The kids are screaming tonight. Frank is too, into the mic, his fingers flying over the frets as the band burn through Sorrows. There's a sea of faces below him, bodies shifting like a tide, mouths moving in time with Frank's. More and more of them are showing up wearing the thick bar of black makeup across their eyes, taking their cue from Gerard, who stalks the stage - his face white, his eyes black - as he screams and spits at them; lays himself open and bleeds into the mic for them.
Frank's never going to get sick of this, the way the energy from the crowd pumps through his veins, through his heart. He drops to his knees, landing hard enough to bruise, fingers blurring over the strings. He'll feel it later, the post-gig aches, but not right now. Right now he's invincible.
He throws his head back, playing the last chords, Gerard's voice ringing in his head. When he looks up, he's not the only one on his knees. Gerard's down too, head bent, sweaty black hair swaying around his face, panting into the mic. He's only still for a moment, the briefest blink of time, before he's climbing to his feet, all attitude as he swaggers across the stage and swears at the crowd. Daring them to listen as he tells them whatever he thinks they need to hear today.
Frank's got a few seconds, so he bounces to his feet, high pitched squeals of the crowd in his ears as he grabs a bottle of water and chugs it, spitting a mouthful like a sprinkler over the kids' sweaty faces. He catches Toro's eye across the stage and Ray grins at him, shaking his hair out. Frank grins back, throwing the half-empty bottle into the crowd, knowing he'll get more on them than in them, but there might be a mouthful left for whoever catches it. It's fucking hot today.
Bob starts bashing out the beats to Cemetery Drive and Frank bounces on his toes, crashing into Mikey as he races to perch on Bob's riser, grinning while Bob glares up at him over his flying sticks. He's not supposed to be up here and he knows it, but Bob's gotta play so he can't do shit. Then Frank's guitar part comes up and he leaps down, lifting Pansy over his head and striking the notes blind, getting lost in the music once more.
It's a fucking good show.
Ray grabs Frank by the shoulder as three fifths of the band weave their way down the hotel hallway, sweaty, wrung-out and post-show buzzed. It's the first hotel night of the tour and Frank's been desperate for it for what feels like forever.
"You coming to the room party? Two floors up. Avenged saved their rider. C'mon." Ray shoves a handful of his fluffy curls back from his face, only to have them bounce back into his eyes immediately. Frank doesn't laugh, well he maybe grins a little. Humidity does hilarious things to Ray's fro.
Frank pretends to consider the question, and then shrugs. Half the fun of festival touring is hanging with the other bands. "Sure, okay. Not a party unless I'm there, right?"
"You're so humble." Ray swats Frank on the back of the head and takes off up the hall, too fast for Frank to retaliate.
Frank's still flipping the bird at Ray's back when Gerard catches up to him. Gerard's having one of his quiet days today, not talking much if it isn't into a mic or having silent eyebrow conversations with Mikey. Mikey's already vanished, probably upstairs at the party - he has a unique talent for being one of the first people to show up at any post-gig gatherings. Bob's probably still at the venue, talking shit with his old tech friends.
"You gonna come up and hang out?" Frank asks, quickening his steps to keep pace with Gerard.
Gerard scrunches his nose up, hugging his sketchbook to his chest. He's been keeping it close lately, writing or sketching - Frank's not sure which - at every opportunity. "I don't know, Frankie. I don't think I'm really in a party mood tonight."
Gerard lifts his room key and stares at the number, matching it with the one on the door to his right and fumbling to fit it in the slot.
It's the answer Frank was expecting. Gerard hasn't made it to many after-show parties since he got sober. Frank keeps asking, though. As much as Gerard seems to thrive on solitude, it can't be good for him all the time.
"Well, if you change your mind..." Frank says, leaning on the doorway.
"Yeah, I don't think so." Gerard gets the door open and turns around in the doorway to look at Frank. He's still wearing his show gear and his make-up is half sweated off, black streaks around his eyes, powdery white pancake on his cheeks. The make-up makes him look paler than he is, frail and vulnerable, his eyes looking huge as he blinks at Frank. "I think I'll just have a quiet one."
"You want company?" Frank finds himself asking, without actually having planned to. Once the words are out of his mouth, though, he realises he'd really like that. Fuck the party, it feels like forever since he and Gerard have hung out just one-on-one. "There's probably a movie marathon on the free cable that needs watching."
Gerard's lips twitch up at one side, so fast Frank nearly doesn't see it, then Gerard's chewing his bottom lip, eyebrows furrowing, his gaze flicking everywhere but on Frank's face. "I just don't think I'm gonna be good company tonight."
"Never stopped you before." Frank needles, grinning. He knows he's pushing it now, but when Gerard looks up and glares at him for all of two milliseconds before his face breaks into an unwilling smile it's totally worth it.
"Fuck you, asshole. Way to make me want to spend time with you." Gerard slaps him lightly on the arm.
"It's okay, you can go inside and jerk off thinking about me, now. I don't mind." Frank leans in closer, waggling his eyebrows.
"Wow." Gerard wrinkles his nose and screws up his mouth. "That's kind of gross."
"I'm gross?" Frank leans into Gerard's space, sniffing obnoxiously. "You smell like an armpit. Take a fucking shower already."
Gerard just glares at him, but Frank can see he's having trouble making it stick. "You take a shower."
"Oh, I'm going to." Frank grins, leaning heavily on the doorframe. He's been dreaming about hot running water for days now. "Just try and stop me."
They're both quiet for a moment until Frank gets impatient with the silence, asking quietly, "You're okay, right?"
"Yeah, yeah." Gerard scrapes a hand through his sweaty hair. "I'm just. You know." He shrugs, glancing up from the floor to look at Frank, his arm stuck at a weird angle and his face looking strange under the ruined makeup.
Frank considers Gerard for a long moment before deciding he believes him. "Okay. See you tomorrow then." He catches Gerard in a fast hug, which turns into a longer one when Gerard's fingers curl into his shirt, hanging on. Frank smiles into Gerard's shoulder, breathing through his mouth because Gerard really does smell rank. He ruffles Gerard's hair, fighting the urge to say something gooey. They break apart and he gives Gerard a soft smile, getting one back that makes him think everything is okay.
Everything's better than okay. He's touring with his best friends, he's on stage every other day in front of kids who adore them, and Gerard's doing better. So much better.
He gives Gerard's shoulder a brief squeeze, the material of his shirt damp under Frank's hand.
"'Night Frankie." Gerard's smile is tiny and a little tired. Frank pulls a face at him until it turns into a proper grin, scrunching his nose up. Only then does he feel okay to turn and head down the hall to his room and the shower he's been dying for. Parties can wait when there's hot running water on offer.
The shower is everything he dreamed it would be. He stays under the hot spray way longer than he should, so his skin is pink when he steps out into the steamy bathroom. He swipes his hand across the fogged-up mirror, his fingers cutting through the condensation to create a window of reflection as he scrubs the towel over his hair.
He catches a glimpse of his own image and stops to check himself out, angling his head from side to side and flicking his long black hair off his forehead. It's a stark contrast to the white-blonde shaven sides of his mohawk and while the look is a pain to keep up, he's not ready to give it up just yet.
He knots the towel around his waist, considering his own reflection for a moment. He knows he's not bad to look at, but he wouldn't mind having a little more muscle and a little less flab. He sucks in his gut then lets it out again, shaking his head at his own narcissism and pulling the ugliest face he can as punishment. He's still laughing stupidly to himself when he opens the bathroom door to head back into the hotel room.
He stops moving the moment his feet hit the carpet. There's someone else here, and it's not Ray.
"Dude?" He peers into the room. He can't see much of the intruder. Not that this guy is trying to hide, oh no, he's standing right there in the middle of the bedroom, between the twin beds with their garish matching bedspreads. He's facing away from Frank, and with the only light in the room is coming from the bathroom, so all Frank's got is the impression of someone around his height, with shoulder length dark hair, wearing a yellow and black striped shirt and what looks like maybe an army vest?
It definitely isn't anyone Frank knows from the bands or tech crew, that much is obvious.
"What the fuck are you doing in my room?" A chill runs over Frank's still-damp skin. He feels far too naked in nothing but a towel when there's a stranger in his room. How the fuck did this guy even get in here? Hotels - even shitty three-star ones - are supposed to have some kind of security.
Shit - of course. It's probably a fan.
"Look dude, you really shouldn't be in here, breaking in like this is seriously crossing lines. I've got places to be, though, so if you fuck off I won't call security. But can you fuck off? Now?" Frank tightens the knot in his towel, feeling underdressed and a little vulnerable.
The intruder still hasn't said anything, although now that Frank is listening - really listening - he can hear a muffled staticky noise that sounds like a voice through a distant two-way radio. The guy doesn't turn around. "Dude?"
Frank's a moment away from grabbing the glass from the bathroom and smashing the rim to make a weapon out of it when the guy finally speaks. "Don't freak out."
"Too late. Now just get the hell-"
"No, I'm serious, don't freak out." It isn't until Frank's heard that many words in a run that he notices the Jersey accent. And that there's something familiar about the voice, something he can't quite place. "Don't freak out and don't call Worm. Okay? I'm gonna turn around now."
Seriously, who does this guy think he is? Frank's starting to think the smashing-up-the-glass thing might be a good idea, or at the very least calling Worm. But then the guy does turn around and sure, it's dark in the room and Frank's shadow is slanting over the stranger's form, but when Frank's eyes land on the guy's face it's a shock to discover it's as familiar as his own.
Because it is his own.
His cheeks are a little rounder, skin a little darker, hair longer (and all one colour) but Frank knows his own face when he sees it - and that is his face.
"What the fuck?" Frank says, one hand coming up to grip the doorframe because, shit, he's feeling a little dizzy and his heart's beating so fast it might burst out of his chest. "Seriously, what the-" The rest of the sentence is lost because his knees choose that moment to give out completely and he nearly winds up on the floor. His deathgrip on the doorway helps keep him upright, but mostly it's the firm grip of his weird doppelganger's hands around Frank's biceps (when did he even get close enough to touch?) that stop Frank winding up on his ass.
"Don't touch me-" Frank tries to wrestle out of the guy's grip, but his vision's gone all spotty and he's not sure which way is up.
"Don't be a dick, Frank." The other Frank says, but before Frank has a chance to get all Jackie Chan on this weird guy who's borrowed his face, he's being escorted towards one of the beds and his ass winds up on the soft mattress. Fuck, his hands are shaking. Okay, he's totally going to bust this guy's ass as soon as he catches his breath.
"Who the fuck are you?" He finally gets the words out, curling his fingers around the corner of the mattress in preparation to get up. Because he's going to get up, any second now, and take the offensive. "Are you a clone? Or a pod person? My evil twin?"
"None of the above."
"You have a really good plastic surgeon?" Frank forces his eyes up to look into his face looking right back at him. And fuck, that's still fucking weird.
"There's one you haven't thought of yet." The guy with Frank's face gives Frank a weird little smile. A smile Frank recognises as the one he uses when he's humouring someone. The strange 'other' Frank drops to sit beside Frank on the bed, pushing the sleeves of his yellow and black shirt up to his elbows and leaning on his knees. The movement draws Frank's eyes to the guy's hands. And the tattoos on them.
"Holy shit." Before Frank's even thought about it, he's grabbed the other guy's hands, putting his own beside them for comparison. This 'other' Frank has the same 'HALLOWEEN' across his knuckles, a little greener and softer with age than Frank's. The positioning and lettering are completely identical to Frank's, not to mention the shape of his hands. If that wasn't enough, he's also got "I wish I were a ghost", on his right wrist and the scorpion on his neck. They're all real tattoos, not henna or some shit too. Frank can tell.
The really eye-widening part, though, the part that has Frank grabbing this guy's wrists and holding his hands up to Frank's face in the too-dim light, is the tattoos this guy has that Frank doesn't have.
The "BOOKWORM" spelled out on his fingers, for one, which Frank can't help but admire. The numbers "7-29-07" are etched on his wrist. Sure, they could just be numbers, but Frank knows instinctively it's a date. A date two years in the future. Frank's stares until his eyes hurt. And it all sinks in.
"Holy shit." He whispers, his breath bouncing back off the guy's hands, smelling like engine oil. He drags his gaze from the tattoos back to look back into his doppelganger's face. "You're me. You're me in like, five, ten years time, aren't you?" He drops the guys hands, leaning back on the bed to look, really look. "This is some kind of fucked up dream."
The other Frank shrugs and grins, making his eyes crinkle up at the sides. "You're right. Except about the dream. This isn't a dream."
Frank can feel his eyebrow arching up in doubt. "So what, I'm not dreaming and you're really from the future?"
The other Frank leans forward a little to look Frank dead in the eye. "Yes."
"No way." Frank chews his lip, considering. "Prove it."
"You want to talk about losing our virginity, e-mail passwords, or who you've been thinking about while you're jerking off lately?" The other Frank grins, leaning back on his elbows.
Frank narrows his eyes. This other him is such a fucking asshole. He'll take a different approach. "Show me the rest of your tattoos."
The other Frank just smiles like he knows something Frank doesn't. Frank thinks he can hear that distant staticky voice say something again and the other Frank must hear it too, because his hand flutters to his ear and he whispers "Shut up, asshole," before he stands up and starts to peel off his green vest and the bright yellow shirt underneath it, which Frank can see now says "Super Stinga Demolition". Whatever the fuck that means.
All in all, it's a shitload of colour for one outfit. "You look like a rainbow threw up on you, dude"
The other Frank giggles, the sound muffled into the neck of the yellow and black shirt as he pulls it over his head. Frank thinks he hears him say "Colour is the new danger" but it's hard to tell through the fabric.
Before Frank can ask him to repeat himself, the other Frank's shirt slides off, revealing his back. Now Frank's staring at his first ever tattoo, the smiling jack-o-lantern, perfectly positioned on this other Frank's back. The "Keep The Faith" Frank just got is there too, worn and soft with age, and so are the crossed guns on his lower back, exactly where they should be. In addition to those, though, this Frank's got the words "Search and Destroy" wrapped around his torso in a similar font to Frank's 'Keep The Faith'. It's eerie, because Frank's been thinking about getting something like that. The idea of some ink tied in with that Rollins quote has passed through his mind more than once, but he'd never settled on exactly what to get. It really is like looking into the future.
The clincher is when Frank's eyes run up the other Frank's arms and he realizes he's looking at two full sleeves. He always knew he'd wind up covering both arms with ink, but he never imagined exactly what with. He's always been fairly in-the-moment with his tattoo choices. But when his eyes settle on his doppelganger's shoulder and he sees his grandfather's face smiling at him from behind a drum kit - the very photo Frank's had tacked up on his bunk with the passing idea of getting it inked one day - he knows this shit is for real.
"Holy fuck." Frank's hands are touching, tracing the lines of ink before he's even realised it. He's running his hands over favourite band logos, words and symbols that carry special resonance for him. He's so caught up in it that it's like waking up from a dream when the other Frank clears his throat to get his attention. Frank looks up to find his own eyes watching him with amusement.
"You're not kidding," he says to his future self. Wow, his future self, now that's a headfuck.
"I told you I was for real."
"So what, is there something you need to tell me? Is something going to happen? Is there like, some kind of Skynet kinda situation we need to fix or someone we need to kill or something?" Frank fidgets on the bed. So maybe his strongest impressions of time travel are from Terminator movies. So what?
"No, nothing like that." The other Frank is twisting his shirt between his fingers in what looks like a nervous motion. Frank can hear that voice again, the soft staticky radio voice, but he can't make out what it says.
"Who's talking to you?"
"No one. Well, like, a friend."
"From the future?"
"Yeah, but that's not..." The other Frank rubs a hand over his face, his mouth settling into an uncomfortable line. "I'm not supposed to tell you about the future."
"So why are you here then? Is this like some kind of past-tourism thing? Because if you're looking to relive your greatest life moments I thought you would've wanted to be here for the show." Frank kicks his legs up off the floor, then stops because he realises it's making his towel fly up. Then he starts again because what does he care if his future self sees his balls?
"Good show?" The way the other Frank asks the question - a little quiet and unsure - Frank wants to make fun of him for it. But the way he's looking at Frank, with just the tiniest bit of wistfulness in his eyes, makes Frank pull up short.
"'Course. We rocked the shit out of it. You're still playing, right?" He grabs the other Frank's hands again, running his fingers over his fingertips, looking for familiar calluses. They're still there, thank god. He can't imagine a future where he's not still playing guitar. Maybe not always with My Chem, but still playing.
"Not as much as I'd like to," the older Frank admits, before taking his hand back. He looks like he's going to say something else, but a burst of static voice stops him. He closes his mouth. "Fuck, stop making me talk about the future. I'm fucking getting in trouble here." He waves a hand at the nearly invisible earpiece Frank can now see he's got attached to his ear. Looks like there's been some leaps and bounds in technology. It'll be nice when his in-ear monitors are that size.
"So why are you here, then?" Frank folds his arms and stares at the older version of himself.
The other Frank just shakes his head, asking, "Who are you rooming with tonight?"
"Ray," Frank says, "and stop dicking around and answer my question."
"Where is he?" The other Frank glances towards the hotel door. He starts to get up, then seems to think better of it and sits down again.
Frank can't fathom why he'd come back all the way from the future to ask about Ray, but he answers anyway. "At some post-gig thing with Avenged Sevenfold. I'm supposed to meet him there later. Why are you being so fucking cagey?"
The other Frank does get up then. He walks over to the hotel room door and peers out the peephole. "So he won't be back for a while, right?"
Frank stares at his other self's back, the mixture of familiar and unfamiliar tattoos in the dim light, from an angle he'd never be able to see on his own body. "No, not for hours, what the fuck?" He's pretty sure he's not this annoying. He walks up to the other Frank, grabbing him by the shoulder and turning him around. "What's going on?"
The other Frank shoves a hand through his hair, the motion slightly frantic. "Look, don't freak out."
"You keep saying that. I haven't freaked out yet."
"Yeah, but I haven't done anything yet."
"Just-" Frank sighs. Fuck, this is more annoying than trying to get a straight answer out of Gerard. "Just fucking tell me."
The other Frank takes a breath, then looks Frank dead in the eye. "Close your eyes for a second." Frank starts to protest, but the other Frank talks over him, "Just for a second."
Frank rolls his eyes, but does as he's told. So he's standing in the middle of a hotel room in only a towel with his doppelganger from the future, and his eyes closed. Well, it's weird, but whatever. He thinks he can hear that static buzz again, followed by the other Frank whispering, "Sure, carpe fucking diem."
And then, just when he thinks it can't get weirder, the other Frank kisses him.
Frank's eyes fly open and he takes a step back. "Wait, what?"
The other Frank flashes him a shit-eating grin. "I told you not to freak out."
"You kissed me."
"No shit." The other Frank is still grinning.
Frank is... not sure how he feels about this. He's not disgusted, he's more - surprised? "It was kind of unexpected," Frank admits. He's not ready to run, but his heart is beating really fast and he can't stop shifting from foot to foot.
The other Frank puts his hand on Frank's neck, stroking his thumb gently over the hollow behind Frank's ear. He's a fucking asshole, because that's totally a sweet spot for Frank and he knows it. He also knows he's an asshole because he's grinning at Frank again, wide and wicked. "So this time you're expecting it." Then the pressure on Frank's neck increases and the other Frank leans in and kisses him again.
It's not a brief kiss this time and Frank doesn't pull back. It's like a dare. Like the times he and Gerard fuck around on stage, pushing each other to see who'll chicken out first. It's not going to be Frank. He deepens the kiss and takes a step closer, until his chest is pressed up against the other Frank's, warm skin against warm skin. Frank relaxes his mouth and the kiss gets deeper, tongues getting involved.
He has to admit it's pretty hot. It's been a while since Frank's gotten some and even longer since he's gotten it with a dude. And this future version of himself is a good kisser. Frank could probably even learn something from him. He lets his hands come up to rest lightly on the other Frank's shoulders. The other Frank responds by latching tighter to Frank's mouth, grinding closer, one leg finding its way between Frank's. Frank feels his towel shift. It's going to be on the floor soon. And then he'll be naked, and there's a whole lot of skin touching already happening, which feels frighteningly good, but he's not sure he's ready for naked just yet.
He breaks the kiss, panting. "How far are we taking this?"
The other Frank flashes him a wicked smile and it's downright weird how much Frank likes the way it looks on his face. "All the way," he says, straight up, then ducks his head to suck at Frank's neck. Fuck, Frank loves that.
He's caught for a moment between panic and arousal, flailing behind himself to press a hand to the wall because he's in real danger of falling over. This is happening so fast, he should think about it more, right? There's got to be a million reasons this is a bad idea. He's still struggling to find them when first his towel and then the other Frank's knees hit the floor.
Then there's hot breath on Frank's dick and a strangled breathy noise he realises he's making as the other Frank bends his head and Frank's cock is enveloped in wet heat. Frank chokes out a few choice expletives and grabs a handful of the other Frank's long sweaty hair. No chance of thought now, all his blood's rushed to his dick.
He glances down, seeing the mess of brown hair and his inked fingers tangled in it. From this angle it could be anyone down there, bringing him off - any anonymous, really fucking orally talented person. Fuck, he always suspected that swirly thing he likes to do with his tongue would feel good, but not that good. Frank sucks in a breath, trying to just go with it. It nearly works. Then the other Frank looks up, his cheeks hollowed around Frank's dick, his fingers wrapped around the base so Frank can see the "H", "A" and "L"'s inked on them and it should be a turn-off, it really fucking should, but it's not. It's some kind of fucked up aphrodisiac and all Frank can do is tighten his fingers in the other Frank's hair and lean back on the wall so he doesn't fall over.
The other Frank makes an appreciative noise and it vibrates around Frank's dick, making everything feel that much better and fuck if Frank is going to find a way to make his brain work now. The other Frank's hand comes up to rest on Frank's hip, fingertips digging gently into the soft flesh, pulling forward a little. Frank knows that move - he's usually making it. It's a signal that it's okay to fuck into his mouth, that he likes it, that he wants it. Knowing the meaning behind the touch has Frank moaning softly and letting his hips push forwards into the other Frank's mouth. The other Frank welcomes the motion, relaxing his mouth and taking more of Frank's dick, his fingers tightening and pulling at Frank's hip, encouraging more.
Frank gives him more, letting his hips move of their own accord, rocking forward faster and faster until he can hear the wet slap and slurp, until his vision starts to blur and he can feel his orgasm thrumming up through him. He's just starting to tighten his fingers in the other Frank's hair, reaching a hand back to support himself on the wall, when the other Frank pulls off, breathing hard.
"Not yet," he says, and Frank gets stuck staring at his mouth, his lips are so wet, and there's a string of spit between his lower lip and the tip of Frank's dick. "There's a lot more to do first."
"You're fucking kidding." Frank's having a hard time getting the words out around trying to breathe. He can barely stay upright and there's going to be more. "Dude, I don't think I can-"
"You can. I know my limits," the other Frank insists, climbing easily to his feet and grabbing a handful of Frank's mohawk to pull him in for a kiss. Frank doesn't fight it, licking into the other Frank's mouth and tasting the salt of his own skin. It's pretty hot.
The other Frank steers Frank backwards, and when the back of Frank's legs hit the bed Frank lets himself sink down onto it, guided by the other Frank's hands. He lets his older self lay him out on the bed, transfixed by the sight of the unfamiliar tattoos on familiar hands as they slide over his body, up his arms, down his chest, down, down... Frank gasps when the other Frank finds his grip on Frank's cock, his calluses rough against the underside, just the way he likes it. The other Frank grins down at him and Frank finally notices one more difference between them he's so far overlooked.
"You got rid of the lip ring."
"Yeah." The other Frank nods, leaning over Frank on his elbow and lowering his mouth to Frank's, sucking on his lip and pulling the lip ring into his mouth. He rolls his tongue around it until Frank's brain starts to flatline, before letting it go with a wet noise. "I miss it sometimes."
Frank leans up and runs his tongue over the indentation of the healed piercing on his double's mouth. "I could re-pierce it for you. Wouldn't take much." He sucks the other Frank's lower lip into his mouth, letting his teeth graze the indentation.
"Nah," the other Frank answers. Frank's not sure why his voice has dropped to a low whisper now. "Not a good idea where I'm going."
"Right," Frank says, with a note of surety he doesn't feel. "Where is that again?"
The other Frank slaps him lightly up the back of the head. "You're not gonna trick me into telling you, asshole."
"Fine." Frank pouts, then pushes his hips up off the bed to rub against the other Frank. It has the intended effect: his breath hitches and he folds down on Frank like a puppet with cut strings, covering Frank's mouth with his own and kissing him hard. His grip on Frank's cock starts to slide and Frank can feel how he's hard inside his pants, the press of his arousal against Frank's hip. He breaks the kiss to complain, "Fuck, how are you still wearing pants?"
"I have no fucking idea. But I can fix that." The other Frank struggles for his belt and Frank helps him, ripping the buttons on his jeans open and getting a hand inside. The moan the other Frank makes when Frank finds his grip is guttural and loud. Frank echoes it as the other Frank mimics his motions until they're groaning into each other's mouths as they jack each other off, hot and rushed and nowhere near enough.
The other Frank folds first, wrenching his mouth free to mutter "fuck this" before sliding down Frank's body and just diving down, swallowing Frank's dick. Frank arches up off the bed, a whining noise escaping his lips as his torso folds forwards over the other Frank's head. His fingers are stuck in the long brown locks and all Frank can concentrate on is how fucking amazing it feels. His mouth. His mouth. Holy shit. He has to grit his teeth, count backwards from ten, really concentrate on not coming yet.
He's so gone he nearly misses the sound of a foil packet ripping, but when slick fingers start teasing at his hole he offers no resistance, pressing back against the seeking hand, only wanting more. The other Frank gives it to him, pushing another finger in and there's the stretch, fuck it's been a long time since he's had something in his ass. He really needs to do this more often. He flops back onto the bed, grabbing his knees and pulling his legs back to give better access. He glances down between his spread thighs to find his own familiar smile grinning back at him, fingers wrapped around Frank's dick. It's strange and disorienting but so wickedly hot he nearly goes cross-eyed from it.
The other Frank chuckles, dropping a kiss on the crease of Frank's groin before crawling up the bed to kiss Frank breathless, his fingers still inside him and fuck, Frank's unravelling. He sucks in a breath through his nose and kisses back, hard and needy. He can't help the whine that slips from his mouth when the other Frank slides his fingers free.
The other Frank shushes him with wet lips brushing across Frank's mouth. "It's okay, there's more. You want more, right?"
The blunt press of the other Frank's cock at his ass is gentle, like he's waiting for Frank's go-ahead. And Frank gives it. He pushes back, inviting, encouraging. "Fuck yes. Fuck yes." His voice is shot and when he can focus his eyes he's looking back into identical hazel greens, pinched up with the wicked smile being flashed at him before they drop closed as Frank watches, then echoes, the groan his future self lets out as he pushes home.
It's so much more intense than fingers and so much better. He pulls the other Frank's head down, devouring his mouth, clawing a hand down his back to grab his ass and pull forwards as he pushes his own ass back, setting a rhythm that's fast and punishing and the other Frank meets it easily, falling into step with Frank like two heartbeats synching up. It's messy and almost violent. Their teeth clash as they kiss and the other Frank's hand is clenched so tight on Frank's hip it's gonna bruise. Frank's dick is sliding against the crisp hair leading down the other Frank's belly to his dick, sweaty and just the edge of too rough.
They have to break the kiss because they're both breathing too hard. They pant into each other's mouths, Frank's hand locked in the other Frank's hair, their foreheads slick where they're pressed together. Frank hitches in a breath. It comes out on a whine. Fuck, he's so ready to come.
"Yeah?" the other Frank whispers, and Frank realises he must've said that out loud. Then the other Frank's mouth covers his, as his hand reaches down to grab Frank's cock, pulling him off in time with his ever-speeding thrusts, rough and fast and just perfect. Frank groans into his mouth, shoving back on his dick, clenching his fingers into his ass and just feeling, wanting, needing, oh fuck.
He's so close now. "Fuck, oh Frank, oh fuck, just. Just. Uh." Frank's brain reds out and he melts back onto the mattress, spewing nonsense and chasing the orgasm he can fucking feel right deep in his belly. "So close, so fucking close. Fuck."
The other Frank speeds his strokes and Frank can feel the press of his teeth against his cheek as he smiles or grimaces, pounding into Frank, no holding back, knowing just how much to give, just how to twist his hand, just how to touch Frank and oh fuck-
"Oh fuck." Frank grunts, as his whole body stiffens, trembling on the edge. His eyelids flutter and he catches a glimpse of his own O-face, mouth hanging wide, eyes closed, face distorted in ecstasy. To see it up close like this is both confronting and strangely beautiful. The other Frank twists his hand just the right way and Frank comes apart, shaking and moaning and writhing underneath his future self, his dick pulsing between familiar fingers, spilling all over his stomach and the inked swallows.
The other Frank's still going, grunting as he pounds Frank's ass, riding out his orgasm, stealing the breath from Frank's lungs every time he bottoms out, until he collapses onto Frank, gasping. Frank grips the other Frank's shoulders weakly, panting and hanging on. There's warm breath on his neck and he can feel the thud of the other Frank's heartbeat against his chest, almost as hard as he can feel his own. He traces his fingers down unfamiliar tattoos, shiny with sweat.
"Jesus," Frank says when he can finally breathe. "I'm a fucking good lay."
The other Frank giggles, and it feels good against Frank's chest and neck. "You mean I am," he corrects.
Frank just shrugs. "Same difference." He glances down to find his future self smiling up at him, his upper lip dotted with sweat and his hair an absolute wreck. "You going to tell me what all this is about now you've had your fucking wicked way with me, or whatever?" Frank waves an airy hand like it's no big deal even though he's so fucking curious now that he actually has enough brain cells to be curious with.
"What, you mean I can't just travel back in time to fuck you for kicks?" The other Frank shoots Frank a smile and fuck, Frank can totally tell he's deflecting. He frowns and wriggles until the other Frank rolls off him, sitting up a little.
"No, I don't think you would. Why are you being so fucking secretive?"
"I told you, I can't-" The other Frank takes a breath that comes out as a sigh. "I can't tell you." The phrase sounds rehearsed.
"Dude, I'm you. If you can't tell me who the hell can you tell? And why do it, anyway? I mean, what are you getting out of this?" Frank can feel his brow furrowing as he poses the question. It really doesn’t make any sense.
The long-haired Frank just shrugs, the picture of non-committal. "Maybe I'm not the one getting something out of it."
"What, so it's for me then? What am I supposed to be getting out of this? I mean, besides the sex."
Frank hears the mild buzz of static again. He'd nearly forgotten about the earpiece. Fuck, of course.
"No, it's your friend, isn't it? Holy shit, are they still listening?" Frank crawls forward and presses his ear over the other Frank's, but he squirms away before Frank manages to hear anything other than static.
Frank smirks, making sure to raise his voice - he's not sure where the microphone is, but he's damn certain there is one somewhere. "Hey are you beating off to us right now?"
The other Frank looks a little pink in the face.
"You kinky motherfuckers," Frank breathes, not sure if he's impressed or appalled.
"No more fucking questions about the future," the other Frank says.
"Come on, like I'm going to be able to concentrate on anything else," Frank argues, pitching over the side of the bed, his bare ass high in the air as he scrambles his hands on the ground to dig through the other Frank's discarded clothes. There's the vest and the yellow and black shirt, which both are dusty and smell lightly of gasoline. There's also a pair of heavy motorcycle boots that the other Frank must have taken off before Frank got out of the bathroom - talk about being prepared. He grabs one dusty boot, holding it up to the light, his mind already reeling.
"So James Cameron got it wrong, then. You can bring stuff. This boot is from the future."
"Wait, Frank." The other Frank starts to slide across the bed to where Frank is, but he gets caught up in the tangle of his still-undone pants, so he doesn't make it to Frank before he tips the boot sideways and a fucking gun falls out.
It lands on the bed with a soft thump. It's no regular gun. It's painted a bright green and is decorated with kanji and dripping yellow letters on the side that say "HORROR."
"Don't-" the older Frank says, raising a hand to stop Frank, but it's too late, Frank's already picked it up. Despite the bright colouring, it's heavy in his hand. It's a real gun.
"Fuck," Frank breathes, lifting it up to aim it at the bathroom door. It's like being in a video game, but for real. He closes one eye to try and help his aim, but he barely has a moment to appreciate the sensation before the other Frank disarms him so swiftly Frank's not even sure how.
The other Frank stuffs the gun into the waistband of his now done-up jeans, behind his back. "It's not a toy. You could do some real damage."
"You carry a gun now? What the fuck happened in the future that you need a fucking gun?"
The other Frank just shoots him a withering look. Right. No questions.
"Fine. Fine. No talking about the future. But like, fuck." Frank rifles through his mind looking for more generic questions. There's so much he wants to ask, about the band, his family, his friends, fuck, even climate change-
"No fucking questions." The other Frank is watching him, like he can see the brain scramble that's happening. "Just calm down. You don't have to know everything."
Frank sighs and flops back on the bed. "You don't understand."
"Oh, I do," the other Frank says, curling up on the bed beside him, tugging at Frank's shoulders until he rolls to his side, moving with the urging fingers to lay his head on the other Frank's shoulder. The other Frank strokes calming fingers through the short bleached strands on the sides of Frank's mohawk. "I miss having my hair like this."
"It's a lot of fucking upkeep. I think I'm gonna let it grow out. Not that I have to tell you that." Frank says, the words muffled slightly into the other Frank's chest. Okay, so he's maybe sulking a little.
"True," the other Frank says, still petting a hand through Frank's hair. If his aim is to calm Frank down, it's totally working. "You should talk for a while. Tell me what happened today."
Frank sighs, boneless, tracing a hand down the other Frank's full sleeve tattoo, the one that's going to grace Frank's bare arm one day. "You already know everything. What's the point?"
"Maybe I just want to hear it."
Frank lifts his head to look his future self in the eye. There are lines around this Frank's eyes that Frank doesn't have yet and his skin is a little more brown, like he spends more time outside than Frank.
"Why?" Frank asks, his voice coming out more gently than he means it to.
The other Frank shrugs."You know when people talk about the best years of their lives?"
Frank nods slowly.
"I don't want to sound like an old man, but you're kind of living mine right now."
Frank's not sure what to do with that. He wants to ask what it means, if it means this tour is the last one he'll get to do before the band crashes and burns like it nearly did a year ago. If it means things in the future are worse than they are now - is there a war? A depression?
He fights down the questions, but not because the older Frank asked him to. More because he doesn't think he wants to know.
Instead of asking, he leans his head down against the other Frank's shoulder and talks. He talks about how Gerard messed up the words to Honey in soundcheck - again - and how much shit they all gave him for it. He talks about how the venue fucked up and didn’t include any vegetarian options in the catering so they had to send Brian on an emergency run for what was – seriously – the worst veggie burger he's ever had in his entire life. He talks about Bob's newest habit – implemented after Frank trashed his kit on TRL - inciting Bob's new insistence on taping off his drum riser with safety tape, declaring everything inside the yellow and black taped off area a 'Frank-free zone', which Frank makes sure to invade every show.
The other Frank laughs at that, his chest vibrating with it under Frank's head, even if the laughter sounds a little choked at the end. Frank just keeps talking, telling tour tales, sharing his excitement at the first kids getting MCR tattoos – tattoos, man, of our band - and that one show where they basically had to roll Mikey out of his bunk and drag him on to the stage because he'd taken a bunch of cold and flu tablets that had knocked him right out for hours.
The other Frank keeps giggling like he's really enjoying it, and their laughter bounces together like he's in an echo chamber. Occasionally the other Frank will chime in with a remembered fact or an "Oh my god, I totally forgot about that!" until they're talking over each other, both trying to get the words out first.
Frank's mid-way through a story about Gerard's latest public service announcement he likes to give to the crowd when a thought occurs to him and he breaks off mid-sentence, unable to stop himself from asking,
"So Gerard... is he all right? Is he still-?"
The other Frank settles his hand over the back of Frank's head, warm and comforting. "Yeah. He's still sober."
Frank's mouth stretches into a grin that's mostly smushed into his future self's chest. His own chest swells with what feels like pride and there's more than a little relief in his voice when he says simply, "Good."
There's a long moment where Frank can't find any more words or stories to tell. He's curling into his future self's side and trying not to think about how bad it got, those days when there wasn't even enough left of Gerard to recognise underneath all the alcohol and pills. The other Frank's arm tightens around him.
"Good," Frank says again, lifting his head to find himself looking into his own eyes, wide and full of concern. "I don't think I could do that again."
"I know what you mean." The other Frank's mouth quirks up at the side and he drops a kiss on Frank's forehead. It's comforting. "You're tougher than you think, though."
Frank hears the low startle of static again and scowls. "You know it's more than a little weird that someone's listening to us."
"He's not," the other Frank says. "He hasn't been for a while, just. He's letting me know I'm nearly out."
"Out?" Frank asks.
"Of time. I'm gonna have to bail on you. You might have to go to that party with Avenged after all."
Frank giggles. "No fucking way. I'm gonna spend an exciting evening being unconscious. And it's gonna be awesome."
The other Frank starts to roll away, then. Frank makes a grab for his arm, but he misses, pouting as the older Frank slides to the edge of the bed and starts picking up his clothes from the floor.
"Fuck dude, do you have to go already? I was just getting used to this."
The other Frank pulls the way-too-bright yellow and black shirt over his head, peering at Frank through the neck hole as he pulls it over his chin. "This?"
"Yeah." Frank shrugs. "I don't know, you remember all my shit. It's like, the closest I'll get to having a brother."
"Bullshit," Frank says, stepping closer to the bed to sweep a hand down Frank's cheek. "You've got brothers. Three of them."
He says the words so fervently it takes Frank a moment to process the number. "You mean four, right?"
A flash of alarm crosses the other Frank's face, so fast anyone else might have missed it - then he's smiling and brushing back his hair. "Yeah, four. Sorry, I suck at math."
"You mean we suck at math," Frank corrects, chewing on his lip, a hot curl of panic in his chest. It was just a mistake, he tells himself. A mistake that had his gun-carrying future self saying three instead of four. Right.
It's a physical effort not to ask. He knows the other Frank won't tell him anyway.
The other Frank isn't looking at him, he's knelt down, pulling on his boots. "Yeah right, us. The Ways are practically one person anyway," the other Frank finishes with a snort. He stands up and turns back to Frank, smiling wide.
"I don't like your shirt."
"Right. Is this another one of Gerard's ideas to give us uniforms?"
The other Frank only lifts an eyebrow in answer.
"Fine. No fucking questions." Frank throws his hands up in surrender.
The other Frank stoops to pick up the vest - the army-looking one. See, that's the one item in this outfit Frank reckons he could actually wear without feeling like a douchebag. He snatches it out of the other Frank's hands and holds it up, admiring it. There's a patch on the shoulder that says something in kanji and it smells like dust and sunshine. The other Frank reaches for the vest but Frank pulls it out of the way, putting it on instead.
"You should give this to me. You know, like a souvenir." Frank settles it on his shoulders. It fits perfectly, of course. He fits his hands to the lapels, straightening it and trying to look tough despite being naked underneath.
"Yeah it doesn't work like that." The other Frank makes "gimme" hands at him, but Frank ignores him.
"Well we can't take shit back and forth. It's not like a travel thing. It's more like a..." the other Frank scratches a hand through his hair, thinking, "displacement thing. Like whatever goes out, has to come back. Get it?"
"Huh." Frank scratches his chin, thinking on it. "But how does it know what's gone out?"
"Well everything gets scanned through when it goes out. So it's all identified. Or something. I don't know. I didn't make the thing."
Frank squints up at his older self, grinning, a little smug. "You totally answered those questions."
The other Frank shrugs and sits down next the Frank. "They weren't about the future. They're just about the tech. So unless you're thinking of like, designing a time machine, I figure we're pretty safe." He smiles at Frank and Frank smiles back. He likes the way the other Frank's eyes wrinkle around the sides when he smiles. He's going to look like that one day, he thinks, and that's okay with him.
"So, how long do you have?" he asks, dreading the answer a little.
"Only a few minutes."
"So no time for a blow job then." Frank gives his best smile.
"Already? Jesus. Talk about recovery time."
"You're such an old man," Frank teases, bumping his shoulder to the other Frank's. He bumps back, shooting a sideways look and a grin at him. His hand brushes against Frank's on the bedspread and Frank looks down to see their fingers entwined, all the letters of "Halloween" visible and overlapping. He can't help but smile.
"Hey, remember the day Gerard asked us to join the band?"
Frank grins, remembering the smell of stale beer, the shitty basement club, being perched on a chair watching the set, the strained expression on Gerard's face - somewhere between agonised and hopeful - when he asked the question. "Yeah. Fuck, I don't think he'd showered in a week. He stunk so bad."
"But you hugged him anyway."
"Fuck yeah." Frank grins. "Best day." He looks up at the other Frank and finds him smiling back, knowing they're both irecalling the same memory right now, all the same details. It warms his chest to think that there's someone who's been through exactly what he's been through, all the shit and all the awesome, and they're both here, right now. "Fuck man, I'm gonna miss you." It's a surprise to him to hear himself say it.
The other Frank cracks a grin, shaking his head a little. "Yeah, I think I'm gonna miss you too." He catches Frank around the back of his head and draws him in for a playful, bitey kiss that ends with them both grinning, forehead pressed together, as the other Frank's fingers rub gentle circles into the back of Frank's neck.
The quiet moment only lasts a minute before they both get fidgety, then the other Frank's touching a finger to his earpiece and saying. "Two minutes."
"So is it like beaming in Star Trek? Are you gonna go all wavy and sparkly when you go back?"
The other Frank shakes his head. "Dude, I don't know, I've only seen it from this side."
Frank realises he's still wearing the vest. He starts to shrug out of it. "Hey, you want this back?"
The other Frank waves a hand at him. "Nah, leave it on. It'll come with me whether I'm wearing it or not. Trust me."
"For real?" Frank asks, knowing his eyebrows have hit his hairline.
The other Frank just laughs. "Yeah." He stands in front of Frank, linking their hands and looking down at their twin tattoos. "Take care of yourself, Frank."
Frank looks up at his future self, and they share a small grin. "Sure thing. Frank." He giggles, and the other Frank echoes it. Then the room starts to shimmer and blur. Frank looks down at their hands, watching the way the other Frank's fingers, with the 'BOOKWORM' tattoos on the second knuckle, start to fade, turning transparent.
"Wow." Frank whispers watching as his future self fades away right in front of his eyes.
But that's not all.
All around Frank floods with brightness and the soft surface of the bed under his ass vanishes. He's not expecting that at all, and he falls, his bare ass landing hard on concrete. There's a thump in front of him and he looks forwards just in time to see a pile of yellow and black and green hit the concrete between his legs. The other Frank's clothes. His boots. His gun. Frank looks down to see he's still wearing the vest. The one the other Frank said would go with him whether he was wearing it or not.
Heart pounding in his ears, Frank finally looks up, his eyes straining because wherever he is now is so much brighter than the dim hotel room. Because he's not in the hotel room anymore. Fuck, fuck. Concentrate, Iero, where the fuck are you?
It looks like an industrial kitchen, but one that's been taken over by mechanic squatters. There are tools and equipment scattered on every surface, drills, car parts, electrical paraphernalia, parts of old computers. He's still staring, trying to make sense of it, adrenaline coursing through him hot and urgent, when the silence is broken by a voice coming from the next room.
"See how you like it, asshole." There's a laugh then, and fuck, Frank knows that laugh. That rough, abrupt, slightly dry, laugh.
"Gerard?" he calls, his voice sounding small and unsure.
Gerard (or someone who sounds freakishly like him) stops giggling then. Frank struggles to his feet, bundling the pile of green and yellow clothing and holding it to his groin to cover himself. "Gerard, is that you?"
Frank hears footsteps and he turns his head toward them, in time to see a figure come through a battered doorway into the kitchen. It is Gerard, but it isn't. It's not Frank's Gerard, with the long hair, black and stringy, the shuffling footsteps and baby face. No, this Gerard is lean and lithe, wearing skin-tight leather pants and a bright blue t-shirt with yellow lettering on it. His face is thinner, cheekbones high and defined. His hair is the biggest surprise: it's fire-engine red.
He stares at Frank, his eyes huge as they dart between Frank's two-tone mohawk and his right arm, bare of ink. "Oh shit. Oh shit." Gerard's expression is pure shock.
Hot panic twists in Frank's chest. He struggles to keep his voice level. "Gerard, what the fuck is going on?"
Gerard opens and closes his mouth a few times before he manages to make words. "You. It's. Fuck. Fuck. I mean. The machine. It's like, holy shit. I've never heard of this happening before, ever. I didn't even know this was an option." Gerard tugs on his bright hair, staring at Frank and stammering in circles.
"Gerard," Frank warns, raising his voice. "Tell me. What the fuck happened?"
"Don't you get it? The machine." Gerard stares at him, eyes wide and manic. "It brought back the wrong Frank."
"I'm in the future?" Frank asks, already knowing the answer, but needing to fucking hear it, goddamnit. He steps closer to the red-haired Gerard. "Gee, what year is it?"
Gerard takes a breath, his hands clenching to fists as he stares at the floor, like he's making a decision. Finally, he looks up to meet Frank's eyes and says, "It's 2019."
"Shit." It's like the floor shifts under Frank's feet and he has to take a step back to steady himself. "It's not," he says. "It can't be. Fuck. Fuck. Gee, we have a show tomorrow - interviews, appearances, I can't just vanish, Brian's gonna fucking kill me."
"Brian." Gerard repeats the name slowly, like it's a forgotten word he's only just remembered.
"Gerard." Frank snaps his fingers in front of Gerard's face. "Gerard, you have to send me back."
"I don't know how."
"What? Can't you just... do the reverse of what you did before?"
"No - you don't, see, I mean, I didn't do anything. Like, you program the tech to send you out and when the set time expires you just..." Gerard scratches his head, fucking his hair up in a red shaggy mess over his forehead. "You just come back."
"But I didn't go in the first place."
"I know, right? It mustn't have been able to tell you apart from Ghou - um, I mean, this Frank. The one who belongs here."
"So he's still back there? In 2005?"
Gerard shrugs, looking helpless. "Probably." He shifts on his feet, scratching the back of his neck. "But hey, he looks like you, and he knows all the songs, so like, he can do the shows and the interviews and shit."
"With the wrong hair and about a billion new tattoos."
"It's not my fault you keep getting new tattoos."
"We're not talking about me, Gerard, shit."
"But we are, sort of." Gerard's brow furrows deep and Frank is suddenly so aware of his bare ass.
He holds the bundle of clothes closer to him. "Let me get dressed, then let's sort this out."
"Oh." Gerard blinks like he's only just noticed that Frank's not wearing pants. "Right, right, sorry." He turns around and starts to walk back to the doorway he emerged from. "You can just-"
He's cut off mid-sentence by a barrage of drums and trumpets coming through some tinny speakers. It takes a moment for Frank to process what he's hearing, by which time Gerard is already swearing.
"Is that Christina Aguilera?"
"Shit. Shit. Yes. Shit. It's the proximity alarm." There's more than a note of panic in his voice.
"Your proximity alarm is Christina Aguilera?"
"Shut up, it was your idea."
"Not my idea."
"Not yet," Gerard corrects him absently, running into the next room. "Get fucking dressed," he shouts back through the doorway, "and fast. We need to run."
Frank's completely confused now, but Gerard is moving faster than Frank's seen him go in his life, so he doesn't question it. He just shoves his legs into the cargos and pulls on the fucking ugly t-shirt. He can hear Gerard next door, doing something that seems to require a fair amount of banging and sliding metal.
The blaring strains of what Frank's pretty certain is "Candyman" shut off abruptly and then the strange, older, red-haired version of Frank's lead singer is back in the room. He's got a gun holster strapped to his thigh now, which holds a gun that looks like the one the other Frank had except it's bright yellow instead of bright green. Frank can't help staring at it. Fuck, everyone's packing these days?
"We gotta run," Gerard says breathlessly picking up a tangle of brown leather from the floor and strapping it around Frank's chest with efficient hands. It's a shoulder holster. He shoves the bright green gun into it and hands Frank the boots he didn’t get a chance to put on. "Now." His voice is breathless and completely serious. He grabs Frank's wrist and rushes for the door.
Frank's momentarily blinded by the sun when they make it outside. It's so fucking bright. When he can finally focus, all he sees is sand - sand for miles, hot under his bare feet - with sparse vegetation and not much else. He snatches a backwards glance, barely getting an eyeful of the old gas station they've just run out of - broken windows and empty shelves, derelict rusted-out pumps - before they turn a corner and there's a Trans Am parked in front of them, a bright streak of colour in the faded, dusty surroundings.
Gerard drops Frank's wrist, running for the driver's door, shouting, "Get in!"
Frank scrambles for the passenger door as Gerard starts the engine and guns it. Frank's ass hits the too-hot leather and the car's in motion before he's even gotten the door closed all the way.
They're speeding toward the horizon over sand and dust, going faster than Frank can calculate without any road markings to guide him. Gerard's face is a mask of concentration and he's driving like a rally driver, switching up gears and gaining speed, checking the rear view mirror every few seconds, whispering, "Come on. Come on."
"Gee?" Frank wants to know what the fuck is going on.
"Not now, not now," Gerard answers, his voice hurried in the way he gets when all his focus is on a song, or an idea, and there just isn't room for anything else. Frank knows that means he shouldn't push, not now, so he presses his palm to the dash and turns his head to look out the back windshield. And that's when he sees it.
"Gee." Frank's voice raises high with panic, because coming up behind them are two motorcycles, glaring white in the bright sunlight, the riders dressed in white from head to toe and wearing masks.
"I see them," Gerard says, his voice eerily calm over the growling engine, which revs louder as he shifts up a gear. "Switch places with me."
"What?" Frank startles, staring at Gerard.
"Take the wheel," Gerard says, his voice a demand as he scoots forwards in the seat. "I need you to drive. Now, Frank."
The command in his voice startles Frank into movement and he scrambles to slide in behind Gerard. He's pressed flat back against the seat, Gerard's body in front of him. "Get your foot on the pedal," Gerard instructs and Frank feels for the accelerator with his bare foot, pressing in beside Gerard's. The car surges forwards as he bumps the pedal.
Gerard slides out then, and Frank barely manages to grab the wheel before it spins. Then he's driving a fucking Trans Am across a desert, fuck. "Gee? Where am I going?" he shouts, panic leaking into his voice.
Gerard's not looking at him, he's looking out the back window and drawing his yellow gun. "Anywhere, just go fast." He reaches across Frank's chest and when he withdraws his hand, Frank sees he's grabbed the green gun too. Then, like some kind of fucking action film, Gerard slides across the seat, sticking his torso through the passenger window and firing, both guns blazing, toward the motorcyclists behind them.
Frank glances into the rear-view mirror in time to see one of the bikes weave, a spot of red appearing in the bright white of his clothes. Almost like it's in slow motion, he watches the bike pitch sideways and slide across the sand, the rider spilling off and hitting the ground hard. Harder than anyone could survive. Holy fuck.
The sight arrests him a moment too long. When he focuses back on the front windshield there's an anthill coming at them. Frank yanks the wheel sideways, barely missing it.
"Shit. Shit." Frank's hands shake on the wheel, but he forces himself to straighten up, firming his grip tight before he dares to look at the passenger window, shit-scared Gerard won't be there anymore because he fell out of the car.
Gerard's still there, thank Christ, one elbow braced on the window ledge, one knee on the seat, his other leg in the foot well. He's panting, his red hair blowing around his face. "Keep it steady, Frankie," he shouts through the window and Frank grits his teeth and tries, keeping the accelerator floored.
Then Gerard's straightening up and firing out the window again, just like that, and Frank's struggling to keep the car going in a straight line while Gerard starts shooting at the other rider. The other rider who's getting closer and closer. He's weaving up behind them now, in range enough that Frank can make out that the white rubber mask he's wearing looks like it's meant to be Dracula. What the fuck?
The rider's close enough to start taking pot shots at them, raising a white gun in their direction and firing. There's the shriek of metal when it hits the Trans Am, somewhere in the back bumper, and Frank swears, fighting the urge to weave the car.
Gerard starts firing in earnest now, shrieking, "Don't shoot my fucking car!" Anger must improve his aim because a bloom of red appears on the rider's shoulder. He doesn't go down though, he keeps gaining and suddenly Frank can't see him anymore because he's in his blind spot.
"Gerard. Gerard, I can't see him!" Frank's voice comes out more than a little panicked. Gerard dives across the seat, leaning over Frank to shoot out the driver window and Frank gets a noseful of ozone a moment before his ears are assaulted by shots. He keeps his eyes forward, trained on the horizon ahead, past Gerard's shoulder, feeling the kickback through his body every time Gerard fires.
He doesn't see the second rider go down. He doesn't want to. He knows Gerard gets him, because he stops firing and comes back inside the car, slumping in the passenger seat and holstering his gun. There's probably a body and a wrecked motorcycle strewn across the landscape behind them, but Frank doesn't look in the rear-view mirror. He keeps his eyes forward and his foot pressed flat, watching the horizon that never gets closer.
He doesn't know how long he stays like that, just driving, hands tight on the steering wheel, before Gerard's voices pierces through the howl of the wind, the thrum of the engine.
Frank keeps his eyes on the horizon, his hands on the wheel. Just keep going.
"Frank." A gentle hand on Frank's shoulder. "Frank you can stop now. It's okay. They're gone. It's safe. You can stop."
Gerard's shakes him gently. "Frank, come on. Ease off. It's okay."
Frank can't seem to relax his foot from the accelerator. As long as the motor is running, their surroundings whipping past in a blur, he doesn't have to think yet. Just keep going.
"Frank, stop!" Gerard orders, voice hard over the howl of the engine.
Something snaps in Frank and he slams on the brakes. The car careens to a halt, spinning sideways on the dirt and Frank's back smacks into the seat. For a long moment there's nothing but the rumble of the engine idling, then Gerard reaches across and turns the key in the ignition, killing it. Without the noise and the wind Frank can suddenly hear his own breathing, how unsteady it is. He peels his hands off the steering wheel. They feel cramped, stuck in their grip.
"What the fuck was that?" he asks, a growl in his voice, fighting down a clamouring hysteria that's building in his chest, threatening to leak out. He turns his eyes to Gerard's face, streaked with sweat and dust. "What the fuck just happened, Gerard? Where are we?"
Gerard sucks hard on his lower lip, his brow furrowed deep. His voice is almost apologetic when he answers, "California."
"Bullshit," Frank says, glancing around at the endless sand, littered with debris and scrub, not a building in sight. "California doesn't look like this."
"It does now," Gerard says, and when Frank focuses on him again he can see how huge his eyes are - serious and concerned.
Frank doesn't want to ask. He doesn't want to know, not really, but right now he has to.
"What the fuck happened here, Gerard?"
Gerard shrugs, his mouth pulling to the side as he tells Frank, simply, truthfully, "The end of the world."
Gerard drives them back to the derelict gas station. Frank stares out the window the entire way, consciously not looking out for trashed motorcycles and dead bodies dressed in white, but he doesn't see them anyway. Maybe Gerard drives them via a different route, or maybe the bodies are just gone. He doesn't want to know.
He can't focus on anything, the world is a blur rushing past his face and he can't think, can't process. There are no cities anymore. No government to speak of, just a faceless corporation that stepped up to run the show after the bombs fell and wiped out all the infrastructure. Better Living industries, they're called. They were probably well-intentioned until they were corrupted by power, before they tried to sedate the populace, leaving anyone desiring free thought no choice but to run. These are the few facts Gerard rambled out before Frank told him to shut up. He's not ready to hear this yet.
He feels ill. Nauseous. The air around him feels thick and hard to breathe and dust is scratchy at the back of his throat.
He's probably in shock, he realises idly. He can feel Gerard's eyes on him, glancing over every mile or so, concern heavy in his gaze. He can't bring himself to reassure Gerard. Hell, he can't even reassure himself.
They pull up outside the gas station, and the silence when the engine stops is overwhelming. Frank can feel Gerard's eyes on him, can sense the questions he wants to ask, but in the end all he says to Frank is, "You should put your boots on."
Frank does, even though his hands are shaking so hard it's difficult to tie the laces. He follows Gerard into the gas station. It's a wreck. Smashed equipment scatters the floor, tables are overturned, the once-neat boxes containing car parts and tools are lying on their sides, contents spilling broken onto the floor.
"They've been here," Gerard says needlessly. He races into the room he first emerged from and Frank can hear him banging doors open and swearing. "Fuck, fuck."
He emerges, pacing and wringing his hands. "They took it. The tech. All of it. It's gone."
Frank opens his mouth to ask what that means, but the drone of distant engines steals his focus away. He races for the door, peering out, his heart pounding already because he can see motorcycles in the distance. Fuck, it isn't fair. They just got back. He's not ready for this again.
He's about to run back to the car when Gerard presses a calming hand to Frank's shoulder. "It's okay. It's not them. We're safe."
Frank looks Gerard, an eyebrow quirking up. "Safe?" He thinks he needs to re-think his definition of safe, now.
"Relatively safe." Gerard shoots him a weak smile. "That's Mikey and Ray."
Frank grips the doorframe, staring out at the distant riders. He tries to imagine the Mikey and Ray he knows existing in this place. Mikey with his spindly legs and trademark glasses. Ray with his soft smile and fluffy hair. He just can't picture it.
The motorcycles are getting closer and Frank can make out a colourful yellow helmet with rainbow stripes on it, worn by a rider with a red jacket. It's got to be Mikey, no one else is that thin. The other rider looks stockier, wearing a huge round helmet like an astronaut or diver would wear. When they park and dismount Frank can see the set of his shoulders and the way he moves is Ray all over. The back of his jacket sports an American flag. They're both wearing gun holsters carrying weapons. Ray's gun is blue, Mikey's is red.
Frank's not ever going to get used to that.
He's wondering where Bob is, when Ray's helmet comes off. Ray looks noticeably older in the face, messy stubble across his cheeks and chin. His skin is browner, slightly pink with sunburn, and the set of his body looks a little thicker and more solid. His hair is still long, curly and wild - and it's such a comfort to see something so familiar in this alien place Frank has to hold himself back from hugging him. He steps back from the door, slipping deeper into the shadowed diner, feeling even more out of place.
Ray notices there's something amiss at the gas station immediately, jogging up to the door and inside to look around at the trashed kitchen. His face creases with concern and Frank notices the way his hands clench into fists. His voice is deadly soft when he asks, "What happened, Poison?"
"Raided. We got chased off by dracs probably an hour ago. If it wasn't for the proximity alarm they would've gotten us too."
Ray starts for the tech room, but Gerard catches him by the arm. "Don't bother. They got it. All of it."
"Shit," Ray says, clawing a hand through his hair, brow furrowing. "Shit, shit. We traded so much for that. And we didn't even get to use it."
Frank opens his mouth to speak, but Mikey crosses into his frame of vision and Frank loses all the words. Because holy shit.
"Mikeyway?" The nickname slips out like a question, because though Frank can tell it's Mikey, knows it's Mikey, it's such a different Mikey to any Frank's ever seen. For one, he's not wearing glasses, which is enough of a shock, his dark eyes standing out above his high sharp cheekbones. For two, his hair is a shock of bright blonde, long and spiky over his forehead, the back and sides shaved short. He's shucked his helmet and jacket, wearing only a short-sleeved muscle shirt in yellow and black zebra print, showing off upper arms that are still slender but muscled now. There's a dusting of stubble on his upper lip and chin and he looks grown up and manly and fucking hot. He's like the fucking swan at the end of the ugly duckling book.
Mikey turns at his name and stares at Frank. Just stares. No words. And Frank knows suddenly that he and Mikey are having the exact same moment.
"Poison?" Mikey asks finally, his voice a little tremulous.
That gets Ray and Gerard's attention and Frank knows the moment Ray figures it out. He stares at Frank's mohawk for a long moment before walking right up to Frank and shoving the shirtsleeve of his right arm up, revealing bare skin.
"Oh no," he says, turning to Gerard, "oh Jesus Christ, tell me you didn't."
"It wasn't supposed to go this way." Gerard raises his hands, apologetic. "Me and Ghoul were testing the tech - seeing if we could bring stuff back - well, forwards, I guess."
"Mission accomplished," Mikey butts in, his voice as dry as the desert as he stares at Frank.
"Oh jesus." Ray presses a palm to his face and just breathes, slow and deliberate for ten - Frank counts them - breaths. Then he turns back to Frank. "What year is it, where you're from?"
"2005," Frank says. "We're on Taste of Chaos. Last time I saw you, you were on your way to a party with Avenged Sevenfold."
Ray can't seem to close his mouth. He turns back to Gerard. "And where's Ghoul?" He looks like he might already know the answer but he's asking anyway just to torture himself.
"Um, so he's in 2005 on the Taste Of Chaos tour. We think. It was only supposed to be for a couple of hours, but the machine brought back the wrong Frank. I didn’t even know it could do that."
"Which is why we were gonna test it before we tried to use it for anything important. Remember?" Ray's voice gets higher in pitch the louder it gets. And maybe its shock or hysteria, or just relief that he's not the only one who thinks this entire situation is completely fucked, but it tugs Frank's mouth into his first smile of 2019.
"Is that what you call it, testing it?" He giggles, smothering a hand over his face, thinking of his whirlwind seduction by his future self. The laugh dies in his throat as a piece of information clicks into place: Gerard was the one who sent the other Frank back. Gerard was the "friend" on the other end of the earpiece. Fuck, fuck, fuck - how much did he hear? Was he even listening?
Frank stares at the red-haired version of his best friend, losing track of whatever he and Ray are saying about fuel or power wastage as his mind turns over the possibilities. His face starts to burn as he wonders just how far this goes. How much Gerard heard, how much he wanted to hear. Fuck, what if he was beating off to them?
His mind skitters away from the thought. He can't think about that. Not now. He hasn't let himself think about Gerard that way since he got sober. And not even that often before then, except when they were both drunk enough to pretend they didn’t remember it.
When Frank feels like he's got his brain back under contol, he manages to ask the question that's been forming in the back of his mind the last few minutes. "Who's Ghoul?"
"Oh, um, you are." Gerard springs at the change of subject. "The you from now, that is. Fun Ghoul. It's your code name."
"We try to use code names instead of actual ones, there's a lot of listening tech now, if they hear the right names it makes it easier for them to track you down," Ray explains, somehow having retained his incredible patience even in the future.
"Oh right. Fun Ghoul, ha. That's like 'fuck you' in Italian." Frank grins weakly.
"We know," Mikey says with a small smile.
"'Course," Frank says, scratching a hand through his hair while he considers that. That's probably why the other Frank chose it in the first place. Damn. He's years behind these guys, he'll probably never catch up. "So, you're Poison then?" he says to Gerard.
"Party Poison. But yeah. You catch on fast." Gerard grins, just unsure enough that Frank catches a glimpse of the Gerard he knows so well under the leather pants and red hair. It makes his heart squeeze up.
He gets shaken out of his reverie by Ray chiming in, "I go by Jet Star, and then there's Kobra Kid." He nudges Mikey with his elbow. "You get the idea."
Frank does. He also thinks the code names are kind of stupid, but he's not gonna bring that up right now. "So what, you have to use code names all the time? Are they always listening?"
"Probably not, but it was just easier to pick a name and stick with it. You keep changing it up and you tend to use the wrong one at the wrong time," Ray explains, shrugging out of his jacket and tossing it over the side of an overturned table.
"Oh right." Frank nods. It makes sense. "Well, like, sorry in advance if I get it wrong. I think it's gonna take some practice."
"You shouldn't be here long enough for it to be an issue. Right, Poison?" Ray glares at Gerard, but Gerard just bites his lip and he doesn't look away. Fuck, Ray in the future is fierce.
The silent standoff between Ray and Gerard lasts for another thirty seconds. Surprisingly, Mikey is the one to break it.
"So, this place is blown. We should probably get our shit together and move somewhere else before they come back looking for us." He raises his voice slightly, "Don't you think, guys?"
Ray nods slowly. "Yeah. Good point." He stalks into the tech room, without a word to Gerard. Frank can hear him slamming around in there.
Gerard takes a step towards his brother, his voice a low whisper, a question, "Kobra?"
"Don't." Mikey shakes his head, looking at Gerard, something in his expression that probably only Gerard can read. "Later." Mikey glances at Frank and then back at Gerard. "Not now." Gerard nods and lets him go. Mikey picks up an abandoned crate and starts picking through the debris, grabbing things that may or may not be useful, working from a criteria Frank can't fathom.
Frank watches him for a moment, allowing the thoughts he's been holding at bay to coalesce in his mind before asking Gerard, "The tech that they took - that was the machine that brought me here, wasn't it? That's what's gone?"
He already knows the answer, it's all over Gerard's face, his brow furrowed in apology. "Yeah."
Frank swears under his breath, scuffing a foot at the concrete floor. He could be stuck here. Forever. He might never get those years back. The best years of his life, his older self had told him.
Warm fingers closing around his distract him from those thoughts. He looks up from the dusty concrete to find Gerard's eyes on his, looking as earnest as he's ever seen him. "We'll get you back to 2005, I promise. I swear we'll figure it out."
All signs point to it being a difficult, if not impossible task, but in that moment - with Gerard's hands warm in his, his eyes looking at Frank, wide and imploring - Frank totally believes him.
Just like he's always believed everything Gerard's ever said to him when he looks like he really means it.
If Frank was wearing a watch he could have timed it, but by his own estimates it's less than fifteen minutes before they're on the road again. With the discussions out of the way, the guys move fast, zeroing in on supplies and equipment they need without hesitation, packing up and moving stuff out of the gas station faster than the quickest festival crew.
Frank can't figure out what's important and what's junk so he tries to stay out of the foot traffic. He gets stuck staring at a pile of messy sleeping bags and a couple of lumpy pillows in the corner of the main room, near some windows blacked out with a jumble of old plastic bags and cardboard.
Scribbled on the wall by the sleeping bags is a tangle of sketches in marker, lines tracking over cracks in the concrete. Aliens, zombies, vampires, trees - they're the kind of doodles Gerard tends to do when he's bored or can't sleep. There's a battered comic book, some empty cans anda close-to-empty bottle of water on the floor nearby. That's when it finally clicks for Frank.
"You guys live here?" His voice peaks high in disbelief.
"Not anymore," Mikey answers in a droll tone, bending down to toss the sleeping bags over his shoulder and picking up the comic book with care,almost reverence. Frank can't figure out why - it's not even one of Mikey's preferred trades, he's never really liked Superman.
The reason becomes clear moments later when he helps Mikey carry the bedding to the Trans Am. Mikey lays the comic in the corner of the trunk with three others, all looking battered. Mikey skates a finger down the cover before carefully laying the sleeping bags over the top of the pile. Of course. Comics would be hard to come by these days; the guys are hanging on to any they can find.
Only a few days ago - well, a few days ago to Frank, fourteen years ago to everyone else - Frank, Mikey and Gerard had ducked off before sound check to visit a local comic store. They'd bought a few stacks each. Frank can remember picking over the titles, trying not to double up with ones he already had. By the afternoon the comics were scattered over the floor of the bus, being stepped on, forgotten, as everyone's attention by then had switched to some horror movie marathon on the big TV.
Frank hasn't seen a TV in this future, yet, and the only music he's heard was that proximity alarm.
Music. The thought springs into Frank's head as he watches Mikey and Ray put the last few bottles of water and tins of food into the trunk, with the scattering of electronics, car parts, batteries and scant few clothes. There's no music in there. No CD's or vinyl and certainly no guitars or instruments.
Frank thinks of the calluses he felt on the other Frank's - no, Fun Ghoul's - hands, hanging on tight to what he'd said about how he was still playing. Just not as often as he'd like to. He wouldn't have lied about that. Would he?
"Is that everything, like - everything you've got?" Frank finds himself asking, even though he's not sure he wants the answer.
"Too much shit weighs you down," Ray explains, already reaching for his oversized helmet. "Are you thinking of that diner, Poison?" Ray directs the question at Gerard, who's propping the smashed glass door to the gas station open with a large rock. He's got a can of spray paint in his hand, shaking it.
"Yeah. Diner," Gerard calls back, popping the cap off the can and spraying a diagonal line across the door in blood red paint. He doesn't add anything else to it, which is pretty sparse artwork for Gerard. He just caps the can and jogs toward the Trans Am. Frank looks at the door, his brow furrowing.
"What's with the door?" he asks.
"Door propped open means it's unoccupied, 'case any other runners find it and need a place to crash." Mikey's voice is a little muffled from his helmet, even though the visor is up. He kicks the stand on his bike up, starting the engine.
"Red paint's a warning." Gerard has to raise his voice over the growl of Mikey's bike engine. "Means it's been raided. Take it if you need it, but watch yourself." Gerard doesn't wait for any more questions, just climbs into the Trans Am, gunning the engine. Ray's bike rumbles to life as well and Frank belatedly realises he's the only one not ready to go. He hoofs it to the Trans Am, climbs into the passenger seat and barely gets the door closed before the car starts rolling forward.
They travel over the endless sand, and Frank can't figure out how the hell Gerard and the guys know where they're going. There's no landmarks to speak of, just sand and rocks and fucking cacti. He frowns at the horizon, feeling completely out of his depth. He's too slow, too stupid for this place.
Under the choppy rush of the wind he can hear a ringing, a rustling. He frowns harder, leaning toward the source. It's coming from the speaker mounted in the door. It's the radio. It's static.
Frank's never been fond of the sound of static. It's probably stupid, but he can't help feeling like the sound damages his ears somehow. Even if it is just paranoia - why take the risk? He's a musician, he needs his ears. He's reaching for the car stereo without thinking, about to turn it off when Gerard's fingers catch his wrist, fast but gentle.
"It's just static." Frank can feel his face creasing with confusion.
"It's not always just static," Gerard says, tearing his gaze from the windshield long enough to pin Frank with a look. "There's a guy, does transmissions sometimes. Got an amazing music collection... by today's standard's anyway."
So there is still music in this place. Frank's feels a sudden longing to hear it.
"He do them often?" Frank's hand still hovers by the knob. Static is really annoying, okay?
"Once in a while. He doesn't really keep to a schedule, just kind of have to keep it tuned in," Gerard explains, turning his attention back to the road.
Frank lets his hand drop to his lap. Gerard lets go of his wrist, putting his hand back on the wheel.
"Must be pretty good if it's worth listening to static the rest of the time."
"Oh, it is." Gerard seems pretty sure about that.
The diner is just as old and wrecked as the gas station had been. Frank notices that the door is propped open too, but there's no sign of red paint.
There's something else on the door though, a poster. Frank gets close enough to read the words "WANTED" and "EXTERMINATE" across the page, crimson on white.
In his peripheral vision he can see Ray come up behind him. His sigh sounds resigned and his voice is wry. "Nice to see we're still loved."
There are four faces on the poster - their faces - Gerard's, Mikey's, Ray's... and Frank's. There's a red cross over each of their black and white pictures, like a target. Like they're already officially dead and whatever comes next is just a formality. Frank stares, his stomach churning.
A loud ripping startles Frank out of his doomed reverie. When he blinks his eyes open, the wall in front of him is bare, the poster now dangling from Gerard's hand, torn at the edges.
"We should get our shit inside," is all Gerard says, with a light touch on Frank's shoulder to get him moving.
Four faces. Four.
They get a load of stuff into the diner before Frank can't sit on the question anymore. He puts down the crate he's carrying down on the table of a booth and turns around slowly. He waits for Mikey to get back from the car so they're all in the room when he finally says the words aloud.
Gerard's face falls and Ray visibly flinches. Mikey - moving very slow and deliberate - carefully puts down his load, turns around and walks right back out of the diner. Like he can't even listen.
It's not a good sign.
Frank tears his eyes from the now empty doorway to focus on Gerard, who is speechless for the first time in Frank's memory. He opens his mouth like he wants to say something, taking a breath to fuel the words, but nothing comes out.
It's Ray who speaks first. "We were in LA." He's bent over the crate he just carried in, his hands tight on the handles, his eyes locked to the contents like he can't look up. "We were recording the fourth studio album, the follow up to Black Parade."
Frank's heard of the Black Parade already. It's the one Gerard's started to talk about just recently - his Gerard, in 2005 - doodling skeletal marching band leaders into the corners of his notebooks.
"We were nearly done mastering, so fucking close to the finish line, doing press and a couple of shows and everything but... something just wasn't right. The album just wasn't... there." Ray shifts, peeling his hands off the handles of the crate and stretching his fingers out, not looking up from his hands as he continues. "I think we could all feel it. We put all these rules in place - no concept, no costumes, just strip it all back. A straight up rock record - but it was like ripping the soul out of it. So we took a break, and then Poison, uh, Gee - came back with a new song, something right out of left field, fucking off the wall crazy."
Ray finally looks up from his hands. "And brilliant. It totally changed the game. We knew we had to rewrite the record then. Turf it all and start over from scratch - a whole new album. And we were psyched, all of us." Ray shrugs uncomfortably. "Except Bob."
"Except Bob?" Frank repeats, his voice sounding young to his own ears.
Ray rubs a hand over his face, smearing dust across his forehead. "He said he just couldn't do it. Not another album back to back. Couldn't do it all over again and let what we'd done go to waste."
Ray sighs, turning away to pick at the contents of the crate like he can't look at Frank and say it. "He left the band."
"He left?" Frank fights back a wince. Apparently shock turns him into an echo machine.
"He wasn't angry. He was more... resigned." Ray shrugs, looking helpless. "You took it pretty hard."
"Fucking right I did. He left? He... he leaves?" Frank's having trouble breathing, his chest is all hot and tight, but he's not sure if it's upset or anger. He can't think about Bob leaving, not ever. He was part of what fixed them, what brought them back from the brink. "And you let him?" He fires the question at Ray before turning to glare at Gerard. "You just let him go?" Looks like anger is easier.
"Frank-" Gerard starts to speak and loses the words again, his mouth moving silently for a moment. Then his face creases up, frowning down at his hands, as he tells Frank the rest. "The first pig bomb fell the next day. LA was chaos, we were lucky even the four of us were together when it happened. Everything was messed up, falling apart, but as soon as we were back on our feet we went looking for him, I swear." Gerard's eyes are pleading with Frank to understand. To just get it.
"So what. He's dead?"
"We don't know that." Ray's tone makes it sound like an old argument. "Just because we haven't found him doesn't mean he's dead. A lot of people went missing back then, and they still turn up. He could be out there, under the radar, just like us." Everything about Ray's manner says he's wishing it to be true.
Everything about his manner says he doesn't believe it, though.
"Sure, he'll turn up. We'll rip the mask off a dead drac and see his face, underneath." Mikey's voice rings across the room, dripping sarcasm. Frank glances over to see him leaning in the doorway, all sharp lines and angles, before he stomps inside.
"Shut up, Kobra." Gerard snaps, glaring at Mikey in a way Frank hasn't seen since the days when he'd get hopped up on pills and get uncharacteristically aggressive at anyone who got near enough. "If that ever happens - if - Bob would have been dead long before one of us blasted him. We'd just be putting him out of his misery."
Mikey stops, meeting Gerard's eyes, challenge in every line of him. "You believe that, then why'd you stop pulling off the masks?"
Gerard doesn't have an answer.
Mikey barely twitches an eyebrow in response. "Thought so."
Frank suddenly wishes he hadn't asked.
Frank can't sleep. It's no surprise. He usually can't sleep the first night he's in a new situation - first night on tour, first night off tour, first night in a new timezone.
This is all of the above and more. Nothing is familiar here - the diner they're hiding out in smells like gasoline, rust and mould, and there are none of the usual sounds to lull him to sleep: the bus engine or even the hum of a hotel room air conditioner. There are only unfamiliar insect calls that sound eerie to his own ears.
Even his own band mates are unfamiliar - harder, brighter, older and edged with a brittle sharpness from living on the run.
The floor is hard under his shoulder blades, even through the sleeping bag. His neck aches, his back aches, and his stomach feels twisted up from whatever the fuck that crap in the can pretending to be food was that they ate a few hours ago was. Plus, he's pretty sure he's sunburned. He shouldn't have even bothered laying down.
After turning over to his other side for the umpteenth time, he gives up on trying and gets up, sliding silently from the tiny storeroom so as not to wake Ray, who seems to have no problem sleeping anywhere - even on the hard floor with his leg caught under a low shelf, his head resting on his balled up jacket.
Frank slips outside, through the back door that's standing ajar. The night air is cooler than he expected, but the sand is still warm under his bare feet. He tried to sleep with his boots on, the guys had encouraged it - they all do it, in case they have to run - but Frank pulled his off in a fit of desperation about half an hour ago. Not that it helped, here he is - still awake. His fingers itch for a cigarette, but apparently they're hard to come by in 2019.
Apparently a lot of things are hard to come by in 2019. Food. Fuel. Water. It makes his life in 2005 look positively luxurious by comparison.
He takes a few steps out onto the warm sand, not sure where he's going, just needing to move. When he catches sight of the Trans Am, he strolls up to it, sliding his fingers over the curve of the bumper, tracing words and patterns painted onto the metal. It's such a Gerard thing to do, to cover a vehicle in art. Frank walks the length of the passenger side, running his fingers over colours and lines.
It's not until he gets to the front door that he sees he's not alone. Gerard is stretched out on the hood on his back, hands clasped loosely behind his head. He's already looking at Frank; he must have heard him coming. "Hey," he says softly.
"Hey." Frank says back, voice low, feet sticking in the sand, not sure if he should keep approaching or go back inside. Maybe Gerard was looking for a moment alone. The moonlight has a weird greenish-blueish tinge to it and it's making Gerard's hair look insane, nearly purple.
Gerard slides a hand out to his side, patting the bonnet in invitation. The hood with a giant fucking spider painted across it.
"Had to be a spider, didn't it?" Frank eyes what he can see of the design
"Eight legs to the wall." Gerard offers Frank a tiny smile, patting the metal again.
Frank pushes down his irrational phobia and takes the invitation, pushing his ass up onto the car to lay back beside Gerard. The night sky stretches out above them, dark blue and dotted with tiny bright points of stars. That, at least, is unchanged, and there's comfort in its familiarity. They lie side by side in silence for a long moment, the metal still slightly warm under Frank's shoulders.
"Can't sleep?" Gerard asks, eventually, breaking the silence.
"No. It's like first night of tour, you know?"
"Yeah. I know." Gerard's voice drops low, and Frank knows he gets it. It's impossible to tour with someone and not get to know their sleeping habits - and sleeping problems.
He reaches his hand across the dusty metal that lies between their bodies, interlinking his fingers with Gerard's, giving them a squeeze. Gerard squeezes back.
Frank's eyes dance across the sky, tracing the constellations he's known all his life. He tries to keep his mind blank, to just breathe, and be calm. Just concentrate on the feel of Gerard's hand in his.
It's not enough to quiet his brain. He has to know. "Tell me about the end of the world."
"Frank, don't-" Gerard says it softly, no real fight in it.
"Please. I think." Frank rolls his head to the side, finding Gerard's eyes on him, huge and concerned. "I think I need to hear it."
Gerard sighs, his face pinching up in a way that makes the lines around his eyes deepen. The lines Frank's not used to seeing. Still, the expression itself is achingly familiar and Frank's overlaying it in his mind with long black hair and smudged makeup. It's a comfort.
"Are you sure you want to know?" Gerard's fingers flex around Frank's, squeezing harder. "It might be easier if-"
"I don't care about easy, Gerard." Frank sits up, the metal squeaking under his ass. Suddenly, it's important that he be in on this. "You guys lived it, not me. If I can't take just hearing about it I shouldn't even be here."
Gerard pushes up to sitting as well, but slower. "Well you shouldn't be here, really. Not yet." Gerard fakes a smile and Frank knows a deflection when he sees one. He won't let Gerard sidetrack him.
"But I am right now. And I will be again one day. Because I survive it, right? The end of the world? So I should try and be prepared. So you should tell me." He raises an eyebrow, holding Gerard's stare until he looks away. He's quiet for a long moment, but when he meets Frank's eyes again his expression is determined.
"Fine. What do you want to know?"
Frank doesn't want to know, he has to know. "What happened to Jersey?"
Frank sees Gerard's resolute mask slip. He falters a moment, before finding the words. "We don't... We don't know."
"You don't know? " Frank repeats dumbly.
"Information travels differently now, when it travels at all. Jersey's a long way for word-of-mouth and we can't trust anything that comes from Better Living."
"Why? What are Better Living saying?"
Gerard winces, looking away.
"What are they saying?" Frank repeats, his chest feeling tight. "Gerard?" He presses, not really sure if he wants the answer but needing it.
Gerard meets Frank's eyes, finally. "They're saying it's dusted."
Gerard ploughs a hand through his scarlet hair. "Gone. Ghosted. But they're saying that about everywhere. They're saying it about here."
"Here is gone, Gee."
"No it's not. We're still here. We're still alive. And so are others. Under the radar. It could be like that in Jersey. It could be better than here. We just... we just don't know."
"How can you not know?" Frank's voice is rising. "It happened ten years ago. Haven't you tried to find out? To go there? What about your parents?"
Gerard doesn't respond, but Frank doesn't need him to, he just keeps going, all the feelings he's been fighting down all day exploding out of him. "You moved to California? You let Bob leave the band? What the fuck happened to you? Forget where you came from? Don't you give a shit about Jersey anymore?"
Every word is angrier than the last, but it's easier to get angry than to think about Jersey looking anything like this abomination calling itself California. Everything past the turnpike flattened, the ground baked into dust. His neighbourhood, his house, his family, all gone.
If Frank took this tone with Gerard in 2005 he'd bite back, raise his volume too, until they were both shouting at each other like teenagers taking revenge on their parents with loud music. This Gerard doesn't. He just waits, letting Frank blow all the words out, not feeding him back with anything until Frank's all out.
Only then does Gerard respond, quiet and calm. "You think we didn't try? You think we didn't do everything we could think of to get back there? You think you would've done that?"
Gerard's right, of course. Of course they tried. Frank wouldn't have let them not.
Frank can see the apology in Gerard's eyes that says they never made it back to Jersey. That they still don't know what happened out there. Maybe they'll never know.
Frank can't breathe out. It's like all the air is trapped in his lungs, in his chest. He can feel his lower lip trembling, his face threatening to crumple and he tries, he tries so fucking hard to fight it, not to pussy out like some fucking cry baby, but it hits him so hard, hard like a fucking freight train, all of it, not just Jersey but this. This future. How much they're all going to lose. How little time he has left before he loses it. It's too much. It's all just too fucking much.
The breath he's holding rushes out of his mouth on a choked noise. He can't hold it together, not while he's in the middle of a desert that used to be California and not while Gerard's looking at him like that, like he gets it completely, like he knows what Frank's feeling and how much it hurts him to see it. Then Gerard's arms are wrapping around Frank, tugging him into a hug so tight Frank's face is crushed into Gerard's neck.
Gerard whispers "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," on repeat, one hand cupping warm at the back of Frank's head as the other strokes down Frank's shaking back. Frank's fingers clutch uselessly at Gerard's t-shirt, holding on, needing the contact. Thankful for it.
Frank tilts his head up to take a breath, staring unseeing over Gerard's shoulder out into the black desert, blinking uselessly at the tears that keep coming.
So much is coming, and there's nothing he can do to stop it.
Frank wakes up in pain. He winces behind closed eyelids. His back hurts and he's lying on a hard surface. Did he fall out of his bed in the night? That's happened once, but he was drunk, and he doesn't remember drinking last night. He doesn't feel hungover. He can't even remember going to the party. Fuck, he's thirsty.
He blinks his eyes open slowly, wincing against the too-bright sunlight. It takes a moment for his vision to adjust and the first thing he focuses on is an unsteady stack of cans, branded with "Power Pup", the "Better Living" logo stark in black on the white labels. That startles him fully awake and he jolts up onto his elbows, his gaze skittering around the room he's in. Booths down the side, batteries scattered on the counter, faded dusty tiles on the floor, a shoulder holster holding a bright yellow gun hanging off the back of a chair. His heart stutters, throat closing over, as he realises he's still in the diner, still in the future, and it all comes flooding back.
His movements startle Gerard awake too, who Frank sees now is curled up beside him, one arm warm and heavy across Frank's chest, his scarlet hair a tangled mess over his eyes. He blinks at Frank from behind the red locks, brows furrowing in concern or confusion. "You okay?"
Frank bites his lip, the slight pain helping him to focus. "Yeah, I just..." He shrugs, his voice tight. "Forgot where I was."
Gerard nods slowly. He seems to realise he's got his arm draped over Frank and withdraws it quickly, wrinkling his nose. "Sorry."
Frank shrugs. "Not your fault." He thinks maybe Gerard's apologising for invading his space, not for the fact that Frank is still trapped in the future, but he'll take it either way.
Gerard sits up, rifling a hand through his hair and succeeding in getting it out of his face, but also making it stick up at weird angles. It's so typical Gerard that Frank finds himself smiling at it without thinking and Gerard returns it, his expression soft.
"You should try and get some more sleep."
"Not a chance." Frank's not going get to sleep again. Not now. Not until he's completely exhausted. That's how it happened last night. He can't remember how he got inside - in fact, everything after they talked about Jersey is a blur. He has a vague memory of gentle fingers in his hair, soothing him into sleep, but he's not sure if he dreamt it.
He rubs a hand across his face. He needs coffee, juice, food, something, but he's pretty sure none of the above are going to be on offer. "There's some water in the kitchen, right?"
Gerard looks like he wants to say something, something Frank's pretty sure won't have anything to do with water, but he doesn't. He just nods at Frank, keeping his mouth shut. Frank doesn't ask, he's heard enough for now, so he just crawls from the mess of sleeping bags to pad into the kitchen.
Mikey's already up, fully dressed right down to his jacket and boots, thigh holster strapped on and holding his bright red gun. His shiny helmet with the silver "GOOD LUCK" lettering across the visor sits on the counter, next to a backpack he's strapping closed with a canvas belt.
"You going somewhere, Mikey?" Frank asks the obvious question.
Mikey double-takes, his eyes lingering on Frank's two-tone mohawk a moment too long. "Kobra." he reminds Frank gently, pulling the strap tight and sliding the clasp shut to hold it.
"Right. Kobra." Frank shakes his head. "Told you it would take me a while to get used to it." He boosts himself up to sit on the bench, reaching for one of the half-full bottles of water and unscrewing the lid.
Mikey shrugs, "S'cool. I get it." He shoulders the bag, tucking the helmet under his arm. Frank gets stuck looking at him, his blond hair falling across his forehead, his colourful clothes, his face lightly tanned and free of glasses. Of all of them, Mikey's changed the most physically, but watching him move around, Frank can still see the old Mikey in there, in the awkward way he stands, in the set of his shoulders, the way he speaks. It's like looking at Mikey through a carnival mirror, distorted and alien, but still very much him.
"So, you going somewhere, Kobra?" Frank takes a small sip of water. It does nothing to quench his thirst, it's really more of a tease, but he knows he shouldn't take more.
"Yeah, you going somewhere, Kobra?" Frank's question is echoed by Gerard, who's leaning in the doorway, his eyes on Mikey, sharp and assessing.
Mikey sets his shoulders, like he's expecting a fight. "I'm gonna go find Tommy."
"What, by yourself?" The way Gerard says it, Frank knows he doesn't approve.
"You know I'll have more luck finding him if I'm solo. He doesn't like a crowd." Mikey turns and starts for the door.
Gerard catches up to him, grabbing his arm. "Kobra-"
Mikey freezes. Frank can't see his face, but he can see the tension all through his body. "I've already had this argument with Star and repetition is really fucking boring."
"And you're still gonna go?" Gerard says it like Mikey's just decided to go throw himself in front of a moving train. If there are still moving trains in the future, that is. Frank hasn't seen any.
Mikey turns around slowly to face Gerard again. He keeps his voice level and his face expressionless. "If anyone in the zones is going to have the tech, it'll be Tommy. I can hit up Hot Chimp for some coordinates but you know he won't talk unless it's just me."
Gerard opens his mouth to say something, but Mikey just jumps in again. "Besides, we can't all go. Someone needs to take care of-" Mikey's eyes flick briefly to Frank and back. "You know."
Frank's mouth drops open, his skin prickling up. He does not need a babysitter thanks very much.
He starts to argue exactly that when the front door of the diner bangs open loudly and Ray comes inside, hefting a gas can. "You're gassed up, should be enough to do the job if you don't push too fast."
"So you're okay with this?" Gerard directs the question at Ray, his tone implying Ray absolutely shouldn'tbe.
Ray takes his time placing the gas can gently down on the tiles, dusting his hands off on the ass of his jeans as he straightens up. "Of course I'm not, but what else can we do?"
For once, Gerard doesn't have an answer.
Mikey must take Gerard's silence as a sign of approval because he hitches the bag on his shoulder and starts for the door again. No one stops him this time. Gerard just stares after him, feet twitching like it's taking everything he's got not to go after him and stop him. He exchanges a helpless look with Ray, whose expression doesn't give anything away. Frank watches it all go down with a sick fascination. It's like he wandered into the theatre halfway through and missed half the movie - he can tell there's stuff he's missing. Important stuff. He doesn't ask, though, it doesn't feel like the right time.
Ray follows Mikey outside, their boots raising clouds of dust when they hit the sand outside the diner, leaving a trail behind them. The dust gets tangled up in the slanting morning sunlight, a cloud of orange and brown and Frank finds himself squinting into it as it rises, dissipating slowly into the dry air. A moment later his eyes refocus and he finds himself staring at Mikey and Ray. Who are kissing.
It's not a first kiss, no way. The way Ray's got Mikey pressed back against his bike, the way Mikey's got one hand gripping Ray's waist and the other buried in his curls and just... the way they're kissing. Like they know each other inside out.
Frank knows he should stop looking, but he's a little shell shocked. He's still watching when Ray breaks the kiss, one large hand on Mikey's cheek as their foreheads brush and he says something to Mikey that Frank can't hear. Mikey says something back, face stretching into a smile and his hand squeezing Ray's arm. Then they're separating, Mikey reaching for his helmet, and Frank feels like a creeper for having watched.
He gives himself a shake and goes to say something to Gerard, but Gerard's vanished.
He sucks on his lower lip, thoughtful. Gerard's never been good at being far away from Mikey, and it's got to be worse in this time and place. Or maybe he just doesn't want to watch his brother make out with Ray. Frank can understand that. He hops down from the bench, loose grains of sand sticking in his bare feet as he pads outside to where Ray's watching Mikey's dust trail race toward the horizon.
"So, you and Mikey, hey?" Frank asks, point blank.
Ray slowly tears his eyes from the horizon to look at Frank, his wide lips quirking up at the side in an almost-smile. "Yeah, me and Mikey."
"Huh." Frank shakes his head, still not really able to get his head around it.
Ray looks very amused by this, and Frank's not sure why.
"Is it a problem?" Ray starts walking back to the diner with long strides; Frank has to quicken his pace to keep up.
"Fuck no, you know me! It's just, I don't know, I didn't know you swung that way." In fact, it's one of Frank's long held personal truths that Ray's always been the only 100-percent-straight guy in the band.
"Yeah, I didn't really know either. Things change." Ray's steps slow and his expression slips into the one he usually gets when he's trying to explain a concept or sound for their music, something tricky that's hard to put into words. "It's just. I don't know, after all the shit that went down, all the stuff we went through, it's like, you figure out what's really important, and it's not... sexuality or whatever." Ray shrugs. "Love is love."
Frank doesn't really have anything to add to that, so he just catches Ray around the waist in an attack-hug that has Ray stumbling on his feet a little. Ray accepts the hug in the end, if a little stiffly, reaching up a hand to ruffle Frank's hair. It's something he's done a million times to Frank, from back when his 'fro was barely a halo, when he used to wear those dorky wire-frame glasses. It makes Frank's chest ache. It's weird to be missing someone who's right there.
"You've got good taste, Toro," Frank tells him, giving the big guy one last squeeze before he lets go.
"So do you," Ray retorts, the words coming so quick Frank nearly doesn't catch them.
Ray's gone back inside before Frank can ask him what he means by that.
Frank studies the bright green ray gun in his hand, tracing a finger over the blood-dripping comic-style lettering of "HORROR" on the side. It's obviously Gerard's artwork and it's such typical Gerard behaviour to go and paint pop-art-style designs on a weapon.
It's quiet outside the diner. Frank's sitting in the scant shade of an old freezer, his ass on the dirt and his boots unlaced. Playing with a gun that looks like a toy, but that's probably killed more people than Frank wants to think about. They were probably taken out in self defence, more often than not. But still, it was him who killed them, this Fun Ghoul future self he's going to become.
Frank wonders if he could do it, now, today, or if something fundamental inside him will change with the end of the world, and only then will he be able to point this thing at someone and fire it. Shoot to kill.
There's only one way to know.
He hefts it in his hand. He was right the first time, it's heavier than it looks. Without really thinking about it, he stands up, settling his feet in a wide stance and raising the gun at arm's length, pointing it at a scrubby tree about twenty yards away. He closes one eye, his arm wavering in front of him as he tries to take aim.
He's a lot less steady than he should be when his finger rests lightly on the trigger. It doesn't feel like it should be this hard - it's never this hard in video games. He reaches his other hand up, steadying the elbow of his shooting arm. It helps a little, he might actually hit the damn tree now.
He squints through his single open eye, finger caressing the trigger, preparing to fire. He's nearly nerved himself to do it, too, when-
"What the fuck?" Gerard's voice punches through his heavy haze of concentration. The gun wavers and Frank furrows his brow, trying to get his focus back, but it's too late, Gerard's already jogged over to where he is and he swiftly disarms Frank with the same crazy ninja move Fun Ghoul used on him last time he picked up this gun. Fuck, he really needs to learn how to do that.
"What?" Frank glares at Gerard. Fuck, that happened way too easily. He sucks at this.
"You can't just fire that thing off around here - you're like ten steps from where we're crashing! Why don't you just send out invitations to every drac in the area? Free bloodbath tonight, BYO firepower." Gerard spits the words out angrily, turning the gun in his hands and handing it back to Frank, handle-first. "It's a not a toy, okay?"
"I fucking know that!" Frank growls back, snatching it away from Gerard in what he knows is a sulky and immature way. "What's the point in giving it to me to carry around if I can't fucking use it?" He shoves it back in the shoulder holster, which still feels odd and tight around his shoulder. "I'm not Fun Ghoul, okay? I don't know the shit he knows, I can't do the shit he does. Fine. But I'm not a child and I don't need you assholes babysitting me all the time."
Frank knows it's his pride talking, and it's talking like a thirteen year old, but he doesn't give a shit right now. He can't deal with this. He stomps back towards the diner.
He doesn't want to stop, but his feet pause without his say-so. He takes a breath, pushing it out between his teeth, hovering between apology and an all-out tantrum. "What?" His voice is soft through gritted teeth.
"I know you're not him. And I know you don't belong here." Gerard catches up to him, his hands finding their way to Frank's shoulders, turning him around to face Gerard's earnest expression. "That's a good thing, right? You're not-" Gerard takes a breath, like he's fighting for words, "you're not all fucked up by all this like we are, you know? And you don't have to be. I mean, I don't want you to be. You should be able to go back and be like you were before."
This Gerard may be older and have seen more than the one Frank's used to, but he still retains that freakish naivety about things, it seems.
"Gee, I am never gonna be able to go back to the way I was before. This is some heavy shit. I can't just forget about this. You know that, right?"
Gerard's brow creases up; he looks heartbroken. "Don't say that."
"Do you really think that I could?" Frank takes a step back, separating them enough that Gerard's hands slip from his shoulders. He's suddenly, violently offended by this. "You really think I'm gonna be able to just go back to 2005 and forget about all this? Play shows and go party and give a shit about who's in the fucking top forty or what bullshit thing they're saying about who-fucking-ever in the magazines is this week? Do you really think I could do that?"
"Frank no, it's not like that. It's just-" Gerard looks like he's in pain, picking over the words the way he does in interviews when they want to make him say something they can twist around to sound bad. "I don't want this for you. Not yet. You shouldn't have do this shit," Gerard skates his hand over the gun in the holder. "Not yet, it's too soon. You should just, be who you are, now."
Who he is now. Fuck, what does that even mean? He's already a different person to the guy he was yesterday, whose total world revolved around his band and his music and where ever the next show was. All that stuff looks a lot less important when you don't even know if your family is alive.
"Gerard this is who I am now. And I'm gonna be one more fucking corpse in the desert if I don't know how to protect myself out here."
"I won't let that happen," Gerard says fervently, his eyes afire and his hair glowing like flame with the afternoon sun lighting it up from behind.
Frank does want to believe him this time, he really does. But he can't give Gerard this one.
"I sure hope you're right." is all Frank says, backing up a few steps and tearing his eyes from Gerard's face, from his fucking eyes and his promises and his weird unfamiliar familiarity. He turns and heads back into the diner, ignoring Ray's curious look and shutting himself away in the tiny storeroom. He curls up on the floor, staring at the wall and pretending he's in his bunk on the tour bus.
Wishes that's where he was.
Frank must sleep eventually, because he wakes up, his face smushed into his arm and his bare toes twisted up in the hems of his cargos. Apparently even in the future he can't get pants that are the correct length.
At first he can't figure out what woke him, and then he twists his head to the side and finds Gerard grinning down at him, his bright red hair lit up around his head like a fiery halo.
"Get up," Gerard says. "We're going out."
Frank groans and presses his face back into the crook of his elbow. "Go awaaaay."
Gerard kicks his foot. "Up. I'm gonna teach you how to shoot."
Frank sits bolt upright. "No shit?"
"No shit. Put your fucking boots on." Gerard shoots Frank a bright, manic grin and slips out of the tiny storeroom.
Frank gropes for the boots. "You're starting to sound like a broken record." he calls after Gerard, but he's grinning around the words.
Gerard pokes his head around the doorframe, smirking. "You're the idiot who keeps taking them off. Hurry up, fuckface."
Frank sticks his tongue out at him, but he does as he's told.
They strike out in the Trans Am, because, as Gerard already explained, there's no point drawing attention to their new base camp when they've only just moved in. The engine growls, making the seat vibrate under Frank's ass, dry wind blowing in his hair. There are extra battery packs and a bunch of empty tin cans in the trunk. Gerard's behind the wheel, looking more at ease than Frank's seen him since he's been here, driving fast enough that he'd be breaking the speed limit, if there was a speed limit to break.
Frank can't help grinning at Gerard and Gerard shoots him a smile back, his bright hair fluttering in the wind, squinting in the sunlight.
"Where the fuck are we going?" Frank asks, for the tenth or twentieth time.
"That would be telling." Gerard glances sideways at Frank and smirks. "You'll see. We're nearly there."
When the Trans Am finally rolls to a halt, Frank has trouble figuring out what they drove the whole way out here for. It looks like just another patch of dry sand amongst a desert of dry sand. He climbs out of the car, eyes aching in the sunlight, and then Gerard tells him to turn around.
Somehow Frank didn’t notice it on their way out here but they've wound up on a high ridge, looking down over the endless sand, dotted with trees and scrub.
"Fuck me," he breathes. For the first time since he's seen what becomes of California, he actually manages to find some beauty in it. From this distance the view is stirring, alien. Somehow enchanting.
"I figure we can see if anyone's coming for miles off."
"Yeah. No way to miss it from up here." Frank rocks back on his heels, his eyes eating up the view. Not that he can see any hint of movement down there at the moment. He rocks on his feet again, and it's not until his ass brushes back on something solid that he realises Gerard is standing right behind him, close enough that Frank can feel his breath on the back of his neck. It sends a shiver down his spine, right to his toes. He fights it down, hoping it doesn't show.
If Gerard notices, he doesn't call him on it. He just says, "Let's get this thing started," and pops the trunk.
He sets up a bunch of empty Power Pup cans at various distances from the back of the Trans Am. Some of them are really far away. Frank has memories of playing Time Crisis with Gerard at arcades across America and Gerard not being able to hit anything, even on the easiest setting. After seeing what Gerard can do with his gun yesterday, things have obviously changed since then.
Frank settles his ass on the bumper of the car, ready to see just how much better Gerard's gotten at this.
Gerard tosses him a stopwatch, the three-button digital kind Frank remembers from painful days of gym back in high school.
"Just hit it when I say," Gerard instructs, taking two steps from the back of the car and scratching the heel of his boot across the dirt, marking a line. "Now, watch and learn." He sets his legs apart and straightens his back. He lowers his hand to hover just above his holster, wiggling his fingers above his yellow gun like a straightshooter from an old Western.
Frank laughs quietly out the side of his mouth, settling his thumb over the right button. He doesn't doubt Gerard can shoot, and shoot well. It's just so typical of him to turn it into a big production.
Then Gerard shouts "Go!" and Frank hits the button, watching as Gerard snatches his yellow gun from the holster so fast his hand is a blur. He raises and fires - ten shots, quickfire, so fast Frank barely has time to count them. Each shot sets a can flying. Gerard doesn't miss one. He throws his arm in the air like a salute, brandishing the gun and yelling, "Stop!"
Frank stops the counter, gaping at Gerard, who's grinning as he lowers his arm. Frank's not quite able to process what he's just witnessed. He sits there, his mouth opening and closing silently for a long moment, until Gerard prompts him, "Time?"
"Oh. Right." Frank blinks, looking down at the watch in his hand, reading the numbers blankly. "Four oh three."
"Damn." Gerard pouts, shoving his gun back into his thigh holster. "I've done better."
"Better than that? Fuck that was amazing. That was some fucking Matrix shit right there." Frank knows he's gushing. But he doesn't care. He's never seen Gerard move like that - so efficient, so fast, so in control. It's fucking sexy. "I think you're giving me a boner." he adds thoughtfully, smirking deliberately even as his fingers tighten on the bumper.
Gerard shoves him in the arm. "Shut up, asshole." But he's giggling when he says it. "Okay, up, your turn."
"Gee, I'm not gonna be able to do that."
"Not yet." Gerard tugs at Frank's sleeve. "One step at a time. First you need to learn how to aim right. C'mere. Stand here."
Frank lets Gerard tug him into place, standing behind the line scraped into the sand. Gerard's hands fall firm on his shoulders, straightening them and moving down to angle his hips straight too. Every touch is quick and efficient, nothing lingers, so Frank figures it must be the sun that's making him feel warm all over. Gerard kicks Frank's feet apart until he's standing with his legs a little wider than comfortable - pretty much where they'd be for his guitar power stance. A shooting stance like this must come naturally to Toro, then, he figures.
Frank loses the errant thought when Gerard slides up behind him, hands settling lightly on Frank's shoulders.
"Now, draw and aim." The words are soft, but right in Frank's ear. He fights a shiver and reaches to pull his gun from the holster.
Somehow he manages to get it caught on his vest on the way through. He mutters "fucker" under his breath, but finishes the draw anyway, aiming at one of the overturned cans. He tries to hold his hands steady, locking his elbows, fingers gripping the weapon tight.
"Okay, now, I see what you're doing here, and you gotta relax more." Gerard's voice sounds more throaty than usual. He steps closer, until his chest is pressed against Frank's back, his arms coming up around Frank's. His hands gently wiggle at Frank's locked elbows and solid wrists. "You gotta loosen all this up. If you're stiff, the kickback's gonna fucking hurt. You gotta hold it gently."
"Okay." Frank says, his throat suddenly so dry his voice is nearly gone, cracking a little on the word. He takes a breath and wills himself to relax, letting movement back into his muscles.
"Good." Gerard's voice is soft and encouraging, his fingers light on Frank's wrist. "Now, when you aim, keep both your eyes open, and try to line up the top of the gun to the target, right?"
"Okay." Frank agrees, blinking against the sun, trying not to press himself back into Gerard's body, even though he wants to. It feels so nice having him at his back: solid, safe. Frank closes his eyes a moment, breathes in, smelling sand and leather and that sharp underlying scent that's just Gerard.
"Now, when you fire, don't pull the trigger, squeeze the trigger." Gerard's voice has dropped even lower now, his mouth hovering so close to Frank's ear that Frank's sure he feels Gerard's lips brush his earlobe. It's fucking distracting.
"Squeeze not pull, okay." Frank repeats, a little breathless.
Gerard hums in assent, "I know it sounds weird, but it helps, trust me."
Frank expects Gerard to take a step back and leave Frank to shoot. He doesn't. He stays glued to Frank's back as Frank settles the gun, lining up the sight with the overturned can. He takes a breath, makes sure his muscles are loose, and squeezes the trigger.
The kickback is more than he expects - not that he knew what to expect. It shudders up his arm as the gun fires, making a noise somewhere between a jet whine and a firecracker. The force sends Frank stumbling back a little, but Gerard's still behind him, solid and firm, so Frank doesn't go any further.
"Fuck." Frank breathes, lowering his arm. The can is still lying exactly where it was before Frank fired, a divot carved in the sand about a foot away from it, where Frank's blast hit.
Frank turns to look at Gerard, a smile already pulling at his mouth, his body tingling with adrenaline. "That's fucking powerful," he says. Gerard flashes him an answering grin.
"I know, right?"
It's stupid. It's just a fucking gun - just target practice for fuck's sake - and it's so predictable and he feels like the worst kind of gung-ho toolbox dickhead for getting all psyched up over firing a gun. But Gerard looks just as giggly, like he's gone through the exact same thing, it's like having an accomplice.
Frank doesn't bother to play down his enthusiasm, he just raises the gun again. "Let's do another one."
"Okay, but you better hit it this time." The words are snide, but Gerard's arms still come up around Frank's, guiding him. It's more than a little ridiculous how much Frank likes it.
The sun is edging toward the horizon by the time Frank starts to hit more than he misses. He's nowhere near as fast as Gerard, but if he takes the time to aim before he fires he's tending to get there. It's like when he first learned guitar: he could get the chords perfect as long as he took his time to set his fingers, even if it took him so long to set them he couldn't play in time with the song. But once he got the chords down, the speed came after.
"So if I hit all ten, do I get a prize?" he asks Gerard, who's curled up in the back seat of the Trans Am, only half paying attention to Frank's pistol practice - the rest of his attention commanded by his sketchbook. Typically, he misses the question.
Frank steps up to closer, resting his elbows on the roof and leaning his head into the car. "What do you say we make this interesting?"
An emotion Frank can't read crosses Gerard's face at the question - something between surprise and sadness.
"What?" He prompts, wanting to know what it was.
Gerard flaps a hand like it's no big deal. "Nothing, really, just..." His mouth twists to the side like he's not sure if he wants to smile or frown. "You just never change is all."
"Fun Ghoul bet on this shit with you too?" Frank asks, figuring he probably would.
"Yeah. You could say that. We'd lay bets on who could knock out ten the fastest."
"Who'd win?" Frank asks, genuinely curious.
Gerard's smile twists a little. "You, usually. But I have my moments."
Something in his eyes tells Frank there's more to that story, but Frank knows better than to ask. It does give him an idea, though.
"Okay - stakes. I get to ask you something. And you have to answer."
"I don't like where this is going."
"Fine, fine. You get right of veto on the question - but only twice. If you veto two you have to answer the third one. Fair?"
Gerard narrows his eyes at Frank, his mouth pulling to the side, obviously thinking. "Okay. Fair."
"Great." Frank beams his brightest grin at Gerard and takes his place behind the line. He has to hit them all this time. Has to.
He does. It's not the fastest round he's done, but he doesn't miss one can. As the last one goes flying he brandishes his gun, whooping in victory. "I am the master!"
Gerard leans back against the Trans Am, crossing his arms, but Frank can tell he's fighting a smile. "I don't know whether to be proud of you or pissed I lost the bet."
"First one, then the other." Frank raises an eyebrow at Gerard and sidles up to him. He holsters his gun and presses his palms to the warm metal of the car either side of Gerard, trapping him inside the bracket of his arms. "Now you have to answer."
Gerard glares at him, but still says, "Shoot."
Frank grins, his question already handpicked. He leans in, feeling like a cat playing with a mouse. "When your Frank was in 2005 with me that night, were you listening to us? Were you jerking-"
"Veto," Gerard jumps in, not even waiting for Frank to finish the question.
Frank narrows his eyes, pouting, even though the colour in Gerard's cheeks is answer enough to the question. It's no fun if he can't make him say it out loud.
"Fine," Frank sighs, sounding as put-upon as he can manage. It's okay. He has another one. He leans in a little closer, wishing he were just a little taller because it's hard to stand over someone who has a few inches on you. "Why would he come all the way back in time just to fuck me? Was it-"
"Veto," Gerard repeats, fiercely.
"Ugh, you're no fun," Frank complains, pushing back off the car and folding his arms. Now he has to actually come up with a third question.
Gerard leans against the Trans Am, glaring at Frank. "Are these all gonna be about that night with you and Fun Ghoul?"
"So what if they are?" Frank scoffs, kicking up some dust with the toe of his boot. "You're out of vetos, so you have to answer the next one anyway."
Gerard doesn't look happy about that. Frank decides to take advantage and ask something he's really curious about, rather than just something to make Gerard squirm.
"Fun Ghoul wouldn't tell me anything about the future. He kept saying he couldn't, that he'd get in trouble." Frank looks at Gerard. "So, why not?"
"Why not, what?"
"Why wasn't he allowed to tell me about the future? Did you think I'd get scared?"
"No, no Frank, it's nothing like that." Gerard waves a hand around, and Frank recognises the movement as an indicator that Gerard's got a lot to say on the matter. "I don't think anyone should know too much about their future. It's dangerous."
"What if that knowledge changes things?"
"Yeah, wouldn't that suck?" Frank's voice is edged with sarcasm. "Imagine if that knowledge could maybe... stop the end of the world?"
"And what if it could make it worse?"
"How could this be worse?" Frank throws a hand towards the valley below - hot, dry, devoid of life.
Gerard's gaze remains level, staring Frank down. He speaks like he doesn't even need to think it over, like he's thought it over a million times already. "You, me, Star, Kobra - we're alive. What if changing something changed that?"
Any words Frank had ready to fire back at Gerard die on his lips. There's a moment where all he can do is concentrate on remembering how to breathe.
"Yeah, and what if changing something meant Bob was still with us?" Frank knows the moment he says the words that he's gone too far and Gerard turns his head away like Frank slapped him. For a long moment all Frank can hear is the low hum of insects and Gerard's soft, shaky breathing.
When Gerard finally looks at him, his voice is quiet but strong. "That's a lot of 'if's."
"So what? Better not to take the risk? Better not to try at all?"
"You can't guarantee it'll work."
"Since when does life have a fucking guarantee, Gerard?"
"It won't make any difference anyway. Not to us." Gerard sounds so sure about that.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean," Gerard sighs, scraping a hand through his hair and gnawing on his lower lip, "sending Fun Ghoul back to 2005 wasn't the first time we used the tech."
That is not what Frank was expecting to Gerard to say. "Keep going."
Gerard's eyes flicker to Frank's and away again, like he can't hold contact. "The week before we did that - before Fun Ghoul came to you - I... I went back to 2001. I went and saw myself in the basement. And... And we..."
Gerard trails off. Frank is openly staring now, watching a hot blush visibly crawl up Gerard's neck. Holy shit. "You didn't. You didn't. You and... you?" Frank stammers the words out, his mind filling with vivid images of the Gerard he once knew and the one in front of him. "Fuck, that's messed up." He doesn't add and kind of hot, despite the fact that it totally is.
Gerard looks mortified, but he barrels on, "So you'd think that, like, that would be kind of a big deal. That would be something that would be really fucking hard to forget, right?"
"Right," Frank agrees, and he's totally speaking from very specific experience here.
"But I don't remember it."
"Sure you do - you just told me about it."
"No, I mean." Gerard flaps his, shifting from foot to foot in that wound up way he gets when he's trying really hard to communicate something. "I remember it as like, something that happened last week. I remember going back in time and doing it - as me, now - but, like, when I think back to 2001, about my memories of being in the basement, you think I'd remember a crazy future version of me showing up and fucking me, right?"
"Right." Frank's only half following at this point, because his mind is still stuck on the mental image of Gerard fucking Gerard. It's quite an image.
"But I don't. Not even as some kind of hangover dream. I just don't remember it happening."
"So? What does that even mean?"
"It means it didn't happen to me. It happened to some other Gerard, on some other plane of existence that'll never fucking come into contact with mine again. It means we can go back and change as much shit as we like, we can assassinate the fucking President or whatever, and it won't make a difference, because when we get back to our own time, where we belong - it's all stayed the fucking same." Gerard speaks as passionately about this as anything. He's given it some real thought. "You can't change the past, Frankie. You just can't."
"So why bother trying to keep the future a secret then? If it doesn't matter?"
Gerard sighs, leaning back on the Trans Am. He looks tired. "Because it's the right thing to do. No, the responsible thing. Just because it doesn't change things here doesn't mean it isn't changing things. It could've changed something for the other me, back in 2001. I could've fucked something up and like, left him as an only child or something. I mean, look at you. You're not from here. Fun Ghoul could be totally fucking up your future back in 2005 right now."
"I doubt he is."
"Yeah, I'm sure he's trying not to - because that's the right thing to do."
Frank rubs his hand across his face. His eyes feel scratchy from the dusty wind and everything Gerard's saying is starting to make his head hurt. "Fuck, Gee. Trust you to turn time travel into some kind of morality puzzle."
Gerard shrugs, his mouth pulling up at the side in a small smile. "I've had a lot of time to think about it."
"So what happens when I go back to 2005? Am I supposed to keep quiet about the end of the fucking world? I don't think I can do that, Gee."
Gerard bites his lip, reaching out to take Frank's hand. He tangles their fingers, rubbing his thumb over Frank's bare second knuckles, blank skin where Fun Ghoul has the BOOKWORM tattoos.
"What you do is up to you, Frankie. It's your time. Your life. Your future." He looks up from their hands to meet Frank's eyes. "In the end, you're the one who has to live with it, not me."
So when you're not running from dracs or having high-speed shootouts it seems the future is actually pretty fucking boring. And the food sucks.
It's kind of like being on tour - sleeping in uncomfortable places, keeping strange hours, eating crap - but not as good. At least on tour there are things to do in the downtime: movies, comics, video games. In 2019, Frank's bored shitless. He's sick of seeing the inside of the diner. He's read the three battered comics Mikey's got stashed away twice each and there's a limit to how much of the local Better-Living-produced propaganda he can stomach. He's about ready to go out of his skull with boredom.
Ray seems to handle the downtime in typical Ray fashion - by working on shit. Except instead of music, he's buried under a pile of computer parts, soldering iron in hand, piecing together some kind of Frankenstein monster of a computer. Frank tries helping him out for a while, but he's too easily distracted and keeps taking too long to pass Ray tools when he asks for them; half the time he gets the tools wrong anyway because Ray has weird names for them that all sound the same and involve far too many numbers and letters.
Gerard's been quiet for a while so Frank goes to investigate what he's up to, in case he's discovered some amazing cure for boredom and hasn't thought to share it with Frank. He finds Gerard outside, in the back seat of the parked Trans Am with all the doors hanging open. He's curled up in an uncomfortable-looking hunch, all his attention focused on a battered sketchbook.
Bright hair and bright clothes aside, it's a familiar enough sight. Gerard's had his head bent over his next comic or concept or piece of art for as long as Frank's known him. Frank climbs into the backseat to settle beside Gerard, the leather squeaking under his ass as he wriggles to get comfortable.
"What you doing out here?" he asks, peering over Gerard's shoulder at the page Gerard is working on. It's not lyrics, or character sketches, or costume ideas, which is unusual for Gerard, at least in Frank's experience. It's a sketch.
"Light's better out here," Gerard explains, the words coming out stiff because he's got a second pencil caught between his teeth. The pencil in his hand skates confidently over the page, shading what he's drawing.
It's just starting to take shape, and as Frank watches Gerard's hand move, the picture becomes clearer. Slowly, he's able to pick out the familiar tendons at the side of Mikey's neck, his profile, the long spikes of his hair that Gerard is drawing with sharp strokes, sticking up like a breeze has caught them, or Mikey is shaking his head. It's totally uncanny how much of Mikey he's managed to capture in the pencil strokes.
"Wow, Gee. That's amazing." Frank leans closer, until Gerard's shoulder is pressing into Frank's chest. He wants to see it better. He tugs at the corner of the sketchbook gently and Gerard lets out an impatient breath, pausing in his sketching to lift the book up so Frank can see it better. The exact moment he does, a rush of dusty wind blows through the car, fluttering the pages, giving Frank the briefest glimpses of the rest of the sketchbook's contents.
It's not Gerard's usual fare, not by a long shot. No zombies and vampires and scribbled lyrics. No, it looks like the whole book is full of these near-lifelike sketches. Frank's fingers itch to turn the pages.
"Can I see?"
Frank's pretty sure Gerard rolls his eyes in response, but he doesn't really pay attention, he's already leafing through the pages the moment Gerard relinquishes his grip on the cover.
It's all sketches. Beautiful, detailed sketches of familiar faces. There's Ray leaning against a gas pump, his face dirty and unshaven, his eyes looking out to the horizon. There's Mikey, all elbows and limbs, strangely graceful on the back of his bike. Then there's Frank - no, not Frank, Fun Ghoul - his hair messy and long, his arms covered in tattoos. Gerard's drawn him from behind, and shirtless, so Frank can see Gerard's pencil stroke impressions of designs on his future self's back. The familiar and unfamiliar ink all tangled up together, just like he remembers from his encounter with his future self.
"These are amazing." Frank traces a finger down the edge of the page, not daring to let his finger touch anywhere with pencil on it in case it smudges.
"I'm trying to be as honest as I can. To like, properly document."
Frank looks up from the page, momentarily confused. "Document?"
Gerard doesn't sigh but he looks like he wants to. "There isn't exactly a surplus of cameras and data storage around here. I mean, not outside of Battery City. Everything went digital and kind of fucked up our ability to keep images of shit, you know? So much fucking data loss." Gerard's fingers pick at a crack in the leather of the seat. "So if I want to hang onto something, to remember it, this is how I do it."
Frank looks down at the pictures with new eyes. "So this is like a photo album."
Gerard shrugs, the uncertainty in his face achingly familiar. "I guess."
Before Frank manages to come up with a rejoinder Gerard goes still, head twitching to the side like he's listening. Frank's heart amps up, he can't hear anything - not yet - but the way Gerard's reacting already has him thinking dracs, invasion, time to run. At least they're already in the car.
Frank's just starting to identify the noise himself, the distant rumble of an engine, when Gerard's mouth twitches up at the side. "Kobra's back."
"Don't get your hopes up," Mikey says, setting his helmet down on the counter in the kitchen and tugging a folded bandanna out of the breast pocket of his leather jacket. He's covered in dust; every time he moves it seems to rise off him in small clouds.
He shakes the worst of the dust off the folded bandanna then lays it on the counter, unfolding it carefully. Inside is a tiny plastic chip, smaller than a SIM card. Mikey picks it up carefully, holding it along the plastic edges, not touching the shiny metal.
"Tommy had some," he pauses, deliberately meeting Gerard's eyes, "some of the tech."
"How much?" Gerard asks, and Frank jumps in on his own, asking, "What is that?"
"It's the software. There've been raids all over the zones, dracs and Scarecrow looking for the hardware. Looks like they got it all too. Left a fucking death trail behind them. But Tommy kept a copy of the code, so now we have a copy too." Mikey's mouth tugs into a small smile behind the chip he's holding up. He twists it between his fingers and it catches the light. "Time Displacement Software version five point 0."
"So what does that mean?" Frank asks, feeling out of the loop again.
"It means we have the code, but we don't have the physical machinery to run it. We can use this," Mikey indicates the chip, "to look at the programming code, break it down, see if we can figure out a way to make it work the way we need it to. But we can't test it, obviously."
It's not that obvious, at least not to Frank, but he doesn't point that out. He just nods.
"It's better than nothing." Ray reaches across the table to take the chip from Mikey, squinting at it between his thick fingers. "But only barely."
Gerard catches Frank's hand under the table and squeezes his fingers. Seems to Frank like that's a lot of hope to be resting on one tiny little chip.
The night's aren't getting any easier for Frank. During the day when the sun's high and there's movement and the guys are awake, it's easy to be distracted, to just focus on whatever's going on right this moment. At night, when he's trying to zone out and sleep, that's when it gets him.
He lies awake on the hard floor, sleeping bag doing nothing to soften it under his shoulders, but it isn't the discomfort keeping him awake. It's everything else. It's memories of home and nightmares of what home's going to become. It's Mikey in his glasses with his messy bird's nest of a hairdo, and Pansy, his fingertips itching to feel her frets. It's Gerard with his round cheeks and stringy black hair and three-day-old make-up and that tiny little unsure smile of his that he'll never show the fans. It's the new songs they've only just started writing that he could just fucking ask these guys here in 2019 about, but he doesn't, he won't, because he wants to go back and create them for real, to contribute what he needs to, walk down whatever roads he has to, to make the process work.
It's Brian's bitch-face and Bob's shoulders under his hands when he climbs up on his back. It's sweaty dirty kids at rock shows and waking up not knowing where the hell you are - but in a good way.
Fuck. He misses 2005 like air. He misses the guys, who are here but not here, because they're not the same guys anymore.
It's too much of a headfuck. He can't switch it off. Stupid brain.
Sleep obviously a lost cause, he sits up, crawls out of the mess of sleeping bags and pads out of the storeroom. He wanders through the diner kitchen, tiles cool and gritty under his bare feet. There are no lights on but the moonlight is strong enough to illuminate the Frankenstein monster of a computer Ray's been putting together, which now has the Time Displacement software loaded on it, ready to be hacked.
He hears the murmur of voices from outside and follows it, recognising them instantly, even if they're both talking in low tones. It's Gerard and Mikey, and as he gets closer to the door he can see them outside. They're sitting on top of the derelict deep freezer. Gerard's leaning on Mikey, one leg hooked over his brother's knee, their feet in a tangle. They look relaxed and in synch.
Even in their strange, colourised future forms, they're still the Ways. Frank recognises their familiar mind-meld. The tension Gerard's been carrying around the whole time Mikey was gone has melted away.
"I don't get it, Gee," Mikey's saying. Frank doesn't mean to eavesdrop, but there's barely a breath of wind and their voices are carrying clearly with no other sounds interfering. "Why don't you just tell him? He's probably already figured it out."
Frank is suddenly sure they're talking about him. He's also sure that he's spying and he should either announce his presence or fuck off. But he doesn't move from where he is. He hovers by the door, his body in shadow and listens.
"You don't get it," Gerard says, drawing a circle in the air with his hand like he's holding an invisible cigarette. "It's not in his timeline to find out now. It's not gonna happen for another two years for him. It's too soon. He's not ready."
"So it's okay for him to know about the end of the world, but not for him to know about the giant raging crush you had for years before you finally got the balls to do anything about it?"
Frank's mouth drops open. Gerard had a crush? On Frank? He leans closer, until his cheek's pressing the door frame, his hands clenched so tight his fingernails dig into his palms. Eavesdropping or not, he has to hear more.
"You make it sound really pathetic when you put it that way." Gerard pillows his head on Mikey's bony shoulder.
"That's because it is," Mikey states, his voice flat, but he still reaches up to ruffle Gerard's hair. "Anyway, the way I remember it, he kissed you."
"Nuh-uh." Gerard shakes his head. "I kissed him."
"Yeah, onstage maybe. But afterwards? At the end of the set, you know, backstage, when it was real? He started it." Mikey nods, sagely. "I remember these things."
Gerard snickers, and headbutts Mikey lightly. "Lucky I've got you and your elephant memory here."
"Mhmm. July 29th, 2007. Scarred for life." Mikey nods, swinging his foot against the side of the freezer.
Frank swallows shallowly as the numbers tattooed on Fun Ghoul's wrist suddenly make sense.
There's a moment of pause in the conversation outside, when all Frank can hear is the chorus of insects whining out in the sand, then Gerard says softly, "I miss Ghoul."
"I know," Mikey replies. "It's okay. We'll get him back."
But Frank's not listening anymore. He's stepping backwards blindly, away from the open door, moving his feet until he feels solid wall at his back, until he's deep inside the diner, shut off from the wind and insect buzz and those voices. All he can hear is his own breathing, sharp and harsh in the quiet of the room. All he can feel is his own heartbeat rattling in his chest.
Fuck. Ghoul showing up in his hotel room wasn't just some crazy dare or something. And Gerard was listening on the other end of the earpiece. It was Gerard's idea. And Ghoul did it for him. As a gift to his lover.
Because, in the future, he and Gerard got together. Gerard kissed him on stage and they hooked up, and it's 2019 and they went through the fucking end of the world and they're still together. Holy shit.
Frank leans back against the wall, glad to have something solid to balance against. He lets his knees soften, his back sliding down the surface until his ass hits the floor. Him and Gerard. Frank and Gerard. Gerard and Frank. The names echo through his head.
Fuck. It's too big to think about on top of everything. Too much to absorb. He presses a hand over his mouth, stifling his own rough breaths that sound too loud in the room. He thinks about every drunken kiss they've had, every shared laugh, every stupid hand brush and hug, every time he'd look up from his guitar to find Gerard looking right at him with fond eyes. The day Gerard told them he was going sober, for good, forever, and Frank felt like his chest would burst with pride at his sheer determination. Every single day since then, when he stuck to his word. Every time Gerard stood on that stage in front of the screaming masses, telling them they were worth something, they could be something, and making Frank's eyes well up every fucking time he heard it.
Frank sits in the dark with his hand over his mouth, his mind reeling through all those memories. It's like reading the last few pages of a novel he's only halfway through, he can see it so clearly now. It all makes sense.
Frank and Gerard. Gerard and Frank.
It's not until his teeth press into the heel of his hand that he realises he's smiling.
"Are you fucking crazy? It's too dangerous. Hell no, Poison. Hell fucking no. That's not what we do." Ray's voice is nearly falsetto in pitch, which means he's really fucking wound up about something.
Frank pads into the kitchen where he and Gerard are locked in what looks like a pretty fucking serious argument.
Gerard says, "Tommy was our last lead to find the hardware. There's pretty much zero chance anyone else out there is gonna have it, let alone be ready to trade it, not with all the raids. And even if they did, we don’t have anything left to trade for it."
Ray ploughs a hand through his curls, frustration in the movement. "We've got the bikes, the Trans Am. We could hock those 'til we come up with something."
"You know we're fucked if we give those up, Star. They're the only thing keeping us on the run and alive."
Ray looks up from his hands, braced wide on the counter. He looks lost. "I fucking know that." His voice sounds too soft.
"What are we fighting about?" Frank asks, eyes bouncing between the two of them.
It's a surprise when it's Mikey who answers. Frank hadn't even noticed him in the room, perched up on one of the benches with his boots resting on the top of the broken dishwasher. He's leafing through a magazine called "Murder", seeming uninvolved in the discussion. "Poison wants to break into B.L. industries to try and use their hardware to send you home. Star thinks it's a shitty idea."
Ray chimes in, "It is a shitty idea."
Mikey turns another page, still not looking up from the magazine. "Dude, don't tell me, I'm fucking Switzerland here."
"You don't think we should be trying to get Ghoul back?" Gerard argues, and Frank's chest caves in a little. He never thought he'd be jealous of himself.
"We are trying," Ray grits out.
"Well obviously this course of action is getting us nowhere, so I am proposing a new one."
"Which I am voting down."
"Fine. Vote counted." Gerard tosses his head, turning to look at Mikey. "Kobra?"
Mikey's eyes stay glued to the page, but he's eerily still as he simply repeats, "Switzerland."
Both Ray and Gerard turn their eyes on Frank then, and the combined force of their looks nearly has Frank taking a step backwards. Oh, great. He's the tie-breaker. He doesn't even know the full plan and he's going to have to call it.
"Is it possible?" he asks.
"Yes." Gerard nods decisively. Frank turns to look at Ray, questioning.
"In theory," Ray admits.
"Is it dangerous?" Frank asks.
Ray's already nodding, but Frank's waiting for Gerard's answer. "Yes," he says finally.
"Can we pull it off without any of us dying?" Frank asks, this time asking Gerard in particular.
"I believe we can," Gerard says, looking as earnest as he ever has and Frank knows he truly believes it.
Frank thinks about what he'd do if it were his Gerard who was trapped in some parallel time, in a world where they're a couple with years of history behind them - what would he do to get Gerard back?
Whatever it takes.
His heart squeezes up as he looks at Gerard, thinking about what could be. No - what will be. This is his future. Them, together, and it's surprisingly not shocking to Frank to realise that he wants it - this - them. Fuck, he wants it, now.
He doesn't want to wait. But the sooner he gets back to 2005, the sooner he can have it.
All those thoughts rattle through his brain, but in the end not one of them makes the decision for him. It's the look in Gerard's eyes, the belief.
That's what has him saying, "Fine. Let's do it then."
No, he's never been able to say no to Gerard.
It's a fine plan in theory: fiddle with the tech, see if they can figure out a way to reverse-engineer the time displacement software to bring Fun Ghoul back to 2019, and send Frank back to 2005. Break into BL/ind, run the hacked software on Better Living's hardware, and voila - everyone's back where they belong,
The broad strokes sound fine - that's what Gerard is good at, the big picture. It's the details that are the tricky part.
"It would help if I knew why I had to hack half the fucking code, is all." Mikey's speaking quietly, a sure sign that he's frustrated. He's sitting at the Franken-puter Ray put together, lines of green glowing code open in multiple windows on the screen. Gerard hovers at Mikey's shoulder, rocking from foot to foot like he can't keep still. Ray's underneath the table that holds the computer, fiddling with some wiring. Frank's sitting on his ass on one of the diner booth tables, feeling useless, again.
Mikey turns in his chair to look at Gerard. "If we just use the tech the way it's designed, send Frank back to 2005 - then when the bring-back function kicks in he just makes sure it grabs Ghoul instead. That would be way easier."
"No." Gerard says, sounding very certain. "No, we have to bring Ghoul back first. It's the only way to be sure."
"Be sure of what?" Mikey's voice is low and level, but Frank knows him well enough to hear the exasperation buried underneath.
"That we're sending Frank back to the right 2005."
That gets everyone's attention. Ray slides out from under the computer table, wearing his patented what the fuck, Gerard? expression. "There's a wrong 2005?"
"There are multiple 2005's. And not all of them have Fun Ghoul in them. I mean, ours didn't. Like, Star, do you remember Taste Of Chaos?" Gerard clicks his fingers at Frank, "Frank, what happened the night you got taken?"
Frank shrugs, remembering the lead up to when he first ran into his future self. "There was gonna be a room party, upstairs with Avenged. You didn't go. Pretty sure Mikey and Ray did."
Gerard cocks his head at Ray, "You remember that, Star?"
Ray rubs a hand over his face, looking suddenly tired. "That was a really long time ago now, Poison."
"Niagara Falls, right?" Mikey chimes in, sounding thoughtful, like he's remembering. "Bert brought that absinthe he got smuggled in from... somewhere, and we all got really fucking drunk. God, worst hangover ever. Frank you were throwing up the whole next day."
"Yeah, no. I didn't go to that party." Frank rubs a hand over his face to hide a smile that's threatening. "He's pretty sure even if he hadn't wound up in 2019 he wouldn't have gone either. Not after what he and Ghoul got up to.
"Yeah, you did, remember?" Mikey insists, "Bert was comparing your projectile vomiting to the falls."
"Charming." Frank says.
"You see? It's different." Gerard starts talking faster, excited. "When we sent Fun Ghoul back, Frank's 2005 tangented from the one we remember. So that proves there's more than one. There could be fucking..." Gerard waves a hand, "like, infinite versions of 2005."
Now that's an unsettling thought. What if Frank ends up going back to a shittier version of his life? "Wait, so how the fuck do we make sure I'm going back to the right one?"
Gerard pauses, hand stuck in the air mid-motion. He takes a breath, brow furrowing as he considers his answer. "I've been thinking about that, and I think Fun Ghoul's the key. If we get him here first, we know it's the right one." He turns back to Mikey, "Which is why we have to hack the code to send Ghoul back here first."
Mikey is motionless for so long Frank starts to wonder if he's still breathing.
"Kobra?" Gerard prompts.
Mikey shrugs, and Frank recognises the resigned expression on his face. It's the same one Mikey gets whenever he agrees to get on board with one of Gerard's crazy plans. "Fine. I'll hack the fucking code. On one condition."
Gerard raises an eyebrow, "Hmm? What condition?"
Mikey turns back to the screen, reaching for his mouse. "That you don't ever try to explain this to me again."
Frank rubs the butt of his freshly-fired gun against the back of his head. He's got a thin sheen of sweat on his brow and his throat's starting to feel gritty from being out in the open sand for hours. He and Gerard are back up on the ridge again. Mikey and Ray practically threw them out of the diner when Gerard started hovering around the computer too much, talking at them while they're trying to hack the code. Getting kicked out is just fine by Frank, though, he needs the target practice.
He also needs to talk to Gerard.
The ten Power Pup cans are looking worse for wear, battered, burnt and full of holes, scattered around the ridge wherever they last landed. Frank turns to Gerard, "What's say we make this interesting?"
"Interesting how?" Gerard asks, furrowing his brow thoughtfully like he doesn't already know the wager. He's leaning against the back bumper of the Trans Am, the cord for the stopwatch looped around his wrist.
"If I get ten hits in less than twenty seconds - no misses - I get another question."
"Hmmm. Seems a little easy." Gerard glances down at the stopwatch in his hand. Frank's been doing pretty well with his aim, and has been picking up speed. He's already managed nine hits, one miss in less than twenty seconds, so it's a fair bet he can do it. "Ten hits, no misses. In fifteen. One question." Gerard nods, satisfied with the odds.
"One question." Frank repeats, shifting his stance so his feet are comfortably apart behind the jagged line in the sand. He turns to look at Gerard. "No vetos."
A flicker of doubt crosses Gerard's face, almost too quick for Frank to pick up on it. But Gerard still nods. "Okay. Shoot."
Frank lines up, narrowing his focus to just the cans and his guns. From the moment Gerard shouts "Go!" he's moving like his gun is an extension of his arm, fast, precise. He's at the point where he almost doesn't have to think about it - like when he's got a handle on a new chord progression and his hands just move without conscious thought.
When the last can goes flying and Frank calls "stop", he knows he went fast. Damn fast. He's just not sure if it was fast enough.
He holsters his gun, glancing over at Gerard. "Poison?" The name still doesn't fall naturally from his tongue, but he's trying.
Gerard looks up from the stop watch. His grin is a little sideways. "Twelve point seven. You fucker." There's a breathless note of pride in the gentle insult.
Frank throws up an arm in victory, bouncing on his toes and stirring up a small dust storm. Gerard just laughs at him, shaking his head. "You're the worst sportsman ever."
Frank just raises his middle finger, grinning gleefully at Gerard from behind it. "You're just pissed because you lost. Again."
"Fuck you." Gerard says brightly, no trace of malice.
"Later," Frank retorts, reaching out to grab Gerard's hand and tug him to his feet. "First you get to answer my question. No vetos." Even as Frank says the words, his heart starts to trip. He's known since last night what he was going to ask. It was practically the entire point of coming out today, but now that he's actually about to do it, he's a little nervous.
Okay, a lot nervous.
He pushes the squirmy, apprehensive feeling down, wetting his dry lips with his tongue. He doesn't miss the way Gerard's eyes catch on that quick movement, lingering briefly on Frank's mouth. Fuck, this is stupid. He should just say it.
He's still got Gerard's hand in his and his fingers are squeezing Gerard's just a little as he phrases the sentence, keeping his voice as neutral as he can manage. "Why didn't you tell me you and I got together?"
Gerard's brow immediately furrows. "Frank, don't."
He starts to step away, but Frank holds tight to his hand, keeping him there. "No vetos."
It takes a long time for Gerard to meet his eyes. When he does Frank is certain he's seeing the same hot want he's feeling reflected right back at him.
"You know why." Gerard says simply, a little desperately.
"Because it's dangerous? That's bullshit, Gee."
"You're not ready, Frankie. It doesn't happen for another two years where you're from. It's too soon."
"Bullshit," Frank says. "Bullshit I'm not ready. That's just an excuse." Frank doesn't even realise the truth of the words until they're out of his mouth. "You're scared." His voice lifts in realisation.
"Of course I'm fucking scared!" Gerard argues back, wrenching his hand out of Frank's grip and turning away. There's a push behind his words, coloured with panic. "You were the best thing to ever happen to me. Having you, it makes all this-" he waves an arm at the baked California landscape in front of him, "I can deal with all this. As long as I've got us. But it's not. I can't fuck this up for you, for your version of me. I can't take what's not mine."
Frank stares at Gerard's back. His hunched over shoulders. The tangle of his unwashed hair. The way his hands twist in the air, as he talks... well, rambles. He's never looked more like the Gerard Frank knows. The Gerard Frank's known forever.
The Gerard Frank's already in love with.
His own laugh at the sudden realisation startles him. Gerard still stubbornly refuses to turn around, so Frank catches his shoulder, turning him physically until he reluctantly meets Frank's eyes.
"You don't get it, do you Gee?" Frank's grinning around the words, settling his hands on Gerard's shoulders, wondering how he could've been so blind this whole time. Gerard doesn't pull away from the contact, but he doesn't welcome it either, just stands stiffly under Frank's hands.
Frank sucks in a breath, his voice coming out rough. "I'm already yours."
Frank can see the moment Gerard processes the words - the way his eyebrows quirk and his mouth twitches somewhere between confusion and shock. Then Frank's leaning in, sliding his fingers up to cup the back of Gerard's neck and covering his mouth in a kiss.
Gerard's mouth falls open under his, meeting his lips, kissing back with an urgency Frank's not ready for. He was expecting hesitation, but all he gets is Gerard's mouth melting open under his, kissing back hard, his hands sliding up to grip Frank's shoulders, clinging to his shirt.
Frank's just starting to relax, to really let go and fall into it, when Gerard suddenly breaks the kiss, wrenching free.
Frank blinks his eyes open and it takes a moment for his vision to adjust enough that he can focus on Gerard. His eyes are huge, his lips wet, fuck he's gorgeous. "Don't. Frankie, please. I can't. We can't."
"Why not?" Frank throws back, challenging Gerard. "What? Because it's too soon? Because I'm not ready?" Frank takes a step closer, until his chest is pressed against Gerard's. He doesn't hold back, getting right into Gerard's face. "Because I'm fucking ready, Gerard."
He slides his hands up Gerard's arms, skimming over skin and fabric to rest his palms on Gerard's shoulders. They're shifting with every harsh breath Gerard sucks in. He's not moving away from Frank, but he's not moving closer either. There's a crease between his brow and his bottom lip is caught between his teeth. It's like it's taking everything he's got not to move, like he's a grenade Frank wants to pull the pin on, already.
"I'm ready." Frank repeats, tilting his head up and leaning in, until his lips are a breath away from Gerard's. "So just, let me." he whispers, a moment before he kisses him again.
Gerard does let him. He makes a noise that sounds like a whine and his lips meet Frank's, letting Frank kiss him and kissing him back, hard. It's like something snaps or shifts in Gerard and he stops holding back. His hands come up to fist in Frank's hair, fingernails scratching through the short bleached hairs and tangling and tugging at the long locks of his mohawk. It feels good, good enough to have Frank groaning between their lips, his fingers digging into Gerard's shoulders, holding tight.
Gerard turns them around, pressing Frank back against the Trans Am, sandwiching Frank between his body and the hard metal. The crush feels exquisite and Frank moans into Gerard's mouth, his fingers sliding up into Gerard's hair, holding him to the kiss. Frank's feet stumble in the sand, kicking up a dust cloud as he tries to push closer, to lock their bodies together. He just wants to feel everything.
"Gee." he whines between kisses, writhing up against Gerard. He can't get close enough. It's frustrating.
"Okay, okay." Gerard whispers, his lips brushing Frank's on the words. He grabs Frank's hips, shifting their bodies, sliding his thigh between Frank's and then-
"Yes. Fuck, yes." Frank's muttering into Gerard's lips, because that's it. Now he's got pressure right where he wants it. He can roll his hips up into Gerard and it rubs him exactly the right way. He knows it's doing the same for Gerard, he can feel Gerard's hard-on rubbing on his leg, the way he pants into Frank's mouth, fingers tightening in his hair.
"Fuck, Frankie." Gerard groans out, so soft Frank barely hears it. It's weird, but hearing his name and not Fun Ghoul's flips Frank's heart over. He doesn't know why, but he likes that Gerard knows it's him - Frank - 23 years old with a blank spot on his wrist where Fun Ghoul's got the date of their first kiss - their first real kiss - etched - that this isn't just Gerard kissing him back out of habit, or because he's wearing Fun Ghoul's face.
"You know who you're kissing, right?" Frank can't help asking, words rough against Gerard's cheek. He leans back, meeting Gerard's eyes.
Gerard looks dazed and heady with want, but he answers. "Yeah, I do. And I know why I shouldn't be."
"Fuck shouldn't." Frank says, catching Gerard's mouth again in a punishing kiss. Gerard doesn't put up a fight, kissing back hard, biting at Frank's lips, before separating their mouths again. Frank pushes forwards to claim Gerard's mouth again, but Gerard's fingers catch in his hair, holding him back.
"We shouldn't, Frank." Gerard says. His eyes are clenched shut like he can't even look at Frank, his brow furrowed deep. He looks like he's in pain. His breathing is harsh on Frank's lips, fingers tight in his hair. "If we do this now, I'm taking something away from you. From me - the me in your time."
"You don't know that." Frank argues, trying to pull his head out of Gerard's grip. When that doesn't work he rolls his hips instead, until Gerard chokes out a needy noise. Frank does it again, his mouth twitching up in triumph. "Stop thinking so much." he whispers, feeling the tug of Gerard's fingers loosening in his hair and taking advantage, pressing forward, "don't be so fucking scared."
"Frank-" Gerard sounds desperate. Frank catches a handful of his bright hair, holding his head in place, not letting him look away. Gerard's eyes are huge, blinking fast as he looks at Frank.
"Just let me do this," Frank says, leaning in until their lips are a breath apart. "Let me worry about what happens when I get back. Just let me fucking have this, okay?" He refuses to be embarrassed by just how much need is in his voice. So what if he wants this? So fucking what?
"Frank. Fuck." Gerard's slipping. Frank can tell.
Frank kisses him. Hard. Gerard whines in his throat as he kisses back, his fingers gripping Frank's scalp - holding him to it instead of pulling him away.
"Tell me it's okay." Frank whispers against Gerard's lips, sucking Gerard's plump bottom lip into his mouth, grazing it with his teeth. Fuck, Gerard's mouth. He always knew Gerard would have a wicked mouth. It looks almost obscene, his lips swollen and wet from kissing. Frank wants to do so much with that mouth. "Tell me you want this."
"You know I want it, fucker." Gerard grinds out, his voice harsh between panting breaths. "I'm trying to be fucking responsible."
"Fuck responsible." Frank says, grabbing a handful of Gerard's hair and pulling him in - a little roughly - and kissing him hard enough their teeth bump. Gerard's mouth melts open under his with a groan and then he's kissing Frank up against the Trans Am, slipping his tongue into Frank's mouth to stroke his.
Frank whines into the kiss, his fingers tightening in Gerard's hair, clinging. Then Gerard's breaks it, muttering "Fuck it." and grabbing Frank by the shoulders, pushing him towards the open rear door and Frank goes with it, letting himself be manhandled until he's stretched out on his back on the warm leather of the back seat.
Gerard crawls in after him, settling in Frank's lap, a delicious weight. "Fine." he says, his mouth quirked up dangerously at the side. "Let's fucking do this."
Frank doesn't know what hits him. Gerard leans down, his hands firm on Frank's shoulders, pressing him into the leather as he kisses the fuck out of Frank. If that's not enough, he's writhing above Frank, grinding down on him, and fuck Frank's so fucking hard. The pressure is good, not enough, but fucking good. Frank fits his hands to Gerard's hips, hanging on tight, fingers curling into the soft flesh above Gerard's hipbones.
"Jesus, Gerard." Frank chokes out, trying to grind up against Gerard, but he doesn't have any wiggle room, he's just got to take it. Gerard's body presses down over his as he kisses him breathless. Frank's hands slide lower, fitting over Gerard's ass, squeezing through the leather. Gerard makes an appreciative noise and rocks down on Frank. It feels really fucking good. Frank squeezes again, pulling down, wanting more.
Gerard breaks the kiss, panting into Frank's lips. It's hot in the car, fucking hot and Frank's already sweating. He starts to pull his shirt off and Gerard tugs at it, nodding and saying, "Yeah, get it off. Shit Frank, show me."
The shirt sticks a little but Frank gets it over his head. As soon as his chest is bare, Gerard ducks his head, trailing his tongue from Frank's neck to his belly button and back up again. His fingers fit firm around Frank's wrists and trace up his arms, then Gerard turns his head, pressing his lips into the crease of Frank's elbow; the elbow of his right arm, still mostly free of ink.
"Fuck, Frankie." Gerard sounds fascinated. Frank looks down in time to see Gerard run his tongue up from his wrist to his bicep. "So bare." His teeth graze the inside of Frank's upper arm on the way back down and Frank can't contain a shiver. He catches Gerard's head with his free hand, tangling his fingers in Gerard's hair as he paints Frank's skin with his tongue.
"I remember you looking like this." Gerard whispers into his skin, shifting his head to trace his tongue from Frank's belly button up to the centre of his chest. Fun Ghoul's got a huge piece across this spot - a web, a bomb, some roses - but Frank doesn't. Not yet.
Gerard sucks at the clean skin, licking over it with his tongue until Frank's squirming under him. It's just not enough contact. Frank's going insane.
"Fuck Gee, come on. I'm dying here," Frank whines, tightening his hand in Gerard's hair to pull him back up.
"Fucking impatient." Gerard complains, but he moves anyway, coming up to kiss Frank again, settling his hips over Frank's in a very deliberate attempt to make Frank lose what's left of his mind. He sucks a breath in through his nose, gripping Gerard's hair as he kisses back, writhing up off the seat to try to rub against Gerard harder. More. It's just not enough.
"Gee, please. Please." he finds himself begging, wet lips sliding against Gerard's cheek.
"Please what? God, it's not like you aren't getting your fucking way here." Gerard's playful tone takes the sting out of the words and he follows them with a roll of his hips that has Frank gasping. He grabs at Gerard's ass, trying to slide his hands down the back of his pants, but they're too fucking tight.
"Come on, Gee." The words come out rushed, more warm air bouncing off his lips in the already too-hot car. "Want to touch you." He tugs uselessly at the waistband of Gerard's pants.
"You never fucking change," Gerard mutters, going for Frank's belt and zip, which - okay, not what Frank asked for, but he's adaptable. He can totally roll with this. Especially when Gerard gets Frank's fly open and slides his hand inside Frank's underwear. Frank goes boneless, melting back into the seat, hips thrusting up to meet Gerard's hand and - oh god. Just. Fuck.
"Fuck, that's good. Oh fuck, Gee. Oh fuck." Frank whispers between gritted teeth. Gerard's hands are shaping him perfectly, his grip just tight enough without being too much, one thumb rubbing under the sensitive head of his dick.
"Yeah," Gerard whispers, leaning over Frank on one elbow as he works his hand over Frank's cock. Frank's eyelids are fluttering a little, but when he can manage to focus his eyes on Gerard's face he can see how Gerard's watching him, the way his eyes are devouring him. "So gorgeous, Frankie. God, I would've loved to do this to you back then." He lifts his hand to his mouth then, and the loss of contact is worth it for the sight of Gerard licking down his palm and fingers before putting his hand back. When he finds his grip again, his palm slides with the wetness and Frank nearly chokes.
"Oh fuck. I mean-" Frank takes a heavy breath, hips bucking up into Gerard's hand. How the hell is Gerard staying so cool when Frank feels like he's falling apart, anyway? Fuck, he has to get Gerard's pants off. Soon. "Why didn't you?"
"What?" Gerard asks, shifting his grip a little and oh god, Frank reds out for a moment, fighting his way back to consciousness.
"Why didn't you do this to me back then? It's pretty obvious I would've been up for it." He forces the words out when he can find enough breath. He starts to grope for Gerard's belt, because this is seriously unfair.
It takes him a moment to realise that Gerard hasn't answered his question. "Gee?" He looks up from where he's fumbling with Gerard's belt to find Gerard looking down at him, eyes thoughtful and a little sad.
"I had to make sure."
Frank blinks. "Make sure?"
"Just -" Gerard bites his lip. "That it wasn't just swapping one addiction for another."
"Oh." The word leaves Frank's lips on a rush of air. He hadn't thought of it like that. He hadn't thought at all, just barrelled in like some kind of young, stupid dickhead. Which is pretty much what he is.
Frank raises a careful hand to Gerard's face, tracing his fingers from the curve of his eyebrow, down his slightly tanned cheek. So beautiful. So fragile. Everything Frank fell for. "So it wasn't-" Frank's voice croaks and he stops to clear his throat. "It wasn't me who isn't ready. It was you. You weren't ready. In 2005, you're not ready."
Gerard looks apologetic. "Not yet. Soon. You won't have to wait long."
Frank kisses him, hard. When he breaks the kiss, he keeps his hands in Gerard's hair, holding Gerard's face close to his, their noses nearly touching. "It's okay. I can wait," he promises, his eyes locked to Gerard's. "Okay?"
Gerard's mouth pulls into a tiny smile. "Okay."
Frank returns the smile with a wide grin that stretches his mouth. "So, you gonna prove you're worth waiting for then?" He punctuates the question with a roll of his hips, watching Gerard's mouth fall slack as he rolls back down against Frank. Fuck he loves having this effect on him.
Gerard sucks in a shaky breath, his fingers tightening on Frank's hips. "Fuck you, Frankie. Fuck you." he whispers, his eyes sliding shut as he tosses his head.
"Promises, promises." Frank retorts, working his hand between them to get Gerard's belt open. Gerard makes a soft mewling noise when Frank gets his hand inside; Gerard's skin is slick with sweat from the hot leather, and it should be gross, but it isn't. It just lends slip to Frank's fingers when he fits them around Gerard's dick and starts to jack him off, slow and satisfying.
Gerard makes a throaty, gorgeous noise and slumps down on Frank, resting his forehead against Frank's cheek, his breath warm over Frank's lips. "Yeah." The word leaks out long and breathy and Frank can't help the way it makes him grin.
"Yeah?" he whispers, tightening his grip, speeding his hand, just a little. Gerard curls into him more, a whine leaking out of his mouth. His hips are twitching, pushing into Frank's hand. He just can't help himself. He's just taking, responding, pushing back - no shame or embarrassment, just want. Frank's entranced.
He tilts his head, burying his face in Gerard's neck and mouthing behind his ear. Gerard sucks in a shocked breath, catching the back of Frank's head in his hands and holding him there, arching into Frank's mouth. Fuck, Frank could get used to this.
"Fuck, I love you like this," he whispers into Gerard's skin, licking the words away a moment later, feeling Gerard's moan vibrate under his mouth. Gerard rolls into his touches, his skin hot, his body liquid under Frank's hands. "C'mon, flip over," Frank says, grabbing Gerard's hip and trying to manoeuvre them in the limited space of the back seat.
He ends up having to let go of Gerard's dick to physically manhandle him onto his back. They don't really fit and their feet hang out the door, but it's worth it to get their bodies aligned. Frank slides down against Gerard, his ass hanging out of his jeans, and their cocks brush; he has to suck in a shaky breath and remember to breathe.
"Fuck," Gerard groans, reaching down to find Frank's dick, then Frank's echoing him, muttering random curses into his neck as Gerard fits his hand around both their cocks, his fingers firm and tight and fuck. Frank can feel the pulse of Gerard's heartbeat in his dick where it's pressed to his. It's incredible. He folds down over Gerard, needing to kiss him, to taste him, to suck on his tongue.
Gerard moans back between their lips. He's so fucking good with his hands, fuck, Frank can't control his hips. He keeps rocking down into Gerard's grip, needing more pressure, more friction. Frank's own hands are sliding up underneath Gerard's shirt, seeking every inch of skin, wanting to touch it all. He palms them down Gerard's back, the leather of the back seat groaning in protest as he slips his hands under Gerard's ass, gripping his bare cheeks and grinding against him.
"Oh Jesus, Frankie." Gerard's fingers falter for a moment as he pants the words into Frank's lips. Frank can't help it, he digs his fingers into the soft flesh of Gerard's ass and rolls his hips down again. It feels amazing. But it's not enough.
"Gee..." Frank whispers, fighting the way his arm sticks to the leather to shift his hand under Gerard, to stroke his fingers between Gerard's ass cheeks. "Gee. Fuck. Gee... can we?"
"You want to?" Gerard's eyes are hazy and he's blinking up at Frank slowly, like the question's not getting through.
Frank strokes again, gently, but lower this time, his fingertip grazing Gerard's hole.
Gerard sucks in a sharp breath, hips rocking down, momentarily squashing Frank's hand into the seat. He keens out a high-pitched noise, losing his rhythm on their cocks and just holding. Squeezing.
When he finally peels his eyes open, he just says, "Yeah Frankie. Fuck. Yes. Fuck me." His voice is shot, his lips are wet and his cheeks are flushed as red as his hair. Frank's never seen him looking this undone.
Frank has to reach down, his hand tangling briefly with Gerard's before he manages to get his fingers around his own cock, low and tight, and take a deep breath. Fuck. He's so close to the edge; he doesn't want to just fire off like some kind of inexperienced teenager, but that's what he feels like right now, and being in the back seat of a car isn't helping at all.
"Glove compartment." Gerard says, his voice is still shot.
Frank stares at him for a long moment, the words a total mystery. "Sorry?"
"There's lube in the glove compartment." Gerard arches a brow, looking amused. He points at the glove compartment like Frank doesn't already know where it is.
"Right, right." he mutters, climbing off Gerard to lean between the front seats and reach for the glove compartment. His hands aren't working quite as well as usual. Fuck. They're really doing this. He gets the compartment open and gropes around in it until he finds something tube-shaped. When he pulls it out, it's bright white and BL/ind branded, but it's lube and it'll fucking do.
When he turns back to Gerard, he's doubled over, his leather pants around his ankles and caught on his boots, which he's tugging at the laces of. His hard dick's squished between his belly and his legs and he's still wearing his t-shirt.
Frank snorts out a laugh."You look ridiculous."
"Your face is ridiculous," Gerard throws back. "Give me a fucking hand here."
Frank squats in the foot well, his undone pants falling off his ass. He shoves the lube under his arm and goes for the buckles on Gerard's boots. It's way more complicated than it should be, but between the two of them, they free Gerard's feet and he manages to kick off his pants.
"You want a hand with yours?" Gerard asks, but Frank's already climbing into his lap.
"Fuck no. They're staying on, I can't wait that long."
Gerard looks like he's about to say something, but Frank gets in before he does. Talking is way less fun than kissing and it feels like far too long since they last kissed. Gerard makes a slightly startled noise into Frank's mouth before turning liquid under his hands and just falling into it.
Frank pushes him down into the seat, pressing their bodies together everywhere he can. Gerard's t-shirt is getting in the way of a lot of skin and Frank wants it off already. He leans back, tugging at it until Gerard gets the idea and pulls it over his head. It catches on his chin and when his head emerges his hair's all fucked up. Frank grins at the view and catches a handful of bright red locks, pulling Gerard in to taste him again.
Then they're making out, skin to skin, and Frank can feel everything. It doesn't take long before they're both groaning into the kiss, rubbing off on each other. The leather of the backseat under their bodies squeaks in protest, streaked with sweat.
Gerard catches Frank's hand at the wrist, tugging it from his hair and guiding it down over his chest, belly, hip. When he raises his legs, locking them around Frank's waist, and guides his hand lower, past his balls to his ass, Frank has to close his eyes and just breathe for a moment. Fuck. They're really doing this.
"Lube?" Gerard asks in a whisper. Frank gropes on the seat for it, popping the lid and squeezing a small amount onto his fingers. He leans on one elbow over Gerard, the tiniest tremor in his hand as he reaches down between them to stroke slick fingers between Gerard's ass cheeks.
Gerard makes a low throaty noise, pushing into Frank's hand. Frank leans his body lower until their foreheads are touching and he can feel Gerard's breath feathering over his lips. He teases one finger at Gerard's hole, just gently, and Gerard rocks into it.
Frank can see every reaction as it plays across Gerard's face. His brow furrows, his lips curling down into a pout. "Come on, Frank. Stop playing."
The sulky command just makes Frank want to play it up more, but his patience level is practically zero now. He gives in, sliding a gentle finger into Gerard's ass.
Gerard kisses him, sucking his lips and shoving his tongue home. Fuck, he's so turned on, Frank can feel it thrumming through him. Gerard breaks the kiss long enough to whisper, "More," and Frank has to comply. He slips his finger out, crosses two and slides them slowly back in.
Gerard groans into the kiss, sucking Frank's tongue and rocking down on his hand. He's shifting his hips as much as is possible in the cramped back seat, fucking himself on Frank's fingers and god, Frank's cock is throbbing against Gerard's hip. He just... god, he just wants it.
He sucks Gerard's lower lip hard, grazing it with his teeth before letting go to whisper, "Gee?"
"Now, Frankie. Now. Now," Gerard babbles, sounding dazed, his eyelids fluttering.
Frank doesn't need to be told twice. He slides his fingers out, stroking some more lube over his cock before he leans over Gerard, lining up. The leather squeaks as he shifts. Gerard's legs are still wrapped around Frank's back, pressed warm around his waist and he's spread wide for Frank. Open and ready.
Frank pushes forward incrementally with his hips, until his dick is just pressing at Gerard's hole. It's... fuck. It's kind of a really big deal. He gets stuck like that for a moment, just caught in the enormity of it, until Gerard's hand slides up to cup his chin, one gentle finger tracing down his cheek.
"Hey. Come on, don't keep me waiting." He says it soft, just a little push.
"Yeah. 'Course, sorry. Fuck. Okay." Frank gives his head a shake and Gerard smiles up at him, eyes sparkling with amusement, but he doesn't tease.
Frank rests a hand on Gerard's hip to steady himself, then slowly, so fucking slowly, he pushes home.
Gerard makes a throaty keening noise, his head falling back, his hand sliding from Frank's cheek to fist in the long hair at the back of his mohawk. Fuck. He feels amazing. So tight. So perfect. When Frank's in to the hilt he has to take a moment, hold still and just breathe, He's sweating like a motherfucker, hair stuck down to his forehead, and he can feel everything. God, he's never gonna last.
"Frankie," Gerard whispers, one hand sliding down Frank's back, grabbing a handful of his ass and pulling forward. "Move, baby, come on." He sounds so desperate, so undone. Frank takes a breath, firms his grip on Gerard's hips and starts to fuck him.
Gerard moans louder, pushing his hips back on Frank's cock, pushing the pace. Fuck, Frank's not going to last like this. Her reaches between their bodies, finding Gerard's cock and gripping it in his still-slick hand. He jacks Gerard off in time with his thrusts, their bodies moving messily and noisily against the back seat.
He can't really get purchase, they keep sliding on the sweat-slick leather, until Gerard reaches above his head, gripping the door handle with both hands to keep them steady. Then Frank really finds his rhythm, thrusting slow and constant, unable to tear his eyes from Gerard's. Fuck - the way he's looking up through his elbows at Frank, cheeks flushed, his hair a wreck, red locks stuck wet to his skin. He's groaning and making delicious breathy noises, sounding like porn, and Frank can't. He can't.
Frank's breath catches in his throat. He's doing this to Gerard. He's making him look like this, sound like this. It's like the idea is too big for his brain to process. He gives up on thinking and just drops his head to take Gerard's mouth, kissing him hard as he fucks him, as he jerks him off, wanting so much to feel him come.
He knows it's close when Gerard breaks the kiss to pant and whine into Frank's ear. He can feel it in the pulse of Gerard's dick under his hand, the way he starts to buck under Frank with abandon, cursing and shoving down on Frank's cock.
"Oh god. Oh fuck. Yeah, Gee. Yeah. Come on." He speeds his hand and his thrusts, wanting to see it - feel it - when Gerard loses it.
Gerard's keening in his ear now, throaty and gorgeous and the more Frank speeds up, the more he can feel himself getting closer. He works his hand and hips harder, faster, locking his mouth to Gerard's throat, feeling every breath Gerard takes under his lips. Feeling the long groan he makes as his body stiffens, his dick feeling huge in Frank's hand.
Frank gives one more thrust, one more jerk of his hand and Gerard just loses it, bucking underneath him, cursing and groaning, his ass clenching around Frank's dick as he spurts between them, heat spattering Frank's stomach. His face is distorted with ecstasy, eyes closed, mouth wide open and fuck. He's beautiful, so undone, and Frank can't tear his eyes away.
Not until Gerard blinks his eyes open, grabs a handful of Frank hair and pulls him in for a wet, demanding kiss. He's sucking on Frank's tongue, fucking his ass down on Frank's dick until Frank takes the invitation and starts to move again, hips working of their own accord, shoving forward fast and hard.
It's so hot inside the car that Frank feels lightheaded, every surface of his skin soaked, but its good, amazing. Gerard's loose and pliant below him, and Frank's lost in his mouth, in his body, nothing else exists right now.
Gerard tears his mouth free, lips wet against Frank's cheek as he groans, "Come on Frankie. Want to feel it."
It's all Frank's got. He gets two more thrusts before he comes, bottoming out and groaning, his face buried in Gerard's neck, his whole body shaking with it. Gerard lets go of the door handle, wrapping his arms around Frank and holding him through it, until Frank's muscles give out and he collapses onto Gerard all hot, sweaty and spent.
For a long time all he can do is breathe, feeling Gerard's chest shifting under him, slowly becoming aware of the buzzing insects - the world outside.
"Fuck, Gee," he says, when he's found enough pieces of his brain, "is it always like that?"
Gerard giggles, his chest bouncing under Frank's. "No. Sometimes, it's intense."
Frank laughs too, and it feels light and free in his chest. He's overheated, covered in sweat and completely disgusting with his pants caught around his knees in a way that's probably going to leave some interesting marks, but he's never felt more relaxed.
He pushes up onto his elbows, looking down at Gerard with his crazy red hair and sloppy smile.
"Thanks Gee." He knows he's grinning like a fucking crazy person and he doesn't care. "Nice to know there's something to look forward to." He shakes out his wet hair, spraying droplets on the windows and Gerard's face.
Gerard turns his head away, nose wrinkled up, but he's still smiling.
"This is why I stopped having sex with twenty-three-year-olds." Gerard complains as he checks the - really, very small, hardly even noticeable - purple mark on his neck in the rear view mirror.
"No, you stopped having sex with twenty-three-year-olds when I turned twenty-four," Frank retorts, sprawled on the passenger seat. He's still all buzzed-out and floppy. Orgasm afterglow is better than good weed. Fuck, he needs to get laid more.
"We didn't start going out 'til you were twenty five. Your math is flawed."
"Your face is flawed," Frank throws back. He kneels up on the seat, grabbing a handful of Gerard's t-shirt and pulling him in for a lazy kiss. God, he's never going to get sick of this.
Gerard kisses back, languid, slow and gorgeous. Frank's just starting to think it's time for another round when Gerard breaks it. "We should get back. It's getting dark."
"Are you afraid of the dark?"
"When it's dangerous, I am." Gerard's mouth pulls to the side. "Frank can you just be serious for two seconds? Shit goes down out here after dark, I don't want anything to happen to you."
Gerard frowns and Frank suddenly feels way too young. Again.
"Fine." He drops back into the seat, his foot twitching against the floor.
Gerard being Gerard, he identifies it for the sulk it is straight away. He sighs, scratching a distracted hand through his already-wrecked hair. "I'm sorry. It's just..." He drops into the driver's seat, reaching over the gear shift to take Frank's hands, his thumb playing over the blank space on Frank's wrist where Fun Ghoul's 2007 tattoo will be. "This is all kind of a head fuck for me. It's like. It's you... but it's not you, yet. And there's stuff you don't know, and stuff you do, and..."
He trails off, eyes dropping to his fingers, nails cropped short and edged in dust. Frank's used to the Gerard with chewed-down fingernails and chipped black nail polish. Still, he can read this Gerard too. He knows there's something else.
"What, Gee?" he asks, gently. "What else?"
Gerard's shoulders hitch up uncomfortably. He bites his lip, his fingers tightening on Frank's for a moment before he lets go, finally looking up at Frank, trailing his fingertips through the short white-blond hair above his ear.
"It's just. You." Gerard takes another breath. "This is what you looked like back then. I mean." Gerard closes his eyes, seeming to centre himself a moment before saying the next part. "This is the you I fell in love with."
He says it so simply, so honestly, so fucking earnestly, something inside Frank breaks.
"Gee," he whispers, but Gerard just keeps going.
"And back then, I couldn't. I wasn't..." He sighs. "I just never thought I'd get the chance, to like, I don' t know, be with you. Be with this you." Gerard shakes his head, rubs a hand across his face. "Fuck, I know I'm not making sense."
"It's cool, I mean, it breaks my brain too." Frank offers, leaning across the space between them to kiss Gerard silent.
It works, too - for about ten seconds - before Gerard turns his head to the side, words spilling out. "And it's not real, you know? Any of it. You don't belong here, but you do, and you're gonna go back and then I won't have you anymore."
Frank soothes his fingers through Gerard's scalp. "Yeah, and you'll have Fun Ghoul back, and I'll be back in '05 with the you with the long black hair and a makeup fetish." Frank grins at Gerard, squeezing his fingers, gently. "You know, the one I can't have yet."
Gerard gives Frank a small, weak smile. "The one who's already in love with you."
They're just words. But god, the way they fill Frank's chest with warmth. The way they speed his heart right up. He tightens his hand in Gerard's hair, pulling him in for another kiss, hard, hot and demanding. When they break apart this time they're both panting and Frank has no idea how he's going to deal with being around a Gerard he can't kiss. Not after having this.
"We should go. We should-" Gerard checks his watch. "Fuck. We should really go. Kobra and Star are gonna think we got ghosted."
And just like that Gerard's sliding into the driver's seat, revving the engine and peeling down the ridge. Running zones, avoiding dracs, living out of an old diner on borrowed time. Having to carry a gun.
Frank's pretty sure going back to play the Taste of Chaos tour is the better end of the deal. Still, as he watches Gerard's hands grip the steering wheel, remembers what they felt like, what his lips tasted like, he can't help envying Fun Ghoul what he's coming back to.
"Thought you guys got ghosted," are the first words out of Ray's mouth when Frank and Gerard get back to the diner. He and Mikey are still huddled around the computer - which looks like it's being held together with bad welding and duct tape. Mikey spins in his chair, his eyes sweeping over Frank, and then Gerard, from head to toe. Frank used to think Mikey's psychic vision was down to his thick glasses, but it seems he can do it now with his naked eyes.
Mikey turns to Ray. "Told you they were fucking."
"Kobra-" both Gerard and Ray say it with the exact same tone of dear god I don't want to talk about it. Mikey just shrugs.
Frank giggles, refusing to be embarrassed by this, even if his ears feel a little hot. "So what if we were? You guys should've taken advantage - run of the place and all."
"Oh we did." Mikey says airily and Frank can see the way Ray's head turns, trying to hide his blush behind his 'fro.
"Anyway," Ray says loudly, obviously looking to turn the subject. "We made some progress with the software."
"You did?" Gerard says, looking excited. He walks over to stare at the numbers on the computer display which Frank really can't imagine making sense of.
Ray explains, "Well, we've managed to identify the source and destination codes. So we should be able to isolate the scan information from the source and attach it to what should be the destination, except we'll hack it to make it the source."
"Okay, you lost me at 'well'," Frank says.
"In English?" Gerard asks, hopefully.
Mikey waves a hand. "The problem is that we need to trick the machine to bring Fun Ghoul back, not send him out."
"But the tech's only designed to send out - with the bring back built in. So we need to trick the machine to think it's sending Ghoul out from 2005 to come here, and when it goes to bring him back, we make sure it gets Frank instead."
Frank tries to wrap his brain around that notion. It's still kind of slippery. "You might need to draw me a diagram."
Mikey sighs and rolls his eyes. Now that's the Mikey Frank's used to. Not this tech-spouting, knows-too-much Mikey.
"Details aside - can we do it?" Gerard asks, the question directed at Mikey.
Mikey turns his eyes to Ray, who's standing by the computer, leaning on one hand. "There're a couple of down sides."
Frank's stomach sinks. No doubt this is the part where he finds out he might land in an alternate universe where the band bombed and now he's a mechanic. Or that he could end up with his head on backwards. Or something.
Ray continues, "Well first off, we need to be able to pinpoint Fun Ghoul's exact location in 2005 down to like, a hundred yards - the closer the better - at whatever time we want to try to extract him."
"Preferably when he's not on stage, in front of a whole bunch of kids," Mikey adds. "Because that would probably freak people out."
"Way to state the obvious, Mikes," Frank says.
Mikey just stares at him. "You still want that diagram? 'Cause I'm starting to feel less artistic all of a sudden."
Frank sticks his tongue out at him and Mikey doesn't laugh, but the corner of his mouth pulls up a little.
"Guys?" Gerard asks, an edge of frustration creeping into his voice.
Frank rolls his eyes. "Okay, fine. So shows are out. Next best bet is trying to figure out where we're gonna be sleeping. I guess tour bus is out, because we don't have a fucking clue where they're gonna be parked." Frank bites his lip, thinking hard. "Next hotel night's in two weeks, on the thirteenth in St Louis. Wait - how did Fun Ghoul know which room I was gonna be in last time?"
Gerard shrugs. "He didn't. He was just gonna go to reception and pretend he lost his key."
"Yeah, but it's not gonna work this time, because we need to point the tech at the right place, or it might not find him at all," Ray says
"Okay, so we need to figure that out. You said down sides. Plural. What are the other ones?" Gerard still looks very determined.
"Other one, really." Ray drops back into the rusted old deck chair. He shoves his hair out of his face and looks up at Gerard and Frank. "Frank's going to have to come with us to BL when we raid the tech."
The lack of reaction to that statement is a reaction in itself. Frank takes a steadying breath. Well, fuck. Guess all that target practice won't go to waste.
"Why?" Gerard's voice is carefully level.
"Because we need to scan him. He and Fun Ghoul scan identical and Ghoul isn't here to scan, so we need to do Frank, then point the data to wherever Ghoul is in 2005 - so we can bring him back."
"Can't you just use the scan data from last time?"
"Well for one, we don't have it. And for two, you scanned him with his clothes, his gear and his weapon. Which Ghoul doesn't have right now. We can't scan anything he doesn't have on him anymore." Ray explains.
"So James Cameron was right." The realisation pops out of Frank's mouth the moment it registers. Gerard and Ray turn to look at him, confused. "I'm gonna have to go naked. Like in Terminator."
Mikey snorts, "Way to focus on the important stuff, Frank."
"My junk is totally important." Frank flips him the bird. Mikey's response is to wrinkle his nose at him.
"Guys?" Gerard's starting to sound really annoyed now.
"Sorry." Frank grins, not even bothering to pretend to be sorry.
"So what, we bring Ghoul back and he's gonna land on his bare ass in the middle of BL? That doesn't seem like a good plan." Gerard directs the comment at Mikey.
"Don't worry, I'm working on a script to send Ghoul here instead of BL. Since you've got me rewriting all the fucking code anyway." Mikey rolls his eyes, but the way he says it, Frank can tell he's pleased with himself. "I'm also gonna push up the displacement period to like, a five hour window. That way we'll have time to get back to the diner and Ghoul can fill in Frank on all the 2005 shit before he goes back."
Frank's never gonna get used to tech-head Mikeyway, when half the the things he says go flying over Franks head - but Gerard obviously got it all. He's smiling at Mikey, looking a little awed. "Good. Fuck, that's good, Kobra."
Gerard turns and paces the floor, staring at the space between his feet, his hands resting loosely on his waist. Suddenly he stops, turning around so fast his hair hits his cheek, to look at Ray. "So that's it? If we can figure out what room in what hotel and Frank doesn't get his ass killed on the BL raid we can do this?"
"That's a lot of 'if's," is all Ray says.
"So was getting out of Battery City. And we did that." Gerard meets Ray's gaze easily.
"True enough." Ray nods, catching Mikey's eye. Mikey just inclines his head, his own nod almost imperceptible. Then all eyes are on Frank.
"Hey, I'm in. You know I'm in." He was in before they even wanted him in, damn it. He glances over at Gerard, who's looking concerned, but determined. Still, he can't help the nervous prickle that runs over his skin when Gerard nods, confirming it. He doesn't have time to analyse Gerard's reaction though, he's turning again, pacing again, his boots scuffing the concrete.
"Great. So how the hell do we figure out what room you're gonna be in, in whatever hotel in fucking St Louis?" It's clear from his tone that the question is more hypothetical, but Frank answers anyway.
"You know who'd fucking know? Brian. He'd at least know the hotel, I bet. Where the hell is he?" As usual, the words are out before Frank's even finished thinking them. It takes Frank a moment to realise that no one's answered.
When he looks up, Ray looks stricken and Mikey's expression is carefully blank. He can't see Gerard's face because he's facing away, but there's tension visible in every line of him.
"Fuck, he's not dead is he?" Frank wants to kick himself the moment he asks, because fuck, in the future he totally could be.
Gerard turns around slowly. It takes him a long time to meet Frank's eyes. "He's not dead. It's just..." He doesn't finish the sentence, scratching a hand through his hair and sighing. "What makes you think he'd even have that information after 14 years, anyway? Seems like a long shot."
Frank shakes his head, "Nah, that OCD fucker kept everything. Fuck, even if he didn't, it's worth a try - he's got a memory for this kind of shit. Do you know where he is?"
Gerard exchanges a glance with Ray, looking like he's searching for the right words. He looks back at Frank, his expression carefully neutral. "Things didn't end well, with us and Brian."
"Oh." The word drops from Frank's mouth before his brain catches up. "Hang on - things ended?"
The way the rumble of the Trans Am's engine makes the seat vibrate under Frank's ass is getting to be a familiar sensation. He's not riding shotgun this time though, Mikey is. Gerard's driving and Frank and Ray are in the back seat. They're flying down an unfinished road, zeroing in on coordinates Mikey got from a guy who got it from a guy who got it from another guy. Because even in the future, Mikey still knows everyone.
No one's talking in the car, so it's just engine noise and static from the radio. It's making Frank edgy. He keeps twitching and shifting in his seat, in complete juxtaposition to the other guys who are inhumanly still. Finally, he can't stand the silence anymore, asking the first vaguely neutral question he can think of.
"When's the last time you saw him?" He doesn't even need to say Brian's name, everyone knows that's who he means.
The silence drags on a little longer while the other three wait it out to see who'll answer first. Gerard loses the game, which is no surprise; he needs to talk like he needs air. "2008 is when he stopped managing us."
"Because?" Frank presses, he can't help himself. He can't see Gerard's face but his hands on the steering wheel are in Frank's field of vision. He's gripping it so hard his knuckles are white.
"Change of career path. Decided he wanted to be a stuntman."
"You're shitting me."
Gerard glances over his shoulder at Frank through a flying tangle of red hair. "No."
"So what, he closed down Riot Squad?" Frank can't imagine Brian shutting down his company. It's his baby.
"Yeah." Gerard confirms, and his tone makes it clear he doesn't want more questions.
"Not like he had much of a choice." Mikey says, his tone unreadable.
Frank bites his lip to keep from asking more questions, even though he's so fucking curious now. He slumps back in the seat, his mind still spinning over the possibilities, trying to fit the pieces together and coming up short.
He knows there's more to it. The way the guys are acting, something went down, something ugly. Something Frank probably doesn't want to know about, not if he wants to be able to go back to 2005 and pick it up whatever threads he can of his old life. It's hard though, knowing this. It shakes his world up even more than Bob leaving, because at least that was amicable. Brian is - was? - their friend.
Frank presses down his anger and confusion. Things change. He doesn't know - and for once he doesn't want to know - the details.
When they arrive at the coordinates Mikey's got scrawled across the back of a BL flyer, there's nothing there but a derelict-looking shack, half-rotted weatherboards slanting with age and a slash of red paint on the door. Gerard eases the Trans Am to a standstill and turns his gaze on Mikey, who just shrugs. "I never said they were gonna be the right coordinates."
Gerard rolls his eyes but puts on the parking brake, because of course they're going to investigate.
"It could be a trap," Ray points out, and rightly so. Frank doesn't want to think about opening that front door and finding it teeming with dracs, but it's absolutely a possibility. You can't take anything at face value in this future, as he's learning.
"Could be," Mikey says, side of his mouth quirking up, the words practically a challenge. Ray returns the almost-smile with one of his own, before drawing his gun and slipping out of the vehicle in one fast, graceful move. Mikey and Gerard do the same, leaving Frank feeling slow and clumsy as he lets himself out of the car and fumbles for his weapon.
As they carefully approach the shack, Frank finds himself at the back of a small four-person huddle, flanked by Ray and Mikey, and he knows it's not an accident. He's not sure if he's annoyed or relieved at being babysat. The way his hand that holds the gun is shaking, he figures he probably shouldn't complain.
It's impossible to be unseen out in the desert like this. If anyone was inside they would have seen the dust cloud approaching the moment the Trans Am was in range. The closer they get to the place the more vulnerable they are, easy pickings for a concealed sniper waiting inside. It doesn't happen. To Frank's infinite relief, they get to the door unmolested, their own footsteps and the howling wind their only soundtrack.
"Should we, like, knock?" Gerard asks, hand floating up to the door and glancing back at Ray and Mikey, a little unsure. Frank holds back a snort. Aren't these guys supposed to be badass?
Before anyone can even answer, the door cracks open, a white gun barrel with a burnt tip poking through. Gerard lowers his hand. Frank also catches him surreptitiously shift his other hand so his gun is pointing through the door at the area where the person on the other side would be standing.
"Don't try it." The voice coming from inside is gruff and forceful. It's also familiar. "Door's reinforced steel, it'll just blow back on you."
Gerard raises his hands, gun dangling from his thumb by the trigger casing, "We come in peace." He offers the crack in the door his most charming smile. "Now have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal lord and saviour?"
"Whatever you're selling I'm not buying. Now fuck off." The gun vanishes back inside the shack and the door starts to close.
Frank, moving faster than he thought he could, shoves his foot forward, managing to keep the door open a crack. "Brian, wait! We need your help."
Frank can't see anything through the tiny crack in the door, but the pressure against his foot relents a little, then the door eases open to reveal Brian. The Brian from here.
He's older, of course, that much is immediately obvious - lines on his face that Frank recognises from long sleepless tour nights, deepened now, permanent. He's dressed in battered camo gear and a t-shirt that's missing one sleeve. His ink - which of course there's more of now than Frank remembers - is faded and slightly green. He's a few days unshaven, his usually-sharp sideburns getting lost in the stubble on his cheeks.
He's still holding his gun, not pointing it at them, but ready to. "Why would the fabulous fucking Killjoys need my help?" The words are a sneer. He couldn't sound more unimpressed if he tried.
That puts Gerard's back straight up. "You know what, fuck this. We don't need his fucking help." He goes to leave, just like that, after one exchange of words, when they've come all this way.
Frank grabs his arm, fingers tight on the dusty leather, stopping him. "Gerard." It's a warning.
It's also the wrong name for Frank to use, which Brian seems to notice. His eyes catch on Frank's mohawk, tracing down his neck and over his arms and hands. "You're not from here." Brian's voice is caught somewhere between surprised and thoughtful.
"No." There's no point hiding it. Frank holsters his gun. "Where I'm from, you're still my friend, and you're still my manager. I need your help to get back there."
Brian is still for a long moment, his expression giving nothing away. Eventually he eases back a step, pushing the door open wider. "You'd better come inside."
"So Better Living did manage to make that Time Displacement shit work, then." Brian says, pulling a dented canteen from where it's hanging from what looks like an exhaust pipe and throwing it down on a scuffed-up table in front of Ray and Mikey. "That's water. It's a long way out here, you probably need some."
All the walls on the inside of the shack are covered in shelving, made of what looks like found materials, wood and metal and chipboard all mixed up together. There are car parts, computer parts and tools on every surface, all up high, and more hanging from hooks and nails in the slanted walls. There's some mismatched furniture as well, an old car seat, some deck chairs and a folding table. The place is a lot more liveable on the inside than it looks from the outside but it's still a far cry from the comfort of even a tour bus, let alone a house or apartment.
The water's some kind of peace offering, Frank can tell. Water is precious out here, you don't just give it away to anyone. No one picks up the canteen, so Frank does, taking a small gulp. He hands it to Mikey, who takes it after a moment of blank-faced consideration. He also takes a drink, and the water seems to loosen his vocal chords.
"Some runners got hold of the tech and we traded for it. Only got to use it once before dracs blew our place open and took it back." Mikey passes the canteen to Ray, who takes it.
"Only once?" Brian turns an assessing gaze onto Frank. "2005, right?" Frank nods, of course Brian would remember this shit, that's what they're counting on. "Has Helena dropped yet?"
"Not yet. A day or two, I think."
Brian shakes his head, looking down so Frank barely gets a glimpse of the smile that tugs at his mouth. "You are in for a fucking ride."
There's a fragile kind of peace in the room at that moment. It's like everyone's reliving the same memories - memories of stuff that hasn't even happened to Frank yet.
The silence is shattered by the squeak of a door and a tiny voice. "Dad?"
All the air rushes out of Frank's lungs at the word. He turns to the source and sure enough, there's a kid in the doorway to one of the inner rooms. A tiny kid, couldn't be more than five, with miniature Brian features and messy brown hair. He's wearing a t-shirt that's too big for him and shorts that look homemade. He's also got a brace on his leg, shiny and metal and heavy looking.
Brian rushes over to the door, kneeling in front of the kid. "Sam, what did I tell you?" His tone is firm but not angry.
"Stay in my room. I know. But it's so boring." The kid's not even looking at Brian, staring over his shoulder at the strangers in his home. Without really thinking about it, Frank finds himself turning his body so his gun and holster won't be in the kid's field of view.
Sam's eyes widen and he leans in, whispering something in Brian's ear. Brian nods, saying gently, "Yeah, same as the posters. Now you gonna go back inside? I'll be there in a minute." Brian places a gentle hand on Sam's shoulder, and either the kid's shoulder is tiny, or Brian's hand is huge.
Sam stares at the Killjoys a moment longer, and Frank can't help it, he shoots the kid a gentle smile, which makes him stare harder, until he blinks and looks away. "'Kay," he says to Brian, then he's stepping back into the room, his leg brace clicking on the floorboards.
Brian pulls the door shut and turns around with a sigh. Frank knows like he knows the chords to Sorrows that this is Brian's kid, and that Brian did not want them to see him. He's desperately curious about the child's mother, but he knows better than to ask. If she's not here then she's probably not anywhere anymore.
"You should tell me what you want and get out of here before you bring the heat down." Brian says simply, stepping away from the door.
"We weren't followed." Gerard says.
"You don't think you were followed," Brian corrects, shooting him a cutting look, and Gerard's about to jump in again, looking frustrated, but Ray cuts him off.
"We need information. About 2005." Ray's tone is carefully neutral. "We're trying to figure out where Fun Gh-, um, where Frank was - a hotel night on Taste of Chaos. We need the hotel name and room number. Figured you might have it."
Brian rocks back on his heels, rubbing the back of his neck like he tends to when he's stressed out or thinking hard. It's such a familiar sight Frank has to swallow down a lump in his throat. He could be telling them about travel arrangements to the next show or lecturing them about appropriate media usage. He's not though. It's a different fucking world.
"I've probably got it. I got my old tour diaries scanned and archived when I shut down Riot Squad. One of the backups survived, I'll have a look."
"Thanks," Frank says with a weak smile. Brian turns and leaves the room without returning it.
Rooms 205 and 207 at a Novotel in St. Louis. Brian has the details, date and hotel address scribbled on the back of a torn-off corner of a Better Living poster, which he hands to Gerard, adding stiffly, "I don't remember who shared with who, but they'd be adjoining rooms."
Gerard pockets the slip of paper without looking at it too hard. His face is a mix of emotions - gratitude, tension and doubt - as he tells Brian simply, "Thanks." He goes to say something else, hesitating, but Brian is faster.
"Now get out."
Anything Gerard was going to add is lost then. Shock flits across his face, so fast Frank nearly misses it. He doesn't say anything else, he just nods, respectfully, turning to Frank, Mikey and Ray and inclining his head toward the door. It's uncomfortably silent but for the sound of their boots scuffing on the floorboards as they make their way out into the near-blinding sun, dust hitting the back of Frank's throat when he breathes in.
It doesn't feel right to leave it like this, and Frank pauses by the door. He turns around and catches Brian's arm, stopping him from closing it behind them.
"Seriously, dude. Thank you." He says it fast, throwing himself at Brian and grabbing him in a swift hug that he's not quick enough to avoid. Frank is well trained at ninja-attack-hugs and Brian just endures it, not pulling away even though Frank can tell he wants to. After a moment though, Frank feels a reluctant hand on his back, patting lightly.
"It's fine. Just. Get back there." Brian's voice is gruff, sounding suspiciously throaty, but when Frank pulls back his expression is as neutral as ever.
Frank nods, stepping away, and Gerard - seeming to fight an internal battle with himself and lose - says to Brian, "If you ever need anything, you should let us know. We've got contacts - meds, doctors, food, fuel."
"I won't," Brian says firmly. "I've got my own contacts."
Gerard's brow furrows and his mouth pulls to the side, suddenly determined. He pulls the torn-off paper with the hotel details out of his pocket and for a panicked moment Frank thinks he's going to give it back. He doesn't, just tears off a blank piece and writes a string of numbers across it with one of his ever-present markers.
He shoves it at Brian. "Our coordinates. In case you change your mind."
Brian doesn't take the paper, but Gerard doesn't withdraw his hand, stubbornly keeping his arm extended, the paper fluttering slightly in the dry wind.
"I don't expect payback." Brian says, making no move to take it.
"That's not what this is." Gerard sighs, "Look, just take it. Call it an apology. You can throw it away as soon as we're gone if you want."
Something shifts in Brian's expression at the word 'apology', but it happens too fast for Frank to figure it out. For a long moment it's a stand-off, neither of them willing to back down.
In the end, Brian relents, grabbing the paper and glancing at the numbers before he shoves it in his back pocket. "Now go."
Gerard hesitates for a moment before he walks away, reluctant footsteps kicking up sand in the dusty wind. Mikey and Ray turn and follow, and Frank's the last one to leave. It takes everything Frank's got not to turn and look back, call back to Brian, try to convince him to come too.
It feels wrong to leave Brian out here, on his own to fend for himself and his son, but Frank knows there's no other way. Not yet. If any fences are going to be mended it'll happen in its own time and probably not until long after Frank's back in the year he belongs in.
If the plan works, that is. There's still so much that could go wrong.
The next few days are a blur of preparations: supply runs, tactical planning, all-night coding sessions to check the hacks they've made to the software are as perfect and foolproof as they can make them - at least without being able to test them. There isn't enough time, and yet there's more time than Frank can fill because whenever he's not actively doing something, he's thinking too hard and too loud about what they're about to do.
Sometimes he finds himself thing about Fun Ghoul, wondering how's he's doing back in 2005. Is it bliss for him - being back on tour, reliving the best years of his life - or torture to see everything again the way it was before this and know what's to come? By the time the St Louis hotel night rolls around, Fun Ghoul will have been back in 2005 for two weeks and eleven shows - anything could happen. Frank thinks about Fun Ghoul spending time with his Gerard in 2005 and when his reaction feels like jealousy he just gets confused. It becomes one more thing he tries not to think about.
He works himself into exhaustion each day, sleeping hard through the desert nights, Gerard's body warm by his side, arms heavy around him. It's a comfort he never knew he needed, and one he's going to miss when he's back in '05. He's going to miss a lot of things about his new relationship with Gerard - a warm hand on his knee, a shared smile over some blueprints, rushed, frantic handjobs in the diner kitchen when Mikey and Ray are out on supply runs. The look Gerard gets on his face the moment right before he comes.
Too late, he can appreciate why Gerard was so insistent they hold back. Sometimes it's easier not to know what you're missing. Still, Frank can't bring himself to regret even one moment.
Then, just as suddenly, Frank's out of time.
Because it's tonight. They're doing it tonight and all the internal pep talks in the fucking world couldn't have prepared Frank for this. The sick feeling in his stomach is so much worse than any pre-show nerves. After all, what's the worst that could happen if you fuck up at a show? Getting boo'ed? Maybe even bottled? That's nothing.
If he fucks up tonight someone could die.
Shit. Shit. He can't think about this. He runs the plan through in his mind again: where he needs to be, what he needs to do and when, Ray's careful voice guiding him in his head. Ray's mapped out the raid down to every last minute and they've all run over it until they know it better than any of their songs.
Frank leans in the doorway of the storeroom, watching Gerard fasten a shoulder holster over his chest and check his weapon. His red hair looks sharp and bright, in contrast to the crisp white of his slacks and shirt, and the jacket he's buttoning over the holster, covering his yellow gun. Frank's wearing a matching white linen suit, as are Mikey and Ray, and four of the hideous rubber masks lie in a pile by the door, the final pieces of a uniform he hopes they'll never don again.
Frank's heart broke a little watching Mikey and Ray paint over the colourful designs and logos that decorated their bikes with white gloss paint – the final piece of their disguise. Thank god they didn't have to paint over the Trans Am, since they won't be using it tonight. Not that Frank would have mourned the loss of the spider, but he's become quite attached to the rest of the car's design. Hopefully he'll get to see it again, if they make it out of this tonight.
Gerard does up the final button before looking up to meet Frank's eyes. He looks a little shaky, but determined, all lit up like he's getting ready to go out and face a crowd of screaming kids. Frank wants to say something - he feels like he should, like this is a moment - but nothing comes. He just lets his eyes take in Gerard's face, the tiny lines at the corner of his eyes, the light scattering of freckles from being in the sun, the rough stubble on his chin and cheeks.
He can see his Gerard in there, the one he knows so well. The Gerard with the dirty hair and the earnest face who smokes too much and talks with his hands all the time. The Gerard who spills his heart and soul out on stage every night. The Gerard who's so much younger and who's seen so much less than the man in front of Frank right now. This is the man his Gerard is going to be one day and fuck, Frank's so proud of him.
His chest feels tight and he can't force himself to speak. Instead he just grabs Gerard's jacket by the lapels and pulls him in, kissing him hard and a little rough. Gerard's lips cling to his as he kisses back, grasping Frank's shoulders tight as he opens up for him, finding his tongue and stroking it. There's no sound but their sharp nasal breathing for long moments as Frank's focus narrows to just this kiss, committing it to memory.
When their lips part, he's breathing hard, his voice raspy as he explains, "Just in case."
He doesn't have to tell Gerard just in case of what.
Battery City is a lot cleaner than Frank expected. Every post-apocalyptic movie he's ever seen is full of destroyed cities, broken glass and fires in oil drums - but not this one. The streets are almost eerily clean and completely empty. Of course, it's empty due to the curfew - enforced with deadly precision - but it's still fucking ominous. The engines of their two motorbikes sound too loud echoing back off the empty streets - one carrying Ray and Mikey, the other driven by Gerard, Frank riding pillion behind him.
He holds tighter to Gerard's waist, the white linen of his jacket rough under Frank's fingers. The smell of sweat and rubber is thick in his nostrils from the drac mask that covers his head, his vision blurry around the edges through the too-small eyeholes. It's almost better not being able to see that much. This city is too sterile. Too manufactured.
There's Better Living Propaganda projected on every large white wall they pass - heavy black writing and that fucking not-smiley smiley-face from the logo stares down at them. It gives Frank the heebs. He already feels too conspicuous riding double and being the only movement in the deader-than-dead streets.
Ray's taillight weaves to the side and Gerard turns the bike, following him around the corner. Frank's got the route to the tech plant memorised, and he's ticking off turns in his mind as they make them. He knows this is the turn that takes them to the checkpoint for the tech plant and this is where things have the potential to get very fucking messy.
It's the first real stumbling block. They've had one of Mikey's contacts - someone on the inside, a double agent going by code name "Cherri Cola" - call ahead on a hacked line to rush them through. She's supposedly name-dropping some guy called Korse and some kind of fictitious emergency so they can get past the drones without them looking too closely at their counterfeit ID's.
Frank can see the checkpoint coming up - three armed guards, all in white with masked faces, guarding the barrier. He stiffens his spine, loosening his grip on Gerard's jacket in case he has to go for his gun.
Ray barely slows his bike down as they approach, and Mikey shouts something at the gatekeeper, sounding pissed off. The guy at the gate - the one with the fucking machine gun - doesn't even hesitate. He just hits a button, raising the gate arm and waving them through, like he was already expecting them. Because he was.
Frank bites down on his lip, heart thumping as they glide by the guards and away. He breathes out when the guards are out of view, sending a prayer of gratitude to whomever the fuck is listening up there. It can't all be this easy.
They stash the bikes in plain sight in the parking lot - next to half a dozen identical bikes - and dash for the back entrance. This is the tricky part. Mikey's got some hack-tech that should get the doors open, but with no way to test it there's no guarantee. The large metal doors, gleaming in the reflected light of the security lamps, face out onto the parking lot and some office buildings. They're going to be totally exposed the entire time they do this and the longer it takes, the more chance they'll be noticed.
Any actual drac would flash their ID pass and activate the doors, so there's no good excuse for four of them to be hovering around the sensor - Ray and Mikey bent over it while Frank and Gerard keep watch. There's certainly no reasonable explanation for why one of them's using a piece of illegal tech - another Frankenstein's monster created from wires and sensors and what looks like an old calculator keypad.
Ray places a playing-card-sized piece of hardware - connected with wires and duct tape to the keypad Mikey's holding - over the door sensor. Mikey strikes a few keys and code starts scrolling up the tiny green-and-black display screen in his hand. It's been explained to Frank already that this piece of tech is like a key-gen; it'll throw a bunch of code combinations at the sensor until it hopefully strikes one that works. How long that takes is anyone's guess, but Gerard's packing some C4 that's their backup plan.
Frank is really hoping they don't have to use the backup plan.
Frank stands tense, his breath bouncing back on his face under the drac mask, his gun in his hand, tucked up under his jacket for cover, and however long it's taking is too fucking long. He hears the low grumble of a bike engine and tenses up. They're nearly out of time.
"Kobra," Gerard hisses, "we're about to have company."
"I can't make it go any fucking faster, Poison." Mikey whispers back uselessly, but a moment later he lets out a low grunt of approval. "Yes! We're in."
Frank turns around in time to see the doors slide open with a hiss, revealing a bright white corridor. Gerard goes in first, Frank right behind him and Mikey and Ray at the rear. Frank's starting to think maybe this is possible, maybe they can pull this off, but they don't even get ten steps down that hallway before an alarm starts screeching at top volume.
Gerard freezes for a nanosecond, then calls back over his shoulder, "Run!" and takes off down the hall. Frank's hot on his heels and Ray and Mikey are right behind him. There's no time to panic, Frank just has to move. He runs as fast as his feet can take him, keeping pace with Gerard as they rocket down the hallway, taking turns at double speed, the whole layout of the lab already memorised from stolen blueprints and satellite images.
One alarm doesn’t mean they have to abandon the raid, not yet, they just have to move faster and try to avoid any skirmishes with guards or dracs.
Frank's barely finished thinking the word 'dracs' when they turn the next corner and find themselves face to face with a dozen of them. Frank stumbles to a stop behind Gerard, nearly smashing into him.
The dracs are coming down the hall already, and the moment they catch sight of the Killjoys they pick up speed, running right for them, guns in their hands starting to rise.
Frank's body seizes up, even the blood in his veins seems to slow. For what feels like an eternity, but couldn't be more than a split second, he can't move, he's frozen, limbs and legs useless and he's going to fucking die.
"Split!" Gerard's voice snaps Frank out of it, and with a shove to his shoulder suddenly he's moving, running, pulling his gun out from under his shirt and veering off down another hallway - a longer route to the lab, but hopefully one with less dracs.
Frank can't look to check, but Ray and Mikey will be going the other way, the shorter route, splitting up just like they planned if this happened, one of the many contingencies they built in. Their split should scatter the dracs, give the Killjoys more chances to either get away or take them down.
Gerard's already doing his part for that, ducking into doorways whenever there's cover, pausing long enough to turn and fire on the dracs before taking off again. Rushed glimpses over his shoulder show Frank he's downed three of them; whether they'll get up again Frank can't tell, he's got to keep moving.
They're nearing the final few turns, so close to the lab Frank can almost smell it through the shitty rubber mask, when he turns a corner and finds himself face to face with another fucking drac.
Shit. They beat them here.
Frank goes for his gun but he can't move fast enough. Time slows right down, adrenaline stretching the moment out as Frank raises his gun to fire, but the drac's already got his up, fuck, Frank's not gonna make it, it's fucking game over.
He's about to squeeze his eyes shut, to dive, to try to do something, when the drac shudders backwards, a red stain blooming in the centre of his chest. He hits the floor heavily and Frank turns his head to see Gerard lowering his weapon. He saved Frank's fucking life.
Sound rushes back into Frank's ears, his body stuttering into movement as Gerard shouts, "Move. Move!" and shoves him forwards. His voice is muffled through the mask and Frank doesn't need to be told twice. He dodges the fallen drac and sprints down the hallway, Gerard right on his heels.
They're almost there - only two more turns and they should make the lab. There's no one after them and Frank's starting to think they're gonna make it, they're gonna fucking make it, when suddenly he's flying sideways, his shoulder and elbow slamming painfully into the wall. He scrambles for purchase, managing not to fall, but only barely, and a panicked look around shows him four – no, five - dracs bursting out of a doorway Frank didn't even see.
He's still in a crouch and through the tangle of white-clad legs Frank can see Gerard's already firing at the dracs, backing down the hall, away from Frank. Away from the lab.
"Poison!" Frank scrambles for his gun, barely getting his feet under him. His cry alerts the dracs that he's still breathing and one starts to coming for him. Gerard gets him first, his blast catching the drac in the back and Frank has to dodge out of the way when his body hits the ground.
"Don't wait for me! Keep fucking going!" Gerard shouts over the cacophony of gunfire. Then he's off, ducking out of the way of a drac's dive and sprinting down the hall - the wrong way, dracs hot on his heels. Fuck, he's trying to draw them away.
"Shit. Shit." Frank takes aim at the mess of white-dressed bodies but he can't fire without risking hitting Gerard. "Shit-shit-shit!" He stamps in frustration, wanting to go after them but knowing he shouldn't, he can't. He swears and runs the other way, every step feeling like a mistake, but he's got to get to the lab, Gerard will catch him up, he fucking will.
He dodges around a corner and there's the door - fucking finally. Hopefully Mikey and Ray are already inside. Hopefully the software's working. Hopefully, hopefully -
A solid force hits him from behind and he goes flying, his gun slipping from his hand and skittering away as Frank braces himself to hit the ground. He lands hard on his knees and elbows. No time to feel the pain; he flips over, finding himself looking up at a drac, the grotesque rubber face looking like it's laughing at him.
Frank panics, kicking out with his legs and managing to get the drac right in the balls. He stumbles and Frank flips and rolls across the floor, snatching up his gun and firing.
Just like fucking target practice, his muscles take over, lining up and firing in split-seconds, so fast Frank doesn't even process it until the drac's chest bursts with red and he falls to the ground.
All Frank can hear is his own breath, too loud in his ears. He pulls his mask up off his face, needing to breathe. Fuck, it's like someone's sitting on his chest. He sucks in air, staring down at the prone form of the dead drac, stomach twisting with nausea.
He's never killed anyone before. He won't even fucking eat meat and now he's killed a human being.
He steps closer to the body, panting, the edge of his vision going a little spotty, like any second now he's gonna get dizzy. Fuck, this is dangerous, he has to get moving before more of them come, he has to go.
His feet are stuck to the floor.
This drac was a person once. Under that mask is a human being. Frank reaches down, hand trembling a little, willing himself to pull off the mask, to fucking know it for sure. Look at the real owner of the life he's taken. To see it.
His hands still hovering motionless above the untouched mask when he hears the footsteps coming. He doesn't know how he knows it's Gerard, but it is. He's got his own mask pulled up off his face, bright red hair a mess sticking out underneath it, his face sweaty and concerned as he looks at Frank. There's a fresh singe mark on his shoulder, but it doesn't seem to be causing him grief.
Gerard doesn't say anything to Frank, just grabs his hand, pulling him away from the body, toward the lab. Frank lets Gerard drag him away, but it's a physical effort not to look back.
"Took your fucking time." Ray greets them as they burst into the lab. He's guarding the door, and the moment they're inside, he bolts it closed.
"Hey, we had to deal with the damn welcome wagon," Gerard shoots back, striding inside, not letting go of Frank's hand, so he has to go too.
The lab is seriously huge. Bigger than some venues they've played in, all shiny steel with racks and racks of computers and machinery. Mikey's perched behind a panel of one of the many computer terminals, his fingers running over some crazy state-of-the-art-looking touchpad screen.
Gerard comes up to Mikey and peers over his shoulder at the display. "Please tell me it's working."
"No reason for it not to." Mikey's fingers fly over the screen in a blur. He glances up at Frank. "Time to get naked."
Shit. Of course, Frank's nearly managed to forget that part of the equation.
"Right," he says, reaching for his jacket buttons when suddenly there's loud metallic thump coming from the doors they came in by.
Ray steps away from them, drawing his gun. "You might want to hurry."
"Shit, okay." Frank throws his mask off and hands his gun to Gerard, scrambling to undo his buttons. Gerard crouches to pick at Frank's bootlaces - of course now is the time when it's okay for him to be barefoot. Frank pointedly doesn’t think about the last time one of them helped the other with their boots.
"Scanner's over here," Mikey's saying, jogging a few yards from the computer over to what looks like a small home theatre projector. Frank's rapidly peeling off his clothes as he follows, tossing his jacket and shirt at Gerard and kicking his pants off.
He's down to his briefs when Mikey says, "Stand here," pointing at what seems like a random spot on the floor. "Hold still and don't look into the light. Tell me when you're ready."
Mikey dashes back to the terminal. The noises on the other side of the door are getting louder, so Frank shucks his underwear, no time to be shy, shuts his eyes and calls, "Ready!"
He can sort-of feel and sort-of see the beam of light from behind his eyelids. It's warm on his skin like sunshine or stage lights as it scans over his body, the scanner humming. Frank concentrates on not moving, not reacting to the noises coming from outside, when something soft hits him in the face.
He opens his eyes and grabs it; it's his underwear. "That's it?"
"That's it," Gerard confirms with a smirk and a quick glance down Frank's body and back up again, "Get dressed."
Fuck, that was fast. Frank fights a blush and scrambles to get his gear back on. He winds up dressed, but unbuttoned, hopping over to the terminal and staring over Mikey's shoulder at the display while he pulls his boots on.
He has no idea why he keeps looking at the damn display like he'll be able to read it. It's just a mess of code, like the fucking matrix.
"Did it work?" Frank asks, wiggling his foot down into his other boot and lifting his foot onto the bench to tie the laces.
"Everything looks fine on this end, but, you know," Mikey shrugs, "there's no way to know 'til we get back to the diner."
"Ghoul will either be there or he won't," Gerard adds, looking just as apprehensive about it as Frank feels.
"Guys, less talking, more running.," Ray calls across the lab. The noise from outside the doors is getting louder. "It's a fucking party out there."
"B.Y.O. firepower," Frank adds under his breath. He snatches his gun and his hated drac mask up off the counter and jogs after Mikey and Gerard to join Ray at the doors - which are vibrating, fuck, how many of them are out there?
Mikey pulls up the hem of his pants, removing two small duct-taped cylinders from his boot. "How about some party poppers?"
He tosses one to Ray and pulls a lighter from his breast pocket. Frank already knows what's in those little packages - he saw them being put together - something out of the Anarchist fucking Cookbook.
"Poison, get the door." Mikey's waving a flame under the fuse for his popper. Ray points the end of his fuse into the tiny lighter flame too. Both fuses start sparking at the same time and the sizzle of sulphur smells like fourth-of-July picnics and New Year's fireworks. Except this is gonna be a lot less fun.
Gerard ushers Frank over to the wall beside the door, out of range. He's babysitting again, Frank fucking knows it, but he's not gonna call him out on it now. He just watches as Gerard lines himself up near the door handle, settling his hand on the bolt release.
Ray and Mikey slide up close, poppers lit and smoking; Gerard watches the fuses burn down, timing it out. When they're nearing the stub he grips the bolt release, ready, "On three. Two. One."
He slides the bolt and wrenches the door open. It goes easily, too easily, and suddenly Gerard's fighting to keep it from opening too far, dracs on the other side pushing at it and Frank can hear them out there, muffled shouts and near-animalistic growls. He jumps in next to Gerard, adding his weight to the door as Mikey and Ray throw the poppers out through it. The second Ray's released his they're pushing back on the doors, Frank grunting with effort, all of them putting everything into it, fighting against the combined press of the dracs on the other side.
Gerard's just managed to slide the bolt home when the first popper goes off. Frank can feel it thump through the door, the explosion still loud even through the thick metal. The second one goes off a moment later and suddenly there's a lot less noise coming from outside.
Gerard calls it. "Okay, if it's clear enough, we run. Take out the stragglers and don't stop 'til we're out of the city, okay?" He waits for the nods of assent from each of them before putting his mask on, and they all follow suit, reaching for their weapons and forming a loose line in front of the door.
Gerard grips the door bolt. Frank bites down on his lip, fingers tight around his gun. They're nearly there. Fuck, he can do this.
The door bolt slides open with a metallic shriek and Gerard kicks the door wide. The hallway is a mess of fallen dracs and the ones that are still standing start to rush the doors. In near-perfect synchronicity the four Killjoys raise their guns and fire. Every shot shudders down Frank's arm and he wants to close his eyes - not see the destruction he's wreaking - but he doesn't. He just keeps shooting 'til he can't see anyone left standing.
Then they run.
It feels like so much further to get out of the building than it was to get in. They duck down hallways, dodge around doors, firing at the least sign of movement. The dracs are swarming like a stirred-up nest of bees, but the hallways are long and the Killjoys' aim is sharp. The dracs are on the ground before they get time to even raise their guns.
Frank can see the front doors - they've nearly made it. He can practically smell the dust of the zones, when he hears a yelp and turns to see Mikey's hit the deck, tackled by a drac. They wrestle on the floor, a blur of movement, and Frank can't see what limbs belong to whom to fire at them.
Ray doesn't hesitate, he grabs the drac around the neck, slamming the butt of his gun into its mask-covered head with a sickening crack. The white-clad body goes limp and Ray lets go, letting it slump to the floor and sticking his hand out to help Mikey up.
They're moving again in seconds - down the corridor, out the doors, through the parking lot. Frank's lost track of how many shots he's fired, how many dracs he's totalled. It's just survival now, his body's flying on autopilot - all instinct and muscle memory.
Their bikes are exactly where they left them and it's such a fucking relief. Frank mounts up one-handed so he can keep shooting with the other and they fucking tear on out of there. The rest is a blur of gunfire and the cracking burst of the poppers that get them past the security gate.
The lights of the city fade off behind them and then there is dust at the back of Frank's throat. They're back in the zones and Frank can finally breathe again. He rips off the rubber mask, throwing it to the wind, letting the night air whip through his mohawk, rushing down the collar of his jacket and over his back. Gerard tosses his mask too and his scarlet hair whips Frank's face as they speed over the sand.
Frank's still buzzing with adrenaline when the diner starts to come into view. He can feel the tension in Gerard's body as they approach the diner. He doesn't know what he'll do, what he can do if this didn't work. Gerard parks the bike messily, leaping off as soon as it's stationary, and Frank hesitates, hovering back by the motorbike while Gerard surges forward. Mikey and Ray pull up, dismounting themselves as Gerard rushes for the diner, where there's a figure leaning in the darkened doorway.
When Frank can focus, he can see it's Fun Ghoul. He's dressed in the same outfit he was wearing the first night Frank met him - the same clothes Frank's been wearing since, left behind tonight to don the whites of a drac. Fun Ghoul's hair is now a copy of Frank's own, shorn short and white-blond at the sides, the long section of his mohawk dark and flopping over his forehead. His face is stretched in a wide grin and his eyes are warm on Gerard's as he jogs up to him, catching Ghoul's face between his hands and kissing him with so much force they nearly topple over.
"I guess it worked then." Frank says, to no one in particular as he watches as the reunited couple stumble on their feet, kissing hungrily, desperately. Ghoul's arms wrap around Gerard's back, his tattooed fingers splayed flat across his shoulder blades. Gerard's fingers slide up to bury in the other Frank's hair. They're moving as one, hands touching, bodies pressing and the sight makes an ache well up in Frank's chest because, God, he knows what that feels like now. He knows what Gerard tastes like. There's an ache in his dick at the sight too, but that one's easier to ignore.
He wasn't lying when he said he could wait - would wait - until his Gerard was ready. But that doesn't mean he wants to watch it happen right in front of him, knowing he can't have it yet. He has to look away.
"Yeah, I guess it did." Mikey wraps a bony arm around Frank's shoulder, leaning into a wordless hug. A smile twitches at Frank's mouth despite himself.
"How long 'til I get sucked back to '05?" he asks Ray, who's sidled up beside them, his lips stretched in a wide grin as he watches Gerard and Ghoul.
"Only a few hours, dude. You'll survive." Ray ruffles Frank's hair affectionately. Frank punches him gently in the shoulder.
It must be around that point that Ghoul stops sucking on Gerard's face, because Frank hears running footsteps and then Ghoul's catapulted himself at Ray, in an attack-hug Frank perfected years ago. It's weird to be able to watch himself do that, see the way his legs lock around Ray's waist and catch a glimpse of his own gleeful smile through Ray's flying curls.
Ray stumbles, laughing. "Fuck, two weeks in the past and you think you're twenty-three?"
Ghoul giggles, "Dude I feel twenty three. Holy shit." He catches a handful of Mikey's shirt, pulling him into Ray's back and hugging them both at the same time.
"Fuck, you guys. Missed you fucking fuckers," Ghoul announces, his voice muffled into Ray's shoulder. "Fuck, Mikey, you in '05. You and your fucking glasses and your hair. God, you were awkward."
"Fuck you," Mikey retorts, but he's smiling around the words.
It's weird, but now Frank feels desperately out of place. Like he's the understudy and the headline star's just arrived. He tries not to fidget and fails miserably while Ghoul, Mikey and Ray stumble together in the messy hug.
Ghoul's muffled laughter dies and he pulls his face out of Ray's shoulder, dropping onto his feet on the sand, his eyes already on Frank's. He covers the few steps between them and snatches Frank into a tight hug so fast it knocks Frank breathless.
"Thank you. Dude. Fucking thank you," he says, and it makes no sense to Frank.
"Uh. For what?"
"Man, these last two weeks. Fucking insane. Amazing." The words are hot against Frank's ear.
Ghoul releases Frank, hands still gripping his arms tight, his smile wide as he continues, "I forgot what it was like. Touring back then. Fuck, the world back then. Fuck." He grabs Frank again, hugging him tight while Frank stares dazedly over his shoulder. Gerard saunters into Frank's line of vision; his eyes lock with Frank's, then drop to drift over Ghoul and back to Frank. He looks entranced. Hungry.
It's so distracting that Frank misses whatever Ghoul says next, tuning back in on, "I tried not to fuck anything up. I hope I didn't wreck anything but there was just shit I didn't remember, you know? And God, we haven't played some of those songs in years, and I know the guys saw some of my tatts, even though I faked the rash from hell and kept trying to cover them up."
"Dude, dude. Slow down. It's cool, I mean. I'm sure you did fine." Frank knows he's prone to verbal diarrhoea at times, but he's never actually been on the receiving end of it.
He pats Ghoul's shoulder in an attempt at being reassuring. "I hope I didn't fuck up anything here for you."
Ghoul eases back again then, releasing Frank from his death grip to grin at him. "Everyone's still alive and Gerard doesn't hate me. I'd say you did fine."
Frank knows the wide smile he's wearing is the exact same one he's looking at.
"You sure it was here?" Ray asks, staring at the patch of sand about twenty feet from the diner.
"Dude, if you look hard enough you can see my ass marks from where I landed." Ghoul kicks the spot with his foot. Gerard and Mikey are staring at it like they actually can see ass marks if they look hard enough.
"Cool," Ray says, dragging the heel of his boot across the area to make a line and then an interlocking line to make an 'X'. He looks up at Frank. "This is your extraction point. So in like," Ray checks his watch, "Two and half hours, we just have to make sure you're here and you," he points a hand at Ghoul, "are nowhere near here."
"Plan," Frank nods.
"Plan," Ghoul agrees.
"God, there's two of them," Ray groans, pressing a palm to his face.
"They're like The Children Of The Corn." Mikey's glances between Frank and Ghoul, looking amused. "Especially with the matching hair."
Frank giggles, hearing it echoed by Ghoul. Mikey just rolls his eyes. Ghoul's got one arm looped loosely through Gerard's. In fact, they've been in touch-contact almost constantly since Ghoul's return. Like Gerard's afraid to let go. The casual intimacy makes Frank's skin itchy and he's still got more than two hours of witnessing it to live through.
Fuck. Better concentrate on something else. "So hey," he says to Ghoul, "You should probably catch me up on what I've missed back in '05, so I don't look too fucking clueless when I get back."
Ghoul looks like he's about to respond in the affirmative, but Gerard jumps in first. "Or," he says, louder than he needs to, drawing everyone's attention. He glances down at his feet and up again, biting his lip. "Or we could... do something else."
He doesn't say what, but the way his eyes are flicking from Ghoul, to Frank, back to Ghoul, Frank can connect the dots. It makes his mouth go a little dry. Frank watches Ghoul's eyes widen as the notion sinks in for him too.
Ray misses it completely, of course. "What? Guys?"
Mikey doesn't. He grabs the cuff of Ray's jacket. "Let's go for a ride."
Ray frowns at Mikey. "Where?"
Mikey snares Ray's wrist in his long fingers and starts to walk to the bikes, dragging Ray behind him. "Somewhere else."
Ray does get it eventually. Frank catches a glimpse of the dawning comprehension on Ray's features before he turns to follow Mikey. He even catches the "oh" and the "oh" that follows, in Ray's high tone. Then Ray's footsteps pick up and he and Mikey are heading for the bikes.
When Frank turns back around, both Gerard and Ghoul are watching him. Their gaze is a warm heat on Frank's skin and fuck it's surreal. But hot. Very hot.
"Really?" he asks, his brain struggling to catch up with his dick.
Ghoul's mouth curls into a grin. He flicks his eyes to Gerard, whos smiles back at Frank in a way that might just make Frank spontaneously combust.
"Oh yes," is all he says.
"So how do you want to do this?"
It's the same question Frank wanted to ask, but the older version of himself gets the words out first. Luckily he's not asking Frank, he's asking Gerard, because Frank's head is still spinning and he has no idea where to start.
It's suddenly quiet inside the diner, the question effectively silencing their excited chatter and laughter - changing gears. It's quiet enough for Frank to hear the uneven cadence of Gerard's breathing, almost as staccato as Frank's own. Fun Ghoul's the only one who seems to be functioning anywhere near normal - either that or he's better at hiding it. He steps up close to Gerard, slipping a hand up to cup his cheek, tilting his head to brush his lips across Gerard's - soft, gentle.
"Fuck, Poison do you have any idea how hard it was to see you every day and not be able to do this?" He kisses Gerard again, deeper, longer. Frank's stomach twists up as he watches - he's about to find out just how hard it is, first hand.
"Tell me what you want." Fun Ghoul turns his head a little, so their noses brush. "It's your show, babe."
Frank can hear Gerard's shaky intake of breath. His feet twitch in his shoes. He's a few steps away from them and he's not sure where he should be, not sure if he should be closer, or if he should stay back and wait to be invited.
"I want..." Gerard's voice is breathy, a little hesitant. "I want-" he trails off, brow furrowed and skin turning pink with a deep blush. He fits his hands to the other Frank's cheeks, pulling him in for a kiss that's needy and desperate.
Frank bites his lip, watching the wet slide of their mouths. Maybe it's narcissistic for him to think so, but they look gorgeous like this. They're kissing like they need each other to breathe, hands grasping, lips clinging. Frank wets his lower lip and sucks on it, wishing he had something better to do with his mouth.
Fun Ghoul's the one who breaks the kiss, and by then they're both panting. He rises up on his toes to look Gerard in the eyes, swiping a lock of bright red hair off Gerard's forehead with a gentle hand. "Hey?"
Gerard closes his eyes, swaying a little on his feet. There are burning spots of colour on his cheeks now. "You know the night that you two-" He waves a hand, opening his eyes to glance between the two Franks, not really stopping long enough to focus on either one before looking down at his twisting hands. "I was listening, but... I couldn't see. We didn't have video, so. I guess, I want." He looks up, finally holding Fun Ghoul's gaze, and then Frank's. "To see you - both of you - together."
Frank watches his own familiar wide smile stretch Fun Ghoul's mouth, knowing he's mirroring the expression himself.
"Okay," says Fun Ghoul, still in that calm, low tone that Frank's making a mental note to try and use more often. Fun Ghoul reaches out a hand and Frank takes it, relieved to finally be included. He can't help looking down at the tangle of their fingers, the differences and similarities in their ink still fascinating to him.
There's a warm touch under his chin: Ghoul's fingers tilting his face up and meeting Frank's eyes. "You okay?"
"Yeah," Frank answers, mouth twitching a little with a smile; God, his heart's beating so loudly he's surprised they can't hear it. "Yeah, totally."
"Good." Ghoul smirks, then leans in to cover Frank's mouth with his own. He's not as gentle with Frank as he was with Gerard, going in hard, an edge of teeth, biting a little. It's exactly what Frank wants and he kisses back, sinking his hands into the scruffy mohawk that mirrors his own and tugging lightly.
Ghoul's moan of approval vibrates against Frank's lips and Frank echoes it, sliding in closer until their chests press together. Being the same height has its advantages, when Fun Ghoul slides his leg between Frank's, grabbing his ass and grinding against him, the angle is perfect. Frank can feel how hard they both are, already. They both push into it, rubbing off on each other, and fuck, it's good. So good it has Frank arching backwards, like he sometimes does when he's onstage and really getting into it. Except here he has Fun Ghoul's arms around his waist to hold him up.
Fun Ghoul dips his head, tracing the line of Frank's neck with his tongue. It should tickle, but it doesn't, it's just wet and hot and gorgeous.
"Like this?" Ghoul whispers the words warm into Frank's skin, and Frank knows without looking that Ghoul's talking to Gerard. Frank forces heavy eyelids open to see.
Gerard's still standing exactly where he was before the two Franks started kissing, leaning his ass on the tabletop of one of the diner booths. His hands are clenched tight on the edge of the table and his skin's flushed - nearly matching his hair - dark against the white suit he still wears. His eyes are huge and running hot all over both of them. "Yeah." His voice is deep and throaty, sounding like sex. "Yeah, like that."
Frank watches the movement of Gerard's throat as he swallows and traces the path of Gerard's hand with his eyes as he trails it down his chest, over his belly, to palm himself through his pants.
Frank doesn't realise the needy whine he can hear is coming from his own mouth until it gets cut off when Ghoul starts kissing him again, hard and hungry, more desperate than before. It flits through Frank's mind that this Frank probably didn't get laid once while he was in 2005, so he's probably dying for it even more than Frank is right now. And Frank's pretty fucking desperate for it himself. He pushes his hips into Fun Ghoul's, grinding hard, looking for that more pressure. Something, anything, to take the edge off.
For long moments Frank's universe starts and ends with the stroke of Fun Ghoul's tongue as they both reach, grasp and rub. It's not enough contact, not enough pressure and Frank wants, he wants.
"More skin. Show me more skin." Gerard's voice is a throaty command. Frank drags his eyes open and Gerard's gaze is so hungry it sends a shudder right down his body. Gerard's hand is still on his crotch and he's rolling into it now, rocking against his own fingers.
Frank's fingers clench on Fun Ghoul's back, hanging on, needing the support because he's nearly swaying. He watches Gerard's tongue swipe over his lower lip, his mouth all wet and open, and maybe Frank's just greedy but fuck, he wants that too.
The other Frank's hands are already working at the buttons on Frank's drac jacket and making frustrated noises when they don't come apart quickly enough.
"You're never gonna wear this again, right?" Fun Ghoul quirks an eyebrow at Frank, something wicked in his eyes.
"Dude, I won't fucking be here."
"Exactly." Fun Ghoul grins and grips the lapels, ripping the jacket open in a sharp move that sends buttons flying, skittering across the floor. Frank would laugh at the theatricality of it all if he wasn't so desperate to touch again. He shrugs out of the jacket, tossing it on the floor before grabbing the neckline of his white t-shirt and pulling it over his head.
It's torment to wait for Fun Ghoul to shrug out of his vest and pull off his own shirt by the neckline. The moment Frank can see skin, he's touching, fingers skimming up the other Frank's waist, tracing over lines of tattoos he doesn't have yet. He can't help himself, he bends his head, pressing his mouth - hot, wet and open - over the dark lines of ink. He sucks at the bomb in the centre of the other Frank's chest before dropping to his knees to trace his tongue along the letters of the "And" from "Search And Destroy."
Fun Ghoul's belly shudders under Frank's mouth and fingers grip his hair tight. Frank grins into the warm skin and dips his mouth lower, his hands dropping to Fun Ghoul's belt - the same belt that Frank's been wearing since he got here.
The moment he starts to slip the clasp open, Gerard's growling, "Yes. Yes fuck yeah, I want to see that."
It's all the encouragement Frank needs to open Fun Ghoul's belt and pants and lean his face in, pulling Ghoul's underwear down and feathering warm breath over the freshly exposed skin. Ghoul smells like soap and Frank's deodorant, with a whiff of Frank's own scent underneath - the combination is familiar, but somehow alien. Ghoul's belly trembles under Frank's mouth as he takes a shaky breath and Frank would be a liar if he tried to say he wasn't proud of himself for the reactions he's drawing from his future self.
But then he knows exactly which buttons to push.
He curls his fingers into the waistband of the other Frank's jeans and underwear, pulling them down roughly to mid-thigh. Ghoul stumbles a little, gripping Frank's shoulders to steady himself. Frank doesn't even pause in his onslaught, dipping his head low to lick at the base of Ghoul's cock, letting his tongue play wet against his balls.
Fun Ghoul's dick is hot and hard against Frank's cheek, his fingertips pressing tight into Frank's skull as he groans his appreciation. Frank tilts his head up to look at Ghoul through his eyelashes; he's squinting down at Frank, his mouth loose and wet. He looks like porn. Fuck, does Frank make that face? It's not terribly attractive and yet it's so fucking hot.
Frank turns his head, letting his tongue slide up the side of Fun Ghoul's dick. He does it slow, his breath feathering over the taut, hot skin. Ghoul's shaky breaths and the way his fingers tighten in Frank's hair - trying to pull his mouth to where he wants it - tells Frank the tease is working. He fights the pressure, moving at his own pace to let his lips rest light and wet on the end of the other Frank's dick.
Ghoul's still trying to direct him with increasingly less-gentle pressure on Frank's skull, but Frank just fits his hands to other Frank's hips, holding him firmly in place as he relaxes his mouth and takes him in, all the way, in one smooth slow move.
"Oh god," the other Frank mutters, sucking in a breath.
"Oh god," Gerard echoes, drawing Frank's eyes to look past the other Frank's waist to see him. Gerard's got one hand inside his pants now, the fabric shifting as Gerard moves his hand on himself, slow and steady. He's watching them both with eyes that are huge and hungry. "That's so. So fucking hot," he pants the words out, his voice thready and low and it's turning Frank on so much.
Frank lets go of one of Ghoul's hips to reach down and palm himself through his pants. He just has to. He's got a mouthful of cock and the way Gerard's looking at him is just undoing him. The other Frank takes the move as permission to start fucking Frank's mouth and Frank lets him, relaxing his throat and taking it all.
Fuck, it's good, the stretch in his lips, the ache in his jaw, feeling so open and wet and used. Frank closes his eyes, sucks in breath through his nose, and gives himself up to it. He slides his hand from Ghoul's hip to Ghoul's ass, gripping the soft flesh, digging his fingers in. Ghoul grunts and rocks his hips forward harder, faster. Frank eyes water a little, but he's good, he likes it, he can take it. He moves his head in counterpoint to Ghoul's hips, sucking and flicking his tongue. He shifts his hand on his own cock, rocking into it, rubbing himself through his pants. His knees are starting to hurt from kneeling on the hard tile but he doesn't care. He's so fucking turned on.
He moans around Ghoul's cock and Ghoul echoes him, pulling his hair a little as he fucks Frank's mouth. Frank's so far gone he doesn't hear the footsteps, doesn't realise Gerard's crossed the few steps to join them until his fingers twine with Frank's on Ghoul's ass, sliding in behind Ghoul.
Ghoul arches back, leaning into the Gerard's body, and when Frank blinks his eyes open to look up, Gerard's looking down at him, chin resting on Frank's shoulder, sweaty red locks in his eyes doing nothing to break the intensity of his gaze.
Gerard's fingers join Ghoul's in Frank's hair, they're both guiding him now, and Frank lets them. He moves with Gerard's guiding hands, quickening the pace, swallowing around Ghoul's cock and fuck, it's working. Ghoul's arching back, his chest taut and shiny with sweat, the line of his neck curved as he rests his head on Gerard's shoulder, moaning out his pleasure to the ceiling.
"Goddamn, Frank. You look so good like that," Gerard says, following the words with a turn of his head to lick at Fun Ghoul's neck.
Frank's thinking he's got the fucking better view, not that he can say so with his mouth full. It only gets even more picturesque when Ghoul opens his eyes, sinks a hand into Gerard's scarlet hair and turns his head to kiss him. Frank has to pull off, so short of breath he's panting, to jack Ghoul slowly with his hand while he watches them kiss. It's hot, messy and open mouthed, he's getting glimpses of their tongues when their lips shift. They are both so incredibly into it it's making Frank burn up. He presses his forehead into Ghoul's hip, over the right-side swallow, and just breathes in, smelling sex and sweat and want as he works his hand over Ghoul's cock, slick with precome and his own spit.
Ghoul's the one to break the kiss, leaning his forehead to Gerard's and groaning long and loud as Frank works his thumb over the sweet spot just under the head of his dick .
"Fuck." Ghoul pants, squirming under Frank's hands, "You guys are trying to kill me. Fuck, what did I do?"
Frank that takes it as his cue to put Ghoul's dick back into his mouth, still jacking him with his hand, meeting his lips with his fingers, sucking and jerking him off simultaneously. Ghoul whimpers and Gerard wraps an arm around his chest, hauling him up when his knees threaten to give, bending his head to suck and lick at Ghoul's neck, his eyes never leaving Frank's.
Ghoul's groaning pretty much nonstop now, the movement of his hips getting rougher, faster. Frank tightens his grip on Ghoul's dick, jerking quicker, sucking harder. Fuck, he wants to feel him come, wants to taste it.
He slips his other hand from his own crotch up to cup Ghoul's balls, pressing, massaging, curling his middle finger to caress between his ass cheeks. He's not expecting to find another finger there, already rubbing at Ghoul's hole, but it's not a surprise either. Frank flicks his eyes upwards to meet Gerard's. He quirks a smile at Frank as their fingers tangle, then strokes more firmly between Ghoul's cheeks, pulling a shuddering moan from him. Frank has to close his eyes, concentrate on relaxing his throat, on sucking, on moving his hand.
"Jesus, Gee. Yes. Yes. Frank. Fuck." Words are getting tangled up on Ghoul's moans. His grip in Frank's hair loosens and his body arches backwards, hips bowing forward as his head drops back onto Gerard's shoulder. Gerard's hand withdraws, just long enough to lift it to his mouth, spitting onto his fingertips. Then he's back stroking between Ghoul's cheeks, slick fingers bumping Frank's.
Frank can feel how close Ghoul is, can fucking taste it, slick and bitter on his tongue. He stops jacking Ghoul with his hand, moving it out of the way to just dive down with his mouth, sucking hard, bobbing his head, doing everything he can to tip him over. Fuck, his jaw hurts, his knees are sore as fuck too, but he wants this so bad, wants to feel Ghoul come apart under his hands.
He sucks in a breath through his nose, working the hand he's got on Frank's balls, and where his fingers are brushing Gerard's, he can feel the slight movements of Gerard's fingers rubbing at Ghoul's hole.
"Oh fuck, Gee." Frank groans, melting back against Gerard. Frank can feel the stretch and shift as Gerard slides a slick finger into Ghoul's ass.
Ghoul whines as his hips jolt forward, nearly choking Frank, but Frank predicts it and pulls off, jacking his dick instead, keeping his lips wet and loose around the tip of Ghoul's cock, moving in unison with Gerard's fingers. Gerard whispers a steady stream of sin into Ghoul's ear.
"You like that, right? You gonna come for me, baby? You gonna let go?"
Ghoul whines at that, low and desperate, and already Frank can feel him trembling under his hands, against his lips - his hips buck forwards, fucking Frank's mouth, fucking himself on Gerard's fingers.
He does break then, beautifully, with a long wet groan Frank can feel under his lips. Frank keeps sucking, milking him through it as Gerard twists his fingers, the two of them working to the same end. Ghoul's hands clench on Frank's skull and his torso drops forwards, curling over Frank's head as he goes absolutely still for a long moment, then he's moaning, his cock pulsing in Frank's mouth as he comes, heavy on Frank's tongue.
Frank pulls off too soon, streaking his cheek with come, but he could care less. He pants up at Gerard and Ghoul, so shattered it might have been his own orgasm. Ghoul's breathing hard, flushed and sweaty, and Gerard's got both arms wrapped around his chest now; it looks to Frank like that might be the only thing keeping him upright.
"Fuck. Fuck. That was-" Ghoul's panting, his eyes not even open yet. "That was so-" he trails off, sucking in breaths, like he can't even find the words.
Frank climbs to his feet, ignoring the way his back and knees protest. The moment he's upright, Gerard fits a hand to the back of Frank's head, pulling him in and leaning his head over Ghoul's shoulder to lick Frank's cheek clean before covering his mouth in a hard, desperate kiss. Frank melts into it, gripping Ghoul's shoulder, letting Gerard's tongue slide between his lips, sharing the bitter taste of Ghoul's release between their mouths.
When they finally break the kiss to drag air into their lungs, Ghoul's staring at them, his eyes dark, his face all flushed and sweaty.
"Fuck, that's hot," he says, his voice rough and wrecked. He leans back and takes Gerard's mouth in a rough, wet kiss and Frank gets his own show. He's already so fucking turned on and now he gets to watch them – the slick slide of their mouths as they kiss, the rough grip of Ghoul's fingers in Gerard's hair, to hear the gorgeous throaty noises Gerard's making.
They know how to kiss each other, every move, every stroke, every sweet spot, and fuck Frank wants that. Knowing he'll have it one day is kind of awesome. Frank licks his lips. His mouth feels achy, loose and used. Too empty. He lets his eyes rove over his future self and his future lover, still not entirely sure he can believe this is real.
He reaches up a hand, tracing a fingertip over the 'Jinx Remover' tattoo on Ghoul's neck, imagining how it must have felt when he got it, the pain of the needle, the sting and itch of it healing. How it'll feel when he gets it. The thought does nothing to help calm his arousal.
Ghoul breaks the kiss, barely taking a breath before turning his head and kissing Frank, hard and wet. It's unexpected but welcome and Frank kisses back, tasting Gerard on Ghoul's lips, mixing with Ghoul's cigarettes. Ghoul softens the kiss to something lazy and slow, leaning in close until their chests are pressed together, hot and sweat-slick. Frank thinks he can even feel Ghoul's heart beating - or is that his own?
Gerard slides in behind Frank. The stiff material of the drac jacket he's somehow still wearing is rough against Frank's oversensitised skin. Gerard fits his arms around the two of them, sinking his hands into Ghoul's hair and running his mouth over the nape of Frank's neck. His breath is warm and it sends shivers down Frank's back, making him sway a little. He leans back against Gerard's weight, suddenly aware of how hard this whole 'staying upright' thing is.
He breaks the kiss, his voice way too unsteady when he says, "Guys, not to be a pussy, but I really need to be horizontal right now." It really is getting to be a case of 'lie down or fall down'
"I think we can swing that." Ghoul's voice is deep and growly and fuck, Frank needs to learn how to sound like that. Gerard drops a kiss on Frank's shoulder and grabs his wrist, tugging him through to the storeroom and ushering him to the messy pile of sleeping bags. Frank drops onto his ass gratefully, but before he even has a chance to start taking his boots off, Gerard's climbing into his lap and kisses him, soft and sweet.
Frank forgets about his boots and sets to work getting Gerard naked.
He manages to get Gerard out of the ugly jacket and blinding white t-shirt by the time Ghoul joins them, brandishing a tube of BL/ind branded lube, which he waves in front of Gerard.
"Oh good, you found some." Gerard mutters between kissing Frank.
"I know where Mikey keeps his stash." Frank grins and drops down onto the sleeping bags with them, sliding in to kneel behind Gerard.
"Woah, hang on." Gerard breaks the kiss again, which is really unfair because Frank was getting into that. Gerard turns his head to glare at Fun Ghoul. "You're not gonna fuck me with my brother's lube."
"No, babe." Ghoul smiles, calm and wicked, then shifts closer so he can run his mouth across Gerard's bare shoulder, running his tongue over the light scattering of freckles. Frank watches as Ghoul drifts his mouth up Gerard's neck to whisper hot in his ear, loud enough for Frank to hear, "You're gonna use it to fuck him."
The words, and the authority behind them, send Frank motionless. For a moment there's just the hot burn of arousal rolling right down through him, because fuck, yes, he wants that.
"And I'm going to watch. Maybe, if you're good, I'll even help," Ghoul finishes saying with a wicked grin, and Frank's so turned on his vision actually goes blurry for a moment.
He blinks, feeling dazed, realising Gerard's gone still in his lap. He hasn't said anything yet.
"Gee?" His voice sounds small, unsure. He wants Gerard to be okay with this. Needs him to be.
"Frankie, do you..." Gerard traces fingers lightly up Frank's cheek; his eyes are huge and dark, his cheeks pink, and he's so, so fucking aroused. But he's holding back, asking the question, "Frankie, do you want-"
"Yes." Frank doesn't even let him finish the sentence. He leans up and takes Gerard's mouth, kissing him deep. Gerard sinks his fingers into Frank's hair, kissing back and rocking his body down against Frank's, making Frank arch up for more contact. It's not enough, so he wraps his arms around Gerard and rolls them sideways, laying Gerard out on his back on the bedding. That gives Fun Ghoul better access too, and he folds down beside Gerard so he's got a Frank lying on either side of him. It's a little surreal.
When Frank breaks the kiss to breathe, Ghoul dives in, capturing Gerard's mouth, and they get stuck in a loop like that for a while, taking turns kissing Gerard until he's squirming against them, making needy, delicious noises. Frank skims his hands down over Gerard's chest and belly. Fuck, his skin is so soft and still so white - at least here, the parts of him that don't see the sun are just as pale as Frank's Gerard back in 2005.
The thought makes Frank smile and he presses his smiling lips into Gerard's shoulder, sliding his hand lower and going for the button on Gerard's pants. Which is, conveniently, already undone, so Frank slips his hand straight into Gerard's underwear only to find, with the brush of another hand, that Ghoul's gotten there first.
Frank snorts out a laugh, which he muffles into Gerard's neck. "You beat me there."
Ghoul breaks the kiss, flashing Frank a wicked smile. "Great minds." He interlinks his warm fingers with Frank's and wraps their hands around Gerard's cock so they can stroke him together.
Gerard stutters out a choked noise, arching up off the bedding.
Ghoul chuckles low in his throat and leans in, swiping his tongue across Gerard's lower lip. Gerard's breathing hard, sweating, rolling his hips into their joined hands.
"You like that?" Ghoul asks him, his voice all rough, and man - the way he keeps doing that, asking Gerard questions, making him speak, it's got to be a thing for them. And God, the way it makes Gerard just burn up, like he is now, hiccupping out a yes and humping their hands, his head dropping backwards.
"So fucking good. Uh. Just. Yes." Gerard's so far gone he's already losing his words, and it's fucking hot to watch. Frank grinds his dick into Gerard's hip, fuck, he's pretty far gone himself.
Still, when he manages to tear his eyes from the curve of Gerard's neck, he finds himself staring at Ghoul's mouth, hanging open as he pants into Gerard's hair, his lips wet and shiny.
"I can think of something even better," Frank says, still staring at Ghoul's mouth, and fuck it's handy having someone who shares your brain. Ghoul gets it straight away, and they both slide down Gerard's body in unison. Frank uses his free hand to pull Gerard's pants and underwear down his legs, shoving them off with his foot.
Gerard's a little slow on the uptake - but then he's working on reserve brain function, so Frank can forgive him for that - and he doesn't actually figure out what the two Franks are up to until they've replaced their hands on his dick with their mouths. Both of them.
Gerard kind of startles upright at that, his eyes going huge. "Oh- you don't- you- oh Jesus. Jesus fucking Christ." He flaps his hands like he doesn't know what to do with them, his mouth open, wet and panting as he just stares for long moments at what Frank's certain is a sight that would be an utter mind fuck.
Frank opens his mouth wider on his side of Gerard's dick and Ghoul mirrors the action, pressing their lips together in a kiss of sorts, which just happens to include Gerard's cock. It's messy and more than a little awkward but Frank's pretty sure it's got to feel amazing for Gerard. He swipes his tongue down Gerard's shaft, working his mouth over hot skin and soft lips, keeping his movements slow. Ghoul mirrors him, their noses bumping as both of them kiss, lick and suck at each other's lips and Gerard's dick.
Gerard whines, latching a hand each into two messy 'hawks, his fingers tugging gently at Frank's and Ghoul's hair. He's moaning, muttering between breathy whines, "Fuck, so hot. You should see yourselves. Holy shit, hottest thing I've ever seen. Wish I could draw you."
Ghoul pulls off to retort, "Poison, you are not getting out your sketchpad right now."
Gerard giggles, but it turns into a groan when Frank takes the opportunity to suck Gerard's dick all the way into his mouth.
"Ah. I just. I don't want to forget this. It's so. It's so-"
Gerard loses the words because Ghoul wiggles lower, dipping his head to suck Gerard's balls while Frank keeps blowing him. The position is a little awkward, they keep bumping faces, but Gerard whines, keens, squirms desperately beneath them, so Frank doesn't stop, he keeps sucking, working his mouth until the fingers in his hair are getting painful.
"Not yet, fuck, not yet," Gerard's panting, voice hoarse and desperate. "I can't. I'm gonna. I'm so close, you guys."
Frank's smile is maybe a little smug when he pulls off, wrapping his fingers tight around the base of Gerard's cock and giving the tip a quick lick. "That good, huh?"
"You have no idea. Holy shit, you two. You're gonna kill me." Gerard's voice is shaky, like when he's freaking out right before show. His face is flushed, sweaty and gorgeous. He looks loose, undone and absolutely breathtaking. Frank wants him so much.
"No drawing, just fucking," Ghoul adds, ducking his head to swipe his tongue over Gerard's cockhead.
Gerard whines, his hips pushing up off the bed. God, he just wants it. He's so fucking gone. Frank loves him like this.
"Speaking of fucking," Frank adds, skating his hand across the bedding to snag the lube. He wiggles the bottle at Gerard. "We should get on with that."
He's been pretty patient so far, but his cock is painfully hard and still trapped inside his pants. Sure, what goes around comes around, but he could use some more contact right the fuck now.
Gerard reaches for the lube but Ghoul is faster, snatching it from Frank's hand and crawling over Gerard's legs to where Frank is. He waves a hand at Gerard. "Just relax. I'll get him ready for you."
Frank licks his lips, suddenly needing to swallow. Ghoul grabs him by the shoulder and rolls him onto his back, hands moving confidently over Frank's body - first divesting him of his boots, then unbuttoning and unzipping his pants and shoving them down Frank's thighs.
God, it feels good to finally be naked. Frank kicks his feet free of his pants, looking up to find Ghoul's lips a breath away. He grins up at his future self and Ghoul mirrors the smile before dropping his head down to brush first his lips, then his tongue, across Frank's mouth.
A low rumbly noise Frank didn't even realise he could make leaks from his throat into the kiss. Then Ghoul's hands start tracing down Frank's chest and stomach and Frank's lucky he can even breathe, let alone think.
He doesn't go straight for Frank's cock and Frank knows that's on purpose. It's the kind of shit he'd pull himself. Ghoul's hands trace down Frank's legs instead, fitting his palms to the soft hollows behind Frank's knees and pushing his legs apart and back to exactly the point Frank can stretch to comfortably. Frank huffs out a breath, shifting on the sleeping bags, and fuck if it isn't taking everything he's got to not reach down and grab his own dick, just give it a few strokes to take the edge off, Jesus. It's getting that critical.
"Christ, you two." The awed whisper comes from Gerard. Frank turns his head, blinking to see Gerard's rolled onto his side, one arm propping his head up, just watching them . "Do you have any idea what you look like?"
Frank can imagine. "Probably something like if I was making out with a mirror."
Ghoul kneels up between Frank's legs, tracing his fingers down the back of Frank's thigh toward his ass. "A mirror that could touch you back."
"You know, if you were actually my reflection I'd be getting a bit more action by now- uh-" Frank chokes on the words, losing the rest of the sentence when Ghoul just reaches down and grabs Frank's cock, stroking it firmly. Perfect angle, perfect pressure.
Frank moans, melting back against the bedding, fingers twitching at the air. God, it's like going from zero to a hundred. Ghoul's touching him exactly the way he wants it, and it's good, so fucking good. He squirms under Ghoul's fingers, hips pushing up into his hands.
When he manages to pry his eyes open, Gerard's face is right above his, eyes locked to Frank's. "Frank-" he pants out the word, fast and eager, then his lips cover Frank's and fuck, Frank didn't realise how desperate for Gerard's mouth he was. He kisses back, hard and needy, lips working over Gerard's, moaning as Gerard gives him tongue. He slips Gerard his own and Gerard sucks on it, groaning into his lips and fuck, Frank's so into it he's nearly off the planet. He kisses the fuck out of Gerard, humping up into Ghoul's hand and Ghoul - Jesus - is still working Frank's dick, dissolving Frank's spine with every pull.
Frank's so gone he doesn't even hear the snap of the lube bottle opening. It must have happened though, because now there are cool, slick fingers stroking at his ass and all he can do is tremble and push back into them, groan into Gerard's lips and kiss him harder.
Ghoul's not teasing this time, but he's not rushing either, working one finger in slowly until Frank's grinding back against his hand, begging silently for more. When he adds the second one, Frank has to break the kiss to pant into Gerard's shoulder, clinging to his back. Ghoul's still got one hand on Frank's dick, still moving, but slower now, keeping Frank on the brink, just wanting.
Gerard obviously wants Frank to lose what's left of his mind because he raises a hand to his mouth, licking his palm in a slow and deliberate move before sliding his hand down to tangle his fingers with Ghoul's on Frank's cock. Frank sucks in a shaky breath. It comes out on a whimper when Gerard rolls his palm over the head of Frank's cock, in time with Ghoul's slow strokes. Gerard's watching him, eyes lidded, mouth curved in a wicked smirk. He knows exactly what he's doing to Frank and he's loving every second.
So is Frank.
Gerard ups the ante yet again, his chest sliding against Frank's, skin to skin, as he slinks down Frank's body, replacing his hand with his mouth. Ghoul times it so as Gerard sinks his mouth down on Frank's dick, he slips Frank a third finger. So Frank's getting that achy, delicious stretch at the same time Gerard's sucking his cock right down to the base in one long, slow move.
Frank's having trouble remembering how to breathe. Oh god, he's actually shaking. That's how intense this is. He blinks his eyes open, forcing them to focus. He nearly has to close them again when he meets Gerard's heavy gaze, because no one can do fuck-me eyes like Gerard. He's got his full-beam on Frank while his tongue does this amazing flicking thing over Frank's cockhead and just... fuck, fuck, Frank has to look somewhere else because it's just too much. His gaze lands on Ghoul instead, and that's no relief. Apparently Frank's fuck-me eyes are almost as compelling as Gerard's. Or at least, they will be by the time he starts calling himself Fun Ghoul.
Fun Ghoul knows it too. He hold Frank's gaze, twisting his fingers in a way that zings right up Frank's spine and pulls a throaty groan from his lips.
Frank can only lie there and take it, adrenaline and arousal pulsing through him as Ghoul leans down, eyes still heavy on Frank, to drop a kiss on Gerard's shoulder. That seems to set Gerard off. He starts sucking in earnest and the combined assault of his mouth and Ghoul's fingers has Frank tipping, god it's too good, he's gonna-
"Fuck, fuck, fuck. You guys, uh-" Frank sputters, grabbing a handful of Gerard's hair and holding tight. Gerard pauses, a question in his eyes, but Ghoul doesn't stop so Frank grabs him by the wrist. "I can't- I just. Fuck. I can't hold on if you keep going."
He hisses in a breath as Gerard slides his mouth up and off Frank's cock, still sucking and swirling his tongue in that amazing way, oh shit that's good. He has to reach down, grab his cock low and tight and just breathe, try to keep himself under control.
Ghoul twists his fingers one more time, sending a bolt of pleasure right through Frank that has him whimpering and twitching on the sheets. Then he stops, slowly slipping his fingers free, and Frank misses them immediately. He has to just lie for a moment and just breathe.
When he trusts himself to open his eyes, Gerard's watching him, smiling with his lips swollen and wet from cocksucking - smug and proud. Frank can only pant, his chest heaving with the effort of simply breathing, while Ghoul tugs Gerard up to his knees, pressing himself up against Gerard's back.
Kneeling up the way he is, Frank can see all of Gerard, his pale skin, the tan lines on his arms and neck from being in the sun, the freckles on his shoulders. Naked as he is, the bright red of his hair looks even more alien against his skin, the dark patch of hair between his legs even darker, his cock hard and straining away from his body.
The ink of Ghoul's two full sleeves contrasts beautifully with Gerard's skin. One tattooed arm slides up around Gerard's waist and drops down between his legs. Both of them have their eyes on Frank as Fun Ghoul takes Gerard's cock in his slick hand, stroking him slow and easy. Gerard's eyes crease shut, his mouth falling open in a low moan.
Frank can't look away.
Gerard turns his head toward Ghoul, who takes his mouth in a slow, wet kiss. He licks and nips at Gerard's lips while he jacks his dick slowly with inked fingers.
It's the fucking hottest thing Frank's ever seen. And they're right there kneeling between Frank's legs. Damn, he wants the next part, already. Now.
He leans up on his elbows, wiggling his ass awkwardly because he's still got his legs mostly in the air. "You gonna fuck me, or what?"
Ghoul breaks the kiss with a wet noise, chuckling into Gerard's mouth. "Fucking young people. They're so impatient."
Frank just points at him with an accusing finger. "You don't get to talk. You got off already."
Ghoul doesn't even pretend to be apologetic. "Yeah. It was fucking good, too. Thank you." He beams a giant douchey smile at Frank.
Frank is clearly getting nowhere with him so he turns his best puppy eyes on Gerard. "You're not gonna make me beg, are you?"
"That'd be a pretty sight," Gerard practically purrs, disentangling Ghoul's arm from his waist and crawling up Frank's body until he's lying over him, all skin against skin, and it feels awesome. Frank hooks his ankles around Gerard's waist, heels in his back, and rubs up against him in a way that makes Gerard rub back down on him and groan.
It's good but it's nowhere near enough and Frank's so fucking sick of waiting. He's only got so much time left before he's gonna get sucked back to 2005 and fuck if he's gonna waste it doing things that aren't fucking. He slips a purposeful hand down between their bodies, groping for Gerard's dick. When he finds it, it's no surprise at all that Ghoul's already got his lube-slick fingers wrapped around it. He laces them with Frank's and squeezes.
Gerard huffs out a needy moan that puffs against Frank's lips, grinding down on both of them and yeah, Frank likes where this is going. He and Ghoul line Gerard's dick up with Frank's hole, until he's feeling the blunt press at his entrance.
Ghoul leans down over Gerard, his chest to Gerard's back and fits a firm hand to Gerard's hip. He's watching Frank over Gerard's shoulder. "Ready?"
He doesn't wait for an answer, which is good because Frank's gone way past ready and well into desperate. Ghoul just starts to guide Gerard's movements, and then - fuck - Gerard's pushing in, slow and easy and God, he's bigger than Ghoul's fingers, big enough that it's making Frank ache a little, but in that good, full way.
"God, Frankie," Gerard mutters, breathless, head dropping until his forehead brushes Frank's cheek. "God, Frankie," Gerard repeats, his hips starting to move, and Frank knows Ghoul's guiding him, smirking down at Frank over Gerard's shoulder. It's like being fucked by both of them at once. Frank's gonna lose his mind.
He threads a hand up into Gerard's scarlet hair, tugging him down for a kiss. Gerard kisses back hungrily, the stroke of his tongue in time with his thrusts. Frank groans into it, rocking his hips down to meet each thrust, wishing someone would touch his cock because then this would be damn near perfect.
Apparently his telepathic skills are getting stronger because Ghoul's fingers find Frank's dick and now it is fucking perfect. Frank moans into Gerard's lips, hitching his hips to fuck back against Gerard's strokes and God, yes, he's needed this, wanted this.
Gerard's hand joins Ghoul's on Frank's cock and the tangle of their fingers is almost overwhelming. Frank has to break the kiss, head falling back as he pants out hot breaths. He catches a glimpse of Gerard's wicked smile through a blur of his red hair and he whimpers when Gerard's lips find his neck, licking and sucking.
It's too much sensation all at once. Frank starts to keen, because someone's hand is twisting just the right way, hitting the underside of his cock and fuck, Frank's starting to shake, to fucking lose it. His hands grip tight on Gerard's arms as he shoves his ass back on Gerard's dick, so close, so close-
It takes him a moment to realise Gerard's gone completely still, frozen above him. His mouth is open, like he's caught in a choked off moan and his eyes are huge and unfocused. He's trembling.
"Gee?" Frank's voice barely works, his mouth is so dry.
"Ghoul, what are you- what- uh-" Gerard loses the rest of the words, his head dropping forward as more throaty moans slip from his mouth. Frank has to push up on his elbows, peer over Gerard's shoulder to see what the fuck Ghoul's up to. He can't see much, but Ghoul's got a hand between Gerard's ass cheeks; Frank can figure out the rest.
"Sh, babe, it's okay." Ghoul's raspy moan sounds like the devil himself. He leans over Gerard's back again, chin to Gerard's shoulder, his hand still moving. "Tell me you don't want it and I'll stop. Just say it."
Gerard doesn't say anything, just huffs out another "uh" and rocks back against Ghoul's hand. That shifts his cock in Frank's ass, sparking pleasure right up Frank's spine, until he's uttering his own groan of approval.
"Fuck, yeah." Ghoul sounds so fucking satisfied with himself.
"Jesus, Ghoul, just. Just." Gerard's voice is thready and he sounds desperate. His head's swaying between his arms and his eyes are squeezed shut tight, like he can barely take it.
"Just what?" Ghoul asks, voice gentle now, nearly pleading, "C'mon, just say it."
Gerard sucks in a shaky breath and Frank can feel it all through him, how fucking close he is, how little it would take to tip him over, how much it's costing him to stay so completely fucking still right now.
"Just fuck me. God just..." A tremor runs through Gerard and Frank feels the echo of it in his own body. "Fuck me, Ghoul, please."
"All you had to say," Ghoul whispers, and Frank knows the moment he slides his fingers out of Gerard's ass from Gerard's stuttery exhale. Frank reaches a hand up to Gerard's face, brushing back scarlet hair and tucking it behind Gerard's ear.
"Hey," he whispers, tracing a gentle thumb over Gerard's brow until Gerard's eyelids flutter open, pinning Frank with a gaze that nearly stops his heart. He gets stuck like that, just staring, eyes locked to Gerard's. Fuck, he's so beautiful like this, so gone, all flushed and desperate, and wanting. Frank can't look away - doesn't want to.
He can hear the snap of the lube opening, the wet sound of Ghoul slicking up, and then he's seeing his own face over Gerard's shoulder, a grimace of concentration and desire. "You ready, baby?"
Gerard's answer is more moan than "yes" but it's enough for Frank, and for Ghoul too, it seems. Frank can't tear his eyes from Gerard's face, watching the way his mouth drops wider, the way his eyes lose focus, feeling the full body moan that leaks out of him as Ghoul pushes home. Then Ghoul's push becomes Gerard's push and they're fucking - all three of them - the slick shift of their bodies moving together as Ghoul fucks Gerard and Gerard fucks Frank.
It's incredible. Frank couldn't care less that no one is touching his dick - he could just keep watching Gerard forever. Fuck, he could get off just listening to him, the guttural, growly "ah-uh-ah" he's making as he moves, as he fucks Frank - as Ghoul fucks them both.
Then someone is touching his dick - Ghoul, fuck, Gerard's too gone to do anything but take it at this point - and Frank starts to unravel, himself. Ghoul's hand is sure, touching Frank exactly the right way, jerking him off in time with his thrusts, and Frank starts to keen, to melt, his hands grasping at arm and hand and back, not sure what belongs to who anymore and not caring. It just - God, it just feels so good.
Gerard's the first to break and Frank's watches every moment of it. The way his mouth goes slack, his eyes squeezing shut, the long, beautiful noise he makes. He bucks into Frank, hard enough and fast enough that is should be painful, but it's not, it's just intense.
Frank feels Gerard's orgasm like his own. The vibrations of him shaking against Frank's body, the way his dick pulses in Frank's ass, he can even feel himself echoing Gerard's facial expression, mouth and eyes wide. It's gorgeous, mindblowing, and fuck, Frank can't, he can't hold on. Not with the way Gerard's falling apart, shaking and collapsing over him. Not with the confident twist of Ghoul's hand on his dick, the way he's still fucking them both, his movements making Gerard bottom out inside him.
Frank groans, grabbing messily at Gerard, at Ghoul - whoever he can reach, he doesn't care. He's bucking into Ghoul's hand, into that perfect grip, Gerard's breath hot on his neck, still shaking with his own orgasm.
"C'mon Frankie," Gerard breathes, warm against Frank's skin, and that's all it takes for Frank to come apart, his whole body shaking as his orgasm hits him, hard and fucking awesome. He's moaning, panting, squirming and clutching at both of the men above him when he comes, his dick spurting over Ghoul's fingers, striping Gerard's stomach and his own.
He's almost surprised he can still see when he opens his eyes. His entire body is buzzing with orgasm and Gerard's a solid, sweaty weight over him, breathing hard into Frank's shoulder. Frank buries his face into Gerard's bright hair, just breathing, heart beating in his ears.
It's only when he hears Ghoul's moan he realises one of them is still going. Gerard releases a long breath when Ghouls pulls out, before rolling off Frank, onto his back beside him. Ghoul kneels up over both of them, his cock in hand, jerking himself off.
Gerard and Frank reach for him at the same time, pulling him down between them. Frank locks his mouth to Ghoul's in a kiss as both he and Gerard reach for Ghoul's dick. Gerard gets there first, so Frank lets him take over, slipping his hand lower to stroke Ghoul's balls as Gerard jerks him off, kissing Ghoul lazy and messy and fierce.
Frank doesn't stop kissing him until Ghoul rips his mouth free, panting and groaning into Frank's shoulder as Gerard's hand quickens. Then he's squirming, nearly kicking them both as Gerard brings him over with practiced strokes, whispering to him,"Fuck, that's it, come for me. You look so good like this. So fucking pretty. Come on, let it go."
Ghoul tenses up, his fingers tightening on Frank's shoulder as his body goes totally still. The only movement between them is Gerard's hand, working fast on Ghoul's cock as he whispers at him, "C'mon, c'mon."
Ghoul sucks in a breath that comes out on a hiccupping moan. He's shaking all over and Frank feels the pulse under his hand, the warmth hit his stomach, as Ghoul comes hard, biting down on Frank's shoulder. He thrashes and squirms against them as Gerard milks him through it, hissing out his approval, "Yes. Yes, fuck yes. Just like that, babe." Ghoul's fingers are so tight on Frank's shoulder they'll probably leave a mark, but Frank's beyond caring. He watches Ghoul fall apart, entranced by it. This is what he looks like when he loses it. It's so intimate he can barely breathe.
Afterward they lie in a sweaty pile of flesh, their harsh breaths the only sound in the room, which reeks of sex now. Frank can feel Ghoul's heart beating where their chests are pressed together, and Gerard's fingers are entwined with his own, caught somewhere underneath Ghoul's hip. He's covered in sweat and come and he's starting to lose feeling in one of his legs from Ghoul's weight on top of him. It couldn't be more perfect. He could stay like this forever.
"That was fucking insane," he breathes, turning his head to meet Gerard's eyes over the top of Ghoul's shaggyhair.
"Fuck yeah it was," Ghoul agrees, pushing up onto his elbows to glance between the two of them, his mouth stretched into a wide grin - a lot like the one Frank knows he's wearing.
Gerard's smiling at them both too, small and satisfied. It's a smile that wrinkles his nose up and shows his slightly crooked teeth. It's a smile Frank knows as well as his own, one he's used to seeing on a younger, paler face. It's so familiar it makes Frank's heart want to burst.
It isn't until Gerard's smile falters that Frank hears it: the distant sound of motorbikes getting closer. He knows it's Mikey and Ray - can recognise the slightly deeper rumble of Ray's engine where he's tuned it down, a secret identifier for the ones who know to listen. Not that it matters that it's them and not dracs. Either way this is over. Either way they're going to have to disentangle themselves and find their clothes. To go outside and face reality.
For one childish, ridiculous moment, Frank doesn't want to.
Gerard says it first. "We'd better-"
"Yeah," Ghoul agrees, sounding throaty and about as reluctant as Frank feels.
Gerard leans in, kissing Ghoul first, then Frank, soft and sweet. He pulls back with a tiny smile, eyes bouncing between the two of them. "Thank you."
Frank grins. "I'd say 'anytime' but this was kind of a one-off thing."
Gerard shrugs. "Say it anyway?"
Frank leans in, dropping a soft kiss on Gerard's lips, then one on Ghoul's. He licks his lips, sucking on his bottom lip, tasting them both and smiling. "Anytime."
Gerard's smile is reward enough.
The sand is still warm under Frank's bare toes as he plants his feet on either side of the 'X' Ray made in the sand. He shivers a little, his skin still sticky with sweat, the taste of salt on his tongue.
"How long now?" Gerard's voice is too soft, drowned out by the insect hum. He's twining his fingers together like he's fighting to keep his hands to himself. Frank is too. He can't believe he's gonna have to wait two years to have this again.
"Ten minutes." Ray steps up behind them, his helmet balanced under his arm. He and Mikey only just got back from wherever they hell they disappeared to. Neither of them have said anything about what may or may not have happened in their absence, and Frank sure as hell isn't bringing it up.
"We should get going," Ray says to Fun Ghoul, who immediately pounces on Frank in a hug that nearly knocks him on his ass on the sand.
Frank's a good hugger, he knows that, and Fun Ghoul is too. It's weird to think that he's hugging himself, or rather, the guy he's gonna be one day. The idea that he's not going to see him again is pretty devastating. He wasn't lying when he said it felt like losing his one chance at having a brother.
Frank hugs tighter - so does Ghoul - and it's almost bone-crushing by the time they both let go. Ghoul blinks, wiping the back of his hand across his eyes. Frank's eyelashes are damp too and he could care less if anyone notices.
"Take care of yourself, Frankie." Fun Ghoul threads their fingers together and Frank looks down at their interlinked fingers, the matched and unmatched ink on both sets of hands.
"Take care of Gerard, okay?" Frank says, looking up in time to see Ghoul glance over at Gerard before looking back at him.
"You take care of him, too," he says, disentangling one hand to stroke a gentle thumb down Frank's cheek, grinning wide and mischievous.
Frank knows he's mirroring that look, knows they're both thinking the same thing. They lean in simultaneously and Frank honestly can't say who kisses who, but it's a damn good kiss - hot, a little rough with just a touch of teeth. His eyes slide shut, but he hears Gerard's sharp intake of breath, the moan he's holding back.
Mikey snorts and eventually Ray raises his voice. "Okay, enough freaky weird shit. Time to fucking go."
Frank and Ghoul don't break it off for another thirty seconds just out of sheer stubbornness. In the end it's no use, they're both giggling too much and they have to separate.
The first face Frank sees when he can focus is Mikey's. His mouth is screwed to the side in feigned disgust, but the way his eyebrow's quirked shows his amusement. "Fucking narcissists."
"Fuck you, Mikeyway!" Frank grabs a handful of Mikey's shirt and he and Ghoul pounce on him. They drag Ray and Gerard in too, and the five of them stumble together in a messy hug. It's like the group hugs they find themselves in moments before they take the stage and Frank's heart aches to think how he's the only one in this huddle who's going to be doing that again with any regularity. Fuck this future. Fuck it all.
Ray's the first one to disentangle himself, however reluctantly. "I wasn't kidding, we really need to get Ghoul out of here."
"Fine, fine, Star, I'm coming." Ghoul extracts himself from the bodies and arms, his fingers squeezing Frank's a moment longer before he lets go. His hair's messed up, shaggy over his forehead, and he's wearing a wicked grin.
Frank catches Ray in a fast hug, which Ray returns properly, before grabbing Ghoul by the arm and dragging him towards the bikes.
"Where are we going?" Frank hears Ghoul ask.
"Anywhere. As fast as we can." Ray starts to jog and Fun Ghoul chases him, letting out an excited whoop.
Frank giggles, smothering it into Mikey's neck as he hugs him again. It's like the fucking Wizard of Oz or something, knowing he's going back to see the same dudes, but different. "You know, it's gonna be nice to be back with the Mikey who's not hotter than me again."
"Shut up, I was always hotter." Mikey's chest is bony, but somehow he's still good to hug. He presses dry lips to Frank's forehead, giving him one last squeeze before letting go.
He grins crookedly at Frank before glancing meaningfully between him and Gerard. And because he's a fantastic brother, or because he can sense impending make-outs and doesn't want to witness them - or both - he says, "I'm gonna go inside. See you in the future, Frank."
He shakes his blond locks out of his eyes before turning to lope back to the diner on those long legs.
Then it's just Frank and Gerard, surrounded by endless desert, and he's only got a handful of minutes left.
"Frank," Gerard says. Frank turns to the sound of his voice, grabbing him by the shirt and kissing him, hard and sudden. He catches a hand on Gerard's cheek, holding him to it as Gerard's mouth opens under his. Frank finds his tongue, sucking, licking, nipping. It's not enough, it'll never be enough, but he takes as much as he can, trying to commit it to memory - the way Gerard's lips feel, the way he tastes. It's going to be a while before he gets to do this again.
He swallows a moan, wishing greedily for more time, just a few more minutes, before breaking the kiss with a wet noise.
"I'm gonna tell them." The moment the confession's out of his mouth he realises he means it.
"What?" Gerard pants, looking a little dazed, lips still wet.
"The guys. You guys. I can't." Frank looks out at the wreckage that used to be California. "I can't keep this from them. You know I can't."
He looks at Gerard, whose brow is creased, gnawing on his lower lip. "You're sure?"
A hysterical laugh bubbles out of Frank's mouth. "No. Yes. Shit, I don't know." He stops. Breathes. Thinks. "Yeah, I have to. I have to try. It's worth the risk, right? It's worth trying to change it. If I can. If this is my future."
He can't say why it's so important to him that Gerard agree. It just is.
"If you knew about this, you'd do something, right? If you'd found out before. You'd try, right?" Frank's words come out fast, eager. Desperate. Gerard blinks at him, his mouth opening and closing for long, silent moments.
Frank knows he's nearly out of time, but he has to hear it.
"Yes," Gerard says finally. "Yes, Frankie, yes, fuck. You should try. Try to fix it. Do something, I-" The rest of the words are lost in Frank's mouth as he kisses him, thorough and wet, pushing everything he's feeling and doesn't have time to say into it. Gerard's fingers grip his head, his mouth fitting perfectly to Frank's as he kisses him, hard and perfect.
They break apart, breathing rough. Frank's flushed with adrenaline, his skin buzzing. Any second now, he's gone and he knows it. His heart's beating so hard in his ears he's sure he mishears the next words Gerard says.
"Yoi Seikatsu," Gerard repeats, and no, Frank didn't mishear, Gerard's just talking nonsense.
"The fuck, Gee?"
Gerard pats at his jacket pocket, finding an ever-present marker and uncapping it to write a string of Kanji up Frank's arm. "Yoi Seikatsu, it's the name of the seed company for Better Living industries. I haven't been able to find out much about them before around '08, but data maintenance is shit nowadays. You might have more luck."
Frank stares at the characters on his arm a moment, mouthing the words under his breath. Yoi Seikatsu. His eyes are drawn back to Gerard, who's watching him carefully, drawing shaky breaths, the pen still poised in his fingers.
"Fuck, I love you," Frank admits, and the words from his lips are so freeing. He can't help wondering how long it'll be before he gets to say them aloud again, the thought fluttering through his brain as he leans in to take Gerard's mouth again. One more kiss. Just one more.
Gerard breaks it this time, his palms warm on Frank's cheeks, his forehead brushing Frank's as he whispers, "I love you too, you know. Always. Forever. Remember that, okay? Wait for me."
Gerard's never looked more earnest; his eyes large and imploring and he fucking believes every word. There's no way Frank can't believe it too. No way in hell he'll forget it.
"Promise," he whispers. His voice is ragged and his eyes are stinging. Gerard's form starts to shimmer in front of him. The sand, the sky, the horizon, start to blur and ripple. Too soon.
"I'll remember," he says desperately, grasping at Gerard's hands, but feeling nothing. Too soon there's nothing to feel, nothing to see, and he's falling, landing soft, his elbow and hip pressing into a surface that gives.
He blinks slowly. It's dark. The hum of insects is replaced with the hum of an air conditioner. He's lying on his side on a bed. An occupied bed.
The occupant makes a snuffly noise and Frank's eyes adjust enough to see another pair of eyes peering at him over a small ridge of comforter, blinking slowly beneath a nest of messy dark hair. "Frank? The fuck?" Gerard's voice is muffled into the covers and throaty with sleep, but it's Gerard, his Gerard and fuck, he's missed him. So fucking much.
Frank's hugging him through the covers before he even realises he's doing it. Or that he's registered that he's naked on top of the sheets. Fuck, of course. Fuck you, James Cameron.
"Frank, you're freaking me out." Gerard's voice is even more muffled now that Frank's smushing him into the blankets, and slightly higher in pitch with concern.
"Sorry, sorry." Frank lets go, patting the sheets apologetically and trying to find a position to twist his body in so he doesn't feel quite so naked. "Wrong bed."
"Are you drunk?" Gerard asks, sounding like he's waking up, and shit, no, that would be bad, because then Frank would have to explain the naked thing.
"No, no, just tired and turned around. You know me. Go back to sleep." Before Frank's even processed that he's doing it, he's reached up a hand and started petting Gerard's hair gently.
Gerard hums, sounding content enough, his breath bouncing warm off Frank's palm. He should really try to be more careful about being so overly familiar with Gerard like this, now that he's back in his own time. He has to start keeping himself in check, just because Gerard is right there being all sleepy and touchable doesn't mean Frank just should. He allows himself one more gentle stroke of Gerard's slightly greasy hair, then presses his palms to the bed to get up.
Gerard, moving way faster than someone who just woke up should, grabs his arm. His hand is really warm. "It's cool. We can share. Sometimes it helps."
Frank doesn’t freeze like a scared rabbit. Well, maybe a little like a scared rabbit. He forces himself to relax and stop acting like an uber-weirdo. It's not like he and Gerard haven't shared a bed before, after all. They've done it plenty of times and Frank usually sleeps better when they do. So it's not like it'd be weird.
Doing it naked would be though. So, first thing's first.
"'Kay," he whispers, covering Gerard's hand with his own and patting it softly before gently removing it. "Just gonna brush my teeth."
Gerard mutters "Clean freak," into the pillow, then rubs his face into it. When Frank is pretty sure Gerard's eyes are closed again, he slides down the bed at a really odd angle that he hopes will help disguise the whole naked thing. When his feet hit the carpet, he kneels at the foot of the bed, groping in the dark for his suitcase or backpack or something that might have clothes in it.
He gets lucky, identifying his backpack and managing to find a pair of boxers and a t-shirt that don't smell like death. He tugs them on in the dark, feels out his toiletries bag and slips into the bathroom. The fluorescents are a shock after the dark of the bedroom and Frank squints at his reflection in the mirror. He looks tired and a little sunburnt and his blonde sides are starting to grow out a little.
He can't help staring for a moment, realising belatedly he hasn't seen his reflection in anything other than a car window in nearly two weeks. He turns the tap on and clear water runs out, warm under his fingers. It's not until he feels the wetness on his fingertips, watches it running down into the drain, precious fluid so easy to come by in this time that it really hits him. He's back.
His hands are shaking a little with shock or relief, he can't tell. He forces them to move, pulling out his toothbrush and toothpaste to brush his teeth. The familiar ritual is comforting, but he's still reeling. Being indoors again, with lights and temperature control and running water, it makes the last two weeks feel like a dream, like maybe he'll go outside and find himself back in Niagara Falls, on his way upstairs to a party with Avenged.
Then he catches a glimpse of the Kanji characters Gerard wrote down his arm in the mirror's reflection and he knows it wasn't a dream.
Fuck, he's got a lot of work to do. Research. Preparations. Plans. Fuck. His mind whirls with the details for a moment, until he forgets to spit and froth drips down his chin.
He spits and rinses, forcing himself to calm down. He's got time. The one advantage he does have is time. He washes his hands and face, meeting his own eyes in the mirror. He can see where the smile lines Fun Ghoul has will be. He glances down at his bare arm, mapping out the future tattoos on it, remembering how they looked on Ghoul's skin. He winds up staring at his wrist, at the blank space where Ghoul had "7-29-07" etched. He rubs his thumb across the bare skin, knowing the choices he makes now might mean he won't have a reason to ink that date there at all.
Or maybe it'll be a different date. An earlier one.
He can think about it later. For now he should sleep. He's not ready to admit, even to himself just yet, how eager he is to be back in the next room, with Gerard.
He flicks off the light and slips back into the bedroom, feeling his way blindly back to Gerard's bed, his eyes unable to adjust after the bright lights in the bathroom. He hesitates at Gerard's bedside, listening to his even breathing.
He really should sleep in the other bed. The other empty bed with the clean cold sheets and no Gerard to kick him and complicate things. He goes to step away, but Gerard must sense him, reaching sleepily up from the bed and tangling his hand with Frank's, muttering "C'mon" sleepily into the blankets.
It's a relief to just give in, pull back the covers and curl up next to Gerard. Gerard throws a sleepy arm over Frank's chest, tucking his head into the crook of Frank's neck, muttering something unintelligible into his hair. Frank smiles softly up into the dark, resting his arm over Gerard's and snuggling into his warmth.
He lies like that for a long time, not ready to sleep yet, just enjoying the closeness, the steady rhythm of Gerard's sleeping breaths. He traces his fingers over the back of Gerard's hand where it rests on his chest, not far from his heart.
"Whenever you're ready, Gee," he whispers, "I'll be waiting." He links his fingers with Gerard's, bringing their joined hands to his mouth to drop a soft kiss on Gerard's palm.
He'll wait as long as he has to.
"The future's too bright to dwell on the past. Life moves fast, run faster."
~Frank Iero, 2011