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Trees Have Roots And I Have You

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“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

***

Gerard’s always loved Paris. It’s always been his vice, if you want to use that word; it’s sort of appropriate. Gerard would sacrifice lots of things just to live there for a few months, or just to marvel at the city streets, really.

He calls it a dream come true when Mikey marries Alicia and they decide to move to Paris, since she comes from France and her grandma – who has died recently – has left her a house somewhere at the outskirts of the city.

Gerard’s jealous, of course he is. His last relationship was a complete disaster and even though he considers himself comfortably free and able to do whatever he wants to, he truly misses something. And seeing his younger brother get it all – because he truly loves that black-haired girl – is a bit painful. He wants that too – he knows that freedom is a state of mind and has nothing to do with relationships.

However, when Mikey calls after a few months of settling down in Paris and invites his brother over for as long as he pleases, ‘no’ is not even a real option. A huge ‘yes’ pops up in Gerard’s mind and it’s all set up.

The flight from the States is exhausting. He carries a book – Hemingway can never fail at making your day better – and he carries a notebook, in case he gets an idea and wants to write it down.

When they land in Paris, it’s half past two – in the morning. The airport looks sad and sterile and there’s not much to look at, the waiting for his baggage is never ending, and Mikey is still late.

But as soon as they see each other, the tension falls off of Gerard’s shoulders before he hugs his younger brother and he hops in Mikey’s car with regained excitement.

“I wrote down a few notes on the plane and I only have a few chapters left. And then I’ll have to edit it all and I’m thinking, some solid publisher or editor could take a look at it,” Gerard rants when Mikey asks about Gerard’s writing process. It feels like old times where they spent hours talking about books and comics – except they’re discussing Gerard’s book this time.

“That’s really awesome, Gee,” Mikey responds and even though it’s a rather short reply, Gerard knows it’s honest.

“Yeah,” he laughs and clutching his Hemingway in one hand, he runs the fingers of the other through his hair. “So, you’re gonna show me ‘round the city, right?”

“Sure,” Mikey nods immediately and glances at Gerard’s profile from behind the wheel. “Mind if I bring Alicia along?” he adds after a few seconds almost shyly. It’s only now that Gerard realizes how much Mikey is in love with the girl – no wonder, she’s amazing. Just talking about her and Gerard can feel the soft vibration in the air that forms every time someone says the name of their loved one.

“Not at all, I’d love to spend more time with her,” he agrees and gives a small smile.

“It’s going to rain tomorrow, though,” Mikey acclaims and sighs, almost as if he was truly sorry for it. “Well, you’ll at least have time to bury yourself in your books.”

Gerard snorts, but it’s true. He still loves comic books, still has dreams about writing or drawing one, but books have become more important sometime during high school. And even though Mikey makes fun of him for it all the time, it’s not something he’d be willing to give up. He’d never be able to do that.

But never mind that he’s a complete, obsessed bookworm – the next day it really rains, but Gerard stubbornly grabs an umbrella and leaves Mikey’s and Alicia’s house in the morning to wander around the neighborhood.

He soon finds out there are not many tourists around – he spots one or two little hotels, but that’s it. As much as he’s dying to see everything, it’s sort of nice to be alone right now. In the rain, he walks the forgotten streets with a surrounding feeling of melancholy, and he enjoys it.

It’s times like these, when he squeezes his umbrella with cold fingers although it’s late May; when he thinks back to the time when he and Mikey were so close. It’s not like that anymore. They grew apart when growing up, and even though they still love each other, there’s a gap. A hole keeping them apart. Mikey has found the girl of his dreams and completely moved on, while Gerard kind of stayed in the same place, fidgeting and whining about it.

But it’s going to be okay. Gerard is going to finish his book, he’s going to publish it and he’s going to be happy, on his own. Mikey, doing graphics for video games, is going to be happy as well and it will all fall into place after years of being in a mess. Yes, that’s exactly how it’s going to work out.

Gerard’s unable to say if walks in the rain have always had this impact on him, but when he comes back to Mikey’s apartment, he’s filled with silly optimism.

“You’ll end up with pneumonia,” Alicia comments and places a cup of hot coffee in front of Gerard. “You’re all wet and you spent four hours out there!”

Gerard shrugs and smiles. “Who cares? So far, I can only say that Paris is really beautiful in the rain.”

“You’re weird,” Alicia responds, but smiles as well and sitting on the chair next to Gerard, she throws an arm around his shoulders. “But not weirder than your brother. It’s the adorable kind of weird.”

“Thank you, I guess?” Gerard snorts and leans into the half-hug. “Al, how’s Mikes?” he asks after a few more seconds, maybe a bit hesitantly. He assumes Mikey is just fine, his depression long forgotten, but his insides still tie themselves into a knot when he says it out loud. Almost as if he was still scared there will be an answer he doesn’t want to hear.

Alicia pulls away and reaches out for her own coffee, taking a small sip of it. “He’s fine,” she says after that and gives a small, reassuring smile. “He still gets these… moments, but he’s fine. I think he’s happy. I mean, I hope he is.”

Gerard nods. “He smiles a lot,” he points out and nudges Alicia in the shoulder. “I think he is happy. You’re making him happy.”

They spend the afternoon talking about punk rock and gore movies – while Mikey is at work – and Gerard is actually really thankful that Alicia is the way she is. She’s so obviously the best choice for Mikey, and she’s amazing. Her laughter rings all around the room, but there’s so many things hiding in her eyes – like she’s been through so much, like she’s still too wise for her age… and Gerard really likes it all.

***

When Gerard doesn’t wake up in the middle of the night because a coughing fit is coming for him, it’s definitely a good sign. And when he does wake up, it’s ridiculously sunny outside.

“So,” Mikey starts off, because he’s got a day off to spend some time with his wife and brother, “I need you to tell me everything you want to see. And then I’ll take you there.”

“Dude!” Gerard acclaims and places his hand above his heart dramatically, “I’ve never been here before, I want to see everything! That’s your list, you can take me anywhere and I’ll kiss your feet.”

“Ew, please, don’t,” Mikey argues with a grimace, but then his face transforms into a small smile and grabbing Alicia’s hand, he’s all ready to walk out to enjoy the beauty of the city. “Okay. Let’s go explore Paris!”

They end up having pancakes a few steps away from Notre Dame – which means it’s expensive as hell and also really pretty. Gerard falls in love with the atmosphere – yes, the city is completely filled with tourists, the traffic is horrible… but there’s just something. There’s just something hanging in the air that makes him love the city even more. And finishing his crépe, he knows he’ll stay here for a while if Mikey and Alicia let him.

“This is such a beautiful place,” he marvels as they’re walking by the Seine, his hands in his pockets and his sunglasses holding up his hair. “Don’t you think?”

Mikey just shakes his head and keeps his poker face on, but Alicia giggles and joins in on Gerard’s excitement, “It is!” she agrees cheerfully. “Honestly, I’m really happy I can live here. I love this place. People just don’t look down at you and when you discover all those small streets, little cafés, I mean – when you discover the real Paris, you’ll fall in love with it, I’m sure.”

Gerard laughs. “I’m afraid I’ve already fallen in love with it and nothing can save me,” he admits.

When they reach the Eiffel Tower, which Gerard really wants to see and experience it all – because everyone wants that first time in Paris – he gets this weird feeling; like he can’t believe he’s actually here.

And when they’re up on the third floor – the waiting for the elevator was ridiculously long, but Gerard lived, that’s important – Mikey snorts and makes a remark, of course.

“I seriously don’t know why everyone keeps bragging about this place. I mean, look at it,” he says and gesticulates towards the view of the city, “While on the ground, you sort of manage to believe that you’re in the old city. But when you’re up here, you see all the modern buildings as high as this one, you see the sun reflecting on the glass rooftops… I don’t like that. It doesn’t feel right. Say, does that look like the Paris you love to you?”

Gerard cocks his head to the side, trying to absorb the city fog and look through it at the city itself. “Of course you’re right,” he says after a moment, “But seeing Paris like this gives you the feeling that you are above it, that you can control it. But the truth is that the city actually owns you. You just don’t see it from here.”

“That’s bullshit,” Mikey argues with a disgusted expression on his face. “Bullshit, I tell you. No city can ever own you, man.”

But, of course, Mikey doesn’t feel what Gerard feels. Mikey doesn’t completely understand, because he’s different. But Gerard can sense it all indeed – Paris owns him and that’s final.

***
The only time when hatred boils in Gerard’s body and he couldn’t hate the city more is when Mikey and Alicia drag him along to a wine tasting.

Gerard loves wine, but he’s the dreamy type of drinker. He loves to sit at home, have one glass per evening and cherish it for hours. He certainly doesn’t need to talk about it, taste the liquor for minutes and then be a smart-ass when saying the right year the wine is from. No, thank you.

Besides, he genuinely thinks that people who go to wine tastings are snobs. True, egoistic, awful snobs. And lord knows that Gerard hates those.

He wouldn’t be so desperate if his theory didn’t prove right, but it did – Mikey met a friend there, another American that’s moved to Paris, and that was the worst person Gerard has ever had the chance to meet. Wait, no, scratch that – his wife was the worst person Gerard’s ever met.

“Gabe is an expert on wine,” she says with a smile that reminds Gerard of the Joker and his stomach twists. “Isn’t that right, honey?”

“Indeed,” Gabe agrees immediately and holding his glass of wine between his thumb and forefinger, he takes a tiny sip of it. “Bordeaux, year sixty-nine. A little bit sweeter than the year before, I must say, but much more delicate.” After this, he looks around almost as if he expected applause, and Gerard needs to fight the urge to throw up all over Gabe’s expensive shoes.

Soon enough, Gerard shuffles across the room in a desperate trial to find Mikey. He’s successful, in the end, and even though what he really wants to say is, ‘What’s happened to your mind that you call a jerk like Gabe your friend?’, he says, “I’m getting out of here.”

“What?” Mikey frowns and turns around to face his brother completely. “Why? I thought you loved wine.”

“Wine, yes. Wine tasting, not so much,” Gerard explains and his eyes wander back to Gabe and his overly proud face.

Mikey sighs and drops his gaze – which is where Gerard immediately starts to regret his decision to leave, because Mikey obviously wanted to spend the night together. “Okay, Gee,” he shrugs in the end. “Just take a cab or you’ll get lost.”

“Yeah, no, I’m walking,” Gerard answers within three seconds, trained for a conversation like this back from the time where his mother always wanted him to be safe. “Don’t worry.”

Mikey purses his lips as if he wanted to say something bitter, but decides against it. He nods sternly. “We’ll probably go to some local pub after this is over, so don’t wait up for us.”

“’Kay,” Gerard mumbles and gives a lop-sided smile. “Have fun, Mikes. I’ll be fine,” he reassures his brother again and with that, he finally leaves the room, avoiding Gabe by walking with at least five feet of distance.

***
It’s truly ironic and proves every Murphy’s Law, but Gerard indeed gets lost. He would never expect to wander too far or in a too wrong direction, but here he is; sitting on the stairs of an unknown church, without the slightest idea of where he is.

He’s just sure that he’s still in Paris.

He tries talking to a laughing couple that walks by – mainly because no one else is around – but they reject him with unsure, “Excusez-moi” and then they’re gone.

So maybe he should have listened to Mikey and take a cab, no matter how expensive that would be. Because Lord knows how he will find his way back home now, really. After all, he sits back down on the stairs with resignation and a desperate giggle leaves his mouth as the clock counts midnight.

“What a pretty start of a new day,” he murmurs to himself and runs his fingers through his hair, feeling the panic slowly settle down on him.

He’s just about to get up again to walk a few streets back – he distinctly remembers there was more frequent traffic and maybe he could find someone to help him there – when an old black Peugeot stops in the small forgotten alley next to him.

Gerard dumbly stares at it – mostly because he’s never seen such an old car actually function, and also because a face appears in the small window and the person looks directly at Gerard.

“Bon soir! Come here, my old friend!” The accent is, without doubt, American. Gerard hesitates for a second before he gets up and makes his way to the car, keeping himself in a safe distance away. In this century, you never know who wants to kidnap you and sell your organs.

“Can I help you?” Gerard asks in a high-pitched voice, all ready to say that he doesn’t know where he is himself and walk away.

“Yes, you may help us!” the man cheers and Gerard can hear a lady giggle in the background. “You shall come with us and celebrate! Let’s go!” With that, the man opens the door and Gerard spots a dark-brown cigar in his hand.

The lady – the one who has been laughing - smiles at Gerard reaching out with her hand. She’s wearing white gloves; matching color with her tiara and her dress. He can see another man sitting in the car whose face vaguely reminds him of someone, and he swallows.

“Celebrate what?” he chokes out stupidly. His mother’s voice comes to him, saying that he should turn around and literally run away till he still can, but it feels like he’s been tied to this car with an invisible rope and it’s pulling him closer.

“Well, our existence, of course!” the man explains and it makes the other one behind him snort in amusement.

“Champágne, monsieur?” the lady asks in such a soft voice that it overwhelms Gerard more than the whole situation. And even though he knows the whole concept of this is wrong and that he shouldn’t, for the love of him, say yes – the glass of champagne is intriguing and he’s pretty sure he’s never witnessed a stronger form of seduction.

When both men raise their eyebrows at Gerard, he shrugs and thinks, To hell with it. He nods silently and taking the glass, he gets in the car.

He knows Mikey would kill him if he saw this. He knows his mother would do the same. He knows it’s immature and stupid and inappropriate, but the slight tremble of rebellion that rushes through him tastes better than the alcohol. He hasn’t felt this wave of excitement, that something you can feel only when you know you’re doing something forbidden, in ages. It’s way too good to let it go.

“That’s what I like to see! True bravery,” the first man says and taps Gerard’s shoulder with laughter.

“If he’s brave, he should be honest as well,” the other man says and looks Gerard up and down, leaving him breathless for a second. “I’m Hemingway, what’s your name?”

“I’m Gerard – “ He cuts himself off mid-sentence and narrows his eyes, looking strictly at the man in front of him. Could it be – but that’s ridiculous. It happens that you see a face that looks familiar – someone you once dreamt about or who has the same features as your old friend. It doesn’t have to be a famous writer. Who has been dead for quite some time now. “Excuse me, what’s your first name?”

‘Hemingway’ licks his lower lip and says, “Ernest. You read my book?”

“I – “ The stutter comes again and Gerard opens and closes his mouth a few times like a fish begging for water. The only explanation he has is that he’s had too much wine back at the tasting, even though it sounds unlikely. Either that or he’s gone schizophrenic. As if deciding to play along, because this is a truly great hangover fantasy, he nods. “Yes, I did. All your books, actually – I’m a huge fan.”

“Everyone can write a good book,” Hemingway responds quickly, “all you need is honesty. Are you honest? Tell me, have you ever tried writing?”

Before Gerard can react, so-called Hemingway says something in French to the lady in white and they switch seats – so he’s the one sitting next to Gerard now. Ernest Hemingway seems to smell like lots of sweat, cigarettes and perfume.

“I write for a living,” he responds and fidgets a bit in his seat. “I’m trying, at least. Where exactly are we going?” He asks with curiosity resonating through his voice. Although, truth be told, he’s just trying to avoid talking about his work. If this is real and he’s talking to Hemingway, he sure as hell isn’t going to admit how big of an amateur he is.

“The Fitzgeralds are having a little party,” the other man that still hasn’t introduced himself says and draws Gerard’s attention to him.

Long story short, Gerard somehow ends up sitting on a chair in a huge room – the ‘little party’ actually means around sixty people gathered in a rather small garden and a few rooms.

Gerard’s on his own, but he takes care as to always see at least Hemingway’s hair. For some reason, Gerard makes a little connection to the real world out of Hemingway, which is probably the craziest thing ever. He’s not exactly sure what’s going on – he just stares at the dancing couples and tries to accept the fact the he’s currently somehow in the twenties. With Hemingway and his lost generation. Holy fuck.

Another wave of excitement runs through his veins, joining the champagne he’d already managed to drink, when a woman with short, blonde locks startles him by speaking to him.

“Do you think this haircut suits me?” she asks instead of saying hi and reaches up with her hand in a vain attempt to fix her hair. “Scott says it’s too modern and too flirty. Courageous. Outstanding, rude.”

Gerard’s eyes widen involuntarily when he connects one little tie with another and comes to the conclusion that he is indeed talking to Zelda Fitzgerald, the legend.

“I’d say it suits you just fine,” he assures her and even though he’s gay from the very roots of his hair, he still can feel that he’s blushing like a schoolboy.

“’Fine’ is an awful, vague and shadowy adjective, but your face speaks for you. Anyway, this is Frank,” she says as she points at the small boy standing by her side. Frank waves a little at Gerard with a hesitant smile on his face and Gerard can only guess he’s tired from being with Zelda the whole night. “And I need another drink or I’ll die from boredom.”

With that, she turns on her heel and leaves Frank there, standing awkwardly a few steps away from Gerard. And, well, Gerard kind of doesn’t even notice him at first; he’s too busy staring after Zelda in silent awe from the fact he’d met her.

“She actually is a tornado,” he comments to himself, amused.

“She is,” says the voice near Gerard and he startles awake, his eyes falling upon Frank’s face. “She destroys Fitzgerald, but without her, none of this would be possible. Together, they make Paris a moveable feast.”

As the last words escape Frank’s mouth, Gerard is fully paying attention to him. Before, talking to Zelda, he didn’t kind of notice Frank’s face or anything about him at all – and now, in the night lights, he’s actually mesmerized. Frank is wearing a simple white shirt stuffed in brown pants. His vest is unbuttoned, as well as a few buttons of his shirt. It’s quite the sign that he’s been drinking and everything feels loosened up, including his clothing.

But not Frank’s pants, or Frank’s shoes, or his vest is what makes Gerard stare. It’s the twenties written all over his face – making his precisely curved lips look softer, his sharp nose look smaller and more gentle, his black hair look prettier. And his eyes. They’re grinning right at Gerard, as if they were trying to dare him to do something and – oh man, he shouldn’t have drunk so much champagne, he really shouldn’t have.

“Are you a friend of the Fitzgeralds?” Gerard asks instead, thankful that his voice didn’t betray him this time.

Frank nods and pulls a chair closer to sit next to Gerard – when the legs of the chair scratch the ground, it makes Gerard’s body jerk to the creaking sound –, he buries two fingers in the inner pocket of his vest to take out his cigarettes. “Although they’re just bringing me along. Not much of a business here. Do you maybe have fire?”

What the fuck is wrong with the people from before? They’re all too talkative for me. “No – I… I don’t, sorry.” Well, yeah, he does have a lighter – but he suddenly can’t remember if they had lighters back in the twenties and he doesn’t want to look like an idiot.

“No cigarettes, then,” Frank shrugs and stuffs the small box back into his pocket. “You look sort of lost. How did you end up here?”

Gerard snorts and looks down at his old jeans and a black t-shirt. Of course he looks lost. “Hemingway insisted,” he explains lazily, trying to sound as casual as possible. He truly feels like an actor playing his part, to be honest – this is a crazy play, indeed.

“Ah, don’t take Hemingway too seriously,” Frank exclaims and looks into the crowd to find the one they’re talking about there. “He’s trying to over-fight his own emptiness; both physically and metaphorically. He claims to be honest, but he’s just cynical. How can a man who loves honesty so much spend so much money on quiffs?”

“Quiffs?” Gerard asks with a raised eyebrow.

“Yes, the worn-out yet beautiful quiffs of Pigalle.” Frank’s lips form a small, lop-sided grin – almost as if he wanted to say that even though his words are true, he doesn’t really believe them or they don’t mean too much to him.

“Oh, you mean prostitutes?” It slips out of Gerard’s mouth before he can control it. He gnaws on his lip for a brief second before he shakes his head, trying to say something to cover up his previous words. “Maybe he spends time with them, because they make him see honesty in everything else.”

“Hmm,” Frank murmurs and turns his head to the side, his gaze cutting right through Gerard’s façade. His stare is so strong that Gerard blushes again, his heart speeding up a bit. “That’s an interesting idea. I hope you are going to stick around, I would like to discuss that with you.”

“Right,” Gerard chuckles and shakes his head, “Everyone always wants to discuss quiffs with me.”

“Are you being sarcastic?” Frank asks with obvious interest in his voice. He’s still staring as if he wanted to soak Gerard’s face into his memory – it becomes a bit intimidating, unsettling.

“Yes,” he responds and his eyes fall down to the ground. Even his mind is busy trying to think about anything else at all just to avoid thinking about Frank’s intense eyes. It’s making his skin burn with an unknown itch – an itch long forgotten, an itch he felt when –

“Yes,” Frank repeats after him with a small smile and sucks his lower lip into his mouth. When Gerard finally looks up, they spend a few more seconds just exploring each other’s faces – Gerard almost wants to ask how long they’re going to keep the staring contest up, but he knows Frank wouldn’t understand.

And then an idea crosses his mind – an idea crazier than this whole night. His face must light up, because Frank’s expression changes as well – he’s anticipating something, like he expects Gerard to say something interesting again.

“Would you read my book?” he blurts out stupidly and hates himself for blushing again. “I mean – it’s not finished, but I thought – Never mind, I don’t even know you. That was stupid.” He laughs nervously and wishes to disappear again – what is wrong with him that he always embarrasses himself? This is worse than “look, the grass is so beautifully green” which he said to his very first boyfriend on his very first date.

Frank giggles. “I don’t think it’s my place to judge others’ works. But ask Hemingway, he could take you to Gertrude Stein or another good editor.”

The rejection stings in a weird way – almost like an infection spreading all around his body, or like a festering wound. But it sounds logical and it’s not like Gerard would ever defend himself or try and convince someone to do something. He’d rather pretend he’s all okay and –

“But you can still talk to me about it, if you want. Are you a writer?” It’s surprising how Frank manages to pick up exactly where he left off minutes ago – and it’s surprising how he also manages to read Gerard so well after only a few moments of talking.

“I’m trying, but really, I am nowhere as good as Hemingway or Fitzgerald. I think, in a way, they completely rock the whole world of literature.”

“They… they what?” It’s the first time that Frank sounds confused, like he generally misses having everything under control and understanding everything perfectly.

This is exactly the point where Gerard realizes this is actually real. He has no idea how he’d ended up in Paris in the twenties, but he’s here. He’s pretty sure it’s not a fantasy, not a hallucination, not a fata morgana – it’s real. For some reason, the old Peugeot has taken him here, to Hemingway and the Fitzgeralds and to Frank. Yes, he believes in hangover and he believes that lots of crazy stuff can happen when you don’t control your dose – but this is different. He can sense the reality, he can breathe it in through his nostrils.

“Nothing,” Gerard says warily, the panic taking over him again. “I think I should go.”

“But – “

Gerard is too much of a coward to wait there for Frank’s response. He suddenly needs to get out of that place and, if possible, run. His breathing is quickened and kind of shallow as he rushes through the door and out. Out of there and let’s never think about this ever again. For a second, he wants it to be just a dream, because wouldn’t that mean he’s just crazy, insane, mad? Jesus Christ, counting adjectives like Zelda Fitzgerald.

But on the other hand – it won’t do him any harm if he’d just stay for a little longer and talk to Frank. Frank is so nice, Frank gives him shivers, and yes, he is from the twenties, but – yeah, Gerard’s coming back.

But when Gerard turns around and reaches the door again, it’s locked and he realizes there’s graffiti all across the wall. And he knows he’s back in his own time again.

He eventually manages to find a call booth with a number of Taxi Service – it’s not difficult to get home after that. He still moves in some kind of a blur, though; not even fully realizing he gets to his brother’s apartment and falls face-first onto his bed.

Gerard, in the end, must have drunk too much champagne, because he falls asleep without changing into his pajamas and he’s actually murmuring to himself, “Whatever that was, I need to get back there again. I can’t believe I met Hemingway. Ernest fucking Hemingway. Zelda is so beautiful. And Frank, Jesus, Frank is so… Wow.”

***
The next day, Gerard is staring at his omelet with a blank expression on his face. He’s partly aware of holding a fork in his right hand, but that would be all.

He’s completely wrapped up in remembering last night. He even dreamt about Frank (which is creeping him out, there was no Fitzgerald or Hemingway, just Frank in a grey vest). And that’s making him wonder if it all wasn’t just a dream.

But Gerard knows very well that it wasn’t.

“Are you okay?” comes Mikey’s voice as if they were in different dimensions and Gerard literally jumps up on his chair. A piece of ham falls off his fork (when did he even pick it up?) and lands on the table.

“What?” Gerard’s confusion lasts for a few seconds before he straightens up and coughs. “I mean, yeah, I’m okay, why wouldn’t I be okay?”

Mikey shrugs and sits behind the table, sharing a knowing look with Alicia. She shrugs as well, buttering her slice of bread. “I don’t know, because you’re weirder than usual?”

Gerard snorts and stares at Mikey for a moment, watching him take a sip from his coffee. As he puts down the cup, he keeps staring at the same point, looking as if he was trying to guess the meaning of the whole world. That’s where Gerard nods and says, “Right. That sounds so accurate coming from you.”

“I will slap you both if you start fighting,” Alicia cuts them both off casually and takes a bite of her bread. She would actually look dangerous if it wasn’t for the butter that catches in the corner of her mouth. That makes her look ridiculous, not vicious. Either way, her husband and his brother stare at her for long enough to forget about fighting, which is probably the point.

“Anyway,” Gerard says still looking at Alicia and only then tears his gaze away, making eye contact with Mikey again. “What would you think if I said I met Ernest Hemingway yesterday?”

Mikey raises an eyebrow at his brother and tilts his head to the side. “I would think that you’re on drugs.”

Gerard narrows his eyes. “That was one time and you promised not to mention it ever again.”

“Guys,” Alicia interrupts them again, almost as if she had a little radar attached to her body and it always tells her when there’s a fight about to happen.

“Sorry, babe,” Mikey coos and Gerard snorts again at it. “But my brother is being stupid, you heard what he said. Meeting Ernest Hemingway? Really?”

“First of all, you have no idea – “ Gerard tries, but Alicia cuts him off.

“I’m not saying I’ve ever heard of something like this actually happening,” she says and she puts down her food, burning Mikey with her glare, “But there’s a legend saying that if you’re at Saint Etienne du Mont church at midnight, a car or a vehicle or something comes for you and takes you to the Paris you want to visit the most.”

“That’s a legend! Nothing is ever true about legends,” Mikey argues back immediately while Gerard is taken aback by Alicia’s French accent that sparked in her voice when she mentioned the church. And then – oh, she mentioned a church!

“I was near some church. And it was just midnight!” he exclaims almost victoriously and a smile involuntarily spreads across his face.

“I told you you’d get lost,” Mikey snaps. His pissed off face is clearly a sign that he’s being trapped in a corner, obviously not winning this one. “Whatever, man,” he says in the end and his face finally softens, “Just take a cab next time.”

This time, it’s Gerard who shares a knowing look with Alicia while Mikey buries his face in his cup of coffee again. It feels safe to know that someone believes him, even though it’s just thanks to some kind of a legend. This way or another, it still means that last night was as real as the sun. And that also means that Gerard is going back there, to that church, and thinking of that makes him shiver. Frank’s face pops up in his head and that makes him shiver even more.

***
Gerard takes a cab that night. It’s quite the paradox, because he takes a cab to take him to the church. And considering he’s always at least a few minutes late, it’s ridiculous that he’s marching the church stairs up and down twenty minutes before midnight.

He’s clutching something to his chest and it’s a book, as always. But this time, it’s not a classic and it’s not a hardcover of his favorite comic book; it’s a copy of his very own novel he’s been trying to write for a long time now. One night was enough to get obsessed with the idea that someone whom he admires might take a look at it and offer him a good critique.

When midnight strikes and one loud bang follows the other, Gerard’s senses sharpen and he stops mid-step, staring into the small alley where the old Peugeot appeared the night before.

Tonight, it’s not the same car – Gerard doesn’t recognize it, but he does recognize Hemingway’s face that lurks out as he waves at Gerard to join him.

This time, there’s not much hesitation in Gerard’s actions. He hops into the car, shaking hands with the writer as if they were friends. Gerard must admit that it’s probably because he’s dressed more properly tonight – thank God there are vintage shops in Paris.

“Where are we going tonight?” he asks and clears his throat, trying to hide his book under his arm and failing hard.

“We’re going to Gertrude Stein’s,” Hemingway answers in a strong voice and waves his hand in the direction of Gerard’s book. “Frank mentioned you’re a writer. So I’m taking you to hers. She’s good, she’s always been a great judge of my works. Is that okay with you?”

Gerard has a tough time concentrating on what Hemingway is actually saying – all of his attention is occupied by the way Hemingway talks. After every sentence, there’s an almost visible dot, as if he wanted to start the next sentence with a clear beginning.

He comes to his senses, though, and nods quickly. “That’s – that’s really amazing.” He has to bite down on his lip, though, so he wouldn’t ask if Frank is going to be there, too.

A few minutes into the ride and Gerard finds himself lost in Hemingway’s stories. As it turns out, he not only writes them – he also tells them if he can sense a good listener in you. And, well, Gerard’s always been good at that. And so he has the chance no one else has these days – he can talk to Ernest Hemingway, he can ask him questions and he can try and observe him.

People tend to make fun of the lost generation. But in the end, as Gerard is stuffed in the car with Hemingway, he can see that it’s all true. He sees the damage that has been done on him, he can see dead bodies floating through Hemingway’s eyes, he can see how much he holds himself up as if not to fall on his own face. And Hemingway’s going to hell, just like everyone else who had been forced to kill men.

It leaves some sort of a lost feeling in Gerard and it sticks to him the whole time they’re at Gertrude Stein’s. It’s not really a surprise when he sees her fighting with motherfucking Picasso. Meeting artists has become kind of natural by now.

Frank, unfortunately, isn’t there. Gerard wants to see him again, that’s for sure, and the mature part of him is not even trying to run away from it. The same mature part, though, reminds Gerard from time to time that this is supposed to be just a legend and that he should let go.

“Come back in a few days,” Gertrude says when he hands her the book. Without waiting for an answer, she sits down in her chair with it and opens the file, reading the title out loud. “I brought you my bullets, you brought me your love. Sounds good, just a bit long. But leave it like that, long titles are unique and unusual.”

Gerard holds his breath when she scans the first few sentences and hums, but doesn’t say anything about it. “I didn’t want to change it, anyway,” he points out, squeezing the hem of his white shirt.

“Come on,” Hemingway says, suddenly appearing in the room with a cigar between his lips. “Let’s go have a drink. You with me?” With that, he throws his arm around Gerard’s shoulders.

That small question – is Frank going to be there? – dances on Gerard’s lips again, and again, he fights it. He nods nonetheless, though, shrugging. “Why not? One drink can do no harm.”

Their way to the “let’s go have a drink” place is not long, but it’s silent and Gerard’s finally got time to think. Really – as much as he’d always feared showing his work to anyone, now it lies forgotten at the back of his mind. Fucking Frank occupies his brain.

Why the hell is Gerard so drawn to him? He saw him once. That’s definitely not enough to develop a crush on someone, or is it? Either way, he’s not that stupid that he’d fall for someone from a different era. Accepting that this is real and not just a legend is one thing, but wanting to spend time with someone from here is sick. That’s something else. It’s completely different.

Yet Frank’s face haunts Gerard, just like it did the whole day. And he doesn’t know what to do about it, really – he just knows that fighting this urge inside of him is not in his power. He likes the way Frank talks and moves, he likes the way his lips move, he likes his face. Things like this happen all the time; that someone simply catches your eye right away, it’s just unfortunate that it happened now, in the twenties.

After they get to a small bar and Gerard has that certain drink he mentioned before, everything becomes much easier, though.

He likes a guy from the twenties? Then so be it, there’s a zero possibility Frank would be gay, but who cares? Crushes are allowed, always.

His spirits sort of fall down, though, when the door opens and the Fitzgeralds walk in; Frank, of course, with them. Gerard suddenly isn’t sure if that’s good or not – and for a moment there, he even considers running away again.

Before he can do that – because destiny is a bitch like that – Frank spots him and says something to Fitzgerald. He immediately finds Gerard with his eyes as well and starts making his way through the room to him. He only stops by the bar to order whiskey.

The waiting until Fitzgerald gets to Gerard (with Frank by his side) feels never ending. Gerard’s most likely never been this nervous; not just because of Frank, but also because Francis Scott Fitzgerald has been Gerard’s idol for years now.

“Hello,” Frank says with a sheepish smile on his face and yes, it’s definitely back – turns out that also Frank’s voice leaves Gerard a bit mesmerized. “Gerard, this is Scott Fitzgerald, whose wife you met yesterday. Scott, this is Gerard…” he trails off, looking surprised when he realizes he doesn’t know Gerard’s last name.

“Way. Gerard Way, it’s a pleasure,” Gerard says quickly and reaches out his hand, which Scott accepts and shakes with a strong squeeze.

“So, as a writer, do you find Paris inspirational? Because I, if I am honest with you, don’t. Don’t get me wrong, if I could marvel at the streets and spend every afternoon walking through them and breathing in the atmosphere, it would be inspirational indeed! But in Paris there’s always something more interesting to do, don’t you find?”

Gerard’s eyes flicker and find Frank’s face for a second – just to see him smile from behind his glass. He goes back to Scott right after that, his cheeks flushed. “I’ve been here for only a few days so far, but I haven’t written anything, that’s true.”

Fitzgerald smiles as if it was true pleasure to see his theory proven on another human being, and then changes the subject. “What unfortunate events brought you to being a writer?”

“It wasn’t unfortunate, not really,” Gerard laughs and scratches his chin idly. “I found myself buried in books as a kid, it only felt natural to carry on with the same note. Besides, books were always the only thing that made me feel like I fit in.”

Scott nods, “Well, yes, that is part of the beauty of all literature,” he says, thinking about it at the same time. “You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.”

Gerard stares for a moment, and he would probably stare for even longer, if it wasn’t for Frank, who decides to say something for the first time since introducing them.

“If you appreciate literature so much, why would you think that only unfortunate events make you become a writer?” he asks with curiosity and a smirk spreads across his face. He looks at Gerard, then, pleased to see him amused.

“I honestly don’t know why I’m friends with you. You think of the worst questions and I do not like that.”

Frank makes a grimace and shrugs. “You know me. I do not write, but I’m a bastard nevertheless,” he says, making Fitzgerald laugh with it.

It’s when Scott opens his mouth again, just about to say something, that someone calls his name and catches his attention. The three of them turn their heads in that direction and see a lady with a red, sparkly tiara waving at Fitzgerald with a smile on her face.

“If you could excuse me, gentlemen,” Fitzgerald mumbles with a grin on his face and not waiting for their response, he makes his way to the lady.

Gerard doesn’t think much of that, mainly because he’s still busy thinking how close Frank is to him. Frank himself just shakes his head and comments almost as if he was a bit mad, “Zelda is going to make a scene. How come Fitzgerald doesn’t see how jealous she is and still flirts with every fine looking lady he lays eyes upon?”

Gerard takes a sip of his drink – it’s just tonic, but honestly, it tastes so much better than alcohol these days – and hums. “I think you know the answer to every question you ask, but you just wanna hear others’ opinions.”

It’s hard to miss the red that spreads across Frank’s cheeks after that, even though he bows his head a bit. “You’re a very strange person, Gerard Way.”

Gerard snorts and nods. “Yeah. And you don’t even know me in real life,” he points out without realizing what he’s saying, but once it’s out, he doesn’t really regret it. Maybe it’s the alcohol nesting in his system, but who knows? Maybe Frank likes mysterious people.

Frank looks up and narrows his eyes, swaying on his heels a bit. “Would you go on a walk with me?” he asks suddenly and even though it’s probably nothing more than just a friendly invite on an even more friendly walk, Gerard blinks a few times and his lips part slightly. He’s convinced – although he has no idea why whatsoever – that Frank’s up to something. Whether it’s the spark in his eyes or the sudden bashfulness in his face, something about Frank changes and Gerard sees it. Frank seems so small in his black, worn-out suit jacket all at once, and it makes him look ever prettier.

Gerard picks up the pieces of his sanity just a few seconds before Frank can assume that he’s mentally ill, and his eyes wander up to the door where there’s a clock hung. His horror must show off on his face when he sees it’s almost half past two.

“I’d very much love to,” he says as an answer to Frank’s question, “But it’s too late. I need to go.”

“You’re running out on me again!” Frank says with disappointment in his voice (even though he’s still trying to keep the amused mask on his face).

“Oh,” Gerard utters and runs his fingers through his hair, “I’m sorry I ran off the last time. It was… Hey, what if went on a walk tomorrow? We could meet here, just after midnight.”

Frank’s face is confused at first, almost as if he was actually waiting for Gerard to explain himself, but when the suggested plan makes its way to Frank’s brain, his face lights up and he nods without hesitation.

“It’s a deal! I’ll be here. But God protect you if you don’t show up – I’ll tell Hemingway, and you know how much he loves fistfights.”

A happy laugh escapes Gerard’s mouth – and when he looks at Frank’s face, he catches him watching. That makes him pull up a straight face and he nods with just a soft grin at the corner of his mouth. “No need to threaten me, I’ll be here for sure.”

***


“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”
Ernest Hemingway

***
It’s really unnerving until he gets to the bar where he’s supposed to meet Frank. After he gets there and sees him leaning against the bar, it feels even worse.

God must be standing on his side, though, because he doesn’t have to be the one to walk up to Frank and talk to him; Frank turns around to check the room soon enough and as he spots Gerard in the crowd, he hops off the tall chair and smiling, he makes his way to him.

“I was starting to worry!” Frank acclaims, trying his best to sound cheerful again. “It’s half past midnight, you know?”

Gerard shrugs and hopes Frank can’t see how furiously he’s blushing at the moment. “Hemingway wanted to stop by Gertrude Stein’s; I couldn’t do anything about it.”

“Are you such good friends with Ernest Hemingway?” Frank asks and it’s obvious that he doesn’t really trust Gerard’s excuse much.

“Well, he always picks me up. But that’s all,” Gerard states and since this is the first he’s wearing a proper suit jacket, he checks if it’s buttoned up and if it needs any fixing. He feels kind of uncomfortable, as if he’d put on someone else’s skin; he’s definitely not used to that.

“Anyway,” Frank exhales and rubs his hands with glee. “Shall we go? I’ve been stuck inside for the whole day and a walk by the Seine could only do me good.”

“Yeah, right, okay,” Gerard stutters awkwardly and heads for the door again, almost tripping over his feet while looking back at Frank. For a second there, he needs to remind himself that grabbing Frank’s hand would be really inappropriate, since this is not even a real date – only Gerard’s brain makes it sound like it is. The suit jacket comes in handy when Gerard stuffs his hands into its pockets – just to be sure he wouldn’t do anything embarrassing subconsciously.

In a few minutes Gerard finds himself lost in chit-chat. They’re talking about small, everyday things – with Gerard trying not to say anything about the fact he’s from the future – and it’s actually enjoyable. It surprises Gerard to no extent, but he is eventually able to relax in Frank’s company and it feels nice.

They’re just discussing green tea and its pros and cons (yes, chit-chat is allowed to be awkward like that) when shouting interrupts them.

Gerard realizes that they’re actually outside and looking around, he notices a group of boys standing a few feet away from them.

There’s a bottle of liquor they’re exchanging, everyone taking a sip of it, and it reminds Gerard of teenagers these days. These people are obviously grown up, though; just wasting their time here.

There’s one man leaning casually against a wall of some old house with a cigarette in his mouth. “Hey, Ethel!” he shouts and Gerard can’t help but notice how Frank’s body jerks beside him. “Ethel, come on! Give us a show! Jack here, he wants a kiss! How ‘bout that, Ethel?”

“Shut up, Mike!” calls someone else – Gerard guesses it’s Jack.

“Gerard, let’s go,” Frank says in a panicky voice and when Gerard looks at him, he notices that Frank’s stressed out. He totally doesn’t know what this is all about, but he nods.

“O-okay,” he mumbles and quickens his pace, following Frank who has taken the lead. They’re gone from that street soon enough, but Frank has fallen silent anyway and Gerard considers what to do next. That was some weird shit that happened back there – he doesn’t even dare to assume things.

“Um,” he says at last to catch Frank’s attention and clears his throat. “So, what was that about?”

Frank sighs as if he’d expected this question anyway and even though Gerard can’t see Frank’s face from behind the curtain of his hair, Frank bows his head even more. “The people back there? You probably wouldn’t buy it if I said that was nothing, huh?”

“Well, at first I just saw a group of people shouting something,” Gerard says carefully, “but then I noticed you kind of reacted to it, so I assume it’s got something to do with you?”

“Yeah,” Frank admits after a few seconds and just as they get to the sidewalk that would lead them by the Seine, he stops. He pulls out a cigarette from his pocket – it looks a bit broken in the middle, but Frank doesn’t seem to notice; that or he simply doesn’t care – and a little pack of matches. “I don’t know you really well, but I think you won’t judge me, am I right?”

Gerard shakes his head and watches Frank as he brings the cigarette up to his mouth and lights it up, sucking in and then letting the smoke out. It looks strangely captivating – the way Frank squeezes the cigarette between his middle finger and forefinger.

“I’ve been judged too many times to judge others,” he replies when Frank looks at him with a question in his eyes, as if he needed an official confirmation.

“There was this one time,” Frank states and starts walking again, “I don’t really like to remember it. It’s – well, I’ll just say it. I was caught in the middle of something; that something being kissing another boy by the back entrance of some hotel. It’s become some sort of a rumor and since I look a bit like a girl, this happens from time to time.”

“Oh.” It falls from Gerard’s lips like a bucket of cold water – although it splashes over’s Gerard’s head, not Frank’s. Gerard’s pretty sure his heart might have skipped a beat there, at the “kissing another boy” bit. He’s uncertain for a second – what if he just misheard Frank, right? But then again –

“Ah, do you hate me now?” Frank sounds bitter as he says those words, like he expected Gerard to act differently or at least say something to it.

Jesus Christ, if Frank only knew what was going through Gerard’s mind at that moment! Thoughts racing like speed cars – and that’s not even a good comparison. First thought is – holy shit, Frank is into guys. Second thought is – holy shit, that means Gerard’s allowed to develop a crush on him (let’s pretend that hasn’t happened yet). Third thought is – holy shit, this is so unbelievable that it’s sort of ridiculous. Also, holy shit, he should really say something.

“No – Frank, God, of course I don’t hate you,” he comes with a sort-of-late answer and tries to cover it up with an insecure smile. “I mean, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with kissing other boys, even if you’re a boy yourself. That’s just. It’s okay.”

He feels a bit bad for keeping his own homosexuality a secret, but he’s in no state to come out with that now. Frank’s thankful look is really everything he could ask for and they’re back in the talkative mood just moments later.

They don’t set up a date for another walk, but they do leave some clues that say it will happen eventually. It takes them just one night to become ridiculously close to each other – although it’s not such a wonder when Frank shared something like that with Gerard.

When Gerard gets home that night, he’s really exhausted. But instead of taking a shower – which he really should do, and he should do it really soon – he opens up his laptop and biting down on his lip, he types “1920s Ethel meaning” into Google.

To be honest, he’s rather surprised to see actual results come up. He clicks right on the first one and it throws him into a website with the 1920s slang. He raises his eyebrow at both the fact that something like this exists and the fact that he hasn’t thought of trying to find it, and then focuses on finding the Ethel one there. He scrolls down to ‘E’ and when he reads the description, Frank’s words make more sense.

‘Ethel: an effeminate male.’

As he reads this, he feels uncontrollably sorry for Frank – bullying at high school these days is horrible, must it be like for a grown up man to be treated like this? It must feel exactly the same, if it’s not even worse.

Gerard exits the page and closes his laptop with an indescribable feeling in his guts. He buries himself deep in the sheets and he wishes he could bury Frank there as well. He knows he probably won’t, but he wants to hug the shit out of Frank. And then he would tell him the truth about himself – well, the fact that he’s into guys as well – and then, then he would try and kiss Frank. And maybe, just maybe, Frank would kiss him back. It’s very unlikely, but isn’t life a bit surprising sometimes? Maybe it will surprise Gerard with pushing Frank’s lips onto his, who knows.

Anyways, before Gerard falls asleep, he makes the decision to go back to the slang website and search for something. He’s not entirely sure what he’s going to be looking for, but he suddenly wants to speak Frank’s language while coming out to him. Probably to make it easier for Frank.

And Gerard also promises to himself that even if he doesn’t find anything on there, he will still tell Frank everything. He said it himself – there’s nothing wrong about being a boy and wanting to kiss other boys.

It’s funny, but Frank happens to be the boy Gerard wants to kiss.

***
Gerard’s mission turns out to be quite possible. He’s only got to the letter ‘C’ when he finds exactly what he’s looking for.

‘Cash or check: Do we kiss now or later?’

Gerard has the feeling that he’s heard this phrase before, but it never meant anything and he didn’t manage to remember it. Finding it now seems pretty accurate, though – and courageous, also.

He takes a break from the twenties at first. As he knows himself, he wouldn’t be capable of saying this to Frank right away. He’s quite a lady in stuff like this, but he seriously needs to come to terms with what he plans on doing and accept that he might get rejected. Yup, rejection is more than possible.

Every day before Gerard falls asleep, he brings the butterflies in his stomach alive by thinking about the scene he has in mind again and again.

It’s such a pretty illusion, really. Gerard sees them walking by the Seine again; they’re discussing something more intimate this time, not something as stupid as green tea. And as they get to more personal subjects, Gerard stops and admits that he’s got something he wants to tell Frank. He grabs Frank’s shoulder tentatively to see if he would jerk away. When he doesn’t, Gerard smiles shyly and holding his breath, he spills it out. Frank is unresponsive and Gerard quickly comes up with the “cash or check” thing. And Frank nods and then they kiss.

At this point, Gerard always grins into his pillow stupidly and has to hold back a giggle. He hasn’t daydreamed about anyone in years and although he knows it probably won’t go this smoothly, he still likes to believe it. Wouldn’t it be great?

To make a good impression, Gerard dresses up. It’s the first time in a few days that he makes his way to the Saint Etienne church and it feels new again. When midnight comes, Gerard can’t help but shiver in the sudden fear that the legend won’t be real anymore and the magic won’t happen. But in the end, a car stops in the small alley near him and he hops in.

He’s lucky enough to have stopped the Fitzgeralds on their way to some party – he doesn’t even have to overcome his hesitancy and ask, Zelda comments that Frank will be happy to see Gerard.

(He has a hard time deciding whether that’s fortunate or not.)

Frank’s face is the first face Gerard spots in the bar. It’s the one he’s been to before and so the place is a bit familiar to him and he feels a bit more comfortable than usual.

Frank is sitting at the bar and so Gerard has to walk up to him whether he wants to or not – he just wants a drink, really. It’s like you don’t even exist in the twenties until you have a glass of something. He feels his knees go all wobbly on his way there, but he manages to put on an unsure smile and actually greet Frank.

“What are you having?” Gerard asks and points towards Frank’s glass with a liquor that looks a bit like vodka.

“Water, actually,” Frank informs him with a smirk. “I decided to kick this drunken generation in the ass. Will you join me?”

“Only if you will join me for another walk later,” Gerard blurts out without thinking about it and bites down on his lip only later, realizing he maybe shouldn’t have been so eager. But Frank smiles at him with this happy, sincere smile and nods, and that’s it. Gerard smiles back and waves at the bartender. “I’ll have what he’s having.”

So far, Gerard’s plan has been going well. They’re not really discussing anything serious or private, but they are having fun indeed. It’s mostly because Frank shares random memories with Gerard; like robbing this rich pal back in New York. Frank is a master in storytelling; it amuses Gerard to no end. Good is also that the walk happens as well.

Not so good is that Gerard just doesn’t seem to have it in himself to simply start talking about anything serious, his sexuality including. It’s never been such a big deal for him, with his family accepting him right away, but it seems to be an issue right now.

And so it happens that from telling fun stories to each other, they fall silent. They end up sitting by the Seine, their legs hanging over the edge of the sidewalk, and Gerard sighs – mostly from being disappointed with himself.

“Hey, what is it?” Frank asks and Gerard remembers how Fitzgerald said that Frank asks “the worst questions”. He didn’t really believe it back then, but now he does.

Play it cool, Gerard’s mind decides for him and he shrugs his shoulders. “What?” he asks and turns to the side to look at Frank’s face.

Which is a horrible decision, really. Frank’s face looks… different in this light. It’s not just the moon reflecting in the water of the river and creating some kind of light – it’s also the flickering street lamp behind them that just makes everything look way too pretty.

Frank looks like he’s lost in thought; God knows what he’s thinking about. He’s staring at Gerard with this weird but intense look, and the shadow of his eyelashes is falling down on his cheeks, lying way too long and way too tempting.

“You’re silent,” Frank responds with a frown on his face. “And I’m wondering if it’s something I’ve done.”

Gerard exhales and scratches his temple, tucking a few of his dark locks behind his ear. “It sort of is,” he admits quietly and looks up at Frank’s face once again; mesmerized once again.

“Oh. Can I fix it somehow?” And the look of confusion on Frank’s face is really cute and adorable, Gerard thinks as he reaches out with his hand and rests it on Frank’s cheek. He shuffles closer on the cold sidewalk, his thigh touching Frank’s all of a sudden. It’s good to feel that heat; it’s encouraging. Gerard can’t tell what’s going on in Frank’s mind, but it looks really chaotic in his own.

It’s a combination of, just kiss him; he’s too gorgeous; I can’t kiss him; he’ll hate me; I like him; his skin is so soft; should I kiss him?; can he even fix it?; what should I do?; god, I’m shaking; my hand on his face is shaking; Frank’s face; his eyes; just kiss him.

“Cash or check?” Gerard chokes out and, well, to hell with his original plan. It’s not useful, or so it seems. He’s holding his breath, mortified that Frank would pull away now, unable to take his words back.

Frank looks… shocked, surprised. And it’s definitely not the expression Gerard was aiming for with this whole situation. He realizes that he’s still got his palm cupping Frank’s cheek and as he’s just about to pull away, when Frank moves quickly and covers it with his own. His face is still… kind of frozen, Gerard guesses, as if Frank didn’t know how to react, but at least they’re touching each other. At least he knows it’s wanted.

It takes Frank a few more seconds – that represent pure Hell to Gerard – until he nods and clears his throat before saying really quietly, “Yes – I mean, oh… Cash.”

Until Gerard gets it, he stares at Frank’s shy smile for a few seconds, but then – did he just say ‘cash’? Oh man, what does that stand for? Absolute, utter panic covers Gerard from the roots of his hair down to his heels until he remembers that cash stands for ‘now’. And he can’t believe that Frank would say that, that it’s actually happening.

He dumbly runs his tongue over his lips – while Frank is already staring down at them – and then closes the gap between them in shaky movements, pressing their lips together.

They’re barely touching until Frank pushes even closer and their mouths melt. Gerard lets out a breath of relief and grins into the kiss, feeling Frank do the same.

It doesn’t really feel like fireworks exploding, or like miracles happening, or like world never being the same again. It doesn’t feel like a never ending minute and it doesn’t feel like never wanting to break the kiss. It’s more like strange calmness rushing over Gerard, embracing him and rocking him in its arms.

It’s slow and still very shy. They’re like a sculpture by the Seine, unmoving and still. Gerard’s lips are so crushed by Frank’s that he can feel his own pulse in them.

Frank’s hand is the first one that slips down to rest on Gerard’s hip. He digs his fingers into the skin there and Gerard moans quietly at the back of his throat, hanging one of his legs over Frank’s. His hand slips down as well and remains on Frank’s chest, uncertain if it should push back or pull closer by grabbing Frank’s shirt.

They pull apart, eventually. Gerard notices the dreamy look on Frank’s face and he blushes when he realizes he must look the same right now.

“It’s okay to kiss other boys, huh?” Frank jokes and smiles. He puts one of his hands on Gerard’s leg that’s still hung over Frank’s in a possessive gesture, like saying: he’s mine now, don’t you dare to even look at him.

Gerard giggles and nods, “Well, yeah. I couldn’t think of anything else.”

“How about, ‘I know, I’ve been in a situation like that’? Or, even better, ‘Don’t worry, I like you back’.”

“You really wanted me to say that?” Gerard asks, surprised. His eyes fall down to Frank’s lips again, just for a brief second, and he suddenly knows that even though he didn’t want the first kiss to last forever, he sure as hell wants to kiss Frank again.

“It was foolish of me, really,” Frank admits and looks down with a smirk, “But I did. I hoped – I just hoped this would happen. But what I hope for usually doesn’t become reality, therefore I didn’t want to talk to you and say that I fancied you.”

Gerard’s tempted to ask why me? or to say how is this real? but he manages to hold it back. “Would you even consider telling me that you liked men if that… didn’t happen?” he asks instead in a tiny voice, hinting to the group of people calling insults after Frank.

Frank doesn’t hesitate before he shakes his head. “No. I don’t do that. Not anymore.”

“Come here,” Gerard says as a response and while Frank tangles his fingers in Gerard’s hair, they kiss again.

They would be very happy to spend the rest of the night just sitting there and observing each other, but they both need to get back. Gerard knows Mikey would be worried and Frank’s got his own life – they get up eventually and start walking again.

When they get back to the bar, Gerard tugs at Frank’s sleeve and drags him to the side alley, trying not to think dirty thoughts.

“To say goodbye properly,” he murmurs as an explanation and not waiting for an answer, he attacks Frank’s mouth again. He tries to fight it at first, but he ends up poking out his tongue anyway and as he traces it along Frank’s lips, he can hear Frank whimper.

“Mhm, Gerard,” Frank tries to mumble against Gerard’s lips, as if he wanted to say that this is no place for making out like this, but Gerard doesn’t listen. He keeps pushing at Frank’s lips with his tongue until Frank gives in and fighting his thigh between Gerard’s legs, he opens his mouth.

In a few seconds, Gerard pulls away from Frank’s mouth and drags his wet lips down Frank’s jaw to his neck. He wants to leave a mark. He sucks carefully on Frank’s skin there, feeling goose bumps under his lips.

“Feels so good,” Frank moans with his obscene mouth and tugs at Gerard’s hair.

Yeah, this time, Gerard doesn’t really want this to end. Ever. A small, creepy voice in his head whispers to him, ‘Hey, you’ve got a boyfriend. Please, don’t mind that he’s from the twenties!”

Gerard doesn’t mind.

***
A few nights later, they’re curled up close to each other on a wooden bench in a small café, hidden in an even smaller alley. It’s the place that will be later known as the place where the lost generation used to gather and talk until late night hours. Gerard has got no time to pay attention to that, though.

He’s fully focused on Frank’s hand that’s lazily placed on his thigh, moving up or down every few seconds. It’s quite distracting, but it’s not too much; Gerard would say it’s just nice.

“So, how come,” Gerard starts off with a sheepish smile on his face and turns a bit more to the side to look at Frank’s face, “you’re here with the Fitzgeralds? I mean, I know you’re a family friend, but how did that happen in the first place?”

Frank shrugs and looks away, his features suddenly cold as he pulls away a bit. “I’m not really a family friend, meeting Zelda was really an accident that happened a few months ago.”

“Oh,” Gerard nods and joins in on keeping the distance between them by pulling away completely. He reaches out with one hand, curling his fingers around the stem of his glass. “You don’t have to talk about it, if it’s too personal or brings bad memories,” he suggests quietly as he can tell that it’s something Frank is not comfortable with.

“I want to be honest with you,” Frank says quickly and sits forward on the bench, his fingers squeezing Gerard’s shoulder. “But I’ve never talked about this to anyone except Zelda, and I was pretty ossified at the time.”

“And by ossified you mean – “

“It doesn’t really compliment me, but I had too much wine that night and it loosened my mouth. So when I met her, I told her everything.”

Gerard hums, reminding himself that he should take a look at the website with the slang again and maybe remember something this time. He wouldn’t have to ask about anything like an idiot, for example, if he only paid attention to something else than the “cash or check” thing.

“You told her what?”

“Well,” Frank mumbles and a soft smile, although a bitter, sad one, appears on his face. “I told her that my mother died from cancer a few weeks ago, that I had nowhere to live and that I’ve never met my father, because he was a selfish bastard who left my mother alone. So,” he shrugs idly, probably trying to stay calm, “she offered me help and I accepted it.”

“Holy shit,” Gerard utters before he can stop himself and he rubs his palm against his cheek. He definitely didn’t expect this and now he doesn’t know how to react. Should he say that he’s sorry or should he say nothing at all? He goes for the easiest option he can think of. “I’m glad she did that.”

“Well, yes,” Frank agrees and the smile on his face becomes more sincere and less sad. “She’s got such a big heart, but she doesn’t like people knowing that.”

“Everyone does that,” Gerard comments and leans back, gesturing for Frank to come closer. Frank obeys, hugging Gerard around his waist and curling up under his shoulder. A sigh escapes Gerard’s mouth as he tugs Frank close, suddenly seeing him as a fragile, lonely thing. Which is probably something Frank wouldn’t want to be seen as at all, but it’s not like Gerard can help it.

“At least it all led up to meeting you. That definitely makes up for everything that’s been eating me for almost a year,” Frank murmurs quietly into the fabric of Gerard’s cheap shirt and it seems like he shivers.

Gerard nips at his lip and asks himself, once again, what it is between them. What’s that connection that makes Gerard come to this time every night? Is it even real, will it last, where it comes from? He has no idea, but he knows that even talking about loss and awful things and regrets, he still feels better now than he felt with his last boyfriend – or really, any boyfriend he had before.

He lowers his head and places a soft kiss onto the crown of Frank’s head. He desperately wants to ask one of his questions out loud and discuss them. But he can’t do that, it would bring doubts, he knows.

However, Frank has no problem whatsoever with talking about these things, or so it seems. He looks up at Gerard after a few minutes of sort of lying there quietly and tilts his head to the side.

“I never imagined I would have this,” he says, almost as if he was completely accustomed to thinking that way. It takes a few seconds until Gerard gets the point, but when he does, it kind of hits him.

He’s in the twenties. How common is it that a boy falls in love with another boy? What would happen if they tried to kiss and someone saw them? They would probably end up beaten up like hell, with lots of bruises and fear of trying it every again. This is something completely different – of course Frank thought he was one of the few that feel like this. And although Gerard has felt great loneliness many times in his life, he suddenly knows it never came even close to how Frank must feel all the time.

And he can’t imagine leaving Paris, leaving the twenties. It’s kind of wrong to think this way, but he’d very much love to be Frank’s savior, sort of.

“Me neither,” Gerard says back and it’s not even a lie. Of course he never thought he would ever end up in the arms of a guy from the twenties. Besides, it’s not just that – he doesn’t quite know what that feeling he has for Frank is, but he does know that it’s new to him.

They’re just about to kiss, leaning in closer to each other, when Hemingway interrupts them in what’s probably the worst way possible.

“Hey, girls,” he says and sits down opposite them, placing his own glass of wine on the table. “You sure don’t fear death, do you?”

“What?” Frank asks pulling away from Gerard and straightening up. The expression on his face could be without much hesitation characterized as disgusted. Gerard is pretty sure that if Ernest didn’t box, Frank would try and punch him in the face for interrupting them.

“I said, you sure don’t fear death. If you did, you wouldn’t be trying to eat each other’s faces.”

Frank frowns, but Gerard makes an angry face and sticks out his middle finger, explaining, “That’s supposed to say ‘fuck you’.”

Hemingway laughs with sincerity and nods as he if he’d taken it to notice that he should shut up the next time Frank and Gerard try to kiss romantically. He has no intentions of getting up, though; he takes a sip of his wine and licks his lips, tasting it.

“I meant it, though,” he points out and looks from Frank’s face to Gerard’s. “I’m not here to say that I hate to see you two together, but you should know that others will fear the unknown and you won’t get away with it. And I might not be here to fight for you. Got what I’m saying, boys?”

When Gerard takes a peak at Frank’s face, he can see him smiling softly. “Thanks. We appreciate it, we’ll be careful,” Frank promises and twines his fingers with Gerard’s under the table, doing so very carefully. Gerard can’t help it but grin.

“Yeah, we’ll definitely be careful,” Gerard joins in, but to be honest, he kind of can’t wait for Hemingway to get up and leave so they can finally kiss. To hell with being careful. He knows they should be, but he’s in no condition of controlling himself.

Hemingway eventually gets up, shouting at some toreador that has just walked into the room, and leaves them alone. When Gerard leans closer to Frank to kiss him as he’d intended before, Frank just smiles gently and shakes his head, pushing at Gerard’s shoulder.

“Ernest is right,” Frank explains softly when Gerard looks at him with confusion spreading across his face. “We shouldn’t be doing this in here. It’s dangerous. I mean, you’re so new to me and I want you close, that’s why I lost control before. But we… we can’t do this here.”

Gerard has a hard time understanding this, despite his knowledge of Frank’s theory being right. He’s never had to stop himself from kissing the one he’s with, but, of course, he’ll need to learn that now. “Okay. Do you wanna go somewhere else, then?”

Frank nods shyly right away and squeezes Gerard’s hand that he’s still holding. “Maybe another walk?” he suggests and the excitement in his eyes is too much for Gerard to say no to it.

“Why not? As long as I get to hold your hand and… you know,” Gerard laughs and Frank nudges Gerard’s shoulder with his nose.

The beginnings are always sweet; always.

***
It’s a heroic achievement, really, but one day Gerard manages to get up before noon. His sleeping schedule is so completely fucked up at the moment, always staying up with Frank until three am does him no good – or so it seems.

Anyway, it’s a beautiful Saturday. May has jumped into June easily and the sun is up half the time. Gerard still misses the rain, though, convinced that only then Paris has the right atmosphere – but he assumes he’ll go with sunny weather, too. Without complaints, actually.

Everything in him seems to be in peace. For a second, every problem is too small to be bothered by it. As he’s brushing his teeth, he seriously contemplates going to some park and spending the day drawing. Thinking that it would probably end up being a portrait of Frank’s face, he smiles to himself and stares at his reflection in the mirror for a few seconds.

“Holy shit, I’m actually dating a guy from the twenties,” he murmurs with toothpaste all over his mouth and giggles happily.

His happiness is a temporary thing, though, because as he finally walks out of his room (with his original plan being leaving the house right away) Mikey is just crossing the hall and he stops immediately.

“Gee!” he acclaims almost as if he hasn’t been living with his brother for a few weeks now and hasn’t seen him for at least half a year.

“Yeah, hi,” Gerard responds quietly, squeezing his sketchbook and his box of sharpened pencils in his hand. Really, he just wants to leave, because anytime Mikey rushes up to you like this, you simply know you’re in some kind of trouble.

“Can I talk to you for a second?” And yep, here it is. The look that says “I dare you to say no, you motherfucker, and I’ll cut your arms off”. For a brief second, Gerard is actually freaking out that Mikey is about to tell him he’ll have to leave or at least pay rent, which would stand for the same thing. A wave of panic rushes over him, but he manages to stay calm on the outside.

“Yeah, sure, what is it?” he says in a weird, high-pitched voice. Okay, so maybe he looks calm, but he definitely does not sound calm. This is a very serious issue.

Mikey just stands there for a moment, as if he was trying to decide whether to bring the subject up or not. He even avoids looking at Gerard’s face – but in the end, he sighs and looking up, he closes the gap between them, getting into Gerard’s personal space.

“Gee, where are you every night? I’m just – “ Mikey purses his lips and exhales again, “I’m just worried. Are you in trouble?”

Gerard’s eyes widen when he realizes what this is about. It’s not about throwing him out of the apartment, oh my god, not at all – it’s even worse. He’d never expect Mikey or Alicia to notice that he disappears every night, he’d never thought he should think of an excuse for this behavior. And holy shit, it hurts to see Mikey worried. He’s been through so much shit, with high school leaving a mark on him forever, with meds, with depression… and now that he’s finally okay, what is it that Gerard does? He makes it look like he’s in trouble.

He nips on his lower lip as to not start apologizing, and shakes his head. “No, Mikes, I’m not in trouble. You don’t have to worry about that.”

“What is it, then?” Mikey insists with a very persuasive expression on his face.

All of the feelings that Gerard has for Frank curl into a tight ball for a second, as if they were trying to hide themselves in him, but they end up exploding and Gerard suddenly can’t lie anymore. “It’s a boy, Mikey,” he breathes out and it feels incredibly good to say it out loud to someone. “I’m seeing this boy every night and it’s – he’s amazing.”

Mikey opens his mouth to say something back when he realizes what Gerard said. “Oh,” escapes his mouth before he can control it and a blush covers his face. Okay, so this is not what he expected, not at all. “Oh,” he repeats again and Gerard’s too amused by the sudden silence to say something. “So… a boy. How about you invite him over for dinner?”

“What?” Gerard squeaks, surprised. He doesn’t even look calm now, he can bet on it. He almost wants to bark out a laugh, because – how ridiculous! Because that’s completely possible to bring Frank to his apartment, it’s not like Frank is from the twenties, it’s not like Gerard’s just floating in this fucked up fantasy, it’s just that – “No, I think that’s not a good idea.”

Mikey frowns. “Why?”

“Well, because…” Gerard licks his lips, trying desperately to think of something to say. He, of course, comes up with the dumbest excuse he can, but he says something at least. “Because he’s shy. We decided to wait a bit until I introduce him to you guys.” And yeah, the poker face on Mikey’s face can be easily translated to ‘I am not buying this at all’. But Gerard couldn’t care less – the ground has become too dangerous to dance on, therefore he decides to slip around Mikey and basically run out of the apartment – because that’s exactly his style. “I’ll be back in a few hours!”

The feeling of happiness he’d had that morning is completely gone, though. It’s replaced by an uncomfortable feeling of nervousness.

Mikey has put a small bug into Gerard’s mind – a bug that lives on doubts and feeds on fear. A bug that keeps repeating, “Your relationship with Frank will fall apart soon, because you’re not from the same time! Faith is laughing its ass off at both of you!”

And even though the original plan is to sit down on a bench in a calm park, Gerard ends up walking around the city, restless. He knows that if he tried to draw Frank’s face right now, he would fail.

***
Gerard does everything that’s in his power to stay calm. If he doesn’t want something, it’s letting Frank know that there’s something wrong.

When he gets to see him about half an hour after midnight, he’s exhausted. Sure, he can blame the walking around the city for half of the exhaustion, but the other half is from thinking way too much about everything. Gerard is pretty convinced that if he ever got any sort of award, it would be something like “For Overthinking Everything On a Daily Basis”.

Shame is that Frank is an observing guy and he seems to have the ability to see what’s hidden after Gerard’s disguise. At first, he keeps his mouth shut about it, while they’re dancing to Cole Porter playing the piano and while they’re walking down the street.

But then, they end up sitting on a bench in a clearly forgotten park – literally no one is walking through that place – and Gerard’s bad mood becomes more obvious.

He tries, he really does. But still, as Frank attaches his lips to Gerard’s, he just can’t help it. He wants to kiss back and he wants to get completely lost in it, but still; he feels like he’s frozen, he can’t even move properly, and his lips remain hard like a stone, cold like a cube of ice.

And yeah, Frank tries too. He tries to ignore all of this for some time, but it’s too much for him to handle. He ends up breaking the kiss and staring at Gerard’s face with a hurt expression on his own.

“Gerard?” he says in an uncertain voice, his hand sliding down to Gerard’s shoulder. “What’s eating you? I feel like – I feel like you’re not here with me.”

Gerard exhales sharply and looking down at the ground, he runs his fingers through his hair – it’s something he always does when he’s nervous. “I’m sorry, Frank. It’s just that – “

“It’s just what?” Frank throws right back at him as if he knew that if he didn’t insist, Gerard would shut down. And that’s not what Frank wants; not really what Gerard wants. It’s kind of complicated on Gerard’s side, though – how do you tell someone that you’re not from their time without sounding like a lunatic?

“It’s – “ he tries and fails again. He almost whines out loud, but at least he manages to hold that back. “I have this – I have this secret, and I’m just really scared to tell you.”

Frank looks confused for a while, before his face tenses and his cheekbones that usually look soft and attractive now seem like they could cut Gerard’s heart open. “Are you married or engaged?” he chokes out in the end. “You can tell me. I’ll handle that.”

Gerard laughs at how ridiculous that is and shakes his head. “No, nothing like that. I’m afraid my secret is even worse.”

Frank lets out a sigh of relief, giving a lop-sided, yet unsure smirk. “Trust me when I say that nothing is worse than that. Come on, I was honest with you. Don’t assume I’m pushing you into anything, but I can see that it’s bothering you and maybe I could help you out.”

Gerard’s left wordless for a few seconds after that. It’s awful, what’s going on inside of him in these moments – because he wants to tell Frank everything, but he’s still not sure it would do any good. But, on the other hand… life is a risk, isn’t it? The moment this pops up in his head, he decides he is going to tell Frank all about this fucked-up time travelling thing; he just needs to think of the right way to do it.

“Do you believe in legends?” he says in the end and he ends up slapping himself in his mind. What kind of a start is that, Jesus Christ?

“Well, I guess I do,” Frank shrugs his shoulders and it’s really admirable that he’s able to take a question like this seriously. “I guess it depends on what the legend says. Why?”

“Because there’s this legend,” Gerard replies, deciding to continue with this bullshit and trying to ignore the sickness that starts to build up in his stomach. “It says that when you’re standing by Saint Etienne church at midnight, a car or another vehicle comes for you and takes you to the time you want to visit the most. I mean, you’re still in Paris, of course, but it takes you to another time.”

Frank blinks a few times and then scrunches up his nose, shaking his head. “I don’t think I’m getting what you’re trying to tell me.”

Gerard sighs and tries to come to terms with the fact he’ll have to be more obvious. “I got lost a few weeks ago. I ended up standing by a church I didn’t recognize and it was midnight, and – Hemingway picked me up there.”

This time, Frank seems to get the message. While Gerard is doing his best not to freak out and run away forever, Frank is… well, in awe. The few minutes of complete silence are overcoming Gerard like a wave of utter, complete regret. He shouldn’t have said anything, he’s quite sure about it right now – he was stupid to get enchanted by Frank’s eyes, and by his smile, and by the small, almost invisible scar near the right corner of his mouth.

Gerard is this close to bringing his hand up and going back to his old habit, which is biting his nails. He would probably rip his nails out from how nervous he is right now, though.

“Are you saying that this is the time you wanted to visit and that you’re not originally from here?” Frank says suddenly in a very quiet, rather emotionless voice.

Gerard hesitates for a second before he drops his gaze again and simply nods, not really able to say anything else right now. He’s still convinced he’s said too much already.

“And you’re being completely honest with me? You’re not making this up?” When Gerard looks at Frank’s face, he feels personally touched by the hurt he sees there. It’s like Frank’s begging, praying for Gerard to say yes and that’s either way the only word Gerard can offer him.

“Yes, I’m being completely honest with you,” he responds, feeling the anxiety burn small holes in his brain. “I wouldn’t make this up. Frank, I swear this is real. I know it sounds horrible and I would be more than happy to have not come up with this, but you wanted the truth.”

“Fuck,” Frank groans and he bends forward, burying his face in his hands. It’s the first time Gerard hears him swear and it leaves him speechless. “This is unbelievable. I finally find someone who feels like the right person for me and – something like this has just got to happen. What the hell even?”

Gerard honestly doesn’t want to interrupt this – it’s Frank’s private confession, mumbled into the skin of his palms. He’d probably done it this way so he would feel at least a bit safe, unseen. But there’s also another side in Gerard, the one that seems to be controlling his mind; he reaches out and rests his palm on Frank’s warm back, not daring to caress it.

“Do you think I’m insane?” Gerard asks in a soft voice. He wouldn’t be surprised at all if Frank said yes. In fact, it’s kind of what he expects him to say.

It takes Frank a few more seconds to rub his face and then look up at Gerard. “No. I hope it’s not too stupid of me to believe you, because that’s what my brain decided to do. For whatever reason, I believe you.”

Gerard’s hand slides down Frank’s back, stopping only when the belt on Frank’s pants comes in the way. “For real? You believe me for real?”

Frank huffs out a laugh and nods. “I actually do. You really promise that you’re telling me the truth?” Gerard purses his lips, but manages to nod without hesitation this time. “Then I believe you.”

It’s quite difficult to contain everything that happens in Gerard’s mind and heart at that second. Not in his wildest dreams would he imagine that this would happen. He really thought that this would be the end; that Frank would just laugh, get up and walk away. He can’t even comprehend the fact that they’re both still sitting here, let alone the fact that he’s important enough to Frank that he’s able to overcome whatever his rational part is telling him.

“Would you mind if I kissed you real hard now?” Gerard breathes out and his eyes wander down to Frank’s lips on their own.

“Please, do,” Frank responds quietly and as Gerard sees his lips move, there are not many things that would stop him right now.

Frank’s lips are dry and trembling when Gerard touches them with his own. His heart is going crazy in his chest while he rests his palm on Frank’s neck, just to be reassured that he’s not the only one having troubles with arrhythmia. And yes, he can feel Frank’s quick pulse.

In a moment, Frank buries his fingers in Gerard’s shirt and squeezes it as if he wanted to pull Gerard closer but failed miserably. Gerard tries, but they’re pressed against each other and they’re too close. There’s not even an inch between them, the small fire they’re sharing burns melted between their bodies.

Gerard doesn’t remember that he’s kissed someone like this before. It feels like it’s this kiss and not his words that should convince Frank, and Frank seems to be thinking the same.

Their connection feels to be never ending, although it’s just a few moments. Gerard has to fight the need to shuffle on the bench and actually straddle Frank’s hips – but he realizes he can’t do that in public, not now; not in this era.

One of them breaks the kiss eventually and Frank lets go of Gerard’s shirt, his face flushed. Gerard can’t tell if it’s from the kiss or if Frank is actually blushing, but that doesn’t really matter.

“So, where are you from?” Frank wonders after licking his lips. “I wanted to ask – what time?”

Gerard giggles and tangles his fingers in Frank’s raven black hair. “Uh, two thousand and twelve.”

“Two thousand and twelve?” Frank repeats after him in a surprised tone. “I would think that the world will explode in less than twenty years from now. Are you really from the future?”

Gerard furrows his brow and pulls his hand away. “I thought you believed me.”

“I do!” Frank says quickly and catches Gerard’s hand before he can pull it away completely. “But I’m not used to that idea yet. You can’t expect me to be okay with something like this. At least not right away. I’m completely balled up right now and I don’t know what to do with half of the things you’ve told me.”

Gerard bites down on his lip and asks, feeling quite stupid, “Balled up?”

Frank snorts. “That means confused. Listen, every time you ask like this… you don’t know what it means? You don’t use these words anymore?”

Gerard shakes his head. “It’s really just slang, you know? Used mostly in the twenties – I looked it up. That’s why I sound like an idiot half the time.”

Frank twines their fingers suddenly. “It’s adorable, really,” he reassures Gerard and makes him laugh with it. Maybe it’s not that bad in the end. Maybe Frank will get used to that idea eventually; maybe he won’t regret beginning this relationship to start with.

Gerard wants to believe that. Touching Frank’s hand, it’s sort of easier. Isn’t it supposed to be like that? Feeling the one you want to be with by your side and feeling certain about things you’ve always doubted? Because that’s what happening right now – the doubts start to float away and Gerard hopes Frank feels the same. He’s got to feel the same.

***
Gerard is a bit scared to meet Frank the next night, but the fear doesn’t even come near the point where he would decide to stay at home. He’s gotten the secret out of him, Frank decided to try and accept him; it would be stupid if Gerard chickened out on them now.

Frank greets him with a small, hidden kiss – like he always does. That pretty much convinces Gerard that everything is okay and he feared things for nothing.

He’s a bit suspicious when Frank leans closer to him in the middle of the night while sitting at a considerably loud café, though.

“Come outside with me,” Frank whispers and bites down on his lip when Gerard raises his eyebrow at him. He goes nonetheless, joining hands with Frank the moment they’re outside and they see no one is around. Frank leads the way to the side alley. (How comes there’s always one near bars, clubs and cafés?)

Various thoughts run through Gerard’s mind, really; from Frank breaking up with him to Frank dropping down to his knees and giving him a blowjob. It’s a bit surprising to see Frank dig around in his pockets and pull out a small, folded paper in the end.

“I want you to read this,” he says and hands it over.

Gerard looks down at the paper and takes it hesitantly, not sure what to expect. “Yeah, okay,” he utters and as he begins to unfold it, Frank surprisingly leans closer and leaning against Gerard’s body, he buries his face in his neck.

A bit distracted by this, Gerard still tries and focuses on the words written down in a handwriting he’s never seen before. Just as he realizes it’s a poem, Frank presses his lips against Gerard’s neck and stays like that.

I’ll whisper happy incoherent things
While I’m waiting for you there…

All the faces unforgettable in dusk
Will blend to yours…
And the footsteps like a thousand overtures
Will blend to yours…
And there will be more drunkenness than wine
In the softness of your eyes on mine…

Gerard’s speechless, not really sure what to say to something like this. He wants to read the short poem again to get everything that it’s supposed to say, but Frank’s lips on his skin are too persistent and distracting to do that.

“Frankie?” Gerard says in a soft voice, making Frank pull away from him and look up with an uncertain expression on his face. “I… I don’t know what to say.”

Frank smiles. “You don’t have to say anything, Gee,” he responds, using the nickname as if he felt the urge to be gentle with him.

Before letting Gerard have the chance to say anything else about it, Frank stands up on his toes and chases Gerard’s lips gently, kissing him. It’s way too easy to get lost in a connection like this, but Gerard still feels the dry paper rub his fingers and he has to pull away, just to be sappy for one single second. It’s not impossible to read ‘I love you’ between the lines; it’s different to say those words out loud.

Gerard said it before, sure; in relationships that have fallen apart for no apparent reason. With time, it feels like he said those words just to save everything or to keep everything alive and it wasn’t even worth it in the end.

It doesn’t feel like that now, though. If he said it to Frank, if he let those words fall down from between his lips where they’re waiting for their chance, it wouldn’t be to save them. It would be simply to let Frank know. It would be just to express what he feels inside, and there’s nothing wrong with that, is there?

He pulls away from the kiss, the soft noise of their wet lips parting cutting into his ears. He reads the two last lines again and then searches for Frank’s hand.

“I love you,” he murmurs quietly. It feels like there are thousands of other emotions still stuck at the back of his throat, but he knows this is all he can say and it will have to be enough. Saying that sends shivers down his spine, as it’s something he can’t take back anymore; even though it doesn’t contain everything he’s got for Frank inside of him.

Frank’s smile that spreads across his face and lights up his eyes is contagious. “I love you, too,” he says back and it doesn’t seem to be a problem for him at all. “God, I thought you didn’t feel the same for a second,” he admits and bangs his forehead against Gerard’s shoulder.

“I do,” Gerard laughs carelessly and rests his hands on Frank’s hips. “Hey, I didn’t know you write poetry.”

“Maybe it’s because I made Fitzgerald write that,” Frank snorts and looks up. “But I made sure that everything he put down on the paper represents what I feel towards you.”

Laughter escapes Gerard’s mouth as he hears that, but he folds the paper nonetheless and stuffs it in his pocket. Even though Frank didn’t write it, Gerard still values it to no end.

“That’s what counts,” Gerard reassures Frank and this time, it’s him who initiates the kiss. When he tries to invade Frank’s mouth with his tongue, Frank’s lips are already apart, inviting him in. Of course, Gerard takes that chance without hesitation.

He’s hot all over when Frank pulls away and says something Gerard wouldn’t expect him to say at all.

“Do you want to go to my place?” he suggests with his face flushed and Gerard is left in awe.

Gerard considers being a gentleman and saying something cute, like, isn’t that too soon, babe? or are you sure? but he finds out soon that his mouth is completely dry and he’s not actually able to speak.

It wouldn’t make him look like a gentleman if he just shook his head, right? Using this excuse, Gerard blinks a few seconds before he nods maybe too eagerly.

Gerard has no idea where Frank lives. Well, of course, he knows it’s somewhere in Paris, but he has no information about the location whatsoever. He finds out, though, that it’s too far away. He’s restless and his hands want to touch Frank’s skin, but they can’t. The longer it takes them to get there, the more painful Gerard’s hard-on is. He doesn’t even know what to do with himself – he just wants to get rid of his clothes and he wants Frank to do the same and he wants to be with him. He doesn’t even care if they’re going to sleep together or if they’re just going to exchange handjobs – he just wants it to happen. He wants Frank close.

That’s his only thought and therefore the whole way to Frank’s small, shady apartment passes in a blur.

He sobers up a bit when he hears Frank pull his keys. He watches him unlock the door with shaking fingers and he steps into the room the moment Frank gestures for him to do it.

Frank doesn’t bother with locking the door behind them. He drops the keys and they fall to the floor with a surprisingly loud thump, as if they were wooden.

What Frank bothers with is getting them to the bedroom. It’s like he doesn’t want to loosen his morals so much and start kissing Gerard right in the hall – and so he grabs his hand and leads him to the bedroom. This time, thank God, it doesn’t take so long.

Frank is the one to hit the bed with his knees and fall down on top of it, Gerard following him close. Frank spreads his legs for him and Gerard fits perfectly in between them, finding a comfortable position right away.

Gerard doesn’t know how and when that happens, but suddenly, he’s the one in charge. He tugs at Frank’s shirt desperately until it gives in and slides up from behind the hem of Frank’s pants. He rolls it up, then, laying his fingers on Frank’s pale stomach.

He lowers his head and kisses it, enjoying how cold yet warm the skin is. Gerard runs his tongue across Frank’s bellybutton and when he feels Frank move his hips up, he pulls away.

He’s not really able to make eye contact while he’s fighting with the buttons on Frank’s pants. If anything, he’s really glad that belts and jeans aren’t so hard to open up – if they were, it would be hell. He succeeds in the end and grips the hem of Frank’s pants forcefully. He pulls them half of the way down, leaving them at Frank’s knees, and comes back up to take care of the underwear. They follow the pants quite soon. Being familiar with his own clothes, he easily takes his shirt and pants with underwear off. While doing that, Frank pushes his shirt over his head and throws it to the side.

Gerard no longer knows who he is or where he is. This is the part where he becomes someone else entirely – he becomes Frank; he becomes Frank’s needs and desires; he becomes the mission to make Frank come. And it feels amazing to become all of this. He never thought he would actually ever get the chance to do so.

“Gee…” Frank breathes out, but it comes out as some sort of a reluctant question.

Gerard’s too busy planting open-mouthed kisses all over Frank’s inner thighs. Frank’s fear or whatever it was that resonated in his voice goes away soon – basically, when Gerard bites carefully on the skin there and Frank lets out a soft, high-pitched noise. There’s not much talking after this.

Gerard’s so courageous at that moment – although he has no idea where that is coming from – that he reaches out and pinches Frank’s nipple tentatively while spitting down on Frank’s cock.

“Oh, Jesus Christ, do that again,” Frank whines and arches his back.

Okay, so that was just an experiment, Gerard thinks as he keeps on massaging Frank’s nipple while smearing his spit around Frank’s dick. He wouldn’t actually think that Frank was into this kind of stuff, but it’s not like he minds.

Gerard stops paying attention to anything above Frank’s crotch eventually, lowering his head and taking him in. This is something he doesn’t do too often and the taste is a bit salty, but he doesn’t mind.

It takes him a while until he gets really into it, but Frank encourages him. Well, he encourages him mostly by tangling his fingers in Gerard’s hair and by trying and not thrusting into his mouth, really. But it all just shows that Frank is enjoying this and that makes Gerard feel good and more comfortable.

He wraps his fingers around the base of Frank’s cock to make it even better. When he wants to look up at Frank, the curtain of his hair stops him from that. Frank notices, though, and reaching out with one hand, he caresses Gerard’s face. He wipes away all the sweat and gets Gerard’s hair out of the way and they’re finally able to make eye contact.

“Jesus Christ,” Frank groans and moves his other hand to the back of Gerard’s head, pushing him closer ever so slightly. “Your mouth, oh fuck.”

Sometime around this time, where Frank’s tongue unties and he starts talking, Gerard can’t help it but move his hips. He’s shamelessly grinding against Frank’s body while sucking him off and looking him directly in the eyes. And he’s not even going to lie; it feels really good.

“Oh God, Gerard,” Frank moans after a few more minutes and he digs his fingers into Gerard’s shoulders. “Stop, come here. Fuck, come here, please.”

Gerard pulls off and climbs up without questioning anything. “Yeah, babe?” he murmurs and he can feel his lips vibrate as he speaks.

“Just – like this,” Frank says and slides his hands down Gerard’s body until they reach his ass. Frank squeezes it and then wraps his legs around Gerard’s waist. He thrusts up, then, rubbing his erection against Gerard’s. He exhales sharply. “Can we just… can we do it like this?”

Oh, as if Gerard could say no to that! He shivers when their hips meet again and a moan escapes his mouth before he can form an actual sentence to answer Frank’s question. He props himself up on his elbows and leans closer, their faces just inches apart. He grinds against Frank’s body himself and the pleasure that appears in his body is perfectly worth everything.

“Yeah,” he says finally, although it’s not a sentence. He actually doesn’t know if it’s an answer to Frank’s question or if it’s just a moan leaving his mouth without permission.

Frank’s body is all that exists at that moment. Their movements are quick and slippery from the mix of pre-come and Gerard’s spit. And oh God, Gerard wants this.

He tries and slides his hands under Frank’s shoulders, in desperate need to feel some weight on him. Frank pulls him closer and invades Gerard’s mouth with his tongue, his mouth making obscene, loud noises while he’s doing so. And the pace his hips set up is almost unbearable.

Gerard’s sweaty all over; he licks, he thrusts, he grabs, he swears, he kisses.

“I’m so – I’m so close,” he mumbles in the end and swears under his breath as he buries his face in Frank’s neck. The constant feeling of Frank’s erection rubbing against his own is driving him crazy. He’s never done something like this, he’s never come just from grinding against someone; just from touching someone. But it’s mind-blowing and it’s one of the strongest emotions he’s ever felt.

Frank swallows and his hands wander down to Gerard’s ass once again, squeezing it and pushing it down. “Me too, love,” he utters and the way he says it – how it’s still noble and so special despite the situation – does it for Gerard.

His hips jerk involuntarily and out of their pace a few times and then he’s biting down on Frank’s shoulder, trying to hold back the loud cry that’s fighting its way out.

Frank moves his body a few more times before he’s trembling and shaking in Gerard’s arms. His mouth, so loud and moaning all the time before, is now open and wordless. Even his eyes are wide open and Gerard feels like the luckiest man on Earth to get a view like this.

It seems like they both are a bit afraid to move; like they don’t want to ruin the atmosphere or (how ridiculous that is) the mess they made between their bodies.

Gerard’s holding on to Frank like it’s the only thing that’s keeping him alive, never mind that the muscles in his shoulders are slowly giving up. They’re just staring at each other and Gerard really wouldn’t mind if he could do that for a living. Staring at a beautiful face like Frank’s – he would do that more than gladly.

They, of course, fall apart eventually. But it’s not messy and it’s not too quick; Gerard simply untangles their feet and lies down beside Frank, who throws his arm around Gerard’s middle immediately and curls up close to him.

“Will you be here in the morning if I fall asleep now?” Frank asks a little sleepily and drags his mouth a few inches just beyond Gerard’s nipple.

It’s one of the hardest things Gerard’s ever had to say, and he sighs. “No, I won’t. I will have to leave soon, Frankie.”

“I wish you would never have to leave,” Frank comments. A bit of sadness fights its way to Frank’s voice and it’s too obvious for Gerard not to notice it.

“Maybe one day,” Gerard tries to comfort him and even though Frank doesn’t say anything to it, Gerard knows he failed at the attempt.

They stay in Frank’s bed for a few more minutes – still a bit scared to part ways just yet. Frank manages not to fall asleep, but they don’t exchange more words. They’re sort of just trying to find the calmness that greeted them the first time they kissed, not being able to find it all of a sudden.

But it’s still good. It’s still good to feel Frank’s sheets covering Gerard’s naked body and it’s even better to feel Frank himself. Gerard wouldn’t change this for anything. Knowing that he has to go back to his time is unnerving, but anytime Frank looks up at him with those eyes, it’s not so bad.

As long as Gerard stays in Paris, they’re safe. They have each other; lips, eyelids, secret looks, walks, holding hands. They can’t really ask for more.

***
After a few more days of kissing and being together, Gerard finds himself constantly lost in thought. They’re not really memories, and he’s not always coming back to the moments with Frank (although that happens as well), it’s something else and it steals a lot of peace of mind from him.

When he’s not asleep, when he’s not writing – he’s been writing like crazy since the whole affair with Frank started – he’s trying to find a solution to their situation, which is not an easy task. He wants Frank to stick around for as long as possible, simply because his presence makes him think about all of the good things and forget about everything else.

That thought keeps bugging Gerard, but truth be told, he has more important things to think about – how to make the relationship work, for example.

Frank is a guy from the twenties. That’s, of course, something Gerard has never dealt with and therefore it’s an unknown territory for him. Yeah, now Frank knows everything and they sort of trust each other, but still. What if – speaking hypothetically – Frank wants to close the time gap between them? Is there even a way to do that or will they always see each other only after midnight?

Suddenly, it’s quite the dream to see Frank’s face in the daylight. People look different in the shades of lamps (not to mention what it’s like when the lights are off).

After what seems like forever, Gerard finally thinks of something – he’s actually walking home after another night spent with Frank. Yeah, it’s come to the point where he doesn’t even need a cab to take him home – he knows the streets by memory, they’re carved into his brain and he could walk them blind.

He’s so excited about his idea that he’d very much love to make it happen right now, but it consists of talking to Alicia and he can guess she wouldn’t share his excitement in the middle of the night.

And so Gerard has to leave it for another day – oh, and when he wakes up, he suddenly fears the conversation. It’s like the enthusiasm he felt before he went to sleep has transformed into cowardice.

But as Mikey leaves for work, Gerard talks himself into walking out of his room and joining Alicia in the kitchen. It’s really a wonder that Mikey was able to find a girl who is into gory movies and also great at cooking.

“Hey, Al,” he peeps up almost shyly, standing in the doorway. She turns around, looking quite bizarre with a frying pan in her left hand (maybe because she’s wearing old, ragged jeans and her old Distillers t-shirt).

She fixes her hair with her free hand and gives a small grin, “Hey. What d’ya need?”

“What, I can’t come here and talk to you just because I want to?” Gerard asks, sounding almost offended. Of course. Alicia and her creepy radar again, sensing things from in between.

“Right,” she snorts and turns back to her own kitchen business. “So, what is it? Do I need to sit down or do I get to finish lunch?”

Gerard bites down on his lip and stepping closer to the table, he sighs. “It would be kind of really awesome if you could stop for a few minutes and sit down. But, like, if it’s not a problem, I mean.”

She briefly looks back at him, as if to check the situation, and when she sees him standing there with an uncertain expression on his face, she sighs as well and puts down the spoon. She dries her hands against the denim of her jeans, which definitely does not make her look like the usual housewife, and falls down on the chair behind the table.

“So, sit. And spill it out.” Gerard nods and even though Alicia is probably impatient – he interrupted her in the middle of something – she doesn’t let it come out and show off on her face.

“So,” Gerard repeats after her and sighs, placing both of his palms on the wooden table. He fights with himself for a few seconds before he looks up at her. It’s quite difficult to talk about all of this and keep the secret hidden, still – it’s not like he wants to inform her that he’s been in a relationship with a guy who would be approximately one hundred years old. “Remember the legend you told me about?”

Alicia frowns, but nods after a moment. “You mean about the Saint Etienne church, right? The one that’s real according to you.”

“Right,” Gerard says quickly to make her last comment look shadowy, non-existent. “I wondered, does the legend say anything about staying in the era it takes you to?”

Alicia narrows her eyes and it’s obvious that she’s on the edge of asking Gerard why he needs to know specially that. She decides against it in the end, though, saying the whole legend instead. “It says that once you’re in the era you wanted to visit, you can stay there only if you want it bad enough. Like, once you’re completely sure you want to stay there, it’s definitive. You stay there.”

“Really?”

But before he can continue with any other question, Alicia can’t hold it back anymore and she blurts out, “Gerard, why did you want to know that?”

Gerard hesitates for a second, almost as if he was actually considering telling her the truth. The idea of sharing this with someone is tempting, but he ends up biting the inner side of his cheek so as not to say anything. The hesitation is enough, though. Alicia with her ability to read people’s faces and gestures would probably be able to put together the whole story.

“Nothing, I was just interested in it. Just my curiosity,” he says, even though he knows it’s to no purpose. He quickly gets up from his chair, heading back to the door, when Alicia stops him with another sentence.

“Just in you’d want to know this,” she starts off, “the legend also says that you can bring anyone from the era you’re visiting to your original time. It works in the same way, as long as the church is there. You can travel back and forth.”

Gerard’s features soften as she finishes and something in him relaxes – the knot that’s been tied tightly up until now unties. “Thank you, Al.”

“I’m not going to regret telling this to you, am I?” she reassures herself, looking directly into Gerard’s eyes.

He shakes his head. “No, don’t worry,” he says with a smirk and with another thankful glance, he rushes back to his room.

This gives him a new perspective. It’s something new entirely. It’s like a gate opening up to him. He could do so many things! He could ask Frank to come here and he could show him the new Paris, Louvre – everything. And even though the next thought that pops up in his head is rather courageous, he can’t help but linger on it for a few moments.

What if he decided to stay in Frank’s era? Or, even better, what if Frank decided to stay in Gerard’s? Considering that their relationship is just a baby in diapers, it’s not like he’s going to mention it in front of Frank, but… But he can’t help it, he daydreams about it.

What would it be like if they were together every day? What would it be like if they moved in together? Gerard would introduce Frank to all the new literature and they could bash over bad books together – holy shit, or they could go to the movies! Every cinema is closed when they meet after midnight, that’s never been an option. But if they were together for real, they would be able to experience so many things…

But yeah, it would be too risky. Maybe they wouldn’t work well together, although that seems unlikely. Gerard can’t think of a better person for him, and he likes to think that Frank sees Gerard in the same way.

All in all, the conversation with Alicia has brought its fruits, though – the ideas running through Gerard’s mind with enormous speed are haunting. And he loves every single one of them, mainly because there’s always Frank in them.

Somehow, this has given him the feeling that they’re actually real and they’re not going to end up as a fucked up, blurry memory for each other.

***


“One must dare to be happy.”
Gertrude Stein

***
That night, Gerard is, simply said, maybe a bit too excited. Of course, there are various feelings melting into one huge ball, because picking up your novel from the best editor from the twenties is a big deal for him, but he’s really just happy about it.

It’s Zelda Fitzgerald who drives him there – or, well, keeps him company – this time, but it’s a short ride. They get there in less than fifteen minutes, maybe because the traffic is not as crazy today.

Walking through the door, Gerard can finally sense the wave of nausea rushing over him. What if she doesn’t like it? What if she advises him to re-write more than half of it? What if she thinks it’s utter crap?

He doesn’t have much time for thoughts like this, though, because Gertrude Stein’s smiling face greets him in the hall. “Way, I wondered when you’d come back.”

“I – I didn’t want to push it,” he explains shyly and follows her into the main room, watching her as she sits down in her armchair. She takes the copy of Gerard’s novel from the table near her and hands it over, not bothering with getting up again.

“The rest was as good as the title, really,” she comments and twines her fingers, placing her hands in her lap. “A bit unusual, maybe even science-fiction here and there. I marked certain places with red and suggested a few things, but the writing is good and if you finish the book like this, you’ll have something valuable. There shouldn’t be a problem with finding a good publisher.”

Gerard is, to be honest, completely overwhelmed. He feels like letting the book slip from the soft grip of his fingers and hugging Gertrude instead. It’s impossible to respond to something like this – all he can think of is that all of the trying was worth it; nights of endless frustration and erasing one sentence after another. It was all worth it, because Gertrude fucking Stein says his book is good.

“Really?” he squeaks, his voice a bit shaky. “What about the plot? Wasn’t it too much? I mean, I guess there was always lots of killing in literature, but – “

“I wouldn’t worry about that,” says a deep voice and when Gerard turns around, he sees Hemingway standing in the doorway. “I read it as well and you have a very peculiar style in describing death… But I liked it. There was something else I found entirely wrong.”

“And w – what was that?” Gerard stutters dumbly like a schoolboy again. He’s definitely not ready for Hemingway to criticize his work.

“You’re not true to your characters,” Hemingway says and closes the gap between them. As he steps closer to Gerard, he puts one of his hands on Gerard’s shoulder in a friendly gesture and adds, “You wrote pages and pages about why they wanted to kill for each other and die together, but they felt dishonest. That’s not what literature wants you do. You know what you have to do?”

“You sound like a coach again,” Gertrude says in plain amusement, but Ernest ignores her all the way. He just waits for Gerard to shake his head, which happens only seconds later.

“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know. Trust me.” He smirks and even winks at Gerard, who can feel his heart beating furiously.

“I can promise I’ll try,” he responds, because it’s obviously expected.

It’s probably enough, or it’s exactly what Hemingway wanted to hear, because he nods in silent agreement. “That’s it. Trying never killed anyone. And now I shall take you to a club, as I guess you want to see your friend tonight.”

When Hemingway says ‘a club’, he actually means it. It’s a jazz club Gerard’s never been to before and it gives him shivers when he looks around for the first time.

It all gives him the atmosphere of drinking. It’s not like he’s not used to clubs, but still – hearing the piano and the saxophone gives him shivers and no matter where he wanders with his eyes, there’s someone bringing a glass up to their mouths. It looks relaxed, and not as vulgar as clubs nowadays seem to look.

Gerard manages to have fun even before he meets Frank. He starts a conversation with a random French girl who has very poor English but is fun to talk to nonetheless. They’re just discussing her love affair with Picasso when a hand slides around Gerard’s middle and when he looks around, he sees Frank raising an eyebrow at him.

He makes his excuses to Adriana – that’s the girl’s name, or so she said – and turning around, he kisses Frank on the corner of his lips. He can do that, since the light is mild and the room is full of cigarette smoke that keeps everything in a haze.

“I missed you awfully today,” Frank murmurs and lets out a small sigh as they pull apart. “I need a drink, come with me.”

They make their way through the room and stop at the bar where Frank asks for a dry martini. They decide to stay here for a while before disappearing into the streets (or to Frank’s apartment, Gerard hopes) and so they end up occupying two of the bar chairs.

“Just so you know, I missed you too,” Gerard says with a grin, unable to tear his eyes away from the picture in front of him – when did drinking become seductive? Because the way Frank’s lips capture the edge of the glass is practically porn to Gerard. “But I got some useful info today.”

“What info?” Frank asks, placing the glass on the bar again. “God, I needed this. Today’s been really bad.”

“Well,” Gerard starts off, checking if the bartender isn’t listening. “First of all, I got my book back from Gertrude Stein, but that’s not even the important part.” Frank raises an eyebrow at him again, reaching out and making circles on the back of Gerard’s hand with his fingers. “I talked to my brother’s wife about the legend I told you about.”

Frank’s eyes get much more interested within one second when Gerard says that and he stops his movements for a while. “And what did you find out?” he wonders in a tiny voice and blinks.

Gerard’s small smile reassures Frank a bit and his tensed expression softens a little. “What if I showed you around Paris?” Gerard says mysteriously and leans against the bar.

“What do you mean – showed me around Paris?” Frank asks, confusion reflecting on his face.

“I mean, around my Paris,” Gerard acclaims and waits for Frank’s reaction almost impatiently. He can feel ants dancing and marching under his skin; because this revelation makes him flinch and want to jump around as if he was high on drugs.

Frank’s eyes widen subconsciously when it gets to him. “Are you serious? Is that really possible?” His voice is shaking with excitement.

“She says it is,” Gerard confirms and smiles, fighting to urge to grip Frank’s hand. “So, will you come? You would have to wait until midnight like I always do, but I would wait for you and I would –“

Frank cuts him off with a spark of laughter. “Yes!” he exclaims happily and nods to double the meaning. “Yes, of course I’ll come!”

“Really?” Gerard peeps up, almost unsure. Whilst he wanted Frank to be at least this excited, it’s still kind of unbelievable that someone would want to spend time with him so eagerly. Not to mention that it’s someone like Frank.

“Yes, really!” Frank assures him and takes another quick sip of his drink. He gets lost in the idea almost immediately. “I want you to show me how much Paris changed. And I want you to show me where you live, and – hey, could you get me something?”

Gerard narrows his eyes, thinking Frank would ask for some kind of drug they don’t have here in the twenties, and asks, suspicious, “What do you want?”

“I want you to bring me the kind of clothes you wear in your time,” Frank exclaims with victory written all over his face. “I have no idea what it looks like, but I do remember you looked peculiar the first time we met. Could you do that? I will of course give you back the money you would spend on it.”

Gerard shakes his head, laughing internally at the thought of Frank running around his Paris trying to find someone with euros. “That’s not necessary, Frankie,” he says soothingly. “Of course I’ll get you some clothes. Do you want to look like a gentleman or like a rebel?” Gerard asks and looks Frank up and down, beginning with his precisely fixed up hair and ending with his black shoes.

Frank seems to be hesitant for a second, but then he grins and says, “Like a rebel.”

Gerard giggles and bows his head to hide the blush that creeps onto his face for no apparent reason. “Are you seriously that excited to see how much we destroyed this beautiful city?”

Frank shrugs his shoulders, toying with his glass on the bar, obviously avoiding looking at Gerard. “It’s not the city that matters, it’s that I get to see your world. Of course I’m excited about that.”

And that is, Gerard decides, the best thing Frank could have said.

It’s only later that night when Frank’s kissing his way down Gerard’s torso when Gerard thinks of something. Breathing shallowly, he squeezes Frank’s shoulders and makes him look up at him.

“Hey, you said this has been a really bad day for you. What was that about?”

Frank blinks a few times, as if he was surprised that Gerard had noticed that little comment before, and licks his swollen lips. He rests his palms on Gerard’s naked hips and answers, “I just had nightmares last night. And as I said, I missed you.”

“What were the nightmares about?” Gerard asks with sudden fear rushing over him. He stays silent and doesn’t complain when Frank climbs up on the bed to lie completely on top of Gerard.

“Well…” Frank trails off, holding himself up on his forearms on Gerard’s chest, “I dreamt that it was still war. And I was living here, and then one day, some army, I don’t know which one, went and destroyed the church completely. You know, the one that gets you here every night. And I dreamt I never got to see you again.”

It sends shivers down Gerard’s spine despite the heat he’s been in through the past few minutes. “Shit, Frankie,” he says as he trails his fingers across Frank’s shoulder blade. “I’m so sorry.”

Frank smiles anxiously, but that smile is gone way too soon. Frank’s lips are parted all of a sudden and he leans closer. “It’s alright, you’re here now,” he says and seals their mouths again.

***

It’s four in the morning when Gerard checks for the thousandth time, yet he just can’t bring himself to sleep. All he can hear is Frank’s “Yes, yes, of course I’ll come!” and it makes him grin way too wide to fall asleep like that.

Even after a few hours, he can still feel Frank’s lips on his own, he can breathe in and be buried in Frank’s hair again; Frank’s all over him and Gerard has knowledge of no way that could stop this madness. It feels like the first time he sees actual colors, and they’re all flickering across Frank’s face.

After a few more minutes of trying and squeezing his eyes shut, Gerard gives up and gets up from the hot bed. He contemplates on taking a cold shower, but his eyes fall upon his laptop lying on the table and he makes his way to it without thinking.

After starting it and waiting until everything loads – god damn old, slow laptops – he opens up the word document with his so-called novel and scrolls all the way down to the last sentence he wrote the day before.

His eyes are tired, not restless like his body, but he manages to go back and re-read a few chapters, trying to catch any kind of something that feels odd. Focusing on this, he can see where Hemingway is coming from – it really feels like he’s not actually connected to his characters, like there’s something important missing.

Maybe it’s because of the hour and maybe it’s because of the state he’s currently in, but he ends up staring at the screen unable to write anything better.

When it’s almost five in the morning, he shrugs and types down the first thing that comes to his mind.

I am not able to form actual sentences, because feelings have fooled me. Then he erases it and smirking, he writes, I am in love with Frank. instead. Only after reading this sentence out loud a few times, it hits him that this probably is the truest sentence that he knows.

***
The night that Gerard considers the most important night of his life happens a few days later. Once again, he’s early to march in front of the Saint Etienne church. His chest is literally hurting from all the clenching and nervousness.

Gerard can barely handle himself as he’s walking up the alley just after midnight. He feels like he’s got a bipolar disorder – one part of him is sure that Frank is going to be there and the other one is pretty much convinced that the plan won’t work out.

However, the first part is right. The street bends to the left before he can see the church fully, but when he finally does, Frank is standing there, looking a bit lost.

“Frank?” Gerard calls and when Frank notices him, the lost look disappears and is replaced by a wide smile. It spreads all across Frank’s face and as far as Gerard can see, it also invades his eyes.

“Oh my God, I thought I travelled to the wrong time when I didn’t see you anywhere,” Frank laughs and literally hops closer to Gerard, leaning up on his tiptoes to kiss him hello.

Gerard takes a few moments to appreciate how Frank is all dressed up after that. He played a bit with the clothes he brought him and adjusted them to where they were going – Gerard actually plans on taking Frank to a show, if everything works out. A punk-rock show, to be precise.

And so Frank is wearing ripped jeans, a red t-shirt and a leather jacket. And Jesus Christ, he looks literally astounding in that outfit. “You look astounding,” Gerard admits and blushes, thankful for the dark street where Frank can’t see it.

“Really?” Frank asks and begs for more encouragement with his eyes. “I feel so weird wearing this. It’s nothing what I’m used to. I – I can’t actually believe I’m here. Where are we going?”

“I’m taking you to a club,” Gerard informs him and reaches out to ruffle Frank’s hair. When he tries to slap Gerard’s hand away, Gerard adds, “What? You look better when it’s all messed up.”

Frank giggles and leaves it that way. Gerard is seriously proud to even walk side by side with someone like Frank, not to mention what it feels like when he gathers up the courage and finds Frank’s hand.

Frank’s fidgety at first and keeps asking Gerard if it’s okay to do this in public, but Gerard reassures him that it’s okay every time. He doesn’t even grow tired of it – he could repeat it day and night. If he could, he would actually stop at every corner of every street just to share a small kiss, but that would be a bit too much.

It feels like it takes forever to get to the club (with Frank asking about everything, even about something like cars or whole buildings made of glass – that one leaves him really weirded out) but they eventually manage to get there. The tickets are cheap as it’s just some local band and they’re not too famous – but they’re punk-y and that will do.

“C’mon, I’ll buy you a beer,” Gerard suggests and drags Frank along to the bar. He usually feels so much anxiety around Frank – or it was like that at the beginning – but he’s completely sure about everything right now. And he wonders if Frank feels the same when they’re in the twenties, but he doesn’t bother asking about it.

Seeing Frank with a beer moustache is probably the cutest thing Gerard’s ever got the chance to see, but he tries his best not to laugh about it. “Here,” he says instead and wipes the beer away.

Frank thanks him shyly and that’s it.

When the band starts playing, things get a bit rough. Frank is sort of reluctant to join the mosh pit, but Gerard squeezes his hand and makes him go in there, knowing Frank won’t regret it later.

And really, Frank completely loses himself in the music. It’s loud and chaotic and when Gerard isn’t too busy trying not to die in the crowd, he can see Frank enjoying himself completely. He’s never seen him more careless and happier, that’s for sure. Even when a tough looking guy accidentally smacks Frank in the face, he’s still smiling. He says, “That’s okay, man!” laughing.

They get near each other towards the end and they hold hands for a second, but the crowd is so alive and their hands are so slippery from sweat that it breaks them apart again.

The band is nothing too special, nothing Gerard’s ever experienced before; but he’s here with Frank and that makes it so much better. It makes him consider buying an actual copy of the band’s album, to be honest, which is really weird considering their shitty style.

“Is this what all music sounds like these days?” Frank shrieks when the band’s set is finally over and they can finally talk. “Fuck, if it is, I’m staying here!”

Gerard laughs. “Did someone get you drunk?” he asks pretending to sound suspicious. Frank shakes his head – although it seems like he’s doing it more for the purpose of shaking all the sweat out since his hair is basically wet – and laughs as well.

“That doesn’t answer my question!” Frank exclaims and Gerard closes the file as “too many endorphins making their way out of Frank’s organism”.

“No, not all music is like this,” Gerard answers then, remembering all the shitty songs they always play on the radio. “Did you really enjoy this?”

“I fucking loved it, Gee!” Frank shouts happily and ruffles his hair as he did with Frank’s before. It’s sort of unsettling to hear Frank talking like this, using this language – but it’s amusing. He knows it’s just because this is a brand new experience for him and everything’s too vivid, too real.

When they get outside, Frank shakes off the leather jacket and hangs it over his shoulder instead.

“Where do you want me to take you?” Gerard asks, his body relaxed and a bit tired from all the dancing and jumping. He’s glad he managed to stay completely sober for this night – it would be fun if they got drunk together, but it’s much better this way.

“Some place calm this time?” Frank suggests and Gerard simply nods, twining their fingers together.

They end up walking by the Seine again and it reminds Gerard of the first nights they spent together. Caught up in getting to know each other, Gerard making the first step – it’s still fresh and clear in his memory.

“Hey, I’ll take you to the love bridge, how about that?” Gerard decides suddenly.

“Bridge?” Frank whines and groans, “Only if I can sit there, I think my legs are rotting or at least planning on running away from me.”

Gerard snorts at that idea and nods. “Yeah, you can sit there.”

They’re not too far away from the bridge, actually, so they get there in less than ten minutes. Gerard really tries to show Frank the meaning of the love bridge (with the padlocks hanging on it, representing eternal love of every couple that placed them there), but it’s hopeless. Frank heads straight to the first bench and sits down on it, groaning again – this time, from pleasure.

Gerard not so involuntarily joins him and sits next to him. “It’s, like, half past three in the morning and people are still walking by,” he comments and watches a couple pass them.

Frank nods and rubs his forehead with his hand, more signs of tiredness showing off on him. “Yeah. I thought that Paris was a moveable feast back in the twenties, but it’s much more alive right now. I like it. It lives up to the true meaning of the city – all in all, Paris looks brighter like this.”

Gerard stares into nothing while Frank’s speaking, listening to the Seine dancing through Paris with its monstrosity and beauty. “Were you serious when you said you would want to stay here?”

Frank shrugs and not really thinking about it, he nods. “As I said, the city is much prettier now. And everyone is more tolerant, I guess, it’s not like back in my time where I have to hold myself back whenever I want to do something, like kiss you. People see it as an outrageous, awful act. And this is so far away from the stereotype I’m used to – and the club you took me to…”

“But I mean,” Gerard cuts him off impatiently, running the tip of his tongue over his lower lip, “would you want to stay here with me? Not just for the night.”

“Don’t be cruel,” Frank says softly and meets Gerard’s eyes. “We both know it’s not possible. We’re forever stuck in this… whatever it is.”

Gerard smiles to himself. “It is possible, actually. The legend says that if you want to stay in a certain time bad enough, it will come true. You could easily just stay here if you wanted.”

“You don’t really mean this,” Frank argues, unknown, foreign emotions Gerard hasn’t dealt with creeping into his voice. “You want this – us now, sure. But it’s not permanent. Your feelings will fade and I will be stuck here… Besides, it’s all just a theory we’re discussing here.”

“Because we’re keeping it a theory,” Gerard points out and shakes his head. “I don’t think you’re right. I feel like I will always want you – not just now. I can’t really describe it, but I – I need you, sort of. To keep me sane. And you make me happy.”

Frank huffs out a small laugh. “Why don’t you come and stay in my Paris, then?”

“I can’t, Frankie,” Gerard says immediately in an urgent voice, turning around on the bench. “I can’t leave my parents here, and I can’t leave Mikey. I’m too selfish to let him go and my consciousness would fall apart. He’s been through so much – I can’t.”

Frank nods, probably really getting the point, and sighs. “It makes sense that I should be the one staying with you, doesn’t it? I don’t have a family, I don’t have much to lose.”

“That’s not what I was implying,” Gerard breathes out, already regretting bringing up this subject. It’s really amazing how they could slip into such a bad mood from being basically ecstatic. He knows, though, that this conversation would happen eventually anyway.

“I know you weren’t, Gerard,” Frank responds after a few moments. “I don’t think I’m able to talk about this now, though. I can’t betray everyone, it’s not easy for me to abandon my friends either.”

“As long as you will be able to have this conversation once, I don’t really care about now,” Gerard states almost sadly, already presuming what Frank’s answer was going to be.

That’s why he’s not really surprised when he sees Frank get up from the bench despite his legs hurting so much. It’s like he’s just about to run, like he’s only one second from disappearing and going back to his time. Gerard remains sitting, though, as if he was afraid to say anything now.

“I’m not sure I will, Gee,” he whispers and takes one step back. “I’m so sorry. I’m so fucking sorry, Gerard, but I’m not sure. I’m sorry.”

Gerard knows he could easily just get up now and grip Frank’s arm to stop him. Not to make him listen or to make him make any decision on whether to stay here or not. Just to be with Frank for a few more minutes before the dawn is near; just to kiss him, to do… whatever would come to his mind. But he squeezes the edge of the bench with his fingers instead, his knuckles going white. He almost utters, “It’s okay”; he manages to hold it back at the last second.

Although he hears – and when he looks up also sees – Frank walk away, it doesn’t really kill all the hope inside of him. He reassures himself that Frank will eventually come back, or that he will search for Gerard the next night.

This cannot be the end. Okay, they can’t agree on something at the moment, but things change constantly. This sure isn’t over – it can’t be.

Gerard feels comfortably numb when he walks back to Mikey’s and Alicia’s apartment. He can barely keep his eyes open, and when he falls face-first onto his bed, it’s not the last conversation that rushes through Gerard’s mind. It’s the evening they had had before.

He falls asleep with the image of Frank jumping and dancing and being himself, kissing him carelessly after the show. Yeah, they cannot simply be over. Not yet.

***
Fuck being hopeful; Gerard is jumpy and nervous all over the next night when he gets into the car with Ernest Hemingway. For the first time in a really long time, this fact truly weirds him out.

All of the stressing out is not worth it, though – Frank is literally nowhere to be seen. When he’s not at the first club Hemingway takes him to, he initiates moving into another one for “this one is too boring”. It’s utter bullshit, though – he’s not even drinking tonight and he wouldn’t be able to say if there’s something amusing going on or not for being so lost in his own head.

They change the clubs anyway. The Fitzgeralds are there, yes, but that’s all. Gerard doesn’t have it in him to walk up to Zelda and Scott and ask them if they’ve seen Frank, so he leaves the twenties in a mood that’s quite hard to express, but there’s lots of fear and stress in it.

It continues on the same note for the next two nights. Gerard is trying his best to find Frank, but it turns out to be completely useless every time.

On the fourth night, he sort of gives up. When Hemingway picks him up a few seconds after midnight, the first thing Gerard says to him is, “Ernest, I want to get really drunk tonight.”

Hemingway just nods and shouts something to the driver in French. “Whatever you wish, my friend,” he tells Gerard and smiles with a smile that is without doubt ironic.

Gerard’s not even half done with his second drink – therefore he’s not even tipsy – when he notices a familiar silhouette standing in the corner of the room. This is not the kind of place he’d expect to see any of the people he’s been seeing – yet he is sure that it’s Frank’s figure he sees. He can’t quite see the face until the person turns to the side a bit and… yeah, it’s Frank.

Gerard throws what’s left in the glass into his mouth but as his stomach twists unpleasantly, he knows he won’t go any further with alcohol tonight.

What he decides on doing would people nowadays call stalking. He doesn’t tear his gaze away from Frank’s face, not even for a second.

And his stomach makes the same, weird twist when their eyes meet for a second and Gerard is sure that Frank is aware of his presence now.

He doesn’t know what he expects, not really; but he is sort of disappointed when Frank keeps himself busy in that dark corner. Gerard… Gerard simply doesn’t know, to be honest. He’d give anything to know what’s going on between them, if Frank thinks it’s over – if Frank wants it to be over – or if he should have the balls and go and talk to him.

The silence between them frustrates Gerard to no end, the sad thing being that the frustration transforms to bitter sweetness. Which, later, transforms to sadness. He can’t believe they’re over so easily; nothing even happened, they just talked and Frank is able to walk away like this.

Gerard is just about to order one last drink and therefore he pays attention to the bartender, when there’s finally something going on. As he turns around with a glass in his hand, he wants to check on Frank – but Frank’s not in his place anymore. Gerard quickly scans the room and is surprised to see Frank fight his way through the whole place just to get to him.

Gerard doesn’t really say anything. He just watches Frank as he gets closer and closer to him, and he wishes he could disappear. Especially when Frank reaches him and is silent as well.

Gerard would love to talk – so many questions are squeezed on the small place of his lips, but he’s not capable of asking any of them. They’re stuck in him. The hurt resonates through Gerard’s body when he looks at Frank’s fragile face and the uncertain look on it.

He hesitates when Frank hands him a small paper, but decides to take it from him in the end. He opens it up while still looking at Frank, trying to read anything from his face, but then he drops his gaze to the paper. Mostly because Frank’s face stays unreadable tonight.

‘Cash or check?’ the small paper says and every single letter stings Gerard like a blade penetrating his body; a blade that’s been dipped in spice before.

Gerard looks up, ready to ask what the hell is that supposed to mean. But when he sees the hopeful expression on Frank’s face, it pisses him off. It pisses him off to no end that Frank did this and he expects to get away with it.

First, he just walks away. Just like that. Then, he ignores – avoids? – Gerard for three nights; three nights filled with horror and fear, because it’s bad enough to think that Frank doesn’t want him anymore, but what if something bad happened to him and that’s why he’s not around? And then… then? Then he writes three stupid words on a sheet of paper, one shorter than the other, and he actually wants an answer.

And Gerard just can’t do this. He feels like his feelings have been used, like Frank really wants him just for the night, as something to keep himself busy with so he doesn’t have to spend all of his time with his boring friends.

And he feels like tearing the small paper to pieces; he feels like burning it, like drowning the ashes in a glass of wine.

“Cut the crap, Frank,” Gerard manages to say through gritted teeth in the end.

The hopeful expression on Frank’s face vanishes. “I was just trying to – “

“Trying to pretend like you didn’t walk out on me or trying to pretend you didn’t ignore me for three nights after our last conversation?” Gerard spits out angrily. And really, maybe he’ll be able to see that Frank was just trying to fix everything with this, but somehow, it doesn’t seem to be enough for him at the moment.

“I’m sorry, Gerard,” Frank breathes out with his eyes widened from the panic. It’s a sick pleasure that Gerard feels when looking at him.

“Frank, just – never mind. There’s no point anyway. This would end eventually, since I’m not going to stay here and you’re not going to stay in my time. So, let’s just cut it.”

“Are you serious?” Frank says breathlessly and, well, is Gerard serious? He honestly doesn’t know. He distinctly remembers that people shouldn’t make big decisions while pissed off, but it’s kind of late for that.

He simply shrugs his shoulders and being the asshole he is, he takes the victory on being the one who walks away this time. He fights the urge to look back at Frank when he’s halfway to the door, and he succeeds. It’s really ironic that when he walks out, it’s raining.

It hasn’t rained at night the whole time they’ve been together. It’s a shame, because Gerard would have wanted to show Frank all of this beauty.

He buries himself in his black suit jacket instead and despite the fact it’s gotten colder outside and he’s going to get wet, he decides a short walk would be nice. He needs to forget.

***
After everything, Gerard’s almost thankful to wake up with a sore throat. And he’s also thankful for the fever that comes later that day – it ties him to his bed and he can use it as a fake excuse so he doesn’t have to go anywhere except the bathroom.

He’s fucked. He’s so fucking fucked that even his vocabulary gives up and he either stays silent or swears.

For whatever reason, he thought Frank would stay with him. For whatever reason, maybe because there was something wrong with his brain, he somewhat relied on that. It’s a punch right in the chest when Frank acts like this.

However Gerard tries, curled up in his bed trying vainly not to cry, he can’t understand it. He would get it if Frank simply wanted to stay in his own era, due to the fact that Gerard wouldn’t be able to give up everything as well. He would totally understand that. But what Frank did when they saw each other makes no sense to him whatsoever. Handing him a sheet of paper as some sort of an apology? Or, well, not even an apology, just an invite to make out in the dark.

Gerard can’t even tell if Frank was just trying to get back together, it’s just – it just hurts him. It hurts him in so many ways that it actually leaves him breathless.

He gives himself the time he spends in bed to mourn over their relationship. It’s ridiculous, really, because he’s on fucking antibiotics – and he’d give everything just to get drunk and forget everything for a while.

With time, he comes to the conclusion that Frank and the future he wanted to have with him was just another dream of his (a stupid one, really). The bad thing is, though, that letting go of dreams is a painful and long process.

So lying in bed, sipping from Alicia’s precious onion soup and trying to pull his shit together, Gerard sets his mission to find a way to escape this. This situation; his feelings, everything at once, really. The only thing he’s suddenly sure of is that he does need an escape and he needs it as soon as possible, which means that even a minute ago was already late.

At least, he thinks bitterly, this will occupy his mind fully and he won’t have time to go back to memories and recalling everything. That’s what he hopes for.

***
The decision that he’ll leave Paris and go back to the United States comes as a smart, yet painful solution. Gerard doesn’t even know if he still feels heartbroken – it’s more like he doesn’t feel anything at all. Now that he’s not sick anymore, at least he doesn’t sleep so much; because sleep is the worst.

During the day, Gerard is quite able to push away any thought of Frank that might attack his mind. But at night, he’s not able to control his dreams and that’s where Frank keeps appearing. Sometimes he comes in the grey vest again, sometimes he’s naked, sometimes it’s just his eyes and his smile. But he’s there, in Gerard’s mind, hiding and not willing to leave. Gerard hates nights just as much as he used to love them.

Despite everything; despite the heartache that’s slowly overcoming him, he decides to go to the church one last time.

Honestly, he hopes Frank won’t be there. The only reason he decides to go is to say goodbye to the Fitzgeralds and to Hemingway, however risky that may be. It’s crazy, but they’ve become his friends and he can’t leave without saying goodbye.

When the clock strikes midnight and the car appears in the old alley, a tornado of butterflies goes wild in Gerard’s stomach. It’s the old Peugeot again, the one that came for him the very first time, and Hemingway is inside. Strangely, it always is Hemingway.

Gerard gets in the car without asking or waiting for permission. He feels some sort of nostalgia in him, like he really never wants to leave this place and these people, but he’d never be able to do that to Mikey. He’s not even able to form a smile on his face, though, and Hemingway seems to be in the same mood as well.

“Haven’t seen you in a while, my friend,” Ernest comments dryly and Gerard nods. He completely ignores how his heart speeds up at the memory of last time they saw each other.

“My immune system betrayed me again; I had to stay in bed for a few days,” Gerard explains and pulling away the curtain a bit, he looks out the window. Strange, but he can srr he’s already in the twenties; somehow, he can always tell the difference.

“Damn, I thought you got yourself killed,” Ernest exclaims and snorts, “but you were just being a lady.”

Gerard laughs at it – laughs for the first time in days, actually. But even this innocent spark of being okay brings him back to thinking about Frank and he opens his mouth to ask the question he was so afraid to ask weeks ago.

“Is Frank going to be where we’re going?” His voice is careful; it’s like he’s scared that even talking about Frank could bring his bad mood back, along with the heartache.

Ernest sighs and shakes his head, “No, I don’t think so.”

“Good,” Gerard breathes out and relaxes a bit in his seat. Hemingway didn’t sound so reassuring, but it’s still better than nothing. As we all know, it’s very easy to trust truths that are truths only partially when we are scared to face other possibilities. And so it’s very comforting to fall into the dull persuasion that he won’t see Frank ever again. Which, as Gerard thinks, is for the best.

Good thing is that the Fitzgeralds are there nonetheless. Gerard does not know why Frank’s not with them, but it’s okay.

He never thought that he’d ever shake hands with Fitzgerald and part ways with him as friends. But that’s exactly what happens. He comments on Zelda’s hair one last time (she cut it even shorter and it suits her even more) and he almost wants to hug Hemingway. He tells them to say his goodbyes to Gertrude Stein and this bizarre group of people wishes him the best.

The feeling of losing someone important has vanished for a moment, and maybe it would stay gone forever, if – If Frank didn’t walk into the bar room the moment Gerard turned around to walk out of it.

Gerard stops dead in his tracks and his only thought is to run away right the fuck now. He doesn’t want to look at Frank’s face ever again and he wants to crush him in a hug all at the same. On one hand, he feels like punching Frank in the face for everything and on the other, he can’t imagine doing anything else than kissing the life out of him. If it was for him, he would never be able to decide what to do; he just stands there as a sculpture, unable to move. And Frank’s wearing a grey vest.

“Gerard?” Frank breathes out in the end as if he was trying to tell if this is real or if he’s hallucinating. Then, and it’s not in slow motion at all, his eyes widen and he basically starts running until he reaches Gerard and throws his arms around his neck. “Jesus Christ, I thought I’d never see you again!”

And really, it takes a lot of Gerard’s willpower to do it, but he manages to take a hold of Frank’s arms and push him away from him, just to keep a distance. “Well, I thought exactly the same.”

He has no idea how it is possible that he says it so calmly, like nothing so extraordinary is happening, while he can feel Frank’s body pressed against him. It’s so hot, and it feels so fragile again. It’s driving him crazy and he wants to squeeze and to kiss – but he knows he can’t. It’s not his place to do that anymore, it’s enough that they’re hugging.

“I’m leaving Paris,” Gerard adds as he lets himself bury his face in Frank’s neck for the last time. He breathes in the scent, trying to remember it as well as he can.

It’s Frank this time that tears them apart and without asking any questions, he drags them outside; probably to have some privacy. Frank is satisfied only when they’re in the side alley – no one is around there, just one hooker that makes something people nowadays would call a duckface and leaves.

“Are you leaving my Paris or are you leaving Paris for good?” Frank asks in a tiny voice, squeezing the front side of Gerard’s white shirt.

Gerard looks away and responds quietly, “For good.” He looks up, then, and purses his lips, trying not to say everything all at once. “There’s no point in staying here, really.”

They’re silent for a while – Gerard just thinking that it would have been much better if they hadn’t met tonight, Frank slowly tearing up. When Gerard focuses on Frank’s face, the battle that’s going on inside of him is almost visible.

In the end, Frank loosens the grip and lets his hands slide down Gerard’s torso. “Then I’m leaving with you.”

Gerard manages to catch Frank’s arms before they fall by his sides. “But, Frank – I know I asked you to do that, but I have no right – I have no right to demand this. You don’t have to sacrifice your own life for the sake of being with me.”

“Sacrifice my own life?” Frank laughs bitterly, but there’s still softness in his eyes when he looks Gerard’s face up and down. “Gerard, you are my life. Before you came around, I was just a little iron ball attached to the Fitzgerdals’ imaginary ankle. God, what was I thinking when I hesitated? What was I thinking when I tried to fix everything with writing that stupid note to you? I – “ Frank cuts himself off for a second before he swallows and blinks. “You… you don’t want me to stay with you anymore?”

“Of course I want you to stay with me,” Gerard argues right away, fearing that Frank would back off now – now, when a little spark of hope lights up in him. “But are you sure?”

“Yes, I am sure,” Frank replies immediately, as if he knew Gerard would ask this. The battle, so painfully present on Frank’s face just a few minutes ago, is now gone. It’s ridiculous, really, how we are never able to make decisions at first but once we bring ourselves to it, we’re surer than ever and no one would ever convince us we’re wrong. “Cash or check?” Frank whispers suddenly and shivers run down Gerard’s spine.

This is not like the last time. This is not both of them running from each other, this is sincere and committing, yet strangely playful.

Gerard leans closer and utters, “Cash,” before chasing Frank’s lips with his own. He can’t help but smile when Frank lets out a shaky breath and presses back, joining in on the kiss. That’s when Gerard pulls away and adds, “And check. For, preferably, a thousand more kisses.”

“You’re an idiot,” Frank laughs and taps Gerard’s chest with his palm, but leans closer anyway to renew the kiss.

The End.