We were escorted back to the bus by four burly security guards, each exchanging blank glances as the sound of police sirens wove together with the lingering screams of fans to create a scene of unbridled surrealism. Mikey was huddled close to Gerard's side, his head down and his eyes shut, allowing his brother to lead him through the pandemonium. Bob and Ray were exchanging looks of equal emotionless confusion, while I centered myself between the two groups, quaking silently and staring at the bus in the distance, keeping my eyesight focused and drawing my attention away from the lights. Lights were everywhere; shining off of the trim on the bus, glowing on the oil stains, a rainbow of abstract horror that reflected the chaos.
We sat in silence for nearly a half an hour, our minds still locked on the faces of the kids and the bodies on the floor, before Brian opened the door and stepped inside, his face solemn.
"Are they alright?" Gerard asked quickly, but Brian shook his head, shutting the door behind him and sitting down in the nearest chair.
"There were three victims--two boys and one girl. They suffered severe, uh.../puncture/ wounds to their necks. They lost a lot of blood."
I kept my head bowed. My hands were trembling. The stage costume wasn't helping my condition either; I wasn't a guy in some "Black Parade." A hero. I was just Frank. I couldn't handle this. I was just as vulnerable now as I was with a guitar strapped to me.
"Will they live?"
Ray was leaning in towards Brian, his eyes wide with disbelief. The entire air in here hung heavy with doubt, fear, and the notion of insanity. I felt like choking, but kept my face lowered towards the ground. Brian shook his head again.
"No. They were already dead by the time authorities got here. It's--"
"Did they catch him?"
Gerard shifted uncomfortably when I spoke, but I ignored him, hanging impatiently on Brian's unspoken answer. A red drop of blood fell to the floor between my feet, and I nearly freaked, my hands already up to my neck in defense, before I tasted the iron on my lip. My stomach was churning and my eyes felt heavy, albeit alert.
Brian waited a moment before speaking, but when he did, his voice was low and hollow, discarded of any emotion that may have belied his unease.
"They don't have any suspects. The FBI just got here, so hopefully something will turn up, but until then, we have no leads of any kind--"
"Bullshit," I snarled, sensing Gerard move again when I did so. Everyone else looked up at me. "That's bullshit," I repeated, another drop of blood falling to the floor. My lip was starting to throb now. I looked up at them. Bob, concerned; Ray, frightened; Mikey, disbelieving; Brian, curious, and Gerard...Gerard was silently pleading for me to drop it.
"The fucking kid, Gerard!" I said, directing my words at him. "The one that threatened to kill you, the one that tried to bite me, the one that's been stalking us these past two weeks! No fucking leads--/no fucking leads!"/ I hissed, shooting venom.
"Frank, calm down--"
"No. Fuck this shit. I know what I saw."
"It's one of those cult things! I swear to high fucking heaven, it's those fucked up kids pretending to be vampires! You all saw it, on the news!"
They all looked at me. Brian stood there uncertainly, his brow furrowed incredulously. Mikey and Ray kept their hands in their laps, absolutely still, while Gerard ran a hand across the back of his neck, his eyes soft and broken.
"Jesus Christ," Bob whispered.
Another drop of blood fell and stained the carpet.
He dabbed my busted lip with a wet towel gently, one hand carefully placed on my shoulder, but I batted him away.
"Gerard, listen to me--"
He tried again. "Frank, you're bleeding. You need to..."
I batted him away again, getting irritated. Three kids, three fans/, loyal fucking fans that had come to /our show, to support /us/, were dead, and it was our fault. And all Gerard was worrying about was my fucking lip and how I was getting blood everywhere.
"Jesus, Gerard, who the fuck cares? It's just--"
"I care!" Gerard shouted back, his eyes narrowed as he pushed me slightly. The bathroom was small, and I felt my back touch the wall.
That took me over the edge. I hated being pushed around; I was bullied enough in high school, where I was a fucking loser, and I didn't need it from this little faggot when I had finally made something out of myself. I pushed him back. Harder.
"Oh, what? Worried that I'll bleed all over your precious uniforms? You're so fucking--"
"I'm just trying to clean up your goddamn cut, and you're being--"
We were fighting, it was obvious. But it wasn't Gerard I was pushing. It wasn't Gerard I was yelling and screaming at. It wasn't Gerard that had finally set me over the edge. He was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, and had become my outlet.
"I don't care! I don't care if I bleed all over this fucking bathroom and die on the cold tile floor--hey! Wouldn't that be fun? Just about as magical as the time I found you like that, curled against the fucking shower and slowly freezing your body until you were fucking blue! We could--"
"Shut up, Frank!"
"--might as well just die--"
"Frank, listen to yourself--"
"--good to live for--"
"Don't you know who you sound like?!"
I stopped and looked at him. His hair was plastered to his face at an odd angle, still mussed up from the sweat of the show, and his face was broken and pale. The towel he had in his hand hung limply in front of him, small flecks of red dotting the otherwise soft baby blue surface.
I felt my anger ebb away at the sight of his face, and I let my hands fall from where they had been cruelly pushed against his shoulders. I sighed and felt my emotional system collapse. I felt nothing.
"Who do I sound like?"
He stared at me, and I knew. Is this what he felt like then? What I felt like taking care of him those years ago?
"Don't turn out like me," he said, and I just nodded. I just fucking nodded and inhaled and tasted blood on my lip. The iron struck me again like a weight on my chest, and I saw flashes of the bodies falling to the floor, hair spread out on the ground and limbs sprawled melodramatically as if to say: Look. I'm dead. No really, look. Dead.
I choked back a sob as he brought the towel up again, steadying my shoulder with his hand. I tried to pull back.
"Gerard, don't. Please."
He reached forward again.
"It needs to be cleaned up. It looks like shit."
I pulled back again, mirroring his movements in reverse. "Yeah, well, that's not that uncommon right now, is it?"
"Frank, I'm serious. There's blood all over your chin."
"I don't care."
He dug his fingers gently into my shoulder, but I tried to shrug him off. Contact at this point made me feel dirty. Sick. Illegal.
"That's great," I replied sarcastically, my arms hugging my lower stomach.
"--why won't you just--"
"--need to be fucking /cleaned/--"
"--look worse by tomorrow--"
"--won't just drop it--"
"Just let me do this, Frank!" he shouted, and I stopped, my mouth still open. He placed his forehead against mine, and time clicked backwards until my emotions had regressed back into the insane calm of the morning, and my shoulders relaxed and my body went weak.
"Let me do this," he whispered again, rocking me gently side to side with him.
I nodded, and waited patiently for him to clean the blood off of my face.
Three days later the commotion had started to die down, and the news had replayed so many times, in so many different ways, that even we weren't exactly sure what happened that night anymore.
I was still convinced that Lincoln did it.
Bob and Mikey figured it was just some disgruntled kids with a ironic taste for vengeance on the band.
Ray didn't comment one way or the other, and kept telling us that we were trying to hard to figure it out. That it was the result that mattered, not the process.
Gerard merely nodded at whatever you told him, and you could never tell if he was agreeing or just trying to avoid a confrontation. Both seemed reasonable, because Gerard could be a secretive bastard when he desire hit him, and arguing with his band was undoubtedly the worst experience for him--he'd remain broken up about it for days.
Brian told us the world was a fucked up place, and not everyone loved our music.
I told him it was a shitty excuse to kill kids, then.
And Gerard muttered "fuckin' vampires" and shut us up for a good four hours.
I stared at my reflection in the television, watching as my head rose and fell gently with Gerard's chest. It was still early in the morning, and why we were both awake was a thought process that was beyond either of us at this hour. The others were still asleep; no noise could be heard beyond the closed door besides the rolling of the tires smoothly across the ground, like a ball in a miniature golf course.
I wrinkled my nose, wondering exactly how I could compare the drive to golf. It made me think of the shitty course we had back home, in the campground miles away from our house; it was torn up around the edges, the ends fraying out little green plastic spider legs, and was covered in leaves and small dead animals and insects. I used to go there with my cousin every weekend, before she moved to California.
"When are we going back?" I asked quietly, rubbing my head gently against his shirt. I meant going /home/, but I didn't say that. It sounded childish.
Gerard moved until one hand was behind his head and the other was resting on the small of my back, a habit he had picked up in the past few days.
"About four more days," he replied. "We do one more show, and then it's on a plane and back to the states. Why? I thought you liked England?"
I sniffed. "I liked it before your songs started coming alive."
He made a sympathetic noise in the back of his throat and rubbed my hip reassuringly, leaning down to kiss the top of my head. "Aww, sugar. We'll be home soon."
My stomach twitched uncomfortably at his words, and I turned my face away from him slightly so he wouldn't see the sudden tinge in my cheeks, before giving up that thought entirely and simply sliding off of his body and falling next to him ungraciously.
"Are you ready to go back?"
He nodded. "I like Japan better anyway."
I smiled and he stretched his other hand behind his head as well, staring vacantly at the ceiling while his shirt rode up to his middle.
It was a comforting thought--that he let me see him like this. Even after he had lost all that weight, even the mention of being in someone's presence not fully clothed seemed to deter him from whatever was happening. He never walked around the bus with his shirt off, like the rest of us, but kept himself--particularly his midriff--covered at all times.
Just to be sure, I reached a hand over and placed it against the flesh between his pants and shirt, but he didn't even flinch. I grinned like an idiot and began rubbing gentle circles across the pale expanse of stomach. He didn't respond, but continued to watch the air above him, his eyes moving slowly across it. A small ray of light shone through the curtains and lay flat across his middle, and I found myself tracing its pattern, like a guided path.
I shifted until I was on my side, facing him, yet keeping my eyes directly on the movement of my hand.
"Look, I'm sorry for... for being weird. About. You know."
He turned to face me, eyes deep and reflective in the crossfire of my verbal denial and physical acceptance.
"What do you mean?"
I shrugged and gestured helplessly to his body. Mine. The limited space between us. "You know. This. I'm sorry I'm such a bitch about it."
He turned away. "It's alright."
Normally I could've taken that as a reasonable, acceptable answer, but the way he shrugged it off and refused to meet my eyes concerned me, and I shifted closer.
"What do you mean 'it's alright'?"
He still wasn't looking at me. The light had led my hand a little higher, closer to the hem of his shirt.
"It's alright. I get it. Really."
"Gerard, you're acting weird. I'm trying to apologize, and I want you to understand that--"
"Really, Frank. It's okay. I do understand."
I reached up and gripped his shirt tightly, earning no reaction from him. "What do you understand?" I asked. "Tell me."
"What you're feeling. It's okay."
I sighed. "Gerard, listen. Okay?"
He hesitated, then nodded. I wondered what the fuck he could be looking at over there that was more interesting than our discussion.
"I didn't... I'm just confused. It's not that I don't..." I trailed off, suddenly unable to find the words I wanted so much for him to pay attention to. "It's just that I don't--"
I paused, wondering if now was the moment where the stars in movies reach out and turn the other person's face close towards theirs, tell them how much they love them, and then kiss. But, of course, those people were paid money, didn't have to like each other, and could repeat the scene as often as necessary to get it right. They didn't have to worry about screwing something up, or regretting, or being the same fucking /gender/.
I didn't turn his face towards mine. I didn't confess or kiss or do anything that I should've done. I just let my hand trace the light across the bottom of his ribs and continued where I had left off.
"It's just that I'm not--"
I stopped again, even ceasing the movements of my hand. I almost felt his shift in displeasure at the loss of touch, but he didn't say anything; I could see the corner of his eye, looking blankly at the wall for a solution to his torment.
"Don't use that word," I said, almost automatically, choosing to ignore the obvious fact that there were so many better things to say in that situation.
"Why not?" he asked, his voice bitter. "What else would you call me? I fell for my best friend. I fell hard. And, sure, you're small and you're girly and you're absolutely everything to me except for the one thing that matters to everyone else in the world. You're not a girl. So what does that make me? A fag."
My heart thumped loudly against my chest before ripping open and spilling everything valuable to me to the bottom of my stomach, forcing me to digest it. His body gave a small shiver when I moved my hand again, and I could almost feel his overwhelming urge to hide himself. Before he could make the choice, however, I leant down and kissed the bare skin gently, lifting my eyes up to look into his, which he had finally turned back towards me out of curiosity.
He swallowed visibly. "Frank, don't. You're not this. Just... with Jamia. I'll apologize. You should get married and have kids and--"
"You know what I realized today, Gerard?" I interrupted him, my fingers caressing his hip lightly. "I think I know where you're coming from."
"What do you mean?" he echoed me, from only minutes before, and I leant down.
"I fell for my best friend," I whispered. "I fell hard. And sure, he's the lead singer of a huge band, and no one could ever have a chance, and I think he slips things into my drinks, but what can I say? He's everything to me."
"Jesus, Frank," he groaned, trying to push me off. "Don't be a bitch. I was being serious."
I shrugged, meeting his eyes and forcing him to keep the gaze. "So was I. And hell, if you're a fag, then I guess I am too. Since you're only as bad as the guy you let take control, right?"
"You're not a fag," he repeated, turning away.
"Don't use that word like that."
He looked back, giving me an incredulous stare. "What the fuck? You just said it like, four seconds ago."
I scrunched up my nose. "You say it funny."
He snorted. "And how do I say it?"
"Like it's a bad thing."
I kissed his stomach again, feeling the small, two-inch wide spot of warm from the gap in the curtains on my face, before inching my way up to his mouth.
"Tell me I'm not a fag," I whispered challengingly.
"You're not a fag," he said, refusing to meet my gaze.
I kissed the side of his mouth, my thumb rubbing circles over his hip. "Tell me."
I climbed on top of him and pressed my lips against his momentarily, leaving ghosts of touches in my wake. "Tell me."
His eyes slipped closed for a second. "Frank..."
My arms wrapped around his neck and I burrowed my face into his shoulder, breathing in his scent and entwining my leg with his. His body was warm, and I knew my nose had to be cold against his skin, but if he minded he didn't say anything, just brought a hand back up to place against my back. I sighed into him, fully relaxing and wondering if I could lay there long enough to sink into his body entirely. His hand was rubbing soothing circles on the base of my spine, and I turned and kissed the side of his cheek tenderly.
"I love you."
He placed his hand on top of mine, adding more pressure to his hip, and turned to snuggle into my neck.
"I love you to, you fucking fag."
I had called almost everyone I could think of, starting with my parents.
"I saw the report on the news," my mom had whispered. "Those people are horrible. Frank, honey, are you alright?"
"Yeah," I mumbled breathlessly. "I'm fine."
Next came Lee, a girl I had known for years--an intern at Eyeball records, just like Mikey. Her voice was soft and pure while she assured me that everything was going to be okay, and I almost wished I was on the other side of the phone standing next to her. She just sounded so safe.
"I have some things you might find interesting," she said, and I heard the tapping of a keyboard in the background. "I could send them to you, if you'd like."
I agreed, giving her my email address but not pursuing the topic of what exactly it was that she was sending me. Part of me whimpered in curiosity, while the other shrugged and swallowed the uneasy feeling of trepidation.
When I had finally run down my battery calling nearly everyone on my contacts list, I sunk into my bed and stared at the number I had memorized for over seven years, my fingers hovering over the "send" button that glowed an almost mocking bright blue.
Finally, irritated with myself for letting the idea get to me, I jammed my finger against the button and pressed the phone to my ear, staring at the drawings in my bunk and feeling like a bastard.
"Frank? Oh, hey! It's good to hear from you. How are things?" She paused, before: "I heard about that accident."
I ran a hand through my hair, lacking not only the energy, but the motivation to lay my argument on the table and tell her that "accident" wasn't really the correct term.
"Yeah," I replied, "It was rough that night. But everything's pretty much back to normal here; we just played a show, and everything seemed to go smoothly."
Truth be told, I had been surprised at the normalcy of the set; even the outturn of kids shocked me, since I had figured our shows' fan base would have died down considerably if those who attended had the possibility of getting /murdered/.
"How about you?" I asked, pulling at a stray strand of my hair. "Is everything, you know, alright? Back in Jersey?"
"Everything's normal here. Well. Normal meaning Jersey normal. But people are curious. I heard a few people talking about what happened while I was in the mall the other day."
"And you?" I asked. "Are you okay?"
"Oh, I'm fine. Don't worry about me, Frank. Really."
My hand stopped moving and my attention was shifted over fully to the voice of the girl that, only a few weeks ago, I was so sure I was going to marry. I knew that tone. The coy, clandestine way she spilled the words delicately over the receiver caught and held my thoughts, and my eyes narrowed slightly as I sat up.
"Who is he?"
The silence that followed was long, but bearable, and I almost felt like laughing because I could picture the look on her face. Shock? Embarrassment? Guilt? Oh yes, we shared those emotions quite well.
She sighed into my ear. "Jeremy."
"Jeremy?" I echoed. "Jeremy Pace? The guy helping us out with Skeleton Crew?"
She didn't say anything, so I assumed she nodded, and I sighed. I wasn't sure how to feel. I couldn't say anything without being called a hypocrite.
"But it's not what you think, Frank, I swear. He was over, helping me calculate orders for the new shipment, and Gerard call--"
She broke off instantly, and I could hear the slight swallow of air as she shut her mouth in melodramatic horror.
"It's okay," I said softly. "I already know."
"Oh. Oh, did he tell you?"
"No. But." I hesitated, then asked: "Jamia? Tell me what happened."
Her voice sounded throughout my ear and deep into my brain as she spoke. "Remember that day you called and woke me up? Well, Gerard called first. He said that he had kissed you. I... I had asked him what you did. He said you ran away. And I..."
She trailed off, and I waited patiently, not making a noise, for her to continue.
"And I told him that you'd come back. That you always come back to him."
And with a sudden, stomach turning realization, I knew she was right. Off tour, I would make up excuses to drive down to Gerard's parents house. 'oh, listen to this track!' 'hey, you have to see my new car.' 'dude, I think I left my camera in your bag. Can I drive down and get it?'
I swallowed down the reaction I had to her words and tried to make my voice sound as nonchalant as possible, shifting and clearing my throat.
"Well that's great, but it still doesn't explain how you got together with Jeremy."
"He saw me crying." she said quickly, as if hearing it faster would cause me less pain. "He stayed with me that night and made me waffles the next morning. There wasn't any intimacy, but...it was something I needed. Especially when you called me the next week and told me you cheated on me. But don't worry," she added quickly, "He doesn't know."
There was another long pause, before I asked, "So, are you guys, like. Together?"
"I. I think so. Not on paper, anyway. Are you guys? You know."
I shrugged, wondering. Could we be called a couple? Comparable those people that walked down the street holding hands and playing punching one another before turning in a store and walking around for an hour, finally deciding that they didn't want anything anyway, and they might as well go get some food. And the day looked completely wasted, and yet felt completely filling. Were we like that?
"I don't know," I answered honestly.
"But?" she pressed, almost teasingly, and I knew instantly the words that she wanted me to say. And I found, with a sickening realization, that I had no problem saying them to her.
"But I think I love him.
I felt her smile. "I know."
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