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shut your eyes, kiss me goodbye

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Oddly enough, it's Gerard who notices first.

Frank's just a little more manic than usual, bouncing around on his toes and talking a mile a minute, chain-smoking and drinking cup after cup of coffee. Gerard doesn't say anything, just looks at Mikey with a raised eyebrow. Mikey glances sidelong at Frank and his expression doesn't change, but Gerard can tell that he's seeing the same signs that Gerard is.

Mikey nods imperceptibly.

Frank pretends to sleep that night. He climbs into his bunk and pulls the curtain shut. Gerard can hear the tinny music leaking out of his earbuds, quiet and faint, but it's overlain with the swishing sound of Frank's leg jittering against the sheets. Gerard tries to stay awake, but it's soothing and rhythmic and he's gone between one breath and the next.

He's already in the kitchette drinking what must be his third or fourth cup of coffee when Gerard stumbles in the next afternoon, Mikey two steps behind. Gerard squeezes Frank's shoulder as he heads for the coffee pot. Frank looks like hell, dark smudges under his eyes, exhaustion written in every line of his body.

They've seen this before, when insomnia and nightmares claw deep into Frank, his confidence and brashness leaking away like blood. Gerard hates this, hates seeing Frankie uncertain and lost, even though this is just as much a part of Frank as his optimism and attitude is.

It's hard, seeing him brought so damn low by a lack of sleep and too much coffee and cigarettes.

The show that night goes well, all things considered. Ray's picked up on the weirdness and he can probably guess what's going on; it's not like this is the first time Frank's had insomnia and it probably won't be the last. He's just Ray, solid like bedrock and whenever Frank comes close, Ray pets his hair and slings an arm around him and pulls him close, dipping down to drop a kiss on his head like Frank's a little kid.

Mikey and Gerard just take turns keeping an eye on Frank, physically herding him away from the edge of the stage in case he gets any crazy ideas about crowd surfing or stage diving. He's done both strung out on a lack of sleep and security gets so fucking pissed it's just not worth the hassle.

Frank's too tired for that, Gerard thinks, and watches as Frank falls to his knees, sweat dripping down his face, playing with his whole heart, even as exhausted as he is. But in his exhaustion, he's more clumsy and Gerard doesn't want him faceplanting on the stage, either, tripping over cords or equipment.

After the show, they do a meet and greet, because none of them could bear to disappoint the kids. Frank's words are slow and halting, and he giggles a little too much, punch drunk with tiredness, but the kids just smile and thank them. Gerard will never get it, because if anyone deserves thanks, it's the fans for being so amazing.

Frank staggers onto the bus and he heads straight for the coffee pot, but Mikey catches his arm and steers him into the studio, Gerard following behind. He locks the door behind him; he doesn't want to be disturbed.

He sits down on the couch and pats his lap, and Frank shakes his head. "No, I'm fine, Gee," he says, and Gerard and Mikey both snort, almost in unison. Mikey wraps his arms around Frank from behind and shuffles forward, pushing Frank.

"You need to sleep," Gerard says, keeping his voice soft, like Frank's a feral animal. "Just lay down for a bit and if you don't fall asleep, you can go do—" Gerard waves his hand to indicate whatever Frank might do instead of sleeping.

"C'mon, Frankie," Mikey wheedles. He plops down on the opposite end of the couch. "Just for a little while." He pats the sofa cushion.

"Fine," Frank grumbles, kicking off his shoes and climbing between them. He puts his head in Gerard's lap and his feet in Mikey's and both of them relax a little. Mikey rubs at Frank's feet, working at the sore muscles while Gerard scritches at Frank's scalp, combing his fingers through Frank's sweat-dried hair and humming.

"Are you humming Sleep at me?" he mumbles. "That's kinda creepy, Gee."

"It's the only lullaby I know," he says.

"Mmmm."

Gerard looks at Mikey, who's watching Frank rub his face against Gerard's lap as he finally relaxes.

"Sleep, Frankie," Mikey says, and Frank rumbles something indistinct in response before he drifts off.

Gerard and Mikey watch over him, content.

-fin-