The first time Gerard lies on the gurney on the Black Parade tour cycle, he's alone.
It's probably the first time Frank's heard such a large crowd sound so disturbed, and, to be fair, it's not just them. Ray keeps shooting Frank nervous looks when their part's started, but Frank only shrugs once at Ray and gets into playing. He's not entirely sure where Nadine is either, but she'd been with Gerard backstage, so she can't be too far away.
Frank spots her when he's playing on his back halfway through the set. She's several stories up in the lighting rigs, wings tucked against her. Ravens are hard to see in the darkness, but she moved just enough to catch the light when Frank looked her way. Frank didn't know that Gerard and Nadine had that kind of range, but her absence has definitely made for a more dramatic show.
For his part, Rizzo is sitting in a sling that looks kind of like a drum harness, hitting Frank's hip whenever he swings around. Rizzo doesn't look phased by the movement, but he keeps staring at Frank like something's supposed to happen. What that's supposed to be in the middle of a show, Frank doesn't know, so he scratches Rizzo's ears between songs and doesn't worry about it.
Gerard and Nadine are never onstage together during the tour. There's a flurry of press at first, and people ask what children will think of such a display and about Gerard's health in bullshit ways, but it dies down as soon as the paparazzi catch Nadine flying around Gerard's shoulders while he's out on a walk. Frank still sees Gerard talk about it with worried fans sometimes after that, but there's less hand wringing overall.
Frank, on the other hand, gets more worried as time passes even though Gerard seems as good as ever. Better, considering how ugly their touring in the Revenge days had been.
He probably wouldn't have started worrying if Mikey hadn't sent Hortense off to get him something from the bus when the band was in the green room on the opposite side of the arena. Up until that moment, the additional range Mikey had gotten before he'd had to leave the Black Parade recording sessions had been something that had become part of the fabric of Mikey, something that niggled at Frank now and then but was mostly a mark of Mikey's survival. Hortense rarely tested their range, though. She usually hung out around Mikey's neck, tail curled on Mikey's chest.
Some kind of trauma is behind Gerard's range, too, but what part? It wasn't Elena; Gerard's decline after that point would have made it impossible to hide from the band.
"It's none of your fucking business," Rizzo reminds Frank when he's picking at a Pop Tart on the bus one morning and worrying about Gerard.
"But what if something's wrong?"
"Then you ask him if he wants to talk about it. But this is between him and his daemon."
Frank tears a piece of Pop Tart and throws it at Rizzo, but he's used to Frank doing things like that, so Rizzo catches it neatly with his mouth before folding onto the couch to nap. It's hard to be annoyed at Rizzo when he's that fucking cute.
Nadine is always backstage during the tour. She and Rizzo talk all the time...but she talks to all their daemons because all of them pester her. Well, Mikey's doesn't - they hang out, but it's always silent and mostly involves Hortense picking Nadine's feathers clean - but it's not uncommon for Ray's daemon Ana to have Nadine on her shoulder or Brian's daemon Amelia to follow her around, stalking in her somewhat dubious way.
Frank and Gerard talk, too. They actually have more time together than the others because they've picked up their fuck-on-the-road habits from last tour, and they're both frequently too lazy to separate bunks after they've gotten off. Frank ribs Gerard for being old and serious and ridiculous at the same time; Gerard mostly seems deep in thought about his comic, but he shares with Frank, and Frank gets to see Gerard's superheroes and daemons before anyone else (except Mikey, but sometimes, Frank forgets Mikey isn't Gerard's daemon). They don't talk about Frank's worries because Rizzo's right. None of his fucking business, and Gerard seems okay for the most part. That's what counts.
A lot of shit that goes down before Frank learns the truth. Frank forgets that he ever worried about it. He's too busy worrying about the album that blew up in their faces, his own side projects, and then the album that brings them back and lets Frank get to play with laser guns. (He really fucking loves his job sometimes, and Rizzo's no different; Frank cackles every time he plays back the Killjoys videos and sees Rizzo mugging all tough dog for the cameras in his spiky leather vest.) Occasionally, when he remembers, he think he'll find out when Gerard feels like he has to share, and Frank squirms whenever he thinks about it. For once, he'd like Gerard to not implode because he feels like he needs to escape.
It comes out when they're about to play a show by the ocean. Nadine is a distant dot in the sky above their heads as Gerard and Frank sit backstage and wait. Rizzo, of course, is in Frank's lap, getting his usual pre-show combing and petting. He's got a bit of a dyed streak in his fur in a line in the center of his hair, and Frank's styling it into spikes.
"Looks nice up there," Frank says idly as he looks up at Nadine.
"It is. Wind feels good." Gerard scratches at his hair. "I remember the first time she went flew away. I thought everything felt fucking awful, and then she left. I had no idea how shitty I could feel. She didn't come back until I called for her, either."
The comb slides out of Frank's fingers and hits the ground. He doesn't try to get it.
"I wanted to die." Gerard's tone is conversational. "Almost took every pill I had. But then I felt how free she was. How far she could fly. And then I called Brian, and he talked me down."
"You mean..." Frank remembers that happening vividly. It was before Mikey and the Paramour...fuck, it was before Gerard got clean, and Gerard never said a thing for years.
Before he can figure out what he wants to say, Gerard stands up and says, "Oh, looks like we're up."
He leaves, and it takes Frank a moment to follow. Nadine's still up in the sky, not hidden from the audience, but she doesn't seem inclined to come down. She's apparently enjoying the space and the day, and it's the least Frank can do to try the same.
Frank doesn't know it that day, but it's the last show My Chemical Romance plays.
Later, Frank sees the pictures of Gerard and Nadine on Gerard's solo tour. He's colorful in a different way than the Killjoys period, but it's enough to makes Nadine look like a shadow perched on Gerard's shoulder. In a video Frank sees, Nadine plays with Gerard's necktie while he talks to the crowd, and he looks at her with surprised delight, like she hadn't been around all of Gerard's life.
On Frank's own tour, Rizzo gets a white outfit and thrashes around Frank's mic stand. It's small van days again, or the closest Frank will get, but no one laughs at Frank and Rizzo for being small and cute and wrong. He can't say he misses that part of earning his cred.
Since Frank and Gerard released their first solo albums around the same time, they end up in LA around the same time recording their follow-ups. Frank hadn't meant to come back at all, really; he hates the fucking place. But his label got bought out by a bigger label, and Frank won't deny there are a lot of decent producers in California, so he ends up buying Rizzo a new pair of sunglasses and heads west.
Gerard's the one to call about a week after Frank touches down. They aren't on bad terms or anything - they text all the time - but Gerard had been in radio silence since Frank had sent him his schedule, and Frank had figured Gerard was in seclusion mode. Frank remembers it well, and he misses it just as much as he's glad he's not a part of it.
Which is why he's surprised when he picks up the phone on a break without looking at who's calling and Gerard starts talking.
"I'm going out of my fucking mind," Gerard says cheerfully. "How's your album going?"
Frank snorts. "Fine, thanks. Except I'm sick of staring at the boards."
"I'm out of here in an hour. Think you can wrap up early?"
It's three in the morning. Frank's stomach's been giving him hell again, so it's not like he's been sleeping anyway, but he's been feeling shitty enough to quit earlier than this on most nights.
"Where should I meet you?" Frank asks.
Frank met up with Ray at his house when he first got into town. They drank beers and watched as Ana munched on hay in the yard and Ray's kid's daemon switched between a sparrow and a butterfly and flew around his head. There was a little bit of that old-days talk that Frank thought he'd fucking hate, but he doesn't, really. It's nice to touch base, and Frank doesn't think about the past as much as he thought he would.
When Frank goes to Gerard's house, they don't talk right away. They fuck instead.
It never felt serious in the past, and the way it starts this time has a bit of that fun edge, with Frank bending Gerard over the kitchen table just because it was something they'd always said they'd wanted to try before. They never had because they'd only fucked on tour. No private kitchen tables there.
Frank eases out of Gerard after he's come so he can blow him. He's throwing the condom away in the kitchen trash when he nearly stumbles at the shivery feeling that he feels deep inside. It's something familiar and new all at the same time.
He knows before he's turned around that Gerard's picked up Rizzo, but Frank feels every one of Gerard's fingers when he strokes them through Rizzo's fur.
"Yeah?" Frank says, a little shocked.
Nadine lands on Frank's shoulder. He hadn't seen her around, which isn't anything new, and she's perched on him before. But he'd never considered touching her before.
"Yeah," Gerard says, and he closes his eyes when Frank strokes a finger across her feathers.
They're in bed when sunrise hits, blackout curtains drawn. Rizzo lies between them, sleeping quietly, and even though Gerard's asleep, he's drawing his hand across Rizzo's fur. Frank watches them through half-lidded eyes. But he doesn't fall asleep right away, and it isn't until Nadine flies into the room and perches on the headboard that he realizes why. She rustles her feathers and tilts her head his way when he moves to see her better.
"Get some sleep, Frank," she says.