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Wish You Were Here

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Mikey’s phone buzzes with a text message right after they get in the car to drive home. He shifts in the passenger seat to pull it out of his pocket. Gerard can just see the grin spreading across Mikey’s face before he has to turn his head to pull the car out into traffic. “What is it?” He can’t help but be curious. Tonight has been so amazing for all of them - especially having Ray there. Gerard can’t remember the last time anything involving Mikey playing onstage made him smile so much. Japan had been great, but Mikey had been so nervous then… Tonight was so much better.

At a red light, Mikey holds the phone out so Gerard can see. It’s from Frank.

So fucking proud of you. Just finished talking to fans. I’ll call in a little while.

“Frankie,” slips out in a sigh that Gerard immediately realizes probably sounds way more wistful than he wants to let on. He coughs and notices a wondering look on Kristin’s face in the rearview mirror. He blinks and refocuses his attention on the road as the light turns green.

Mikey turns toward Kristin in the backseat. “Frank says he’s proud of me and he’ll call in a little while.”

“He’s so sweet,” she says.

Gerard does his questioning eyebrow at Mikey. He honestly has no idea how much Mikey has shared with Kristin about Frank.

“He called this afternoon,” Mikey helpfully informs him.

“He called before all three shows even though he had shows of his own those nights,” Kristin adds.

This actually doesn’t surprise Gerard at all. And Mikey talks to Frank often enough that he wouldn’t think to mention it. Thinking about it still makes Gerard’s chest feel a little tight, though.

“It’s too bad he couldn’t be here tonight. I’m sure he’s bummed he missed it.” Leave it to Kristin to say what everyone is thinking but no one wants to say out loud. She’s very unselfconscious in that way and Gerard isn’t sure he’ll ever be quite used to it. “I feel like he’s been on tour forever. He must be exhausted.”

Mikey snorts. “Nah, Frank’s great. He’s having the time of his life right now.”

Gerard nods in agreement. He knows Mikey’s right. It doesn’t make him miss Frank any less, though.

*

So, so you think you can tell
Heaven from Hell,
Blue skies from pain.
Can you tell a green field
From a cold, steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?

*

Gerard is never ready for it when he picks up the phone and hears Frank sobbing on the other end of the line.

“I miss them so much.”

Gerard just says, “Shhhhh…” and listens. That’s all Frank really needs anyway. There are things that Frank can say to Gerard that he would rather not say to Jamia. Not that she doesn’t know, of course she knows. But since Frank and Gerard have started talking more again these past few months, Frank’s been able to let go a lot and share what he’s really feeling. And Gerard is finding that he’s able to be a friend to Frank now like he never could before. He likes to think it helps Frank. He thinks it probably does.

“It’s the stupidest things that set me off,” Frank’s breathing has evened out and he’s finally able to talk coherently. “I mean, shit, just seeing the word ‘Cherry.’ What the fuck?” Frank is half laughing at himself now and Gerard chuckles a little.

“What did the kids do today?” Frank talks to them every day. It isn’t like he doesn’t know what’s going on their lives. Gerard has found that sometimes the best way to calm Frank down is to ask him questions about what’s happening at home, to try and help him see that he’s not missing everything.

Frank goes on to tell Gerard a story about the kids going to the pool this morning and how the girls were fighting over who used which towel and Miles put his face in the water three times and how proud he is of himself. Gerard listens and “Hmmms” in the appropriate places. Rather than interrupting, he waits until Frank comes to a natural stopping point before sharing a similar story about when Bandit first started learning how to swim. Gerard has learned a lot about this ‘active listening’ thing from therapy. He used to suck at listening. This is better.

*

The sobbing phone calls are not the norm. Most of the time when Frank calls, he’s happy. Lately, a lot of the calls have been to tell Gerard about something Frank saw that reminded him of some shared experience of theirs from the past. Gerard both loves and hates these phone calls in equal measure.

“Remember in that one city, how the subway walls were painted that blood red color?” Frank has been telling Gerard about some train station he was at in Canada today. “Where was that?”

“I don’t know, Eastern Europe somewhere.” Gerard loves how giddy Frank’s voice sounds, how excited he gets talking about touring. As much as he bitches about it, Frank has always been able to get into the fun of the traveling part of tours. He likes seeing new places and finding interesting, quirky things that he’d never see in New Jersey.

“Yeah. Well, this place was like that,” Frank rambles on. “So super creepy, it was like descending the steps to hell. And then we passed the bathroom sign which was down even more steps and it made me think of-” Frank stops suddenly. This is the part that Gerard hates. “It reminded me… do you remember?” Frank’s voice trails off.

It kills Gerard inside a little bit every time when they talk about things that happened before because Frank so often has to ask, ‘Do you remember?’ A lot of it is stuff that happened not that long ago, only a few years. The time that Frank is remembering now was after Danger Days. As much as it sucks to admit it, Frank is right to ask Gerard if he remembers. Gerard had been able to hide it really well then -that he was drinking and using again- but Frank knows now. Now they can talk about it and no one starts yelling. That’s a relatively new development.

Frank sighs on the other end of the line. He starts to say, “Nevermind,” but Gerard cuts him off.

“No, I do remember!” He says quickly, trying to be reassuring, “I remember that day.”

“Yeah?” The hopeful tone in Frank’s voice breaks Gerard’s heart a little bit.

Gerard swallows and closes his eyes. “I remember that we were basically playing hooky.” Frank laughs and Gerard’s chest feels warm. “We knew the other guys were going to be wondering where we were, but we weren’t going to be that late, so we didn’t care. We’d hardly been able to be alone together at all on that trip because we were doing promo constantly.” Gerard tries to keep the bitterness he feels in his throat from creeping into his tone. “I was so fucking exhausted. I wasn’t sleeping, remember?”

“I do,” Frank confirms. “You were practically delirious most days.” Frank hesitates for a moment before adding, “But hilarious.”

“Yeah,” Gerard sighs. He had been on the verge of mania then. It made him pretty fun to be around. Frank had never really been able to resist when Gerard got that way and Gerard loved how Frank responded to him when he was like that. There was a time when Gerard had thought that he’d do anything to be able to be that way all the time. Of course, in the end, the price he had to pay wasn’t worth it. Gerard puts those thoughts aside and tries to refocus on the story, Frank’s memory. Frank’s happy memory.

“Your hair was still long. It was before you shaved your head.” The details are coming back to Gerard now. “I remember chasing you. Why was I chasing you? Oh, I remember! You were teasing me about something I had said onstage, you little prick.”

Frank giggles and Gerard thinks his heart might explode from hearing it. Frank’s giggle is one of Gerard’s favorite sounds in the world. “Course I was. I wanted your attention. You were so damn distracted on that trip…” Frank trails off.

“Right,” Gerard hastens to continue the story before they can get off track. “So you were flirting with me and I couldn’t resist and it felt like we were Party Poison and Fun Ghoul. I was chasing you and you went in the bathroom and it was deserted. There was no one else around at all in that part of the station.” Gerard feels his pulse begin to quicken as he remembers the next part. “You grabbed my wrist and pulled me into the last stall and gave me that look.”

“Yeah, that look always worked on you.” Frank’s voice sounds heavy and breathless. “Never could resist me.”

“Never,” Gerard confirms in a breath.

“Gee,” Frank’s voice is strained. “I’m gonna jerk off, tell me the rest of the story.”

Gerard feels tight tendrils of want uncurling in his belly. They don’t do this anymore. They haven’t done this since- He takes a breath and tries to keep his voice from wavering as he continues. “So you pulled me into the stall and gave me the look that always told me you were mine. I could have anything I wanted.”

Frank chokes out, “Anything,” as his breathing becomes more harsh.

“And I decided that I wanted to fuck you, but I made you suck me first.” Frank’s gasp spurs Gerard on and he warms to his subject, palming his own dick through his jeans. “You were going to sit on the toilet, but I made you kneel on the floor. It was your hair. I needed you to be at that angle so that I could pull your hair.” Frank groans and Gerard decides ‘fuck it’ and unzips his jeans, pulling his dick out and leaning back in his desk chair to have a good angle for jerking off. He had been working on Umbrella Academy when Frank called. He wonders where Frank is right now. He never said at the start of their conversation. He might be alone on the bus, in a hotel room, maybe backstage at a venue. Gerard realizes he doesn’t even know if Frank has a show tonight and starts to feel shitty again, but Frank pulls him back when he grunts in frustration.

“Then what, Gee? What happened next. Tell me.”

“Where are you right now?” Gerard can’t help but ask.

“Hotel,” Frank gets out. “Fuck, so you pulled my fucking hair while I sucked you off, and then…” he trails off, panting.

“Yeah, I fucked your pretty face. And you-” Gerard swallows as he works precome all over his dick. “You were so good for me. Always so good. You just took it. Just took whatever I gave you. God, I’ve never known anyone else who can deep-throat like you. You made the most obscene noises and your mouth. Fuck, your mouth is fucking sinful. So damn pretty and perfect with your lips stretched around me, taking all of me down.”

“Yeah, God I love your dick. Miss it,” Frank murmurs.

“I remember thinking it was such a shame when I had to pull back and get my dick out of your gorgeous mouth. But I wanted to fuck you, no, I needed to. I pulled you up and ordered you to turn around because I needed to come in your ass. God, your ass, Frankie. Your sweet, perfect ass.”

“Gee,” Frank gasps. “I’ve got two fingers in my ass right now, keep fucking talking.”

Gerard can’t help the moan that escapes at that. He has to stop stroking himself. Has to will his dick to calm the fuck down because he isn’t done yet. “So I bent you over and barely prepped you at all, we didn’t have anything… I guess I just used a couple fingers with spit. God, that must have hurt.”

“It did, but it was good. I didn’t care. I just wanted to feel it. Wanted to feel you. Always want to feel you,” Frank grunts out.

“Yeah, I remember I was trying to slow myself down and prep you better, but you told me not to, you crazy, masochistic son of a bitch.” Gerard laughs, he can’t help it. Frank has always gotten off on pain and submission and that works just fine for Gerard.

Frank laughs, too. “You know it.” His tone turns serious again in instant when he says, “I’m so fucking close, Gee. Don’t stop. Please don’t stop.”

“So after only two fingers and some spit, you said you were ready and I didn’t have it in me to argue with you. Just looking at your mouth-watering ass made me crazy and I had to get my cock inside it. God, you felt so good. You have no idea. I can still remember, I’ll never forget. So tight and hot and perfect for me.”

“I’ll never forget how you feel inside me.” From the hitch in Frank’s voice, Gerard can tell that he’s going to go off at any moment.

“It didn’t last very long by our standards, but it was so fucking hot. I just slammed you against the wall and fucked you like there was no tomorrow. You were shaking with how good it was. You tried to touch yourself, but I wouldn’t let you. I made you keep your hands on the wall to hold yourself up. I jerked you off with one hand and pulled your hair with the other. Bent your head back and bit at your neck. God, I’ve always loved your neck. So thick and strong. Damn, it makes me crazy just thinking about it.”

“I remember I came in the toilet,” Frank manages to get out before his breathing goes haywire and Gerard knows he’s coming on the other end of the line. Picturing it makes Gerard feel like he can taste Frank’s spunk. So sweet. So good.

“Right, I jerked you off and you came just before I did. You’re always so damn beautiful when you come, and the noises you make. Shit, Frankie.” Now Gerard is close. He speeds up his strokes but keeps talking. He wants Frank to hear his voice through the aftershocks as he calms down. “After you came, I bent you forward. I kept pulling your hair and pushed up your shirt to scratch the fuck out of your back. You always loved that.”

“Still do.” Frank’s voice is steadier now.

“I remember you were so fucking loud, moaning and shouting about how good it was, telling me to fuck you harder. I thought for sure someone was going to hear us and walk in. Maybe someone did and we didn’t even realize because we were so caught up in each other. Always so caught up in each other.” Gerard’s loses himself in the memory. He’s right on the edge. He can’t talk anymore. “Tell me, Frank.”

Frank picks the story up easily now that he’s calmer from coming. “Yeah, I remember how hard you fucked me. It was so fucking good. I knew I was going to feel you inside me for days. I swear I can feel you right now if I just think about it enough.” Frank pauses momentarily. “You close, Gee?”

Gerard is barely able to grunt out, “So close.”

Frank barrels on. “You fucked me until I saw stars, almost thought I was going to pass out. And then you came inside me so hard. I love that. Love being so full of your spunk. Love when I can feel it overflowing out of me.”

That’s what does it. That’s what puts Gerard over the edge. The orgasm so strong that his vision whites out momentarily. Obviously Frank knows because he’s quiet for a few seconds. Gerard jerks himself through all the spasms and can’t help thinking about what Frank just said. He wasn’t talking in the past tense.

“When you pulled out of me,” Frank continues, never one to leave a story unfinished. “When you pulled out you told me to try and hold your spunk in my ass as long as possible. You pulled up my underwear and my jeans and it was one of those times when it was our little secret. You were the only one who knew that your come was slowly dripping out of my ass. So filthy and disgusting, but I loved it.”

Gerard’s breathing has finally slowed, but he feels like he’s choking as he adds, “You played soundcheck like that, didn’t you?”

“I did.”

“Fuck.”

“Yeah.”

It’s quiet as they both breathe deeply and Gerard doesn’t know what to think. He doesn’t know if this means anything and he’s terrified to ask. Frank breaks the silence when he says, “And speaking of soundcheck…”

“You have a show tonight?” Gerard tries to remember what city Frank said he was in and what time it is there.

“Yeah. I’m actually going to be a little late.” Gerard can hear a smile in Frank’s voice that says he isn’t too bothered.

“Oh, um, sorry?” Gerard offers.

Frank snorts. “No you’re not.”

“You’re right, I’m not.” Gerard has no idea how to end this conversation, but he feels like there should be something more said, something else besides just, ‘bye.’

Frank obviously doesn’t agree, though. “I have to go, Gee. We’ll talk again soon.” He ends the call before Gerard can say anything else.

*

And did they get you to trade
Your heros for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange
A walk-on part in the war
For a lead role in a cage?

*

It’s two days before Gerard hears from Frank again. Two days is actually not that long for them to go without talking. When things get really, crazy busy it isn’t uncommon for three or even four days to go by without one of them texting or calling the other. That’s since they started talking again at all, of course. Right after the split - well, Gerard doesn’t like to think about how long he went without hearing Frank’s voice then. It wasn’t Gerard’s choice at all, but he couldn’t blame Frank for needing space.

So two days isn’t really a long time. But with their last conversation being what it was, Gerard kind of expects more than a text that simply says, this mask made me think of you with a picture of a yellow mask in a costume store.

“It means he’s thinking about you,” Mikey says, reasonably, when Gerard complains to him about it later.

“Of course he’s thinking about me. We had phone sex for the first time in almost three years,” Gerard whines. He pushes his feet against Mikey’s thigh where they’re sitting on the new couch at his and Kristin’s house.

Mikey sighs. “Gee, you can’t assume that-”

Gerard cuts him off. “I know, I shouldn’t assume it means anything.”

“That’s not what I was going to say.” Mikey turns to look at Gerard more closely and narrows his eyes slightly. “For someone who claims to have been ‘in love’ with Frank for the entire twelve years that the band was together, it’s sometimes shocking how little you seem to know about how his brain works.”

Gerard has to look away and feels his cheeks redden. He knows Mikey’s right. It’s not like Gerard has ever been lying about being in love with Frank. It’s just that sometimes Gerard is really bad about actually paying attention to the people he’s in love with. At least, not in the way they really need him to. It amazes him every day that Lindsey has put up with him for this long.

Gerard doesn’t know what to say in his own defense about Frank, but finally settles on, “We’re very different people.” There have been times over the last two-and-a-half years when his and Frank’s differences have seemed so vast and stark that it’s hard to believe they ever managed to have a relationship at all.

Mikey simply nods. “You are. But I’m sure that having phone sex with you meant something to Frank.” A smile begins to creep into Mikey’s eyes. “It’s Frank.” The way he emphasizes Frank’s name makes Gerard think that he’s clearly an imbecile for not ‘getting’ Frank the way that Mikey does. The truth is that Mikey and Frank always were better friends than Gerard and Frank were. Gerard has been working really hard in the last few months to try and understand Frank the way that Mikey does. Mikey seems to take pity on Gerard and continues, “Frank doesn’t just do things like that. He’s incapable of doing anything even remotely sexual without letting feelings get attached to it.” He squeezes Gerard’s knee reassuringly, “You know that.”

Gerard nods because Mikey’s right. “I do.”

“So give yourself some credit. Of course it means something. I just don’t want you to get your hopes up.” Mikey grabs Gerard’s hand and threads their fingers together. “It might mean that Frank was feeling really nostalgic and just needed confirmation that your feelings for each weren’t all in his head. Or maybe it does mean that he misses you and is wondering if the attraction is still there.”

Suddenly, Kristin pops her head in the room from the kitchen where she was ostensibly making lunch. “Maybe he was just really fucking horny and you’re someone he knows he can trust to get off with.” Mikey and Gerard both turn to stare at her. She waves a hand at them, a Way mannerism she’s already started picking up. “Touring is stressful, maybe he just needed to blow off some steam.” She looks between them momentarily before shrugging and going back into the kitchen.

Gerard looks at Mikey as if to say, ‘Your girlfriend, man,’ in an exasperated tone.

Mikey shrugs a single shoulder. “She could be right. But you need to stop making yourself crazy over it. You should ask him about it.”

“I can’t.” Gerard isn’t even being melodramatic, he cannot ask Frank that. Not after everything that’s happened. He can’t hurt Frank again. He’s afraid to even go near this.

“How did you respond to his text today?”

Gerard turns his phone so Mikey can see his ha reply message.

“Gee.”

“I know, Mikes. I know, but if there is any chance, even the remotest chance. I cannot fuck this up. The fact that there might even be the possibility. I mean, I never would have thought, never even let myself hope-” Gerard is at a loss for words, a rare occurrence. Although, slightly less rare recently. Since proper medication has meant less crazy mania making his thoughts race faster than he can verbally express himself.

“Gee.” Mikey shakes Gerard’s hand where their fingers are still intertwined until he’s sure he has Gerard’s attention back. “Maybe he just misses you. Maybe he’s not even thinking about the future right now. But come on, he’s been touring for ages. He has a million tour memories that are all tied up in you, of course you’re on his mind.”

“So it’s probably just nostalgia then.” Gerard feels his heart sinking.

“I said, don’t assume anything.” Mikey’s clearly trying to keep his frustration out of his voice when he asks, “Was he pissed off or sad when you talked?”

“What? No, of course not. You said yourself the other night that he’s having the time of his life right now.” Gerard smiles from thinking about what a good place Frank is in mentally this summer. Well, when he isn’t falling apart with the homesickness. “He was happy. He likes remembering this stuff. I think it helps him, like… process and shit.”

“Sure it does.” Mikey nods. “So he’s processing. I gotta tell you I think it’s a pretty fucking good sign that he’s choosing to talk to you about it. I mean, maybe he isn’t ready to fly out here for a booty call, but at least he’s able to reminisce without the conversation ending with yelling or tears.” Mikey pulls him to lean against his side and puts Gerard’s head down on his bony shoulder. “So it’s progress, Gee. It’s a move in the right direction.”

Gerard takes a deep breath. “So what do I do?”

Mikey’s silent for a little while before he tentatively asks, “When’s the last time you told him you miss him?”

Gerard has to scoff at that. “Last fall when we were both in New York and I had to practically beg him to hang out with me after our shows. He started crying and said I was trying to emotionally manipulate him like I always have.”

“Ah, well…” Mikey’s shoulder shakes a little bit as he huffs out a tiny laugh along with Gerard. “But… you guys started talking a lot more after that, right?”

“I guess we did,” Gerard allows.

“So it was a breakthrough, even though it was hard. Maybe this is another breakthrough.” Mikey’s voice gets soft. “Sometimes breakthroughs suck at first.”

Mikey knows that all too well and Gerard loves him so hard right now for being able to remind Gerard of it. “Yeah,” he agrees out loud. “Sometimes breakthroughs suck.”

*

Some things are harder to talk to Frank about than others. There are neutral subjects like the weather and movies and comics, music they both enjoy, etc… Those things are easy to talk about. Talking about the past -the good memories- has been pretty okay ever since the crying confrontation last fall. But that’s mainly been because Frank has been the one to bring it up. The more Gerard thinks about it, the more he realizes that the reconstruction of their friendship has mostly been on Frank’s terms. The bigger part of Gerard feels like that’s fair because he still feels responsible for breaking Frank’s heart in more ways than one. But there is a smaller, growing part of Gerard that feels like that’s bullshit. Because Gerard is fucking trying here. He’s backed off when Frank said ‘back off’ and been patient when Frank said ‘not yet’ and basically bent over backward to avoid being in the same place at the same time when Frank said seeing each other would be too hard. It’s exhausting. Gerard is beginning to feel like it’s about time for his penance to be over. He thinks this is something that Frank might understand.

One of the things that’s been hard to talk about is their solo music. It’s understandable, really, after making music together for so long. It was weird at first that they weren’t working together anymore. It’s been hard for Gerard, though, because he likes to talk about what he’s creating. Frank, not so much. At least not with Gee. Gerard has wanted to share so many thoughts with Frank about Stomachaches because it’s so fucking brilliant. And he has so many thoughts about Frank as a frontman that he’s kept to himself because Frank is so weirdly shy about it. It’s annoying.

Gerard texts Frank. I think my penance is over.

It’s a few hours before he gets a response and he tells himself it’s just because Frank is busy or doesn’t have his phone with him. Okay is all he says in reply. Gerard remembers what Mikey said about how he should know how Frank’s brain works and realizes that Frank isn’t going to ask what Gerard means. Gerard could try saying other indirect things in more text messages but that would probably just piss Frank off. So Gerard calls Frank.

He jumps in right away with, “I think I’ve done my penance.”

“Yeah, you said that.” Frank is yawning and Gerard realizes how late it is in Frank’s timezone.

He immediately feels guilty again. “Did I wake you?”

“Nope.” Frank sounds exhausted, though. His voice is quiet, subdued.

Gerard knows that voice. “Homesick?”

Frank lets out a long sigh. “Always.”

Gerard had kind of felt like he was on a mission when he called but he hesitates before he says anything else about it. Whether they ever again have the same kind of intimate relationship that they had in the past isn’t as important to Gerard as maintaining his friendship with Frank now. So he postpones his mission and instead says, “Tell me about what the kids did today.”

It’s amazing how Frank’s voice perks up as he talks about his family. Gerard comments a couple of times to remind Frank that he’s going to see them again soon. His tour is almost over and he’ll have a little break. Frank talks about the kids and Jamia for about twenty minutes before he runs out of steam. By then he doesn’t sound so morose. It’s good, better. Gerard actually has a story about something Bandit said today that he wants to tell Frank, but he remembers his mission and decides to save the story for another time. He won’t forget about it. He never forgets funny things that Bandit does.

“Are you sad that the tour is almost over?” He figures this is a safe opening.

“Always.” Frank’s reply is immediate.

Gerard snorts, “You’re crazy.”

Frank chuckles before trying to explain himself. “I know, but it’s true. I’m always sad to see a tour come to an end. I miss it like crazy when I’m home. But of course I’m also so fucking glad to be going home.” Frank makes a frustrated sound. “I know I’m impossible.”

“You wouldn’t be you otherwise.” Gerard hopes he sounds reassuring rather than condescending. That’s always dangerous territory when talking to Frank.

Frank is laughing, though, which is a good sign. “Pot meet kettle,” he retorts. “You’re impossible most of the time.”

“And I wouldn’t be me otherwise?” Gerard laughs along with Frank who “hmmms” in agreement. It feels nice. Gerard doesn’t want the nice feeling to go away, but he’s tired of putting off conversations about things that are important to him. Before he can change his mind, he blurts out, “There are things that I want to talk to you about.”

Frank is silent for several long seconds. Gerard is about to ask if he’s still there when Frank finally takes the bait. “Like penance?”

“Well, the whole penance thing is really just a metaphor.”

“Gerard Way, speaking in metaphors?” Frank affects a confused tone. “How strange and unusual!”

Gerard should have expected Frank to respond this way. He isn’t deterred. Rolling his eyes before continuing, he says, “I’m trying to be serious here, Frank.”

Frank takes a deep breath. “Okay, so you think you’re done with penance. Is this about the band ending, Gee? You have to know we’ve all moved on. It had to happen. It was going to happen eventually anyway. We’re all okay, really.”

“Frankie,” Gerard breathes out. “No, I know. I know we’re all okay about the band ending. I’m actually talking about something else.” Gerard thinks he can hear Frank’s breath hitch on the other end of the line, like he’s holding it, like he’s waiting, afraid to say anything. Gerard barrels on. “I was talking about us, about you and me.”

The silence on the other end of the line is deafening. Finally, Frank says, “This is about the other day. The phone sex.” Frank’s voice is flat, betraying no emotion.

Gerard hesitates momentarily. “Yes and no.”

“What does that mean?” Frank’s voice is starting to get tight, like he’s trying to keep it together, fighting against the anger that always seems to be bubbling just below the surface whenever Gerard tries to start a meaningful conversation with him.

“I want to be able to talk to you about things, important things, like we used to be able to.”

Frank immediately begins to argue. “We talk about important things.”

Gerard cuts in before Frank can say anything else, he has to get this out, to make Frank understand. “I want to talk to you about your music.”

“Gee-”

“No, just listen,” Gerard says, sharply.

There’s silence on the other end of the line and then Gerard hears Frank hiss out a long breath.

“Are you listening?”

“Yes. I’m listening.” Frank sounds calmer now.

Gerard feels encouraged as he lays in. There’s so much he wants to say. “I want to tell you how I feel about Stomachaches, how I feel when I listen to it. I want to tell you how I feel when I watch you onstage. I want to give you feedback about how you are as a frontman, but I don’t think you’d appreciate it. Mostly, I just want to tell you how awesome you are. There are songs on Stomachaches that affect me so deeply and so personally but I’m scared to even mention it because it feels like any time I try to talk to you about feelings and our music in the same conversation, you find some reason to be pissed off at me again over something that I did five years ago that I don’t even remember doing.” Gerard pauses to talk a breath, he feels like he’s running a marathon, but he presses on.

“So there are all these things that I want to talk to you about but I feel like I can’t, so I don’t. I don’t want to make you mad or make you cry. I know I hurt you and I’m sorry. I know I lied to you and to everyone and I’m sorry. I know that you are really fucking happy right now and I don’t want to take anything away from that and mostly I don’t want to lose your friendship again because it means so fucking much to me.” Gerard is starting to lose track of what he’s trying to say, but he feels like he’s almost done. He checks the phone to make sure the call hasn’t ended. When he sees that Frank’s still there, he continues. “But I have to be able to talk about some of this stuff that’s hard for you. I’ve been avoiding it and tip-toeing around it because I still feel guilty about shit I did years ago and I just can’t do that anymore. I’m done.”

When Gerard stops to listen, he can tell that if Frank isn’t actually crying, he’s at least on the verge of tears. “Fuck, I made you cry again.”

Frank cuts in before Gerard can berate himself anymore. “No, Gee, I’m just… I’m just really fucking tired and really emotional about everything right now. This tour has been so amazing and the last few months have been so amazing, just like you said and you just,” Frank makes an aborted, frustrated noise. “You just touched on a nerve, that’s all. I miss my family and I’m homesick, but I know I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing and I really fucking miss you, you know?”

“No,” Gerard says harshly.

“What?”

“I don’t know that,” Gerard explains. “I don’t know that you miss me.”

Frank makes a humming sound like he’s thinking. “Well, I didn’t for a long time. I mean, I was mad. I missed the past, but I was mad at you, so I didn’t really want to talk to you much. It was painful. But these past few months, I guess… I feel like since things have been going so well for both of us it’s been easier, you know?”

“Yes,” Gerard confirms, trying for a gentler tone. “That I do know.”

“So yeah. I do fucking miss you, asshole. There are things that I think I would really love to share with you but you aren’t here so I have to call you and tell you about them. But that’s okay. I mean, for right now I think it’s probably better this way.”

“I think so, too,” Gerard has to agree.

It’s quiet for about a minute. Gerard can hear road noise. Frank must be on the bus. Gerard pictures him lying in a bunk and his brain must hate him because it starts supplying him with image memories of making out with Frank in the bunks on their busses. Frank cuts into his reverie when he asks, “So it wasn’t really about the other day then? The phone sex?” Gerard can’t be sure, but he thinks Frank sounds disappointed.

Gerard has to ponder for a moment before he responds. “Well, I think that’s what finally gave me the courage to say something about all this.”

“How do you mean?”

“I mean, because if there’s a chance,” Gerard pauses to swallow, “If there’s a chance that we can ever have that again, what we talked about. If that’s even a possibility, then we have to be able to talk about this stuff- the important stuff, don’t we? Even if it’s hard?”

“What we talked about- you mean sex?” Gerard can almost hear the way that Frank’s brow is probably wrinkling when he asks, “You mean if there’s a chance that we can have sex again?”

“Yeah.” When Frank doesn’t respond after a couple of seconds, Gerard hastens to add, “But I know you never said. I mean, if that was just a one-time thing…” Gerard is at a loss.

“I didn’t plan it.” Frank’s voice sounds like he’s confessing something. “It just happened.”

“Okay.” Frank doesn’t say anything else and Gerard has to ask, “Do you regret it?”

Frank’s reply is instant. “No.”

Gerard sighs, relieved. He can’t stop the words that escape next. “I miss you so much, it hurts. I swear to God, Frankie, right now I feel like there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do to be able to have that with you again.”

After a beat, Frank says softly, “You know that’s not true, Gee.”

“Of course I know that, but it’s just how I feel.” Gerard knows he’s whining, but he doesn’t care. “I’m just trying to make you understand how I feel.”

“I get it.” Frank’s voice is low and grumbly. “I get it. I feel the same way sometimes, a lot of the time.”

Without permission from his brain, Gerard says, “I never lied about loving you, Frank.”

“I know,” Frank says matter-of-factly.

Gerard feels like he’s run out of steam. Like, maybe they’re at an impasse. “I don’t know what else to say.”

“I think you’ve probably said everything you needed to say. I mean, I get it. No more penance. I can work with that. I think that’s fair,” Frank says, reasonably.

Now Gerard feels a bit like he wants to cry. “Thank you.”

“I’ll be easier to talk to once I get a little break.” It sounds like Frank’s stifling a yawn. “I’ll be less intense.”

“I know. I know this probably wasn’t the best time.” Gerard explains, “I just didn’t want to wait.”

Frank is quick to reassure him. “It’s okay, Gee. We’re okay.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah, I promise.” Frank yawns again and Gerard suspects it’s affected. “I have to sleep now, Gee.”

“Okay. I’m sorry I called so late.”

“It’s fine. Goodnight.”

“Night, Frankie.”

*

How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We’re just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl,
Year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found?
The same old fears
Wish you were here.

*

Things sort of go back to normal after that. At least normal for how things had been for the last few months, but better. There isn’t anymore phone sex, but it’s better because Gerard mentions reading a recent interview that Frank did and teases him for something he said and Frank doesn’t get pissed at him. And then without thinking one day, Gerard starts talking about a song that he’s working on now and Frank doesn’t immediately change the subject. It’s good.

*

“I dreamed about us last night.” Frank opens the phone call that way and it takes Gerard a moment to catch up to the fact that Frank said ‘us.’

Gerard has to swallow a couple of times before responding. “Okay. What was the dream about?”

“It was after Reading.” Frank’s voice sounds kind of bouncy, like he’s excited.

Gerard’s brain is still gradually coming back to the present after being in art-making headspace. He shakes himself a little bit as he sits down on one of the benches in his studio and thinks back to the last time that he and Frank were at Reading together. “What, like last time? 2011?”

“No, no.” Frank’s words tumble out. “It was like now. Like, this year.”

“Huh.” Gerard isn’t sure how to process this. “So, like… in two weeks.”

“Yeah.” Frank is silent for a beat before spitting out, “You could come, you know?” Gerard suspects Frank has finally touched on what this call is really all about.

“Umm,” Gerard tries to keep his tone non-committal. He’s honestly taken aback. “Frank.”

Frank clearly has his argument ready. “You keep making noise about not getting to see me play. This would be perfect. There will be so many other artists there. You’d have fun.” What Frank doesn’t say, doesn’t have to say is, ‘You’d blend in. It wouldn’t be obvious. People wouldn’t have to know.’

Gerard feels like they need to pull back a little bit. He needs to understand where this is coming from. He cycles through a few possible questions before finally settling on, “Tell me more about the dream.”

“It was after the show. In a hotel somewhere, I don’t know.” Frank’s voice has a dreamlike quality to it as he recounts. “But it was us and it was like… It was sort of like remembering, but it definitely wasn’t a memory.”

“That sounds pretty vague.” Gerard needs to be sure. “It was a sex dream?”

“Yeah,” Frank admits. “It was.”

“What did we do in the dream?” Gerard asks in a sultry tone, trying to keep things light.

Frank laughs. “We fucked, but that isn’t the point.”

Gerard has to laugh, too. “Okay, so the details of the sex isn’t the point.” He’s more serious when he says, “Tell me what the point is, Frank.”

It’s obviously hard for Frank to say all this outright. Gerard loves him so much for it when he does, though, his voice steady. “The point is that I want to see you. I want you to see me play, and apparently my subconscious is interested in us having sex again.”

Gerard needs a little more than that. “And how does your conscious brain feel about the possibility of us having sex again?”

Frank’s voice is deep when he answers, “It isn’t opposed to the idea.” Gerard knows that tone in Frank’s voice. Coming from anyone else it would make him laugh, but from Frank, it just makes something warm start to unfurl in his belly.

Gerard ponders that warm feeling for a moment and suddenly gets an idea. He doesn’t really check with his brain before asking, “So what if I turned things around?”

“What do you mean?”

Gerard smiles to himself. Loving that they’re in similar places with their solo careers so that he can say this. “What if I said that I’d had a dream about us and it was after Voodoo?”

“Ummmm,” Frank hedges, clearly not expecting that suggestion.

“Would you come to Voodoo to see me?” Gerard barrels on, happily. “There would be tons of people.” He knows Frank will get his meaning. Of course, he has to add, “We could celebrate your birthday!”

“Huh.” It’s quiet for a few seconds before Frank responds, “You know what? I just might.” He almost sounds like he’s just had an epiphany of some sort. “Maybe I will go to Voodoo to see you.”

“Yeah?” Gerard isn’t ready for the hopeful feeling that’s rapidly encompassing him.

“Yes… maybe,” Frank says as firmly as one can say, ‘maybe.’

“Well, then…” Gerard feels like he’s beaming and he wonders if Frank can hear it through the phone. “I just might go to Reading.”

“Or Leeds,” Frank chirps happily.

“Or Leeds,” Gerard repeats.

“Or both!” Frank sounds giddy. He giggles and Gerard smiles and feels the most amazing sense of contentedness flooding through him. He takes a deep breath as he listens to Frank rambling about the plans he’s been making with Dewees for Death Spells stuff. He misses Frank, a lot. But he’s okay with it. He can handle it now - missing Frank, for just a little while longer.