of beans, but Frank barely hears it. ”Gerard?”
Frank turns sharply. Not knowing what to do, he rushes into the washer-room. The floor is rocking back and forth, making it hard to stand upright, so Frank sits down on the floor. He knows Martha must be looking at him funny from her place at the dishwasher and John probably wonders why Frank left the counter untended for, but Frank couldn’t care less.
It takes a few minutes before the door swings open again, gently this time. Martha is already helping Frank up and trying to get him to tell her what’s wrong, when he sees that familiar face again.
”I think I’m hallucinating, Martha. I’m seeing this face” Frank rubs at his eyes, hard, making swirling patterns appear in the darkness behind his eyelids.
”You’re not allowed to be in here, Sir” Martha says.
”Yes I am, Martha. I own this place, but that’s not the point! And don’t call me Sir!” Frank cries.
”Not you, Frank” Martha rolls her eyes. ”Him”
”Oh” Frank gasps ”I thought I was imagining things again”
”You’re not” Gerard says with a careful smile.
”I’m really not, am I?” Frank doesn’t really believe his own eyes yet, but if this is a dream, it’s at least a good one. He can’t help feeling a little wary, though, because if he’s dreaming again, he’ll have to wake up eventually.
Martha takes a few considerate steps away, holding a halting hand up when John comes stalking through the door with confusion written on his face, shushing him.
Not breaking the silence, Gerard steps forward and reaches out for Frank, bringing them both together in a way that Frank thought he’d never experience again. ”I got your letter” Gerard says softly into Frank’s hair.
”You know, they still haven’t found Earth” Frank says, leaning his chin on Gerard’s shoulder.
”I know” Gerard replies.
”They say they can’t find the moon, either”
”That’s too bad” Gerard says, kicking his feet over the edge of the roof a little, remembering nights just like this one, long ago. ”I always liked the moon”
”Yeah, me too. And you know, I can’t stop imagining the moon floating around in an asteroid belt somewhere, all lost and alone without the Earth’s gravity. Swept away by cosmic winds, or something”
Gerard smiles and reaches for Frank’s other hand, taking it in his own so that both their hands are linked, tight and warm. ”Maybe Earth was swept away too” he says. ”Maybe they’ll find each other again, someday”
Frank smiles and leans in to press a soft kiss to Gerard’s left eyebrow, then his right. ”Maybe they already did”