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One

"—and James says he has a really cool—"

"I don't want to do this anymore."

Frank stops, confused. They were just talking about effects pedals. "I don't. . ."

"I'm done."

There's a weird finality to the words, and Frank shivers. "Gerard," he says, picking his words carefully. "I know things have felt off, but everything's coming together—"

"It's not," Gerard says, and there's a catch in his voice that terrifies Frank. "I've tried to ignore what I've been feeling, and I just—I just can't anymore. I'm done. The band's done."

"No—" Frank's protest is involuntary, pulled out of him.

"I'm sorry," Gerard says, and hangs up.

Two

"Fuck you," Frank's anger has had time to burn out, and now he feels nothing but the cold.

"Frank, Frankie—"

"No, just fuck off, motherfucker. You can't decide to end the band then expect me to act like nothing—"

"Frank." There's something in Gerard's voice that makes Frank hesitate, something raw and open and grieving. "It hurts, I know it does, but this is what we have to do."

"'We'? There's no 'we'—"

"Frank."

Frank rubs at his eyes. He's been arguing with Gerard for weeks now, and it hasn't made a damn bit of difference. Gerard's set on this, and nothing, no amount of begging, pleading, or yelling, is going to change his mind.

"Frank."

Frank doesn't know what to say anymore.

"Frankie—"

He doesn't know how to go on without the band.

"Fra—"

He hangs up the phone.

Three

"Are you sure? Absolutely sure?"

"I am, Frank."

There is no hesitation this time, no pause full of unsaid things.

It hurts, sharp and bright, and Frank wishes he'd waited until he was back in California before asking again. Making Gerard say it to his face—

"I'm sorry."

It sounds rote. "You're not," Frank says, pinching at the bridge of his nose, trying to stave off the headache that's been threatening all morning.

"No, I'm really not." Gerard sighs. "I know you don't understand—"

"But I do," Frank interrupts. That's what makes it worse, in so many ways. He takes a deep breath. "We promised—" He clears his throat, and presses on. "When it was over, we'd stop."

"I'm so sorry, Frankie. I didn't mean—"

to hurt you. Frank can almost hear the words. "I know," he whispers. He can't stay on the phone, it's too much. "Gotta go, Gerard."

"Love—"

He hangs up in the middle of Gerard's goodbye, squinching his eyes shut against the tears.

-fin-