It's hard to describe the multitude of ways in which Frankie is fucked up, although Gerard keeps trying. He lies in his bunk at night listening to the other members of the band breathing, soft radiator hisses, the occasional snore, and tries to enumerate to himself what's wrong with Frankie. He thinks that maybe if he can figure out what the problem is, he can fix it. He's always been sort of an optimist.
It's complicated. Frankie's not obviously broken the way some of Gerard's friends have been, the way Gerard himself has been but wants to believe he isn't anymore. Frankie isn't wasted all the time, and he doesn't drink all that much, and he doesn't do weird shit with groupies or cut himself or talk about offing himself or anything else that Gerard can put his finger on, but still. There's something there. Gerard doesn't know what it is, but something about Frankie sets off his radar. He's been one of the seriously damaged, and he can recognize one of his own kind.
Like the tattoos, for instance. They're cool and they look good on Frankie, but the way he keeps marking himself over and over again with "New Jersey" like Jersey was some great paradise that he loves so much, when Gerard knows that Frankie's life back in New Jersey sucked just as much as his did, and that Frankie never wants to go back. So Gerard, who doesn't have any tattoos, doesn't understand why Frankie would mark himself up with something he should just want to forget.
The wheels of the bus churn underneath them, eating up the road. Gerard can feel the hum vibrating up his spine. It makes him sleepy, and it's hard to concentrate on Frankie while his eyes are drifting closed, but his bunk is the only private place he has, the only spot where he's guaranteed to be left alone long enough to really think about Frankie without getting poked or bugged or harassed. And the tour is hard, even with all the sitting around they do during the day, so when he climbs under the blankets and slides his curtain closed it's sometimes not very long before he's drifting and not wondering about Frankie at all.
As a result of all these pillowy thoughts, Frankie has taken up residence in Gerard's dreams. He doesn't do much in the dreams. Sometimes, he stands in the middle of a white room with his shirt off explaining his tattoos, but mostly, he's just there, wearing a hooded sweatshirt jacket with his hands in his pockets, his hair falling into his eyes. Gerard's read some Freud, but he has no idea what to make of this dream Frankie who just stands and looks at him, a half-smile playing about his mouth. Sometimes, when he wakes up from the dream, Gerard has to fight the impulse to get up and check on Frankie, confirming that he's still there and breathing, and not in some room somewhere, alone and unprotected.
Sometimes, he loses the fight.
On those nights he'll roll out of bed before he's even fully awake, step across the narrow aisle and lift the corner of the curtain on Frankie's bunk with two fingers so that it doesn't slide back and make noise. Frankie sleeps on his side, curled up tight, his knees drawn up to his chest. He's always there, always fine, when Gerard peeks past the edge of curtain.
Tonight, he's there, and fine, and awake.
"Hey," Frankie mumbles, rubbing his eyes. "What's up, man?"
"Um," Gerard says. "Um."
Frankie smiles a lazy sleepy smile and rolls onto his back. That's most of the problem, Gerard thinks. Frankie looks fine. He seems fine. He smiles and laughs and sleeps and eats and there's nothing wrong with him on the outside. Except the tattoos that stripe his whole side and his flat stomach. He's got one on his thigh as well, hidden now by the boxer shorts he wears to sleep in. Gerard's not sure what that one is of, but if it's New Jersey, he's checking Frankie into counseling and fuck the tour.
"You want in?" Frankie asks.
Gerard blinks. "What?" he said.
Frankie scoots over until his back is against the far wall. "Come on," he says.
"What?" Gerard says again, but Frankie doesn't say anything this time, just grabs his wrist and tugs.
Gerard gets in. The bunks are close, barely big enough for one person to stretch out in, so when Gerard climbs in and lays down on his back, Frankie sort of folds over him, his leg slipping over Gerard's, his arm curved over Gerard's waist, his nose pressed into the curve of Gerard's neck. He's warm. He's warm and close and he breathes on Gerard's neck.
"So what's up?" Frankie asks, his lips moving against Gerard's skin. It's almost like he's kissing Gerard's throat, his mouth fluttering against the sensitive skin near the collar of the t-shirt, and it makes Gerard's stomach tremble.
It's maybe this tremble that makes him answer. "I had a dream about you."
Frankie chuckles and squeezes him. "Oh yeah? Was I naked?"
"You had pants on," Gerard tells him. "It was a nightmare."
That makes Frankie laugh again, although it takes Gerard a minute to figure out why. "You're so fucking gay," Frankie says. He squeezes him again.
"Hey! You're the one who made me get into the bed," Gerard says. "Get in," he says in a squeaky imitation of Frankie. "Oh Gerard, get in the bed!"
"Oh Gerard, shut the fuck up," Ray shouts. He's got the bunk above Frankie.
"Sorry!" Frankie says and kicks the ceiling.
"Everybody shut up now!" Bob shouts, and before anyone can say anything else, a loud snorting snore comes from Mikey's bunk and then everyone's hysterical, cracking up, even Ray, who Gerard can hear laughing over his own laughter and the hoarse rasp of Frankie's breath in his ear.
They calm down after a minute. Ray's muttered "fuckin' Mikey," sets them off again for a little while, but they settle soon enough and as Gerard wipes the tears from his face with one hand he realizes that his other hand is in the small of Frankie's back and Frankie's sprawled on him, still suffering period tremors of laughter, his mouth pressed into Gerard's shoulder. He's straddling Gerard's thigh. His hand is curled around Gerard's arm, squeezing convulsively, like a massage, sort of. The skin under Gerard's hand is silky and warm and feels soft, like maybe Frank's got a little hair there, and Gerard runs his hand over it and Frankie sighs and, even though he's already lying on top of Gerard and pressing him into the mattress, Frankie somehow manages to collapse into him, as if he's going to sink into Gerard's skin.
"Mmm," Frankie sighs in his ear.
Gerard turns his head. He can see the words inscribed around Frankie's bicep. He knows what they say. He lifts his hand and runs his fingers over them, tracing the letters he can reach.
"Frank," he says softly.
"Hmm? Am I too heavy?"
Gerard's arm tightens reflexively around Frankie's waist. "No," he says. "No. I was just. Why tattoos?"
He feels Frankie's smile on his shoulder. "I want to make sure everyone knows what's important to me."
"Texas Chainsaw Massacre is important to you?" Gerard asks, brushing his fingers across the chainsaw. Frankie laughs, low and soft against Gerard's skin.
"It was at the time," he says.
"Yeah, but. That's what I mean. It was. And now it's not. Things change, and tattoos."
Frankie sighs. He's been asked this question before, in interviews, by girls, by fans, Gerard knows but he can't stop himself. He has to know. "They're permanent."
"Duh," Frankie says. "Things change. People change, places change, all this fuckin' shit changes, all of it, every day. But that's the point. My tattoos don't, not unless I do it. It's, like, I dunno--"
"You control them," Gerard murmurs.
Frankie smiles again. "Sure," he says. "I like the idea of them, making my outside look like my inside."
"Your inside is totally fucked up," Gerard says. He's almost holding his breath when he says it. He remembers the first time his mom mentioned to him that maybe he was more than just a little fucked up. He didn't appreciate the risk she was taking at the time.
"Completely," Frankie says. "I'm totally fucked." He squeezes Gerard tight. "You should always sleep with me."
"And you're fine with that? You're a mess and that's, what? Cool with you?"
Frankie shrugs. "Whatever," he says. "You just got to enjoy what you got, you know?"
"Yeah? And what do you got?"
Frankie rolls back a little bit, far enough that Gerard can sort of see his face, although its dark in the bunk. Frankie is a pale shadow. "Well, I got a band and a tour bus and a guitar and a gold fuckin' record, right? And you, you're checking up on me in the middle of the night, so that's something, I guess, hmm?"
Gerard moves both his hands to Frankie's waist, pulling him back down and close. "Sure," he says. He can feel Frankie's breath on his cheek. He turns until that breath crashes over his mouth, then he leans forward until his lips brush Frankie's. "That's something."