"Bob, he's a vampire. He always looks pale to me."
"...be sunrise soon, help me get these up..."
Soft. He's on something soft and there's a woman talking and he has no idea where the hell he is. After he spends a few seconds trying to puzzle it out, he gives up and passes out again.
He wakes up however much later to the sound of the woman's voice. "-won't miss it. We had donors out the yin yang after the attacks in Pine Cove."
The soft thing dips under Frank as the voice gets closer, and warm fingers wrap around his hand.
"It was alcohol, you said?"
"Yeah. I smelled narcotics, too. Something prescription." Another voice; Bob's. At least something makes sense.
The fingers around his hand let go, and the soft thing (Frank decides it's a bed, it's big enough and flat) shifts again. "You would think that he would have picked up on that like you did."
"Oh, I doubt he missed it. You know Frank, though. If he thinks he can get away with it..."
There's a sigh. "It's kind of a miracle he's lived as long as he has." And, okay, Frank's awake enough now to pinpoint that catchphrase. Jamia.
"Does he look kind of pale to you?"
"Bob, he's a vampire. Of course he looks pale to me."
Frank groans and opens his eyes at last as the implications of being awake finally hit him, and hit hard. Everything hurts, he feels nauseous somehow, and if he didn't know any better, he would think he was sweating. "Fuck," he gasps, and rolls over on his side, gagging.
"Oh good," Jamia says dryly. "You're awake."
She's standing near the side of the bed - her bed, Frank realizes - with her arms crossed over her chest, and she must not have been here long because she's still in her scrubs. Her hair's still in its bun, even. "I spend my whole night with patients, and now I get to come home and help your sorry ass," she continues, and Frank knows she's trying to be annoyed, but her face is soft and there's worry lines around her eyes. "Honestly, Frank."
He manages to calm the dry heaves, and slumps back against the pillows. "Sorry," he pants.
"I know." Jamia uncrosses her arms and braces her hands backwards against her hips. "Do you remember what happened?"
Frank shakes his head, and regrets it when his stomach flips over. "Feels like a bitch of a hangover."
There's a snort from the other side of the room. Frank glances over to see Bob leaning in the doorway with his hands in his pockets. "You'd be right," he says, grinning, as he makes his way over to stand beside Jamia, "if you weren't undead and all. It's blood poisoning. Courtesy of your snack at the beginning of the night."
"What snack - oh. Ohh. Shit." Frank scrapes the back of his hand over his eyes. "I didn't think that guy was even that drunk."
Both Bob and Jamia scoff. "Sure," says Jamia, moving to dig through her nurse's duffel at the foot of the bed. "I was betting that you were gonna say you 'forgot' you could get blood poisoning from drunk people."
"Hey," Frank protests, and tries to sit up, but abandons the effort when the room gains a dangerous tilt. "I swear, he wasn't," he mumbles.
"How'd you find him?" Bob asks, a smirk in his voice. Damn him.
"Unconscious," Frank admits.
Jamia heaves a heavy sigh. "Of course." She's pulling bags of blood out of her duffel, checking the labels, lining them up along the edge of the mattress. "You want it warmed up, or are you gonna drink it straight?"
"Um." Frank tries to look pathetic. "Warmed up? Please? Cause otherwise - "
" - you can taste the hemoglobin. I remember." She picks up one of the bags and heads out of the room.
Frank drags a hand through his hair, and groans again. "So," he starts, as Bob takes a seat on the bed and eyes the blood hungrily. "How bad was it?"
"Oh, you were delirious," Bob replies. "It would have been funny if I hadn't been so pissed off. I don't know how long it had been since you'd fed when I found you, but I'm sure it was long enough for a Hunter to have been able to pick you up." He scoops up one of the bags and rips off the tabs. "If you keep doing stupid shit like this, one of these days I'm just gonna let 'em."
"Thanks," Frank says with an eye roll. "I feel secure in your undying loyalty, Bryar."
Bob shrugs, and tilts his head back, squeezing blood into his mouth. "It's not just your survival I'm looking out for," he says after he swallows. "And there's only so much I can do for you if you're actively sabotaging your own livelihood."
Frank sneers. "I am not sabotaging my livelihood. I was hungry and the dude was easy prey."
"Easy prey that smelled like a brewery. And a medicine cabinet."
"Oh, shut up."
Bob smirks and returns to his blood bag.
"What time is it?" Frank asks, and tries sitting up again. This time, nothing moves except him, so he eases himself all the way up and leans against the headboard. "I've got that prickly 'daylight approaching' feeling."
"Sun rose about twenty minutes ago. We put up blackout curtains. That woman," Bob says, shaking his head in wonder, "is prepared for everything. I don't think there is a single disaster she couldn't handle."
Frank smiles, gazing down at the bedspread. "Ever the nurse."
"Someone has to be," Jamia quips, striding back into the bedroom with a mug. She drops a bendy straw into it, and then hands it to Frank. "Drink up. If you finish all the bags I got - or, what's left of the bags I got," she amends, glaring at Bob, who's sucking the last of the blood out of the bag he picked up, "then you should be fine by the time the sun goes down."
Bob at least has the courtesy to look chagrined as Jamia snatches the empty bag away. "Sorry. Couldn't help myself."
"Will you be okay if I take a quick nap?" Jamia asks Frank, stowing the bag in her duffel. "You don't have to move, I was just gonna take the couch. I gave Bob the guest bedroom," she explains. "He's too tall for that couch, half of him would be on the floor."
"I tried to talk her out of it," Bob says, holding his hands up in defense when Frank gives him a disbelieving glare. "She was adamant."
"Frank, it's fine. It would be one thing if the couch were uncomfortable, but it's not, and I'm small enough to fit on it."
"So am I," Frank retorts, and places the mug of blood onto the nightstand so he can get up. "You've done way more for me today than I deserve, Mia, I'm not gonna make you give up your bed."
Jamia rolls her eyes. "Don't be stubborn. Lay down, you need to rest so the toxic blood can work its way through your system."
"I can do that from the couch."
"Are you really fighting me on this?"
Bob suddenly gives a huge, fake yawn and stands up. "Wow, I'm beat. I'm gonna head for my makeshift coffin. See you guys at sunset." He waves, and then books it into the hallway.
Frank shoves his hands into his pockets. "Mia, you've been working all night. Take the bed."
"I don't need the bed. You're sick."
"Because of my own irresponsibility. You need the bed way more than I do."
"No, I don't. Lay the hell down and drink your blood."
"I'm not gonna."
"What? You already stole stuff for me, and it's your fucking house! Take the damn bed!"
Jamia looks like she wants to yell at him, but jams her fist against her mouth instead and turns away. After a few seconds, she says, her voice strained, "You know, this, this petty, stupid fighting, is exactly why we broke up."
His stomach drops, but it has nothing to do with the blood poisoning. He bites his lip, and picks up the mug, then walks to the foot of the bed and scoops up the remaining bags of blood. "I'm sorry."
"I know." She drops the bag on the floor. "If you insist, I'll sleep here." She moves around the bed to the side Frank hadn't been laying on, and sits, turning her back to him. "You remember how to work the stove?"
"Turn the knob, fire comes on. Don't stick any body parts near it. If anything catches on fire that's not supposed to, come in and wake you up."
Jamia pulls the elastic out of her bun, and lets her hair fall down over her shoulders. Frank stares. "If you run out of blood and you're still feeling crappy, I'll get you more when I go in later tonight."
"I'll be okay." He's still staring as she pulls the covers down and climbs into bed. "Your hair's getting long, Mia."
There's a long pause. "Goodnight, Frank," she says at last.
Frank swallows, and tears his gaze away to look down into his mug instead. "'Night." He hits the light switch as he stumbles out of her bedroom, clutching blood bags to his chest and fighting the urge to turn around and lay down next to her, like it would be okay. Like nothing had happened.
Like he still belongs to her.
Gerard slammed the lid of his laptop down, and rubbed his eyes. Christ, he needed to give Frank a girlfriend or something already. The Jamia fixation was getting pathetic.
"She doesn't love you like that anymore, dude," he muttered to his empty office. "Let her go."
Not that Frank would, of course. He was still convinced that Jamia was the one. Gerard already knew the whole, sad story; Frank would pine and pine, keep looking for excuses to spend time with her, keep praying she wasn't seeing anyone, until finally he'd break down and beg for her to take him back. And Jamia would say no. Gerard's chest ached to think of the agony Frank would endure after that, especially when Jamia would start seeing another guy.
Gerard sighed. Poor Frank.
He pushed back from his desk and headed for the stairs. Lindsey was due to drop Bandit off any minute, and he didn't want to be late for the pointed glares and exaggerated goodbye kisses Lindsey would be performing on his doorstep. God. He'd gladly pay her whatever it would take for her to exchange her custody, just so he wouldn't have to watch the theatrics that came with switching off. With a shake of his head, he walked down to the foyer, and decided to wait on the stairs until they rang the doorbell. The less downtime he gave her to think up crap to make him suffer through, the better.
Frank crept back into his head as he sat staring at the tile. He was never out of it for very long, it seemed, at least recently. Gerard's writing mojo was back in full force, thanks to the dissipation of his withdrawal symptoms (if there was a God, Gerard thanked him daily for that), and just like with the writing process of every other book he'd written about the vampire, Frank was taking up most of his imagination. Which, Gerard wasn't exactly complaining, God knew there were worse characters he could be fixated on, but the thing about Frank was how weirdly familiar Gerard was with him. He had Frank Anthony Iero down to a goddamn art: he could draw the man in detail from any angle he needed to, he knew that there was nothing Frank loved more than dogs except Jamia, and he also knew that, even though Frank believed Jamia was the one, deep down Frank was also sure that there was someone else out there that he was supposed to fall in love with. Frank didn't know who, and neither did Gerard, but they both were pretty sure that it whoever it was, wasn't another woman.
He swallowed. Most writers, he was sure, didn't know their characters nearly this well. And they certainly didn't get attached to them and they sure as hell did not find themselves attracted to them because only the craziest people fell in love with people that didn't exist. Gerard's imagination was just overactive. His dreams were proof enough of that. Even as he was thinking it, though, he found himself slipping into his most common fantasy; Frank, there in front of him, hands in his pockets and smiling, just there, just existing, a living breathing person that wasn't confined to the pages he'd written him on.
He knew Frank's voice, too. Smack-dab in the middle of the male register, dipping into throatier territory when he was sleepy, sick, or had just smoked a cigarette. Even though Jersey didn't exist where Frank was from, he had its accent, same as Gerard. It had a smile in it too, most of the time.
"You look like your head is two seconds from exploding, Gee. Maybe you should stop trying to like, move your house with your mind or whatever it is you're doing."
Gerard opened his eyes, and there he was. Hands in his pockets, leaning on the banister, watching Gerard with that amused look he had whenever he was in a good mood.
"Hey, you," Frank said, and his eyes lit up. "You're gonna think yourself into a coma someday."
"Only if I'm lucky," Gerard replied, because in this fantasy it was never weird that Frank had appeared wherever he had. "People come up with all kinds of cool shit in comas."
"Or they just don't wake up." Frank slid his hands out of his pockets and sat down beside him. "Waiting on Dragon Bitch?"
Gerard snorted. "That's a new one."
"Like it? I think it suits her."
"No, I agree. I'm just gonna have to be really careful not to call her that to her face."
"Or not," Frank countered gleefully. "Can you imagine how much of a shitfit she'd throw? That's entertainment for like, months. Get that shit on tape." He dropped his head onto Gerard's shoulder. "So, anything new crop up since we talked last? You look stressed."
"Quit smoking," Gerard murmured in reply, and pressed his cheek to the top of Frank's head. It was always distracting when Frank touched him during these fantasies. "Quit coffee, too, but that's mostly to detox."
"Seriously? Damn. I thought you were inextricably attached to both of those. Why the change?"
"Oh, nothing major. Just cancer." He tried for breezy, but it came out too high-pitched for breezy.
Frank stiffened. Gerard could feel him freezing up. "You have cancer?"
"Of the lung variety. Not sure how bad yet."
Frank sat up and stared, eyes wide. "You're serious?"
Gerard nodded. Tears pricked at the back of his eyes, which was weird. He hadn't cried when he told Mikey, or his mother, or his lawyer, or the publisher. Just Frank.
"Gee." Frank opened his mouth a few times, but couldn't seem to make more words come. "Dude. No."
He dropped his head into his hands, still nodding. "I have to tell Bandit today. And Dragon Bitch." He laughed, but it was nerves instead of humor, and when he looked back up at Frank, his eyes were swimming. "I have to tell my daughter I have cancer, Frankie, what am I gonna say?"
Frank said nothing, just wrapped his arms around Gerard and hugged him while Gerard lost it. Of all the people to finally cry to about having cancer, Gerard was crying to a figment of his imagination. He didn't care. He sobbed on Frank's shoulder until the doorbell rang, and when Frank suddenly disappeared at the sound, he started crying harder. It took seven more rings, three episodes of angry knocking, and a muffled "Gerard, open the damn door!" before he composed himself enough to pull it open. Even then, Lindsey grabbed Bandit against her side.
"What the hell is the matter with you?" she barked, and held her back when Bandit tried to move to hug him.
"Just - personal," he stuttered, swiping his hand over his face. "Doesn't concern you. Hi, Lady B," he said to his daughter, and cracked a smile that he hoped was convincing. "I missed you."
Bandit wormed her way out of her mother's grip and waited for Gerard to kneel down for a hug before throwing her arms around his neck. "I missed you too, Daddy. I drew you a picture! Want to see?"
"Of course, honey, you know I love your drawings." He looked up at Lindsey, who seemed torn between picking Bandit up and running back to her car and yelling at Gerard on the doorstep. "I trust you'll be here Sunday night at seven on the dot."
"Six-thirty," she replied brusquely. "Bandit's starting pre-school Monday morning."
That was new. "What?" Gerard stood up, holding Bandit's hand. "We didn't talk about pre-school, Lindsey."
"It didn't concern you." Lindsey beamed down at Bandit. "But she's excited, huh, Bumblebee?"
Bandit nodded, grinning. "They have the biggest crayon box ever, Daddy!"
Gerard glared at Lindsey with as much dislike as he could muster, fuming. "Do they. You'll have to tell me about it. Bye," he said to Lindsey shortly, and slammed the door shut in her face.
"Bye, Mommy," Bandit called through the door, and let go of Gerard's hand to take off her backpack and push it into his hands. "It's my bestest drawing ever, Daddy, it has dragons and unicorns and bunnies and aliens and stuff! And I didn't color the sky blue just at the top cause Mommy said that's not how the sky really is. The unicorn has a rainbow tail and I colored him with glitter crayons cause he's sparkly and - "
Gerard's phone started ringing in his pocket as he slung Bandit's backpack over his shoulder. "Really? What's the unicorn's name?"
"Frank," she said proudly.
Gerard exhaled. "Oh." He checked the screen, and sighed, bringing it to his ear as he said, "Okay, hold on, sweetie - Hello?"
"Good afternoon, Mr. Way, this is Dr. Hale from Cedars-Sinai."
"D-Dr. Hale. Right. How are you?"
"Just fine, yourself? I'm calling to remind you about your procedure on Tuesday. No eating or drinking for 24 hours prior to the procedure, and you're going to need to arrange for transportation to and from your appointment, since you'll be coming off the anesthesia. Will you have any problems with that?"
Gerard swallowed. "Nope. No problems. I'll get it taken care of."
"Have a nice weekend, Mr. Way."
Bandit was watching him when he shoved his phone back into his pocket, eyes wide, like Frank had done only ten minutes beforehand. "Daddy? Are you okay?"
Tears pooled in his eyes once again as her words hit him like a punch in the stomach. He stooped to pick her up, and nodded, plastering a grin on his face that hurt to keep up. "Just fine, honey," he lied. "Let's get you a snack and then you can show me your drawing."