Alright, know what? I don't like summaries. They give things away before you even get to the story.
“What happens when this is all over? What happens when the year is up and I’m supposed to leave?” Egan asked as they drove home from the hospital. Back to the golden birdcage, she thought glumly to herself.
“Whoa, where did that come from?” Gerard was taken aback.
“Just thinking about my future. Being forced to lie still in a bed for two days, which was completely unnecessary, gave me time to think. By the way, I need to get a job soon. At this rate, I’ll never pay you back for everything.”
“I told you, you don’t have to do that. Providing for you is something I’m supposed to do.”
“No, providing for me is something parents or significant others do. You are neither. Now please do not fight me on this, because I will win.”
“I can be just as stubborn as you.”
“Gerard, I mean it. I will start screaming again if need be.” Gerard sighed. You had to pick your battles sometimes.
“Fine, whatever, you can pay me back. Insult my chivalry. It’s not as if it matters to you anyway.”
“You’re gonna have to work harder than that, I’m infallible to guilt.” Refusing to be goaded, Gerard continued driving silently until Egan decided to bring them back to the point. “So what’s gonna happen?” she asked.
“Hmm? Oh. Uh…Well, you go out and make your way in the world, becoming an upstanding pillar of society, holding a steady job and buying a suburban house with matching SUV. That’s what I think is supposed to happen.”
“Doesn’t sound too appealing to me.”
“Well that’s not the only way to go, of course. It’s just the most preferred and popular route I think.” He hesitated, fingers flexing minutely on the wheel, turning his knuckles whiter. “You could always stay on…if you wanted. The house is certainly big enough. And currently, you’re homeless enough. It’s another way to go.” He finished with a shrug. He was pleased at his fake indifference. No one would know that suggesting the idea had made his heart pound.
“Yeah,” she murmured,” That’s another way to go.” She hunched over in the front passenger seat, picking at her nails, a bad habit she’d gotten from Gerard. He’d done an awful lot of it while she was in the hospital. Absently Gerard switched on the radio. A popular Willie Nelson song sang out of the Bose speakers.
“Dude, what is it with you and country? I mean, I respect the classics, but this fucking sucks.”
Egan was safe and sound, asleep downstairs in the almost-Ways’ room. Gerard was upstairs on the second floor in his bedroom, drinking a cup of coffee before beginning his nightly battle for slumber. He was thinking about what he’d done. He’d offered for Egan to stay on living in the house even after the year was up. That was a fucking big deal. This whole living situation was a fucking big deal. Because you know who usually lives together?
Significant others. As in partners. Spouses. Lovers. Boyfriends and girlfriends, or any combination of the two.
And he and Egan were living together. The parallels drew themselves. Granted, they didn’t sleep in the same bed, or even the same bedroom. They slept with an entire floor between them. And, yes, it was true that there was no romantic relationship occurring between them currently. They fought regularly and loudly.
But there was something there, right?
He wasn’t imagining stuff, right?
This wasn’t just wishful thinking, right?
And why did he even care if something was there? He didn’t care about Egan anyway, did he? At least, not as more than a good friend, little sister kind of caring? And Egan didn’t care for him in that way either. But there were doubts, doubts…what had she been doing that night after she got her tattoo? That wasn’t romantic, but it was definitely something. Sexual. Or…whatever.
The way she acted around Frank, though, when she held his hand. The way they talked with each other, about everything under the sun. The way she’d smiled at Mikey when they’d met, sweet and happy and a little goofy. She didn’t do those things for him. She cried when she was with him. That’s not loving someone.
And could he care for Egan anyway? Wasn’t it betrayal? Kind of? Maybe? What about his ex-fiancée? It hadn’t been that long, several months, a year maybe. Was he…allowed to think about anyone else? She had been his oxygen for so long that when she had left, he had found it hard to breathe. But he hadn’t been hung up on her all day, every day since…a little after Egan arrived, maybe? And now, he wasn’t finding it quite so difficult to breathe. In fact, sometimes he could almost be a whole, normal, functioning, respirating person. Like when Egan was with him.
When she’d stopped screaming, when she’d fallen down and was lying still, he’d found that time to be the hardest for him to breathe since…God, he couldn’t even remember how long. Maybe since ever. Maybe it had never been that hard before.
She took his breath away. How cheesy.
But, you know, she kind of did. And it was kind of nice. Sometimes.
How did she feel? He’d probably give his right hand right now to know. Because suddenly it was urgent. And suddenly it mattered more than anything else. Like sleep. Or fear. Or rejection. He had to find out now.
The light in Egan’s room flipped on. She was barely visible, scrunched down under the covers, the lump she was making at least twice her size. It seemed she was too deep under all the layers of cloth for the light to penetrate. Gerard walked over to the bed, still riding the high he had experienced up in his room.
“Egan? Hey, Egan, wake up for a minute, okay?” No response. “Egan? Egan, this is important. Wake up for just a second, I need to tell you something.” Coma patients were not this deep in slumber. More forceful tactics were in order. This was a moment of great urgency. He backed up to the doorway and took a running leap. The bed shook with his impact and Egan shot straight up, head spinning wildly all around.
“What? What is it? WHAT’S WRONG?!?!”
“Nothing, nothing, Egan, nothing. Calm down, sit down, that’s it…” he soothed her as she slowly sank into a sitting position on the bed.
“Jesus fucking Christ Gerard—“
“Not you too.” He muttered.
“—Why would you scare me like that? I almost had a heart attack! I might still have a heart attack! I hope you’ve got a phone handy in case we need to make a return trip to the hospital! Ask them if they’d have my usual room ready, would you?”
“Egan, be serious for a second.”
“I am being serious! Serious as a heart attack, in fact!”
“No, stop talking about your heart, listen to me for a second. I have something to say.”
“It had better be the fucking secret to life after what you’ve just put me through.”
“You’re ruining the moment.” Egan fell moodily silent. Suddenly the nerves hit Gerard like a tsunami. Thoughts such as ‘What the fuck’ and ‘Oh, holy shit!’ floated across his otherwise empty brain. Why was he here? What was he doing? Was she wearing a bra? It didn’t look like it. Were girls supposed to sleep in bras? Some girls did, he knew that from experience. Wait, he was here for something.
Oh, holy motherfucking shit. What was he doing? He wallowed in the blank horror at what he was preparing to say before courageously deciding to jump ship. It was sink or swim at this point, and he didn’t have all that much to lose. Just Egan.
She’d just take his breath away again is all.
“I…I…I…” he chickened out. He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t say what he meant to. He settled for “I was wondering what, um, you wanted for breakfast.” What? What the hell? What kind of question was that?
Egan fixed him with a stare as to put the fear of God in him.
“I am going back to bed. Get out of my room. Tomorrow I am moving out. Goodnight.” She said all this in a measured, precise voice. She then laid back down and rolled so that her back was to Gerard. Gerard starting panicking, hard core.
“What? No! I meant-I was trying to-that’s not what-don’t-you can’t-how could you-N-N-NO!”
“Yes. Get out.” She said without turning over to look at him.
“Godammit, YES Gerard!”
“You can’t move out!”
“Oh, I’m real scared of you. You are not going to stop me, and neither is Frank, and neither is your brother, and neither is your mother, and neither is the fucking state of New Jersey! Now GOODNIGHT!”
“No! It is NOT goodnight! I can stop you, I will stop you, and there isn’t a thing you can do about it!” Egan muttered something that sounded like “You wanna bet?” as she got up from the bed and grabbed a pair of jeans and a shirt, heading to the bathroom. She slammed the door shut and Gerard could hear her getting dressed. He heard occasional mutterings issuing from the bathroom. “Outside his mind…stop me…like’d to kill me dead…kill him dead…can’t keep me here…” and the like floated under the crack of the door.
“Egan? What are you doing?”
“Getting dressed. Get away.”
“No. Come out.”
“No. Go die.”
“No. Come and hear what I have to say.”
“No. Leave me be.”
“No. Please just hear me out for a second.”
“No. Let me pack in peace.”
“No. Let me explain.”
“No. Go call me a cab. I’ll even let you pay for it, I know how that thrills you.”
He almost laughed. “No. Just slow down for a second.”
“I am not arguing with you on this Gerard.” He could hear things being dropped into a bag. “I am packing and ignoring you. Now get.”
“No. Stop and listen.”
“Please.” He heard her sigh and the sounds of things dropping into a bag quieted. He hurriedly continued. Carpe diem and all that, you know? “I really, really, really am so sorry that I frightened you and woke you up and made you angry. I wanted to talk to you but you were asleep and you wouldn’t wake up—“
“I’m a heavy sleeper. That doesn’t give you an excuse to make me go into cardiac arrest.”
“—You are absolutely right, it does not give me an excuse, and once again I apologize profusely for making that mistake. And all I’m asking is that you delay your departure long enough for me to tell you what I have to say.” He heard her sigh again. Then the lock on the bathroom door clicked and she was standing in front of him—still in her pajamas he noted, to his immense relief—angry, but listening. This time it was his turn to sigh, but with relief, not anger.
“I’m here now. I’m not making promises.”
“What do you want?” This really was it. It really was sink or swim.
“To tell you that I’m in love with you.” She didn’t move. No emotion, no indication of how she felt. Her face stayed smooth and hard as stone. Then it started to turn red and her face squinched up, looking stormy and mad.
So it was sink, then. He felt his lungs collapse.
Her face continued to turn red, and her eyes filled with tears. She put a tiny, tattooed hand over her mouth and started to rock back and forth, breathing very hard. The tears overflowed and spilled down her white cheeks, now scarlet with emotion. Then she started to make a keening, coughing, ragged jagged sound as she inhaled, still rocking back and forth.
He fought to draw breath. It was impossible.
She continued to make that sound, but her rocking slowed. Her hand came down from her mouth and gripped the duvet in a death hold. The rocking stopped as she stared at Gerard with wide, watery eyes.
Seconds were agony and Gerard still couldn’t breathe.
Egan was breathing hard, her chest heaving with the effort, making little sniffling sounds now and then.
Gerard’s throat was constricted beyond anatomical possibility.
Egan took a long, deep breath and let it out slowly, calming herself.
Gerard envied her this luxury. His throat muscles were burning mercilessly.
Egan blinked wetly.
Gerard watched her black eyes shine.
“Say it again.” Egan commanded.
He found his breath at last.
“I love you.” The tears spilled out of her eyes again and her mouth hung slack, lips parted. Her chin quivered causing her teeth to click together. She clenched her jaws to make them stop. She closed her eyes and swallowed hard.
“I wasn’t ever really gonna leave.” Silence echoed for a lifetime. “Not without you…….I guess I kind of love you too.”
“That’s good to know.”
I had to put this all the way down here so it was in no way visible while you were reading the story. Ahem.
Alright, remember in author’s note numero uno where I said they weren’t in a relationship of any kind, so don’t get excited? I now officially retract that statement.
I am pleased to announce the commencement of the romantic relationship of Gerard Arthur Way and Egan Alegra Caprice Ghirlandaio!
You know what to do.