many thanks to immortal_lights for the beta. <3
The first time the tattooed guy kills him is with Colt Navy in a city Gerard can’t remember the name of.
It all happens before he can react in any way. Just a flash of white teeth, a tiny blast and a flash of pain when the bullet collides with his flesh. It’s one of those that were used before 1886; it has a leaden shell that flattens as it hits the target, tearing tissue and blood vessels as it slices through. Then, it gets stuck somewhere near Gerard’s peritoneum and the pain makes his knees buckle. He falls to the floor like a puppet with cut strings. The floor is old, wooden, and thin layer of dust rises from the surface when he hits it, tiny specks floating in a ray of light.
Another bullet tears into his heart, and then, it’s dark.
The second time it happens, he’s not prepared, either. He’s on his way to the 21st century Philadelphia, engine of an old Volvo humming tiredly. Why it’s a Volvo, he has no idea. It just kind of… happened. Somewhere between the exit from the 15th century France branch and the ramp to 20th New Orleans, his vehicle decided to be a Volvo for some reason. The Road is like that, you just can’t help it. It has its own rules and there’s no way to break or bend them. If you want to travel, you just need to accept it, simple as it is.
There’s a stop on the right Gerard’s pretty sure wasn’t there the last time he’d been here. But it’s okay, sometimes The Road transforms on its own accord.
He pulls over. He hasn’t eaten anything since, like, 23rd century London – there was no actual food there, only something resembling pills, in all colors known to mankind, and it’s no fun swallowing pills, thank you, Gerard’s not visiting again – and he’s pretty hungry.
He retrieves his bag from the backseat, hoping that his tuna sandwiches haven’t changed into, say, desiccated beef.
They haven’t, and for that, Gerard is really grateful.
He’s in the process of chewing on the second sandwich when he hears the rumble of an engine down the road, just where the sky meets the dark band of asphalt. It’s loud, angry-sounding and it’s only a matter of two, three seconds before a furiously green Kawasaki emerges from behind the slight slope. Gerard flinches, mostly because of the noise and the general idea of an intrusion; other than that, he doesn’t suspect what is to come.
The bike approaches really fast, the noise getting more and more loud with every second. It all comes to a halt when the bike stops right behind Gerard’s car with a skid of the rear wheel.
The driver is all clad in leather but the flash of teeth gives him away.
“Hi,” he says, and shoots Gerard right between the eyes.
When Gerard emerges in another dimension six minutes later, he’s fucking pissed. Motherfucker had interrupted his meal. And okay, it kind of hurt, too.
Coming back to life is not a problem. Apart from the pain – it was a clean shot, Gerard needs to admit it, so it only lasted for a fraction of a second – it’s just a moderate inconvenience. The thing is, he doesn’t have any control over when and where he’ll appear after, so it’s a little stressful. It’s not like there are any serious perils lurking, but it’s always an unknown. Gerard’s not a fan of those.
This time, though, it’s pretty okay. He can deal with the sun and the sand and the monotone crashing of waves. What he can’t deal with is seagulls. He really hates the fuckers.
He stays for a while, though. He figures some rest would be nice, so he stays. There’s a little bungalow just where the beach turns into a cliff, wide poles and all. It appears to be vacant, so he decides to occupy it for a while.
He comes back to Jersey at the beginning of 21st century a week later, after spending three days on The Road, because sometimes, it’s capricious and won’t let you reach your destination without playing some tricks on you.
21st century Jersey is home. It’s the most comfortable place Gerard’s been to. Maybe it’s because he was raised here and he’s biased but it’s a nice place to be. It may not be the safest or the prettiest one, but it’s home and Gerard comes back there whenever he can. There’s another reason behind it now, too. It’s his turf, kind of, a place that he knows like the back of his hand. It’s also a place that provides automated weapons. Gerard’s good with them, but with the strictly manual, not so much. He can’t take the risk that his Glock will transform on The Road into, say, an semi-ancient rifle. The tattooed guy seems to have an affinity for revolvers and obviously knows how to use them, so there’s no reason why Gerard should let him take the advantage.
It doesn’t help much, though, because the next time the stranger decides to kill him, he’s completely unprepared, again. But this time, he’s sort of justified.
“Ugh,” he mumbles when he feels a thin line of pressure against his throat. He’s still half asleep when the pressure tightens. He starts to choke.
“Hi,” a voice says and Gerard can hear a hint of smile in it. “Sorry to wake you up, really. I just couldn’t resist,” the weight of a body shifts where it’s set over Gerard’s hips, just above the curve of his ass. He tries to turn and face the stranger, but he won’t let him.
“Hey, hold still. You’ll only make it worse,” the guy says and the garrote fastens around Gerard’s neck, crushing the larynx. He chokes, the pain is unbearable. All the air suddenly disappears from his lungs and then, it’s bright yellow, red, and finally, black.
After that, Gerard starts to wonder. What the hell is going on? Does this guy have any problem with him or is it something else? The sole idea of killing someone is not all that unfamiliar to him, he’s done this countless times to Mikey when they were younger, just to fuck with him. But this guy here? He’s a complete stranger, or at least Gerard can’t remember being acquaintances with him. It’s a little disturbing.
Fuck that, he thinks, and takes to The Road. He hasn’t been there for a while and misses the feeling. And if he can’t defend himself on his turf, he might as well go wherever.
The fourth time is about three weeks later when Gerard’s still on The Road. There’s this lane just behind the 13th century Japan ramp that’s totally insane. You have to know how to find it and it really is not easy, but when you finally get there, it’s awesome. Gerard personally suspects there’s a wavering connection between two dimensions there. It totally fucks with your head. It’s almost like an LSD trip, only better. Or worse, depending on what’s your point of view.
It’s kind of dangerous, though, when you don’t know how to control it. Gerard does, in a way, being a little immune thanks to those two years he’d spend being drugged off his face during college – and he’s really grateful for it. Especially when an armed stranger suddenly appears behind his back. One second Gerard’s standing over a red-rocked precipice, watching the sky as it spins over his head, and the second, he’s facing a barrel of Colt King Cobra. Not again, he whines inwardly, simultaneously wondering how the hell the guy had found him here.
“I followed you,” the stranger says, grinning. He’s a little breathless and Gerard thinks he must’ve run to get here. There’s no car or bike or any other vehicle around so that’s probably it.
A sheen of sweat ghosts the stranger’s face when he unlocks the gun and aims.
“Can I at least know your name?” Gerard asks, resigned. It’s not like it’s essential for whatever but it’d be easier to refer to the guy by name and not by a line of epithets, okay.
“I’m Frank. It’s, you know, nice to meet you.” Another grin. It’s kind of ridiculous how Gerard can’t think about anything else apart from the guy’s mouth and the way his eyes crinkle at the corners. It’s ridiculous because he knows he's probably going to be killed in a matter of seconds.
Strange thing is, he doesn’t.
Something happens, something that makes Frank frown at his gun, confused.
“Fuck,” he mutters and lowers the revolver. “Fuck.”
“What is it?”
“I can only use my right hand, I guess you know how it goes. The Rules and stuff.” Gerard does, but doesn’t see why this is a problem all of a sudden. He nods anyway.
“There’s something wrong with this place. I can’t tell which one is the right hand,” the guy says, confusion still lacing his voice, and looks at his hands. He wiggles the fingers, frowns even more. “It’s fucking with my head.”
Gerard feels almost sympathetic.
“Yeah, it does that.”
“I don’t like it.”
Then Gerard pulls his own gun out of the holster, the contours wavering and transforming continuously. It’s better when he’s not looking. He focuses on Frank, trying to make the shot as clear as possible. He’s not a fan of making things painful, and besides, Frank’s been pretty merciful with him, too.
“Well, okay,” Frank says, eyes crinkling just a little.
Gerard pulls the trigger.
They meet again three days later. It’s in 22nd century Jersey and it’s still kind of familiar, in a way. The park that’s here in his own century, is still there and Gerard wanders through it pretty aimlessly. He thinks about the body that had been found in the pond when he was a kid and wonders if it came from the respective century or not.
He can see two mothers with prams at the other side of the pond and hears their distant conversation. It’s just a hum of words and the higher, more drilling cry of one of the babies. Other than that, the park is pretty deserted and the sound of footsteps over gravel is even more distinct as Frank approaches him.
“You’re kind of addicted, aren’t you?” Gerard says when Frank falls into step with him.
“I am, what can I say,” Frank shrugs with a broad smile, hands tucked in the pockets of ripped jeans. Gerard can see his knees peeking out when he walks, slivers of tanned skin that make him want to stick his hand in the holes.
“How have you been?” he asks, giving Frank a sidelong glance.
“Dead,” Frank laughs. “13th century Japan was the closest. It was pretty awesome.”
“Brought any souvenirs?”
“Yeah. In fact, I did.”
“What is it?”
“I’ll show you. But right know I’ve gotta go. See you.”
“Yeah,” Gerard nods and looks after Frank until he disappears behind the slope and a canopy of oaks.
The fifth time, Frank doesn’t actually kill him. It’s 1976 and Gerard knows it’s him when a bullet brushes his left ear and hits the brick wall behind him.
The sixth time, it’s all back to normal; this meaning Gerard getting killed. He also gets to know what the souvenir Frank had brought from Japan was.
“Nice one,” he says with a hint of admiration before the blade of the katana slices him in half.
The seventh time, it’s a SIG Sauer, the type that’s in military use.
Also, Gerard’s naked.
He’s in mid-reach for a towel that he’s pretty sure he left on the hook right beside the shower stall when he sees Frank hovering in the doorway, hip propped against the frame, the hand with the gun hanging loosely against his side. Gerard can feel Frank’s eyes sliding all over him. Something about the set of Frank’s lips makes him hot all over. Which is, okay, pretty embarrassing in his current position.
“Missed me?” Frank asks and tosses him a towel. A stupid gesture but Gerard can definitely appreciate it.
“How the hell did you get here?” he asks in lieu of an answer, securing the towel around his hips.
“Your locks are seriously shitty. It took two minutes and a home-made skeleton key.”
Gerard’s not opposed to the idea of changing locks, really.
He watches as Frank unlocks the gun and aims it at him with a mischievous smile playing on his lips.
“What’s the thing with you so dead-set on killing me, anyway?” Gerard asks because there’s no other thing he can do, and he’s curious.
“Maybe it’s my idea of pulling pigtails?” Frank smirks, and pulls the trigger.
Gerard spends five weeks on The Road, going through all the places and times that pop in his head. He meets Mikey in the 17th century Brussels and he’s wearing an outfit that makes Gerard laugh so hard he cries, but other than that, it’s okay. They hang out on The Road together, cruising it in a Ford Model T. Then, he drops Mikey in 21st century Chicago. Mikey won’t tell him why he wants to go there so badly.
Bars in Jersey are some of the best he’s ever been to, along with all the Dutch and the Japanese ones, this century, at least. No diluted beer, people resolutely getting drunk and then drunker, he loves it all.
He’s on his second beer when someone slips onto the stool next to him. The smooth, wooden surface of the counter and the splotch of some colorful liqueur next to his hand, wrapped around the glass, are fascinating, but something in the vibration of the air makes Gerard lift his head.
“It’s been a while,” Frank says, leaning against the bar with his side and slipping his legs over the supporter. His eyes are golden and flicker in the dim light of the bar.
Gerard’s short of bursting out with, ‘I fucking missed you, fucker, where have you been?’ but thinks better of it. He settles for a nod.
Frank probably misinterprets something about it because he lifts his hands, palms open, and says, “Hey, I’m not armed.”
His knee brushes against Gerard’s thigh when Gerard turns and stands up. “I know,” he says, letting his finger slip over the sleeve of Frank’s t-shirt when he walks by.
He waits for him at the door.
[Two warriors dueled upon the battle ground,
Their arms scattering bright sparks and blood; above
This sport, the clash of steel gave forth the sound
Of youth fallen a prey to puling love.
Charles Baudelaire, The duel
(Fleurs du mal, 1868)]