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Chapter Text 2 . She batted the paramedic aside and took Gerards hand, and said, Gerard Arthur Way, if you ever fucking scare me like that again and then burst into





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She batted the paramedic aside and took Gerards hand, and said, Gerard Arthur Way, if you ever fucking scare me like that again and then burst into tears.

Momma, Gerard said, horrified, and she kissed his forehead, getting tears and mascara everywhere, probably. The only other time hed seen her cry was at funerals, and it hurt, somehow, hurt worse than his aching temples or anything else, seeing her like this and knowing it was on his account. Momma, its okay.

I know, baby, she said, voice still watery, but firm, and kissed him again, ran her hand over his cheek, his arm. Youre gonna be alright. Youre safe.

Mikey had taken advantage of the distraction of the paramedics and all the shouting to eel his way through to Gerards side and climb up on the stretcher next to him. The doctors had followed and were trying to coax Donna to leave, rattling on about the tests, and when she could see him next. The paramedic was explaining how Gerard was essentially fine, mostly dehydrated, with minor head injuries, and they just had to check that out, be sure nothing was wrongit wouldnt take long! Gerard zoned most of it out, focusing on his mothers hand tight in his own, and Mikey warm and snuffling at his side.

Hey, Gerard said quietly, smiling suddenly and unexpectedly. Youre not in the Center!

I told you, Mikey said into his shoulder. I told you I was going to get out this week. You idiot.

You wont be out long if you dont stay put when I tell you to, Gerards mom snipped, petting Gerards hair. You were supposed to stay in the waiting area.

So were you, Mikey said serenely. Gerard bit back a smile as his mother made an exasperated sound.

Gerard didnt notice at first. His mom and Mikey were finally letting themselves be hustled out, glancing over their shoulders and waving, and Gerard had lifted his head to watch them go. Thats when he saw it, in the corner of the room, next to the oxygen tanks and some mysterious coils of rubber piping. A shadow that didnt quite belong, that wasnt being cast by the trays of instruments or stands of saline. It looked like a silhouette, head tilted down, shoulders hunched.



It could have been Gerards imagination. He was on a nice cocktail of drugs now, enough that the pain had ebbed and he could almost ignore the fucking IVjust as terrible as hed always thought itd be, silver and sticking out of his arm and creepily, disgustingly cold. But when the doctors wheeled him off for a CT scan, the shadow peeled off from the wall and followed them. Gerard watched it drifting along, barely visible in the bright hospital lights.

It solidified a bit when Gerard made a noise, tried to say Franks name, tongue thick and numb, but then a passing nurse did a double-take at the patch of wall where it was hovering, just the outline of a boy pacing, a slightly deeper darkness where the eyes would be. There was a sound like a sigh, and Frank faded again, paler than before. The nurse rubbed his eyes, muttering something about double shifts, and walked on.

Sorry, Frankie, Gerard mumbled, and the doctor patted his arm.

Almost done now, she said cheerily, which was a relief. Gerard wanted to get back to Mikey and his mom, to find a moment to talk to Frank, really talk to him, and find out how the fuck he was here at all.

But it turned out they werent almost done, because none of the CT scans or whatever seemed to work. First because Gerard kept turning his head to watch Frank pacing, and then because, well, probably because of Frank again, he guessed, because after Frank kicked over a rack of X-ray slides in a clatter, he disappeared and the computers all miraculously started picking up clear images again.

Gerard finally got settled in a tiny, cramped room, wearing a totally embarrassing hospital gown that he really hoped Frank hadnt seen him staggering around in. He probably had, though. Dammit. His mom had fallen asleep in her chair, and Gerard felt awful about the huge dark circles beneath her eyes, even though he knew it wasnt technically his fault. But at least now Gerard could ask Mikey how Frank had gotten here and why he wasnt saying anything.

He was just standing in the corner, a faint dark outline of himself. Gerard got the impression he had his arms folded over his chest and was slouching. He could recognize a brood when he saw italthough fuck, that reminded him how badly he wanted a cigarette.

Oh, yeah, Ray gave me one of Franks fingers so he could come with us to see you, Mikey said after Gerard asked. He pulled the bone out of his pocket, seemingly totally at ease with handling what was probably part of a crime scene and super illegal to have in a sterile hospital setting. Hes had to be careful, though. He gave one of the ER guys a screaming fit earlierI guess a lot of people here can see him? And last time he said something out loud, all these babies started crying. It was wicked.

There was a pointed snort from the corner of the room.

Really? Gerard whispered back, awed, and looked around for a piece of paper to start scribbling down hypotheses. I wonder why. I mean, I guess we cant, like, go interview the screaming guy, but

Frank, you were right, Mikey interrupted, shooting the corner a small smile. Hes a total dweeb. He glanced back at Gerard and patted his knee. He said youd say that, he explained.

Gerard had a lot of questionscould Mikey see Frank too? What had happened when Gerard had disappeared? Had the FBI taken Franks body out of the forest yet? Why was Frank so fucking far away when he could be right here, next to Gerard, even if it was only as a shadow?

But Mikey was curled in the bed with him, and this time he was the one that had brought Gerard comic books and things to read, and as much as Gerard wanted to stumble out of the bed, holding this stupid gown closed over his ass, and tackle Franks immaterial form, at least get a fucking hug or something, he couldnt manage to keep his eyes open for long. He drifted off to Mikeys quiet voice, and the idea that Frank might be, just maybe, drifting closer.



***

Hed woken up with his side freezing cold the next morning, but Frank hadnt been there next to him when he opened his eyesit was just his mom flipping through a magazine and Mikey on his other side, tucked up in the bed and drooling on Gerards pillow. Then his mom had left to take a shower and get a change of clean clothes, promising to be back soon with his favorite travel mug of coffee, and it was just Gerard and Mikey and Franks shadow on the window sill, darkening the morning sky.

The nurses kept coming in and out, checking his pulse and pupils, but there were brief, precious moments of alone time. Frank didnt approach, though. Just stood and stared. It was actually sort of creepy, and for some reason Gerard was having a hard time getting up the courage to break the silence between them. What would he say? Frank seemed so distant, almost angry. Maybe hed thought better of whatever hed been doing with Gerard, having a relationship, or dating, or whatever.

Fuck, Gerard really needed to say something. He had to at least try. He was pondering his approach when suddenly all his plans went to shit, because approximately ten thousand people were bursting into the room.

Gerard had been poking his Jello unenthusiastically, hoping the nurse would just take it and go, and then it suddenly went flying, green splotches everywhere, as Pete Wentz tackled him into a hug. Mikey made a squawking noise of indignation and rolled off the bed, rubbing at his face.

Ow, you fuck! Gerard croaked happily, and the nurse next to him tutted, and tugged away the tray, laughing, and wandered off to presumably get some clean-up supplies. What are you doing here, Pete? Holy shit, there were tons of people here, he could see Bob and Ray in the back, and Worm, and Patrick, and, inexplicably, Pete, who was sort of hard to miss, sprawled out on top of Gerard and Mikey like he was.

What the fuck do you think? Pete said, sounding fond and indignant, raspberrying his cheek, and then let Gabe pull him up and off, which Gerard was sort of thankful for, especially since he thought he could hear Frank swearing in the corner and was a little worried about him being spotted, or making babies cry, or whatever. Dude, your getting snatched was all over the news, especially after they found that kid in the woods, too. Gabe and I were gonna fucking hunt you down ourselves if those FBI assholes didnt get a move on.

Lucky they did, someone quipped, head popping over Mikeys shoulder. It was that Disney-loving kid back from BellevilleBrendon, maybe? He was wearing a lavender hoodie and possibly lipgloss, and Ryan Ross was lurking by the door with Patrick and Worm and staring at him with huge eyes. Gerard suspected that he had just been replaced in Ryan Rosss affections. Since we got lost, like, twelve times just trying to find your house.

Lost is a relative term, Gabe said archly, sitting on the foot of the bed, flicking the remainder of the jello out of the way. We took a detour and toured some lovely farms. And that farmer was a peach about the debacle with the haystack, very understanding.

Mikey snorted, and Brendon started explaining something to him, waving his arms around, and Gabe chimed in, and it was all very disconcerting, seeing everyone there. Not just his friends from Glen Fell, but well, his friends from his old life, too. And fuck, it was a weekday, how was everyone here anyhow?

You guys know you didnt have to come up here, right? I mean, thanks, but it was such a long drive, and Gerard blinked when they all rolled their eyes at him simultaneously. I mean it! I mean, youre missing school, right? And Im totally fine.

No thanks to you, Bob growled, arms crossed, and Gerard abruptly realized he and Ray were both glaring at him. Gerard shrank down in the sheets a bit. You were supposed to lie low, asshole!

Some people were really upset when you went missing, Ray hissed, ignoring Pete when he made an interested noise. Like, wow, dude. You dont even know how upset. Supernaturally upset.

Uh, Gerard said, twisting the sheets in his hands. How upset is that? Like, upset enough not to talk to me ever again?

The lights flickered at that, and Gerard gulped.

Upset enough to destroy a baseball field with tornado-filled rage, if that answers your question, Ray muttered, and Gerards jaw dropped.

Well deal with that later, Bob promised, rolling his eyes towards Gabe and Pete, who were watching the conversation unfold with interest, and then he leaned down and wrapped Gerard in a hug, ignoring the Jello still splattered everywhere. We were so fucking worried, Gerard. Im glad youre okay. You are okay, right? The news said they were treating you for minor injuries.

Im really on the news? Gerard asked, stunned, and Bob pulled back and snorted.

Dude. Teenage boy uncovers decades-old murder, is abducted. Hell of a headline, you know.

If Mikey hadnt put our names on the visitors list, wed be outside still with all the reporters, Worm piped up, and then made his way over to the bed to thump Gerard on the shoulder. You look like shit, Way. Did you really headbutt Coach Sikowski?

Uh, no, Gerard laughed, startled. I was kind of I threw up on him? But thats about it, really.

Nice! Pete laughed, and high-fived him.

Eventually everyone came over and hugged Gerard, or thumped him, or touched his foot lightly. Well, only Ryan did that, actuallyGabe had, in contrast, kissed Gerard full on the mouth and called him querido, sparking a small electrical storm of flickering lights and beeping machines. Which made Gerard blush, just a bit, because, okay, it was nice knowing Frank was at least jealous, right? Even if it was just Gabe being Gabe.

The room was loud, and bright, and filled with barking laughter and boys shoving each other. Pretty much the exact opposite of the cabin in the woods, and Gerard soaked it all in, felt like Ferdinand, basking in the sun and stretching his roots and pathetic leaves. Well, like Ferdinand would do if Gerard had remembered to give him water him regularly and transplanted him into a better cup, he thought guiltily. He should probably do that when he got home.

After a while, Mikey had withdrawn from the rest of the group and was sitting in a chair in the corner where the shadows had gathered, knees drawn to his chest, watching it all with a small smile, and occasionally Gerard thought he saw him talking out of the corner of his mouth to Frank and was at once thrilled and totally jealous. He wanted to talk to Frank, but he was stuck trying to convince Pete not to abduct Patrick, even if he did wear adorable argyle and have the prettiest scowl.

But his headache was starting to come back, pain lancing at his temples, and while it was great to see people that werent lunatic murderers or conspirators or doctors with needles, he was having a hard time following the conversation.

Ray seemed to notice and began herding all of the group together, hustling them out the door, talking loudly about how Gerard needed sleep and he sure as fuck wasnt getting it with these assholes around. Before he left, though, he came back to the bed and shifted from foot to foot in the suddenly quiet room. Gerard squinted at him, noticed belatedly how red Rays eyes were. He looked sick, like he hadnt slept in days.

I thought it had happened again, he said finally, and scrubbed his hand across his face, then flicked a glance across the room. Im gladIm glad youre okay, Gerard. I dontyou dont know how bad it was, here.

Before Gerard could say anything, Ray came up and tousled Gerards head gingerly, then bounded out of the room, shutting the door with a quiet snick.

It was pretty awful, Mikey said quietly, and he looked so small in that chair. Gerard was trying not to think about how itd been in that cabin, knowing he was going to die, knowing all the people whod be left behind. It was one of the worst feelings he could imagine.

Hed survived, though. Granted, it had been through sheer fucking luck, but hed survived. Hed gotten to come backto see his mom again, and Mikey, and Ray and Bob and everyone.

Frank hadnt. He hadnt gotten that. No ride in the ambulance for him, just forensics guys hauling his bones out of a gorge a decade too late. Frank had come back, but to a world he was no longer a part of, one where he was set apart and lonely and feared.

Im sorry, Gerard said, throat scratchy, not sure who he was apologizing to or what for. Mikey snorted, and looked over his shoulder, and then Gerard shivered and the world got slightly darker, and colder, and he breathed in shakily, reaching out his hand to feel nothing. Im so fucking sorry.

Not your fault, Gee. Franks voice in his ear. Not that Im not furious, you asshole. But its not your fault.

Im sorry, Frankie, he whispered, and fuck, he was crying again, wasnt he, and Mikey was looking studiously away. Cool fingers were wiping his cheeks, and Frank said it again, and again, soft and fond, voice scraping against Gerards heart. There was so much he wanted to say, but a few seconds later, the door was swinging back open. Frank melted away just as the nurse bustled in and oh fucking Christ, started pulling out his IV, which distracted him from his tears handily enough by introducing stark bodily horror instead.

Gerard nearly vomited, but Mikey was there raising an eyebrow and Gerard managed to swallow down the bile and just glare. Just because Mikey got IVs all the time didnt mean it still wasnt the worst thing ever. There had to be better technology out there for this shit by now, he ranted, trying to ignore what was going on with his arm and the needle and his wrist and the blood. Where were the hyposprays and tricorders, dammit? Mikey was grinning at him, and he thought he heard Frank giggling, and even the nurse was chuckling. Suddenly the whole ordeal was over and Gerard was being offered a Batman band-aid, for being so brave. Ha ha, hilarious, Gerard didnt say. still, it was a pretty cool band-aid.

He was finally allowed to change out of that damned gown afterwards, too, so that was a plus, and then he was discharged, under strict orders to return if his headaches got worse, or if he had problems with his vision. The doctor gave instructions to his mom and MikeyGerard just knew Frank was listening too, and he mentally groaned when the doctor forbid caffeine for the next few weeks. Dammit. He had a sneaking suspicion Frank was going to be a better enforcer of that rule than either his mom or his brother.

It wasnt like Gerard could see when Frank disappeared a few moments later, when they got outsidehe was even more difficult to make out in the bright morning sunlightbut he could sense it, somehow. Probably it was just his imagination, but the air just seemed emptier. As Gerards mom went to go return the wheelchair, Mikey leaned over and said, He hates cars, man. Hell be back at the house.

See, Gerard said triumphantly, snuggling down in his hoodie and reveling in the feeling of being in clean, ass-covering clothing once more. I knew youd like him.

Yeah, Mikey agreed, smiling, shoving his glasses up the bridge of his nose. He likes you a lot, too.

Gerard went bright red. Luckily his mom got back in the car at that moment, and he was prevented from totally embarrassing himself and going all middle school and breathless and Did he say something about me? To you? Whatd he say, whatd he say! Though from the smirk on Mikeys face, Gerard suspected that he might be broadcasting it loud and clear anyway.

He slept through most of the car ride home, and apparently the local cops that werent corrupt dickheads had been routing the reporters or something, because their house was dark and empty, which Gerard was glad for. Thered been a couple of them at the hospital, pointing their cameras at him and shouting questions, and it had been totally weird and really uncomfortable. He wasnt sure how he felt about being on the news for something like this. Bob and Ray had been featured too, apparently, teenage boy detectives gone deadly serious.

It sounded like something Gerard would have daydreamed about, once upon a time: being on TV for an act of great bravery and intelligence and daring, but now that itd happened, hewell, he had better things to worry about than being suddenly popular, or whatever. He had friends, now, anyway.

The house creaked welcomingly at him as he staggered up the porch stairs on Mikeys armGerard thought maybe he and the house had reached a truce, over these last couple weeks. He patted the porch railing, and it didnt give him any splinters, or collapse beneath a wave of termites. Gerard would take it.

He got to the kitchen and collapsed in the chair with a sigh. His mom shot him a look, and then set the coffee pot brewing.

Dont get your hopes up, she said as he perked up, straightening in his chair. Its decaf, buddy.

Ugh, Gerard huffed out, disgusted. Decaf. It was a crime against humanity. But at least it smelled good. Smelled like heaven, even if it was impure swill masquerading as true coffee.

No caffeine for at least two weeks, Mikey reminded him, kicking his ankle under the table and not looking up from his phone. He was texting furiously, his thumbs a blur, his eyebrows knotted together in concentration.

The doctor said four weeks would be better, Gerards mom commented, poking around in the fridge, then straightening and pouring Gerard a cup of lies. But I know better than to hope for that.

Damn straight, Gerard muttered and took the mug mournfully. Two weeks on the nose. Not a fucking second longer.

Some people might take issue with that, Mikey said airily. They might want you to be a little more careful with your brain. Its a delicate organ, you know.

Gerard glared and kicked out under the table, swearing when he missed and hit a chair leg. But he was smiling helplessly, just a little, at the idea of Frank caring and hovering over him like that. Where was Frank, anyway? He glanced around the kitchen furtively, but all the shadows looked normal. His mom sat at the table with her own cup of coffee, and they all were quiet for a moment, drinking and texting and staring at each other. Finally his mom stretched, getting up to put her mug in the sink.

Baby, Im sorry, but I have to get back to work, his mom told Gerard, coming behind him and running her fingers through his hair, nails scratching gently. Ive missed a lot of hours, and the girls

Its fine, Mom, he assured her, and leaned his head back against her for a moment, closed his eyes. She smelled like hairspray and nail polish remover and home, and the kitchen was warm and full of dancing light from the windows.

Well, theres soup in the fridge, she said, sighing. Heat it up, keep hydrated, okay? If your head starts hurting, take the pills the doc gave you. Ill be back tonight.

You cooked? Gerard squawked, eyes flying open, and Mikey snorted.

I wouldnt make you eat what I cooked, kiddo, she laughed, fetching her purse and hovering by the door. But Mrs. Toros been bringing over food every daythe lady can cook a mean casserole.

Cool, Gerard beamed, and she smiled back at him. It was nice, seeing her smile, even with her face all lined and worried, her hair still kind of squashed, flatter than he was used to. He guessed the girls at the salon would take care of that pretty quickly, though. She waved, blew them a kiss, and then paused at the door, looking back.

Hey, Gee, how about tonight we re-do your hair? Gerard felt himself brighten. He loved when his mom did his hair. Itd been a while. Months, maybe. Maybe longer. She was good at it, and added all these cool streaks of darker color, and never stained his ears or his neck, and it was nice. It was always nice. Hed missed it. Starting to see some roots, baby. Its embarrassing.

Yeah, well, he said. Ive been busy!

Me too, she said softly, and then shook herself. But tonight, right? Pencil me in.

Gerard saluted and she left, honked the horn as she backed out the driveway, and then Mikey stood up, too.

Where are you going? Gerard asked, puzzled. I thought maybe wed watch some Buffy.

Out with Pete and Gabe, Mikey said serenely. They want to try to find some cows to tip. And besides, you need to, um, rest. Without me here.

Mikey, Gerard chastened, puzzled. Cow tipping is a trick. You cant really tip cows. Theyre actually very aware of their surroundings.

Dont harsh the fun, Gee, Mikey admonished, pushing his glasses up his nose. Anyway, maybe well just try to ride them. You know Pete.

Do you have to go already? Gerard asked, feeling a bit miffed. Hed been looking forward to actually having Mikey at home with him.

Yes, Mikey said firmly, wrinkling his nose. But Ill be back. Um. Text me. Without details.

And that was it; the kitchen was empty again. Gerard sighed and drained the rest of his faux coffee, then shuffled upstairs to wrap himself in his quilt and doze. He was getting tired again, he guessed, and the doctor had said to nap as much as possible. It was just hed sort of thought his homecoming would be a bit more exciting than this.

He opened the door to his room, had a moment to realize the metal of the doorknob was ice-cold, and then a hand grabbed him by the neck of his t-shirt and dragged him in. He had an instinctive moment of panic, Marks face flashing before his eyes, but then Frank had Gerards face in his hands and was kissing him. His brain went from panic to zero to sex at light-speed, so fast he was dizzy.

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