Enormous thanks to giddygeek for beta, and to iuliamentis and missmollyetc and everyone else who's helped this along in the last five and a half months!
Frank/Gerard. NC-17. 12,032 words.
They didn't get any sleep while they were making the video.
I'm Not Sleeping (Trust Me)
"Okay," Frank said, eyeing the clock and doing the depressing math one more time. They had maybe three hours left until Brian would be knocking on the door and collecting them to go film their first honest to God serious fly-out-to-LA-for-two-days-of-filming music video. At this point the most Gerard would get was a nap, and Frank really just wasn't going to get to sleep at all.
"Seriously, Gerard, you have to at least lie down." It was jet lag, mostly; they'd been in Japan over the weekend, in New Jersey this morning.
Jet lag and the fact that for the first time since Frank had known him, Gerard wasn't swallowing anything that would help him sleep. He was out of practice doing it on his own.
"Sorry," Gerard said. He stopped pacing as abruptly as if he'd hit a wall, and came over to the bed where Frank was sitting. "Sorry, I--"
"I know," Frank muttered, ignoring the apologies. Sorry was one of Gerard's new reflexes. It was painfully sincere and completely meaningless at the same time. Frank grabbed Gerard by the arms and pushed him down flat on the hotel bed, laying down next to him with an arm and a leg thrown across to keep him still.
"Really, I--you should go crash with the other guys. You should get some sleep." Gerard was almost vibrating, like he was trying to still be pacing while lying down.
"Nah," Frank muttered, tightening his grip. He was on Gerard-duty tonight; if he went into the other room, Ray would have to come in and take over for him--at which point the existence of Gerard-duty would become painfully obvious to Gerard--plus then it would be Frank's turn all over again tomorrow night. It was only a few more hours, anyway. He'd pulled plenty of all-nighters for projects far less worthy.
"Just close your eyes, okay? We'll pretend we're sleeping. Get in character as sleeping guys. Totally method."
Frank knew without looking that Gerard had obediently closed his eyes. His whole body was rigid with the effort of holding still.
They were headed straight on toward the dawn of Gerard's fifth day sober. He'd been clean about a hundred hours now, give or take some time zones and Frank's imperfect grasp of when exactly they were supposed to count from--Gerard's last drink, or when he'd woken up afterward, when the shakes had stopped or when they'd started. Maybe they should count from the moment Gerard pulled his head out of the trash can and said, "I'm done, you guys, I mean it, I'm done."
Frank had no idea what time it had been then anyway. The only time he'd been keeping track of right then was how long Gerard had been puking continuously, and whether it had crossed the border from Jesus, why am I watching this to Okay, time to find out how to call 911 in Japan. He hadn't even really registered what Gerard said until the next day, when Gerard was sweating and shaking under a blanket on the plane, drying out. Gerard had buried his face against the seat back when the flight attendant came by with the drink cart, shaking his head frantically, and Frank had thought, a little awed, Shit, he meant it.
Frank sighed and rubbed his face against Gerard's shoulder. He couldn't even get Gerard under a stupid felt blanket now, but maybe his arm would do. At least they weren't trapped on a plane; he'd let Gerard up to pace some more if he had to, if lying still didn't help.
"Tomorrow's gonna be fine, Gee."
Gerard shivered a little harder. He hadn't actually admitted he was scared about tomorrow, but it wasn't like it wasn't obvious. Even if he weren't trying to do this sober he'd be scared, they all would; tomorrow was a big fucking deal.
Frank counted off reassurances with taps of his fingertips against Gerard's arm, for his own sake nearly as much as Gerard's.
"We'll be there. Brian will be there. We talked to Marc and the behind-the-scenes film guys, it's all arranged. There's gonna be no booze anywhere on the set, nobody's going out for drinks at the end of the day, nobody's going to bring you anything but all the coffee and cigarettes you can handle. Nobody's gonna let you wander off on your own and get into trouble. There's gonna be a green room for when you want off-camera, but somebody will always be with you. We set everything up. It's gonna be fine."
Frank felt Gerard try to nod and shake his head at the same time, still trembling. "It's just..."
Frank squeezed Gerard hard, and felt Gerard release a breath. "It's just not always gonna be like this, Frankie. You guys can't always--"
"We can today. We can tomorrow. We'll think of something for the day after that. We'll probably be practicing all day anyway." As long as he didn't say Bob's name, they might not have to go another round of Gerard freaking out about The Drummer Situation.
Gerard was silent for a while, and Frank couldn't tell whether Gerard was getting less tense or whether Frank was getting acclimated to it.
"I have to do it myself," Gerard said finally, just a whisper. "You can't do it for me."
Frank squeezed again. "We would if we could, man. We would make it easy if we could. Just let us make it not so hard, okay?"
Gerard maybe relaxed a little more. Frank wasn't sure.
Frank woke up with his face pressed down into Gerard's chest, his arms and legs wrapped around Gerard like Frank was a jockey and Gerard was a runaway horse. The first thing he felt was an awful spike of guilt and fear. He'd fallen asleep. He was supposed to be on Gerard-duty and he'd fallen asleep, and Gerard could have taken off and done anything while Frank was sleeping. He could have lost it completely because Frank wasn't awake to stop him.
Frank actually picked his head up; Gerard was blinking at him, dazed. Oh, God. Gerard had fallen asleep. Frank grinned blearily, feeling triumphant even through the sleep-fog. "Hey. You slept."
Gerard wrinkled his nose. "You made me. You fell asleep, and you wouldn't let me move. You were like a living straitjacket."
All Frank felt was relief, shameful as it was. He'd fallen asleep and stayed on duty anyway. He hadn't let Gerard get into trouble, hadn't even given him the chance.
"Oh," Frank said, and felt himself blushing a little. "Sorry, man, I..."
"No," Gerard muttered. He shifted his arm, and Frank let go belatedly. Gerard just reached up, touching his fingertips Frank's warm cheek. "It's all right. You don't trust me."
Frank winced, mostly because it was true.
"No, that's good," Gerard insisted. "You shouldn't. And you all said you wouldn't, but I wasn't sure, I didn't know if--but you really didn't. You were asleep and you still didn't trust me."
Frank squirmed a little at the backward praise, thinking about how he should maybe not be lying on top of Gerard anymore. He'd had just enough sleep to make him groggy, and getting up was going to take some effort. He had to work up to it. "So you had no choice."
Gerard nodded, smiling a little. "No choice."
"Score one for me, then," Frank said, and he gathered his strength and pushed himself up, meaning to get the hell off Gerard and maybe take a quick shower. Along the way, Frank's face passed Gerard's face, and Gerard's mouth was right there, still curved into the smallest possible smile. Frank had made Gerard sleep, and this was a big day. Fifth day sober--five days, that was starting to sound like it meant something--and the first day of the video.
Frank dropped a tiny, close-mouthed kiss on his lips.
Frank lifted his head and frowned, looking down at Gerard and trying to remember if he'd ever kissed Gerard off-stage before. Or while Gerard wasn't drunk.
He'd only known Gerard for three years, so, okay. Probably not.
"Hey," Frank muttered, still frowning, because Gerard looked scared, and that wasn't right at all. He leaned down and brushed another kiss across Gerard's mouth. "Hey, it's cool, hey."
Another kiss, and Gerard's mouth opened under his. Frank licked, and Gerard's mouth finally moved, but he was saying, "Frank," in a cracked, desperate voice.
Frank jerked back and Gerard still looked scared--hungry and scared, in a way that hit Frank hard in the gut, like he'd just put a beer in Gerard's hand. "Gee?"
Gerard moved under him, almost writhing, his hips rising between Frank's gripping thighs, and oh, oh shit, oh this was for real and for once Gerard was clear-eyed enough to see it.
Frank wasn't the alcoholic in this room, but he suddenly wanted a liquid breakfast so bad he could taste it. A beer, a joint, anything that would let him keep pretending it was just on stage, just a wasted friendly thing, anything that would give him some kind of cover. Gerard was looking right into him.
Gerard's hand closed on his shoulder, holding him away, squeezing painfully tight. "Frank, I--I can't. We talked about this."
Frank frowned again. Gerard said 'talked' like a serious thing, and there had been an ungodly amount of talking in the last few days. It wasn't like any of them had been sleeping, so they had time, and plenty to talk about from the Drummer Situation on down, but none of their vaguely official band discussions had covered who Gerard was allowed to make out with. Frank would remember that. Frank would have voted for himself, for sure.
He got it, then, just as Gerard said it. "I can't, we agreed. I don't make decisions that affect the band, not for the rest of the year at least, and that's only if I stay clean."
Frank swallowed hard, fighting a smile off his face. It would affect the band, if this was for real, if he and Gerard both wanted this for real. That was true. Frank wasn't allowed to make unilateral decisions for the band, either. But Gerard wasn't saying no, just I'm not allowed, and he was sober and looking up at Frank like he wanted this.
"Well, but," Frank said softly, "I mean, we've kissed before, right? If we kiss again, that's, uh, that's not a big decision."
Gerard's eyes went huge, wide in his pale face, and he bit his lip. Keeping quiet, waiting for a verdict from everybody else so he could quietly assent to it. It was just like every other decision they'd made in the last three days, from rider wording to rescheduling shows to that licensing thing that had taken Brian two hours and a white board flow chart to explain to them.
"I mean," Frank said, staring at Gerard's mouth and not moving his thighs from their grip on Gerard's hips. "Or, whatever, we should probably be getting up and getting dressed, right? Brian's going to be here in, like." He made himself look away to the alarm clock. "Like, twenty minutes. So I guess..."
"You're." Gerard's hand opened and closed on Frank's shoulder, and Gerard's mouth opened and let out a rusty sound. It took Frank a second to recognize it as a laugh. "You're really not making things less hard here, Frank."
"Oh," Frank said, against Gerard's mouth. He was really, really going to need that shower. It wouldn't take long. That'd give Gerard ten minutes on his own, he'd probably be okay for ten minutes. Five. Frank could leave the door open, maybe. "Sorry, man, I guess I kind of--"
"If you say suck at this," Gerard breathed, "I am going to kill you with my bare hands."
Frank kissed him, instead. Gerard's mouth opened under his, and Gerard's hand stayed on his shoulder, clutching and releasing with no sense of rhythm whatsoever.
It was weird, Gerard's mouth on his with no sour bite of alcohol to chase the kiss. It was maybe the best thing ever. Frank didn't stop until Ray pounded on the door and yelled, "Coffee!"
Gerard shoved him away so fast Frank nearly fell off the bed, and he lay on the edge laughing while Gerard scrambled off the bed and over to the door, unlocking it with a muttered curse.
"I see how I rate," he said, when Gerard kicked the door shut and turned back toward him.
But Gerard had a cup of coffee in each hand, and actually gave one to Frank without a fight, so Frank did know. He rated pretty fucking high.
Frank stood next to Ray at one corner of the huge pool while Marc got Gerard and a bunch of extras in swimsuits into position on the diving boards. The camera crew was setting up at the opposite end, and Frank and Ray were safely out of their way and, Frank figured, pretty much out of earshot.
Frank stared down at the toes of his own shoes, which looked weird under the uniform-costume pants. "I was thinking I would stay with Gee tonight."
He looked up when Ray didn't answer right away, and Ray was squinting at him. "It's my turn tonight."
"Yeah." Frank shrugged. "I dunno, I actually got him to go to sleep last night, I think I'm getting the hang of it."
"Whoa, hang on," Ray said, his voice dropping in register and volume both, "did you just say 'I'm bribing Gerard to stay sober with my ass'?"
Frank glared at Ray, who just watched him steadily.
"No." Frank looked across the pool at Gerard, who was standing on the end of the diving board but facing away from them, listening to Marc. "I said, 'I got tired of sleeping with people too fucked up to remember it afterward by the time I was nineteen, so I've been waiting for this.'"
"Shit," Ray muttered. "I liked my version better."
Frank sighed. Ray's version would probably be a lot less scary. "Yeah. I... it might end up like that anyway, I don't know. We didn't really--nothing's happened yet. I was just thinking."
"You realize--I mean, that's great as long as it works, but..."
Ray trailed off, and Frank could see him trying to choose the next word.
"If you say when," Frank murmured, "you are going into the pool right now, and I don't fucking care if the hairstylist kills me afterward."
Ray snorted, but also edged back a little from the pool. "You know that if he starts up again, and you cut him off, he'll just..."
Frank shrugged stiffly, glancing around to make sure no one was close enough to hear. Gerard had turned around to face them, a pouty expression fixed on his face as he stared toward the camera.
"If he starts up again, he's not going to be getting conjugal visits in rehab, so it's not going to be an issue."
That had been the first decision-affecting-the-band they'd made without Gerard. It was the only one they'd made without him in the room giving his silent nod of agreement. If Gerard fucked up the video shoot, or started drinking again afterward, then that was it, he was going to rehab. If he couldn't do this on his own, they would have to help him, and it had to be soon. The terror of rock-bottom would wear off, forgotten in the skid of getting along on half-measures. They might not get a second chance to get him out of this alive.
They'd all agreed Gerard would get to choose what to call it, and they would all back up the story, no matter what it was. They'd all back up Gerard no matter what. They wouldn't break up, nothing would change, they'd be back on tour as soon as they could afterward (and, Brian insisted, they would make up every last hypothetically canceled show). They would get through it if they had to. If. If, if, if.
"If you think we shouldn't--I don't want to fuck up the band, and neither does he. I mean, not more than it's already fucked. You know."
Ray grinned suddenly. "I know. Whatever, we'll deal. You're an improvement over coke and pills, anyway, right?"
Frank grinned back, down at his shoes and then across the water at Gerard, who flicked them a tiny smile before returning to his scripted pout. "Thanks, man. Thanks for the vote of confidence."
Frank had to talk to Mikey next. Frank, Ray, and Mikey constituted the entire band for decision-making purposes, and if Frank was going to ask Ray's permission he couldn't not ask Mikey's.
On the other hand, if Mikey said no, that was it, no appeal. Also, Mikey was the brother of the guy whose pants Frank wanted to get into, and this conversation was going to be brutally awkward.
Frank sat down next to Mikey on the floor in the high school corridor. Mikey was playing his Gameboy. They were both in their uniforms, and if Frank had ever dared to talk out loud to anyone about having a crush on some hot goth boy then this would be just like high school. As it was, he'd seen the shooting schedule, and he was saving up his déjà vu for later.
"Mikey," Frank said, trying to gauge whether Mikey knew he was there.
Mikey frowned. His thumbs didn't stop moving. "Uh-huh."
"I, um." Frank looked around, but they were shooting Ray's thing in a classroom down the hall from where he and Mikey were sitting. Gerard was in there, busy developing a brand new addiction to the exotic designer drug known as playback, and the behind-the-scenes camera crew had squeezed in there with the one for the video. No one was paying him or Mikey any attention.
Frank looked at his knees and wished he'd had more than two hours of sleep (hours of sleep he'd spent plastered to Gerard), or more time to think of a way to say this. He had a sinking feeling it wouldn't have helped, but it might have delayed the inevitable. "Me and Gerard, um, we were thinking."
Frank felt as much as saw Mikey move beside him. The Gameboy hit the floor with a clatter, the music of the game going silent (so Mikey had paused before he dropped it, at least). When Frank looked over, Mikey was staring at him, frowning harder at Frank than he had at the game. His hands were closed into sharp-knuckled fists.
"You and Gerard what."
Frank winced. "Nothing, yet. We don't want to fuck anything up, but, maybe?"
Mikey didn't look reassured at all. He looked kind of like Gerard was his virgin daughter and Frank was... Frank, asking to take her to prom. This high school idea was seeming less brilliant by the second. "Gerard hasn't said anything about this."
Frank didn't realize until Mikey said it that he'd been kind of hoping Gerard had. Because if Mikey thought this was coming out of left field, if he'd never noticed that Gerard might be interested, then... Frank looked away, shoulders hunching.
"There hasn't been anything to say," Frank muttered. "It's just an idea."
"Uh-huh," Mikey said, sounding skeptical. Frank stared at his knees and was painfully aware that Mikey had been a year ahead of him in high school.
Mikey stood up. Frank looked over to see him pick up his Gameboy from the floor, followed it up to where Mikey stuffed it into his pocket, and finally looked up at Mikey's face. Mikey was still frowning, and Frank's stomach sank.
Mikey just shrugged and said, "I'll get back to you on this."
Frank shut his eyes and stayed on the floor for another minute, telling himself that that could have gone worse.
Everybody poured out into the hallway, Gerard and Ray and Marc and the cameras, and Frank popped up to his feet, smiling automatically. Gerard was smiling back, right at him, specifically at him, and Frank had to look away to Ray and ask him how that went.
Ray started talking about it, and the behind-the-scenes camera set up, somebody waving at them to arrange themselves like they'd been coached, to have a "candid" conversation on camera. Frank's eyes kept straying to Gerard, who just stood there smiling and holding his can of Diet Coke and teasing Ray about biting a crayon. Frank knew he was waiting for something from Gerard, but he didn't know what, and it didn't come. Gerard just stood there talking, being Gerard, and Frank watched and smiled and answered automatically.
The camera guy finally backed away from them, and Ray poked Frank hard, right in the center of his chest. "Frankie, breathe."
Frank shoved back at Ray automatically, but he took a deep breath, too. In the corner of his eye Gerard tipped a can to his lips and Frank's stomach flipped.
And flipped back, just as fast, and Frank let out his breath and looked at Gerard straight on. It was Diet Coke. Gerard was sober. Gerard hadn't said anything weird or incoherent on camera, hadn't stumbled into anybody, and hadn't ever been in any danger of doing anything, because Gerard was fine.
Gerard grinned at Frank and Frank's heart started beating faster, like Gerard was some guy he had a crush on, someone he'd just met. But then, maybe he was.
Frank looked up from the catering table to see Mikey talking to Gerard. The food had been set up outside; Mikey and Gerard were standing by the brick wall of the school, both in costume.
Gerard was smoking almost furtively, even though he was in full view of pretty much the whole set and Mikey was standing right there beside him, watching. There had never been anyone that hot sneaking a smoke behind Frank's high school. If there had been, Frank would not have survived to graduation.
Frank watched them like strangers, characters. Gerard almost was a stranger now, this new clean and sober version of the guy Frank had known for years. Frank was going to have to learn him all over again, whether anything else happened or not; he'd have to start paying attention.
Looking at them right then, anyone would have said Mikey was the big brother. He stood up straight, arms folded, while Gerard slouched against the wall, head tipped down so his hair shielded his face. He made small, uncertain gestures with the hand holding the cigarette, nothing that would convince Mikey of anything. Nothing that suggested Gerard was convinced of anything.
Frank's stomach twisted, and the smell of lunch turned sickening. He tried desperately to remember the way Gerard had looked up at him that morning. It had been real, Frank had been sure, but maybe he should have known better than to think anything involving Gerard could be sure right now.
Gerard made a sudden movement, out of the rhythm of the conversation. He tossed his hair in a way Frank had seen a thousand times, revealing the corner of a smile Frank knew. Frank found himself grinning, squinting in the sunshine, feeling suddenly reckless. Fuck whatever Mikey said, fuck fucking up the band, fuck being sure.
Frank hadn't seen Gerard smile like that anytime in the last three weeks, maybe not for months. Maybe never exactly like that, not sober and sunlit.
Mikey was grinning too, though, as he reached out to muss Gerard's hair. Frank was about to turn away, to wait for Mikey to come back to him with a verdict, but Mikey looked up and straight at him like he'd known Frank was standing there. Mikey's smile faded, but he nodded once, short and serious.
That made it unanimous, and Frank suddenly needed a cigarette.
When Frank semi-stealthily snuck off the set to make a Starbucks run, a PA caught up with him before he'd made it properly off the high school campus. He smiled at her because he was in a pretty goddamn smiling mood, and also because it paid to be nice to crew people and tech people. Where would they be right now if they'd never gotten friendly with Bob?
"You know I'm not Gerard, right?"
"That doesn't mean I can let you out of my sight." She said it cheerfully, like there wasn't anything the least bit not-in-her-job-description about following Frank to Starbucks to make sure he didn't get run over by a bus or find himself a handy drug dealer along the way.
It occurred to Frank that at this rate, there might actually be enough people in the world to keep Gerard from ever having a real chance to start drinking again. For what felt like the first time, Frank thought, This is going to work.
He bounced on his heels at every stoplight, and bought all the coffee he and Jenny could carry.
Frank gave away most of the coffees, but he held on to an iced latte and headed for the green room, only to find Brian sitting on the floor outside the door. He had headphones on, and it was obvious he was barring the way inside.
Gerard had been fine the last time Frank had seen him, but that didn't mean a hell of a lot right now. Anything could happen in an hour or two. The cup in Frank's hand felt awkward and pointless; he offered it mutely to Brian, who gave Frank a small smile and took it, tugging his headphones off.
"This was on his schedule," Brian said, tilting his head toward the closed door. "I had to remind him, but it was."
"Oh," Frank said. Right. Gerard would be locked away with a phone for an hour. It didn't mean anything bad, or at least not any worse than things had been.
Frank stood a moment, watching Brian drink Gerard's latte--it would have melted by the time Gerard could come out and drink it anyway. He'd probably taken some coffee in there with him, and all the cigarettes he could possibly smoke in an hour. Gerard didn't need anything from Frank.
He sat down hesitantly beside Brian. He couldn't hear anything from inside, and Brian didn't shoo him away. Frank wrapped his arms around his knees.
Brian was funny--kind of somebody who worked for them, kind of their boss. He wasn't exactly a friend, but definitely wasn't not a friend. Brian was the one Gerard had called for help, while the rest of them slept in their bunks not fifteen feet away, oblivious, nearly as wasted as Gerard and tired of trying to keep track of him. Brian was the one who guarded the door while Gerard spilled his guts on the phone.
There was no way Brian wasn't going to find out, if he didn't already know, and if he thought this was a bad idea... Brian couldn't forbid them, exactly. He wouldn't. But he'd tell them it was a bad idea in the same firm, knowing voice he'd used when he told them they had to make a decision about Matt, when he told them Gerard's chances of pulling this off on the first try were maybe fifty-fifty. Frank didn't think he was ever going to want to hear Brian pass judgment on this, but if it was coming he might as well get it over with.
Frank stared straight ahead across the hallway. "So, me and Gerard."
Brian grunted, encouraging Frank to keep talking but too wary to commit to actual words.
Frank waved a hand in the general direction of the future, carefully not listening behind him. "We're gonna, I think. If Gerard hasn't changed his mind since this morning. Him and me, we're gonna be. Together."
"You and Gerard," Brian said slowly, sounding out every syllable. Frank dared a sideways glance as Brian took a thoughtful sip of Gerard's iced latte. "Together."
Frank nodded cautiously, looking down at his knees and trying to figure out what the neutral tone of Brian's voice meant. Brian had been on the phone with Gerard that morning, the morning, and lots of other mornings and nights. Brian probably knew more about the inside of Gerard's head right now than anybody, Gerard's long-distance therapist and Gerard himself included. Frank himself was probably way, way the hell down the list, actually--but that didn't matter so much, because it was him Gerard smiled at. It was him who made Gerard sleep.
"Frank," Brian said, and, fuck, that was definitely a skeptical tone now.
Frank gritted his teeth. He wanted this, Gerard wanted this, and shouldn't they get the things they wanted that weren't actually going to kill them?
"Are you really sure that's what you want?" Brian said.
Frank kept staring at his knees for a minute, trying to figure out what that even meant. He finally had to look up at Brian. "Am I what?"
Brian looked a little pained. "Look, I know you love the guy, but seriously. Think about what you're doing to yourself here."
"Think about--wait, are you saying you're worried about me?"
Brian smiled and frowned all at once. "Yeah, I'm worried about you. Gerard's an alcoholic and an addict, Frank, and that's not ever going to change. He's always going to be a train wreck waiting to happen. You may be on board, but you don't have to lay down on the tracks, okay? If he's asking you to--"
"He's not asking," Frank said flatly, even as he felt stupidly encouraged. Brian thought this had been Gerard's idea, and that had to mean Brian knew something about what Gerard wanted, didn't it? Or did he just think an idea this bad had to come from the guy coming off three years drunk?
"I want this," Frank said firmly. "Gerard's leaving the decision up to me. Us. I talked to Ray and Mikey and it's cool with them."
Brian shook his head and set down the latte, holding his hands up in surrender. "Well, if it's cool with Ray and Mikey then it must be a fine idea, even if neither of them was worried about more than half the people involved. Lay down wherever you want, Frankie."
Frank looked away, thinking of Gerard on the plane back from Japan, huddled under a blanket that didn't even cover him, tucked around his shoulders like a cape. Hours and hours, and Gerard had meant what he said and kept quiet through the worst of the comedown, sweating it out in a seat that barely reclined.
"It doesn't matter if he's a train out of control," Frank said finally. He looked Brian straight in the eye. "He won't crash. He won't run me over. He is stronger than a fucking locomotive. He's going to stop this."
Brian tilted his head, and the look he gave Frank then was beyond skeptical, dangerously close to disappointed. "Gerard isn't even five days sober, Frank. You can't know how this is going to shake out. He can't even know. You can't just trust that he's not going to fuck this up."
You don't trust me. Gerard had said it just that morning, smiling, so glad, so fucking grateful to Frank for that. It was the only reason he could relax enough to sleep, because Frank was there. Not trusting him.
"I don't trust him," Frank said slowly, testing the words as he said them, but no, they were true. He didn't, he wasn't closing his eyes, sure it would happen his way. The backup plan was there, rehab, if.
"But I do believe in him," Frank said more firmly, meeting Brian's eyes. "I believe he can. And you bet I'm going to be watching to see if he does."
Brian shook his head, but he was smiling a little this time, looking up at Frank and still holding Gerard's latte. "Well, you'll have a great view, Frankie. Extreme close-up. Good luck with that."
Frank shook his head and got to his feet, realizing as he made to stomp off that it was going to leave him looking more fifteen years old than he had to. He looked down and met Brian's eyes, and his mouth twitched into a smile as Brian's did. Frank walked off slowly, like he still had some dignity.
Bob was sitting in a shaded courtyard, cigarette dangling from his lips as he played with a pair of drumsticks, flipping them and catching them by the grip-taped ends, over and over. He was almost juggling them, and Frank kept his own hands jammed in his pockets and watched, mesmerized, until Bob caught both sticks in one hand and waved them at Frank. "Hey, Iero. Do I need to move?"
Bob was staying carefully away from Marc's cameras and the behind-the-scenes crew both, because as far as cameras were concerned today, My Chemical Romance did not have a drummer, had never had a drummer, and definitely did not have any kind of Drummer Situation. The green room was the obvious hiding spot, but just as obviously Bob had had to clear out for Gerard.
"No, no, you're good. I'm just..." Frank waved one hand aimlessly.
Bob set his sticks down and nodded. "How's Gerard doing? He's been sticking close to the cameras all day, I haven't really seen him."
And the last time Bob had really seen him, they'd been trying to get in a day's practice, Bob's first time behind the kit for them. Gerard had been kind of a mess, struggling just to keep himself together in front of the rest of them, never mind sing decently.
"He's a lot better," Frank said, moving to perch on the edge of the picnic table. There was more to say than that. A lot better barely even covered the fact that he'd had a shower and a couple of solid meals since then, but Frank couldn't think of how to say the rest of it. He would have known what to say to Matt--or, okay, he'd have known not to say much of anything at all, by the end, but still. He would have known.
Bob didn't seem to mind the silence. He picked up his sticks again and started tapping out a barely audible beat on the edge of the table. After a couple of seconds Frank thought he recognized Cemetery Drive. He was practicing. Frank wasn't sure whether to find that comforting or not; at least after playing the song over and over for hours tomorrow Bob would probably be really solid on I'm Not Okay.
And then they'd have one more day to practice before they were on the road with Bob, playing shows with a new drummer and new improved Gerard who couldn't sleep or make decisions. They'd be packed into a van together and he and Gerard would be... whatever they were going to be after whatever happened tonight, and Bob would be along for the ride.
"So, uh," Frank said, before he'd really decided to say anything.
He couldn't exactly ask Bob anything, but he didn't exactly have anything to tell, either. Nothing had actually happened, and Brian might be lecturing Gerard right now, talking him out of it. Gerard might have second thoughts of his own, or it might just not work out, or it might be bad, or...
Bob was holding his sticks flat against one thigh, raising an eyebrow at Frank.
"You all right?"
Frank nodded quickly. "Yeah, I’m fine, what?"
Bob shook his head, smiling a little. "You look like you're dying to check your setup but you don't want to make me mad. What's going on?"
Frank shook his head, because it wasn't like that. It wasn't that he didn't trust Bob. Bob was a good guy. Every time Frank had rechecked his setup, it had always been fine, and Bob had always just smiled tolerantly, like he couldn't possibly be offended by Frank double-checking his work. Bob had sound checked Matt's drums on every date of an entire European tour and only once had Frank spotted envy on Bob's face--just once for a second and then it was gone, and Bob was back to being good old Bob the sound guy again, riding around Europe with them in a van for free.
Frank shrugged. "It might be nothing, I don't know, but me and Gerard..."
Bob raised his eyebrows. "Yeah?"
"Yeah," Frank said, forcing the words out casually, like he had just as much right to say them as to tell Bob he was mic 3 and Gerard was mic 1, as though it were just as obvious. "I don't know. We might be sleeping together."
Bob looked down and nodded, like Frank had just handed him a new list of inputs. "Quitting drinking usually takes some of the guesswork out of that one."
"No, I mean, we haven't yet, we definitely haven't yet." Frank pushed back a blur of memories, things he and Gerard had done when they were too wasted or wired or exhausted or generally fucked up to think twice about it. They hadn't, not for real, nothing major. Frank would remember that.
"We just... we might be, soon. Okay?"
Bob looked up at that, smiling. "Dude, don't ask me. I just play the drums."
Marc was sitting alone, scribbling on a clipboard, when Frank wandered up.
"Hey," Frank said. "Um..."
"If it's not about how to edit the final cut so no one can tell there was supposed to be a fifth member of the band, I really don't want to hear it."
Frank considered that, staring out over the football field and trying to remember the rough script Marc had emailed them, sometime before Japan.
"I could drink the science experiment," he offered after a moment.
Marc looked up. "Yeah?"
Frank nodded. It'd give him something to do.
Marc looked down at his clipboard again, and then reached for his walkie-talkie.
"You can have two takes, that's all we've got time for."
Gerard was watching from behind the camera the whole time, and when Marc was finally done with Frank--two takes had somehow turned into five--Gerard followed him out of the classroom.
"What was that stuff? It looked like flat Mountain Dew."
Frank turned to face Gerard, wrinkling his nose and sticking his tongue out a little. "It was just water with food coloring, so gross, I gotta--"
Gerard held up his Starbucks cup, and Frank leaned in and sucked on the straw instead of actually taking it from Gerard's hand. Gerard's hair brushed Frank's forehead, and when Frank lifted his head Gerard was grinning.
Frank grinned back. "Hi."
"So I hear we're kind of an item," Gerard said, pausing to suck on the green straw, right where Frank's mouth had been. "Mikey gave me his blessing, Ray congratulated me, and I think Brian is going to kick my ass if I make you cry."
Frank nodded, and hoped that nobody was taping them right now, because he probably looked like a complete idiot. He couldn't stop smiling at Gerard, at this new smiling shining Gerard who smiled back and didn't keep trying to say good-bye, just in case. He couldn't even look away from Gerard's face to see where the cameras were.
"Bob refused to state an opinion, but I think he's happy for us. On the inside."
"Awesome," Gerard said, without any hint of freaking out at the mere mention of Bob's name. "I've always liked Bob. Hey, check this out."
Frank followed when Gerard led off, over to the far side of a trophy case. Gerard pushed him up against the wall behind the slight cover it gave them from the rest of the hallway, and kissed Frank with one hand pressed flat to Frank's chest. His mouth was a little cool from the frozen coffee, and he tasted the same as the flavor lingering in Frank's mouth, sweeter and sharper than this morning. Standing up and fully clothed and understood and allowed, this time.
Gerard didn't pull back an inch. His fingers flexed against Frank's chest, and Frank got one hand on Gerard's hip just as Gerard's thigh pressed between Frank's, rocking against him. Frank's hand tightened on Gerard as his hips rocked right back, and then Marc yelled, "Knock that off, you two, Frank's up!"
Gerard jerked back at that, biting his lip and staring guiltily at Frank's mouth. "Oh, um. You should probably. Makeup."
Frank ran the back of his hand across his mouth and glanced down at the front of his pants. God, just like high school. This was getting sort of scary.