Hero of War

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Hero of War

It was a muggy summer day, the air heavy and thick. He was expecting a letter in the mail today. "Frank, babe, there's something for you!" Gerard called when he was flipping through the small pile of taxes and bills they had to find some way to pay.
"Really?! Let me see." Frank said, his eyes alight. When he was handed the letter he ran back up the stairs, two at a time. That wasn't like him, he always opened mail around Gerard. Come to think of it, Gerard's husband had been acting oddly for the past few weeks, like he was hiding something from him.
"Frank, what's up? What's the letter about?" Frank turned around from where he was standing in their room and smiled.
"I got in, babe! I got in, they accepted me." He said, almost crying as he handed Gerard the letter.
"Who's they?" Gerard asked, skimming the letter.
"The Army, I applied a few weeks ago and they accepted me!"
Gerard looked furious. "We didn't talk about this. How could you go and do this behind my back?!" He yelled, throwing the letter on the ground.
"I'm doing this for you! For us! I applied so we could actually live our lives instead of being too broke to even buy groceries! I thought you'd be proud of me!"
"You're literally walking into a death trap, Frank! How could I be proud of you?!"
"I'll show you. I swear you'll be damn proud of me." Frank said quietly, shrugging past Gerard to walk back downstairs.
***
They avoided each other for the rest of the night, until dinner. "I made meatless chili... your favorite." Gerard said when he sat on the arm of the couch next to Frank's head, running his fingers through Frank's hair. Peppers was curled up on his stomach, sleeping happily.
"Not hungry." Frank lied, scratching behind the dog's ears.
"If you're going to go on a hunger strike because of our fight, then I'm sorry." They were silent for a bit. "Frankie, I am proud of you. I just wished you'd told me about it instead of going behind my back."
"I wanted to surprise you. I thought you'd be proud that I was making that step, y'know? Taking some initive or whatever."
"I know... I just... the thought of even losing you scares me. I've already lost Lindsey, I don't want to lose you."
Frank took Gerard's face in his hands. "And you won't. Trust me."
***
Three months to the day later was Frank's departure date. Gerard couldn't sleep the entire night before. He just stayed up, watching the steady rise and fall of Frank's chest next to his own. He didn't want to think about what six months without the man next to him would be like, six months with only Peppers and Mama to keep him company. It was only six months, but it would definitely feel like an entire lifetime.
When the alarm rang at 3:30, Frank was already awake. He'd been awake for a couple hours before, sitting in his bed with Gerard, letting himself be held like a child who was afraid of the dark. "Promise me you'll come home." Frank whispered through silent tears.
"I promise." Frank choked out a sob. "I love you so much."
***
Four months later, sometime in September, Gerard received a letter in the mail from the United States Armed Forces. It was a Letter of Condolence, on behalf of Frank Iero- Way, on the matter of his passing in action.
Gerard sat down on the front porch and sobbed, his head in his hands. He'd never be able to hold Frank again, kiss him goodnight again, perform with him again. Peppers's daddy was gone, killed in action far too soon. His dogtags were included in the letter, and as soon as they fell out of the envelope, Frank put them around his neck.
He stayed on the couch all night, riveted to the news for any information on what happened. The letter, which was now buried under a pile of unpaid bills in an attempt to forget its existence, didn't give any details other than that he was gone and the US Army extended their deepest condolences to the Iero- Way families.
"And our top story at 11 this evening, a local hero has fallen today. Corporal Frank Iero- Way from Newark was killed in action today in Iraq in a suicide bomber attack gone wrong, along with 7 other priva-"
"COWARD!" Gerard screamed at the television. "They're a coward! They're a coward..." Gerard got progressively less and less angry, sinking back down on the couch from where he was standing in his fit of rage. A new wave of tears hit him as the phone rang. He didn't bother picking it up, even though it was probably someone calling to ask about the news report.
***
"He'll be missed. I'm so sorry." Gerard heard someone say to him after Frank's funeral. He just held Frank's dogtags tighter in his hand. He was numb with pain, sadness, anger. He promised he'd come home safe. Instead, someone else tried to take their own life, and took eight other peoples' lives instead. Brothers, sisters, wives, hubands, all gone with one detonation of a bomb. Because of someone else's selfish actions.
Before he left the cemetery, he placed one last kiss on Frank's lifeless forehead. "I'm damn proud of you." He whispered to the body, then walked away, tears streaming down his face.