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Words & Music

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Moi ! moi qui me suis dit mage ou ange, dispensŽ de toute morale, je suis rendu au sol.
I! I who fashioned myself a sorcerer or an angel, who dispensed with all morality, I have come back to earth.

From Arthur Rimbaud's Une Saison en Enfer(A Season in Hell) (1873)


It'd been 20 years since Frank sat down at a piano. He lost the taste for it after they lost Eddie. The damn documentary brought it all flooding back. "Words and music," Eddie used to say, "can't have one without the other." But then the music died, and Frank found out just how fucking true those words were.

Sure, he lived. Even built himself a life. He buried himself in other people's words, taught English and poetry to kids who'd rather be listening to rock-n-roll. But like Rimbaud, he never wrote another word. No great novel, no great poems. It wasn't like he didn't try, but it became quite clear that part of him died when Eddie did.

Seeing the old gang, trying to make a go of it with Joann -- which got about as far as it did the first time, neither of them ready to let go of Eddie -- made Frank realize that you can't ever really go home again. He should have learned that the first time, when he tried to fit the Cruisers into his old world. He'd never meant to make Eddie or Joann or any of the band feel out of place, or somehow less than the alumni of Benton College. In fact, it was just the opposite. He wanted the preppy SOBs that he went to school with to see how cool he'd become. He wasn't a scholarship dweeb any more. He was a Cruiser.

He'd left out a few details when he told Maggie about the walk he and Eddie took.

They had walked in silence a little longer after Frank has made the decision to stay with the band, or rather when Eddie made the decision for him.

It startled Frank when Eddie spoke again. "You think I did what I did because I was pissed at you for kissing Joann."

Frank stopped walking. "Didn't you?"

Eddie shook his head. "No. I was pissed at Joann for kissing you."

It wasn't Joanne's fault, he had to make Eddie see that. "She stopped it. She's your girl, Eddie."

"I know. That's not what I meant."

Frank couldn't read Eddie's expression. Eddie started walking again so Frank followed. "I've been reading that book you gave her, the Rimbaud. I've been reading up on him to, his relationship with Paul Verlaine. Didn't know things like that happened back then."

Frank was having a hard time following Eddie's logic, but he went with it. "It was quite scandalous for the time. Not necessarily two men together but the fact that Verlaine abandoned his wife."

"Sometimes you can't fight what your heart wants." And with that Eddie reached for him and Frank found himself lost in the magnetic pull that was Eddie Wilson. Just as Eddie had seduced him into joining the band, had just convinced him to stay with the band, Frank found himself following Eddie's lead in this too.

Eddie didn't kiss anything like Joann or any girl that Frank had ever kissed. His mouth was hot, hard and intoxicating. Frank found himself giving as good as he got, and it was like something that had been slightly out of tune Frank's whole life finally became pitch perfect. He found himself backed up against a tree, Eddie's body pressed tight against his and Eddie's hand slipping expertly down the front of his pants. All Frank could do was clutch Eddie's hips and hang on.

Eddie's voice was rough and breathless against his ear. "Let's go for a ride."

Frank met his eyes. "Now?"

Eddie smiled and Frank realized just how rare that was. Eddie smirked and strutted and played the rock star, but he very rarely ever looked happy. Frank wanted to change that.

"Yeah, unless you want your old college buddies finding us with our pants down."

They ended up at a motel two towns over. They didn't speak much in the car, but Eddie keep his hand on Frank's thigh the entire way. And for the first time ever, the Wordman found himself without any. He couldn't figure out how in the span of 24 hours, he'd gone from kissing Joann to being with Eddie, and very much *wanting* to be with Eddie. All he knew was that not unlike everything that had happened since the band had walked into TonyMart, his life was about to take another unexpected turn and he wouldn't miss it for anything.

He woke up with Eddie staring across at him, a cigarette burning down in his hand. "Christ, you're beautiful kid, you know that?"

Frank felt himself flush with embarrassment tinged with lust. Feeling bold, he leaned over and kissed Eddie before stealing his cigarette. He took a deep drag and exhaled. "What happens now?"

"We head back and pack up for the next gig. Same as always."

"What about Joann?"

Eddie scrubbed his face with his hands. "She'll always be my girl."

Frank felt the room spin. "And us?"

"Words and music," Eddie threaded his fingers with Frank's. "Can't have one without the other."

They continued on that way, slipping away to motels or Frank's place when possible. Frank was pretty sure that Joann knew that something was up, but he couldn't really make himself care. He knew he should care, he knew that he and Eddie were hurting her, but every time he thought about breaking it off, of walking away, he'd remember Eddie's "words and music" and he couldn't give that up, couldn't give Eddie up.

A plus side of the sex was that coming seemed to spark their creative voices. They'd sit around naked as they entered a world all their own. The music was revolutionary,avant garde even. If Tender Years was about coming of age, then Season in Hell was about stripping oneself bare so that all that remained was the rough, sometimes ugly, but ultimately beautiful soul within. It wasn't pretty, you couldn't dance to it, but if you listened you got lost inside the music until you found yourself. Frank knew the record company would probably hate it, but he didn't give a damn. It was a portrait of Eddie and of himself and it was the purest, most honest sound he'd ever heard.

And then it all went to shit. The record company rejected the album and Frank could see what that did to Eddie. If Joann hadn't followed Eddie out, Frank would have. And then Eddie was gone and the tapes went missing. And Frank was lost.


Things settled down a few months after the documentary aired. Doc got them a good deal just as he promised. Joann moved to Florida. Sal kept on being Sal, and Kenny moved from dealing cards in Atlantic City out to Las Vegas for the better weather and the hotter chicks. And Frank... Well his students finally stopped asking for his autograph and calling him "Professor Wordman." He socked away his royalty money for a rainy day and slid back into his old routine. The memories began to fade again, the specter of Eddie became a familiar dull ache instead of the gaping wound of the last few months. Frank still didn't write and he still stayed away from the piano, but he now believed that one day the words would come again.

Of course, he really didn't expect that day to come quite so soon. Or that the catalyst would be the very much alive Eddie Wilson sitting in Frank's trailer smoking a cigarette when Frank came home one night.

"You son of a bitch, you son of a bitch," Frank ranted and he launched himself at Eddie. His fist connected with Eddie's jaw before he knew what he was doing. And then Eddie's arms were around him.

"Easy. Easy. Ssssh," Eddie repeated again and again, not letting Frank break free of his hold.

It couldn't be real. It couldn't be. But the voice, the familiar scent of Eddie, the way their bodies fit together even after all these years made Frank's head spin. He thought he might pass out. Eddie led him over to his couch and sat him down, kneeling in front of him.

"Sorry to do it to you this way, but I couldn't take the chance of someone else seeing me."

Frank recovered enough to meet Eddie's piercing eyes -- eyes that had haunted him for nearly 20 years. "Oh, I'm pretty sure there's not a right way to stage a resurrection. What are you doing here Eddie? Is that even still your name?"

"Glad to see you still have a sense of humor, Wordman."

"Don't call me that. Don't ever fucking call me that."

Eddie held up his hands in surrender. "Okay. I deserve that. And yes, my name is still Eddie. Just Eddie Kennedy."

"I'm not the only one with a sense of humor, I see."

Moving to sit on the couch next to Frank, Eddie shrugged. "I didn't pick it. That's just the name the guy put on my papers back in the 70s. But yeah, I think he was going for the irony."

"Why come back now. Why not come back when the documentary came out?"

Eddie turned to face Frank. "You know I was never in it for the fame. I wanted to make music that mattered. And now with the release of Season in Hell, I have. We have."

Frank looked Eddie over. He looked nearly the same. Sure he was older but he didn't look all that different. Time had been kind to him. "You're not dying are you? Coming home like Rimbaud to face your demons before you pass?"

"Would you be upset if I was?"

Frank wasn't ready to be honest about that just yet. "You've been dead for a long time Eddie. I'm not really sure if I'd notice."

"Bullshit Word..." Eddie stopped himself from completing the name. "You still can't bluff to save your life."

Frank had never mastered a game face. He wore his emotions out in the open for everyone to see. "What are you doing here?"

"I came back for you."

How Frank wanted that to be true. But he couldn't believe it. Not yet anyway. "Me? Not Joann, Doc, or Sal?"

Eddie shrugged. "They don't get me. They never did. But the sad thing is, I didn't get me either. Only you did, kid. Only you."

Frank felt the years melt away. Eddie still made him feel like the naive kid he was when they met. He wasn't sure he liked that fact. "I'm hardly a kid anymore. And what do you mean?"

"It was easier to run away, to disappear than to be a failure."

"You were never a failure."

Eddie smiled, one that lit up his eyes. "Proving my point. You're still defending me after what I did."

Smiling back, Frank shrugged his shoulders. "I never claimed to be smart."

"Nothing to claim when it's true. Come to Paris with me."

The tone of Eddie's voice sent chills up Frank's spine. It was filled with an aching longing that Frank knew all to well. "Is that where you've been?"

Eddie nodded. "There among other places. Spent a lot of time trying to find someplace to belong."

Frank was trying to understand, but part of him knew he probably never would. "Because you didn't belong here?"

"Not then."

"And now?"

Eddie made sure that Frank was looking into his eyes before he answered. "Now, I know that belonging isn't necessarily a place. Come with me."

Frank's throat got tight. "I have a life here."

"You aren't living man, any more than I've been. Isn't 18 years in purgatory enough?"

Frank felt his anger flare. Only Eddie could make him feel this out of control. "Who put us there? Who bailed on all of us? And why the hell should I believe that you won't do that again?"

"Words and music, Frankie. Words and music. We belong together."

It couldn't be that easy. Could it? "Took you 18 years to figure that out?"

"Nah, it just took me that long to find the words." Eddie stood up and held his hand out to Frank.

Frank let himself be pulled into Eddie's arms. It felt like coming home. He cupped Eddie's head in his hands and brought their mouths together. It was like being in a time machine, like the first time and every time after. Nothing had changed between them. Time and distance couldn't hold a candle to here and now.

He could tell himself that the gravitation field that was Eddie was just too strong, but the truth was he was just too weak. He'd been in love with Eddie from almost the moment he met him and that fact hadn't changed no matter how much time had passed. He had a second chance now, and he wasn't giving that up, so he'd pack up and go wherever Eddie wanted. He'd follow him to the gates of Hell and back. He always would have. Words and Music, they did belong together.

And after nearly two decades of silence, Frank found that the Wordman had a lot to say.