"I want to pose for you," said a voice. No greeting, no introduction.
Gerard turns from the painting he's about to cover with a drop sheet, the little chalk mark on the wall beside it indicating it had been sold at tonight's opening. The boy in the doorway clearly doesn't belong amongst the glittering crowd who filled the gallery earlier. His hair lacks style and he's wearing a suit that obviously hasn't been made for him and is at least two seasons out of date.
"No, you don't." Gerard says drily, turning back to throw the sheet over the frame of one more wretched piece of art. This one he'd had high hopes for. The model - a pale-skinned redhead, tall and elegant - had seemed promising at first. It all fell apart once he'd started painting her, the resulting image coming out just as superficial as her personality had turned out to be. It shouldn't even disappoint him anymore - the art always turns on him. He's yet to use the same model twice.
Gerard straightens the drop sheet on the painting and snatches up another, all too eager to cover every frame of this abhorrent collection his manager insisted would sell at top dollar. Gerard's not sure if he's relieved or disappointed that Schechter, once again, turns out to be right. All but a handful of the collection bear the chalk mark to show they've been sold, and it's only their opening night at the gallery.
"Yes, I do," the boy insists, his voice a little louder now and Gerard turns back to find he's stepped closer - has he no manners at all?
"Look," says Gerard, taking a step back to put some space between them. "I don't pay well, I keep terrible hours and I paint absolute tripe. If I were you I'd go and see that Wentz fellow instead, I hear he's always looking for young boys." Gerard turns away, grabbing another drop sheet and moving to the next painting. This one is even more disappointing than the last - a pretty young boy with long hair, who looked good in acrylics until Gerard had caught him mistreating one of his housemaids. It had been a commissioned piece so Gerard had been forced to finish it, and he can see his anger and hatred in every brushstroke. It's a relief when it's covered in cloth.
"I don't want to pose for Wentz. I want to be in one your paintings," the boy insists. It's nothing Gerard hasn't heard before. He sighs and turns back around, running a careful eye over the boy. He's maybe older than Gerard first thought, short of stature, not thin, but slender enough. There's a prettiness about him that's not at all foppish and his eyebrows are distractingly perfect. Gerard's eyes lock to his and for a moment he can see the boy in rough charcoals, in acrylics even, his artist's mind showing him the shape in lines and angles. He could be beautiful.
But no, Gerard's not painting right now. He's taking the proceeds from this showing and spending the next few weeks drowning in wine and companions of the night, trying to forget how much of a failure he is at making real art. Whatever Schechter says, the chalk marks on the wall hold no meaning. A real artist is never recognised during their lifetime. Gerard's work is fashionable enough right now, but it will be forgotten by next season. He'll be a nobody again in a few years. Maybe then he'll actually make some real art.
Knowing all this, it's still a surprise when Gerard hears himself tell the boy, "Talk to Schechter."
He never does find out his name.
Gerard wakes to a headache to end all headaches. He groans into the pillow and reaches blindly for the bedside table. Obviously what he needs is more wine - he must be sobering up. He encounters someone else's head on the pillow next to him as he stretches his arm toward the bottle he knows he left on the bedside. He peers through gluey eyes at the body beside him, unable to tell if it's male or female, and not at all concerned either way. He pokes the lightly snoring lump with his toe but they don't move. The wine bottle is empty.
So far, today is terribly disappointing.
Then a herd of elephants start headbutting his front door and it all gets so much worse. Gerard tumbles out of bed and drags on some questionably clean breeches, managing to shove the tail of his nightshirt into the back. He nearly falls down the stairs getting to the door, not even caring who is on the other side. He just wants this awful knocking to stop.
"For the love of god, what?" he groans as he shoves the door open, wincing as his own voice hurts his head.
"I'm sorry," comes the rather startled reply, and when Gerard peers from between his messy hair, the boy from the gallery opening is there. The insistent boy with the perfect eyebrows. "Mr Schechter gave me your address," he continues, far too brightly for Gerard's current state of mind.
"What on earth would possess him to do that?" Gerard blurts out, though as soon as the words leave his mouth he realises it's possibly something to do with the messages that Schechter keeps sending him that are piling up by his front door, seals unbroken.
"I'm to pose for you," the boy hands him a letter in Schechter's familiar scrawl, "I believe this is the allotted time."
Gerard breaks open the seal and unfolds the paper, staring at it like it's written in a foreign language. Between his aching head and his blurry eyes he makes out enough words to confirm what the boy says. Frank Iero, according to the letter. No doubt this is Schechter at work, trying to tempt him back from spending money to making it again. The man is a demon for commerce.
It's on the tip of Gerard's tongue to send the boy - Frank - away out of pure spite. But when he looks up at his far too pretty, and far too hopeful face, Gerard can't make the words. Instead he gestures down the hallway, "The studio is at the back, I'll be there momentarily."
Frank's expression barely shifts, but Gerard thinks he can detect a skip in his step as he walks inside. He's wearing the same terrible suit as last time. "Oh, this will have to go," Gerard tells him, grabbing at the lapel. There's no way to render this monstrosity in ink or paint. "Strip it off when you get to the studio, boy."
“I'm not a boy,” Frank says. “I've five and twenty years.”
“Whatever, b-.” He stops himself just in time. “Just take off that atrocious suit.”
That gets a flicker of reaction on Frank's face, but he doesn't object, just nods and heads down the hallway. Gerard stumbles back up to his bedroom and shoves some bills in an envelope to leave by the bedside table for the sleeping companion- who he is now reasonable sure is male - albeit leggy and with very pretty hair. He scrounges a bottle of wine that is blissfully only half empty, slugs back a mouthful and stumbles downstairs.
When he gets to his studio (he uses the term studio rather loosely, it's just his extra bedroom with all the furniture taken out, a dropcloth and chaise on one side, his easel on the other) Frank hasn't left. He's waiting on the chaise, completely naked, his clothes folded neatly to one side. Gerard doesn't stumble, exactly, but he doesn't pull to a particularly elegant stop either. It's not that seeing a nude model is anything out of the ordinary, it's more that this boy wears it so differently. He's made no move at modesty, in fact he seems quite comfortable leaning back on the chaise, one ankle resting on his knee; where any other model would hide behind a carefully draped arm, or crossed leg.
And then there are the tattoos. Lines of ink trace up and around Frank's arms, and over his chest, in stark contrast to his pale skin. It's a sight that should be shocking - no true model would mar their body in such a way, which only goes to prove Gerard's hunch that this boy has never modeled before. If these paintings are to sell Gerard should likely omit the tattoos, but he's already considering the best way to paint them.
"How would you like me?" Frank asks, and Gerard's too muddle-headed to figure out if the flirtatiousness in the words is real or imagined.
In this moment, Gerard's mind can supply a great deal of ways he would like Frank and none of them would make for a good painting. At least, not a solo one. Gerard gives himself an internal shake and mutters, "That's fine," with a distracted handwave.
It's not fine at all, of course, which occurs to him as he approaches his easel to mix paints. It's far too brazen a pose to be saleable, polite society would never stand for it , but Gerard's not about to admit that out loud. He reaches for his brushes only to find that, once again, he hasn't washed them since the last time and suddenly paint seems all too complicated. He shoves the brushes in some turpentine to soak and grabs for a sketchbook and some charcoals instead.
He settles on a chair opposite Frank, fussing over turning to a fresh page in his book and fumbling out a piece of charcoal before he dares look up. Frank meets his eyes, his mouth twitching the tiniest bit with what looks like a smile. The way he's leaning back on his elbows is far too inviting and Gerard's not entirely sure why he suddenly feels so warm. There's a kind of mischief in Frank's eyes and Gerard is suddenly desperate to capture it on paper, on a canvas, however he can.
"Just hold that," he says absently, his fingers already moving, striking lines across the paper, trying to shape Frank's eyes, his smile. He gets lost in it like he sometimes does, his whole being centred on his hands, his breaths. Hours, or maybe minutes later, he still hasn't quite managed it. He's filled pages of his sketchbook with drawings of Frank, trying to capture that elusive expression. It isn't until Frank shifts, only very slightly, but enough to indicate discomfort, that Gerard realises he's not given his model a break.
"Sorry," he apologises, "You can take a break if you want." He jumps up and heads to the table in the corner to pour Frank some water. When he gets back, Frank is crouched over his sketchbook, leafing through the pages with a kind of reverence. Gerard would usually protest at such an invasion, but the look of awe on Frank's face stops him.
"This is… you did this all just now?" Frank's voice is low, throaty. Gerard wants to make a joke, something dismissive - of course he's just done these now, he didn't even know to expect Frank on his doorstep, he was obviously unprepared.
The only word that makes it from his lips is "yes."
"You have a gift," Frank says, with a gravity in his voice that Gerard's not prepared for. Frank leafs back a page, another. "The way you make me look..."
"I don't…" Gerard stammers, losing the words when Frank looks up from the sketchbook. "I don't make anything. That's the way you look."
Something shifts in Frank's expression and suddenly the mischief is gone, replaced with something dark and warm. He stands up, eye to eye with Gerard and leans in, kissing him.
It's not the first time one of Gerard's models has kissed him, but it's the first time he's responded with something other than boredom. He kisses back, deep and searching, trying to find with his mouth what he couldn't quite capture with his hands. The glass of water slips from his fingers, breaking and spilling all over their feet, but Gerard takes no notice. He sidles closer, easing his arms around Frank, picking over broken glass as he ushers him back to the chaise. They fall down onto it inelegantly, Frank wrapping his arms and legs around Gerard, all that warm skin Gerard needs to map with his hands. He leaves streaks of charcoal on Frank's pale skin and palms them away, traces down the tattoos on Frank's arms with his tongue.
The boy is a mystery to him, Gerard has no idea why he's so insistent to be painted, why he's in Gerard's arms right now, but he won't question it. He rolls them onto their sides, sliding his hand down Frank's chest, over his belly, down between his legs to where his cock is hard and straining. "I would paint you like this," he murmurs, not checking his words at all, "You're so beautiful like this."
Frank's already scrabbling at the lacings of Gerard's breeches, calloused fingers slipping inside. "You should," Frank says, "I'd let you."
Gerard can see it in his mind already, captured in brushstrokes and colours, he just has to paint it. But first, he captures Frank's mouth again, gasping into their joined lips as Frank's hand circles his cock, stroking him with ease and skill.
"Oh dear god," Gerard mutters, his hips pushing up into every stroke of Frank's hand. He struggles to make his own limbs work, tightening his fingers around Frank's cock, moving them faster, faster. He grins into their kiss when Frank starts to moan and whine.
It doesn't last, it couldn't. Gerard's already keening, humping up into Frank's hand, falling apart completely.
"Yes," Frank mutters, pulling back, his eyes locked to Gerard's, "Yes," he says, "show me."
With that, Gerard is undone. He falls apart at Frank's command, shaking and coming, shooting all over Frank's hand. When he blinks his eyes open, Frank's smiling down at him, that now-familiar mischief in his grin as he raises his hand and licks his fingers clean. Gerard shivers, certain if he had any energy left the sight would have him coming again.
He takes a few deep breaths, trying to calm his fizzing mind. Frank's still hard beneath his fingers, and Gerard is desperate to taste him. He slides down the chaise, bracing his hands at Frank's hips and lower his mouth over Frank's straining cock.
"Oh my," Frank mutters, as Gerard sinks his mouth down, "oh fuck." He swears like a sailor as Gerard quickens his pace, tasting salt and musk, determined to break Frank apart the way he did Gerard. If Gerard could smile, he would. In lieu of that, he works Frank's cock, licking, sucking, moving. Frank groans, bucks up into his mouth. Gerard's hands slide on now-slick skin, gripping Frank's hips as he swallows around Frank, feeling him pulse between his lips.
"Yes, yes," Frank shoves up into Gerard's mouth, rough enough that Gerard would be choking if he didn't have a firm grip on Frank's hips. Gerard doesn't stop, quickening his movements until Frank's squirming and finally coming hot over Gerard's tongue. He swallows it down and pulls off, licking his lips.
Frank looks down at him, looking well-fucked and slightly startled. "That was…" he trails off.
"Somehow inevitable," Gerard says, because it certainly felt that way.
Frank shoots him a grin with more than a little mischief stitched into it. "I tried my very best to make it so."
Gerard struggles to fight a smile, "You were seducing me, then." He strokes a lazy hand up Frank's side.
"Perhaps a little," Frank admits, catching Gerard's hand and raising it to his mouth to drop a kiss on his fingertips. "I fell for your art a long time ago. I didn't realise the artist was just as captivating."
An unfamiliar heat floods Gerard's cheeks. He can't even remember the last time he blushed.
"My paintings are nothing to be captivated by," Gerard counters.
"That's untrue," Frank sits up a little, a challenge in his eyes as he asks "do you remember the painting you made of a woman in a blue dress?"
Gerard startles at the memory of possibly the last real piece of art he ever made. It was the piece that caught Schechter's attention, the one that launched his career. The one piece he wishes he could have kept. Not trusting himself to speak, he nods.
"It hangs in my Master's study," Frank says, "I haven't much reason to be in there, but whenever I can I always stop to look at it. She always looks so kind, and regal, like a protector."
"That's my grandmother." Gerard admits.
Frank's eyes widen a little, "Of course," he whispers, almost to himself, like a revelation. "No wonder you paint her with such love."
Gerard stares at him, "I didn't think anyone could see that but my brother and I."
"It's there in every brushstroke," Frank says, sounding sure. "Anyone can see it. Art isn't only for the highborn, you know."
"That's not what we're supposed to think."
Frank shrugs and leans back on the chaise, "And do you really want to do what you're supposed to do in this life?" He stretches his arms up above his head, the line of his body bowing a little, his ink standing out against his skin and the plush red velvet of the chaise. Gerard's eyes run over every line of him, this boy who isn't a boy, this man who doesn't know his place, and doesn't care to.
"Frank," he starts, but loses the words as Frank shifts a little, relaxing back into the chaise, all soft lines and curves. "Stay like that?" Gerard whispers, more question than command and Frank nods incrementally, not moving at all.
Gerard scrambles for his sketchbook, flips to a blank page and starts throwing down lines in a frenzy, desperate to bring this image to paper. He begins with charcoal and moves to paint. Frank doesn't leave, and Gerard goes through page after page, canvas after canvas. They only stop to drink, eat and fuck and by the time they collapse together on the chaise, naked and spent, the studio is a mess of paints, papers and canvasses, stinking of sweat and sex.
Gerard stirs in the early hours to find the warm body he was wrapped around is gone. He looks up in the failing light to see Frank pulling on his clothes.
"Where are you going?" he says, his voice thick with sleep.
"I have to work." Franks kneels beside the bed, taking Gerard's mouth in a kiss. "But I'll be back, we're not done."
"We're nowhere near done," Gerard says, thinking of a half dozen more paintings he wants to create of Frank, and that's just the beginning. He curls his fingers into the short hairs at Frank's nape and wants to hold on, tight, not let him go. He does though. Frank pulls back and gives him one of those mischievous smiles before he slips away. Gerard paints that image on the backs of his eyelids as he falls back into sleep.
Schechter shows up late the next day. Gerard is just starting to sort and stack the artwork he's created in his frenzy with Frank, when Schechter strolls into the studio.
"Oh, this will sell," Schechter says, his eyes crawling over a canvas slashed with acrylics that shows Frank stretched out on his back on the chaise looking up at Gerard, his eyes hungry. Gerard picks up the canvas, placing it to one side, away from the others.
"No," he tells Schechter. "Not this one. I'm keeping this one."
He's not sure if he's talking about the canvas or Frank. Either way it's true.