A/N: For we_are_cities prompt jan 07 07 This is kinda cracktastic. For bloodlilly02, as are all things.
Gerard Way leads a life of quiet desperation. Every morning he wakes up at six-thirty on the dot. He showers and dresses and has a cup of coffee and a cigarette for breakfast. He is out the door by seven-fifteen and in the office by seven-forty-five.
All day long he stares at a computer screen, brain atrophying from creative deficiency. He takes a half-hour lunch exactly at noon and is out of the office at five and back in his tiny, one-bedroom apartment at five-thirty.
He makes himself a frozen dinner and eats it over the sink. Then he reads or watches TV or jerks off to gay porn and is in bed by nine pm so he can get up the next day and do it all over again.
If Gerard had told his eighteen-year-old self what he would be doing at twenty-seven he would have laughed at himself. At eighteen he still believed he was going to change the world, make a difference. At twenty-seven he knows that there is no changing what has already been set into motion. All that can be done is to keep one’s head down and avoid making a scene.
So Gerard follows his routine with as much zeal as an automaton, avoiding contact with the outside world as much as possible; his only human contact being breakfast with his brother Mikey every Sunday morning at ten am. He is not happy but he’s not unhappy either and he figures that’s about all anyone can hope for in life.
Until he wakes up Friday morning to a naked guy in his bed.
Gerard is still fuzzy from sleep, awake but blurry-eyed, and the brush of skin when he reaches out to turn off his alarm nearly gives him a heart-attack. There’s someone in bed with him. This is not in the realm of possibility. Gerard doesn’t drink and he doesn’t club and he doesn’t pick up random guys and bring them home. Not anymore, anyway. Not since he graduated from college.
He blinks a few times and assesses the situation, trying not to panic. The guy is pierced and tattooed and that is so not Gerard’s type. Gerard likes straight-laced, closeted gay boys who will fuck him and never call again so he doesn’t have to worry about the complications of a possible romance. He likes them blonde and kind of WASP-y, with an option on business attire.
The strange naked man stirs in his sleep and the tattoos stretch and pull slightly, minute ripples of muscle movement. Gerard feels himself start to respond to the sight and flushes. He retreats to the shower because if he doesn’t it’s going to throw off his whole routine and then he’ll be playing catch-up all day.
Gerard takes longer in the shower than he usually would because, while he feels guilty and a little dirty for it, he can’t get the image of the naked man out of his head. A shock of black hair and a spread of tattooed guns above a really nice ass and if Gerard doesn’t take care of his problem now then he’s going to be uncomfortably aroused for the rest of the day.
By the time he exits the shower and dresses, the strange man is awake and in the kitchen wearing nothing but one of Gerard’s dress shirts, haphazardly buttoned. He’s humming something pop-y and making scrambled eggs and when he looks over at Gerard something tightens in Gerard’s chest and he can’t breathe right.
“Hey, sexy,” the not-quite-so-naked man greets with a sleepy smile. “I made you breakfast.”
“I don’t eat breakfast,” Gerard states rather stupidly. He stops for a second because that’s not really what he meant to say. It takes him a second to retrieve the proper response. “Who are you?”
Concern flits across the other man’s face and he crosses the three feet of space in the tiny galley kitchen to stand in front of Gerard. “Are you okay? What do you mean ‘who am I’? I’m Frank. Your boyfriend? We’ve kind of been living together for nine months now.”
Oxygen somehow doesn’t seem to be getting to Gerard’s brain. Gray specks sparkle in front of his eyes and he starts to tilt sideways. Frank catches him and makes him sit down and place his head between his knees. Gerard almost expects him to make Gerard breathe into a paper bag but he doesn’t think he has any in the apartment.
“I’m sorry,” Gerard wheezes after a moment. “I don’t know who you are. I live by myself and I’ve never had a boyfriend.”
“Did you get hit in the head last night or something?” Frank seems genuinely concerned that Gerard doesn’t know who he is.
Gerard shakes his head. “I don’t have amnesia, there’s no missing time in my memory. I have never seen you before in my life. I live alone. So I don’t know who put you up to this, and if it was Mikey I’m going to kill him, but I’d appreciate it if you just stopped and left me alone. Joke‘s over and it‘s not funny.”
Frank narrows his eyes and exhales air through pursed lips. He deliberates for a second and then grabs Gerard by the wrist and drags him into the living room. He flicks on the light and waits for Gerard to take it all in.
There’s a couch Gerard has never seen before. It looks more expensive than anything he would pick out for himself. The television is also new and there’s a row of Stephen King novels on his bookshelf. Gerard has never read a Stephen King book and he certainly wouldn’t buy them. The important thing though, the most disturbing part, is the collage of snapshots to the right of the front door. Every single one of them is of Frank and Gerard together, kind of obviously in love.
Gerard’s hands shake. “I think I need to sit down again.”
Frank leads him to the couch and kneels in front of him. “Do you believe me?”
“I believe you’re in a relationship with a Gerard, but I don’t think I’m him.” Gerard’s voice trembles as he takes in the implications of that statement. Alternate realities do not exist outside of science fiction and comic books but there’s no other rational explanation. Photoshop could not create the look of adoration in Gerard’s eyes in those pictures. He’s never looked at anyone like that in his entire life and definitely not in front of a camera.
Frank sits back on his heels, looking crushed. “Fuck.”
For a brief moment Gerard wishes desperately that he were the right Gerard so he had permission to lean forward and kiss that look out of Frank’s eyes. He feels guilty and out of sorts and he hates disappointing people. He also hates that his alternate self is clearly happier than he is because it brings up all sorts of questions about his personal choices that he’d much rather not think about.
“I need to go to work,” Gerard states.
Frank just nods.
No one seems surprised that Gerard is nearly an hour later getting to work than usual. In fact, one of the copy-edit girls, he thinks her name is Carol but he’s never talked to her before, smirks at him and says: “Quality time with Frank this morning?”
Gerard flushes. “Something like that,” he mutters, hurrying past her to his cubicle.
He stops dead in front of the six and a half foot by six and a half foot space. There are flowers on his desk that look to be a few days old; their multi-colored petals have begun to droop a little around the edges. In the right corner of the desk is a framed photograph of Gerard and Frank and Mikey and Mikey‘s fiancée, laughing and windblown. Taped to the side of the computer screen is a strip of photographs from one of those photo machines, Frank and Gerard pulling faces at the camera. His own cubicle, back home if it exists still, is a blank space uncluttered by personal mementos.
Jealousy churns in his chest. He wasn’t aware that he wanted a relationship, had always thought of himself as the solitary sort, but he’s never had anyone in his life who cared enough to stick around, who mattered enough to make the effort for. Frank is clearly one of those people who’s worth the effort and Gerard is tempted for a brief second to recant and claim amnesia just so he can live someone else’s life.
That would be wrong, though, and unfair to everyone involved. No matter how tempting.
At noon Gerard’s phone rings. He stares at it for a long moment because it has not, in recent memory, rung before. Finally he reaches out and picks it up, gingerly, and says hello with a question mark at the end.
“It’s Frank.” Frank’s voice is flat and tired and makes Gerard’s chest ache for unknown reasons. “I’m downstairs. We’re going to lunch.”
“Yes. We need to talk.”
So Gerard pushes away from his desk and grabs his jacket and heads downstairs with all the enthusiasm of a death row inmate heading toward euthanization by lethal injection. Frank is standing just inside the glass doors, backlit by sunshine, and he looks too colorful, too real. Like he’s Technicolor to the rest of the world’s shades of gray.
“Hi,” Gerard greets timidly.
Frank’s smile doesn’t reach his eyes. “Hi.”
They don’t speak again until they are seated in a diner across the street, cracked vinyl and old grease and stale cigarette smoke even though the clean indoor air act has been in effect for awhile now. Gerard fingers his cigarettes and wishes desperately he’d thought to smoke before they came inside.
“I’m sorry,” Gerard murmurs because it’s the only thing he can think to say. He is sorry. Somehow he’s ruined something by displacing his alternate self and he did not ask for this.
“I want my Gerard back,” Frank states fiercely in low tones. “I don’t know how you got here but I want you to switch back.”
Gerard closes his eyes and runs his hands over his face. “I don’t know how I got here either. I didn’t make a wish or consult a psychic or meet any ghosts of Christmas future or do anything out of the ordinary. I went to work and came home and read a book and went to bed. My routine hasn’t deviated in three years.”
“You don’t…go out?”
Gerard shakes his head. “I don’t do anything. So I’d remember if something was different.”
Frank seems upset by this. “So you don’t have anyone? There’s no one to take care of you where you’re from?”
“I take care of myself just fine,” Gerard replies stiffly. The last thing he wants is to be pitied for a lifestyle that he chose.
“So you eat three meals a day and you always remember your scarf and gloves when it’s freezing outside and you take time off when you’re sick and don’t force yourself to work through it?” Frank seems skeptical.
For good reason, since Gerard does not do any of those things. “Um, no,” he admits. “But I’m fine. I’ve been fine. None of that has killed me or anything.”
“Do you still draw?”
Gerard doesn’t see what this has to do with anything. He hasn’t felt the need for a creative outlet in years and, while he sometimes misses it, the urge has never been great enough to pick it back up again. “No.”
“What do you do for fun?”
“I read,” Gerard says defensively. “And sometimes I’ll go to a movie on Saturdays.”
“By yourself,” Frank deduces in a sad voice.
“Don’t feel sorry for me,” Gerard hisses. “I don’t like people and I’m fine on my own. I chose this.”
Frank nods and reaches out to cover Gerard’s hand with his own. Gerard lets him. “I know you did. I just think somewhere along the way you forgot how to let people care about you.”
Gerard doesn’t know what to say.
Two months have passed. Two months of ‘Frank the Roommate’ and sleeping on the couch since he’s the visitor here, not Frank. Two months of close proximity to a hot guy who sometimes forgets that Gerard isn’t the right one and touches inappropriately before backing off and apologizing all over the place.
Gerard hasn’t been this sexually frustrated since high school.
To make matters worse, this morning at work he was set upon by a bevy of female employees and all but bullied into agreeing to come to the Christmas party with “Oh, you’re bringing Frank to the party, aren’t you?” and “Please say you’ll come!” and “You and Frank are so cute!” He still hasn’t found a way to talk to Frank about the situation.
It turns out he doesn’t have to because Frank is already dressed when Gerard walks in the door. White dress shirt and black tie and slacks that do lovely distracting things for his ass and Gerard’s legs almost give out on him. He gulps as surreptitiously as he can.
“You knew about the party?” he asks, feeling stupid.
Frank smirks at him and, oh, that does not help the shaky feeling in his knees. “Of course. We always go. It would look weird if we didn’t.”
“Right,” Gerard croaks. “Weird.”
“I laid out clothes for you on the bed. Hope you don’t mind.”
Gerard just shakes his head and takes off for the bedroom in the vain hope that a little less proximity to Frank will give him back some equilibrium. Frank has chosen black and red for him and Gerard just puts it on, numbly wishing for the billionth time that he was Frank’s Gerard.
Frank is waiting for him in the living room and he smiles warmly when Gerard walks into the room. He tucks a strand of hair behind Gerard’s ear, so close Gerard can feel his body heat through two layers of cotton. “There, perfect,” he pronounces.
Breath catches in the back of Gerard’s throat and his skin tingles where Frank brushed it and realization hits him like a sledge hammer: he’s in love. He’s in love with his alternate-universe-counterpart’s boyfriend. Somehow he’s gotten used to Frank making his coffee in the mornings and taking him out for lunch a few times a week and talking with him in the evenings. More than gotten used to, he’s come to depend on it. He laughs more and he doesn’t dread getting up and making it through another day because Frank is there.
“I…” Gerard catches himself, stops short of an admission. “Are we leaving already?”
Frank smiles and takes his hand. “I made reservations for dinner. There’s not really any food at the party. Just appetizers and alcohol. Cab’s downstairs waiting for us.”
This feels like a date and Gerard loses himself in the fantasy as Frank opens doors for him and does not let go of his hand, even in the restaurant beneath the carefully bland gaze of the maitre d‘. He can sense himself loosen under Frank’s dutiful attention and he feels sparkling, like champagne.
The party is not Gerard’s scene. Too many people dressed in their best, desperately drinking in order to feel better. Gerard has no more than two drinks. He doesn’t need to drink in order to feel light-headed and floaty; all he has to do is look over at Frank, who keeps gazing at him in a way that he is unsure how to interpret.
“You know,” Frank murmurs into Gerard’s ear on the cab ride home. “I wonder if it matters which Gerard you are because I think you’re the same person.”
He doesn’t say anything else while they‘re in the cab, just nuzzles against Gerard’s neck. Frank sticks close to Gerard’s side, safely tucked under his arm as they head upstairs to their apartment.
“What did you mean?” Gerard asks once the door is safely closed and locked behind them.
Frank twines his arms around Gerard’s neck. “At first I thought I was imagining things, looking for something that wasn’t there just because you look alike. But it’s more than that. You react to things in the same way and you say the same things he says and you tap the end of your pen against your teeth like he does and you look at me in the same way and, well, it’s kind of everything.” Frank pauses, looking sad. “And it’s been two months and maybe he’s not coming back. But it’s stupid to ignore the fact that I’m in love with you just because you’re not the right version of my boyfriend. You’re still him.”
There’s no formulating a response to that. Gerard doesn’t think he could vocalize his thoughts even if his brain was processing them. So he drags Frank closer and kisses him firmly because that’s infinitely better than talking. Frank melts against him, responsive and warm.
“I missed you,” he whispers hoarsely into Gerard’s ear when they finally part.
Gerard wants to cry. This is the life he should have been leading all along and it belongs to someone else. He’s just an imposter, dressed up in someone else’s clothes and kissing someone else’s boyfriend. Still, he does not say no when Frank leads him to the bedroom and carefully begins to undress him. It doesn’t feel wrong, just tenuous and fleeting.
Frank fits against his body like he was meant to be there, joints locking and melding in ways Gerard didn’t know was possible. He’s sincere and beautiful and a little aggressive and Gerard feels the need to record even the minutest movement into his memory; every eyelash flutter and fingernail scrape, the taste of sweat and wine, the way the little extra bit of flesh at Frank’s hips molds against Gerard’s palms.
“I love you,” Frank whispers over and over, spilling the words into Gerard’s mouth. A prayer, a litany of desire.
Gerard cannot help but reply.
In the morning there is no one in Gerard’s bed except himself. He strains to hear Frank padding around in the kitchen and is met with the weight of silence. Panic grips his chest and he rushes to the kitchen. There’s no one there.
He shakily heads to the living room, already knowing what he will find. No collage to the right of the door, no new couch, no new TV, no Stephen King novels in his bookcase. Gerard is back home and Frank was never here.
The newspaper on his doorstep proclaims that today is Friday, October 22, the same day he woke up in Frank’s bed.
Gerard calls in sick to work and spends the day with the covers over his head. He doesn’t even try to stop the tears.
Gerard mourns for a week. He can’t breathe right and he has to force himself to partake in the mundanities of his daily routine. He hopes that the other Gerard came back when he left because the thought of Frank being on his own breaks his heart. He wonders if Frank thinks about him, worries about him being alone.
He realizes, after the first week, that he shouldn’t be doing anything to make Frank worry. He needs to figure out how to live his life because if Frank taught him anything it is that what he’s doing now is not really living, it’s just going through the motions, not touching anyone so no one touches him.
So he starts small, begins engaging in conversation with the people at work and it turns out Carol is really nice and has a lot in common with him, even if she does have a penchant for dragging him out to gay bars. Sometimes he even lets her. He allows a lot of things he never used to these days. He lets Mikey set him up with a few guys, although none of them work out because they’re not Frank and he’s still in love with someone who doesn’t exist.
He can’t tell anyone that, though. There’s no way to explain that he lost two months of his life in some parallel universe and he’s in love with a guy he met there. At least, not without ending up in a psych ward. He keeps quiet about his experience and, by the end of two months, he’s not seeing Frank’s face everywhere anymore or hearing his voice coming out of stranger’s mouths.
“Are you done with that yet, Way?” Carol prods, leaning against the edge of Gerard’s desk.
Gerard raises an eyebrow. “Why? Is there something else I should be doing?”
“Yeah, getting out of here like everyone else. Go make yourself look pretty because I am not taking you to the Christmas party looking like that.”
“I’m not going,” Gerard states firmly. There are too many memories attached and he doesn’t think he can face a crowd of his co-workers knowing that he won’t be going home with Frank at the end of the night.
“Shut up. Of course you are and I’m going to be at the door to your apartment at eight to make sure of it.”
Gerard sighs. “And if I still say no you’re going to stand there and pout at me until I agree to go, aren’t you?”
Carol just widens her eyes innocently.
“Fine. But you’re driving because I think I’m going to need to be drunk to deal with this,” Gerard gives in.
An hour in and Gerard is surprised to find that he’s actually having fun. Carol has snide tidbits of information about pretty much everyone and she hasn’t forced him out on the dance floor once. He’s starting to get suspicious about ulterior motives.
“Ooh! The new guy from HR came,” Carol whispers. “I hear he’s gay.”
“How in god’s name do you know that, anyway? And just because he’s gay doesn’t mean we’re going to even like each other, let alone make out in front of you.”
“He’s hot,” Carol prods.
“I don’t care,” Gerard shoots back. “I cannot begin to express the amount of which I do not care.”
“He’s coming over here,” she sing-songs.
“I. don’t. care,” Gerard snaps.
“What don’t you care about?” a familiar voice asks, amused.
Gerard nearly gives himself whiplash from turning around so fast. Honey-bright eyes and a wicked smirk he’s falling. He’s halfway to the ground before he realizes he’s actually falling and that Frank’s arms are breaking his fall.
“Easy there,” Frank murmurs, not letting go.
Gerard clears his throat, embarrassed beyond belief. He’s still light-headed and kind of wondering if he’s finally lost it and is hallucinating. “Um, hi?”
Frank chuckles warmly. “Hi. I’m Frank.”
Gerard bites back the ‘I know’ that’s hovering at the tip of his tongue. “I’m Gerard.”
“It’s nice to meet you,” Frank replies.
His voice sends shivers down Gerard’s spine. “You too,” he parrots, incapable of stepping away. It’s long past the point of normal social behavior.
“Are you good to stand or should I just hold you all night?” Frank flirts.
At least, Gerard thinks it’s flirting. He hopes, anyway. A flush creeps up his neck and into his cheeks. “Whichever you want.”
Frank laughs. “Oh, I know which one I want, but we just met. Maybe I should buy you a drink first?”
Gerard smiles back at him, contentment settling over his skin, pieces locking into place. “That would be nice.”