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Chapter Text 1 ñòðàíèöà. That night, Gerard stayed up late and pondered running away, like Frank, maybe
That night, Gerard stayed up late and pondered running away, like Frank, maybe. Then his mom could live at the hospital, and Mikey would have company. But that’d make Mikey upset, and his mom, probably. Not to mention Gerard would probably die if he tried to go all caveman hermit in the woods. He couldn’t figure it out, how to fix things, and wound upignoring his earlier plan to try and stay sober, tonight; he just wanted to stop thinking about Mikey in that stairwell, about Mikey lying alone in the dark hospital, wheezing in his sleep.
The next day at school, he was in a shit-awful mood, and he still didn’t have his own bag, just Mikey’s borrowed knapsack, disproportionately heavy on his shoulders and filled with dead pens.
He knew he was being a dick, scowling at everyone and answering everything in monosyllables. He was probably freaking out Ray and annoying Bob, but he couldn’t quite help himself. Each heartbeat throbbed in his temples, like mutant Athenan elves were trying to drill out of his skull, and fucking Ted had spent all of History flicking white-out all over his Bowie hoodie, and Isaac had tripped him so that he fell down the stairs on the way to lunch and everyone fucking laughed. It was a fucking horrible, terrible, day and Gerard would rather chew his own face off than stay in Vermont another three seconds.
He didn’t want to whine, though, not out loud, so he just sat quietly at lunch and stared at his plate of wilted lettuce and tried not to give into the urge to just lay his head on the rough wooden table and go to sleep forever. Patrick looked at him a little funny and broke off in the middle of a conversation about zithers to offer him some extra-dark chocolate and a handful of Excedrin.
“You sort of look like you want to die,” he said sympathetically, and Gerard didn’t think some candy and pills was going to make him feel any differently, really, but it was a nice thought. It was good to remember there were decent people here, that it wasn’t all Ted and his goons and the high school staff from hell.
He even managed to perk up a little in Biology, where they were taking a break from dissection to watch a NOVA special on the “Missing Link,” which was, by all reports, pretty cute. Like a shell-less ninja turtle with a fishy tail.
“He seems like a Michelangelo to me,” Ray commented after Gerard shared this profound insight. “Maybe that giant bug can be Splinter?”
Gerard was about to hypothesize what Shredder would be—one of those armored fish with giant teeth, maybe?—but then the teacher shushed them both. Without a good conversation going, it was hard to stay awake. It was a gray gloomy day, the sun sulking behind the clouds, and the narrator was droning soothingly about lobes and lungs. Most of the class was asleep, slumped motionless over their lab benches, shadowed and faceless. Gerard thought Ray had passed out too, head lolling in one hand, but then he poked Gerard in the shoulder, making him jump.
“So, seriously,” Ray whispered. The kid behind them twitched briefly, snorting in his sleep, and Ray lowered his voice even more. Well, as low as Ray’s voice could get, anyway. “Tomorrow’s Friday. You have to come to Bob’s, okay? We’re all gonna spend the night and play video games until we puke. You in?”
Gerard had been a fucking bitch all day, he knew he had been, and Ray was still grinning at him hopefully, still making conversation, inviting him to hang out. It was uncanny. Ray was seriously the nicest person Gerard had ever met, ever. Gerard bit his lip. He wasn’t—he liked Ray, he did. It was just, he was crap with parties. Pete and Gabe had kept dragging him out to parties back in Jersey, but he’d always wound up that weird kid in the corner that picked over the bookshelves and drank all the tequila and couldn’t keep up a conversation.
“Aww, c’mon, Gee. Come. Cooomme.” And then Ray seemed to realize he was saying something potentially vulgar and waggled his eyebrows in delight, making a ridiculous leering face and an obscene hand gesture.
“What the fuck kind of slumber party is this?” Gerard retorted, unable to hide his grin. He turned back to the TV, though, because if Ray kept making that face, Gerard was probably going to lose it, bust up laughing into the echoing quiet of the room. Even Mrs. Stroble would notice that, he figured.
On the television screen, a bunch of fish were standing on their heads on the bottom of the ocean. What the fuck—fish were awesome. The sleeping kids were totally missing out.
“It’s the best kind of party,” Ray said, in this super sleazy voice, forcing Gerard to smother a sudden fit of giggles into his sleeve, because wow, Ray was the exact opposite of sleazy. Then, as though to prove Gerard’s point, Ray said in wondering tones, “Dude, what are those fish doing?”
“Headstands,” Gerard said knowingly, and the girl in front of them turned and shushed them, scowling, and Ray rolled his eyes and mimed zipping his lips. A few minutes later—the fish were apparently eating some sort of rock squid while they did headstands, and also they glowed blue, it was nuts—Ray shoved a notepad in front of Gerard. There was a sketch on the blue-lined paper. A fish with a fro said, “OMG GERARD WE WILL HAVE SO MUCH FUN.” Underneath in smaller letters, “GERARD WHY YOU GOTTA HATE THE FUN.” Gerard glanced down at it, then looked back up at the screen, then back down, at his vibrating phone. Pete had just sent him a series of pictures: an empty desk, a pink Converse shoe, that hyper band kid in a pink tiara. Gerard sent him one back of the Rayfish and then another of Ray himself making a puzzled face. Ray tolerated the picture-taking, then shoved the notebook back in front of Gerard and wiggled it.
Gerard gave in. He drew a Gerardsquid hiding under a rock and pondered a long time what to have it say. “I’m not really a party person,” he finally wrote in a drippy speech bubble, and shoved the notebook back.
art by apocalypse_me
“But it’s just going to be me and Bob and maybe Patrick,” Ray said out of the corner of his mouth. “It’s not a party, dude.” Gerard looked down, away from Ray’s hangdog face, noticed his phone flashing again. ONE NEW MESSAGE. who’s the man with the luxurious locks and can I pet him. Gabe. Gerard shook his head, smiling at the phone.
“So are you coming?” Ray whispered, and Gerard shoved the phone hastily back in his pocket.
“Well. I don’t get home until late,” Gerard said finally, stared at a dead catfish in a nearby specimen jar instead. Fish everywhere today, this one smiling with a thin, lipless mouth and cloudy eyes, stubby whiskers. Ray bumped his shoulder and Gerard startled, looked up into Ray’s cheerful face. “It’s just… I don’t get back from seeing Mikey until, like, midnight.”
One of the things that he liked about Ray was that he’d never actually asked what was wrong with Mikey, even though he had to know it something pretty serious. It was still nice not being poked and prodded, nice not having sympathetic, knowing eyes aimed at him.
“Oh, what the fuck ever, dude,” Ray said, shaking his head. “Like any of us get to bed before fucking 6 am anyway. It’ll be fun. I’ll pick you up from your house at midnight, it’s no big deal. Give in, Gerard! Resistance is futile.”
So somehow Gerard had a slumber party arranged for that weekend. Bizarre. He’d never been to a sleepover type party before. He’d passed out at some kid’s house once, some friend of Pete’s, and woke up with raw egg all over himself the next morning—fucking parties. That probably didn’t count as a sleepover, anyway. Pete and Gabe had sometimes crashed at the Way house, and wound up in Gerard’s room, but that seemed more like an invasion than a slumber party, really. Though Gabe did like to paint fingernails on occasion, but Gerard suspected that probably wasn’t going to go on with Bob and Ray. Too bad, really. Ray would look awesome in sparkly teal.
Maybe he should bring beer or something, though. But did Ray drink? Gerard’d never asked, but he got the feeling Ray was sort of wholesome and would be horrified by even being asked about it. But Gerard wasn’t, like, positive about that. He spent the rest of biology and most of art worrying about it, and being glad Ray hadn’t asked him what bug had crawled up his ass earlier, and wondering whether to even bother stopping by the path to look for Frank again. But maybe Frank had been sick, and, well. No one at school mentioned him, and when Gerard tentatively asked Bob in history if he knew a guy named Frank, Bob just looked at him blankly, and then they got served a pop quiz and the conversation was dropped.
So maybe Frank was a runaway.
Or maybe he was just avoiding Gerard.
Either way, if Frank didn’t show up today… well, Gerard knew what that meant. It wasn’t like it was that surprising, and he had people to hang out with that weren’t Frank, anyway. He didn’t need Frank as a friend. It was totally fine. Except maybe if Frank didn’t show up, Gerard was going to get a little freaked out and possibly stage a man-hunt, or at least babble worriedly at Ray and Bob and make them scour the woods with him. Living in the woods couldn’t be safe, not really. What if Frank had gotten hurt? Fuck.
The bell rang, and he lingered in the art room until the halls cleared out, cleaning up the scrap paper and re-ordering the charcoal pencils while Mr. Felts watched him suspiciously. He managed to escape the school without being stopped by anyone, and made a beeline for the woods.
He stood at the forest’s edge, annoyed with himself for being hopeful. “Frank?” he said, as though Frank might be hiding behind a random tree or bush, or something. He looked around uneasily—nothing. No one. More trees. The parking lot was still half-full with the cars of kids trapped in band practice, or of fucking asshole jocks lying in wait for their next victim. Settling against the trunk of a maple, he fumbled in his bag for cigarettes—he was just waiting for everyone to leave, he wasn’t waiting for anyone—when there was sudden movement, right next to him, just out of his range of vision. Gerard froze.
“Boo!” someone said in his ear, breath ghosting on the nape of his neck.
Fucking ninja fucker, Christ. Gerard clutched at his chest and maybe, just maybe, shrieked a little. He dropped his cigarettes and Frank retrieved them, giggling and smug and pleased with himself. One second there had only been dead leaves and stolid trunks of trees, wind and distant high-school sound, and now there was abruptly, in the midst of the empty woods, this human presence, shifting from foot to foot, stealing his cigarettes, talking a mile a minute about who knew what. Gerard was obnoxiously relieved, at first, and then slowly indignation started seeping in. He folded his arms over his chest, scowling.
“Where were you yesterday?” And despite his best efforts, his voice came out plaintive instead of nonchalant.
Frank paused, stopping mid-speech on whatever topic he’d stumbled on while Gerard was busy glaring—Gerard thought it might involve Silly Putty.
“Yesterday?” Frank said slowly, looking worried. “I was here yesterday. Like always.”
“No,” Gerard replied after a moment, a little bewildered. Frank looked confused; he was staring at Gerard with his brow furrowed. It wasn’t exactly the response Gerard had expected. “I was here, right here. I waited. You weren’t in school, either,” he said pointedly. In fact, unless Frank had been incredibly stealthy, Gerard hadn’t seen him in school at all, ever.
Gerard was gearing up to confront Frank about it when suddenly Frank’s face cleared, and the look of confusion was replaced with a look of dawning horror.
“Oh,” Frank said, eyes going huge. “Oh, fuck. Gee. I’m so sorry. I’m just, fuck, I’m not in school anymore, and I’m really bad with time, now. I swear I didn’t mean to stand you up, I fucking swear.”
“So, what, you just forgot about me?” Gerard said, feeling a sinking, terrible sensation in his chest. He stuffed his hands in his hoodie pocket and stared over Frank’s shoulder. There was a bird’s nest in the crook of a tree, all ragged unraveling twigs, its tenants flown south for winter to warmth and sunshine and leaves that stayed green.
“It’s not like that,” he said quickly, words tripping over each other, running together. And it wasn’t fair that he could do the giant eyes and wounded expression that well. It made Gerard want to cave instantly. “You don’t understand, I didn’t forget, I just… I just lost track of myself. You know? When you’re doing something and you lose track of time?” Frank looked frantic, almost, biting his lip and hugging himself. “You know, I have really awesome hearing, if I ever don’t show again you can just call for me and I’ll show up. I’ll find you, honest.”
“Call for you?” Gerard said incredulously, tricked into meeting Frank’s eyes again. Fuck, he was doomed. The asshole was so fucking cute and plaintive. Unfair. “Like, what, like a duck call?”
“A Frank call,” Frank agreed, eyes big and pleading. Gerard melted. “But you can quack if you want.”
Gerard put on a show of rolling his eyes hugely and huffing, because he didn’t want to look easy. “You’re so fucking weird, seriously. You have a cell phone? I mean, I could just call call you next time.” Frank beamed at him and hell, he’d said next time, hadn’t he? “I’m not forgiving you,” Gerard said stubbornly, but fuck, did Frank have to have such a fucking bright smile? He could feel his pulse picking up, and even though he was still kind of mad at Frank, he still wanted, with a hot painful rush, and it sucked.
“Please forgive me, Gee,” Frank said leaning forward and pressing a hand to Gerard’s heart, oddly solemn. It should have been a joking tone of voice, but it wasn’t somehow. Gerard forgot to breathe for a second. “I don’t have a phone, but I promise it won’t happen again. I’ll be careful, honest. Forgive me?”
“Maybe,” Gerard hedged, and he was absolutely one hundred and ten percent sure Frank could feel Gerard’s heart beating out of his chest.
“I know I’m a fucking douche.” Frank was in his space, again, biting his lip and looking tragic, like someone had stood him up. Frank sort of was a fucking douche, but he looked so, well, sincere, that Gerard could feel himself wavering.
“You are sort of a douche,” he told Frank resolutely.
“I am a flaming, yeasty, douche,” Frank agreed, and, he apparently took Gerard’s horrified laugh as his cue to fling himself at Gerard and lock his arms around Gerard’s neck, dangling there beseechingly. “I am a fungus-ridden, bloody douche.”
“Gross, Frank!” Gerard protested, but he was giggling, because seriously, gross. Grossss. Fuck, he’d totally given ground, and Frank was definitely pressing his advantage, beaming and laughing and tackling Gerard. He squashed their faces together and wheezed pleadingly into Gerard’s face, unaware that he was giving Gerard a small aneurysm.
“Can you ever forgive me?” Complete with batting lashes and an admirable attempt at a heaving bosom—the seriousness of the previous moment had completely fled. “I’ll do better, I swear, just give me a chance.”
“Get off me, oh my god!” But Gerard couldn’t stop laughing; he probably could have made a better effort to shove Frank off, but he was so ridiculously relieved that Frank hadn’t been standing him up, that he still wanted to be friends. Anyway, Frank was like a fucking leech. “Fine, I forgive you, let me go, oh my god.”
“I’ll never let go again,” Frank said dramatically, beaming, and dug his fingers into Gerard’s armpit. Gerard squawked and writhed free, or tried to—Frank sometimes seemed like he had twelve arms, and maybe a prehensile tail. And suction cups.
“So, um, you’re not in school anymore?” Gerard asked, carefully offhand, and Frank’s hands immediately let go of him and Frank took a step back, looking at Gerard like he’d suddenly sucker-punched him. Whoa. “…did you graduate?” Gerard continued uncertainly, biting his lip.
“Yeah, no school for me. I totally graduated,” Frank said, looking at the ground, hands shoved in his pockets, now, and okay, Gerard shouldn’t feel hurt that Frank was lying, but it still stung, that Frank didn’t trust him. He shoved his own hands in his hoodie glumly. But Frank was clearly uncomfortable, and Gerard didn’t want to press him, not if he wasn’t ready. Not yet.
“So,” he said, scrambling for a topic change. “Uh, do you still have my bag, with the comics and my notebooks and whatever? I sort of remember leaving it with you, but I was… kinda out of it. I should probably—”
“Oh! Sorry, I totally forgot.” Frank grinned at him, visibly relieved, and started strolling down the path backward, watching Gerard and beaming when Gerard started shuffling after him. “I actually cleaned the bag up for you, but I left it in the graveyard. So now you totally have to come. Plus, you promised me a sketch, you know.”
“You cleaned up the bag,” Gerard said incredulously, catching up. “That bag was totally dead. Nothing left to salvage. It was covered in at least three different food groups, all rotting, and also, bile.”
“I’m a master in the art of laundry,” Frank said modestly, and absently steered Gerard around a mud puddle. “Nothing else to do all day. Dude, tell me you brought the next copy of Doom Patrol, please.”
Gerard looked over at him guiltily and proffered his pack of Marlboros. “Uh, cigarette?” he said hopefully. Frank sighed, which shouldn’t have made Gerard feel so guilty, but it totally did.
“Tomorrow!” Gerard promised. “I totally forgot. I mean, I had it yesterday, but you didn’t show up, so,” he said pointedly, and Frank had the grace to look slightly abashed. “I’ll remember to bring them tomorrow, though. Promise. I’ll sharpie it on my arm.”
Appeased, Frank stole the pack and lit two cigarettes, handing Gerard one magnanimously. He dragged in a lungful of smoke, sighed blissfully, and grinned wolfishly at Gerard, all smiles and teeth and twinkling eyes. He led Gerard off the main path again, and down a thin, twisted route through the trees—a game trail, Frank had said absently, when Gerard asked. Frank stayed close, holding back brambles and kicking dead branches out of the way. Pale sunlight fell against the autumn leaves and cast dancing shadows on the back of Frank’s shirt.
“Short cut,” Frank said when Gerard finally called bullshit: this was no stinkin’ trail, this was Frank walking haphazardly through the trees and getting them totally lost. They’d halted by a shallow, fast-running stream. It was about twenty feet across, and there was a series of fallen logs wedged in amongst the rocks in a suspiciously linear pattern. The logs were shifting visibly in the current and covered in lichen and fungus. Gerard stared at them with dawning horror.
“C’mon, brave adventurer, time to ford the creek,” Frank said cheerily, shoving Gerard forward. Gerard balked.
“Oh, fuck no,” he said, standing on the bank and staring down at the clear, icy depths. The creek looked like hypothermia made incarnate. There was a lacy froth where it hit half-submerged rocks, and swirls of dead leaves drifted past in mysterious, hieroglyphic patterns. Some corner of Gerard’s mind had been leery of all the hiking and outdoorsy behavior he was embarking on, worried about ticks and exposure and getting lost, but he hadn’t suspected anything quite so dastardly as this lying in wait for him. While he stared in disbelief at the make-shift bridge, Frank took the opportunity to scurry across, moving lightly and doing a triumphant dance once he reached the other side.
“C’mon, Gee!” Frank hollered across. “You have no idea how long it took me to find these bastard logs for you and figure out if they’d hold your weight.”
“Fuck you!” Gerard said, indignant. “I’m not that much heavier than you. If it held you, it should hold me, right?”
Frank looked shifty on the other side of the river. “Probably.”
Gerard put a tentative foot on the bridge and felt the log roll beneath his foot. Oh man, this was going to end in hypothermia and watery death. Fuck this.
“I’ll just stay here,” Gerard said. “You can go fetch my bag. Chop chop.”
“Oh, kiss my ass,” Frank replied cheerfully, stepping lightly onto one of the logs. “C’mon, Gee, I’ll meet you halfway. Take my hand if you want to live!” And then he cackled ridiculously, swaying above the flowing water.
The logs were basically a death trap, Gerard knew this, but he still found himself inching out towards Frank in tiny, careful steps. Frank was doing some sort of bizarre flamingo pose and beaming at Gerard encouragingly, wiggling his fingers in the air. Frank was maybe a foot away when one of the logs crunched beneath Gerard’s foot and sent a cascade of centipedes and grubs and many-legged things out onto his shoe and the leg of his pants. Gerard squawked and probably would have hurtled ass-backwards into the water if a hand hadn’t grabbed him suddenly and hauled him to safety, which Gerard would probably appreciate more when he wasn’t covered with spidery agents of death.
“Get them off! Seriously, fucking get them off, oh Jesus, you asshole, what the fuck, the fucking woods! Who comes here! You and your fucking bridge, I’m going to die.”
Eventually Frank stopped laughing long enough to help, inspecting his feet and pants legs for evil maggot spiders, flicking them off into the wilderness with a forefinger.
“These used to bother the fuck out of me,” Frank said, peering at one fat, pale-bodied spider perched on his fingertip. Gerard stared at him. Frank was clearly in league with the forces of darkness. This fucking clinched it. Frank flicked the spider into the leaf litter, where it scuttled away on its evil purposes. Gerard shuddered and patted his jeans again against stray skittering sensations. What if they’d laid eggs?
“You’re all clear, Gee,” Frank said, clearly amused. “Calm down. It’s just spiders, babyface.”
Unfortunately, Gerard sensed that to give into his prima donna instinct and stomp off into the nearest grove of trees, cursing all hot boys and their treacherous ways, would result in mud and leeches and other unpleasant woodland things, not to mention being lost for all eternity and dying cold and alone. So he settled for blowing his bangs out of his eyes with a huffy breath and glaring.
“Aw, Gee,” Frank said, rocking back on his heels and giggling. “Buck up. We’re almost there. Even you couldn’t get lost now.”
Gerard sincerely doubted this, but the trees were thinner here, and the woods looked strangely insubstantial, as if the late afternoon sunlight was a thin veneer Gerard could scrape away with his thumbnail. Frank was walking backwards, doing an MC Hammer slide through the leaves—the showoff, Gerard grumped to himself, biting down on a grin.
“You’re gonna fucking run into a tree or something,” he called out, shuffling along at a more sedate pace behind Frank, keeping a weather eye out for spider webs.
“Not me,” Frank said, and grinned as he dodged a stump. “I know these woods like the backs of my hands, motherfucker.”
Gerard had to admit, that did imply a certain degree of familiarity. God, Frank’s hands. Christ, he had to remember not to think about that whole shower scenario, Frank’s tattoos blurring up and down, until he knew for sure he wasn’t going to embarrass himself and get a ridiculously large boner or something. Frank looked over, mouth open to say something, and caught Gerard staring. His eyes went wide—fuck, Gerard probably was making a terrible, weird face, and now Frank had seen it—but then suddenly Frank’s foot caught mid-stride in a muddy hollow and he toppled over with a look of comic surprise, landing in a drift of leaves with a thump and a muffled “What the fuck!”
Gerard felt a pointed silence and maybe a raised, gleeful eyebrow would be the best commentary on the situation, so he manfully withheld his triumphant cackling and sauntered over to the supine Frank. Frank looked flabbergasted.
“I never trip,” Frank said, laying on his back and staring up at Gerard. He pointed a finger accusingly in the vague direction of Gerard’s kneecap. “You made me lose my balance!”
“Ah, yes, I finally get my superpower,” Gerard said solemnly. “Tripping people that walk backwards. Fuckin’ A. I vow to use it only for good.”
Frank seemed pretty committed to lying in the leaf litter, one red maple leaf stuck in his hair. “Liar. You’re a fucking fiend. Supervillain material for sure.”
Gerard dug a toe into Frank’s side.
“Up,” he said. “We have stuff to do, motherfucker, and if I’m late again tonight my mom’s gonna roast my balls over hot coals.”
“Oh, well then,” Frank said. “In the interest of saving your balls for another day. It’s just around the bend. Can’t you hear the river from here?”
“Do we have to ford it?” Gerard asked darkly. He didn’t know how he’d fallen in with a punk Huck Finn wannabe, but he knew he didn’t like it.
“Nah, task for another day,” Frank said, cheer apparently regained as he levered himself up by means of Gerard’s pants, grabbing handfuls of fabric and dragging himself up. Gerard clung to his waistband for dear life.
“What the fuck, Frank?” he squeaked. “I’m not a fucking ladder.”
“Good man,” Frank said, and patted Gerard on the shoulder. Gerard stared at him. He’d known weird people in his day—Gabe Saporta came to mind—but Frank really took the cake on personal space issues, or the lack thereof. Dude was fucking handsy.
“C’mon, this way, Gee.”
‘This way’ involved one last tromp through a thatch of spiky hell-plants, and then abruptly Gerard bashed his shin on a granite cross. Who the cross belonged to was unclear; the name had worn away and all he could see through watering eyes was an indistinct squiggled impression.
“I call her Matilda Bones,” Frank said over Gerard’s shoulder, making him jump. He was watching Gerard intently. “I named all the ones that didn’t have their own names anymore, you know?”
“Yeah?” Gerard said, grinning. “Dude, that’s fucking macabre. And awesome!” He added quickly, in case Frank was offended, but he shouldn’t have worried. Frank was obviously ridiculously excited by the whole thing, pointing out a tombstone with a skull and crossbones and the really eerie epitaph “Today for me, tomorrow for thee,” then getting distracted and dragging Gerard over to look at the intricate carving on a stone set into the ground, engraved with willows and urns and a sunburst pattern rising off of the granite. Someone must have planted roses on one of these graves, once, because here and there thorny vines snaked around tombstones and crawled up trees.
“They bloom in spring,” Frank said. “You’ll like it, it looks fuckin’ creepy and symbolic and shit. There’s apple blossoms, too. Careful, don’t slip—it’s kind of mossy here.”
“Watch your own self, dude,” Gerard said, but his old Converse were sliding all over the place, so he caught hold of Frank’s arm preemptively before he continued mocking him. “’Know these woods like the backs of my hands,’ my ass.”
“Yeah,” Frank said, staring at Gerard’s hand on his sleeve, brow furrowed. “That was a fluke, though. You’re a total klutz. I’m a goddamn ninja fox.”
“I know,” Gerard glowered, scowling at Frank as they weaved among tree trunks and tombstones. “You always scare the shit out of me, I never hear you coming. I still think you must have tunnels or a fucking trapeze or something.”
“Mmm,” Frank hummed noncommittally and bumped Gerard with his shoulder. “Here, check it out.”
He nodded to a non-descript grey tombstone, hands in his pockets. Standing in the patches of sunlight, Frank looked even paler than before, like even the cold autumn sun could blister him. Gerard had a moment where he jumped from the thought, ‘I should slather him in sunscreen, jeez, I bet he scorches in the summer,’ to ‘I should slather him in sunscreen and take off his pants and maybe bite his collar bone,’ to other, less decent images, and he totally missed whatever Frank had been saying.
“Sorry, uh. What were you saying?” Gerard said sheepishly, and sent a silent prayer to the god of teenage crushes that he hadn’t been making a terrible, slack-jawed sexual-fantasy face. Frank was grinning at him and shaking his head, so probably he hadn’t noticed anything untoward.
“Nothing important, I guess,” Frank laughed, and knelt on the mossy ground, brushing away some grime from the tombstone before looking up directly into Gerard’s eyes.
“Gerard, meet Sally,” Frank said, strangely solemn, running his hand over the smooth slate. The words on her tombstone were deeply grooved and still legible. Sally Cartmill, September 12th, 1811-April 13th, 1829.
“She was our age, huh,” Gerard said, enchanted. Fuck, this was cool. It wasn’t a date, he knew that, but if it had been, it’d be the coolest date ever. He knelt next to Frank and reached out a hand, felt the name beneath his fingers, rubbed his thumb over the deep text and the engraving of a simple lily.
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