"I think you're gorgeous," Ray said, after taking Gerard by the hand and twirling him around like a ballerina. "Really gorgeous."
"Wanna see my tits?" And really, Ray hadn't replied to the positive or negative before Gerard was opening the buttons of his shirt and giving everyone an eyeful.
Mikey said, "Gerard, put those away," and he sounded a lot less scandalized than Frank figured he would be, seeing as how Mikey was Gerard's brother and possibly he was the only one in the room that didn't want to have a free look at willing breasts. Not that they were the kind of people that encouraged that kind of behavior, of course.
"No, you don't have to," Frank said, and Gerard beamed.
"So it's no big deal, you know," Gerard said. "I'm told it happens a lot to guys like us."
"Guys like us?"
Gerard flailed his arms a bit. "Us. Musicians. Guys like us. Someone gave me a number and I called and he explained everything and said I'll go back to normal eventually." He peered at himself in the mirror and batted his eyelashes experimentally. "Look at how pretty I am."
Ray murmured appreciatively. "You're very pretty," he said, and Frank had to agree. Gerard pinched his cheeks and smiled widely, baring his teeth. His shirt was still open, and Frank had to make himself not look. Because, like the rest of Gerard now, they were perfect and beautiful. "Did you get taller?" he asked.
"No, I don't think so." Gerard stuck his tongue out of his perfect row of gleaming teeth. "My lips are fuller though, and my eyes are bigger."
"I think you're taller."
"No he isn't," Mikey said.
"Yes he is."
"He's exactly the same height."
"No, he's taller."
"Guys, guys," Bob said. "Maybe we should concentrate on how Gerard's suddenly a girl, and not on whether he's suddenly had a growth spurt."
Frank bristled. "I was merely pointing out that he's gotten taller."
"Size isn't everything," Ray said dryly.
"Yeah, but they sure as hell are something." Gerard cupped his round, full breasts. "I'm a girl!" he said happily.
Frank told Brian first. He found him backstage, chatting with some merchandise girl he'd never seen before and, with only the slightest bit of panic in his voice said, "Bri, Gerard's a girl!" Brian barely looked away from discussing t-shirt sizes to say, "Sure, dude. I know. Although you've started to call her Gerard again, huh? I kinda thought that joke wore thin six months ago."
"So you know?"
"I know what?" Brian frowned. "What do you think about this design?"
"This? I'm not sure about the color, though."
Frank sighed impatiently. "Brian, are you listening to me? Gerard's a girl!"
"Yes of course she's a girl. Am I missing some punchline here?" Brian finally turned to him and gave him a bright, if confused-looking smile.
"This isn't a joke." He ran his fingers through his hair and continued, "I mean, one day you wake up and he has breasts and his features are all soft and it's just...you know. I mean, it's not really a big deal, I don't think. But it's still weird. I mean, it's weird, right? Don't you think it's weird?" He stopped and stared at Brian, and the merch girl, who were both staring at him, wide-eyed.
"Uh, you know maybe you should be discussing this with Geraldine? It's really none of my business if you guys decide to get it on, not that it wasn't a barrel of fun the last time you guys-"
"But he's a girl!"
"Fuck, Frank, you're confusing the hell out of the both of us. Geraldine's a girl. We got that already, I'm sure." Brian pursed his lips, and raised a brow in Merch girl's direction, but she was shaking her head slowly, staring down at the green t-shirt clutched in her hands.
"Okay, okay," Frank said. "So basically what you're saying is that boys just turn into girls overnight? That gender-switching is normal? I know Gerard said it and Mikey thinks it's cool too but Gerard's Gerard and I'm almost certain Mikey wasn't kidding about the whole unicorn thing so I just can't take their word for it."
"Yes I'm...wait, what did you just say?"
"I said, Gerard's a girl. He turned into a girl. Yesterday. Before that he was a guy. And now he's not. But you know that already, right? Right?"
"Frank," Brian said slowly, quietly, as if speaking to a very small, frightened child. "Geraldine's always been a girl."
"I don't understand it either," Frank said. "If I did would I be here telling you I don't understand? Aren't you the one with the number to call the guy? Call him again, see what he says."
"I did," Gerard said. "He said he didn't know what I was talking about and suggested seeking psychiatric help instead."
"So you turn into a girl and he's fine with it but then it turns out the rest of the world also thinks you're supposed to be a girl and now you're certifiable?"
"I think so, yeah." Gerard scratched at his head. "This wasn't supposed to be like this."
"Tell me about it," Frank said.
Ray put his arm around Gerard and hugged him, "It's okay, Gerard. At least you still have a killer bod."
Gerard brightened. "That's true. At least I still do."
They called another meeting with Brian. All of them this time. "Now, look," Frank said. "Gerard's a guy. He's always been a guy. We've lived together in the same space for a long time. I know he's a guy."
"You guys are putting me on, right? This is all some elaborate practical joke and you know, it stopped being funny after like, an hour or so and like-"
"It's not a joke," Bob said.
"And you, I expect better from you-"
Frank cut in. "I don't care if you think it's a joke. It's not." He pointed in Gerard's direction. "Gerard was, is a guy."
"But see, the whole world doesn't think so." And Brian threw a dozen magazines onto the table. With a totally unnecessary flourish, Frank thought.
Mikey picked up a magazine tentatively. He stared at the cover, frowned, and then flipped through the pages. Bob leaned over his shoulder to read. "Oh," he murmured. "That's...odd."
They were all magazines from the past two years. Cover stories. Tiny articles in the back pages. Album reviews. They all said the same thing, more or less. Because a girl in rock is always a big thing. Geraldine Way and the My Chemical Romance boys. Gerard frowned at an old copy of NME. "They called me the goth Gwen Stefani. Fuck no. Do I look like a goth Gwen Stefani to you?"
Frank shook his head, sat down on the couch. It was official: The whole world had gone insane.
"Hands up those of you that remember Gerard being a guy," Ray said, and everyone except for Brian raised their hands. "See, we all remember him being a dude. Always."
Mikey said, "He's my brother. I think I'd remember if I'd had a big sister and not a brother. I think I would've remembered Mom and Dad giving me girls' hand-me-downs to wear."
"Maybe Geraldine was just a very boyish sort of girl. Sometimes we forget. Look at her. She could pass for a boy." Brian waved in Gerard's general direction. Gerard had somehow changed in the past hour into someone's glittery red heels, a tiny pink skirt and a white tank top paired with deep black gloves that reached up to his elbows. He did not look like a boy. At all. Frank said so, and received a dirty glare from Brian. "Look, guys. I mean it's either you're all delusional or the rest of the world is. You...rest of the world. Which is it?"
"I vote rest of the world." Bob said decisively. "Hands up everyone who thinks so." Everyone except for Brian raised their hands again. "Rest of the world it is then. Now if you'll excuse me I have to go fix something."
"What?" Ray asked.
"Something. I'm not sure. But I'm sure it's broken and I'm sure I have to fix it. Gerard, you should come with me."
Frank watched their retreating backs, Gerard wobbling a little in the three inch heels. He said, "Tomorrow, I will wake up."
Gerard came staggering in, wearing a lacy white camisole, a skin tight leather skirt and strappy black heels. Those huge ugly sunglasses that were all the rage perched jauntily on his nose, although Gerard looked anything but. "Nice clothes, Gerard," Bob said, and Frank was almost sure Mikey shot him a dirty look. Gerard threw himself on the couch, spreading his legs wide open before suddenly sitting up and crossing them.
"They were in my bag," he said wonderingly. "Dozens upon dozens of girl clothes. They all fit me perfectly. And the clothes I got yesterday, they were lying on the bunk and I just thought that they belonged to..." He frowned and tugged at his shirt. "I don't know who I thought they belonged to. But I even have underwear and bras and shit like that."
"Someone must've put them there. As a joke or something. Or to help out." Mikey said.
"Who, the gender-switching fashion community? Coming to the aid of all recently turned girls with no clothes to wear?" Frank scowled. He had a headache, building up from the back of his neck and radiating all the way into his eyes. Sharp points of pain, everything flaring up at every movement he made. He'd never been prone to migraines, but things changed.
Gerard said, "I don't care. They're all gorgeous and my makeup's really fucking choice." He shook his head, and his hair, now long and curled and layered, fell into his face, the smell of jasmine rising into the air. "Shampoo," he continued brightly, as Bob leaned over and sniffed at him. "With Aloe Vera extracts for extra shine and bounce. And also they recommended I use the conditioner for even more volume, but the conditioner bottle was empty. Oh, and also," and with a flourish, he tossed a whole bunch of cards onto the table, where they sat, glittery and silently accusing. Credit cards, driving license, Gerard's backstage ID. Her backstage ID. "Everything," he said. "Everything says I'm a girl."
"Oh," Mikey said. "Oh."
Ray called Bert and told him to come to their trailer, immediately.
When Gerard showed Bert his tits he said, "Nice, G, but I've always said that." He frowned. "Did you make me come all the way down here to see your tits? Because I've already seen them, you know. Maybe if you didn't insist on flashing everyone and their brother every time you felt like it."
Mikey threw Bert out. "He's on drugs anyway."
"Hey," Gerard said. "That only happened once. Or it didn't happen. I don't know anymore." He shifted uncomfortably and leaned against the wall. "I can't believe I go around showing everyone my tits."
"Why?" Bob said. "You do it all the time nowadays."
"Yeah, but that's different. They're new. I have to show them off."
Mikey said, "Well, apparently they're not that new."
They had to go on, and Frank was certain that everyone would boo, would ask where Gerard was, would chase this new, different looking girl off the stage. So much so that they made Gerard take off his shiny new clothes and wear Mikey's jeans and t-shirt. But then they went onstage and everyone cheered and someone had a "We love you Geraldine!" sign and it was all very scary and confusing, but at least everyone was cheering.
They started playing and it was strange and off kilter and it seemed like no-one knew the words to the songs, but at least they were still having a good time. Frank hoped.
And afterwards, Brian: "What was that? Did you change the set? What's with the different lyrics? Okay this practical joke's wearing thin already so stop it, please."
They all stared after him as he stormed off.
"I think he's pissed at us."
"Yeah, well, at least he's certain as to what the fuck's going on in his world," Frank said tiredly.
Their music was different. Not entirely so, but some of it was. Brian sent an assistant over with sheet music and lyrics the next morning and a cheerful, passive aggressive little "In case you guys forget again! :)" note. They had to learn everything that was different, everything they were expected to know already. Hell on earth. "I can't do this," Gerard said, after fumbling over the lyrics to "I'm Going to Be Okay (I Swear)" for the millionth time.
"You should," Mikey said, surly because he had the same problem. "You're the one that fucking wrote all of them."
"I thought I knew who I was when I got up this morning, but now I find out that not only did I change, but so did everyone else." Gerard held his head in his hands miserably.
"We're not crazy. There are five of us and we're not crazy." They were sitting around in a circle, solidarity one and all. They traded stories about Gerard and the band, matching up events. They were together, all of them. Gerard was a guy and that was that. To hell with what the world thought.
On the third day:
Frank called Jamia. He was going to tell her about how messed up everything was, and hope that she remembered it too. He said, "Hey, James, I'm so glad to hear your voice."
And she hung up on him.
He called her back. She said: "Frank, fuck off or I'm changing my number. I told you I never want to speak to you again."
And that was that. Frank moped for about a day, before something dark and scary dawned on him. He started asking around, as subtly as he could. The most he could figure out was that they'd broken up over, of all things, Gerard, which he didn't get at first, but suddenly it clicked in his brain like a lock snapping into place, which led to him spending half the night with his head over the toilet bowl, feeling sick without knowing exactly why. Ray patted his back and made comforting noises as Frank wiped his nose and said, "I loved her. I wouldn't have-" before the thought of it made him throw up again.
"It wasn't you, Frank," Ray said soothingly, over and over. "It wasn't you."
"Yeah, but it was," Frank said. "I don't understand. Me and Gerard, why?" Only there was a small part of him that knew exactly why, and how, and he couldn't do anything about it except to shake and be ill.
Later on (much later on, when he felt marginally better and had smoked twelve cigarettes), Mikey came to talk to him. "So, Frank. Guess what? I'm dating Christina Ricci."
"Christina Ricci," Mikey repeated flatly.
"What about Alicia?"
"Never met her before. I called her and she laughed at me. She didn't believe I was Mikey Way. And then she mocked our music, before she hung up."
"How the hell did you score Christina Ricci?"
"Get this, Gerard met her at some female goth artist retrospective or something."
"You mean Geraldine."
"I'm sorry about Alicia," Frank said.
"It's okay." Mikey looked away and took a deep, shaky breath. "I'm sorry about Jamia. I guess we have to take this world as it comes, huh?" He paused. "Do you think it would be creepy if I slept with her? It's not like I'll be cheating on Alicia or anything like that, since we're not dating over here."
Frank stared at him. "She looks like a bobblehead," he said, finally.
Mikey's life was affected the most next to Gerard's. Bob made a chart mapping out where the universe split for them all, divided into before and after. Ray's didn't seem to be affected at all. Frank was surprised they'd lost Matt here too. Mikey seemed mostly gleeful, buying and reading magazines and telling everyone merrily about their new lives. Different tours, different touring partners. For a while there they all spent their time lying through their teeth every time an outsider brought something up, and it was a good thing that musicians weren't known for their good memories.
"It's a shame we're not a boyband," Mikey lamented ruefully once. "Then we'd really get to know what we're all about."
"Don't the tabloids make all that shit up?"
"Yeah, but there's always an element of truth to the lies. Do you know the kids all have videos of our shows and appearances online here too? This is the real deal. Us being us. And Gerard being...Geraldine."
"You mean us being us in front of cameras and reporters."
"Yeah, that," Mikey said.
"So how are we in front of the cameras," Frank asked, curious despite himself.
"Pretty much the same," Mikey said. "Except they ask G a lot more questions."
"Haven't they always?"
"Not quite like this, no."
Frank frowned and said, "It's all fake," but he sat down in front of the laptop anyway and watched a two inch high Geraldine smile and giggle her way through an interview. "He seems different," but he didn't say that Gerard actually looked more comfortable in a girl's skin than his female version in her own.
"What about you and Bert," the reporter was asking perkily.
Gerard bit his lips and said, "What can I say, I guess I have a thing for younger guys," and the Frank that wasn't him turned away.
Mikey plopped down next to him one evening, while he was watching The Texas Chain Saw Massacre for the hundred and fiftieth time on DVD. "There's a new version of this you know."
"Don't ever mention that to me again." Frank made the sign of the cross with his fingers.
"I'm just saying. That hot chick from Seventh Heaven is in it."
"I don't know what disturbs me more, Mikey, that you know the actress was in Seventh Heaven or that you watched the remake."
"But I liked the remake."
"I disown you," Frank said solemnly. "You are disowned. And I'm afraid I have to bar you from watching this movie with me ever again."
"That's good, because I'm not here to tell you this." Mikey took the remote from Frank's unwilling hands and switched the TV off right as Sally screamed and ran for her life.
"Then why are you here, getting in the way of me and my bloody chainsaw."
"Well, it's about Gerard. Or Geraldine." Mikey paused. "Did you know that she's got quite a reputation?"
"She, uh...he does?"
"Yup." Mikey held up his hand and started ticking off fingers. "Gone through almost every guy on the circuit, and then some. Pete Wentz. Bert, we all already know about. Josh Homme. Billie. Even I've never had a list this impressive." He frowned. "Okay, maybe mine is. But still. I feel like I should be protective or something. Want to punch the lights out of the guys who sullied my sister."
"I'm sure Gerard would be very impressed with your chivalry," Frank said, hoping that Mikey would shut up and go away. He was still smarting over Jamia, and he was only glad that no-one else mentioned it either, because they'd broken up a long time ago. Ray had glossed over some of the more painful details of their new pasts, which was a relief in more ways than one.
He did not want to hear about Gerard's conquests. Or Geraldine's conquests. Or Geraldine's conquests that were now Gerard's conquests, even though he never actually did any conquesting. But if everyone else except for the five of them remembered it then it probably did. Even though it didn't.
"My sister's a slut," Mikey concluded darkly.
"Huh," Frank said. He managed to wrestle the remote away and turned the TV back on to Leatherface chasing after the young thing that wasn't the girl from Seventh Heaven.
"You know it took us twice as long to get signed?" This was Mikey again, sitting down surrounded by piles of newspapers and magazines. "And I never worked at a record shop. Instead Gerard went to art school and became a semi-successful artist."
Frank said, "Gerard did art professionally?"
"Yeah, for a while." Mikey frowned faintly. "At least some things are the same." He held up a magazine spread of Gerard, round and portly and with a glazed expression on his heavily mascaraed face. "They put us in some kind of female-fronted rock band special edition. There's not a whole lot of us, apparently."
"Well there's us. Evanescence, but they broke up. Some other bands I've never heard of."
"Huh," Frank said. He pulled up a chair and started flipping through pages. "You know," he said casually, "at least we're famous. That way we know our own history and lives, even if we don't remember them."
"Yeah, like how you and Gerard were together for a while before he left you for Bert."
"What, no." He snatched the piece of paper from Mikey's gleeful fingers. The page was lurid and slickly red, with black text that he had to squint to read. It was all there though, the chronicle of a relationship and subsequent break-up with his best friend that he'd never had. Devastated...band almost fell apart...relationships and work don't mix. No mention of Jamia, but he'd already known about that. He crumpled the paper up in his hand and muttered, "These things lie all the fucking time anyway."
"So I have this theory. That we fell into this alternate dimension where I'm a girl only somehow while falling I really did turn into a girl and there's another universe where I'm really a guy so all we have to do is get back to that universe and I'll change back and everything will be fine."
"That riff we've been working on? B-minor, for sure," Frank said, and went back to tuning his guitar.
It wasn't the same, being onstage with Gerard anymore. He couldn't stop thinking about this Gerard and him, and Jamia, and all the things that he didn't know that had happened here between them. He couldn't stop wondering whether Gerard knew or not, even though he suspected he didn't, because Gerard still came up to him, rubbed up against him and laughed and whispered jokes into his ears.
But it was a stranger with a different voice and a different face and a different body, and only Gerard's eyes were the same, and his smile wide and bright and reserved just for him. And Frank smiled back, and cupped his hands under Gerard's corset-encased breasts - he'd gotten attached to how tiny the corsets made his waist look, and wore them almost constantly now. In different colors, paired with short skirts or skin-tight jeans, and sometimes a bow-tie and sometimes not.
Frank breathed into Gerard's neck and wished everything would go back to the way it was. Or failing that, if he could only remember what everyone else remembered, if they all could instead of just pretending that this was normal, pretending that they expected this and did this all the time.
"So then he said, 'But you promised me,' and it was just so pathetic, and I hope I was never this pathetic and desperate when I wanted to get laid, but I remember high school so I probably was, but anyway." Gerard flailed his arms a little. "Anyway, just to shut him up, I slept with him."
Frank blinked. He had been expecting another long story about how Gerard had to improvise and lie through his teeth when dealing with people who'd dealt with him and remembered him as Geraldine. Those were fun stories, more or less, although half the time they ended up with some long rambling tale about sheep and entrails, but at least they were predictable. "You what?"
"I slept with him." He sat down abruptly next to Frank and crossed his legs. He was wearing a short short black mini-skirt and fishnet stockings. His legs were incredibly pale and thin beneath the black thread. "It was weird. Not the first time for the both of us, but the first time for me. I thought it would be...more fun." He bit his lower lip. "I'm not so sure anymore who I am. Geraldine would've had a good time, I'm sure. Pete sure seemed to think she'd had better times. Was better."
Frank patted his knee awkwardly, then pulled his hand away as if burned. "I'm sure it'll get better, Gerard. With practice."
"Yeah," Gerard said, nodding his head slowly. "Practice. That'll do it."
And that's what Gerard did, or so Frank heard, but then he was still a girl and everyone still thought that that was the way it should be.
"So they all put me in these cleavage-pushing things and I love it, check out my tits, but then that's like the entire cover of the page and it's fucking annoying." He held up a magazine, where the cover was indeed, almost entirely Gerard's breasts, cupped in a white lace corset and thrusting up against the page.
"The tie's a nice touch," Frank said. "Red. I like red."
"Yeah," Gerard said miserably. "That was my idea. The rest of you got to wear them, I didn't see why I shouldn't."
The first time, Gerard crawled into his bunk, like he did, always, to talk about underwater sea creatures or something, and now it was only that he was curvier and softer, but also it was easier to put his arm around him, and way too easy to kiss him, softly, lightly, like so, and Gerard pushed away and then towards, and then Frank pushed, and it was awkward for just the briefest of seconds before Gerard started giggling. His hand curled up into a fist, pressing against Frank's throat and he could feel it each time he swallowed, and he could see Gerard's eyes, huge and dark in the night.
"I was. I wanted..." and Gerard never got to finish what he'd said, because Frank had pushed him up against the wall and kissed him. Lipstick stained lips, taste of berries in his mouth, Gerard moaning soft and hot under him. His breasts, Frank rubbing the nipples above his shirt and then sliding up underneath to touch. And Gerard's eyes, wide open and staring as Frank pushed his panties down and pressed his face between his legs.
Later on, he'd remember fucking him, sure, but mostly he remembered Gerard whispering his name, and he remembered Gerard's fists pressed against his collarbone, and he remembered shivering and thinking, so good. This was so good. Don't ever stop.
Bob said, "If I hear one more comparison to fucking Evanescence I'll fucking scream." And he meant it too. His lips were turned down in the way he did when he was ready to throw glass objects and then wait for someone to step on the broken pieces.
Ray carefully set aside a crystal tumbler away from Bob's clenched fists. He said, "We're not like No Doubt at all. The people that count know that."
"The people that count," Bob snapped, "are the ones doing the comparing, or haven't you heard?"
But Ray just lowered his head and said something to make Gerard laugh, and Mikey busied himself with adjusting his hair, and Frank stood there awkwardly, thinking about how Gerard's skin was so pale and almost translucent under the dull orange light of the trailer, and how he wished that everyone else would go away so that they'd be alone.
"I think I'm starting to get the hang of this," Gerard said. "I answer the questions about the make-up and the hair and how it feels like to be a girl in this industry. And then I lift and cross my legs if it's a guy, and sometimes I lift and cross my legs if it's a girl, and the article comes out pretty good. It'd be nice if they'd interviewed you guys more often though. They used to."
"It's okay, G. I kind of enjoy not being in the spotlight so much." They all did, pretty much. This was one of the good things of this strange new world. One of not many, for sure, but Frank would take what he'd get.
Gerard was now flexing his stocking-clad foot and saying, "I think I need to shave my legs again. That's a pain. But first." He leaned back against the desk and spread open his legs suggestively. "I suggest you ravish me now."
Another one of the not many good things of this strange new world. This one, Frank would take, however he'd get. He wanted to carry Gerard up, to a bed or something, but instead he just pushed Gerard against the desk and slid his skirt up to his waist.
"Would you leave me for Bert?" he asked, before he could stop himself. They were sitting up in Gerard's bunk, Gerard smoking and wearing one of Ray's Misfits t-shirts.
Gerard started laughing. "Read that article, did you? Come on, Frank. All that crap's bullshit. Who knows what really happened?"
"But that's just it. We don't, do we? We could ask Bert, but we were supposed to be there so he'd want to know why we don't even remember what happened to us. So maybe we fucked for a while and then you fucked Bert for whatever fucking reason and maybe we just got bored with one another and maybe we need to stop this before we almost destroy the band again."
"And maybe you need to stop worrying and fucking come here," Gerard said, his smile fading, ever so slowly.
Frank shook his head, but then Gerard held out his hand (frosted blue nailpolish, the color of the sky), and Frank went.
Because if he didn't remember it, it didn't happen, it wasn't real, and what was real was Gerard's soft skin underneath his, and Gerard's lips around him, and Gerard's hair falling all over his face. What mattered was his hands in Gerard's hair, holding him up, pressing them both together.
There was an article, and Frank remembered that, even though the article probably never existed now, an article about them that ran right next to one about love-compatibility through star signs, and Ray giggling over it and Mikey matching up himself with Ray and himself with Gerard and Gerard with Frank, and Gerard snatching the magazine nastily from them both when it turned out that neither one of them should date one another, ever.
But that was then, and now when Gerard caught his wrist with his hand and slid his thumb lightly across skin and pulse, Frank didn't pull away.
Later, Gerard said thoughtfully, "Pete and I, we used to date. I didn't believe Mikey when he said so, but then I talked to Pete and yeah, it was pretty obvious we used to see one another."
"Oh," Frank said, and his throat was suddenly filled with bile.
"I wonder why we never, back when. When I was Gerard. I had Kat, but I loved Pete, and I wonder why."
"Because," Frank said, "I guess you just didn't. It's not the same. You're not the same."
"Funny, I thought I was."
He found Gerard once in his bunk, reading a magazine. History lesson for the not so recently transformed but still fucking confused. "According to this, I'm a stunning diva with a killer voice. I'm also a little spitfire known to throw tantrums and behave like a bitch for no reason." Gerard's lip curled at this, and his hands shook from holding the magazine so tight. Frank wondered how he'd gone so long without reading any of this, but maybe Gerard had just been saving it up for now.
Frank sat down next to him and looked at the article. "At least now someone appreciates your fashion sense."
"Here lies Geraldine Way. She had a great ass and her clothes were always color-coordinated."
"But they love your voice," Frank said soothingly, or at least he said in what he thought was a soothing manner.
Gerard apparently thought otherwise, because he snapped, "Don't fucking patronize me, Frank. I'm not in the mood," and Frank decided it would be best if he didn't say anything at all. Instead he just grabbed hold of Gerard's wrist and pulled him, and he resisted at first but Frank just held on until Gerard gave in, and settled down between Frank's legs. Frank pushed aside the soft gauzy material that was Gerard's dress, kissed his way across Gerard's stomach, dipping his tongue inside his belly button, biting down on his flesh until Gerard shuddered, and his whole body went pliant and weak. Gerard sunk to his knees, and Frank pushed his hair out of his face, planted a soft kiss on his lips. Gerard only sighed.
"You're not the one whose entire fucking history has been erased, Frank," Gerard practically spat, and Frank didn't tell him that most of his life after joining the band had been Gerard, and all of that was gone too.
There was this party, one of the rare times that they were home, and Frank wanted to just sit back and chill, but there was this party, and Gerard wanted to go, and so they argued, until Gerard snapped, "Fine I'll just go by myself then."
They ended up getting a ride from Bob and one of his friends, Bob leaned in and whispered in Frank's ear just as they were about to get into the car, "I have no fucking clue who this guy is, right?" Which could mean they were best friends or it could mean that he was a stalker that somehow got Bob's number and thought he'd try his luck, or it could be anything in-between, nowadays. Frank shrugged and opened the door for Gerard to slide in. The entire ride they sat as far as possible from one another. Bob made a few awkward attempts at conversation to monosyllabic answers from everyone but his possibly-friend, whose name Frank couldn't remember but who seemed well acquainted with him too, and eventually he gave up to stare outside the window.
"Finally," Gerard muttered, as they drew up at an unfamiliar place, people milling around everywhere.
"Yeah," Frank said. His intention was to get as drunk as he possibly could, and he was well on his way there too, downing beer after beer in the backyard with Mikey who showed up sans Christina Ricci ("I miss my real girlfriend," was all he said.) but with a foul mood that Frank was only too glad to share. He watched Gerard idly, wandering around looking slightly lost and aimless until he was stopped by one guy or another wanting to say hi or get laid. He never stayed to talk long though, but the one time he looked at Frank he flashed him an annoyed glare and turned away, taking a gulp of his drink that Frank thought was soda but he couldn't tell for sure.
Frank was going for another beer when he spotted Jamia, sitting on a deck chair and laughing with some other girl that Frank didn't recognize. Her smile faded when he approached, but she only shook her head at her friend, who got up and left but not without shooting him a dirty glare. "Hi," he said, and her answering hi was faint and uninterested. "I-" He wanted to say Imissyouiwishthiswaslessfuckedupiwishihadnthurtyoueventhoughididnt but nothing came out and instead he just ended up with a generic "How are you?" and that was all.
She shrugged. "Good," she said. "Pretty good. And you?"
"I'm. I've been better, I suppose."
"Oh," she said, and looked away awkwardly. "Sorry," she mumbled then. "I have to go. Nancy's waiting."
"Sure," Frank said, and he asked, before he could tell himself not to, he asked, "Do you think I could maybe I don't know, call you sometime?"
And she shook her head and said, "No I don't think so, Frank. But you take care okay?"
"Yeah, okay," and she was gone. Frank stared after her for a while, and then he looked for Gerard, but he was gone too. Frank looked for him outside for ten minutes, asking around until someone said, "Yeah I think I saw him go in with uh, Carl? Yeah, Carl."
Carl, as it turned out, was pushing a not-too-happy Gerard up against a wall in one of the upstairs corridors, all "Let's go into the bedroom baby," until Frank grabbed him and shoved and after that it was all arms and legs and his rage and finally, finally, someone (Ray, his voice in Frank's ear, "Calm down, dude.") holding him back until he stopped, or Carl was gone and it was too late to get him back.
Gerard just crossed his arms and shook his head, biting his lips. "Fuck," he said, over and over. "Fuck fuck FUCK," all the way back to Frank's place. He couldn't stop shaking, and Frank tried to hold him but Gerard just prickled at him like a porcupine with its quills bared, his face furious and red.
They stumbled through the door and Frank made to leave, only Gerard had grabbed hold of his jacket and refused to let go. Frank caught Gerard's wrist with one hand, spun him around so he hit the door, only slightly hard. "You're crazy," he said to Gerard. "Crazy, you hear me?"
"No," Gerard said. "I'm mad. We're all mad here." He pushed himself up onto his toes, but Frank pressed in, lifted him up until he was forced to wrap his legs around Frank's waist. His eyes were clenched tight and his palms were slack against Frank's collarbone, and Frank was so hard and he couldn't stop, couldn't stop touching him and couldn't stop feeling him and when he came, he bit down hard on his lips to stop the last syllable of Gerard's name from escaping from his mouth.
After the party, which caused bruises to blossom across Gerard's pale skin that Frank hadn't noticed that night, hadn't noticed him even getting them, he found Gerard one day, sitting on the couch and thumbing through a magazine. He said, when Frank silently took it from him, "I think I fucked it up somehow. Geraldine, I bet she never fucked up like this."
"You say this like you're different people."
Gerard glanced sharply at him. "Well aren't we? Everything's different. I'm not even sure why, but it is."
"I don't think you fucked up, G." Frank said, but Gerard only frowned unhappily and took the magazine back from him.
Bert caught him while he was on his way to soundcheck, bounded up all bright-eyed and curious. "So I heard you and G got back together."
Frank tried to ignore him, but Bert kept on pursuing him. Like a gnat, Frank thought. No wonder he and Gerard got along so well. Fucked, he reminded himself. They used to fuck. But then usually he'd follow that with a "But not his Gerard", only now his Gerard and Bert's Gerard were almost the same, and this was when Frank usually stopped thinking about it and started wondering what color underwear Gerard was wearing today, or whether he was wearing any at all. But Bert. Who wouldn't quit. "It's just that I wanted to tell you that I'm cool with it, with you guys."
"I'm so glad I have your permission, Bert." The stage was two hundred feet away. Maybe if he ran. He could see Bob up above, bent over some wires. Bob would protect him.
"Yeah, it's just that G and I, it would never have worked out. She's so fucking hot dude, but I couldn't take her bitching all the time. And anyway that night, we were both drunk or we would never ha-"
Later, as Gerard wrapped ice and gauze around his knuckles and made worried noises over all the blood, Frank said grimly, "Most of it's not mine."
Gerard clucked disapprovingly. "Bert said you started it."
"Fuck Bert. And I don't want you talking to him again."
The hands fussing over him stilled. "You're not telling me not to talk to Bert."
"But I am. He's a jerk and I don't want you messing around with him." He didn't say again. Not again.
But Gerard only said, quietly, with only the slight widening of his eyes to show how surprised he was, "You don't tell me what to do, Frank."
Frank said nothing, because he wanted to argue, and accuse, but there was nothing to accuse Gerard of. Nothing at all.
But then two nights later they had another argument over something inane, and it was never like this with Jamia, with her everything was easy camaraderie and quiet moments shared together. They only ever argued over the silliest things and he never felt rage rising over him like heat, like he could kill someone or smash something just to see it break.
"Fuck you fuck you fuck you," Gerard spat, and then he was gone, out the door and stomping down the steps.
Frank fell asleep waiting for him, and when he woke up Gerard was just stumbling in, face pale and clothes disheveled. "Where have you been," Frank asked wearily, sitting up on the bunk. He wasn't entirely sure he cared at that point, but it felt like it was only the polite thing to do.
"Nowhere. Out." Gerard refused to look at Frank, his eyes wandering instead to the floor. His lipstick was smeared, all across his pale face liked dried blood. "I don't want to talk to you," he said, and he locked himself in the bathroom.
Frank went back to sleep.
"It's just that I can't stand him," he snarled to Bob, who was busy installing carpet and nodding his head in a manner that Frank knew meant he was uncomfortable, but he couldn't bring himself to stop talking. "I'm supposed to walk on eggshells whenever he's in one of his moods, and god forbid I ever have a bad day too, because then all hell breaks loose because how dare I have an emotion that isn't directly connected to how he's feeling at the time. Don't even start about when he's PMSing. I make him soup, and he complains that it's too cold or too salty or tastes funny. Do I look like a cook to you? And the way he giggles, and talks about the most inane things ever like I fucking care about the crappy movie version of Constantine." Frank ran out of steam, finally, and looked expectantly at Bob.
Bob opened his mouth. Bob closed it again.
"I think," Bob said carefully, putting down the piece of brown carpet he'd been holding. "That that's…Gerard."
Frank's lip curled up. "I guess so," he said.
The photo shoot went badly. Gerard was tired and snappish, and everyone else was just uncomfortable. They were doing an Alice In Wonderland shoot. They put Gerard in a checked blue frilly dress with capped sleeves and a frock over it. Pigtails, knee high stockings and heeled Mary-Janes completed the ensemble. Mikey got to be the chesire cat, Bob insisted on being the Mad Hatter, Ray was the White Rabbit and Frank somehow ended up as a vaguely male-looking Queen.
The photographer kept using a type of flash that made everyone's eyes feel like they were melting every time he snapped a picture. Gerard said, finally, "My feet fucking hurt and can't I get a fucking decent outfit for once," and then he said, "Fuck this shit I didn't sign up for this," and he stormed off, throwing off his top hat, where it floated in the air like a small black UFO before stumbling to the floor.
Frank said, "You guys are such a bunch of fucking sissies," and he went off to find Gerard, found him smoking in someone's abandoned dressing room.
"Don't fucking start," he said prissily.
"I wasn't. I just wanted a smoke." Gerard passed him the cigarette, and they stood there silently for a while.
"So," Gerard said finally. "Are you talking to me again?"
"I thought you were the one that wasn't talking to me."
Gerard raised one perfectly arched eyebrow. "What, with you sulking like that what the fuck was I supposed to do?"
"I wasn-," Frank stopped, tried again. "I don't want to fight, G."
Gerard just stared at him. "We should go back," he said, after what seemed like an interminable silence. He made a face. "My feet still fucking hurt though." Frank looked at his stilettos.
"Yeah," he said. "I guess they would."
The photographer didn't say anything for the rest of the shoot, just took their pictures and seemed grateful that Gerard was in a better mood, but later Frank overheard him telling his assistant, "That Way chick, really hot but such a fucking unreasonable bitch," and it occurred to him that maybe he should go and punch the guy out, but he was weary and exhausted and he'd already used up his random acts of violence tokens for the week, so he went and let Ray give him a shoulder massage instead. He spotted Gerard, leaning against a wall and flirting with a camera tech, but when they were leaving the studio Gerard walked up to him and slipped his hand into Frank's.
"I asked the guys to go ahead, called a cab," he said. "We'll just ride back together, the both of us." In the back seat of the cab, they were all mouth and skin and tearing at one another until Gerard gasped, "Frank, please," and it wasn't enough, even as he was shuddering and burying his face in the crook of Gerard's neck, it wasn't enough. But it would have to do.
"Sometimes I think, everyone thinks I'm a girl, remembers me as a girl. So maybe I really am. Maybe we're all delusional, and I'm Geraldine Way and I lost my virginity to some boy named Steve when I was seventeen, and I never had sex with Kat and I almost didn't make it to this band and I," he took in a deep breath, shuddered. "Mikey says he knows everything now. He explained it all to me. He said he called Mom and Dad and somehow managed to ask them about us, about how we were as kids, how I was. Grandpa likes to talk. And it's. It's all starting to make sense now. It does. My memory's changing. I can feel it."
And Frank said, "I know who you really are, Gerard."
But his own memory was changing too. It changed the more Gerard and him fucked, it changed everytime someone talked about Geraldine, everytime the crowd yelled out her name when they were onstage. Geraldine Geraldine Geraldine. The Way brother that wasn't. The one that got flowers and jeers from guys and dirty glares or naked adulation from girls. It got to the point where he could barely remember that it had ever been any other way.
Gerard was exhausted. Frank could tell. Not in the way that he got exhausted on tour, but in the way that he got frustrated and run-down and reached for the nearest thing that would take that all away. But Frank reached out and kissed his make-up away and held him down and he shivered and shimmied and his hands curved restlessly against Frank's back, and he only snapped once or twice when Frank talked to him, told him to concentrate and think. Times like this, it was almost exactly the way it used to be.
"I just thought," Gerard said suddenly, "If we had happened when I was Gerard. Why didn't it happen?"
"I don't know," Frank replied. But he did, because there might not have been a Bert, but there would've been a someone, or a something, because he'd spent a long time coming to terms with who he was and who Gerard was and they were friends, friends was everything despite what they both wanted from one another.
"I need a vacation," Gerard said slowly.
And so they went. A week's break from the tour, fuck the consequences. Somewhere by the beach, a small house with a leaky roof and patchy plumbing but a gorgeous king sized bed with snow white linen sheets that little elves would replace every morning. They'd fuck all day and Frank would make those drinks with the umbrellas in them, minus the alcohol for Gerard and minus the fruit punch for himself, although he pretended not to notice whenever Gerard drank from his glass. At night they'd walk down the beach or stay in, watching bad movies on cable until one or the other fell asleep.
He'd never wanted anyone like this before, not even Gerard back when they first met, when he was shy and quiet except for when he'd go on to Frank excitedly about some thing or another, and Frank would pretend to listen and think about how grateful he was that he was here.
But then other than the drinking and the fucking they didn't talk about anything at all, and every time they seemed to be on the edge of something, Frank pulled back, or Gerard pulled back. There was a pink elephant in the room, Frank thought tiredly, and no-one wanted to bring it up. But finally Frank said, "We need to talk," and Gerard just said, "Tomorrow, please. Tomorrow."
You wake up one morning and you're in an all male band. Then the next and you're in Neverland. And of course, one day you wake up and everything goes back to the way it should be.
They said: We could discuss this tomorrow. Discuss Bert. Discuss them. Discuss how they'd changed, and how they hadn't, and how he was now a peripheral member of the band and no-one knew his name and he still didn't mind and Gerard still did. Mostly they'd discuss Bert whom he hated even though he didn't remember them fucking and really, Bert going "You guys back together again, huh?" and shrugging and punching Frank on the shoulder, didn't mean anything at all, and him subsequently punching Bert in the nose was, in retrospect, entirely uncalled for, and he owed a big apology, but now, now it seemed all he owed was irrelevant because.
Gerard was back. Frank woke up, and found himself in his bunk, nowhere near the beach. He wandered around for a while until he saw Gerard, sitting on the steps of the bus and eating cereal. "You're back," Frank said.
"Uh...where'd I go?" Gerard looked around him furtively. Frank shook his head and walked off, unable to deal right at that moment.
"Gerard's back," he told Mikey, and Mikey nodded his head curtly. "Yeah, last night I was in bed at home and suddenly I'm here. I think I scared people with the screaming. "
"So I went out and Bob was already up, and he'd found a couple of posters and it's - we're exactly where we were six months ago. To the day."
"Oh," Frank says. "I guess that explains it then. Kind of," and he made to move away but Mikey put a hand on his shoulder.
They had a meeting, all of them, minus Gerard who for some reason had gone out shopping with Bert. Mikey said, "Well," and Ray said, "Well," and Bob said, because he was quick and possibly the first one to get it, "Fuck if I don't want to have to figure out what I did the last six months or so. But at least it's only six months and not my entire lifetime."
This was when Brian wandered in, looking for one of them to sign something, and Mikey turned to him and said, "Gerard's a guy, right? Always has been?"
Brian said, patiently and slowly "Yes."
Everyone sighed in various degrees of relief, and Brian backed away from them all. "Okay I'll be going now."
"So that settles it then," Mikey said, once he was gone and safely out of earshot.
Only when they finally caught up with Gerard he said, "I was a what?" and laughed and walked away.
Frank said, "I don't understand."
"Maybe he's in denial?" Bob said, and shrugged.
"Sure, that's it," Frank replied, and stared after Gerard's retreating back.
"Wait, so I was a girl?"
"Uh," Bob said finally. "You were a girl."
"For six months?"
"Was I hot?"
Frank looked at Ray who looked at Bob who was looking at his feet. Mikey only examined his fingernails and declined to involve himself in the conversation. Gerard frowned. "I bet I was hot. I wish I remembered. So what happened? Tell me everything, I want to know."
"Gerard," Frank asked suddenly. "What makes you think we're all not just putting you on? I hardly believe it myself, and I was there."
"I just do, that's all," Gerard said simply. "Besides, no-one could make this shit up."
"You really don't remember anything at all?"
"No of course not. I think I'd remember if I was a girl for six months." Gerard paused. "I hope."
So it was as if the past six months hadn't happened at all. Gerard remembered nothing, and no-one else remembered anything either, and except for the four of them sharing the same memories they might as well have not lived them at all.
Mikey said to Gerard in passing once, "You know I almost slept with Christina Ricci. It's a good thing I never did, isn't it?" and Gerard laughed, and Frank flushed and looked away. Mikey blinked, but Gerard was frowning, looking at them both. "What?" he said.
"Nothing," Frank said. "I need to call my girlfriend."
The phone was slippery in his hand, but Jamia was exactly the same, cheerfully telling him about her day and how she'd missed him. "I miss you too," Frank said, but then he pretended he had a bad connection and hung up. Mikey's first phone call after they'd realized they were back was to Alicia. It was only a week to Jamia, but for Frank it had been six months. He ended up wandering around afterwards until he found Gerard, leaning aimlessly against a bus and smoking. "Hey," he said. He took the cigarette from Gerard's fingers and Gerard moved away from him.
"So," Gerard said eventually, shifting from foot to foot. "No-one wants to tell me what happened."
"There's not much to tell. You were a girl for six months. Everyone else thought you were a girl too. Except for all of us. We freaked, we adjusted, and then everything went back to normal."
"Were we doing the same thing," he asked, waving his hand in the direction of the concert grounds.
"Yeah, pretty much." Frank smiled. "You were the goth Karen O."
"No, fuck no." He brightened suddenly. "Was I seeing anyone? Was I a hot lesbian?"
Frank almost choked, but he took a deep breath and let it out and said, "No you weren't a lesbian. Uh, you were seeing Bert for a while but you broke up."
Gerard laughed. "Bert? It figures. He's too young for me though."
"I guess you just like younger guys," Frank said faintly, and Gerard's smile faded away.
"Are you not telling me something?"
"No. That's it." He threw his cigarette onto the ground and stomped it out. "I have to go, G. Ask Mikey if you want to know anything else. He's the one that kept track of everything that happened."
Mikey said, "But this is what we wanted, right? Everything back to normal. Everything's back to normal. That world-"
"Fucking sucked." Bob finished for him, and Frank nodded his head and smiled, but inside him something broke, burnt hot and cold at the same time. Gerard was Gerard and everything was back to the way it should be, the way they all remembered it, except that the brightest thing in his head now was Geraldine, with her soft skin and her smile and the way her body moved beneath his, on top of his. Tiny fists, soft breasts and long hair: that was his life.
But the Gerard now was the same too, only a different sex, and Frank couldn't look at him sometimes. He caught up with Frank once, who was hurrying out of the room as soon as he spotted Gerard entering it. "You're avoiding me. Why are you avoiding me?"
"I'm not avoiding you."
"Yes you are." Gerard looked hurt. "I don't know what I did wrong. Did I do anything wrong?"
"No, no you didn't. There's nothing going on, G."
"Yes the- did I do something as, as her?"
Frank shook his head mutely, but Gerard gasped. "I did, didn't I. It's so odd. It's as if I woke up one morning and all you guys changed and I was the only one that didn't, and you know things that I don't, and you've had conversations that I haven't had. I was sitting down once and Mikey and Ray were discussing this new song and I don't know the song even though they said I'd written it." Gerard frowned. "I wish I remembered. I really wish I remembered."
"No, G, you don't," Frank said, and he walked off.
But Gerard was persistent, and in between bouts of bugging Mikey he bugged Bob and he bugged Ray until finally one day he threw back the curtains over Ray's bunk and said gleefully, "You and I did it!" and it was too much and Frank just stared until Gerard's smile faltered, and faded away totally.
"Oh," he said softly. "Frank, I don-"
But Frank just shook his head. "It's complicated, G. And I don't. We shouldn't talk about it. I don't think we should talk about it. Forget it never happened." He smiled, only a little bitterly. "One of us already has."
"I don't remember any of it, Frank. I wish I did, but I don't. I was just. No-one told me, by the way. I just guessed. I didn't thin-"
But now Gerard knew, and Frank knew he knew, and it shouldn't have changed things, but it did. Sidelong glances thrown his way when they were onstage, offstage Gerard was stammery and a little shy and Frank wasn't any better. He kept thinking about Geraldine, and how this Gerard wasn't so different from her, in fact exactly the same, just missing the last six months. He went out with Jamia and couldn't bear to look at her, and sometimes it was guilt and sometimes it was just that he wished she were someone else.
He wasn't that type of person. Only he was afraid he was (had been, once, twice, it was enough and he couldn't make himself believe it didn't count), and every time he saw Gerard his heart clenched and he couldn't breathe.
Mikey said, cornered him on the bus one day and just said softly, "You guys were terrible as a couple, right? You're not seriously considering?"
"I'm not seriously considering anything. We're both in relationships, and anyway mind your own business."
"It's just that. You're all wrong for one another. I remember that. Don't you remember that?"
"Yeah, I remember." But it got harder each day. Each day that passed by he spent more and more time with this Gerard, and it went from awkward to less awkward to them making excuses to touch one another and for Gerard to lower his head and blush and for Frank to imagine what it would be like to kiss him, just once. And again, and again. They had good times together, the two of them. Times he couldn't imagine having with someone else. Not even Jamia. And the bad, in retrospect, wasn't so bad at all, not as far as Frank could recall.
"Frank," Mikey said. "Don't."
Frank shook his head, but then Gerard arrived in the doorway, leaned against it and smiled at him, and Frank said, "No."