ten years later
(Gerard Way's POV)
St. Petersburg was buzzing with the rumors of a survivor- of the infamous Prince Francisque, the youngest of the Ieros and the one whose body had never been found. All of the Ieros had been slaughtered, and yet- they had some delusional hope that the smallest, the weakest, had escaped.
"He's alive!" whispered the people. They had gotten their revolution, in the end, replacing their czars and empresses with machines and smoke, and now they were tired again, more tired than ever before. News from Paris had come that the Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna was willing to pay a huge sum to get her grandson back.
"Ten million rubles!" exclaimed Gerard Way, dashing through the crowds of hopefuls, eyes wide and excited as he looked to his partner-in-crime, Raymond Toro. Ray was an immigrant from Spain, but not a new one- he'd served in the Guard at Catherine Palace for a fair number of years before the royal family came to an end, and he became a con-man, along with Gerard, and they weren't just any con-men. Some called them the best in all of Russia.
Gerard came from a much humbler background. He had been a kitchen boy at the palace all the way up until it was stormed, during which he'd been attacked by rebels. However, his life was spared, something which certainly wouldn't have happened if they'd known what he'd done. You see, Gerard had taken the Empress Marie and Prince Francisque to safety through the servants' quarters, and he was confident that the boy was still alive and would earn him a fortune.
He and Ray rushed to a paper seller, exclaiming over the photograph of the eight year old, taken ten years ago. "We'll find him, I know it!" Gerard said elatedly. "And if we don't find him…" he grinned. "We'll just trick the old woman into giving us the reward!"
"The biggest con in history!" Ray agreed, his curly hair tucked under a fur hat which fell forwards a little as he peered at the picture.
All around them, people attempted to sell trinkets, coats, paintings, jewelry, professing that it had belonged to the prince. It was an excellent idea, thought Gerard admiringly, for it would surely fetch them a considerable sum even though most of it was likely fake.
He and Ray made their way through the market stalls and into their 'lair,' Ray still smiling hugely.
"Well, Gerard, I got us the theatre," he said proudly, puffing his chest out a bit and looking kindly at his friend.
Gerard smiled right back, practically vibrating with excitement. "Everything's going according to plan! Now all we need is the boy!"
They rushed up the stairs in the old palace, where they hatched all of their plans. It was abandoned these days, some called it cursed, but it suited their purposes perfectly.
"Just think, Ray," Gerard said firmly, "no more forging papers, no more stolen goods, we'll have three tickets out of here! One for you, one for me, and one for Francisque!" He punctuated each of his words with a hand gesture, face glowing with enthusiasm. This was going to work! They would be rich!
"It's the rumor, the legend, the mystery, it's the Prince Francisque who will help us fly," Gerard swung himself up onto the balcony, arms spread like a bird. "You and I Ray, we'll go down in history! We'll find the boy to play the part and teach him what to say, dress him up and take him to Paris." Ray nodded, urging him on. "Imagine the reward her dear old grandmamma will pay, who else could pull it off but you and me?"
"We'll be rich!" Ray shouted.
"We'll be out!" Gerard added.
"And St. Petersburg will have some more to talk about!" they said together, sliding down the snowy eaves and to the city square below.
"A fascinating mystery!" cried many in the crowd as they continued to speak of the lost prince. Gerard and Ray leaped onto a passing carriage, spirits high.
"The biggest con in history!" cried Gerard, tipping his hat and letting his wild black hair fly free.
"The Prince Francisque- alive or dead?" were the last words they heard before the carriage clattered away, taking them to the theatre where they would surely find their Francisque.
Frank looked up at the windows of the orphanage, where all the younger children were waving and pounding on the glass, smiling crooked smiles and pressing their hands against the windows, which were fogged up and frosted over from the cold.
It was snowing, and he pulled his ragged shawl around his thin shoulders as tight as he could. His clothes were all hand-me-downs and much too small for him- even though he wasn't a particularly big person, he was eighteen, much older than the other children.
"I got you a job in the fish factory," said the ugly, toothless hag who was the head of the orphanage. Phlegmenkoff, was her name, but Frank just called her Phlegm. She was about as nice as she was pretty, that is to say, not at all, and now that he was of age she was more than happy to be sending him away forever.
"You go straight down this path 'til you get to the fork in the road," Phlegm said grumpily, hobbling down the walk and pointing with gnarled, arthritic hands. "Go left." She turned to go away.
Frank wasn't really paying attention, as usual. He waved to the children in the windows, the only family he'd ever known. "Bye!"
"You be safe," snapped Phlegm, though Frank doubted she cared if he was eaten by wolves.
"Bye everybody!" Feeling the old lady's evil eye on him, he cleared his throat and looked back at her. "I'm listening, Phlegmenkoff."
The woman grabbed his purple scarf and began to haul him towards the gates. "You've been a thorn in my side since you were brought here. Always acting like the Queen of Sheba instead of the nameless nobody you are! For the last ten years, I fed you, I clothed you, I kept a roof on your head," Phlegm ranted, stalking away. Frank just rolled his eyes and mocked her behind her back, repeating all of her words from memory, hearing the squeals of delight from the children watching.
Unfortunately Phlegm turned around as Frank was in the middle of a particularly interesting facial expression, her own face twisting up in distaste before she unlocked the heavy iron gates, huffing. "How is it that you don't have a clue who you were before you came to us but you can remember all that?!"
"Well, I do have a clue," Frank pointed out, hands coming up and resting on the golden necklace around his neck, nestled just above his purple scarf.
"Oh, that," Phlegm scorned, reaching for the pendant and holding it up so she could read it. "Together in Paris." She pulled away. "So, you want to go to France to find your family, huh?" Frank nodded, leaning a bit closer and wincing at the smell of onions on Phlegm's breath. She laughed and the smell became worse, but he forced a smile. "Ah, little Frank," she said, her voice becoming annoyed again as she pushed him away and out the gates, "it's time to take your place in life and in line! And be grateful, too!" She slammed the gates shut, throwing Frank his scarf and crowing, "Together in Paris!" before laughing madly and walking away, back to 'home.'
Frank glared at her before starting his trek through the snow. It wasn't long before he came to the fork in the road, with two signs pointing two different ways. He glared some more and twisted up his face, stooping over and doing his best imitation of Phlegm's voice. "Be grateful, Frank." Speaking normally, he said loudly to absolutely no one, "I am grateful! Grateful to get away!" And he was. The orphanage was a horrible place. "Go left, she says," he said, irritated, stalking towards the sign reading 'Fisherman's Village.' "Well, I know what's to the left. I'll just be Frank the orphan forever." He considered this and pranced over to the other sign. "But if I go to the right, maybe I can find…" he sighed and fondled the necklace again. "Whoever gave me this necklace must have loved me." Snapping out of it, he half laughed and said, "This is crazy! Me, go to Paris?" He was struck with an even crazier idea and raised his hands up to the sky, studded with dark snow clouds. "Send me a sign! A…a hint! Anything!" Frank frowned and plopped down in the snow between the two signs, setting his scarf down next to him.
There was a small yip, and the sound of tiny feet. Opening his eyes, he saw a small, scruffy puppy dragging his scarf away, tail wagging and ears flopping.
"Hey!" he laughed, making grabby hands at it. Adopting a more serious tone, he added, "Hey, I don't have time to play right now, okay? I'm waiting for a sign." He got up, trying to reach for his scarf, but the dog seemed to laugh at him, bounding away and frolicking around his feet. "Hey, come on, stop that! Gimme that back, gimme that-" The scarf wrapped around his legs and he tripped, stumbling and falling into the powder. The puppy, free, ran along the path to the right.
Frank stared disbelievingly at it. "Ah, great. A dog wants me to go to St. Petersburg." The dog whimpered and barked at him. He stared at it for a few more seconds before something dawned on him. This…this could be the sign! "Okay," he said uncertainly, rising to his feet. "I think I can take a hint." He walked to where the dog stood and sure enough, it just barked happily, not stopping him from retrieving his ice-encrusted scarf, but keeping its tiny teeth fastened onto the other end as though to prevent him from changing his mind. Keeping his scarf hostage, in a way. He laughed delightedly and followed the adorable puppy down the snowy path, the road to his future.
"Somewhere down this road," Frank said surely, "I know that someone is waiting."
The puppy blinked at him, as if to ask, "Waiting for you?"
Frank giggled and scratched the fur behind the mutt's ears. "Yes, Pansy, waiting for me- and you, of course!" Content, the dog continued with him along their journey, Frank's head spinning at the hugeness of the choice he was making.
Frank bit his lip, stepping up to the booth at the train station. He wasn't positive as to how all this worked, in fact, he really didn't have any clue at all. He held Pansy in both arms as he went on his tip toes to speak to the man at the counter, a heavy built guy with impressive sideburns.
"One ticket to Paris, please," he announced, smiling winningly. The man looked unconvinced.
"Exit visa," he said gruffly, holding out a hand.
"No exit visa? No ticket!" the man yelled, slamming the window shut. Frank jumped back and crashed into the woman behind him.
"Oh! I'm sorry," he apologized, holding Pansy tightly. His heart was beginning to sink a little. This wasn't going to work out after all.
"No harm done," she said, smiling a smile almost as bad as Phlegm's, but at least more genuine. "And, ah…see Gerard. He can help."
Frank's heart paused in its slow descent, and hope pounded through him. "Where can I find him?" he asked eagerly, leaning in. At least this woman didn't smell like onions.
"At the Old Palace," she answered. "But you didn't hear it from me!" she said in a conspiratorial whisper.
"Ooh," said Frank like he understood, which he really didn't.
Pansy looked equally confused.
"Go! Go, go, go," rasped the woman, frowning and waving her hands away.
Frank complied, saying under his breath, "Hmm. Gerard…"
"Nice, nice, very nice," Gerard said in a complete monotone. Ray was hiding his face in his hands. This had to be the worst audition yet. A man who had to be at least eighty was dressed up in some ridiculous robe and fur coat, speaking in a voice much too low for any eighteen year old.
"Oh, God, make it end," Ray moaned, looking pleadingly at his partner.
"Alright, Gee, game over. Given from what I've seen today, there is no boy to pretend to be Francisque."
Gerard frowned. It wasn't like Ray to be so pessimistic. "We'll find him, Ray, he's here somewhere, right under our noses!" He didn't notice the bewildered young man walking past the two of them. "And don't forget, once look at this jewelry box and the empress will think we've brought the real Francisque."
There was a voice to his left. "I'm looking for the-excuse me!" Gerard barely spared a glance for the boy he'd bumped into, probably some hopeful beggar.
He continued to comfort Ray, promising him the ten million rubles and a life of comfort. They could do this. They had to do this!
Frank walked cautiously up to the Old Palace. It was huge, and completely deserted. He trod carefully up slippery steps before pausing in front of a boarded up entry of some kind. He was about to look for an easier route in when Pansy barked and slipped under one of the boards.
"Pansy! Pansy, Pansy where are you?" he hissed, peering through the space between two of the planks. He yanked them free with a curse and a crack, falling backwards but catching himself before he fell.
Gerard and Ray say at a table in a warm room, Ray smoking and Gerard pouring over three fake visas. Suddenly, he heard a muffled sound, and stood up in alarm. Ray looked at him curiously.
"Did you hear that?" Gerard questioned, listening for another noise.
"Hmm? No," Ray said distractedly, inhaling smoke blissfully. Uneasy, Gerard stepped out of the room, furrowing his brow.
Frank stepped into the palace, the tile floors cracked and yellowed from abandonment and age. The carpets were dusty, and everything was eerily silent. Pansy was nowhere to be found. Unwinding his scarf, he called out, "Hello! Anybody home?"
There was a yip from behind him, but he was fascinated by the relics around him. People had lived here, once, in a place of splendor. His curiosity took him up one of the many flights of stairs and into a dining room full of dusty silverware and candlesticks, fingers itching to touch. There was something…strange about the palace.
He finally gave into the temptation and picked up a plate, blowing the dust off and peering at himself in the reflection. Pale skin, curved lips, green eyes, dark hair, sloping nose. And then in an instant the image was replaced, and the reflection was a ballroom, with many dancers and-
Startled, Frank quickly set it down, slowly approaching a vase covered in paintings of swans. "This place," he whispered, "it's…it's like a memory from a dream." He brushed more dust off of the vase, revealing a row of painted bears.
He walked away, into the next room, mumbling, "Dancing bears…painted wings, things I almost remember…and a song someone sings….once upon a December." He bit his lip, not knowing where he'd gotten that particular month. It just…just appeared in his head. Was it a clue? He made his way down the stairs and onto the ballroom floor.
"Someone holds me, safe and warm…horses prance through a silver storm. Figures dancing gracefully across my memory…." He looked out across the grandiose ballroom, sad and empty, and then it once transformed, to a place in a happier time, full of people.
And for that moment, Frank thought nothing of it. He bowed to the lady in the purple dress beside him, and he danced to the group of people in the center, smiling happily at him. When he reached them, the five laughing girls, all older than him, laughed and told him how handsome he'd become. Two older boys laughed heartily and grabbed each of his hands, spinning him around, into the arms of an older man dressed in white, with a blue sash. He was smiling a little sadly, and all the other guests bowed to him. They danced more slowly, and Frank wished he knew why the man was so sad.
And then the man stepped away, and all of the figures were gone, and he was left sitting in the middle of the ballroom, head bowed as though to mourn the man and who he assumed were the man's family.
A shout cut him out of his reverie.
"Hey! What are you doing in here?!" Frank gasped, looking up and seeing two men leaning over the balustrade. Afraid, he scrambled to his feet, dashing away, hoping Pansy would follow.
"Hey!" cried the man again, and oh, god, they were running after him. Frank ran faster, getting to the stairs opposite where the others had been. He was a little out of breath, though- he lungs had never been good.
"Hey, hey, stop stop stop stop! Wait, wait, hold on a minute, hold on," said the yelling man, but he didn't sound angry, more like a little desperate. So Frank did, cautiously, backing away from them as they came up the stairs, closer to him. "Now, how did you get in he-" the man stopped. He was staring at Frank, or maybe at something beyond him, Frank could really care less. His heart was pounding and his lungs were already screaming bloody murder.
"Oh," he said faintly, but he coughed and cut himself off, frowning a little instead. The man was still staring at him. The other man came and joined him, his hair a mass of wild curls atop his head.
"Ray," said the first one, "do you see what I see?"
Ray blinked, and then his mouth opened in a large 'o.' "Why…yes, yes! Oh!"
The first one grinned. Frank narrowed his eyes at him. He had very pale skin, tousled black hair, and calculating hazel eyes, and the way he looked at Frank was unsettling.
Then he realized. "Oh! Are you Gerard?"
The pale man scooped up Pansy, who had been investigating his shoe, and depositied him in Ray's arms, muttering, "Cute," before raising an eyebrow and stepping closer, farther up the stairs. "Perhaps," he said, smiling wryly, "depends who's looking for him."
"My name is Frank," he declared, "and I need travel papers. Now, I heard you're the man to see. But I can't tell you who said that."
Gerard (for that's who he knew the man was now), was circling him, saying a soft, "Hmm," suggesting that he really wasn't listening at all. Frank huffed and put his hands on his hips, annoyed at the way the other was treating him like some particularly fine piece at an auction.
"What-hey- why are you circling me, what, were you a vulture in another life?!" Frank was getting seriously pissed off.
"I- no, I'm sorry, Franka-"
"It's Frank. Just Frank," he snapped.
"Frank, it's just that you look an awful lot like…ah…nevermind. You…said something about travel papers." He smiled that slightly creepy smile again and Frank had to turn away.
"Um, yes. I'd like to go to Paris."
Gerard's whole face lit up. "You'd like to go to Paris?!"
Gerard turned to Ray, only to find that he was cuddling Pansy. "Who is this adorable little- oh, oh he likes this, how cute," Ray was crooning, snuggling the puppy.
Gerard turned back to Frank, disgruntled. "Nice dog," he muttered. "Uh…now, let me ask you…something, Frank, was it? There's a last name that goes with that…?"
"Well," Frank answered slowly, "actually, this is gonna sound crazy, I don't know my last name." Frank bit his lip and looked up. "I was found wandering around when I was eight years old…"
"And ah, before that? Before you were eight?" Gerard asked, unconcerned.
"Look, I know it's strange, but I don't remember. I have very few memories of my past."
"Hm," Gerard said, feigning thoughtfulness, "that's…perfect." Frank didn't know or want to know what he meant by that.
"Well, I do have one clue however, and that is Paris."
"Right. So…can you two help me or not?" Frank tilted his head hopefully at them. The one called Ray seemed very engrossed in playing with Pansy.
"Ahh…sure would like to, and in fact, oddly enough, we're going to Paris ourselves!" Ray produced several tickets. Frank gasped. This was it! "Ah…and I've got three tickets here, unfortunately the third one is for him- Francisque." Gerard gestured to a tapestry behind them, onto which was woven a family of beautiful people.
Frank started. "Wha- oh." He blinked at the weaving of the youngest, a boy with pale skin, dark hair, and large green eyes. He looked very happy.
Ray smiled, and before he knew what was happening, the two were pulling him along with them. "We are going to reunite the Prince Francisque with her grandmother."
Gerard patted him on the shoulder. "You do kind of resemble him."
"The same green eyes."
"The Iero eyes!"
"Oh, he even has the grandmother's hands," Ray said, gently picking up a small hand for inspection, and passing the dog over as well.
"The same age, the same physical type," Gerard rambled, waving his hands about.
Frank gasped and stopped in his tracks, forcing the two to stop as well. "Are you two trying to tell me that you think I'm Francisque?"
Gerard grabbed both of his hands and looked at him seriously. "All I'm trying to tell you is that I've seen thousands of boys across the country and not one of 'em looks as much like the Prince as you. I mean, look at the portrait!" He pointed to the tapestry.
Frank could not believe this. He stabbed a finger into Gerard's chest. "I knew you were crazy from the beginning but now I think you are both mad." He huffed and turned to go.
Gerard quickly caught up. "Why?" he interjected. "You don't remember what happened to you."
Ray cut in. "No one knows what happened to him."
"You're looking for your family, in Paris."
"And his only family is in Paris."
Gerard slung an arm around his shoulders and Frank glared at him, but the guy couldn't take a hint. "You ever thought about the possibility?"
Frank sucked in a breath, looking up at the tapestry. "That I could be royalty?"
Both of them nodded and made encouraging 'mhm' sounds.
Frank looked down, and Pansy looked up at him. Finally he said, "Well, I don't know, it's kind of hard to think of yourself as a prince when you're sleeping on a damp floor, but sure, yeah, I guess every lonely boy would hope he's a prince. Maybe that he'd someday meet the perfect princess."
"And somewhere," Ray said quietly, "some little boy is."
"I really wish we could help," Gerard said regretfully, steering Ray away, "but the third ticket is for the Prince Francisque."
Frank frowned. Maybe…just maybe…he heard them walking away. "Good luck!" Gerard called. Their footsteps receded. Frank hesitated.
Frank reached out, brushing his fingertips against the silk of the tapestry. "Hm," he pondered. What if…?
And then he'd made his decision.
The two turned around. Gerard raised an eyebrow nonchalantly. "I'm sorry, did you call me?"
Frank nodded eagerly. "If I don't remember who I am," he said reasonably, "then who's to say I'm not a prince or a duke or whatever he is, right?"
Gerard nodded slowly and Ray looked attentively at her. "Mhm, go on."
"Right! If I'm not Francisque, the empress will surely know right away and it's all just an honest mistake!" Frank crossed his arms and gave them his best puppy dog eyes.
Gerard agreed. "Sounds plausible."
Ray said kindly, "But, if you are the prince, then you'll finally know who you are and have your family back."
Gerard agreed again. "You know, he's right. Either way, it gets you to Paris."
"Right!" Frank exclaimed, and he and Gerard shook hands. He didn't miss the way Gerard winced at his surprisingly strong grip, either. Ha.
"Ow," Gerard growled, pulling away. He recovered quickly though, smiling and saying in an announcer's voice, "May I present to you to the great Prince Francisque!"
"Pansy, we are going to Paris!"
"What are you talking about, the dog goes!"
"No, the dog is not going."
"I say it's going."
"I beg to differ-"
"Francisque?!" gasped the little albino fruit bat in dismay and confusion. He peered down at the odd trio below him from where he was perched in the rafters. "Yeah, just one problem there fella, Francisque's dead." The reliquary next to him smoked and hissed in disagreement. "All the Ieros are dead. They're dead! Dead, dead, dead." A greenish wraith spun from its prison in the reliquary, flying next to the bat and staring coldly at him with ruby eyes. "Am I right, my friend? I mean, how could that be Franci- auuughhh!" The demon snarled and the bat jumped back, eyes wide. More demons awoke, twisting and emerald in color.
"Oh, come on! Am I supposed to believe that that thing woke up after all these years just because some guy claims he's a Iero?" More of the demons glided down. He waved his arms. "Okay, okay, I get the message! Enough already with the glowing and the smoke people!"
The reliquary rattled in displeasure, but no more demons issued from it. Brendon the bat shuddered. He was so not cut out for this. Before his master had sold his soul for this creepy thing, everything had been so much easier, way less complicated, and much less scary.
One last demon was freed, blinking at him devilishly before snaking past, bat wings outstretched.
"Wait a minute," Brendon said, watching it fly away, "if that thing's come back to life…it must mean…" He gaped and his head snapped down to look at the short young man fiercely holding a puppy to his chest, arguing with the taller, black haired one. "Francisque's alive!"
From the floor came strains of an exasperated, "Just leave the dog," and the answer, "I am not leaving the dog!"
"And…and that's him!" Brendon gasped, pointing a trembling finger at the green eyed ghost. Because he was dead. He had to be dead.
But he, Prince Francisque Iero, was very much not.
That was a problem.