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Three Sunsets of Haunting You

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30th October, 1900

The carriage came to a halt on the gravel path, and Gerard woke with a start.  His left cheek was numb from where it had been pressed onto the icy window, and he was fairly certain that was a coffee stain on his rumpled dress shirt.  Oh, well.  He barely had time to straighten out his clothes and readjust his tie before the footman opened the door with a click.  Trying not to wince at the October chill (winters in Aquilla were particularly vicious), he gave a quick nod to the servant before stepping off the carriage.  

“I’d like my trunks brought to my room, please.”  The footman, a frightened young lad of about seventeen, nodded frantically, blue eyes wide.  “Yessir, right away, sir.”  

He hoped they weren’t all this terrified of him- he’d specifically requested for a less glamorous title to masquerade under.  There were only five servants, he’d been told, none of whom were all the wiser about exactly who they were serving.  

Starting down the front path, he took in the estate for the first time- a majestic, cream-bricked affair of a mansion, with curving French windows and flanked by two midnight blue turrets, from which fluttering banners with the Way family crest hung.  Gerard tried not to notice the curious stares from the servants as he ascended the front steps. 

He was greeted at the front door by an elegant woman with a warm smile.  Clad in a black satin dress, her greying hair was gathered in a neat bun at the nape of her neck and her rain-coloured eyes glimmered with humour.  Gerard liked her right away.

She pulled open the mahogany double doors, revealing a cozy foyer.  “My Lord,” she said, bowing her head in a clearly unaccustomed manner.  Unacquainted with nobility, then.  All the better.

He stepped inside.  “Thank you.  And please, dispense with the formalities.  Call me Gerard.”  

Her eyes flickered with surprise.  “It’s a pleasure to meet you, then, Gerard.  My name is Eileen.”

“Likewise.  I take it you are the housekeeper, Eileen?”  His eyes roved around the room, taking in the thick blue carpet, crystal chandelier and engraved wooden staircases curving gracefully upwards.

“Yes, I am.”

“From what I’ve seen, the mansion is beautifully kept.”  

He was proven correct.  Upon being shown to his chambers, he was immediately pleased with its cheerful atmosphere and light decor.  He collapsed, admittedly in an undignified manner, into a plush armchair the minute the doors were closed and he was left in blissful silence.

“I simply have to write to Michael,” he murmured to himself.  The country estate was nowhere as uptight as the palace, and the small number of servants and their friendliness did wonders for his usual anxious manner.

For the first time, he felt as though he could truly breathe.

“I must admit, you don’t look much of a gentleman as of now,” said a voice from behind him, and he jumped, startled.  He whipped around to find the source.  “I must admit, that wasn’t exactly polite of you-”

His mouth went dry when he saw the boy perched upon the windowsill.  He was dressed in all black, in a dress shirt and vest a size too large for him.  His hair was windblown and tousled, black like the coal in his grate.  Yet the young man seemed to hold a certain kind of regalness, perhaps in the mischievous grin his pink lips formed or the little spark in his emerald-hazel eyes.  But his beauty was not the reason Gerard and his traitorous heart stopped and stared.  Well, not the only reason.

The boy was translucent.

Gerard could see the garden with its hedges and flower beds beyond his glowing form, a little hazy but without a doubt there.  He swallowed.  Swallowed again.

Jumping off the windowsill with a catlike grace, the boy pranced over to him with a smile.  “Nice to meet you.”

Gerard finally found his voice.  “I- what- who are you and what the hell- I mean, what are you doing in my rooms?” he demanded.

He grinned.  “Would never have guessed you were a nobleman with the manners you have, dear lord.”  He giggled, honest to God giggled , and Gerard could see a million different colours swirl in his eyes.  Fuck.  This had to be a dream.

Might as well take his time with it, then.

“I’m Frank,” the boy said, with an air of pride.  “Frank Iero.  And you are?”

“You’re standing in my bedroom and you don’t know my name,” Gerard deadpanned.  “I’m wounded.”

“Oh, please, save the theatrics,” Frank said, rolling his eyes.  “Are you going to tell me or not?”

He feigned annoyance.  “Fine.  My name is Gerard Way and I have the power to throw you out of this mansion.”

Frank clicked his tongue.  “My, my, what a way to treat a guest.  What is it they say, never speak ill of the dead?”

Gerard stopped cold.  “Wait, what ?”

Frank shrugged, a devilish look in his eyes.  “Oh, I must have missed that part out in my introductions, pray pardon me, Lord Way,” he said with a simpering smile and voice dripping with honeyed sweetness.  “Dear God, Gerard, how dense are you?  I’m half transparent and I materialised in your room.  I believe that’s the definition of a ghost, isn’t it?”

“I-”  Gerard’s voice chose yet another convenient time to abandon him.  It was a moment before he regained control.  “I knew there was something ghostly about you, but- but you’re dead ?”

Frank sighed and flopped down on the armchair beside Gerard’s.  “Died of illness at age twenty, yes.  And that happened about… five years ago, I’d say?  Just before this mansion got sold to your family.”

Gerard furrowed his brow.  “Oh.  I’m sorry to hear that.  I never knew about the family that inhabited this place before us.”

Frank coughed, looking slightly uncomfortable.  “Yes, well.”

“I suppose we’re around the same age then,” Gerard said, just to break the tension.  “I’m twenty four, and if it’s been five years, that makes you twenty five?”

Frank shook his head.  “I haven’t aged since,” he admitted.  He clapped his hands and the liveliness returned to his eyes.  “But enough about me.  What brings you here to these lonely, lonely moors?”  He grinned at Gerard.  “Any tragically romantic story you’d care to share, my lord?”

Gerard pointedly ignored the skip of his heart.  God, he had to stop.  He laughed, a beat too late.  

“I’m afraid I don’t have many tales of grandeur to indulge you in, Frank,” he said apologetically.  “The real reason I moved here is a lot less dramatic.”

Frank nodded invitingly, a prompt to continue, and he took a deep breath.  “I couldn’t stand the stuffiess of noble life,” he explained, feeling his face flush.  “That sounds really ungrateful of me, I realise, but I couldn’t- I can’t-”

He was stopped by Frank laying a gentle hand on his arm.  His touch was warm, not cold as he’d expected, and it was as though a thin veil had been draped over his skin.  Gerard shivered.  “Anyway.  I’d stiffen up every time I had to speak to important people, or people that weren’t my family in general.  I get anxious around crowds and at events and things, I-” He waved a hand.  “It’s hard to describe.  It’s usually just this overwhelming urge to hide,” he confessed.  He really was pouring his heart out to a stranger, wasn’t he? 

“My parents realised soon that I was an inadequate heir.  Their original plan was to marry me off to some well-off lady early on, hoping that my title alone would be appealing enough.  And it was, for many.  But I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t marry someone like that,” he said with a sheepish smile.  Conveniently omitting the part that “someone like that” encompassed the entirety of the female gender.

“So I asked to move to the country estate, be alone for a few years.  My mother begged me to find a wife before I left.”  He gave a dry laugh.  “I suppose that’s better than my father, who didn’t give a rat’s ass.  My brother Michael is the only one who truly cares about me.”

Frank rubbed his thumb along the back of Gerard’s hand.  “I’m sorry about your parents.  Michael is the one you were speaking of writing to, isn’t he?”

Gerard snorted.  “Eavesdropper.”

“You were talking to yourself,” he pointed out.

“Exactly.  Not to you.”  It came out slightly colder than he intended, possibly due to the fact that the ghost’s hand remained on his arm.

Frank raised an appraising eyebrow.  “You can play the standoffish duke rather well when you try.”

Gerard blushed, facade already forgotten.  Matters would be much, much simpler if he were but a mere duke.

“Thank you, I suppose?”  It came out sounding more like a question.  He suddenly straightened in his seat.  “Oh God, where are my manners?  I- wait, can you eat?”

“Firstly, judging by the direction of this conversation, I think I can safely say neither of us give a fuck about manners, Gerard,” Frank said, laughing.  “And yes, I can eat.”

“And secondly?”

Frank gave him an approving look.  “Someone’s been paying attention.  Secondly , I wouldn’t mind if you did that voice again.”

The room seemed to abruptly increase in temperature.  “What voice?”

Frank smirked, curling up in his armchair like the Cheshire Cat.  “The one where you sound all commanding.”

Oh fuck, he couldn’t just say things like that, Jesus Christ.  “I demand you leave my estate,” he snarled, channeling his nervousness into hostility.  He fixed a glare upon the ghost.  “ Now .”

Frank looked positively delighted, collapsing into laughter mere moments after.  “My word, you are amusing,” he chuckled, wiping at his eyes.

Slightly mortified, Gerard twisted his hands in his lap.  “Nice to hear,” he said, a little stiffly.  Amusing.  Right.  He plastered on a smile.  “I’ll go get us some refreshments from the kitchens.  Wait here.”

Ignoring Frank’s little cry of protest, he hurried out of the chamber and down the carpeted staircase.  Under normal circumstances, he’d have been reveling in the utter emptiness of it all, but right now, his head was bursting at the seams with thoughts.

Ghosts existed.  Or the undead, however you liked to put it.  Despite his childhood love for horror stories, he’d never expected them to be like this, though.  All soft-lipped smiles and twinkling eyes and smirks that sent his mind reeling-

Shaking off the thoughts like snow off a coat, he stopped himself in time with his arrival at the kitchens.  He rapped on the door.  “Eileen?” he called.

She arrived at the door, straightening down her dress with flour-dusted hands.  “Oh, Gerard!  You could have rung the bell, you know,” she said with a fond smile.  

“I’m perfectly happy to come down,” he said as Eileen bustled him into the kitchen, already picking up a ladle to stir a pot of soup.  He inhaled the scent appreciatively.  “It smells heavenly.  You remind me of my grandmother, actually,” he said quietly.  

Something in Eileen’s eyes softened and she opened her arms.  “Come here, sweetie,” she whispered, and he stepped into her embrace gratefully.  “You miss her, don’t you?”

He nodded.  How she knew, he couldn’t fathom.  Perhaps it was a grandmotherly trait; they just knew things.

He managed a smile, remembering Frank.  “I was just wondering, could I have some refreshments?  For myself and a… a guest.”

“I see you’ve met Frank.”

His eyes widened.  “You know?”

She smiled, planting her hands on her hips.  “I run this household, remember?”  She started pulling items out of cupboards- sliced hams, hunks of cheese, loaves of bread.  “Just don’t let that boy give you trouble,” she said.

Gerard laughed.  “I’m afraid it’s a bit late for that.”  

Eileen only smiled.

Within a few minutes, he was sent staggering back upstairs with a heavy tray laden with enough to feed the entire mansion.  She’d managed to whip up a pudding, buttered bread rolls, tarts, hard boiled eggs and a selection of cheese along with a generous serving of fruit.

Frank lit up the minute he walked back in.  “You brought food!”

Gerard bit back a smile at his childish joyfulness.  “I hope it’s to your liking.  When’s the last time you ate something?”

“Worrying about me now, are you?  I’m touched.”  He laughed, clear and bright, yet again defying Gerard’s expectations of ghostly beings.  “Eileen insists on feeding me so much, I suppose it’s fortunate I’m incapable of gaining weight.”

Gerard nodded.  “Can’t say I’m as blessed.”

“Oh, shut it, your figure is perfectly adequate,” Frank quipped, and was he batting his eyelashes?

Fuck.

“Anyway,” he said, in a pitifully obvious attempt to change the subject, “my family is visiting tomorrow.  More a social obligation than anything- I’m fairly certain my mother insisted on it, to see me settled and all that.”

Frank picked up a bread roll and started chewing with reckless abandon.  “Well, it’s just one night,” he garbled.  “At least here they can’t line up suitors to seduce you.”

He snorted and nibbled at a piece of cheese.  “That’s half my purpose for moving here, Frank.  And they say it’s cursed to take a bride on All Hallows’ Eve, don’t they?  It’s All Hallows’ tomorrow.”

“Bit rude, considering that’s my birthday.”  

Gerard’s eyebrows shot to his forehead.  “Your birthday is All Hallows’ Eve?”  He gave him a reproachful look.  “I must admit I’m rather envious.”

Frank laughed again.  “Good.  Glad to see I’ve still some merits.”  He was making quick work of the pudding, looking at the dessert as though it were a lover.

“Look at a girl like that, and she’ll fall for you, no doubt,” Gerard deadpanned.  He’d never been particularly eager to keep up the charade of heterosexuality, but what had to be done, had to be done, he supposed.

“Now whoever said that had ever been a concern of mine?”  

Gerard’s heart was pounding so hard in his chest, he was certain the entire mansion could hear it.  Surely he didn’t mean-

Frank stood up with a laugh, brushing the crumbs off his trousers and sending the chair screeching back on the polished wooden floor.  The tray was already empty.

He flashed Gerard a wicked grin.  “It’s been a pleasure meeting you, Gerard of Aquilla.”  He grabbed his hand and brushed a feather-light kiss across his knuckles.  Gerard couldn’t breathe.

“My king.”

Chapter Text

Gerard sat dumbfounded long after Frank left, heart pulsing as if to the beat of the sun’s dying dance as rays of gold and red bathed the room in a rosy glow.  My king.  Frank had called him his king.  Was that a joking formality, or did he know something more?

He had made sure, in all his correspondences with Michael, to never mention his ties to the throne.  Nor had any of the servants been let in on the secret.  His parents were socialites and therefore excellent liars; it was simply not possible that a young man, a dead one at that, from the countryside should know of his true identity.

Rising, he crossed the carpeted floor to the window, where he watched the last embers of light slowly mingle to form a rich tapestry of colours.  He would need to find out more about Frank, then, see if he could be trusted.  Besides, even if Frank were in on one of the crown’s most closely guarded secrets, who would believe the idle gossip of a ghost?  Despite having been granted a small title by his parents for display in place of his real one, he had always remained relatively incognito in the ranks of nobility.  He was safe.

Thus reassured, he set about rearranging the cushions atop the cushy window seat.  Where Frank had sat, his mind unhelpfully reminded him.  And why did that matter, again?  

The ghost was interesting, he had to admit.  He let out a quiet laugh.  Who would have thought that he would take the appearance of the supernatural this well?  (Much better than he’d taken the news of his requiring to choose a bride, at any rate.)

The canopy bed on the left side of the room was an embellished wooden affair, adorned with soft silky sheets and plump white pillows.  As he kicked off his shoes and lay down in the undignified manner he would have been admonished for at home, he decided he was going to rather enjoy living here.

He awoke with the moonlight upon his face, casting a silver spell across his bedsheets.  When had his bed had velvet curtains?  Blinking blearily, he rubbed his eyes before it all came back to him, slotting back into his mind piece by piece like the ticking of a clock- click, click, click.

“Oh, good, you’re awake.”

He shrieked.  His heartbeat only slowed when he realised it was a smirking Frank that was sitting on the window.  To his mortification, he discovered that he had bolted upright and had drawn the covers up to his chin like a child.

“F-Frank?  What in the world are you doing here?”

The ghost raised an eyebrow.  He looked- well, ghostly against the white-painted window frame, silhouetted against a backdrop of stars.  “Visiting you, of course.”

“In the dead of night?  Why, where are your manners?” Gerard teased, mostly to cover up his own embarrassment.  He was vaguely aware that he was still in his day-clothes, his suit no doubt thoroughly rumpled, and dear God, he couldn’t even begin to imagine the horror that was his sleep-tousled hair.  Frank seemed to take no offense at his unsightly appearance, though, and for that he heaved an internal sigh of relief.

Frank laughed and hopped down from the windowsill.  “Quite the assumption to make that I had any to begin with, dear Gerard.”

Gerard hummed.  “Would it be rude to agree with that?”

“Oh, definitely.”  Frank gestured to Gerard’s bed.  “Would it be rude if I sat down?”

“Oh, certainly,” Gerard said, mimicking him with a grin.  He moved over and made a show of inviting him over.  “Be my guest.”

He tried to convince himself that it would be just like when he and Michael huddled under the blankets as children.  I don’t make a habit of inviting ghosts into my bed, he was almost tempted to say.

Frank beamed as he slid under the sheets next to Gerard with an impish look of delight.  He nestled into the pillows with a groan.  “Stars, your bed is akin to a cloud.”

Gerard laughed.  “It really is, isn’t it?”  He paused, idly taking in the ridiculousness of his situation.  Here he was, heir to the throne, hidden away amongst the shrubs of the countryside and entertaining a ghost in his quarters at midnight.  Young and doomed, he was.

Frank was watching him with a questioning look on his face.  “Penny for your thoughts?”

“You’re going to have to aim higher than that,” Gerard said airily.  “You do realise I am a nobleman.”

Frank rolled his eyes.  “Just tell me what’s on your mind, Jesus Christ.”

Gerard looked down at his hands, where he’d been unconsciously toying with the bedsheets.  “I was merely pondering the doomed nature of my unfortunate existence.”

He hadn’t meant for it to sound so bitter, he really hadn’t.

Frank froze.  “Oh, Gerard.”  Hesitantly, he laid a soft hand atop his arm.  “I- I don’t know what I can do to make this better, but I’m here for you, my ghostly complication be damned.” 

Gerard exhaled.  “You don’t have to do anything.  I just don’t know if anything will ever be all right.”  He chuckled ruefully.  “I do apologise, Frank, I really don’t intend to burden you with my problems-”

Frank shut him up with a swift punch to the shoulder.  “Ow!  What the hell was that for?”

“For being an idiot.”  He took Gerard’s hands in his own, and Gerard flinched at the touch, afraid that his thundering heart would give him away.  Frank displayed no sign of having noticed.

“You listen to me, Gerard the nobleman and Gerard the humble one and Gerard that lets random ghosts into his room because he’s much too kind and yet infuriatingly unable to see it.  I must say I’m rusty in the affairs of nobility, but I promise you one thing- you will be all fucking right .  I’m no linguist, but I know the state of being ‘all right’ is a definition you write, not anyone else, so you had better remember that, Gerard Way.  You are not your title.  And because I know saying this one time won’t get it into your amazingly dense head, I’ll say it again.  You are not your fucking title.  You are so, so much more than that.  I’ve known you but a day and yet I have never been more certain of anything.”  He smiled at Gerard, not the impish grin but a warm one, a gentle one, one like the glow of an angel’s halo through the darkness intended for him and him alone.

“You are destined for greatness, and that is a fact.  A simple and glaringly obvious fact.  It is only your perception of greatness that is shackling you to the prison bars of the social hierarchy, Gerard.”

Gerard took in a deep breath.  Frank’s voice was like honey, the words flowing over him in a sweet cascade.  And yet he could feel the sheer strength of this ghost- no, deity- as if his words had been armour instead.  My king.  It was then that Gerard knew that he had nothing, nothing at all to fear from Frank Iero.

“T-Thank you,” he stuttered, at a loss for the proper words.  Frank squeezed his hands before gently releasing them.  “Thank you.  Really.  You have no idea how much that means to me.  I...I have never heard a more inspiring speech.”  He turned to grin at Frank.  “And I never pegged you for the poetic type.  You are full of surprises, Frank Iero.”

He laughed and abruptly swung his legs over the bed.  Gerard tried to ignore the slithering disappointment in the pit of his belly.  

The snake turned to mist and evaporated when Frank turned to smile at him.  “Come on, up you get!”  Gerard accepted his outstretched hand, slightly bewildered.  “What are you doing?”

“Why, another surprise, of course.  I think it’s high time we took a walk through the gardens, isn’t it, my lord?”

Gerard was vaguely aware of being pulled to his feet, of being bundled into a coat and ushered out of the house by an eager Frank.  His eyes were fixed on the laughing ghost, utterly mesmerised by his each and every movement.

“You have a tattoo on your neck,” he breathed out just as they reached the gardens.  The wind was doing wonderful things to Frank’s hair.

Frank looked at him with the hint of bashfulness in his smile.  “Yes, it’s a scorpion.  Not too crude for the likes of you, is it?”

Gerard gave him a playful shove.  “Of course not, you foolish man.  I love it.”  He found his fingers gravitating towards Frank’s smooth skin, at the art inked upon him- then caught himself in horror with his fingertips a centimeter away from his neck.  

Frank had frozen.  

“I-I’m so sorry,” he blurted.  He ripped his hand away as though Frank were burning.  “I’m so, so sorry, that was so improper of me, oh God-”

Frank appeared to have come back to his senses.  “Stop panicking, Gerard,” he laughed, and Gerard was relieved to find not the slightest trace of disgust in his voice.  “Most people were fascinated by it.  I’m quite flattered, really.”

Gerard might have under other circumstances been sad at the familiar way in which Frank employed the past tense, but one look at the happiness on the ghost’s face and any feeling of the sort melted away.  

He tore his eyes away from Frank and drank in his surroundings for the very first time.  They were at the beginning of the lands that stretched on for miles from the mansion, just behind the house.  The area they were standing in was elegant, bursting with beds of roses and peonies and buttercups all laid out on a dewy carpet of green.  Below a sky glittering with stars, the garden looked almost ethereal.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?”  Frank sounded just as awestruck as him.

Gerard murmured his agreement.  “It’s so vastly different from the city,” he said, gazing up at the sky.  Black and endless and beautiful like liquid obsidian, glimmering with the most exquisite diamonds of light.

Like a darker version of Frank’s eyes.

He tensed at the thought.  God, what was wrong with him? 

The ghost sensed his discomfort and raised an enquiring eyebrow.  No.

“So have you just lived in the house all these years?” he asked quickly.

Frank gave him a suspicious glance but let the matter drop.  “Yes, actually.  I occupied that very bedroom you now do.”

Gerard was glad for the dark that cloaked the- unreasonable, really- blush that appeared across his cheeks.  “Oh,” he said, his voice a little higher than usual.  “I- I hope I have not deprived you of anywhere to sleep?”

The ghost’s voice was light.  “Don’t worry, this mansion is gigantic.  I’ll manage.”  There was a twinkle in his eye.  “But never mind sleeping arrangements.  I have something much more exciting to show you.”

“Oh?  Is that so?”

Frank grabbed his wrist, already pulling him forward.  Gerard laughed at his impatience.  “What could possibly be this exciting?”

In response, he was pulled through a curtain of vines inconspicuously set into the hedge and into a small space housing a gorgeous fountain and golden red trees swaying in the autumn breeze.  The cool, jade scent of flowers permeated the air in a refreshing perfume.  “A secret garden!”  He couldn’t have concealed his delight if he’d tried.

Frank beamed proudly as Gerard fingered the delicate petals of a white rose atop a bush.  “I’ve been told I have quite the green thumb.”

“Arrogant prat.”  Gerard paused.  “It’s true, though.”

Frank mock-bowed.  “Why, thank you, good sir.  I’m just going to politely ignore that first part.”

Gerard laughed, breath catching in his throat as Frank grabbed his hand for the second time that day.  “Glad to see you’re enjoying yourself, but this isn’t even the main attraction.”

With a spring in his step, Gerard followed Frank.  The fresh air and Frank’s company was doing him a world of good, it appeared.

He nearly collided with the other man as he stopped abruptly in front of the hedge.  From this angle he could see Frank’s scorpion tattoo much, much better.  It was missing a pincer on the left side, he noted.  Somehow that was rather… endearing.

“Another of your leaf curtain tricks?” Gerard quipped.

Frank smiled.  “No.  Better.”  He brushed aside a tangle of foliage to reveal a wooden door set into the hedge, painted a fitting moss green.  There was a creative little knob on its surface, an elegant, curving emerald-gold handle in the shape of a merperson arching their back, sweeping tail carved with delicate precision.  Their hair was tumbling down their shoulders, wind ravaged and framing their face, which was accented by pointed cheekbones and eyes blown wide open.

“I made it,” Frank said shyly.  “Do you like it?”

“Oh my god,” Gerard said dumbly.  “Oh my god.”

It was pure beauty, crafted from sheer skill and reinforced by the love with which it had been created.  A doorknob!  A doorknob was amongst one of the greatest pieces of art he had ever seen.  It wasn’t merely the exquisiteness of the merperson.  It was the way Gerard could see the way Frank had breathed life into it.  

It was like seeing a piece of his soul.

Already he was itching for his canvases and watercolours.  He had to paint this, had to put this onto paper in bursting colours.  “I love it,” he breathed, voice hushed with awe.  

Frank blushed and slotted a key into the lock.  “Thanks.”

“I didn’t know you were an artist,” he commented as Frank turned the lock, revealing a dark cavern within.

“I have time, that’s all,” was the soft reply as Frank slid into the darkness like a fish into water, completely at ease.  A heartbeat later, Gerard heard the faint scratch of a match and the sizzle as a lantern was lit.  Frank turned and smiled.  “Come on in.”

The smell of damp, wet earth enveloped him as he stepped into the room, curious.  His gaze landed on the rows and rows of wooden crates scattered across the room and he laughed.  Of course.

“Lovely wine cellar you’ve got here.”

Frank had already dragged out a smaller crate and was lounging upon it like a reveling prince.  There was a soft pop as he twisted the cork off a bottle.  Gerard crossed the threshold in two long strides and sat beside him, feeling, to his surprise, heat radiating off the other’s body.

Frank raised the bottle with a mischievous sparkle in his eyes.  “Care for a drink?”

Gerard hesitated.  Was it really proper to…?

His own thoughts were cut off by the echo of Frank’s words in his mind.  It is only your perception of greatness that is shackling you .  Decisively, he shed the last remnants of his nobility like a cloak and turned to Frank, grinning from ear to ear.

“Hand me that bottle.”

Chapter Text

31st October, 1900

Gerard woke with a throbbing headache and the unmistakable pitter-patter of rain outside.  He blinked groggily as he felt a heavy weight shift atop him.  As his eyes grew accustomed to the thin veil of morning light, the realisation struck him like a blow.  He was in the wine cellar.

And he wasn’t alone.

There was a soft puff of breath against the shell of his ear before Frank rolled off him, murmuring in his sleep.  Frank.

Oh, God.  

Surreptitiously as he could, Gerard hastened to check both their states of dress- or un dress, his mind unhelpfully added, leaving him blushing.  They were both still clothed, thankfully, but the first few buttons of his shirt were undone, and he knew he shouldn’t speculate but what if-

The memory collided with him in full force.  Tension had hung in the air, thick like a curtain, and Gerard had inched hopefully forward, more, more, and Frank’s eyes were soft and starry as their lips finally touched.  He’d tasted the lingering aftertaste of wine as the world spun and spun and Frank held him through it all.

It’d been a blur after that.  He just remembered the sensation of the cool stone wall against his back, frenzied kisses, hands sliding through his hair, white-hot sparks of friction and Frank and bliss…

“Gerard?”

He stiffened at the sound of Frank’s voice and slowly turned to face him.  “Hi,” he whispered, feeling like a child caught with his hand wedged in the cookie jar.  He smiled hesitantly.

“Morning,” Frank chirped cheerily, sitting up and smoothing the crinkles out of his clothes, looking as though he hadn’t a care in the world.  And, with a heavy plummet of his heart, Gerard realised it was true.

So this was it, the dreaded morning-after.  Not that Gerard had ever experienced one of his own, but he knew the awkward goodbyes that entailed.  Frank was going to leave.  He was going to pretend nothing had happened, and he was going to leave.

Frank peered at him with concern.  “Are you quite all right?”  

To his mortification, Gerard found himself reddening.  “Y-Yes, of course,” he stuttered, struggling to look anywhere than at Frank.  Five opened bottles of wine on the floor.  No, six.

Oh, said a tiny voice in his head.  

Of course it had meant nothing.  Just because Gerard was an invert, as Michael so delicately put it, didn’t mean Frank was, too.  It had all been a hazy smokescreen brought on by the alcohol.  God, he was stupid.

Frank clutched his head with a groan.  “God, how much did we drink?”  He paused suddenly and turned to Gerard.  “Say, I haven’t done anything embarrassing, have I?  I’ve been told I get rather loose-tongued when I drink.”

Gerard miserably batted away the thought of Frank’s tongue in his mouth the night before.  He forced a laugh with all the lightheartedness he could muster.  “Don’t worry, I barely remember myself.”

His spectral companion grinned.  “What happens in the wine cellar, stays in the wine cellar.”

And before Gerard had adequate time to analyse his words, he jumped to feet and stuck out his hand.  “Come on, get up!”

He gingerly took the proffered hand and desperately tried not to think about the way it had been tangled in his hair mere hours ago.  Rubbing his eyes, he followed Frank out the wooden door and through the curtain of foliage.  The rain had stopped, leaving the garden resplendent in the morning light, perfumed with the scent of dew.

Frank sighed in delight.  “It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?” 

Gerard stared gloomily at the ornate flag which had newly been hung from the pillared arches of the back of the mansion.  Another reminder of the past from which he could never outrun.  “A beautiful day that brings unfortunate tidings.”

Frank followed his gaze curiously for a moment before the clouds parted across his face.  “Your family’s visiting today, aren’t they?”  He grinned teasingly at Gerard.  “And I take it you aren’t too pleased about that?”

“Obviously,” he deadpanned.  “My mother is constantly hinting about marriage, not subtly, mind you.  She’s got it in that head of hers that sending me to the country will somehow awaken my appetite for wo- romance.”  He grimaced, the word women just on the tip of his tongue.

Frank shrugged.  “They’d have to make a two-day journey just to get here from the city.  That should prove enough of a deterrent.”

Gerard feigned offense.  “Bold of you to assume that anyone could resist my charm.”

The ghost snorted.  “Whatever you say, m’lord.”  He bounded off across the garden.  “Come on, to the kitchens!” he called.  “Eileen makes a mean hot-cake.”

Having devoured a small army’s worth of food, the two headed back to Gerard’s chambers.  “It’s funny,” Frank said, pausing on the staircase.  (Gerard tried to ignore the way the light streaming in from the stained-glass window haloed his form.)  “What is?”

“The thought of having people here again.”  Frank thoughtfully ran a finger up the oak bannister.  “You said it’s only your family?”

Gerard made a face.  “No, my mother’s throwing a ball.  A masquerade, to be precise.  Though what the devil that has to do with me moving to the countryside, I haven’t the foggiest clue.”  To forge connections, she’d say, for when you become king.  The last words always hung in the air, unsaid.

“Ooh!”  Frank looked intrigued.  “Costumes?”

“I suppose so,” he said grudgingly.  “I’ll ask one of the servants to put something together for me.”

“Absolutely not!”  Startled by Frank’s indignation, Gerard stopped and stared.

“I’ll do it, of course.”

Frank was a whirlwind of energy as he all but shoved Gerard into his bedroom and began rifling through his drawers.  “Glad to see the concept of privacy remains intact,” he said dryly.  Frank shushed him and held up a hand as though he were commanding a courtroom.  Or an orchestra.  (He probably couldn’t decide.)

“Your sense of style is bland at best,” he said, pulling out a grey suit and looking at it incredulously.  At that moment, even if he were held at gunpoint, Gerard would not admit that it was one of his favourites.  “My God, you could do so much better.”

Within minutes he produced a collared shirt with an abundance of ruffles, a waistcoat of cobalt blue and cream breeches Gerard hadn’t even known he possessed and shoved him behind a screen.  “Get changed,” he commanded, and stifling a laugh, Gerard obeyed.

For some reason, he felt almost bashful as he emerged from the screen clad in his new outfit.  He felt even more like a blushing bride as Frank gave him an appraising look.  Which was ridiculous.  He was a future king, a future king that was, well- wearing a corset of a waistcoat over an outfit a size too small for him.  

Frank clapped his hands together.  “Fantastic.  You’re wearing this to the ball tonight.  In the meantime, I shall procure a mask.”  He grinned impishly and started shimmering.  With a jolt, Gerard realised he was fading away.  “Wait- Frank!”

“See you tonight!”

And just like that, he was gone.

Exasperated, Gerard collapsed onto the velvet couch and began mentally composing a letter to Michael.  He brightened at the thought of seeing his brother again, even if that visit would be somewhat tainted by their domineering parents.  They were good parents, he reminded himself again.  It was their duty to protect the crown prince.

God, him on the throne.  He shuddered at the mere thought.  The entirety of Aquilla would be his for the governing, all because of the blood in his veins.  Not for a merit of his, but rather biology.  Frank probably thought the entire regency rather dull.

He wished he could relinquish his right to the throne, just as his father had in pledging loyalty to his sister.  But he had been proclaimed crown prince, and his parents had not budged an inch in their decision.  

In an attempt to distract himself, he busied himself with the stack of books he’d brought from home.  Michael was forever teasing him for his love for sentimental romance- oh God, he had to make sure they were hidden away before Frank arrived.

But as in most other areas of his life, the deities lounging about in the heavens above him had no mercy.  Frank appeared before him just as he become engrossed in the thickening plot of a shameless drama.

“You’re an academic, then, I take it?”

Gerard flushed and shoved the book under a cushion.  “You could have knocked instead of appearing in the middle of my room.”

“Then what’s the point of my holy ghostliness?”  Frank smiled and whipped out a lavish mask from behind his back.  “You’re welcome.”

Gerard gaped as he took it, turning it over in his hands and admiring its intricate details.  It was a tasteful black affair studded here and there with small inconspicuous sapphires and painted with soft curves of cream.  “This...this is exquisite.”  And despite himself, he smiled.  “Thank you.  It’s perfect.”

Frank returned the smile, a sparkle in his eyes.  “Put it on.”  He pulled Gerard to his feet and looped the black satin over his head, a gesture that was strangely intimate.  “There.”

From his pocket, he pulled out a stunning white corsage of lilies and pinned it to his chest.   Gerard let out all his breath.  “I- thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

There was an intense sort of silence for a few beats before Gerard pulled himself together.  “We… we should go downstairs.  Mother and Father will be arriving any minute now.”  Surreptitiously, he straightened his collar only to have his hand batted away by a disgruntled ghost.  

“You look positively edible,” Frank told him, his cat-like eyes glimmering.  His voice dropped to a whisper.  “And I’m ravenous.”  

He grinned.  “Come on, let’s go!” 

And before Gerard could even open his mouth, he disappeared down the stairs.  Gerard muttered a few choice words under his breath, but he could see his reflection in the mirror across the room.  

He’d turned an alarming shade of pink.

Chapter Text

Gerard hadn’t put much thought into what would actually happen once he stepped into the small refreshment room adjoining the ballroom.  He’d pushed it to the back of his mind as a result of the deadly combination of denial and overthinking every interaction with Frank.

Peering into the vast hall that housed the dance floor, he marvelled at the graceful arch of the ceiling, the heavy velvet drape of the cream curtains.  Chandeliers gave the room a pearlescent wash and blushing roses seemed to bloom out of every alcove.  The floor was shimmering and overhead, the band had begun to play a soft tune.

“Romantic, isn’t it?” 

Gerard jumped, startled, only to see a grinning ghost.  “You can’t just appear like that!” he hissed, hastily glancing around.  Thankfully, the band was secluded on a balcony and the floor-managers were discussing the placement of velvet sofas on the opposite side of the room.  He turned back only to see he’d unceremoniously shoved Frank behind a towering vase of flowers.  “Oh, stars, I’m so sorry!”

Frank laughed.  “It’s perfectly all right, a lowly ghost such as myself could never criticise breaking the rules of etiquette.”  He swiped an iced biscuit off the refreshment table.  

“Idiot,” Gerard said affectionately.  “Don’t you dare take the cakes, too.”

He did exactly that, just to spite Gerard.  “These are heavenly,” he groaned around a mouthful of cake.  

Hesitantly, Gerard reached out for a jelly.  “My mother would have my head on a pole if she saw me stealing refreshments before the ball even started.”  He grinned at Frank.  “You’re a terrible influence.”

Frank pulled a face but his gold-green eyes sparkled.  “Am I, then?”

Just then, there was the scuffle of feet outside.  Gerard paled.  “Oh God.”  

“Your parents are here, aren’t they?” 

He grimaced.  “I estimate we have about two minutes before they leave the cloak-room.”

Frank raised two fingers in a mock salute.  “Well, it’s been a pleasure having your acquaintance.”

And just like that, he vanished, and Gerard swore at the air.

“Oh, I’ll have none of that nonsense, Eileen, I wish to see my son immediately!”  His mother’s voice carried through the air.  Prickling with dread, Gerard left the safe cocoon of the refreshment room to see his family walk in through the double doors.

“Gerard!” Lady Adelaide gushed as she opened her arms.  He reluctantly accepted the embrace and attempted not to sneeze due to the amount of furs and feathers adorning her small figure.  Behind her back, Michael smirked at him, and a sense of relief washed over him.  He hadn’t realised just how much he’d missed his brother.

His father opted to greet him with a simple handshake.  “I see the country air agrees with you, my son.  Your aunt...”  He paused, clearly hesitating.  “Your aunt would rather like to see an heir before she passes on.”

Gerard smiled awkwardly, not knowing what to say until he was saved from his parents’ scrutiny by Michael.  “Let’s converse elsewhere, shall we?” he said, stepping in smoothly to lead Gerard to a corner.  

He almost collapsed with relief.  “Thank God you’re here, Mikey.  Would you happen to know how many mindless social climbers Mother invited tonight?”

Michael snorted.  “No less than fifty, unless I am sorely mistaken.”

They shared a mutual sigh as Michael reluctantly pulled out a mask from the inside pocket of his jacket and held it up in comparison with Gerard’s.  

“Where did you get that mask of yours, by the way?” he asked.  “You’ve never been one to enjoy dressing up.”

Oh God.  How on earth was he going to explain the entire Frank situation?

He ducked his head, hoping desperately that his mask concealed the blush that threatened to reappear at the mere thought of Frank.  “It was a gift.”

Michael raised an eyebrow.  “Are you saying that our parents’ prayers have finally been answered?”

He winced.  “Unfortunately not.”

“Boys!” their mother called from the far end of the room.  “The guests are about to arrive!”

The next half hour was a blur of standing politely beside his mother as Gerard greeted guest after guest in a way borne of practice.  He’d forgotten their names by the time they swept past him in fancy dress, and he dropped kiss after polite kiss on the white kid gloves of nameless ladies.  If only Frank were here.  Things would be so much more entertaining.

Michael elbowed him in the ribs and he looked up, startled.  “The dancing is about to commence,” he said in a low voice.  “Hurry and ask someone to dance.”

Gerard groaned, scanning the wall behind him.  “What about that lady in blue?” his brother suggested.  “You can’t very well ask the gentlemen to dance now, can you?” 

He glared at him.  “I am not telling you now,” he protested, despite the fact that his brother had pried names out of him countless times before.

Michael, the smug bastard, merely shrugged and swanned off to charm a young girl into dancing.  The lady in blue, Gerard noticed, still lingered by the wall, fanning herself delicately with a silk fan that matched her silver mask.  A wallflower, then, he determined, lacking a dance partner.  He approached her with all the grace he could muster; speaking to strangers had never been his strong suit.

“Shall I have the honour of dancing this set with you, my lady?”

Her cupid-bow lips turned up beneath her feathered blue mask.  “It would be my pleasure.”

As he took her hand and led her onto the dance floor, he carefully laid his hand upon her waist and guided her into the waltz.  “What is your name?” he asked, caught in the captivating hazel glimmer of her eyes.

“Francine,” she replied, her voice soft and breathless, “Francine Iera.  And you, good sir?”

Gerard frowned quizzically.  That was not at all a common name, and yet she seemed familiar.  As he responded in kind, he studied the way her mask brought out the shimmer in her eyes and the jewels in her hair, long and lustrous and cascading down her back.  He noticed the way her gloved hand felt in his and the gentle swish of silken sky-blue fabric against him as they danced.  As he twirled her, the silver of her bodice caught the light, and he wondered when exactly had women been able to enthrall him.

Francine, he thought.  It sounded rather like Frank.

The music ended with a flourish and they parted, both rather out of breath.  “May I escort you to the refreshment room, my lady?”

“Refreshments sound lovely.”  She smiled and Gerard was reminded yet again of his ghostly acquaintance.  Perhaps that was why she held his attention so.  

They were the only ones to enter the small chamber adjacent to the ballroom, but Francine showed no discomfort as the doors closed behind them.  Rather, she daintily helped herself to the iced biscuits.

“Have you finally caught on yet?” she asked.

Gerard frowned, bewildered.  “Caught on to what?”

She laughed boisterously, and he marvelled at the way her entire body relaxed, as though she had been holding up a facade the entire time.

“Really, Gerard?  You didn’t recognise me?” a familiar voice sniped.

His eyes widened.  “ Frank ?”

‘Francine’ whipped off her mask and wig in one fluid movement, revealing a decidedly masculine ghost in a frilly gown.  “The one and only.”

Gerard laughed in disbelief.  “I can’t believe you snuck into the ball!  How on earth did you get past everyone without arousing suspicion?”  He grabbed Frank by the elbow.  “Oh, and now that your disguise is off, we have to go somewhere else,” he said, pulling him up the stairs to the drawing room.

“You’re much less polite now that I’m not Francine anymore,” Frank teased.  “As for how I snuck in, it was a sea of carriages outside.  Honestly, it wasn’t difficult at all to procure a gown and mask from some lady’s trunk.”  He grinned and hiked up his skirt as he led Gerard down a flight of stairs leading to the garden.  It made for a strange sight indeed.  

“It would appear that the duchess of a land I can unable to pronounce requires at least five different outfits at all times.  Perhaps she was hoping you’d invite her to stay the night,” he chortled.

Gerard feigned outrage.  “Why, that’s not proper!” he gasped melodramatically in the self-righteous tone of the court.

Frank doubled over with laughter, almost banging his head against the door as he oh-so-chivalrously held it open for Gerard to walk through.  “How did you get past my family at the door, though?” he asked, suddenly curious.

The ghost followed him into the cool night air, the layers of his gown fluttering in the breeze.  “Oh, please!” he said, pulling off his gloves.  “You kissed my hand as Eileen introduced me as Lady Iera!”

Gerard blushed, glad that he had both the mask and the darkness to conceal it.  “Well, they do say it’s bad luck to take a bride on All Hallow’s Eve,” he quipped.  

All Hallow’s Eve.  Why did that ring a bell?

“Fucking hell.  It’s your birthday!” he exclaimed, mentally kicking himself for forgetting.  “Oh God, I’m so sorry I forgot!”

Frank smiled, a different sort of smile than the playful one that had graced Francine’s lips.  This was brighter, softer, special, and Gerard couldn’t help but feel as though he’d been let in on a secret.

“Happy birthday, Frankie,” he whispered, and the look on Frank’s face made his heart erupt in fireworks.

“You get loose-tongued rather easily,” he teased, but Gerard could sense that he was pleased. 

“Yes, well, when it’s just us I can’t really be bothered to give a damn.”  Frank’s delighted grin told him that he wasn’t the only one thoroughly enjoying himself.  

Grabbing Gerard’s hand, he bounded across the gardens, pushing back the hedges to reveal a hidden spot.  “A secret garden,” Gerard breathed, taking in the lush, dewy grass and the flowerbeds of purple lilacs.  He turned to Frank.  “My God, how many secrets do you have in this place?”

Frank only grinned.  “You can take your mask off, you know,” he said, standing on his tiptoes to swiftly remove the mask from his companion’s face.

To break the brief but intense silence that followed, Gerard hastily cleared his throat.  “We’ll have to celebrate your birthday somehow.”  An idea suddenly struck him.  “Wait here!” he called as he dashed across the grass in the direction of the kitchens.

In a matter of minutes, Gerard had staggered back to the secret garden, weighed down with cargo, and discreetly placed them just in front of the hedge so that Frank wouldn’t see.  “Trust me,” he said softly as he returned to his ghostly prince- princess? and tied a silk kerchief round his eyes.

“I hope you’re not trying to murder me,” Frank joked, and Gerard rolled his eyes.  “Patience, please.”

Rushing back out to the hedge, he gathered everything and set it out within the secret garden.  A large checkered blanket went on the ground beneath the apple tree, and beside it a silver candlestick stood proudly with a gently flickering flame.  Upon the blanket went the tipsy-cake, the jellies and the iced biscuits.  It was the sort of midnight feast Gerard had only dreamed about throughout his childhood.  Now, he couldn’t deny the undercurrent of romance in the air.

Silly, hopeless thoughts.  He reprimanded himself as he stood and went over to where Frank sat.  “Ready?”

“I was ready a good ten minutes ago,” he harrumphed, then laughed.  “Come on, show me.”

Gently, Gerard undid the blindfold, carefully watching Frank’s face to read his reaction.  Those green-gold eyes widened and then he was grinning from ear to ear, the sheer joy in his expression threatening to overwhelm Gerard.

“This is perfect,” he breathed.  “Thank you, Gee.  Thank you.”

Gerard had to employ all his self control to keep from bursting into song.  “I hope you like jelly.”

In response, he broke off a hearty chunk and stuffed it into his mouth all at once.  “Fuck etiquette, I love this.”

Bathed in moonlight, Frank looked more ethereal than ever.  “Me too,” Gerard said, unable to tear his eyes away.  

“Hey, look up at the stars!” Frank exclaimed, effectively ending the moment.  

The galaxy twinkled above them in swirls of silver and white, and Gerard felt the very breath being knocked out of him as he gazed at the dome-like sky, enveloping him and Frank in an endless embrace.

“I feel like I’m part of something bigger than myself,” Frank whispered, equally awestruck.

Gerard was familiar with the feeling.  Having been the direct heir to the throne his entire life, this escapade of sorts to the country had been his first gamble with freedom of any kind.

“I always have been,” he admitted, picking at a biscuit to hide his discomfort.  He inhaled sharply.  “Frankie, I want to tell you something.”

“What is it?”  Frank paused in his devouring of the tipsy cake.  “Oh God, you’re not engaged, are you?”

“What?”  Temporarily derailed, he looked quizzically at Frank.  “No!”  He laughed at the strange look on the ghost’s face.

“What I wanted to say is,” he said, fixing his gaze on the galaxy of Frank’s eyes, “I haven’t been completely honest about my status- I’m not just a nobleman.  I’m first in line to the throne, and it’s a secret that has never been passed on to anyone outside my immediate family.  My aunt, strong-willed as she is, is growing old and frail, and I’m afraid- I’m afraid because then I’m going to be king,” he finished in a whisper.  

Oh, God.  Frank was going to think him a coward now.  

He was dragged out of his thoughts by a warm hand on his shoulder.  “Hey, Gee.  Did you really think I was going to judge you?”  With a soft laugh, he gently cupped Gerard’s face and tilted his chin upwards.  “You are an amazing person and you’re going to be an amazing king, do you hear me?  And I’m honoured that you told me.”

Gerard blushed for the umpteenth time that evening.  “Thank you, Frankie.  That means the world to me.”

“Oh, and since we’re revealing secrets now, I do have a confession to make,” Frank said with a sly grin, and Gerard was briefly reminded of the hazy events of the previous night.

Leaning in, Frank’s breath was a warm puff on the shell of his ear; Gerard repressed a shiver.

“Ghosts can’t get drunk.”

Chapter Text

Gerard was certain his eyes were as wide as saucers.  If ghosts couldn’t get drunk, then did that mean- was it possible that-

“You know you slept with me?” he blurted, and winced immediately afterwards.  “I mean, uh-”

“Yeah,” Frank interjected sheepishly.  He picked at his cake, seemingly unable to look at Gerard.  “I’m sorry, I really am, but I thought it would be my only chance and you were so flirtatious and I thought maybe you wanted this too, but I’m sorry.  I’m sorry.  It won’t happen again.”  He leaned back, increasing the distance between the two of them.  “I was hoping you wouldn’t remember,” he said quietly.  “I always will.  But I understand if you never want to see me again, or-”

Gerard shut him up by fisting his hands into the front of his dress and pulling him into a kiss.  

Time stopped.  It had been a chaste kiss, a gentle brush of lips, but the air between them electrified as he pulled back, captivated by the raw emotion in Frank’s eyes.

He wasn’t sure who moved first, but suddenly they were kissing again, Gerard enthusiastically mapping the curve of Frank’s lips and the ghost’s arms wrapped around his waist.  The heat in his stomach pulled taut as Frank climbed to his knees and pushed him to the ground, pinning him in place without once breaking their rhythm.  Frank kissed him, hot and hungry, like Gerard was a feast and he was starving.  You look positively edible , he’d said before the ball, and Gerard shivered, feeling, rather than hearing, the vibrations of Frank’s chuckle.

“You,” he groaned, pushing his hips forwards, “are utterly amazing.”  He threaded his fingers through Gerard’s hair, gently pulling, and just like that, Gerard Arthur Way, heir to the throne, was completely and irrevocably a goner.

Five hours later, they lay curled up on Gerard’s four-poster bed, gazing out the window at the watery sky as Frank regaled him with anecdotes from his childhood.  He’d admitted to being the son of a gardener, not a nobleman of the family that had previously resided in the mansion, and Gerard had kissed all his insecurities away.  Frank’s honesty was refreshing, he told him, and he didn’t give a single fuck about his background.

He sighed as Frank’s fingers carded through his hair.  “Are we all destined to become ghosts, then?” he asked, looking out at the line of clouds upon the horizon.

Beside him, the ghost shifted, and Gerard immediately turned around.  “What’s wrong?”

“I belong to a graveyard,” he said sadly.  “I don’t know why I was granted my ghostly form, but I think it’s because I never… I never found true meaning in my life.  Neither did my parents, but they were complacent to go when Death called for them.  I, however…” he trailed off as his hand cupped Gerard’s face.  “By some crazy twist of fate, I managed to find you,” he said, the fondness in his eyes rendering Gerard pliant under his touch.

“I don’t know how much longer I have, to be honest.  In all my years of haunting this earth alone, you were my first and only spark of hope.  You are my meaning, Gerard Way,” he whispered.

Disbelievingly, Gerard blinked back the tears that threatened to spill.  “Frank, you can’t go.  I’ve only just found you!”

As his lover ran his fingers across his cheekbones, he felt a frisson of determination course through his body.  “You’re not leaving.  I’ll make sure of that.  Even if you decide you don’t love- like me anymore, you still deserve a life.”

Even then, Frank managed a snort of laughter.  “Gee, I literally just told you you’re the meaning of my life.  Of course I love you, you daft idiot.”

Gerard pressed a butterfly kiss to his lips.  “I love you too,” he murmured.  Then he sprang upright, pulling Frank with him.  “Come on, let’s bring you to life!”

The ghost just laughed as they dashed through the hallways of the mansion, hand in hand.  “Where are we going?”

“Michael,” Gerard replied, slightly out of breath.  “He’ll have an answer.”

“Gee, are you sure- are you sure this is a good idea?”

Gerard crashed open the doors to the guest suite and dragged him through.  “Mikey!”

The figure at the desk jumped, startled.  “Jesus Christ, Gerard!  When will you ever learn to knock?  I swear I’m never making excuses to Mother for you again when you leave a ball unannounced- oh, I wasn’t aware you had company-”

Gerard pushed Frank forward and understanding dawned in Michael’s eyes that this was not in fact a woman in the now-tattered ball gown.  “Pleased to meet you,” he said shyly, extending a hand.

Shell-shocked, Michael shook his hand, glaring at Gerard.  “A word, brother mine?”

He dragged Gerard into the bathroom, grabbed his lapels and shook him thoroughly.  “Ow!  What the hell was that for?”

“Who is that and why is he translucent?” his brother hissed, pale-faced and wide-eyed.  “Is he a fucking ghost ?”

Gerard looked sheepishly down at his shoes.  “Yes.  And I need your help to prevent him from being claimed into the afterlife.  Would you happen to know…how?  Soul-bind us!” he suggested, with a burst of hope.  “Would that break the curse?” 

There was a moment of terse silence.  

“Good grief.  When you decided to move to the countryside, our parents bade you find a wife, brother,” Michael said, looking mildly amused.  “Not take a ghostly lover that is…decidedly not female.”

“His name is Frank,” Gerard supplied helpfully.  “And he’s not my lover.”

Michael sighed, then shook his head and smiled wryly.  “You just offered Frank your soul,” he said.  “I’m not daft enough to not know what that means.”

“You didn’t let me finish,” Gerard interjected.  “He’s not just my lover, he’s my soulmate .”

His brother threw a hairbrush at his head.  “Fine, I’ll help,” he groaned.  “But so help me God, if I even so much as hear you two-”

Gerard squeaked and ducked out of the bathroom.  “Thank you, Mikey!”

In the sitting room, Frank looked up questioningly as the two reappeared.  “Nice to meet you, Frank,” he said, clearly too tired to argue.  “I have an acquaintance who specialises in such ghostly phenomenons, and I believe your situation classifies as a curse.  Luckily for you, he was an attendee at the ball last night.  He’s in the room adjacent to mine, I believe.  I’ll fetch him.”

Frank nearly collapsed with relief.  “Thank you so much!”

“And for the record, I think you and my brother make a good pair,” he said with a roll of his eyes in Gerard’s direction.  “Though why you’d want to be with him, I can’t imagine.”

Gerard shooed him out of his room to find his friend.  “He’s aggravating, but he’s got a big heart,” he said to Frank, secretly pleased at his brother’s approval.

“I can’t believe he didn’t run out of here screaming Bloody Mary the moment he saw me,” he joked.  He reached for Gerard’s hand.  “I really hope this works.”

As if on cue, Michael re-entered with a man in a neatly pressed suit with a halo of curly hair and a warm smile.  “Gerard!”

“Raymond!”  Gerard got up to shake his hand.  “I can’t remember the last time I saw you!”

“That’s because you never come to social gatherings,” Michael sniped, and Raymond elbowed him.  “So, what’s the emergency?”

Frank stood up and Gerard swore he could see Raymond’s eyes bulge.  “My God,” he breathed.  “I’ve never had the chance to see a proper ghost.”

As the introductions were made, Michael poured the group glasses of wine as Frank explained his predicament.

Nodding politely and clearly trying to contain his excitement, Raymond took notes in the little leather-bound book he kept in his breast-pocket.  “I believe a soul-binding spell should do the trick,” he declared as Frank finished his story.  He turned to Gerard.  “Would you be willing to-?” 

“Of course,” Gerard said, mind in a whirl now that Frank’s salvation was on the horizon.  “What must I do?”

Frank squeezed his hand gratefully as Raymond rattled off instructions.

A few minutes later, all the furniture was pushed to the side and the two of them were standing in a ring of candles in the centre of the room as Raymond slowly burnt a piece of parchment on the flames that Gerard ascertained were inscribed with runes and a Wiccan pentagram.  

As the ashes fell to the ground, Raymond got to his feet.  “Clasp hands,” he said softly, and they complied.  “Now repeat after me, Frank.”

“I renounce you, Death, I renounce your endless night and coal-black fire,” Frank chanted.  “I renounce you, Death, and I lay my ghostliness upon your pyre.”  His eyes seemed to glow in the dark.  

“Gerard,” Raymond prompted, and he felt the words, unbidden, rising to his lips.  “I embrace you, Death, I embrace your silken darkness and your soulful tune.  I embrace you, Death, and I lay my life in your lagoon.”

“Will you rise with silvered dawn to join the sun?” Raymond asked.

“I do, and pray that evermore we may be one,” Frank said.

Again, Gerard felt the magic pulling the words from his throat.  “I do, for you, and now we rise forever, joined as one.”

The words seemed to echo in the air for a moment.  Then the candles flickered out of their own accord.

There was silence as Michael drew open the curtains, flooding the room with sunlight.  Beside him, Frank beamed as he stared in wonder at his now-solid limbs.  Gerard inspected his own- also solid.

“It worked,” Raymond breathed in delight.  Then, schooling his expression, he cleared his throat.  “Frank and Gerard, your souls are now bound.  Gerard, you have granted Frank the essence of your life; in return, Frank, you have granted Gerard the protective shroud of death.  You will both die at the same time, but spellbound souls, especially ones with a ghost, are much harder to kill.”  

He smiled at the two of them.  “Congratulations.”

Even the groans from Michael and Raymond could do nothing to dampen Gerard's mood as he surged forward and passionately kissed Frank once more.

Chapter Text

1st November, 1900

The carriage rattled through the night, its passengers staring out at the pale blue sky beyond.  Dawn was approaching.

“You’re going to be king!” Frank whispered for what seemed like the thousandth time.  He was curled up besides Gerard on the plush red velvet seat, cradling a flask of warm tea.  

Gerard still hadn’t quite gotten over the shock.  Having been rousted from a deep sleep by the clamour of the servants beyond his chambers, he and Frank had had barely enough time to blink before a messenger was sent in with a silver platter, announcing the death of his aunt and his upcoming coronation.  Eileen had bundled the two of them into the royal carriage no small amount of tearful fussing and a basket packed to the brim with sandwiches and cakes.

“I can’t quite believe it,” he whispered back, his heart thundering in his chest like the thumping of the horses’ hooves in front of them.  Grief for his grandmother and anxiety for his upcoming role mixed in his blood, and it was not a pleasant feeling.”

Frank grinned, apparently not privy to this foreboding.  “Imagine you sitting on a throne, wearing a crown and giving orders left and right.  Oh, and you standing on a balcony to address the people!”

Resisting a yawn, Gerard gently cuffed him on the back of the head.  “I’m sure you’d like to see that.  But in all seriousness, I do have my work cut out for me.”  

Despite his aunt’s gracious rule in steering the helm of their country back from the rough seas of war to prosperity, Gerard was fully aware of the flaws of their justice system.  People like Frank, for instance, were subject to a life of labour without better education or medical services.  Nobility, however, often didn’t have to earn their living whilst spending lavishly.  He was going to change that, and he voiced that much to Frank.

The look Frank gave him warmed him down to his toes despite the chilly October air.  “You’re going to make a wonderful king,” he whispered drowsily, head already resting on Gerard’s shoulder.  

The future king smiled as his no-longer-ghostly partner fell asleep, rocked to sleep by the gentle movements of the carriage.

He awoke to the sound of Frank’s voice in his ear.  “Gee, wake up!  We’re here!”  The excitement in his voice was unmistakable.  Blinking groggily, he stumbled somewhat sheepishly out of the carriage, hand in hand with Frank, where a crowd of staff were waiting.  A footman retrieved their trunks from the back of the carriage, and a young woman with jet black hair and a feathered black dress bowed and introduced herself as Helena Rush.  

“Like Eileen Rush,” Frank remarked.  

Helena’s face lit up at the mention of Eileen’s name.  “Yes, sir, I am her daughter.”

A wide-eyed Frank took in the news.  “That’s wonderful to hear!  Eileen was like a mother to me.  Oh!  And there’s absolutely no need to address me as ‘sir’ or anything, I’m not nobility,” he hastened to explain.

Gerard, albeit fondly, glared at him.  “Of course you are, you daft bat.”  

Helena smiled, glancing down at their clasped hands and appearing to come to a conclusion.  “Will you both be occupying the royal suite, sir?” she asked Gerard.

The answer was the affirmative, and she led them through the front doors past the great hall teeming with servants.  “The royal suite is just this way,” she explained as they ascended a carpeted oak staircase to the left of the hall.  

Unlocking the double doors of the gallery, she motioned them over to one of the large ornamental painting of the royal country mansion- their previous home.  The long gallery had never been a frequented playspace for either him or Michael when they were younger, for they had found the stretch of paintings depicting key moments in Aquillian history dull and the room far too bare for any hiding or stashing of precious toys.  This was by design, he now realised.  This must be the secret entrance to the royal suite!  The gallery seemed too plain to hold any secrets when the opposite was true.  He marvelled at his grandmother’s foresight.

“The entirety of the gallery is decorated by these paintings,” Helena said, snapping him out of his reverie.  “It was your grandmother’s wish- should there be a surprise attack upon the palace, she wanted to ensure they would never find her or her staff.”  She gestured around the room.  “All of these paintings lead to the dungeon, save for this one here, and once one has been pushed open and entered, the trespasser cannot come back out.”

Gerard felt a shiver snake down his spine.  He knew his grandmother was cautious, but he’d never known she thought an attack on the palace was plausible.  Good heavens, she was the most adored queen in the history of their line!  Yet trouble was inevitable, he now realised.  

Helena pushed gently on the painting, and it swung open like a door, leading to a cosy room beyond.  Frank and Gerard stepped in after her, slightly unnerved.  

“What if the attackers choose this painting?” he asked, voicing Gerard’s thoughts.

With a sly smile, Helena gestured around the room.  “What do you see?”

Gerard took it in.  With dark oak panelling, a fireplace and a green velvet couch beside a mahogany wardrobe, it looked like any nobleman’s dressing room.  

“The closet!” Frank blurted out.  “I would search the closet!”

She pulled open the doors, revealing a panel at the back of the wardrobe half-hidden behind a curtain of pressed white shirts.  Decoys.

Gerard’s brow furrowed.  Could it really be that easy?

“Beyond this panel is a chute to the dungeon,” Helena said with a grin.  She strode over to where two paintings, one of a lily and one of a rose, hung above the couch.  Pushing the rose would cause a panel to swing open, again leading downwards, but trigger an emergency bell in the guard houses.  

Frank looked like a child in a candy store, fascinated by the secret workings of the castle.  “What about the lily?”

“It will also trigger an emergency bell, but the wall panel will not swing open-”

“Giving the intruder a sense of failure,” Gerard breathed, once again in awe of his grandmother’s intricate planning.

“Exactly!”  The true entrance, Helena explained, lay in the ornate gold framing of the painting.  Below the picture of the lily, gilded gold swirls danced across the frame, its ornamental nature masking the tiny lock in the bottom right corner into which she inserted a key.   The moment it clicked, an entire section of the wall swung open, sweeping the painting and the couch to the side.  The room beyond shone in the morning light streaming through the French windows.

She handed Gerard a second golden key, woven through with a decorative red ribbon.  “Only the royal family and the head housekeeper of the royal wing are permitted to possess this key.”

Gerard barely heard this, though, as Frank pulled him into the room, gasping in admiration.  It was no small wonder, for the royal suite were the most lavishly furnished chambers in the entire palace.  

Sky-blue curtains, trimmed with gold, draped dramatically over the large French windows and over the large canopy bed, framing the plush cushions and the softest-looking mattress Gerard had ever seen, and that was no small feat considering he had grown up in the princes’ suite.  The matching wallpaper was an elegant rose print, a regal backdrop for the large gilded mirror over the fireplace.  Frank’s eyes noticeably bulged as he took in the domed ceiling painted with a dazzling array of angels.  The floor, too, was covered in a thick red carpet into which their feet sank, and the gentle strands of sunlight filtering through the lacy white drapery lit up the decorative vases of baby pink roses placed throughout the reading nook.

“It’s perfect,” Frank breathed, and Gerard felt a strange stirring of pride at his joy.  Now that he would soon be king, he could provide Frank with every luxury he could ever want.  The thought made him smile from ear to ear as he pulled Frank in for a chaste kiss.

Helena, clearly eager to leave before things escalated, quickly informed them that she was but one bell-pull away and scurried off.

The moment the door closed behind them, Frank fairly pounced on Gerard, laughing as they both tumbled onto the bed, lips locking once again.  “Do you know,” he groaned between kisses, “you look delectable even when you’re just standing there smiling?”

Gerard flushed up to the roots of his hair.  “You too,” he mumbled, burying his face in the crook of Frank’s neck, who just laughed again, the bastard.  “Hey,” he said, sobering for a moment.  “You know I don’t give a fuck whether you’re royal or not, right?  We could live in a mud hut and I’d be happy with you.  I- please don’t think I’m taking advantage of you.”

Gerard drew back in horror.  “What?  Frankie, no!  I would never think that,” he protested, shell-shocked.  He cupped his partner’s face.  “Seriously, never think that again.  You make me happy, and I will always trust you.  Get that in that gorgeous head of yours.”  He paused, thinking of how to best use his leverage.

“And that’s an order, got it?”

Frank’s tearful beam was answer enough as he poured his relief into another kiss, and within minutes, Gerard began to regret the number of buttons on their shirts.  Well, Frank’s shirt, at any rate.  His own had been ripped off by predatory hands and his chest attacked by an equally predatory mouth as Frank pulled sounds out of him he didn’t even know he was capable of making.  Frank’s hair was mussed and his tie askew, but he appeared every bit the cat that got the cream as Gerard whined and attempted to align their hips and he deliberately denied him friction of any sort.  “Fuck you,” he groaned.

The mischievous smile he received in return made him regret his words.  Almost.  “No, you,” Frank purred, and jumped on him again.  He nipped the side of Gerard’s ear, pleasedly watching him squirm.  “You know, you can make as much noise as you want here,” he whispered and that almost sent Gerard over the edge.  God, this ghost was going to be the death of him, and he’d go willingly.  Much, much more than willingly.

Almost as though he sensed his thoughts, Frank pulled him into another bruising kiss, sending a delicious frisson of heat through his body.  “P-please,” he stuttered as their bodies fell into a beautiful rhythm, wringing sunshine-like pleasure from him that sang through his veins.

“Say...that...again,” Frank breathed as he pressed down hard on him, earning a gasp.  Too far gone to feel embarrassment, Gerard complied.  “Frankie- ah, please!”

He smiled smugly.  “There you go, sweetheart.”  His breath was hot against the shell of Gerard’s ear and he shuddered, belatedly realising his hips were desperately thrusting up and that his traitorous lips were letting all sorts of whimpers pass through.  

Not too far gone to feel embarrassment, it would appear.  

“Mm, you like that, love?”  Frank began skating his hands across Gerard’s chest, and if not for the subsequent kisses trailing down his torso, he would have marvelled at Frank’s ability to multitask.  His pulse skittered as his hands travelled down, down, and his fingers finally hooked into the waistband of Gerard’s trousers.

“Okay?”

Gerard let out a jumble of incoherent moans which Frank accurately interpreted as a yes.  Before he could act, though, Gerard’s hands tightened around the bunched-up fabric of the back of his shirt.  “Off,” he managed to gasp, and Frank grinned.  

“Anything for you.”  His voice was low, sultry, and Gerard bit back another groan, toes curling with delight.

Between them, they managed to remove the offending pieces of clothing with minimal damage to said clothing.  Skin on skin, indescribable heat, and Gerard’s mind could think of nothing but the music in the sensation of Frank’s skin on his and the coil of pleasure in his stomach, building and building like a balloon inflating with air as a phantom orchestra played, bows on strings going faster and faster and faster, so much that he thought he would never come down until Frank crooked a dexterous finger within him.  

For a moment, he completely forgot how to breathe.

“Oh, yes, ah- ah, Frankie, right there, Frankie-” His mouth babbled high, desperate sounds in a symphony of Frank’s name that was only silenced by a rough kiss.  

The music reached its crescendo, the balloon exploded and Gerard saw white.

When he finally came down from his euphoria, he opened his eyes to see Frank, Frank, Frank, and it was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.  His smile was radiant.  “Well hello there, beautiful.”

Gerard grinned, honey-gold in his veins sending tingling delight coursing through his body.  “That...that was amazing.”

You were amazing,” Frank corrected, and Gerard almost burst with joy.  Reaching over to the side-table, Frank carefully removed the ring of gold around the rim of the vase.  

“What are you doing?” Gerard’s mind was too fuzzy with endorphins to comprehend his action.

“Crowning you.”  Gently setting the ring around his head, he drew back and drank in the sight of Gerard, the lust and want and love in his eyes so apparent that Gerard almost had to blink back tears.  “Congratulations, Gee, you’re a king now.”  

He giggled, exaggeratedly batting his eyelashes.  “Oh?  So this is a private coronation?”

Frank took his hand and kissed it, a strangely innocent gesture now, considering their previous frivolities- an echo of their first meeting.  “Of course.  It wouldn’t do for the public to witness the consummation now, would it?”

The laughter that bubbled out of him was a free, happy sound.  A sound that he thought he had forever left behind in his childhood.  “I love you,” he said, the words sliding off his tongue as easily as honey.

“I love you too.”  Frank smiled, and Gerard saw the flicker of mischief dance across his eyes.  

“My king.”

And this time, with Frank by his side, he truly felt like one.

Chapter Text

“You’re absolutely the worst, you know that?” Gerard whispered playfully as Frank rolled his eyes and kept on making absurd faces.  “Don’t you dare make me laugh during the ceremony!”

Frank gave a mock-pout.  “I thought I was, and I quote, the best thing that ever happened to you.”  He grabbed Gerard’s hand, holding up the shiny silver band inset with a tasteful, glittering diamond.  “I made you cry and I’m never going to forget it.”

Though he was loath to admit it, Gerard almost cried when he’d woken up from a peaceful sleep to see Frank laying out a small spread on a checkered blanket on their bed.  “Oh my god.  Is this-”

“A recreation of our first date?  Yeah.”

Frank just laughed and handed him a chocolate-covered strawberry.  He’d gotten up at an ungodly hour, it would turn out, and gone down to the kitchens to prepare a breakfast for the two of them.  Chocolate-covered strawberries, jellies and tipsy-cake in the shape of a heart.  Gerard fairly melted into his embrace, surprised and touched.  “That’s so sweet of you, Frankie.”  

In response, Frank fed him another strawberry with a devilish grin.  “This one has something special.”

Gerard frowned, trying to articulate around a mouthful of fruit.  “Are you trying to poison me?”

“Wow, I’m hurt.”  Frank placed a dramatic hand over his heart.  “To think you would even-”

“Okay fine, fine!” Gerard interjected, giggling.  He took a bite of the strawberry, expecting his teeth to sink into the soft dessert- 

Instead, he was met with a scrape of hard, cold metal.  

“Frankie!” he’d yelled, spitting the offending ingredient into his palm.  “What the actual fuck was-”

He trailed off as he realised what it was.  A diamond, glittering on a ring.

“Gee?”  At some point, he’d managed to get down onto the floor without Gerard noticing.  And he was on one knee.

“Is this...are you…?” Gerard swallowed, eyes suddenly wet. 

“Gerard Arthur Way, you have no idea how many pastries I baked last night to bribe Helena into helping me get you that ring.  As much I hated to not sleep beside you, I had to do this, so.”  He paused, looking a bit sheepish.  “You’re the best person in my life, my past life and this life, and I can’t imagine why you agreed to bind your soul with mine, but you make me laugh and you never cease to amaze me and I know this is fucking early but you brought me back from the dead, didn’t you?  So fuck propriety.”

Gerard began laughing through his tears at this point.

Frank smiled softly.  “Gerard Way, will you marry me?”

The tears had starting pouring down Gerard’s face of their own accord.  “Yes!  Yes!”  He flew into Frank’s waiting arms.  “Frank Iero, I will marry you.  Obviously yes, you idiot.”

He had no idea how long they stayed there, laughing on the floor like little children, and when they rose, Gerard had a ring on his finger, a beautiful promise.

Now, as they followed Helena down the castle’s halls, Frank squeezed Gerard’s hand.  “You nervous?”

“Yeah.”  Gerard exhaled softly.  This was the two of the most important events of his life happening on the same day- his coronation and his wedding.  “My parents are going to murder me when they realise I’m getting married today.  And to someone of the same gender, no less,” he added.

Frank grinned.  “You’ll be king by then.  Besides, murder can’t be that effective.  I used to be a ghost and here I am, aren’t I?”

It was a miracle he wasn’t still giggling when he entered the hushed church, lit up by a kaleidoscope of light streaming in through the stained-glass windows.  One beam pierced through the altar, landing directly on the pedestal that held the shimmering crown inlaid with three gems: a ruby, a sapphire and an emerald, symbolising love, wisdom and harmony.  

“I’m taking bets on how heavy that thing is,” Frank quipped, and Gerard shot him a smile.  (He’d meant for it to look a tad scolding, but somehow, as usual, it didn’t come through.)

Turning to face them, Helena gave them a brief smile.  “The ceremony will begin in approximately ten minutes.”  She examined her clipboard.  “Your Highness, the arch of white roses will be carried out the moment your announcement is made.  May I suggest that the prince consort be seated on a throne beside you rather than in the audience?”

“That sounds perfect,” Gerard cut in smoothly before Frank could protest.  “Thank you, Helena.  And call me Gerard, please.”

Frank chuckled beside him.  “Prince consort sounds positively stuffy.”

“What, you want me to make you a princess?”  Gerard grinned.  “I’m sure I could have that dress from the ball replicated.”

Helena cleared her throat and the two of them jerked back, only now aware that they had been about to kiss again.  “As per your request,” she continued, “The King Father and Mother will be seated together with Prince Michael and Marquess Toro on the front rows, and the public will be free to join us in the church throughout the ceremony.”  It was truly a marvel how unfazed she was at the last-minute alterations that violated historical protocol, alterations which she had only been made aware of two hours ago.  Somehow, she’d roused the entirety of the staff and managed to tailor them both impeccable suits- Gerard’s black velvet, and Frank’s midnight blue.

She clapped her hands, and the servants adjusting the silk streamers and floral displays on the sidelines bowed and vanished through the back door.  “I’m making them clean up before they come in,” she explained at the look of confusion on their faces.  “Your High- Gerard , the delivery of your invitations was a wonderful surprise for them.”

“I’m glad to hear that.  It was Frank’s idea, actually.”  He smiled at his partner.  “I hope the nobility won’t be too miffed at having to sit with everyone.”  But as Frank so eloquently put it, “the fuckers are so used to feeling superior, any equality will feel like an insult to them”.  

“Shall I have guards posted around the perimeter should there be violence?” Helena asked, concern furrowing her brow.  

“It’s all right,” Frank answered.  “I’ll take care of them.”  He winked at Gerard as Helena nodded and headed to fetch the priest.  “Just because I’m human now doesn’t mean I lost my ghostly tricks.”

Gerard’s eyes widened.  “Show me!”

Frank smirked.  “As you wish, Your Imperial Majesty.”  And with that, he turned translucent.  As if for good measure, he made his entire head disappear.  

“Oh, good God!  What the fuck was that?”

Frank rematerialised.  “I discovered it when I was practicing my proposal speech in the bathroom.  I got nervous and realised I’d turned back.”

“You never disappeared in front of me!”

With a sly smile, Frank stood on his tiptoes to give him a quick peck on the lips.  “I was trying to court you, and didn’t think that trick was entirely appropriate for winning over a king.”

Laughing, Gerard batted his arm.  “Please don’t pull any of that during the wedding.”

Just then, the priest ambled in followed by a worried-looking Helena.  She made a frantic motion behind the old man’s back, pointing at their joined hands and making an abortive signal.  Startled, they let go of each other just as the priest reached them.

Oh God.  Was the priest officiating his wedding homophobic ?  “Your Imperial Highness,” he said in a voice as dry as brittle leaves.  “God bless you!”  He looked so frail, it was a miracle he managed to kneel before Gerard quickly helped him back up.  

“Father,” he said, hoping he wouldn’t crumble to dust in the time they took to reach the altar.  Frank echoed the greeting, earning a small nod.

Helena quickly stepped in.  “Father, His Imperial Highness has decided to forgo the procedure of the annointing and would prefer to be crowned straight away after his oath.”

“Of course,” said the old man warmly.  He turned to Gerard.  “It is an honour to serve you, my king.”  He glanced at Frank.  “Is your servant to assist me with the crowning process?”

Jolted by fury, Gerard blanched.  “What?  Frank isn’t my servant!  He is my husband-to-be!”  Grabbing Frank’s hand, he showed the priest the signet ring upon his finger.  He was about to give the priest a piece of his mind when Frank softly whispered, “Gee, it’s all right.  Calm down.”  

“I- I sincerely apologise, Your Highness,” the priest stuttered.

“It was an honest mistake,” Frank said, surprising them both.  “I forgive you.”  He gave the priest a genuine smile.  “It is an honour to meet you, Father, and I hope you understand how the nature of love varies.  Male or female, gender has no matter in true love, and I truly believe my marriage to the king shall please the Lord.”

The priest looked thoroughly taken aback.  “Yes, yes, of course, Your Highness,” he said, and there was a ring of sincerity to his voice that surprised Gerard.  “You are wise beyond your years, and I have good reason to believe you are to carry out God’s own work.”  With a hesitant smile, he shuffled off to where Helena was clutching a copy of the Bible.

The moment he was out of earshot, Gerard gave Frank an incredulous look.  “How the hell did you do that?  You don’t even believe in God!”

Frank gave a smug half-smile.  “Sometimes, to win people over, violence or pulling rank isn’t the solution.  You have to appeal to what they believe in.”

Without thinking, Gerard grasped him by his lapels and pulled him in for a kiss.  “You’re amazing.”

“Seeing as how my giving speeches affects you so, should I take up the position of political advisor?” he joked. 

Before Gerard could enthusiastically say, yes, of course he should, the church bell tolled.  Helena led them to the altar as the double doors were drawn open by servants to allow guests to file in.

“Good Lord, that is a monstrosity,” Gerard quipped from the throne as he spotted a scowling young woman drowning in red silk and feathers teeter across the pews, supported by the elbow by an older woman he assumed to be her mother.  

“Poor girl,” Frank agreed.  “Her mother must be pushing her to lure you in.”

Gerard looked at him askance.  “ What?

“What, do you want me to tell you you’re a catch no matter what your rank?”

“Can I say yes?”

“You already have, today,” Frank grinned, tapping the ring on his finger.  Smug bastard.

The priest stepped up onto the altar as the crowd hushed, many questioning looks shot their way.  Gerard could see his parents in the front row, his mother clad lavishly in a forest green dress, clearly haven taken the opportunity to bejewel herself as much as possible.  As a result, she was looked for all the world like a rather unfortunate Christmas tree.  

“People of Aquilla, we are gathered here today to celebrate the coronation of His Imperial Highness, Gerard Arthur Way,” the old man announced, his voice echoing throughout the vast cathedral.  Gerard’s heart began trembling like a leaf.  From the sidelines, Helena gave him a reassuring smile that calmed him down somewhat.

“As our Lord writes in the Holy Bible, in the book of Proverbs, ‘if a king judges the poor with truth, his throne will be established forever’.  The three gems of the Aquillian crown represents how a monarch must be loving, wise and a guiding hand towards harmony, and it is my honour to now invited His Imperial Highness Gerard Arthur Way to rise and accept this responsibility.”

His heart thundering, Gerard got to his feet.  “On behalf of the holy nation of Aquilla, I ask you, Gerard Arthur Way, do you pledge to serve your kingdom with every breath you take?”

“I do.”  His leg was spasming, but he hoped nobody noticed.  From the crowd, Michael gave hm a wink, and to his relief, he stopped shaking.

“Do you vow to judge and rule with lowliness of mind and the humility of a servant?  For him who is a ruler must be the servant of those he rules over.”

“I do.”

“And finally, do you vow to love each and every one of your people with the love for your family?”

“I do.”

“Then by the power vested in me by God, I pronounce you king.  Kneel before your people.”  Gerard obliged, and carefully, ever so carefully, he lifted the crown from its red velvet cushion and laid it upon his head.  Head bowed, Gerard couldn’t see the reactions of the crowd, and focused instead on preventing the crown from slipping off his head.

“People of Aquilla, rejoice, for a new king has been born!  Rise, Your Majesty.”  

Gerard got to his feet, drawing himself up as tall as possible as applause thundered through the church.  Scanning the back rows of pews, he was delighted to see it packed with cheering commoners.

He placed a hand on the priest’s shoulder.  “Thank you, Father, for your service.”  He turned to his people.  “And thank you, people of Aquilla, for the honour of being your sovereign!”  More cheers.

“Now that I am king, I have an announcement to make.”  The crowd almost immediately hushed with anticipation.  “Frank Iero, would you please rise?”

Murmurs rippled across the room as Frank, beaming, got to his feet and stood beside Gerard.  

“Homoesexuality is not a crime,” Gerard began, ignoring the gasps that spread through the audience.  “As king of this country, my first decree is to decriminalise romantic love and marriage between consenting adults of any gender.”  Glancing down at his family, he saw that his mother looked fit to explode while Michael smiled and gave him the most miniscule of nods.  His father remained impassive.

He put his hand in Frank’s.  “Dear Aquilla, I would like to announce my engagement with Frank Iero, the love of my life.”

The church erupted as a large floral arch of white roses was moved to the front of the altar and a cage of doves were released.  “Homosexuality is not a crime,” he repeated, louder to regain command of the crowd.  “God created us to love each other as much as He loves us.  Love is blind, and no matter what gender, true, pure love could never be a sin.”

He caught sight of Raymond in the audience, beaming like an angel, and he saw, with sudden clarity, how so many people around him would have been condemned for the love they carried.

Pulling Frank close, they shared a picture-perfect kiss, chaste but emotional, the perfect scene for a new beginning as the crowd began to cheer.

The night sky sparkled with diamond-like stars, an ethereal backdrop for the arch of pearly white roses on the dewy grass.  Candles on the feasting table lit up the dark, and the path towards the altar between the rows of seats was sprinkled with blushing pink petals.  It was a small ceremony, an intimate one, with only Gerard’s immediate family and two seats left empty out of respect for Frank’s parents along with the guests of Helena and Eileen, who had been sent for immediately.  Raymond would be officiating, much to Gerard’s surprise when he found out.  Michael had been adamant that he officiate, and had sung his friend’s praises for so long that the ever-humble Raymond quickly interjected and agreed.

“Are you ready?”  Michael proffered Gerard his arm, glancing at the bouquet of colourful flowers.  “How much did you spend on flowers alone?”

Gerard swatted his arm.  “Mikey, stop teasing!  My nerves are in tatters.”

It was unconventional, but Gerard couldn’t imagine anyone else giving him away as they walked down the aisle arm in arm, the quiet night lending the ceremony an aura of comfortable peace.  

When he reached the altar, the sight of Frank nearly swept him off his feet.  Not only because he looked ravishing with his beautiful kaleidoscope eyes accentuated by the silky midnight blue of his suit, but because he was looking at Gerard like he had hung the moon and stars himself.  That look alone was enough to render him breathless.

“Dearly beloved,” Raymond began.  “We are gathered here tonight to witness the marriage of Gerard Way and Frank Iero.”  With a private smile for the two of them, he looked up to face their small audience again.  

“Love...is like oatmeal,” he continued, a wistful look on his face.  “It sustains you.  Love is ambrosia, a godly nectar that makes you strong yet vulnerable, happier because you have been sad, better than ever because you have found the perfect soul for you.”  Here he paused with a smile.  “Love is patience, love is anger, love is understanding, love is all-encompassing.  And we, dearly beloved, are lucky enough to witness the joining of these two loving souls.”

He turned to Gerard.  “Do you, Gerard Arthur Way, take Frank Anthony Iero to be your legally wedded husband?”

“I do, I do!”  Gerard couldn’t bring himself to care about the lone tear that slipped down his cheek.

“And do you, Frank Anthony Iero, take Gerard Arthur Way to be your legally wedded-”

“I do!”

There was a ripple of soft laughter at Frank’s excitement.  Raymond grinned from ear to ear.  “I now pronounce you husband and husband.  You may kiss the-”

Again, Frank cut him off by pulling Gerard into a long, sensuous kiss, arms circling his waist, and in that moment, Gerard felt stronger than he had ever been.  He felt as though he had wings, able to rise through the sunrise, hand in hand with Frank, and forever be at peace.  Despite the difficulties coming their way, the laws that would have to be passed to legalise their love, the uncomfortable conversations with his parents, he felt weightless, invincible.  He had Frank, and that was all he needed.  

When they finally broke the kiss, Gerard leaned close to whisper in his husband’s ear.  “You are my ambrosia, Frankie.  Always.”

Frank smiled up at him and Gerard swore he could see the light of a thousand stars sparkling in his eyes, joy and excitement and love.  “And I am the ghost to haunt you for all time.”

Gerard laughed.  “ My ghost.”

“That’s right, your ghost.”  Frank kissed him again, thoroughly, and Gerard felt like an angel.  Frank pulled away suddenly, smirking at the flustered look on his husband’s face.  “Come on, there are rose macarons on the feasting table!”

And even though his entire family was watching, even though he had just been handed the scepter of a huge responsibility, even though he had seen life and death and everything in between in the span of three days, as Frank grabbed his hand and pulled him away from the altar, his ring an exciting novelty upon his finger, he decided that he had never felt happier.

Frank gave his hand a squeeze.  “I know.  Me too.”  He gave Gerard another one of those looks, the ones with such awe and sheer adoration they made Gerard weak at the knees. 

“Don’t you forget, sweetheart, we have the rest of our lives.”

And to Gerard, those were the best words that anyone had ever said to him.