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Reverse Sight - Bert and Gerard

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February 5th, 2008


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supercilious1
07:00 pm - Reverse Sight


To: emilydear
From: dis_inclined


Title: Reverse Sight
Author: dis_inclined
Rating: R
Pairing: Bert/Gerard (with some Gerard/Frank and Bert/Quinn)
POV: Third
Summary: "I want the power of reverse sight; to see you without your clothes rather than your clothes without you."
Disclaimer: 100% Fiction - do not know, do not own, did not happen.
Notes: Beta'd by the wonderful noheadlines. Some inspiration for the story (and the quote in the summary) is from this post at we_are_cities, as well as from what I was given by the mods to write this story with.




Reverse Sight

There’s a new tenant across the hall. Well, Bert assumes the tenant is new, as he has never seen him around before. He meets him in the elevator in the morning, when he’s got an early shift at the record store. The guy is quiet, never says a word the entire ride down the four floors to the ground. He’s got black hair that reaches his shoulders, he’s slightly overweight, but not very, and his fingers are smudged with a darkness that could only mean one thing: artist. Or maybe he had just been into the police station to give his prints. Bert had been arrested before, back home in Utah. He’d been in on drugs charges, and had spent a month in jail before being released. It was that experience that made him move to New York. Get away from it all, he’d thought. Get away from his friends and family and all the temptation. Only it hadn’t really worked, had it?
The man leaves the elevator first, and Bert follows, trying to put an age on him. He’d have said he was the same age as him, but can’t have been more than his mid-twenties. The guy stops just outside the building, taking in his surroundings, so Bert has a chance to watch where he goes. He heads towards the station, so maybe he works nearby. Bert sighs and walks in the opposite direction, not really ready for another day at work but resigned to it in any case.
*
The store is quiet all day. So quiet that his manager closes up for the day an hour earlier than usual, and Bert uses the spare time to call home (not his family, who couldn’t care less about where he is or what he’s doing, but Quinn).
Quinn’s in a band. Quinn is producing now in his spare time. He’s marrying his girlfriend next summer and his life is great. Bert hates it when people have such great lives, even if he loves the people whose lives are great. Fucking asshole. He hangs up and scowls as he walks into the grocery store. He needs food. He needs some spoons, as he’s lost all of his. And he needs a new sheet for his bed, as his got ruined in the laundry (fucking pink!).
The man from the apartment next to his is there. He wants to know the guy’s name. He can’t just refer to him as he would a stranger. This guy is his neighbour. He decides to name him something until he finds out his real name. He looks like an artist. He thinks of artists names but can only think of Vincent Van Gogh, and so the guy who is Bert’s neighbour becomes Vinnie. Bert laughs whenever he thinks about it, as he is sure the guy’s name is not Vinnie at all. He really should ask the guy what his name is, introduce himself or something. But that would look fucking creepy, and the guy isn’t very approachable. He’s quiet....aloof, an artist. He looks a lot more intelligent than Bert is, that’s for sure. The guy is buying chips, pop, beers and a couple of pizzas. He’s having company round. Bert picks up some random items, things he knows he can eat, that he can make into something. He isn’t the best cook. He usually orders Chinese or Pizza or something. He picks up a six pack of beer and pays, leaving before Vinnie does.
*
Bert can hear muffled conversations from 4b. It’s probably the guest(s) that Vinnie has over. Bert laughs again, and opens a can of beer. He tries to make out what the people in 4b are talking about. He hears “buff”.... “splashes of colour”...and “photograph”. He wonders if they’re all artists over there. He wonders what Vinnie is painting, what he has painted, what’s hidden behind closed doors.
He suddenly remembers the post boxes. The dozens of tiny boxes all lined up in rows as you walk into the apartment building. He wonders if he can break into 4b’s box and find out his name. But chances are it would only put his surname on most things. And Bert doesn’t need to know 4b’s surname. Vinnie it is then, for now.
*
It smells good over there. Not of pizza, but of some Italian meal. Italian. The guy must be Italian. Or maybe his guests are Italian. It smells of spaghetti; tomato-based sauce and mounds of spaghetti. Bert looks at his own pathetic pizza and wishes he was eating Vinnie’s meal, talking with Vinnie’s friends, laughing at Vinnie’s jokes. They’re talking, laughing, eating without him. He picks up the phone and thinks about calling someone. Just to hear a voice that isn’t his. Fuck it. He downs another can of beer and switches on the television to drown out the noise from 4b.
He pretends not to listen when he’s lying in bed, much later, and he hears the slow steady thud of something banging against the wall adjacent to his. Fuck. Thud, thud, thud, and Bert’s breathing grows ragged. He slips a hand down his chest, gliding down his body until he reaches his boxers. Thud, thud, thud. The noises get louder; grunts and groans and moans, and the whispered name of someone. Bert can’t make out the name. He jerks off and goes to sleep on the sofa.
*
The phone in apartment 4b is ringing and ringing. It’s past nine o’clock, but Bert leaves it until the last possible minute before getting up for his ten o’clock shift at the store. He groans as the phone rings on and on, and hauls himself off the sofa to get ready for work. He looks a state, not that he’s ever really cared before. He washes himself as little as possible, not out of some strange artistic need or because he digs the hobo look, but because he’s just plain lazy.
He’s already running late when he leaves his apartment, only to run into some kid in the hallway as he’s rushing for the elevator. The kid is about the same height as he is; short with dark hair and hazel eyes, Italian-looking and with a great big grin on his face. Bert smirks and presses the button for the ground floor. The kid is wearing the strangest combination of clothes he has ever seen, given that the weather is cold. He has a white cotton shirt on, and it’s ripped around the hem line, strings of cotton dangling down in a way that Bert would have found insanely annoying if it was on him. The kid has...fucking khaki shorts on. He’s carrying some jacket and a very strange hat with...flaps, and a bag stuffed with clothes. Bert only knows they’re clothes because the zipper is jammed partway round and a red shirt is showing.
The kid grins at him as he the elevator stops and the doors open.
“Later,” the kid says, and he’s off like a shot. Bert just stares after him.
*
Bert is standing in line at Subway when he sees Vinnie approaching. Bert is hungry, and hasn’t eaten anything since the night before, thanks to his late start this morning. He feels his chest tighten as Vinnie stands behind him in line (Bert was right at the back...fuck, the hot artist is standing right behind him.) Bert tries not to think about Vinnie being right behind him until finally, the guy says something.
“Hey... Don’t I know you?”
“Uh, what?” Bert turns around, and tries not to stare too much.
“Yeah, you’re the one in apartment 4a, right? We’re neighbours!” Vinnie doesn’t sound at all like Bert expected him to sound. Sure, he’s heard muffled conversations through walls before, but in all of those Vinnie’s voice sounded quite...low. Now his voice is slightly higher, and the distinct Jersey accent is unmistakable. His hands are fidgeting with the strap of the bag he is carrying, probably full of art supplies or something.
“Yeah, that’s me,” says Bert. He makes to turn around, but Vinnie stops him with a hand on his shoulder.
“Wait. What’s your name?” he asks. His eyes are...hazel? Brown? And his skin is extremely pale.
“Bert. Bert McCracken.” Bert holds out his hand.
“Gerard Way,” says the man, and he shakes Bert’s hand with a smile. “Nice to put a name to a face, right?”
Bert almost laughs. Fuck, he’d been so far off the mark with Vinnie.
*
When Bert arrives back at his apartment, a little after six, he is holding a wad of post from his box downstairs. One of them is addressed to a Mr G. Way, and he laughs at the irony of it all. It looks like junk mail, and he wonders whether to go all the way to the ground floor to put the mail in Gerard’s box or whether to just knock on his fucking door. He opts for the latter, but not before he goes out on the balcony to have a cigarette. He doesn’t like smoking in his apartment, although he sometimes gives in and does so anyway. And it’s not like the place is clean; it’s a pigsty. There are at least three weeks worth of dishes in the kitchen area, piled up around the sink, and cans litter the floor along with empty pizza boxes and half-eaten boxes of noodles. He sighs, and briefly wonders if he should attempt to clean up later. Usually he only cleans when he has visitors from Utah. Good old Quinn, or maybe Jeph or Branden.
Gerard opens the door after three knocks. He’s smiling, a great wide smile that can only have come from someone else. A contagious thing, because soon Bert is smiling and handing Gerard his junk mail and wishing he could go inside. Instead he says his goodbye and walks across the hall to his own apartment, shutting the door behind him with a sigh.
*
The punk kid with the tattoos and the strange clothes doesn’t show up again for another two weeks, and by that time Bert has spoken to Gerard another six times. One time Gerard invited him for coffee at the Starbucks near the place where Bert works, and they laughed over a shared interest in music, singing and the macabre. Gerard shows Bert some of his drawings, and Bert is amazed. He wishes he’d done something productive with is life instead of working in a dead end job and drinking himself into a stupor at weekends.
The other five times had been in the elevator, and on the final time, they’d gotten that little bit closer when the elevator jerked to a stop (it broke down at least once a fucking month), sending Gerard catapulting into Bert, as Gerard had not been expecting the sudden stop. Bert laughed, catching Gerard with both hands, and before Gerard had moved away... there had been a moment; a moment of shared attraction perhaps, of touching hands and a shared glance and a sparkle in both pairs of eyes. And then Gerard had moved away, and Bert had absently wiped his hands on his shirt, making Gerard frown and turn away. Fuck.
The kid is called Frank, as when he turns up this time he’s wearing a uniform like he works in a fast food restaurant or something, and there’s a shiny badge on his chest that says “FRANK”. The kid is rushing to the elevator just as Bert is coming out, so he holds the door for him.
“Hey,” says Frank. “Thanks for that.”
Bert just nods and walks away. He has no time for small talk.
*
Quinn comes to visit at Thanksgiving. Bert has never been one to celebrate things like this. He hates Christmas, and he hates Thanksgiving, too. But he buys ready-cooked pieces of Turkey and frozen roast potatoes because it’s just fucking EASIER that way, and gets ready for Quinn’s arrival. That means cleaning his place up, and it takes him all evening to do. He dumps everything that looks gross in a black bin liner, and then starts on the dishes. Finally, he gathers up all the garbage and heads to the garbage chute. Gerard is stood there, pushing a number of bags of garbage down the chute. He turns and smiles when he sees Bert.
“Hey.”
“Hey,” says Bert, not in a talkative mood. He stuffs a bag down the chute.
“You all set for Thanksgiving?” asks Gerard.
“Yeah, got a friend coming over. You?”
“I’m going back to Jersey for Thanksgiving. Mom makes the best Turkey dinner. Better than I could do, anyway. I suck at cooking. I only get decent meals when Frank comes round.”
“Is he...?” Bert is nosy. He leaves the question open-ended, but Gerard knows what he means straight away, as his eyebrows shoot up and his mouth opens and he starts stammering and blushes a little.
“Uh...he...he...yeah. Frank and I are...”
“Lovers?”
“You could say that.” Then Bert turns to put the rest of his garbage down the chute and he hears Gerard’s footsteps retreating. He hears a sigh of relief as Gerard is leaving, and sighs. He always fucks things up whenever they meet.
*
That night, Bert hears the bed thudding against the wall again, and the sounds of Gerard and Frank drift through the wall. Bert swears, slams every door in his apartment, and ends up sleeping on the sofa again.
*
Thanksgiving is a quiet affair. Quinn arrives the day before, late at night, and is carrying beer, his bags, and Jeph is trailing behind him.
“BERT!” Jeph cries, dropping his bags to fling his arms around Bert. They hug, and Bert smiles as Quinn pats him on the bag and then drops his bags inside the apartment. Bert sees Gerard’s door closing as Jeph pulls away, and smiles to himself. Look who has company now, loser.
He hears Gerard leaving an hour later when the door to 4b slams shut, as if Gerard is loaded with bags and had to let it shut that way. Happy Thanksgiving, Bert thinks, and takes another swig of beer.
Their Thanksgiving dinner the next evening isn’t the best. Bert can’t cook well, and neither can Quinn. Jeph promises to make up for it another night, as they are staying for a whole week. Jeph works as a cook in a restaurant back in Utah. Every time they come and stay with him, Bert is only reminded of how great their lives are, and how much his life...isn’t. Dead-end job, still dabbling in drugs, still drinking too much... It’s just not how he pictured things would be when he decided to move out here.
They put the music on loud and talk into the early hours of the morning, and after joints are passed around, Quinn brings out a tiny bag of white powder.
“Come on, Bert,” he slurs, leaning close and sliding his hand down Bert’s pants. Bert doesn’t even think about it before giving a hushed whisper of agreement.
He doesn’t remember much of the night after that.
*
Jeph takes the sofa when he stays over, but Quinn always shares the bed with Bert. It doesn’t matter that Quinn is engaged now, and to a lovely girl called Cheryl at that. It doesn’t matter that Jeph can hear everything. This is comfort, that’s what it is; comfort and familiarity, and the influence of drugs and alcohol. They wake up naked, sweaty and dirty, and take a shower. It’s Bert’s first shower in weeks, and he uses Quinn’s shower gel.
Jeph cooks them breakfast. Whenever Jeph stays over, they all eat vegetarian. Apart from the turkey the night before, though. Jeph had brought his own meal.
“Are you talking to the neighbours yet, then?” Quinn asks, with a grin. Back home Bert had never had a problem with making friends. He’d had dozens of friends. But Bert is almost certain it was his frequent drug use that made friends so...easy to make. Now he’s lonely as hell; a dead-end person in a dead-end job.
“There’s this guy across the hall I talk to sometimes,” he says, pushing food around his plate. He’s not really that hungry.
“Oh? What’s he like?”
“He’s got dark hair and pale skin and dark eyes, and he’s an artist. He has this way of talking to you that makes you feel like...god, I don’t know.”
“You like him!” Quinn crows, mouth half-full of breakfast. “Bert’s got a boyfriend.” He sings the words like he’s not a sometime lover of Bert’s himself, like he hasn’t just spent the night in Bert’s bed...
“Fuck you!” Bert says, but he’s smiling.
*
Gerard arrives back just as Quinn and Jeph are leaving. They have a flight to catch in two hours, and Bert is helping them cart their bags downstairs so they can grab a cab to the airport. Gerard smiles but says nothing as he comes out of the elevator, and Quinn elbows Bert as Jeph grins back at Gerard. When the elevator doors close and they are descending, it’s Quinn who says it.
“He is cute.”
“Hot.”
“Fucking gorgeous,” says Jeph, who always puts it better than the other two. And it’s left at that. They approve, and it’s all that matters.
*
Bert is doing laundry. He hates laundry day, which only ever comes around when he’s run out of things to wear and his bedroom carpet is covered in dirty clothes. He takes the first load to the laundrette (he doesn’t have his own washer), and then goes to the grocery store for supplies while he waits for the washing to finish. He buys a newspaper, an apple (an inner voice tells him it will be good for him) and a can of pop. Gerard is there, picking out apples as Bert just grabs the first one he sees.
Gerard’s hair is lank and greasy, reaching past his shoulders now. His fingers are smudged with paint again, and there’s a dirty mark on his nose that Bert could point out but doesn’t. Besides, Bert doesn’t think Gerard will care if his hair is anything to go by.
“Hey,” Bert says.
“Hey. Did you enjoy Thanksgiving?”
“It was okay. Did you?”
“Yeah, Mikey brought his latest girlfriend home with him and we all got to grill her during dinner, and Mom even let Frank come round.” Bert is amazed. Here is this almost-stranger, this neighbour of his, talking about his home-life like Bert has known him for years. And Bert never gives out information...well; he never tells anyone anything that can be used against him, anyway.
“Mikey is your brother, right?”
“Yeah. It’s Mikey who introduced me to Frank. They used to live together.”
“Right.”
They’re at the checkouts now, and Bert’s small purchases go through first.
“See you around, Bert.” Bert waves as he leaves.
*
The next time they meet, Gerard is in a hurry, rushing past the record store where Bert works. He sees Bert inside, though, and ventures in to say hello. He’s wearing a black and white scarf...or is it grey? And his face is flushed from the cold blasts outside. Bert grins at him, finishes serving the customer who is bothering him, and then walks over to where Gerard is hovering.
“Hey,” he greets. “What brings you here?”
“Well, sir, I’d like to find this record for my brother...” Then Gerard laughs, and Bert laughs, and Gerard invites Bert round for drinks at his apartment later.
“Just...”
“Just me and you,” says Gerard, with a wink, and then he leaves.
Bert remembers to breathe, and then spends the rest of the day wishing the time would go by faster.
He buys beer on the way back, and gets changed before going across the hall. He knocks on the door, and Gerard answers not quite straight away, but doesn’t keep him waiting. They both grin, and Gerard opens the door wider and lets Bert inside.
The apartment is...for want of a better word, a mess. There are art supplies everywhere, and drawings and paintings crowd into every available space. There are clothes dumped on chairs and on the floor, and the kitchen seems to be the only remotely clean space there is. Except even in the kitchen there are dirty dishes.
“Sorry about the mess,” Gerard says.
“Hey don’t worry about it. Mine isn’t much better.”
“You know, I work for Cartoon Network.”
“Really? That’s cool.”
“Yeah, I’ve had to finish something today; it’s going on air in a week, so it was kind of urgent. That’s why I was rushing.”
“Right...” Conversation dies, so Bert opens the beers and offers Gerard one. They sit on the only available space, his small sofa, and Bert talks about Utah and Quinn, and then Gerard tells Bert about Frank, and Mikey, and Jersey, and their failed dream of being in a band.
“Why didn’t it work?”
“Because... Frank has a band already, and Mikey likes working behind the scenes now. And I can’t sing.”
“But I thought you could sing? Didn’t you say you could sing?”
“Well, I can, but I don’t like singing in front of people. Stage fright, you know?”
“Oh, right.” For some reason, Bert didn’t think Gerard was the sort to have stage fright. But then, he’d never sung in front of an audience himself, so what would he know?

Later, much later, when they’re both drunk and they’ve shared a joint and are contemplating pizza, Gerard kisses him. It’s a sloppy kiss, wet lips smushing together to make sticky wet sounds that seem to echo through the apartment. Bert wonders if Gerard has kissed Frank here, in just the same way. Gerard moans into his mouth, and Bert kisses him back even harder, even more urgently than before, because fuck if he hasn’t imagined this a hundred times already...he’s not going to waste this moment. It’s only when they’re half naked and Bert’s just about ready to explode that Gerard pulls away.
“I can’t do this.”
“Why?”
“Frank,” he whispers.
“Frank isn’t here. He doesn’t need to know.”
“I can’t do this to him. I love Frank.”
“You can’t do this to me and then say no.”
“I’m sorry Bert, but I think you should leave.”
“Oh, fuck you then.” Bert leaves and slams the door behind him. Two days later Bert remembers that he left his shirt there.
*
Bert goes home for Christmas. He can’t stand being around Gerard any more. The day after the kiss and the groping Bert saw Frank in the elevator again, and swore. He wanted to wipe that smug grin off the kid’s face, but then realised that Frank hadn’t really done anything wrong. Frank was just this eternally happy punk kid who had too many tattoos and made Bert jealous.
He caught an early flight, and Jeph met him at the airport in Utah.
“How’s it going with the hot neighbour?”
“It’s not,” Bert mutters, and nothing more is said about him.
*
There’s a girl at home who Bert used to date, who Bert only ever sees now when he comes home and reinserts himself into the group he used to hang out with. He reverts back to his teenage self again, drinking and taking drugs like he just doesn’t care and maybe he doesn’t. Kate is worse than she ever was, worse than he ever was, a complete junkie. He doesn’t care for her like he used to. There’s a kid now, a little girl who’s about six months old, and Bert didn’t even know. It’s not his, as it’s been two years since he was home last and even longer since he last fucked Kate, so yeah...no guilty conscience. He feels sorry for the baby, though, with a mother like that. A mother so high that most of the time she’ll forget the baby is even hers. This is why he hates it here. This is why he hates drugs. This is why he went to New York. Drugs got him into trouble, and they would have killed him if he’d stayed.
He is staying at Jeph’s place, and Quinn comes round every day he’s there. They bring their guitars, and practise together, just like they used to before Bert left and before they realised they would probably never make it as a band anyway. He misses this. He screams out vocals, words made up on the spot, and Branden even suggests they make a demo one day; maybe when Bert’s ready to come home for good. But Bert doesn’t ever think he’ll come home for good.
*
Quinn. Familiar Quinn. They sleep together most nights, and Bert wonders if Cheryl knows where her fiancé is on those nights. One night, just before Bert is due to fly back to New York, Quinn asks about Gerard.
“If you like him, do something about it,” he suggests. “You do like him, right?”
“Yeah. Fuck yeah.”
“Cheryl is thinking of calling off the wedding,” Quinn says then. “If she does... I might join you in New York.”
“Really? What brought it on?”
“She found out about you. She was so jealous, Bert. She threw things at me. She called me a dirty lying bastard and threw my laptop out the window. “
“How did she find out?”
“Kate told her.”
*
New York is as cold as ever, and it’s snowed since Bert has been away. He dumps his bags and doesn’t unpack. He ignores the state of his apartment, not cleaned since before Thanksgiving, and calls Quinn. Quinn doesn’t answer. He stares at the walls and thinks about the pills in his bag, a going-away gift from Quinn. Some fucking gift, he thinks.
There’s a knock at the door, and he’s surprised to see Gerard there, holding a wad of envelopes.
“Junk mail,” says Gerard with a smile. “Can I come in?”

“Uh, sure.” He lets Gerard in and shuts the door behind him.
“You were right,” says Gerard.
“About what?”
“About your apartment. It’s worse than mine.”

“Oh I doubt that,” Bert laughs.
Bert dumps the mail on the counter and gets a beer for himself, and one for Gerard.
“We need to talk,” says Gerard.
They sit on the sofa. Bert hopes he remembered to clean it after last time he slept there...
“Look Bert. I like you, I do. I’m attracted to you. I get jealous when your friends come round. I want to be friends with you. But it can’t ever be more than that.”
“Why not?”
“I am in love with Frank, not with you. Yes, I want to fuck you, but that doesn’t mean I want to be with you. Frank is everything to me. He’s the reason I came to New York, so I could be near the University he goes to. He’s the reason I’ll go back to Jersey if Frank wants to... He’s everything.”

“And I can’t be? We have something, Gerard.” Bert moves closer, attempts to kiss Gerard, but Gerard stops him with a hand and moves away.
“No, Bert.”
“But...”
“No.”
*
Gerard’s clothes are hanging outside. Across his small balcony on a piece of wire, just like every apartment in the building has done the same thing. It’s a clear day, for January, and good for hanging out laundry. Bert is smoking, one cigarette after another, and thinking about Gerard. He has already thought about Jeph, who rang Bert to say that Quinn and Cheryl had called the wedding off and that Quinn was thinking of moving to New York to work in the music business over there. And that he, Jeph, might come with him. Bert has already thought about new jobs and bigger apartments, and he’s already taken a concoction of pills that will help him fall asleep in an hour or two. But for now he’s on the balcony and he’s smoking and looking at Gerard’s laundry. Shirts with band names on them, jeans, tight black pants, underwear... Bert imagines all of these on Gerard, and then imagines Gerard without all of his clothes. He’s seen Gerard’s pale chest, devoid of hair, and he’s seen Gerard’s hand, and his feet, and of course, his face. He imagines Gerard’s legs. Pale...but with hair, and then moves further up. He imagines Gerard’s dick is large, because he’s seen Gerard’s boner and it sure wasn’t small in those tight black pants he’d been wearing at the time.
Suddenly, Gerard appears on the balcony and starts taking down his laundry.
“Hey, Bert.”
“Hey.”
“Nice day.”
“For some, yeah.”
*
Quinn arrives in New York in the first week of February, buzzing with energy, high on drugs, and a complete mess emotionally. They spend the first day in bed, because Quinn wants to forget about Cheryl and the wedding. The second day, Quinn goes out for more drugs and they get high together. The third day, Jeph arrives and is holding dozens of papers and brochures for apartments in the area with more rooms. They can share, he says, and it’ll be more...economic, whatever that means.
On the fourth day Bert ventures back into work. He is fired the minute he walks in for missing three days of work and not calling in, and is left with no pay and no prospects.
He is walking home when he bumps into Frank, of all people, and Frank stops him to say hi.
“You don’t look so good,” Frank says. “Are you okay?”
“I just got fired,” he says. “It’s no big deal.”
“I’m really sorry.”
“Have you been at Gerard’s?” he asks. Frank nods and grins. The grin that says, ‘I’ve been fucking him into the bed since I arrived yesterday afternoon and I have got what you want so very badly.’ Bert, in his head, tells Frank that he doesn’t fucking care. They exchange pleasant goodbyes, and Bert goes home.
*
It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and Bert has got a job handing out fliers for a club that he sometimes goes to. There are flowers waiting for Gerard at Brian’s desk, and Bert scowls at them. He never gets flowers. Flowers are fucking gay, anyway. Quinn is waiting for Bert when he opens the door to his apartment. Quinn is stark fucking naked and is screaming the lyrics to some song or other. Jeph is in the bedroom, passed out.
Bert turns around and slams the door, sinking to the floor outside his apartment and wondering when his life suddenly began to suck so much.
“I guess you don’t have Valentine’s Day plans either,” says Gerard.
“Huh.” Bert doesn’t respond so much as grunts agreement and looks up to see Gerard’s apartment door open and Gerard stood above him, hand held out.
They lie on Gerard’s bed, the bed that Frank has so recently vacated, and Gerard holds his hand tightly. He strokes a thumb along the skin there, and talks incessantly of Frank and New Jersey and Frank Miller comic books and Star Wars. And he talks about this guy, Ray, who’s really good at guitar and wants to form a band, and who thinks Gerard really can sing, and maybe they really will form a band.
*
Bert wakes up a few hours later, and Gerard is still sleeping beside him. Gerard looks peaceful. Happy. Bert has always hated happy people. Maybe it’s because he’s never happy, but stuck in a world of misery and hatred. He leans close, ever so close, and kisses Gerard on the lips. Gerard smiles and whispers in his sleep.
‘Mmm, Frank.’
So Bert leaves before Gerard can realise it’s him.
*
Quinn and Jeph go back to Utah, as Cheryl wants to make things better and is sorry about calling the wedding off, and Jeph doesn’t go anywhere without Quinn. Friends to the end, though neither would move to New York for good with Bert. He has thought about going back, but there’s nothing there for him but a drugged-up ex-girlfriend and a lover who is getting married in the summer.
Valentine’s Day is a waste of time – Jeph and Quinn leave early in the morning, and Bert spends the rest of the morning searching for jobs while watching movies on television. He’s bought three local papers but none of them have jobs that he could do.
He hears the knock at the door, but ignores it. It’s probably Gerard, remembering what Bert did the night before. Fuck him, he thinks. He has never loved someone who didn’t love him back. He never let himself love someone who didn’t love him back. Kate loves him. He knows she does because she told him it would be forever, even if they split up. He knows he could go back and try it with her again, but he doesn’t want to.
Eventually, when Gerard has been knocking on his door for ten fucking minutes, he gets up and answers it, flinging the door open so that it bangs against the wall.
“What?”
“I’m sorry about last night,” says Gerard. “Can I come in?”
“Don’t you have plans?”
“No. I told you yesterday. Well, I implied it. Where are your friends?”
“They went back to Utah this morning.” Bert lights up a cigarette and offers one to Gerard.
“Sorry. Do you ever get lonely here on your own?” Bert hears the implied question behind that... Is that why you pester me? Is that why you stare at me and kiss me when I’m sleeping?
“Sometimes,” he admits. Gerard moves closer and takes Bert’s offered cigarette, lighting it and taking a long drag.
“Frank is home in Jersey now. He’s sick, and he always goes home when he’s sick.”
“Does he live in New York, then?”
“Yeah. Somewhere near his campus; he shares with a friend of his.”
“Right. So you’re bored and lonely on Valentine’s Day, too. Want to do something?”
*
They eat at a restaurant nearby, and Bert thinks of Jeph in Utah, giving up his dream of being in a band with his friends because Bert is a fucking coward. They eat in a comfortable silence, and then move on to a bar. Bert thinks he could drink Gerard under the table, but Gerard proves a worthy companion. He huddles in a stall in the bathroom and does a line, while Gerard is waiting by the sinks, probably looking at his pretty reflection in the mirror. He only usually does cocaine with Quinn, but this is a special occasion. He thinks about offering Gerard some. The guy could do with loosening up a bit...
They move on to another bar. Shots this time. Gerard recounts a story from his University days about a time when he got so drunk he passed out in the gutter and woke up in a jail cell. It slips out that Gerard is twenty seven years old. Bert tells Gerard that he’s twenty-two. It’s the truth. He’ll be twenty-three in just two weeks time.
They arrive back in the early hours of the morning singing Queen songs and Bert invites Gerard inside his apartment.
*
In the morning, Gerard is gone, and Bert can’t remember if anything happened or not. He’s fully dressed, so he’s guessing not. He’d have been too drunk anyway. There’s a note propped up against his alarm clock.
Sorry for leaving early, but I’ve got work to do. Later. G x
*
Bert loses his job again. Quinn wants him to come home. Jeph offers him a place to stay. Branden even offers him somewhere to stay. He misses his family, despite his desperate attempts to forget he has one. He gets a job working behind the bar and the change in schedule means he almost never sees Gerard or Frank. It suits him this way. He sees them occasionally on a day off, greeting Gerard in the elevator, or taking out garbage, or on their way to the store, or even doing laundry.
He forgets his birthday until he’s halfway through the day, suddenly realising he’s no longer twenty-two, but twenty-three. Gerard pushes a card beneath his door as he’s eating Chinese. It’s a hand-made one, with little vampires on the front and a mini-Bert inside holding a can of beer.
Have a great day. Hope you get everything you want.
Gerard x
*
He’s high, so fucking high that he’s forgotten what day it is again, and the card from Gerard is lying underneath the table, forgotten about completely. He can hear them next door, the thudding getting louder and louder. He screams out curse words, fucking shut up, and turns on his music loud. He can hear knocks at his door but he ignores them.
At four in the morning he goes outside and stands in the cold air for the rest of the night, until the sun comes up and people are out, going to work, and he remembers that he was supposed to work the night before. Maybe they’ll let him off with it being his birthday.
*
It’s March, and Bert finds a note on his door. An eviction notice, because he’s behind on his rent and his landlord isn’t the most charitable man in the world, and who can blame him. He has two weeks.
When he sees Frank leaving, later on that day (he’s sat by the door with the door open a tiny little crack), he waits five minutes and goes to see Gerard.
“Bert.” Gerard smiles, but it’s not the most welcoming of smiles any more. Bert can’t remember why Gerard is so mad at him. So unwilling to let him inside his apartment, yet Bert gets inside anyway.
“You’ve cleaned,” he says, and Gerard leads Bert to the sofa.
“You’ve been evicted.”
Bert nods. “I don’t know what to do.”
“Go home,” Gerard suggests. “Your friends will help.”
“I don’t want to leave.”
“If it’s because of me, then forget it. I told you...”
“Frank, yes, I know. Why do you think I came here the minute Frank left?”
“Bert...”
“No, let me speak. I noticed you when you moved in here, you know? It was last year. September? You moved in when Frank went to college, right?”
“Right.”
“He doesn’t look that young.”
“He’s been and come back. Postgrad.”
“Right. I noticed you, right from the start. I wanted to know you. It gets so fucking lonely sometimes. And I wanted you to talk to me, so I wouldn’t seem like a creep trying to talk to you. And I wanted there to be no Frank. I hate it every time he stays over and I can hear you to going at it through the walls.” Gerard blushes a little.
“Look, these walls are thin.”
“I know, I know. But Gerard, I wanted to be in there with you. It’s gonna sound so fucking creepy, but I wanted to be with you, and I used to imagine it was me in there with you, and I’m only saying this because I’m high and because I’m going home tomorrow.”
“You are?”
“Yes, didn’t I tell you?”
“No, Bert, you didn’t.”
“Look, I’m sorry Gerard, but I had to say it. You know how much I like you.”
“I hear you, Bert,” Gerard says, looking at Bert with something resembling pity. “I hear you crying out in your sleep.”
Bert flinches away as Gerard reaches for him, but Gerard moves closer and draws Bert into a hug. Bert reaches up and kisses him firmly on the lips. It’s Gerard’s turn to flinch, to protest, but he doesn’t pull away. Bert takes it as a sign. They kiss again, moving backwards on the sofa until Gerard is on top of Bert, fingers in Bert’s greasy hair.
“Why are you doing this, Bert?” Gerard asks as he pulls away for a brief moment.
“Why are you letting me?”
“Do you love me?”
“Yes,” Bert says and his voice is harsh, close to breaking. He kisses Gerard like it’s his last kiss, like he’s about to leave the world he knows and loves behind, and maybe it’s true.
“Do you love me?” he asks Gerard, knowing the answer already.
“You know the answer to that, Bert,” Gerard replies, between kisses. It’s urgent, it’s lust, for Bert it’s love and for Gerard it’s some kind of urgent desire. Bert undoes Gerard’s jeans, pulls them down and Gerard moans and bucks his hips and whispers Bert’s name. Bert, not Frank, it’s him. Bert smiles, kisses him, and then says, “I have waited so fucking long to hear you say my name like that.”
*
Bert leaves before Gerard wakes up, creeping out of the apartment like he’s a burglar, and maybe it’s true. In his hand he holds one of Gerard’s band shirts, and he knows its Gerard’s because of the size of it. He left a note behind, propped up on Gerard’s bedside table. Tomorrow he will be gone, gone forever, and he’ll probably never come back to this place.
He packs his cases and cleans up the apartment. He packs away the rest of his belongings in boxes, leaving them in a neat pile by the door. A friend of his is going to collect them tomorrow, after Bert is gone, and have them sent to Utah.
He meets Frank in the elevator on his way out, loaded with cases and bags, and Frank asks the obvious question.
“Leaving?” There’s a hint of a smile there, one that says “because if you are I’ll be really glad you aren’t eyeing up my boyfriend any more”.
“Yeah, I got evicted,” Bert says, and wishes he could tell Frank the truth. Maybe Frank will know what has happened when he wakes Gerard up, who is naked and has a note from his next door neighbour on the table by his bed, and there is a used condom in the toilet.
Maybe.
“Good luck, Bert,” says Frank, and Bert smiles. Good luck to you, too.
*

(10 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


From:msbrtmccracken
Date:February 6th, 2008 05:03 am (UTC)
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ohhhh this was soo goooood ! :D
i feel so bad for bert :[
this story was amazingggg <3
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From:noheadlines
Date:February 6th, 2008 09:09 am (UTC)
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This story is an absolute heartbreaker. Beautifully written and quite stunningly characterised. I love your style; you really got into Bert's head and made the reader feel for him. Gorgeous stuff. :)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:February 7th, 2008 07:53 am (UTC)
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hey i'm just wondering about your icon, where did you get that pic? it looks like this pic a guy from my small tiny town in canada took of bert when he was at the MMVA's and i'm just wondering if it's taken on a life of it's own and reached people who are far away just curious....
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From:using_chemicals
Date:February 7th, 2008 12:31 am (UTC)
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This was so...it was just...

It was absolutely beautiful. I was sucked into it like I usually am into my music.

Don't stop writing, ever.
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From:johnycake
Date:February 7th, 2008 02:06 am (UTC)
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Frank was such a little punk-ass. But this story was realy awsome. It felt like I could be in bother of theire situations.
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From:peur_03
Date:February 8th, 2008 11:07 pm (UTC)
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Oh this is epic win.
This is brilliant.
I am speechless.

I am going to memory this.
Oh man. It was beautiful.
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From:galaxyaway
Date:February 16th, 2008 04:20 pm (UTC)
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I kind of skimmed through this earlier because I was in a hurry, but I knew I wanted to come back to this later. This is just so beautiful and I just adore the way you wrote Bert in this.
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From:xsilent_scornx
Date:March 13th, 2008 02:58 am (UTC)
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dude, this is so fucking good. i think you got bert, gee, and franks personalities down so well.

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