24 October 2014, New York, NY. 1:37 am.
Gerard reaches the all night diner twenty-three minutes before they’ve agreed to meet. He orders a shitty coffee and asks for two menus and two glasses of water. He’s turned his phone on silent, but keeps glancing anxiously at it, half-expecting to get a text saying, “Never mind, fuck it, I’m not coming.”
When Frank finally walks in the door, eleven minutes late, he’s wearing clothes that Gerard recognizes from the #Frank Iero tag on tumblr: a bright orange beanie and a white hoodie under a parka with a fur-lined hood. He looks around the near-empty diner, then raises a gloved hand in greeting when he spots Gerard. Gerard slides out of the booth as he approaches and Frank gives him a short, perfunctory hug that smells of shampoo and cigarettes. His hand pats Gerard’s lower back almost awkwardly before they sit down opposite each other.
“It’s fucking freezing out there,” Frank says gruffly, rubbing his palms together. His cheeks are a faint pink from the cold. Gerard imagines him chain-smoking outside the diner for eleven minutes, trying to talk himself into coming inside. “And windy as shit.”
“Yeah, it’s brutal,” Gerard agrees, hands clenching and un-clenching in his lap. "It's really nice to see you.”
Frank waves a waitress over and orders a black coffee. He doesn’t look at the menu in front of him and he doesn’t take off any of his outerwear.
“So what’s up?” Frank asks, hands clasping on the table between them. He looks guarded, older, different. Like a version of Frank Iero that Gerard hasn’t met before.
It feels like lifetimes ago that they weren’t two strangers staring at each other from across a grimy formica table.
“It's been way too long,” Gerard says eventually, trying to remember how they used to do this. “I wanted to see you.”
“You’ve seen me,” Frank says shortly. His voice is steady, controlled, tense. “Now what?”
“Now we order some food and talk about some things,” Gerard says in the most casual tone he can feign, sliding a menu across the table. “They can do the tofu scramble without onions, I asked.”
“I had a burrito earlier,” Frank says. “And I don’t think you and I really have much to talk about anymore.”
Gerard watches his body language: the absence of jerky hand gestures, the stiffness in his back, the cold, set eyes. He knows what this is. It’s an old pattern. Gerard gets sad and deflated and miserable; Frank gets angry and reckless and even. “You’re being an asshole.”
Frank leans back in the booth, crossing his arms over his chest and shrugging his shoulders. “Maybe I am. I still had a burrito, which was vegan and gluten-free and delicious, and you and I are still out of things to talk about.”
“I fucking miss you,” Gerard says in a low, barely controlled hiss. “Can we talk about that?”
Frank’s voice is uncharacteristically hard when he says, “I’d rather not, because the feeling’s not mutual and it wouldn’t change jack shit either way.”
Gerard bites back the urge to argue, to raise his voice, to give Frank the fight he’s clearly spoiling for. “How are the kids?” he says instead, unwilling to let the conversation derail before it’s even begun. “Dewees told me you guys went to Disneyland.”
Frank lets out an agitated breath. “I don’t want to talk about my kids, or yours, or Disneyland, or old times, or the weather, or anything. Why am I here, Gerard?”
“You’re here because I asked you to come and you did. But if you don’t want to talk about anything at all, I guess there isn’t much to salvage here.”
“Great.” Frank drains his coffee and digs through his wallet for two dollar bills. “It was nice to see you too.”
He wasn’t going to say anything, but now that Frank’s getting out of the booth and onto his feet, he can’t help himself. “Did you seriously think I wouldn’t find out about Bert?”
Frank lets out a sudden, harsh laugh, stopping dead in his tracks. It sounds foreign and unkind and more jaded than Gerard thought him capable of. “Oh. Who told you?”
“Doesn’t matter,” Gerard says to his back. “I just hope it was worth it.”
“Worth what?” Frank turns back around to face him. “The STD risk?”
“I hope it was worth hurting me in the process.”
He nearly misses the flinch that crosses Frank’s face, the way his lips thin and his eyes dart to the wall past Gerard’s head. He looks startled, like maybe he hadn’t expected Gerard to find out after all. He stands frozen for a few moments, before slumping back down in the booth and whispering, softly, “It wasn’t about you.”
He sounds embarrassed, or repentant, or guilty, or resigned, or something. Gerard’s known him long enough to recognize a white flag when he sees it. He knows from instinct and history that if he reaches across the table to touch Frank’s hand, that hand will be shaking and it will curl around his own in a desperate, clinging grip.
But Gerard can’t help the bitterness that rolls of his tongue when he mutters, "You fucked my ex-boyfriend behind my back and somehow that’s not about me?”
“Look,” Frank snaps, hand curling into a white-knuckled fist. “I was just trying to get my rocks off. If your feelings got hurt in the process, that’s just collateral damage.”
“Collateral damage,” Gerard repeats incredulously. “Way to shit on any hope we ever had of being friends again.”
“I don’t want to be friends with you,” Frank says. He looks up at Gerard in a way that’s truly unsettling, jaw clenched and eyes hard. He’s seen that look on him before and he’s cleaned the blood off of Frank’s knuckles in the aftermath of it. “And it’s none of your business who I fuck, not anymore.”
“Does Jamia know about him?” Gerard asks, undeterred. It’s a low blow, he knows it is, and it’s petty and none of his business, but he can’t help himself.
“You know damn well she doesn’t care who I’m with as long as I come home to her,” Frank growls. “And fuck you for talking to me like I’m cheating on her.”
Which means she doesn’t know. Gerard’s not surprised. “I’m sure she’d feel different if she knew who you were spreading ‘em for.”
He knows this much about Bert’s sexual preferences: Frank’s been on his back for Bert and not the other way around. Bert’s probably fucked him over a bathroom sink in a dingy club bathroom with a bruising hand around his throat after a show. Reckless, greedy, hard.
“Fuck you,” Frank says. “I’ll spread ‘em for whoever I want and my wife has no issue with that.”
“Which is why you haven’t told her, I’m sure.”
Frank doesn’t say anything in response to that and Gerard knows he has him backed into a corner.
“How do you think I found out?” Gerard asks, taking a sip of cold, bitter coffee. "He called last week to tell me what a ‘fucking cunt’ I am for hurting you."
Frank throws his arms up in exasperation. “Of fucking course he did. Asshole.”
“Yeah," Gerard says. "So take off your parka and your beanie and your gloves and however many layers you're wearing under there, and have some fucking dinner with me.”
Gerard pushes the menu towards him again and Frank looks at him for a long moment, seemingly deliberating. "I already ate," he says.
"Then have dessert."
"I don't want dessert."
"That shit is literally like drinking diarrhea."
"Then come back to my hotel with me."
“Are you fucking insane?”
“No. We are not doing this. You broke up with me, you broke up my band, you broke my fucking heart. You don’t get to just show up here and ask me about taking my kids to Disneyland like nothing happened. Fuck you."
"No - You didn't just give up on the band when all three of us were begging you to stay, you went off and told any press that would talk to you that the band should have been over after Parade, that you were miserable through Danger Days, that you were compromising your artistic fucking integrity by staying in a band that didn't inspire you anymore."
"No - You can tell whoever you want that it was mutual but that doesn't fucking make it true. None of this was mutual, least of all you giving up on me. So get fucked, Gerard. Go back to your fuzz pedals and California sunshine and weekend pancake reports and your fucking wife. Don’t call me again, because I have nothing else to say to you. "
Frank moves to leave, but Gerard stands up and says, "Frank.”
“Fuck you,” Frank snaps, turning back towards him. He's using his arms now, angry stiff limbs punctuating his words. Gerard knows if he reaches for him now, Frank will push him away and he won't know his own strength when he does. “You walked away from this to make yourself happy, but newsflash - you don't look it. You look tired and bored and you sound so full of shit it’s embarrassing. You can tell yourself that you weren’t happy with me all you want, but you were and you’re a fucker for forgetting that."
Gerard waits until he’s sure Frank’s done talking, before saying, as earnestly as he can manage, "I needed something else. It doesn't mean I don't love you."
To which Frank actually rolls his eyes. "Oh, spare me the nausea."
“No - look. I was happy with you, and the guys, and the band,” Gerard says. “Until I wasn’t anymore. We all grew apart, you know we did.”
“That’s historical fucking revisionism,” Frank growls, but some of the fight has gone out of his voice. Gerard can finally hear the grief under the anger.
“No, Frankie. That’s honesty.”
Frank shakes his head. “You know what, fuck it. It’s late and you’re a fucking dick and I need to sleep.”
Frank turns to leave again and Gerard says, desperately, "Have a cigarette with me."
"I quit," Frank sighs.
"Bullshit. You smell like smoke."
Frank shrugs a little. "I may have had a few on my way over here."
"So have another one with me," Gerard pleads. "One cigarette and you can go."
They go outside and find refuge from the wind in an alley just off the side of the diner. They pull up their respective packs - Frank's Lucky Strikes and Gerard's Marlboro Reds. Gerard watches his hands as he lights up, black ink visible where the fingerless gloves stop. He looks relieved when he takes his first drag and leans back against the wall behind him, looking up at the overcast night sky.
Gerard watches the thick column of his throat, the curve of his adam’s apple, the scissors and bows curling around the left side of his neck. He’s pressed his lips to that throat, hidden his face against it, pressed his cock inside it. He was in the tattoo parlor when a gloved black hand etched a scorpion into that skin, when it felt like this thing could actually work and nothing could ever hurt them. “Come back to my hotel with me.”
Frank lowers his head slowly and meets Gerard’s gaze. He looks weary now, earlier aggression expended. “So we can what - fuck for a few hours and part ways again the morning? No thanks, you’re not that good of a lay.”
"I miss you."
"You miss me,” Frank repeats skeptically, ashing his cigarette, “but you don't want to be with me. I'm not looking for sappy break-up sex."
"It doesn't have to be sappy."
He smirks a little. “I’m not looking for ‘fuck the shit out of me and come on my face’ sex either.”
He shakes his head, looks down at his feet where he's stubbing his toes against a crack in the asphalt. “I’m not looking for any sex with you, at all, ever again.”
“I miss you. I’ve been missing you.”
“But it still doesn’t change anything, does it?”
Frank cocks his head up to look at him again, green eyes questioning but not hopeful. Gerard can’t bear to look at him anymore. The grief he’s been working through, and pushing down, and trying to forget for almost two years has coiled smotheringly tight in his chest again.
Then Frank’s in front of him, callused fingertips tilting his chin up. "Hey," he says.
Too many things come back at once. Frank’s hand reaching for his in the backseat of a moving tour van while the world passed in a blur outside the window. Frank’s sweaty face underneath his own, skin flushed and eyebrows drawn and pierced lips kissed raw. Frank thrashing around stage right, mouth slack and eyes wild and heart bare. The air leaving his lungs when Frank hugged him after walking off the stage at Madison Square Garden. Frank watching him fall apart from the other side of the recording booth window during "The Kids from Yesterday," inked knuckles pressed hard against his beautiful mouth and brow furrowed deeply. Frank’s inked arms holding a tiny fragile sleeping Lily, pride in his eyes and bags underneath them. The panic in Frank’s eyes the first time he tasted relapse on Gerard’s lips. Frank’s body warm against his side as they shared a cigarette on the steps outside the studio during their last attempt at recording. The silence on the other end of the phone when he told Frank he couldn’t do it anymore.
Gerard doesn’t know what Frank sees in his face, but he sees the exact moment that Frank yields, feels it like a tangible shift in the space between them. His hand drops from Gerard’s face and he flicks his cigarette to the ground.
“Yeah, okay,” Frank says finally. “Let’s go have 3am mistake sex and then you can break my heart all over again in the morning.”
It’s been almost two years and Gerard is still in shreds.
“I mean it, Gee. Let’s go.”