the turning point (everything is a stage, for you)
"Are you sure we should be doing this?"
"Look, it's fine. Just, come on. We're already late, and Brian's called like, four times."
I picked up the pace and trudged along behind Gerard, my cold hands stuffed into my pockets as I tried to ignore the way the hairs on the back of my neck seemed to stand up in the chill of the air. They seemed to be doing that a lot lately though. Bob, Ray, and Mikey were already up ahead, and I could faintly hear their light laughter and conversation before they disappeared behind the doors of the studio.
The air felt dim and electrifying. Unsteady. Like current passing through water. I shivered again and huddled further into my faux fur jacket, telling Gerard outright that I wished he would have let me stay in my bunk.
"Brian's orders," Gerard shrugged, black hair whipping against his face in the slight breeze. "Besides, the fans are freaked. We don't want to upset them more by telling them you're sick. They love you."
"Well, bully for me," I muttered heartlessly, but Gerard smiled, because he knew I didn't really mean it.
The interviewer asked standard questions: how the response for the new record had been compared to previous ones; how life had been on the road; if we were enjoying England; what's the story behind "The Black Parade," just standard stuff. Questions that we had heard thousands of times before and questions that Gerard never minded answering in, miraculously, the same peppy tone he used the first time he spoke in an interview post-record release.
I heard that the fans harp on him for taking the spotlight all the time in interviews. Truth be told, none of us really wanted it, and he thrived on attention, so it's almost like killing two birds with one stone.
There were kids on the other side of the window studio, their faces pressed up against the glass to watch the interview. I scratched the tip of my nose idly, a bit shameful and guilty that they made me feel more like a god than a simple kid that got lucky. I tried to ignore them the best I could, but their blinking, fascinated eyes made me have to fight the urge to stand up and tell them that I'm just some guy from Jersey that happens to be good at guitar. There are a shit load of guys better than me, go worship them.
I kept trying to tell myself that I'm just being an ass because I was bitter, but I wouldn't fucking listen. To, you know, myself.
I was currently contemplating faking a sudden urge to puke due to prior intoxication, during which I could run back to the bus and catch up on sleep, when the sound of my name shook me out of my false hopes and I snapped my head up quickly and cricked my neck.
"Yeah, Frank and I were talking about that the other day, when...Frank? Are you alright?"
I was grimacing in pain, my hand pressed hard against my neck in the classic Frank way of getting rid of pain (injuring it out). I hadn't had a crick this bad in years, and all I wanted to do was fall to the floor and roll around the ground in agony until the torture had let up. It sounded a little extreme, but it seemed more appropriate at the moment than looking up at Gerard and saying 'oh, yeah, I'm fine. Just, you know, continuing bullshitting for the next twenty minutes while I hobble to a corner and bang my head against the wall.'
But a hand was pushing mine away and replacing it with nimble fingers that began to work at my flesh, rolling against my neck gently to ease the tension I had built up, and I felt my shoulders relax and a low sigh escape my lips as the pain became bearable, slowing turning into a throbbing annoyance rather than a blistering volt. The touch was soft against my skin, and I leant into it, eyes slipping shut as the lingering caress switched back and forth between feather light touches and a comforting massage.
But then I opened my eyes lazily and caught sight of the interviewers face. Her head was tilted slightly and her eyes narrowed in confused, and look of pure befuddlement on her features, as well as...
I looked over at Gerard, who was rubbing my neck gently with one hand, his vital purpose in the interview suddenly forgotten. His eyes were soft and concerned and I barely had time to register that his full attention was, for once in public, fully focused on me, before Ray cleared his throat loudly, causing Gerard to look back. Ray gave him a pointed look. His hand dropped to his side.
"Oh. Right. Sorry. Where, um..." he brought his hands back together in his lap, turning them distractedly, "Where were we?"
The interviewer said something, but it didn't register in my head. I tore my eyes away from Gerard to the kids beyond the window. A few of the boys looked skeptical, while the rest were still listening intently, apparently unaware that anything strange had happened. The majority of the girls, however, were slowly clustering together and texting rapidly.
I stole a glance at Gerard, but he refused to meet my gaze.
Fuck fuck fuck.
For the rest of the interview, Gerard's answers were mechanical and short, until the lady finally got the hint and declared it officially over, wrapping up the conversation and telling each of us how happy she was to meet us and to thank us for our time. I didn't look at her once and she didn't seem to mind when her farewell to me was completely ignored. I could hear the smile in her voice. Even when she asked for news about the attacks -- "We have no more leads at this time," was Gerard's finalizing reply -- I could still sense the undeveloped tone of curiosity and conclusions in her demeanor of speech. I almost wanted to hate her, if I didn't think she was so fucking clever.
Ray, Mikey, and Bob volunteered to go downstairs and pick up some coffee from the recently installed Starbucks. Gerard offered to go with them, but they shook their heads and waved him off, laughing behind knowing smiles. Gerard shifted from one foot to the other before finally relenting and allowing himself to walk out of the doors with me, hitting the cold breeze with a broken ego.
We walked in silence for the first ten minutes, setting a straight path to the bus and keeping our line of vision directly on the ground, following tar-repaired crack after tar-repaired crack until he finally found his voice.
"You're not mad at me, are you?"
He fell silence again after that, still seeming extremely uneasy next to my side as we walked, so I took it upon myself to say the words that were etched into our heads and burning onto our eyes.
"This is something more, isn't it? This isn't a tour thing."
The pause after my words was too short to be considered hesitant, and if that wasn't the factor that belied our ease with the situation, I wouldn't know what else we'd have to do that wouldn't require a formal announcement over the internet.
"You mean, like for loneliness, or whatever?"
"Doesn't that...that doesn't bother you?"
We had reached the bus now, and we stood in front of the door, facing each other like we were saying goodbye -- one of us getting on, one of us crawling back to the studio -- and it made me nervous. Not that we were making eye contact, not that we were talking about, not that neither of those bothered me, but because the thought of leaving it behind scared me. I was nervous because I wanted it. And he knew, just like I did, but the truth never stopped me from denying whatever I felt I needed to.
And he knew. He was the object on my mind. He knew he was being weighed, and measured, and torn apart by my inner demons as they picked at his brain, his life, his being. He was in the spotlight, and for the first time in years, it made him nervous. He was afraid.
But he took the leap of faith. Cupping my face in his hands, he moved forward and pressed a kiss to my lips, closed mouth, a simple gesture to prove his worth and his ability to be in that spotlight. To tell me that, yes, he was afraid; and yes, he wasn't sure what to do; but he was there, and he held the stage, and it didn't matter what he had to do, but he was going to captivate my audience and stand in that center stage until I kicked him off.
"No," he whispered. "It doesn't."
I leant forward to place my face into the curve of his neck and entwined his fingers with mine, murmuring into the cotton of his shirt.
"Frank, you've got mail."
Ray clicked a few times on the keyboard, his head cocking to the side as he stared at the screen from his position on the far chair. I had let him borrow my laptop to play a few hours of World of Warcraft, with the promise that he would recharge it after he was done (a vicious habit I had, thanks to a certain Mikey Way that neglected to charge it after playing on it for six hours straight).
"Who's it from?" I asked, not entirely concerned. It was probably spam, and I was much more comfortable lying back on the couch with my book, running my fingers through Gerard's hair as he leaned against the couch, sketchpad propped against his knees, than I would be getting up to investigate someone trying to sell me a new car in German.
"Acrobolee at...hotmail. Know them?"
I nodded. "Yeah, it's Lee from Eyeball. What's she want?"
There was another click of the keyboard, and Ray was reading out loud, "'Hey Frank, I thought you might want to read this, in case it helps. Much love, Lee.' It looks like a couple of links underneath it," Ray said, scrolling.
Gerard's pencil had stopped moving, and I was beginning to wonder if he enjoyed my fingers through his hair just a little too much, but I motioned for Ray to continue. "Well? Click on them. Probably something about the best way to deal with obsessive fans. Pepper spray or... stunt doubles, or something."
"It's coverage of a court case," Ray said after a minute, his eyes narrowed as he studied the page closely.
My interest was perked, and I looked up, my hand faltering in Gerard's hair. He sighed softly.
"Yeah?" I asked. "A case for what?"
"Some kid -- Rod Ferrell, I think, killed a couple with a crowbar a few years ago. He was tried, blah blah blah, only seventeen, blah blah blah..."
"Why is she sending me /that?/" I asked, bewildered, smiling as I ran my fingers across Gerard's cheekbone, causing him to mewl softly and turn into the touch.
Ray "hmm"ed slightly, studying the screen, before proclaiming, "Oh, he was the leader of some vampire cult, apparently. Jesus, it looks like his mother encouraged his behavior. Sick."
"Was he convicted?" I asked, running my hand softly against Gerard's cheek and neck, slipping my fingers teasingly under the hem of his shirt. He looked uncomfortable and kept gripping his sketchbook tightly, a half-finished drawing of kids on a swing set on it. He kept turning his face into my touch, seeking more of it.
"Yeah," Ray muttered, "he confessed."
"Good. The sentence?" Gerard had finally turned his head quick enough to grab one of my fingers with his teeth and was kissing it gently, biting the flesh lightly whenever the urge struck him. My book and his sketch lay forgotten on our laps.
"The electric chair," Ray replied, his voice low. "He's the youngest person ever to walk death row."
"Excellent," I muttered, resuming running my fingers across Gerard's cheek before he grabbed my hand and placed it on his chest. I wasn't sure what we were doing, and we probably looked extremely awkward, but it didn't matter. We were enjoying the attention from each other.
"There's another link here to a wikipedia page. Something called "por...porphyria"; you ever heard of it?"
"Nah," I replied, shaking my head, watching with detailed interest as Gerard ran my hand up his chest and placed a kiss to the palm of my hand, tracing the circle where my engagement ring had once rested. I smiled and he looked up at me through heavy lidded eyes, kissing my hand once again, and I felt something drop in the pit of my stomach.
"Frank, this is really cool, come check it out."
"Maybe, uh, maybe later," I said, watching Gerard carefully as he stared at me, barely blinking, bringing my hand back to his chest and moving it down until it rested against his stomach. He felt warm. Warmer than usual. "Ray, do you think you could--?"
Ray looked up, caught sight of us, and made a face. "Yeah, yeah, whatever. I'll leave this open here, okay?"
I nodded. "Thanks man."
He smiled, "No problem," before exiting the room and disappearing behind the bunk area curtain, yelling quite blatantly, "They're doing it again!"
"Doing what?" A Bob like shout came.
"Being little fucktards!"
"Clever, Ray," came Mikey's cruel-humoured voice.
Gerard smiled and flicked his eyes back up to meet mine; my heart jolted and I wondered how it was possible for someone to look that fucking seductive without even moving. I leant down hurriedly and met him for a heated kiss, letting him maneuver my hand to grip his side as I felt his fingers tangle in my hair.
"God /dammit/, I fucking hate you," I said quickly, pulling away.
"I know," he grinned mischievous, his thumb ghosting across my neck, "Now are you going to come down, or am I going to have to climb up there?"
The "Red Death" had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal -- the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of half an hour.
From "The Red Death" by Edgar Allan Poe
The bus pulled to a stop a mile or so away from the airport. We would be taking a van over the rest of the way. I could hear the roar of the airplane engines before I looked into the sky to scout them out, my hand over my eyes to shield the faint hint of bright sun in the cold morning. "Yeah?"
"Are you alright?"
I looked over at Gerard, his eyes curious and expressive as he zipped up a bag and threw it into the van, earning a disapproving shout from Brian, who was packing everything in nice and neat and obsessively.
I grinned. We were going home. The final show of the UK had been performed not more than 12 hours ago, and the plane that awaited to take us back was only a fifteen minute drive away. I hadn't been this happy since the day we left for this god-forsaken tour.
And I had one last glorious look at Gerard's content face, Brian's irritated scowl as he tried to make an iPod-hearing-impaired Mikey give him his bags, a coffee-sipping Bob in the front seat, and a gameboy-addict Ray in the back before my entire world shattered.
And it had been so perfect.