Gerard bustled through the hospital tent, carrying three clipboards in one hand and using the other to gently guide the other nurses out of his way when he needed to. His eyes scanned the rows of beds on either side, and the wounded soldiers wrapped up in them.
The top clipboard on his stack told him that he was looking for a Robert Reynolds with a broken leg. He found the man halfway down the left row, asked him if he was doing alright or if he needed anything, and hung the clipboard off the edge of the bed when the response was a quietly polite "'M fine, thank you."
After that it was off to find Jason Cooper, who had a fever of 110 and had been drifting in and out of consciousness for the last three days. Gerard got the man sat up and drinking a glass of water, then laid him back down to take his temperature one more time. After noting the change (one degree cooler), he headed for the bed of the last patient on his list, Frank Iero.
Frank Iero was wounded on the front lines when someone shot him in the shoulder. He was short and compact but with a surprising amount of muscle mass, and he hadn't stopped talking since the second he entered the tent. Before they managed to get him bandaged up, Frank had sat in the bed poking at his wound, analyzing the exact shade of his blood, hypothesizing about how far the bullet may have lodged into his flesh, and asking repeatedly how long it would be before he could get back out onto the battlefield.
Everyone else in the tent - nurses, doctors and patients alike - seemed to find Frank strangely amusing, but mostly a nuisance. Gerard was the only person who appeared to both understand and appreciate Frank's attitude. Listening to Frank blather on about this or that while the nurses cleaned and bandaged his wound was, in Gerard's opinion, far more interesting and less depressing than dealing with the men who were currently unresponsive, and would more than likely remain that way until their deaths.
Gerard sat down on the edge of Frank's bed - the last one in the right row, at the very back of the tent - and gave him a smile.
"How are we doing, Private?" he asked, fighting back the urge to lay a hand on the soldier's leg over the Army-issue blanket. Gerard may have heard Frank say to the patient in the next bed that he "actually preferred men," but that didn't mean Frank would appreciate it if Gerard just started feeling him up at random.
Frank flashed him a total shit-eating grin and said, winking, "Much better since you showed up, Nurse Way. I was hoping you'd end up over here, you're the only person worth talking to in this damn place. Not to mention the best looking by far."
Against his will, Gerard felt his cheeks start to turn pink, which only served to make Frank smile wider.
"You shouldn't talk like that," Gerard admonished, lowering his voice and surreptitiously looking around to make sure nobody had overheard. "You're likely to get us both kicked out of here."
Frank shook his head and ran his good hand over his buzzed-off hair, almost as if he was used to sweeping it back when it was longer and had forgotten momentarily how short it was now.
"Nah, you're just paranoid. Nobody's getting kicked out of anywhere. Besides, not saying it wouldn't make it not true, so why not just get it out in the open? I'm lonely, you're pretty, and as soon as I get this damn arm healed up, I'm going back out onto that field to do my job."
"That's quite admirable of you, Private Iero," Gerard said, trying his best to keep his flare of concern for Frank's safety out of his voice.
"Call me Frank," came the response, and Gerard felt himself blushing yet again.
"Gerard," he muttered, hoping that Frank would understand what he was saying and not ask for an explanation. Luckily, Frank seemed to be at least as smart as Gerard gave him credit for.
"Great name," he said, and Gerard almost snapped something about teasing and sarcasm before he realized that it had been said like a genuine compliment.
"Thanks," he responded, smiling again.
Before Frank could respond, one of the other nurses approached the bed with a handful of bandages and an alcohol pad. Pulling over one of the small carts that were always kept at hand, she laid the items out and instructed Frank to raise his arm as much as he could.
Gerard stood from the bed and moved to get out of the way, when Frank's voice startled both of them.
"Is there any chance I can get Gerard to do this instead? It's not that I don't trust you or anything," he assured the woman, "It's just that I feel more comfortable with him."
The nurse's eyes darted back and forth between the two of them, her face impassive for a moment before she finally nodded and moved around to let Gerard step up in her place.
"Take care of him, Nurse Way," she instructed, and waited for Gerard's nod before walking away.
"Sit up, and raise your arm a bit, like she said," Gerard murmured, and Frank did as he was told, wincing at the pulling of his muscles and trying to hide the expression as much as he could.
Gerard unwrapped the bandages from Frank's shoulder and chest, exposing the wounded flesh. After laying the old bandage aside, he gently dabbed the alcohol over the wound, taking more care than he could ever remember taking with a patient before. As he worked, he pointedly did not let his eyes travel down over Frank's bare chest, strong but not too defined, and almost completely covered in tattoos.
Gerard didn't actually know too many people who had tattoos, although they had always fascinated him. Seeing Frank's up close was almost enough to distract him entirely from his work, but he was a professional, and managed to get Frank's shoulder re-wrapped without any unfortunate mishaps.
When he was finished, he passed the supplies off to a passing nurse who took them away for disposal, and patted Frank's bandage as gently as possible.
"There you go, good as new. Well, at least for now. You've still got a while to go before you're fully healed and ready to head back out to that death trap of a front line yet again."
Frank frowned, and Gerard's spirits immediately sank.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to say that. It's just, I could never go out there and put myself in danger like that. I just can't figure out how on earth you can go back when you've already been hurt like this once."
Frank sighed, casting his eyes down and picking uselessly at the green sheet covering his lower half before finally looking back up at Gerard.
"My family...generations of them have been in the military. My dad and uncles, my granddad, great-granddad, and so on and so forth, as far back as you can trace. We're just military people, I guess. I don't know what else I would have done with my life and even if I did...I wouldn't have been willing to disappoint them by pursuing something else."
Frank let out a derisive, snorting laugh and gestured weakly towards his bandaged shoulder.
"And out of all those people? I'm the first one ever to be injured in combat. Guess that shows just how not cut-out for this I am."
Gerard glanced around the tent, not entirely sure how to respond. He wanted nothing more than to sit back down on Frank's bed, gather him up and hold him and not let go because he just seemed so sad . But obviously that wasn't an option, and instead he sat back down without making any physical contact, and waited until he had Frank's attention before speaking.
"God knows I have zero experience with combat, and nobody in my immediate family has been in the military as far as I'm aware. I can't honestly say that I can relate to anything that you've said or gone through. But I can tell you this; I've always known how
to sympathize with people, and I usually know what they need to hear and when they need to hear it.
And right now, I think you need to hear that, in my opinion, that wound proves exactly the opposite of what you think it does. The fact that you're sitting here talking to me instead of being passed out or even worse, dead, is testament to just how perfectly suited you are for the life that you've chosen."
Gerard could see Frank starting to shut him out; could see the look in his eyes that meant he was mentally denying everything he was hearing. Gerard couldn't let that happen, had to find some way to make him listen, make him understand . Reaching out impulsively, he took Frank's hand on his injured arm in his own and held it, imploring Frank to focus on him with the touch.
"You're brave, Frank," he continued, staring into Frank's eyes. "You're brave and you're strong and you're making every single person in your family so, so proud just by being here. And you know what? I may not have known you for more than a week, but damn it, you're making me proud too."
Frank simply stared at him for a long, intense moment, and Gerard was startled to note that tears had sprung to Frank's eyes. Frank finally broke his gaze to wipe his eyes with his other hand, laughing a little. The sound was music to Gerard's ears.
"I'm such a baby sometimes, Jesus." Frank said, and Gerard laughed right along with him, reaching out to touch his fingers to Frank's jaw. Frank turned his head, looking back at Gerard, smile still lingering around the corners of his mouth.
"Frank..." he started, and then broke off, not knowing how to continue. He'd never thought he'd find himself here, looking at a wounded soldier in a tent and thinking, don't leave me , but there it was. And now he just had to find a way to say it without Frank screaming for a doctor or another nurse to have Gerard-the-creep immediately removed from his bedside.
"Can I call you?' Frank blurted, before Gerard could get any words out. Color bloomed in Frank's cheeks immediately following the question, and he dipped his head again, looking down at the blanket. "After I go back home, I mean."
Gerard sat, stunned, screaming at himself to respond in his mind, but completely powerless to make his mouth cooperate. Frank looked up again, taking in Gerard's expression briefly before continuing with all the courage of a man who'd withstood the horrors of battle and was still scared out of his wits.
"I just...I don't know much about you, but. You've made me ending up here seem like a blessing. When I was shot," Gerard winced at those words, but Frank just kept on as if they didn't affect him in the slightest. "I couldn't think of anything but the pain all the way here. It hurt worse than anything I'd ever felt before, and there was so much blood, I thought for sure I was a fucking goner, you know? And then I got here and saw you on the way in, and thought, hey, there's something special about that guy, and after that I was able to joke my way through it. When you started showing up to attend to me, I was so happy I could have burst. And now, sitting here talking about going back out to the front lines..."
Here Frank broke off, chewing at his lips and sighing like he wasn't sure he really wanted to finish his sentence. Gerard tilted his head, inviting Frank to continue, and Frank took a deep breath and steeled his expression once again.
"I just want to make sure I don't lose you."
Gerard swore for years after that he'd promptly melted into a puddle of goo on the floor after hearing Frank say those words, although Frank always vehemently denied having witnessed any gelatinous transformations.
As it was, Gerard simply smiled, squeezed Frank's hand, and asked a passing doctor for a piece of paper and a pen. He wrote down his address and phone number, folded it up, and tucked it into the pile of Frank's stuff on the floor next to his bed.
When Frank left a few weeks later, he discovered that he wasn't being sent back into combat, but rather back home.
"To Jersey," he told Gerard with a grin while packing up his stuff.
"Jersey? No shit?" Gerard laughed and patted Frank on his now mostly-healed shoulder. "You shouldn't have any trouble finding me again, then."
Frank smiled, pulling the paper Gerard had written on earlier from his pocket.
"Nope, shouldn't." Frank glanced around the tent, noting the lack of anyone looking in their general direction before leaning in to plant a small, soft kiss on Gerard's cheek. Gerard blushed bright red and smoothed back his hair, muttering under his breath about getting dishonorably discharged while Frank laughed at him.
"Thanks for taking care of me, Nurse Way."
"Any time, Private Iero."
And the thing was, Gerard totally meant it.