by Synchronik
And it's something quite peculiar
something shimmering and white
it leads you here, despite your destination
under the milky way tonight

Under the Milky Way, The Church


Gerard finds Frank back behind the stage, lying on his back and smoking a cigarette. The amphitheatre they are playing at is buried in the middle of a national park, so behind the stage is not all concrete rooms and beer-stained wood, but grass and sky and so many trees that the music from the headliners sounds like it's coming through cotton. The crickets are much louder than the guitars, back here.

"Hey," Gerard says, just to let Frank know he's here. Frank bobs his cigarette in acknowledgement and says nothing. Frank almost always says nothing, nowadays.

Fall is coming, and the tour is fading with the leaves, drifting slowly to a close. They have three more dates, or maybe four, then six weeks off all together, then studio time, right before the holidays. It's a perverse schedule, abandoning them to their boring lives for over a month before ripping them out of the bosoms of their families right at the most important time of the year. Gerard sometimes wonders if their handlers have planned it this way, just to make sure that the band stays miserable. There's no profit in happiness.

He sits down in the grass next to Frank, and his ass is immediately dampened by the dew. "Can I have one?" he asks.

Frank doesn't reach into his pockets, but passes his lit cigarette to Gerard. When Gerard tries to hand it back, Frank waves him off, his new tattoo like a bruise across the back of his hand. There was a time when Gerard knew every tattoo on Frank's body, could recite, if he wanted to, the date of its birth and its reason for being. That was a while ago. Now, sometimes Gerard will see a new tattoo while they're on stage and think "when did that happen?" and not be able remember. Frank's body, like Frank himself, is keeping secrets.

"It's nice out," Gerard says. It's a beautiful night. The breeze brushes Gerard's cheek with a warm finger. In a week, maybe two, the season will turn and there will be no more sitting outside in shirt sleeves, but for now there's nothing but the rustle of leaves and the wide night sky.

"Yeah," Frank says. He folds his hands behind his head. His shirt rides up and exposes his belly and Gerard turns his face away. He has seen Frank do this a hundred times, a thousand, recline back and fold his hands behind his head, his shirt creeping up, his eyes steady and cool.

"So this is how it's going to be?" Gerard asks. He tries to keep his voice steady, but it doesn't work. He sounds like a bitchy queen, a prima donna, a petulant child. He sounds sad.

Frank turns his head in the cradle of his hands and looks up at Gerard. "Yep," he says. He does not blink. Frank never blinks. "This is it."

"Well," Gerard says. He sighs. "If you don't me saying it, this fuckin' sucks."

"Don't I know it," Frank says. His voice is as mild as the breeze.

They sit in silence for a while. Gerard finishes his cigarette and stubs it out in the damp grass. There's not a moon tonight, at least not one that Gerard can see, but the clearing is strangely illuminated, everything outlined in starlight. The skin of Frank's throat is pale and flawless when he turns his head away from Gerard's to cough.

"Don't do this," Gerard says, finally, unable to help himself.

Frank sits up, the motion so quick and fluid that Gerard flinches, afraid Frank is going to punch him in the face. He would punch himself, maybe, if he were Frank. But Frank just sits up, leaning back on his hands in the grass, turning his face to the sky.

"I would have said the same thing to you," he says. For the first time in days, Frank doesn't sound like he's making a bitter joke.

"Frank," Gerard says. "It was just ... I don't know. You should understand."

"I don't even know her," he says. "And neither do you."

Gerard sits quietly for a moment, trying to figure out what to say that won't piss Frank off so much that he leaves. Because it's not about how well Gerard knows his new wife, or how well Frank knows her either, for that matter. It wouldn't matter who she was, or how well Frank knew her. It could have been Frank's sister, if he had one, and they would still be sitting out here in the dark not looking at each other. They had had something, he and Frank, and now it was over.

"It was never going to -"

"Shut up," Frank says. He throws his arms around his knees and tucks his chin under so that his mouth is buried in the crook of his elbow. "Just ... shut up about it, okay. It doesn't matter - it never mattered - so just don't talk about it anymore."

"Don't be an ass," Gerard says. "It just wasn't permanent."

"And your marriage is?" Frank says, but his laugh is so thick with water that it dampens Gerard's anger almost before it flares. "Sorry," Frank mutters. "Sorry. I'm being a dick." Gerard laughs. "Yeah," he says.

Frank scowls at him for a second, but he's not really mad. His eyes are liquid in the dark.

"Listen," Gerard says. Frank continues to look at him over his shoulder. One eyebrow lifts. "I'm sorry," Gerard says. "Not for doing it, but, you know. For not being cool about it. For surprising you."

Frank sighs, and faces forward, tucking his head in again. He's so small. Gerard doesn't know how that little body can contain all of Frank's personality, how all of his moods and energy can fit under that thin skin without bursting through. "It's all right," he says. He doesn't mean it - Gerard can hear the ripples of discontent in Frank's voice, see them in the jerking movements of his shoulders - but Frank will mean it, eventually. At least, Gerard hopes so.

"Cool," Gerard says. He scoots closer to Frank, so he can press his shoulder against Frank's shoulder, his side against Frank's side. When Frank does not move, Gerard casually slips an arm around Frank's waist. After a while, the moon rises above the trees.

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