Late September, 2004
“Son of a fucking bitch!" Gerard yelled, as he slammed down his pen in disgust on the small dinette table he was sitting at. Grabbing the unsalvageable sketch in front of him, he crushed the paper into a little ball, not giving a flying monkey’s ass about the ink getting all over his hands from where the pen had somehow managed to explode while in his fucking hand. Having crushed the paper into the something resembling the size of a ping pong ball, Gerard threw it in the general direction of the trash can, promising himself that he would go and pick it up in a few seconds, he just needed to cool down a little bit first before he punched something. Because a broken hand sure as hell wouldn’t be conducive to improving his mood.
He put his hands through the mess of his hair, clenching and releasing his hands as he laid his forehead on the cold, hard surface in front of him. Maybe if he hit his head against the table enough times, he would knock himself out and be able to get some fucking sleep that lasted longer than 30 minutes, and then he could function and finally get these thoughts and feelings the hell out. “I-” bang, “hate-” thud, “this-” bang, “so fucking-” thud, “mu-”
“Gee? Are you okay man?” a sleepy voice came from behind him.
Gerard stopped mid bang and sat up, somehow narrowly missing knocking over the now cold cup of coffee at his elbow. Turning around with an expression somewhere between sheepish and slightly annoyed, Gee looked at the rumpled guitarist in standing in the narrow aisle of the bus by the door to the bunks. “Hey Frank. Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you up. I’ll keep it down, I just spaced it for a second.” Gerard honestly did forget about the guys sleeping back in the bunks while they made their way to god knows where. Maybe somewhere in Texas? That sounded about right, but maybe he was wrong and they were just leaving Texas on their way to… he couldn’t bring the next venues after the Lone Star State to mind and was sitting at the wrong angle to read the spreadsheet on the wall by the door that had all the date and venue info on it. His stupid brain was just so wrapped up in things and just refused to simply let go.
“You alright dude, or you just trying to give yourself a sick bruise on your head for the show?” Frank asked, voice rough with sleep and while he was engulfed in a hoodie that it looked like he had stolen from Worm at some point.
Facing the table again, Gee shook his head, hands still in his hair. He didn’t know what to tell Frank. He knew that he promised the guys to be upfront with them, to let them help Gerard succeed, but he didn’t know how Frank could help. There wasn’t an easy answer here. This wasn’t someone’s drink to keep out of his face or a new person to the crew that just didn’t know yet that My Chem was pretty close to straight edge right now. No, this was all in his head. This was all him. There was this anger, frustration, and just plain upset that just wouldn’t go away. It was made worse by the fact that now his body had mostly recovered from the stress of his final binges and his recent withdrawals. He just couldn’t sleep, and he couldn’t use pills or booze to help himself sleep because he fucking didn’t trust himself. Hell, his own brother didn’t trust him, and Mikey shouldn’t because Gerard was a fucking addict.
Gerard shook his head and laughed humorlessly at Frank’s question. Okay? He was far from it.
He fucking wanted a drink, or a hit, or a pill, but he couldn’t because he was an alcoholic and he was getting clean and sober. He was damn it! Gerard wanted to draw away his demons, not unlike when he was a kid hiding in a basement drawing heroes and monster to escape the world around him, but he couldn’t. Every time he tried to put his feelings - his demons - in his art, all that would happen would be this ugly blackness just staring up at him from the page. Flat and two-dimensional, just taunting him with images that he just couldn’t get right plus adding a big side of fucking despair. So uninspiring. So wrong.
Trying to write wasn’t any better. When he would set down the sketchbook and pick up his notebook or a guitar to try to maybe see if music would come to his rescue again, it would just come out a garbled mess. The lyrics just wouldn’t come easily and when he did get them out, they were so forced that they were just plain empty words that weren’t even up to the emotional quota of a trashy romance novel. That didn’t even bring into account that it was like his fingers were on revolt against the strings. Gerard knew he was no gem on the guitar, but normally he could at least string enough chords together so that Ray could work his magic and they could start piecing together a song, or at least ideas of songs. Now, hooks were failing and melodies were bland, and he knew it could be better, he just didn’t know how to get there.
He wasn’t burnt out. That was something he knew in the deepest depths of his soul. He knew that he still had his creativity somewhere with in him, just like a horse knows how to run and a kangaroo knows how to jump, but it was like there was the wall in-between his mind and his goddamn soul. It was just like this diamond encrusted armor that he couldn’t get through. On stage he could be an almost normal person and feel alive, but when the set ended and the fans stopped screaming back the malcontent and the emptiness would creep back in. Soon to be followed by frustration when two of the fucking things he was most passionate about in the fucking world, just wouldn’t help him cope. Art was his blood, music saved his life, he was a creative person who couldn’t create. That fed the anger and then that in turn would feed the circle of blackness.
Gerard was all but vibrating from the sheer frustration and he needed to scream and shout, to cry and break apart, but he couldn’t because he was suppose to be getting better damn it and he couldn’t freak the guys out. Nothing was working and the thoughts just kept tumbling. Lack of sleep without help from the booze and pills was catching up to him, as was being on tour, and he just couldn’t get out of his head. He wanted to escape and being on stage in front of the kids helped, let him feel alive for a bit, let him scream out his rage and feel that connection, but then after the show he would come down and it would be worse then before and it was like the downward spiral he had in the summer but this time it was 100 percent him, no substances need apply.
He wanted a drink, oh fucking hell, he wanted a drink. But Gerard knew that he couldn’t, that he shouldn't, and that almost made it worse. Gerard knew that it wasn’t just his new found sobriety causing this, that sometimes he hit a low-that there was reasons - good ones too - hat he had been on anti-depressants for a good portion of his adult life, but still this crazy tension wasn’t going away. He knew that if he could just make something, then things would get better, but the failures when he tried just drove the stress higher, causing a vicious cycle like Prometheus and his liver being eaten by the stupid eagle only to have it grow back to be ripped out again. He just wanted his liver back. But instead of keeping all his organs undevoured, here he was, being a disruptive asshole to the guys who were his family and all he wanted to do was curl up in a ball and cry. Or scream. Screaming and punching something was starting to sound like better option the more he thought about it.
Frank watched as Gerard let out a sigh and go from about ready to jump out of his skin to collapsing in on himself like a marionette with his strings cut. “I’m so tired, Frankie. I’m just so fucking exhausted and angry, and nothing is fucking going right. And the damn birds are pecking at my liver, and I don’t want to loose my organs Frankie, but I don’t know what to do or how to fix it, and my mind just wont shut off and let me be. It’s like this noise like constant bees at a boxing match just beating up the inside of my head. I keep on expecting my ears to start bleeding, but it’s just in my head.”
“Birds and the bees man?” Frank decided to address the most abstract of the rant first to try to see if he could figure out where on the ‘Weird-Wacky-Way Meter’ this was going to fall.
Gee waved his hands like he was dismissing the metaphor, but then he continued, “Greek guy - god - Prometheus. The eagle thought he was tasty and ate him everyday. I really don’t want to be tasty anymore, man.” Gerard looked up at Frank, head on his arms, on the table with a look on his face of near impending doom, “Fuck, Frank. I - I really want a drink.”
While his voice might still be sleep rough, Frank’s mind was awake and he was taking in the look in Gee’s eyes, trying to decipher what they were really saying. He gave Gerard a concerned look. Frank had known Gee long enough to know something was up and this was more then just being tired and frustrated. Way more - pun not intended. Distracted, drained, and obsessive was normal. This level of deranged spasticness was usually reserved for bad combinations of booze, pills, drugs, and caffeine - only one of which was Gee suppose to be indulging in now.
“Come on Gee, what’s going on in that head of yours? How long have you been feeling like this man? I though we all promised no secrets?” Frank talked softly, trying not to come across as accusing, but knowing that secrets meant dumb shit happened, no matter who was the one keeping them and was one of the first rules all the guys had decided on when the decision had been that they were going to stick through this together was no more fucking secrets. Fuck Otter leaving and Gerard hitting rock bottom. Those were just speed bumps in the fucking road. The four of them were going to Three Musketeer this shit and keep it together.
“I dunno, a few weeks.” Gerard gave a small, one shouldered shrug, “At first it wasn’t anything too bad, just not being able to sleep and shit. I just feel so drained and damn tired, but my mind wont shut off, and then I get so angry like fucking raging, but it is all inside and it wont come out no matter what. I don’t know what to do man. I mean can’t exactly do what has worked in the past, you know?” Gerard tried to throw a small smile in Franks direction, but the combination of Gee trying to curl into the smallest ball possible and the way the smile wasn’t coming anywhere close to his eyes just made Frank want to both hit and hug something at the same time.
Frank moved closer to Gee and reached out an hand to the singer, finger tips barely visible where the cuffs of the sweater had fallen over his knuckles. “Come on man, come here.”
Gerard let Frank pull him out of the bench seat around the dinette and lead him to the couch that was slightly closer to the front of the bus, away from the bunks, and was more comfortable for when it came to ass o’clock heart to hearts. At least it seemed like Gee hadn’t woken up the other guys with his shit. That was good. He felt enough of an asshole already by waking up Frank.
Frank sat down in the corner of the couch and wedged himself in tight, kicking his legs up on the cushions with out letting go of Gerard. Once comfortable, he tugged on Gerard’s hand and pulled him in so that he was kind of sprawled on top of Frank who then did his best impression of a spider monkey and wrapped himself around Gee, “Don’t worry Gee, I got you,” Frank whispered in his ear pulling him as close as possible and hooking his chin over Gee’s shoulder to bury his head in the singer’s neck, forcing Gee to do the same back to Frank. Then he waited.
After a few minutes silence, Gerard’s shoulder’s started to slowly lose some of their tension until he went from feeling like a E string that was tightened to the point it of snapping, to just being tuned too sharp. Still out of order and discordant, but without the fear of breaking at the slightest provocation. And still Frank waited, and just hugged Gee close while he breathed in the mix of Marlboro and unwashed human that combined until it was just Gerard.
Gerard closed his eyes and concentrated on his breathing, on the feeling of being wrapped up in Frank's warmth. He laid there trying to get his thoughts to slow down so he could get them into some semi balance of order like he hadn’t been able to do for days. Gradually the tightness in his chest loosened a little more and he shifted a little further into Frank, rubbing his cheek against the side of his head, reveling in the feeling of human contact and letting it ground him some more.
“It’s like I’m falling and I just can’t catch my balance. Like a part of me is missing and my sanity has wandered away.” Gerard whispered, like he was afraid if he talked to loud this moment would end and he would start to shake apart again. “There is all this stuff, but its so bottled up that I can’t get it out and I can’t sleep so it making it that much worse. I feel like I’m running around in circles in a fucking maze with no way to get out.” Gee paused, choking back a sob, “I just want it to stop Frank, I just want it to go away.”
Gerard slumped like his strings had been cut, all but melting into Frank’s chest, his shoulders quiet as he bit his lips, trying to keep quiet. “I fucking hate this.”
Frank tightened his arms, rubbing small circles on Gee’s back, “I got you, Gerard. You’re going to be okay, dude. Your going to be fine, just let it all go.” Frank continued to make small, comforting sounds in Gee’s ear, holding him close as his friend cried in his arms. Gerard might be using all his might to stay sober right now, but that was okay, because Frank could be strong for him to, like an exoskeleton holding him up.
After a few minutes, the tears came to a hiccuping stop, and Gerard lay quiet but for an occasional shuddery breath. Frank brought up an arm and wiped at Gerard’s face with the cuff of his hoodie, drying up tears and snot. It was okay, it needed to be washed anyways, and something’s were more important then grossness factors. “I got you, Gerard. You’re safe. Close your eyes and relax. I’m not going to let anything happen. Promise.”
Gerard nodded in response and finally, after a few minutes, it felt like he could take a deep breath again. The crying had helped and he felt a little better. But really, the thing that was helping the most was the way that Frank’s arms - hell, his entire body - was still wrapped tightly around Gerard. It felt like no matter how much Gerard might feel like he was breaking apart, he would still have someone to help keep him in one piece. Like maybe even the non-alcohol and drug related stuff he didn’t have to do alone. That maybe part of getting better was breaking apart a little bit at a time and having someone help put the pieces back together.
The two of them laid there quietly listening to each others breaths. As the minutes rolled by, the bus kept moving, continuing onto their next destination, with the sky slowly lightening in the east. And eventually, on a stretch of road in between unnamed town, still held tightly in Frank’s arms, Gerard drifted of into an peaceful sleep.