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An Emergency of the Heart

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Gerard is dreaming. He knows he’s dreaming, but that doesn’t mean he’s not enjoying himself. He’s not even really sure what’s going on, but he knows he’s in a band, a really fucking good band, and he knows there’s someone he’s really into, someone who’s really into him, and he knows he’s happy and he doesn’t hate anything, so he goes along with it. Just bumps softly from scene to scene, Mikey somewhere in the edge of it, drifting around in this life that doesn’t exist, and then someone pulls his fucking hair and he wakes up.

“Gnargh,” he says, and tries to pull his pillow over his head. “There’s no way it can be time to get up yet. Come on.”

Another sharp tug, and Gerard knows from experience that it won’t stop until he’s vertical or at least sitting up in bed, so he shoves the pillow away and says, “You know, it’s not nice to wake people up from good dreams. Where are you assholes when I’m having a nightmare, huh?”

The bluebird on his nightstand just looks at him and chirrups.

“No,” says Gerard, hauling himself up to lean against the headboard. Fuck, his head is fucking pounding. “I’m not telling you.”

The bluebird chirrups again. It sounds kind of mad.

“Because if you tell a wish it doesn’t come true,” Gerard groans and swings his legs over the side of the bed. He scratches and stretches and flexes his feet. “Duh.”

The bird makes a grumbling sound and flutters over to the windowsill. Another bird is hanging out there, too.

“’Sup?” Gerard says through a yawn.

The bird doesn’t answer.

Gerard rolls his eyes. “Whatever.”

Standing up is such a fucking job of work. Everything hurts – he doesn’t even remember what he and Mikey did last night, but apparently he had a good time. His mouth tastes like a hamster cage, fuck, and his eyes feel three times too big for the sockets, hot and dry.

Gerard yanks on a pair of boxers – he must have been wasted to fall asleep without clothes on – and pushes open the door to his room. He narrowly avoids stepping on the three mice that scuttle into the kitchen with him. “Watch it, guys. One of these days, I swear to God.”

He flicks the switch on the coffee machine. The mice somehow clamber up onto the counter, using a stool as a ladder, and they get a clean filter out for Gerard, which is nice, and he can’t find a clean mug but they’re on that too, balancing one under the faucet. Gerard fishes a couple of crackers out of the open box on the windowsill and crumbles them up onto the counter.

“It’s all I’ve got, man,” he says when one of the mice gives him a beady, disapproving look. “I’ll get groceries at the weekend, give me a fucking break.”

He finds his cigarettes on the drainer and lights up – oh, God, the first drag hurts so fucking good and he holds it in his lungs for a minute before coughing pretty spectacularly. He thumps his chest, wincing, and the mice look up from the crackers. Gerard swears one of them raises its eyebrows.

“My place, my addiction,” he tells it, and then coughs some more. The coffee’s taking for fucking ever and Gerard goes back into his room for his robe, stumbling over Mikey’s giant shoes that he’s left just kicked all over the place. Fucking Mikey.

“You know one of our teachers once wrote on Mikey’s report card that he was unobtrusive?” Gerard tells the bluebirds, who are pecking at the dish of seed on his kitchen windowsill. “I laughed for like, an hour straight. Mikey spends his life fucking obtruding. On me.”

The birds murmur to each other.

“Fuck you,” Gerard says. “It is too a word. To obtrude. To play with your brother’s best action figure and break it. To scribble all over his fine works of art. To read his diary and then make him feel bad for yelling at you about it. To steal his porn and then rat him out to mom when she finds it. To walk in on him having sex. Twice. On the same day.” Gerard finishes his smoke and lights another off the butt before stubbing it out. “To come stay at his apartment and drink all his beer and eat all his Fritos and leave your fucking clown shoes right where they are most likely to cause him an injury. Obtruding. To obtrude.”

The birds look like they might be smiling, like they’re on to Gerard’s game, and Gerard smiles back, because they all know he doesn’t mind, not really. Mikey is the thing Gerard misses most about living at home. Mikey and Jersey pizza. Yeah.

Gerard doesn’t even realize he’s singing until Mikey grumbles from the couch, “Shut the fuck up, Sinatra, some of us are trying to sleep.”

“A dream is a wish your heart makes,” Gerard sings, loudly and out-of-tune, watching the mice tip coffee into his mug. He worries that they’re going to burn themselves, but they’re pretty slick, Gerard’s mice, holding their whiskers and tails out of the way. “My place, my voice,” he calls to Mikey, because Jesus, everyone needs to get off his fucking case this morning. “You wanted to stay here, all right? Nobody likes a cranky houseguest.”

The couch squeaks violently and Gerard hears the muffled shift of Mikey turning over. “Fucking freak. Fucking singing.”

“There’s coffee,” Gerard adds, and then carries his mug back into his room.

The mice slip in just as he closes the door, and Gerard eyes the outfit the birds are laying out on his bed. “Black and grey, today, huh? What, you think I’m getting boring or something?”

The birds flutter around while Gerard drinks his coffee and finishes his cigarette. They always seem to know which clothes on the floor are – not clean, but less dirty than the others. Gerard doesn’t know how, because he can never figure it out himself, but it’s pretty fucking sweet.

The mice are doing something on his dresser and Gerard looks over. Oh, for – “I just showered, like, three days ago.”

The mice shake the shampoo bottle at him a little violently, and as if he’s not getting the fucking hint, the birds drop a towel into his lap.

“I don’t have time,” Gerard stands up and the towel slips back to the floor. He shrugs his robe off. “I gotta be in work early, I’m on a deadline.”

The birds sort of fly at him a bit, but they back off enough for Gerard to start pulling his clothes on, and then Gerard hears Mikey’s voice through his door.

“Who are you talking to?”

“No-one!” Gerard says, but the doorknob rattles and he makes wide eyes at the mice. “I’m by myself!”

The doorknob rattles again. Fucking obtruding. “Did you get laid? Don’t tell me you fucking got laid, man.”

“I didn’t get laid!” Gerard makes shooing motions at the mice while the birds try to stuff themselves onto the shelf where he keeps his action figures. “Mikey, I’m not dressed!”

“Yeah, because you’re getting laid!” The door crashes open and Mikey almost falls through it, head craning over to Gerard’s empty bed. “There’s no-one here!”

Gerard rolls his eyes and finishes pulling his pants on. “I know that.”

Mikey looks disappointed – Gerard can tell, even though his face doesn’t fucking change – and kind of shrugs. “I guess you were just talking to yourself again.”

“I guess I was,” Gerard agrees. He sits down to put his socks on. “You got plans for today?”

“Uh, I’m hanging out with…” Mikey trails off, looking over at the shelf. His eyebrows crease a little. A very, very little. “Gerard? What-”

“Pencey Prep!” Gerard says, too fucking loudly, but he has to distract Mikey from the fact that Aquaman is about to fall off the shelf because Gerard’s fucking birds have fat fucking asses. “This gig you’re dragging me to - that’s tonight, right?”

Mikey turns around immediately, because Mikey likes nothing more than talking about the latest band he’s got a fucking crush on or whatever. It’s one of Gerard’s favorite things about him. “Oh. Yeah, tonight. You’re still coming?”

“What, I’d miss it so you can bitch to me for another five hundred years? I’m still coming.” Gerard tugs his shirt on, checks the time. Fuck, he has to go. “Fuck, Mikey, I have to go.”

Mikey nods. “Cool. I’m going to shower,” he says, sort of pointedly, before shuffling off.

Gerard closes the door behind Mikey and looks over at the shelf. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were in, fucking, cahoots with him or something.”

Aquaman rocks minutely back and forth and falls to the ground with a small thump. The bird behind him doesn’t move, just stays pressed up against the wall with its eyes darting back and forth, like it thinks it can pass itself off as being post-taxidermy or something.

Gerard rolls his eyes. “Smooth.”

***

Work is an even bigger black hole of suck than usual, because some genius has decided that it would be totally awesome to do a Very Special Episode of the fucking Powerpuff Girls at like, five minutes notice, and people keep sticking their heads into the little office Gerard shares with his colleague Paul and making impatient noises.

"I'm drawing as fast as I fucking can!" Gerard snaps finally at Lucy-from-editorial. "I'm not a machine, all right?"

Lucy-from-editorial's face goes pink and she mumbles apologetically and disappears.

Paul says, "You're an asshole," and Gerard drops his head down on his desk with a thunk, feeling terrible.

"This is so not what I thought I would be doing when I graduated art school," he moans.

"I know," Paul says in a bored voice. "You thought you'd be creating Great Works and living in the village, wearing like, a beret, and drinking absinthe and giving enigmatic interviews and fucking all the hot young things who'd be totally overwhelmed by your talent and genius."

Gerard turns his head to look at Paul. "I told you that?"

Paul grins without looking up from his work. "You tell me like three times a week, man."

"I do?" Gerard isn't really surprised. He doesn't always pay attention to what's coming out of his mouth - usually nobody's listening anyway. "Anything else?"

"I also know you want to change the world and save lives," Paul says, frowning critically at Buttercups' hands. "And you dress like it's your life's ambition to get beat up."

Gerard thinks that's kind of like the pot calling the kettle a dweeb - Paul is right at this minute wearing a My Little Pony sweater - but whatever. He rolls his head around on the desk a little. "I just thought it'd be more than this. We work in an office. You know?"

Paul squints at a bit of shading. "Yeah, we work in an office where we get paid to sit on our asses and draw. Man, our lives are so hard. I sure envy those nurses and street cleaners, wow."

Great. Now Gerard feels even worse. "You are not conducive to my wallowing, Paul."

Paul shrugs. "I do what I can."

Gerard sits up and sighs a really good sigh; all deep and tragic. "I just… don’t want to fucking trace and copy for the rest of my life, you know? I want to like, create."

"So get off your ass and submit Breakfast Monkey."

"It's not done yet."

"I don't know how you can even tell, but okay." Paul reaches over and flips the radio on. "Is the crisis over? Are we done? Can I go back to drawing now?"

Gerard gives Paul the finger and turns back to his own desk. He’s smudged the ink all to shit, fuck.

The song on the radio is one Gerard knows - he can't name it, but he sings along under his breath, something about being screamed at while you're dreaming. And nightingales. It's a pretty random fucking song - probably one that Mikey made him listen to. Some of Mikey's music is really awesome, but sometimes Gerard just wants to listen to Iron fucking Maiden, you know? He doesn't always need to be at the cutting edge of the scene, or whatever, and-

"You sing really good, man" Paul says suddenly, cutting into Gerard's thoughts. "But can you cut it out? It's distracting."

"Sorry," says Gerard, getting back to work.

“Oh, P.S.” Paul adds, “You have ink on your head.”

“Yeah, well,” Gerard just keeps on drawing. “Of course.”

***

Gerard’s day, unbelievably, gets worse after lunch. There’s been some huge fuck-up with continuity, and a bunch of stuff needs to be redrawn, and Hateful Dale, this asshole who’s senior to Gerard only because he started at Cartoon Network like, five minutes earlier, is standing in the doorway with his arms folded and this smug fucking creepy smile that Gerard would totally smack off his stupid face, if he believed in violence and knew how to fight.

“It’s going to be an all-nighter for someone, kids,” he smarms, and what the fuck, kids? He’s younger than Gerard. And Paul. “I’m sure you didn’t have plans, anyway, Gerard.”

“Uh, actually I do have plans,” Gerard says, trying not to let his voice do that stupid whiny thing it does when he’s mad and not yelling. “And why do I have to stay, anyway?”

“Someone has to,” Hateful Dale says, hatefully. “And I’ve got a date.”

Gerard laughs. He can’t help it – like anyone in their right mind would volunteer to spend time with Hateful Dale. The guy is like the essence of ick. “Well, continuity’s not even my thing. I’m just the hired hands, man.”

“You’re absolutely right, Gerard, you’re the most junior member of the team.” Hateful Dale cracks his knuckles and smiles even wider, evilly triumphant. “So I’m sure you understand why it’s been decided that you should put in the time. Paying your dues, as it were.”

Gerard opens his mouth to protest but Hateful Dale’s in his face, dumping stuff all over his desk.

“Have it done by nine a.m.” he says breezily, and on his way out he pauses at the door and fucking simpers over his shoulder at Gerard, like he thinks he’s Lauren fucking Bacall. “I’m sure it won’t take you all night.”

Gerard waits for the door to close before he throws the nearest thing he can find, as hard as he can at the space where Hateful Dale was standing. The thing happens to be a Spongebob beanie baby.

“Yeah,” says Paul. “That’ll learn him.”

Gerard tugs on his hair, pulling it into his eyes. He wishes it was longer. “I’m going out with Mikey tonight.”

Paul makes a little face of recognition. “He’s only here for a couple days, right?”

“Yeah,” Gerard says miserably. “And I promised I’d go see this band with him. He’s been talking about them for months.”

“Oh, don’t tell me that.” Paul groans and rubs his hands over his face. “All right. How’s this – you cover for me this afternoon, I’ll take off, hang out with my girlfriend, get some sleep, and I’ll come back at like midnight and finish what you haven’t.”

Gerard blinks. “What?”

“I know you’ll miss the, the super amazing band, or whatever, but at least you can hang out with your brother after, right?” Paul stands up and pulls on his jacket. “I’d stay all night with you, man, but if I don’t put in some time with the old lady she’ll bug out.”

“Paul, that’s, wow.” Gerard doesn’t even know what it is. People aren’t - who does something like this? “You’re – are you sure? That would be awesome, man. Really.”

“All right, don’t start fucking crying, Jesus.” Paul grabs his wallet and goes to the door. He picks up Spongebob and sets him back on Gerard’s desk. “So, midnight, right? Just do whatever you can.”

Gerard nods, because usually the only person who would do something like this for him is Mikey, and Gerard would respond by hugging him for like, an hour, and explaining why he’s deeply grateful and moved, and he doesn’t think Paul would go for that. He says, “You have a girlfriend?”

“Asshole. I can change my mind about coming back, you know.” Paul ducks his head out into the hall and looks left and right.

“Then there’d be nothing stopping me from telling her you called her an old lady, would there?”

Paul says, “Fucking gratitude, Christ,” and then he’s gone.

Gerard puts off calling Mikey for as long as he can, telling himself that he really ought to get as much done as he can before Paul comes back – which is actually the truth – but eventually the guilt starts to gnaw what feels like an actual hole through his stomach, so he digs out his cell.

“Hey,” he says, wincing, when Mikey answers. “It’s me.”

“Don’t.”

“Mikey-”

“Don’t fucking tell me you’re not coming, Gee. I swear to God.”

Gerard presses the heel of his hand against his forehead. Fuck, he totally forgot to wash that ink off. “It’s not my fault.”

“Right.”

“I have to work,” oh, God, Gerard is so bad at this. He’s always been, ever since the first time he put his favorite bear in Mikey’s crib to make him stop crying. “Paul’s coming back to cover for me at midnight. We can hang out after. Mikey, don’t make me feel bad, okay?”

“No, I’m gonna.” Mikey pauses for the exact right amount of time, just long enough for Gerard to start gnawing on his thumbnail, and then says, “Please, Gee. For me.”

“Fuck!” Gerard stares hopelessly at the pile of work on his desk, trying to will it smaller with like, the Force or something. “Mikey, I can’t.”

“I’ll meet you outside the club,” Mikey says cheerfully – sort of, for Mikey – and he hangs up.

Gerard looks helplessly at his cell phone. “I have to work,” he says again, and he sounds great, really piteous and tortured, and there’s no-one even here to appreciate it, except beanie Spongebob, and he doesn’t even look all that impressed.

“I know,” Gerard tells him, heavily. “Back to work.”

***

He loses track of time, and when he sits up to stretch the kinks out of his neck, grimacing, it’s totally fucking dark outside.

Not so dark that he can’t see the world’s weirdest bird flapping slowly and heavily towards the building, though. It’s almost like a bat – yeah, Gerard thinks, getting up from his chair and pressing his nose against the glass – like a really big misshapen bat, all lumpy and lopsided and disfigured and shit.

For a minute he’s actually convinced himself that gargoyles are real – in his excitement he opens the window for a better look – but then the thing flies through his window and crashes to a skidding halt on his desk, pens and shit going everywhere. Its wings fall flat out to the side and it sort of…bubbles, lumps appearing and moving around and Gerard is freaking out and trying to find the camera function on his cellphone because oh my god, an alien, a serious thing from outer space, for real, when two little heads pop up and Gerard realizes it’s just one of his shirts. And his birds. And his mice. And his make-up.

He doesn’t know whether to be disappointed, relieved, or moved to tears. “You guys,” he says, picking up his desk lamp and helping the mice untangle themselves. “How did you even know?”

The birds sit on the side of his desk, smoothing their feathers out, while Gerard checks out the shirt they’ve chosen. “This is totally the one I was going to wear!”

One of the birds gives him a look, like, ‘Duh,’ and the mice skitter over Gerard’s work. One of them makes an uncertain noise.

“Oh, like you could do better,” Gerard says, pulling his t-shirt off and picking up the shirt. Thank god the birds picked his best jeans out for him this morning. “You don’t even have opposable thumbs.

“I can be back by midnight,” he adds, buttoning up his shirt. “I can hang out with Mikey and come back before Paul gets here, and we’ll work together the rest of the night, it’ll be fine. He’ll understand. I mean he won’t understand, obviously – oh hey, if someone comes in, you guys know to hide, right? And I mean hide, not, fucking, make yourselves conspicuous by your fucking absence, right?”

There’s no answer, so Gerard turns around. Two of the mice have curled their tails around his best pencil, and the other one is sort of hopping and pointing.

“Don’t mess with that, dudes,” he tells them, and then feels his mouth fall open like an idiot when they sketch out a fucking perfect outline of Professor Utonium. “Holy shit! You can fucking draw?”

The mouse that isn’t holding the pencil scurries over to the notes Gerard is working from, and – well, he fucking peruses them, okay? It’s actually sort of creepy to watch.

“That’s sort of creepy,” Gerard tells it, and then his head is yanked back by one of the birds and the other one flies at him with a make-up sponge. “Jesus, warn a guy, can you?”

Gerard does his best to explain the re-writes to the mice, while the birds white his face out and do who-the-fuck-knows-what to his hair. Then he has to stop talking because they’re doing his eyeliner, and he knows from experience to keep his fucking eyes and mouth shut when there are tiny beaks hovering that close to his eyes. “Make sure you cover up the smudge on my forehead, okay?”

He opens one eye cautiously when he can’t hear their little wings beating anymore, and finishes briefing the mice. Then the birds are in his face again with silver glitter, and Gerard likes glitter, he loves glitter, he is a pro-glitter kind of guy, but he thinks they might be getting a little heavy-handed.

Heavy-footed. Heavy-winged. Whatever.

“I think that’s enough.”

The birds ignore him.

“Seriously, you guys,” Gerard starts, and then has to break off, choking, to hack and spit when one of the birds misses and he ends up with a mouth full of sparkles. “You guys! Seriously!”

They lay off, hovering in front of his face and squawking to each other in tiny voices, and Gerard stands up, looking fruitlessly for a mirror. “I feel like a fucking disco ball.”

He pulls on his leather jacket and checks the pockets for his wallet and smokes. “You sure you can handle this?” he asks the mice, and they all turn in unison and roll their tiny eyes. “All right, God. I’ll be back by midnight.”

He’s out of the door before he thinks to double back and stick his head into the office. “Oh, and guys? Thanks. You’re the best.”

They ignore him, but he feels better about leaving them there, and he starts smiling to himself as he runs down the stairs.

***

He gets to the club late, he’s so fucking late, Mikey is going to be so mad, and he doesn’t recognize any of the stuff the band is playing. He wonders if maybe he’s at the wrong place – that would just be his fucking luck, the way today is going – when his cell buzzes and Gerard yanks it out of his jeans, glancing at the display.

“Mikey?” he yells over the crowd and the band, shoving a finger in his other ear to block some of it out. “Mikey, I’m sorry I’m late, man, but I’m here! Where the fuck are you?”

“Yeah, I’m not there,” Mikey says, and doesn’t even have the fucking grace to sound guilty. “I hooked up.”

“What?” Gerard elbows his way to the bar and gets in line behind a giant sweaty dude in a Union Jack shirt. “You little asshole! After all that shit you gave me?”

“Yeah, what are you gonna do?”

“I’m going to kick your skinny, monotone ass!” Gerard says, even though they both know he won’t. “I could get fired for ditching, you fucker!”

Whatever, it’s not really a lie. Mikey doesn’t have to know that Gerard’s genius mice are doing all his work for him.

Mikey still doesn’t sound like he feels even the tiniest bit bad. He even sounds like he might be laughing.

“Who are you with, anyway? She better be able to fucking fly to justify this crap, I swear to God.”

“I’ll give you the gory details tomorrow, you perv.” Mikey says something, softly, laughing, to whoever he’s with, and Gerard rolls his eyes, tapping his foot impatiently. Every time he moves he dislodges tiny showers of glitter. Fucking birds. “So do you dig Pencey, or what?”

“I think I missed them. There’s, uh,” Gerard turns around and squints at the stage, “a chick singing?”

Mikey groans. “Fuck, you loser, you fucking missed them. They were supporting.”

“Oh, well.” Gerard finally makes it to the bar and pulls out his wallet. “That’s just the fucking icing on this cake of a giant waste of fucking time.”

“You don’t have to be back until midnight, right? Maybe I can make it down there in a little while.”

“No, don’t bother. I’m just going to get a fucking drink and then I’ll head back. It’s probably for the best, anyway.”

“Okay, well. Later.”

“Yeah,” Gerard says, and shoves his phone back into his pocket. Little brothers, man. Fuck.

The bartender hands the guy in the Union Jack shirt his change, and turns to Gerard. “What can I get you, man?”

Gerard opens his mouth to ask for like, the strongest thing he can legally purchase, and suddenly the bartender’s attention shifts and Gerard is shoved unceremoniously to the side by some asshole with no sense of fucking decency.

“Barry!” Asshole yells, laughing, and he and the bartender – Barry, apparently – start hurling insults at each other and Asshole is practically climbing over the fucking bar and fuck this shit, okay, Gerard has to get some booze in him right the fuck now or someone is going to go home bleeding and it’ll probably be him, but whatever, this is just the last motherfucking straw.

“Dude,” he grits, grabbing Asshole’s shoulder and yanking him back from the bar. “I was here first, okay, don’t fucking – oh.”

Oh.

Oh.

Asshole is staring at Gerard, his (really, really pretty) eyes so wide they take up half his (really, really pretty) face. He’s – Gerard doesn’t even know. He’s –

“You’re-” Asshole breathes, taking a weird half-step towards Gerard. He’s really short. He’s really hot. “I’m sorry.”

“No, no,” Gerard takes a weird half-step of his own, aware that he’s fucking staring but totally unable to look away. “You’re fine. I mean, it’s fine.”

The guy (he’s not an asshole, Gerard decides. No, he knows. In his fucking soul) reaches out dreamily, stutters closer to Gerard as his fingers curl in the sleeve of Gerard’s jacket. “Can – were you going to order? Can I buy you? Um, a drink?”

“Yeah,” Gerard murmurs, looking down at the guy’s hand on his arm. It’s a really, really great hand. “Anything.”

The guy waves distractedly at Barry the bartender, and takes another step towards Gerard. “I’ve never seen you before.”

“I know,” Gerard says, and it feels like, fuck, like the truest fucking thing anyone’s ever said. “I know.”

“You gonna pay for these or what, Romeo?” Barry sets two glasses down on the bar, and the guy sort of blinks, shaking his head like he wants to clear it. Gerard can really relate.

“Uh,” the guy says, letting go of Gerard so he can dig in his pockets. “Yeah.”

Gerard totally fucking misses the hand on his arm. Confused, he picks up his glass and drains it – he barely notices what he’s drinking, and he can’t believe that he cared so much about it, just two minutes ago. He can’t believe he cared about anything.

The guy downs his drink just as fast and sort of sways towards Gerard, a little. He has a really, really, really nice mouth. His lower lip is wet. “You – you wanna dance? I mean, with me?”

Gerard hears himself saying, “Yeah,” and he’s just about to start a serious internal debate with himself about what the fuck he’s doing, he doesn’t dance, not in front of people, not when he’s sober, and there’s a reason for that, but then the guy’s warm, square hand slides into Gerard’s and Gerard – Gerard can’t remember what he was thinking about.

He wraps his other hand around the guy’s wrist and brings it to his chest, fascinated by the play of bones under the skin, the secrets underneath, like he could learn everything about this guy if he can only find the right way to fit their hands together. He doesn’t even notice that they’re moving until they’re right in the middle of the crowd and someone bumps into Gerard from behind and suddenly he’s pressed up against the guy from knee to shoulder, their hands twisted and trapped between their chests, the guy’s bright eyes only inches away.

Gerard’s face is hot, but not in the way that the club is hot, damp and thick with moving bodies and the guy’s fingers feel cool when he twists them out of Gerard’s grip and traces the skin under Gerard’s eyes.

“You’re so,” the guy says, or that’s what Gerard thinks he’s saying, but the music is so fucking loud he can’t fucking hear him.

The band are okay, the singer has a great voice, and Gerard forgets to feel awkward about dancing, about being in public, about not knowing what the fuck is going on or what he fuck he thinks he’s doing because the guy is moving and Gerard is moving with him, for him, and he doesn’t ever, ever want to move away.

The guy can’t stop touching Gerard’s face – his fingers slide up into Gerard’s hair, curve over his ears, trace down his cheeks and dig into his chin. He rubs his thumb over Gerard’s mouth, upper lip then lower, and Gerard feels actual tingles everywhere he’s being touched.

The band are really hitting their stride – the singer is totally going for it, wailing, “This is love!” into her microphone and Gerard thinks, he actually thinks, ‘No, no. This is love.’

Before he can freak out about how fucking surreal everything is, though, the guy drops one hand to Gerard’s hip, tugs, the other hand curls tight in his hair and the guy leans in and Gerard starts to close his eyes in anticipation.

But the guy just puts his mouth on Gerard’s ear, the shift of his lips sending honest-to-God shivers down Gerard’s spine when he says, firmly, “Outside.”

The guy drags Gerard through the crowd and through the emergency exit. Gerard finds himself on the fire escape, freezing and – alone. Huh. He cranes his neck to see inside the club and the guy is there, body turned towards Gerard but face turned away, talking to someone.

Gerard shivers and tugs on his gloves, the black ones with the skeleton hands on that Mikey gave him when he moved to the city.

(“I don’t know, it gets cold in New York,” he’d said with a shrug, not looking up from Grand Theft Auto.

“It’s the same weather as here,” Gerard said, but Mikey didn’t answer, and Gerard slid down to put his head on Mikey’s shoulder and stayed there for a long, long time.)

The guy moves more fully into the doorway, and Gerard hears him say, “Yeah, look, I’m sort of in the middle of something,” and the kid he’s talking to presses forward, trying to get a hand on the guy’s arm and oh, for the love of God. It’s Hateful Fucking Dale.

“What the fuck!” Gerard says out loud, but the guy doesn’t hear him because he’s too busy twisting out of Hateful Dale’s grip and closing the door, and Hateful Dale doesn’t hear him because he’s too busy being a giant Hateful sleazeball prick. His eyes meet Gerard’s as the door swings shut, though, and Gerard ducks his head to avoid being recognized, grateful all of a sudden for the over-enthusiastic glittering he got from the birds. He knows from experience that glitter can make a pretty fucking sweet disguise.

“Hey, hey”, the guy is saying, moving into Gerard’s space and tipping his chin up. His fingertips linger on Gerard’s jaw, stroking back towards his ears. Gerard shivers, not at all because he’s cold. “Sorry, I don’t even know who that guy is. He wouldn’t back off, fuck.”

“It’s okay.” Gerard watches the light bouncing off the guy’s face and hair and laughs, suddenly. “Fuck, I’m totally glittering you all to hell.”

The guy grins sheepishly and shrugs, both hands cupping the sides of Gerard’s neck, making Gerard want to close his eyes and never wake up. “I like glitter.”

“Me, too.” Gerard brings his hands up to curl over the guy’s forearms, and then has to yank his gloves off again and shove them in his pocket because the guy’s skin looks way too good for Gerard to be putting wool between it and his hands. He’s totally right, he decides, skimming his fingers over the little star tattooed on the inside of the guy’s elbow. It’s really, really, really good skin. Warm, and smooth, and probably really nice to kiss.

Obviously he has to test that theory too, so he ducks again, rubbing his cheek against the tender skin on the inside of the guy’s forearm. The guy sort of sighs and Gerard tugs him a little closer, sneaks a glance up at his face before pressing his lips right over the tattoo. He can feel the guy’s pulse beating, rapid and light under the skin, can feel the gooseflesh rippling over the top of his arm, where Gerard’s hand rests. Gerard opens his mouth and touches his tongue, lightly, to the centre of the star. He tastes salt.

“Okay, fuck,” the guy shoves his hands into Gerard’s hair and backs him up against the railing over the stairs. His eyes are almost completely closed, but Gerard can still tell that they’re totally focused on his mouth. “I really - I need to be kissing you. Like now.”

Gerard could not agree more. “Yes.”

The guy breathes out on a smile and kisses Gerard, and it’s wonderful. It’s fucking, magic and fireworks and all that stuff Gerard has read about in those crappy romance novels his mom loves so much. In Gerard’s experience, first kisses have always been more nerve-wracking and awkward than perfect and life-affirming, but that was obviously just because he wasn’t having them with this guy. This is what all the fuss is about, finally he understands.

Gerard opens his mouth when the guy nips gently at his bottom lip, moaning at the flicker of the guy’s tongue against his own. He lets go of the guys’ arms and slides his hands over his back, pulling him up against Gerard’s body as his hands slip under the guy’s T-shirt.

When Gerard curls his fingers against the guy’s skin, the guy’s hands tighten in his hair and he rocks against Gerard slowly – it’s not frantic or dirty the way it usually is with a random hook up in a club, it’s just overwhelming, and Gerard swears that his heart and time and the rotation of the fucking Earth all just stop, stop for this perfect, endless moment in which only the two of them exist, winding themselves tightly together and passing breathless sounds back and forth on their tongues.

He wants to ask the guy his name, wants to ask him to run away with Gerard somewhere, wants to never stop kissing him, and most of all he really wants his fucking cell to stop buzzing in the pocket of his jeans.

“You want me to throw that over the side for you?” the guy says, pulling back just enough to talk, his lips moving against Gerard’s. “We’re a few stories up, definitely high enough to shut it the fuck up.”

“Yeah,” Gerard’s voice comes out all hiccuppy, because the guy has dropped his mouth to Gerard’s throat and is pressing kisses to the patch of skin underneath Gerard’s ear. “But it cost like, an entire paycheck.”

The guy presses his forehead against Gerard’s neck. His hands are resting flat against Gerard’s chest and Gerard can feel each individual point of heat where his fingertips lie. “You wanna get it?”

“No,” Gerard answers honestly, but he digs it out anyway and flips it open. “Whoever you are, you obviously hate me.”

“And here I thought you’d welcome the distraction.”

“What?” Gerard is finding it really hard to concentrate, what with the guy still moving softly against him, hands moving restlessly over his belly and sides. “Mikey?"

“Yeah,” says Mikey, a little incredulously. Gerard understands. Usually Gerard knows Mikey’s going to call him before Mikey does. “Is Paul there yet? Can we hang out?”

“Paul?” Who the fuck is Paul? Why is Mikey calling to talk about random people Gerard doesn’t even know? How is he supposed to hold a conversation when his – when the guy is doing that to his ear?

Mikey laughs shortly. “How much did you have to drink, Gee? Did you even make it back to work?”

“Work? What are you – oh, shit!” Oh, shit. Gerard clutches the back of the guy’s T-shirt, pulls him away so Gerard can get his feet under him and pace frantically in a circle. “What time is it? Mikey, oh, fuck, I forgot!”

“It’s almost midnight,” Mikey tells him. “What do you mean you forgot? What happened to worrying about being fired?”

“I lost track of time,” Gerard says, desperately trying to ignore the way the guy wraps around him from behind, pressing his nose against the back of Gerard’s neck and humming, sort of. “Shit. Mikey, I gotta go. I’ll call you later.”

Gerard shoves his cellphone back in his pocket and turns around, cupping the guy’s face and kissing him quickly, trying to squeeze as much passion as he can into the smallest possible amount of time. “I have to go.”

“No,” the guy says, and it doesn’t sound like a protest, more just like, a fact of life. “Stay.”

“I can’t,” Gerard says, and he steals one more desperate kiss before ripping himself away – and that’s what it feels like, as he stumbles backwards towards the door, it feels like pulling off a fucking limb – “I’m sorry. I’ll call you. This was – yeah. I have to go.”

The guy steps forward, holds out his hand. “No, wait, you didn’t-”

Gerard can’t stick around to find out what he didn’t. He can’t look at the guy’s face for one more second without folding, he knows that, so he turns and throws himself back through the club, breaking into a run when he reaches the street.

It’s not far from the club to his building – just a few blocks, but Gerard feels like he ran the fucking marathon at a sprint when he crashes through the door to his office and throws himself down into his chair, breathing like a fucking horse.

“Hey guys,” he chokes out, flapping a hand at the birds, who are perched on Gerard’s desk lamp, peering at him. “Just give me a second, here.”

When he stops feeling like someone emptied a box of thumbtacks into his lungs, Gerard leans forward and checks out his desk. The mice are curled up in a sleepy pile on the T-shirt Gerard discarded, and stacked up next to them is a neat pile of fucking perfect frames.

“Jesus,” Gerard says, leafing through them. “You guys have superspeed or what? Any other powers I should know about? Can you fly?”

One of the birds jitters and Gerard looks up. “It’s not a superpower if you’re a bird, dumbass.”

A door closes somewhere at the end of the hall and Gerard hisses, “Quick!” to the birds, as he scoops up the mice and nestles them carefully in the pocket of his jacket. The birds circle a little crazily and Gerard runs to the window and flings it open. “I’ll see you at home! Fly safe!”

He’s just got back into his chair when Paul walks in, still wearing the My Little Pony sweater but looking sort of rumpled and happy.

Gerard grins at him. “Good night?”

“Was yours?” Paul says, staring, and Gerard can’t figure it out for a second. “You’re fucking sparkling, man. What’s with the glitter?”

“Uh,” Gerard looks wildly around for inspiration. None is forthcoming – he thinks for the millionth time that little grey office boxes are really not conducive to art. “It helps my creative process?”

Paul looks at him for another second, and then shrugs. “Whatever. Did you make a dent in Mount Dale?”

Gerard flashes back to Hateful Dale’s expression in the club and grins, because fuck yeah, he totally did. “Yeah, I actually just need you to check these over, pretty much.”

He holds his breath as Paul sorts steadily through the pile, waiting for him to like, jump up and point at Gerard and yell, “J’accuse!” or “Mice totally drew these!” or something. Paul just nods and mutters to himself, though, and points out a few changes he’s going to make, and Gerard tries not to get all bent out of shape that he apparently has no more skill or aptitude for art than a bunch of rodents.

Genius rodents, though, he tells himself on the way home. He’s totally a better artist than regular mice, he’s sure.

Gerard drops his jacket on the couch (the mice tumble out of his pocket, blinking sleepily) and heads into the kitchen, where the birds are hopping impatiently on the outside sill. “All right, I’m coming, Jesus.”

They squawk crossly at him when he lets them in, and dive-bomb his head a couple times while he’s digging in the fridge for beer. They’re probably not really mad, Gerard reasons as he pops the tab and shakes a cigarette out of the pack on the drainer. When they’re really mad they draw blood.

He shakes some fresh birdseed out for them onto the sill, tops up the shallow water dish, and crumbles a few more crackers out for the mice. Then he slides onto the tall stool by the counter, takes a long swallow of beer, taps the ash off his cigarette into a mostly-empty mug and says, “So I met this guy.”

The mice look at him expectantly, sitting in a row with cracker-pieces clutched in their little hands. The birds keep their backs to him, though, and Gerard laughs, rubbing his forehead. His hand comes away sparkling.

“He liked the glitter,” Gerard says, as a peace offering, and the birds peer at him over their shoulders, doing that creepy Exorcist head-swivel thing. “You guys were right, it wasn’t too much.”

Mollified, they turn around. One of them cocks its head to the side and chirrups.

“He was gorgeous,” Gerard tells it, propping his chin in his hand. “Really, seriously, like famous-person hot. And he was so nice, too – at first I thought he was an asshole, because he tried to cut in line at the bar, you know?”

One of the mice squeaks.

“Yeah, it’s the worst, isn’t it?” Gerard takes a drag on his cigarette, trying and failing to blow a smoke ring. “But I don’t think he really knew he was doing it – he apologized, anyway, and bought me a drink.”

Another mouse squeaks.

Gerard frowns, stubbing his smoke out on the side of the mug. “I don’t remember. Jack Daniels, maybe?”

The third mouse makes a noise.

“Does it matter?” Gerard lights up another smoke and stands up, pacing around because this story is too big to tell while he’s sitting still. “The point is, he was amazing. And he - I mean, I can’t be sure? But I think he thought, you know, that I was amazing, or at least he liked me, he must have, because when we were dancing he was all touching my face and everything, you know?”

The birds chatter and Gerard rolls his eyes. “I said thank you already, Christ. Any more questions or can I tell my fucking story?”

The mice munch quietly on their crackers, waiting.

“So we’re dancing, and you guys know I don’t dance, right? I mean, in public, anyway. But it was great, and there was this song playing, I don’t even know what the band were called – Mikey will know.” Gerard hums a few bars to himself and sways back and forth, remembering the way the guy’s eyes shone in the dark. He pauses, staring off into space in a way he imagines looks soulful and dramatic. “Love at first sight. Fuck.”

He’s lost in the moment for a minute, and then the birds cheep insistently, tearing him away from the memory of kisses on fire escapes and sweet, pretty smiles. “Oh, you know what? I didn’t even get his name! Fuck, I hate that.” Gerard runs into the living room and grabs his jacket, carrying it back into the kitchen as he goes through the pockets. “Now I’m going to sound all retarded when I call him and I have to be all like, ‘hey, nameless hot guy, remember me? Fire escape, glitter, best kiss of my life? Ring any bells?’”

He’s given up on his jacket and is pulling train tickets and movie stubs out of his jeans when he realizes.

Oh, no. No. No. “Fuck!”

Gerard stares at the birds and mice, horrified. His vision blurs a little bit and his ears are ringing in the way they do when you realize you’ve just ruined your own fucking life, and he can barely hear himself when he whispers, “I didn’t get his number.”

There’s a fucking cacophony from the menagerie, but Gerard can’t deal with it, can’t deal with anything except collapsing back onto the stool and laying his head down on the counter. He’s going to die. He’s going to throw up. He’s going to –

“Gee?” Mikey is standing in the kitchen doorway, looking vaguely concerned. The birds and mice are nowhere to be seen. “You okay?”

“No,” Gerard tells him without lifting his head. He’s never going to lift his head again. “I fell in love.”

“Oh, Christ.” Gerard hears Mikey open the fridge, rummage, pop open a beer. There’s a heavy clunk near Gerard’s head – a second beer for Gerard. Gerard really loves Mikey. “Whose boyfriend is it this time?”

“Why would it be someone’s boyfriend?” Gerard turns his head to look at Mikey, who just raises an eyebrow, like, a nano-fraction of an inch. “Yeah, okay.”

So he tells Mikey the whole story (not the parts with the mice and the birds, obviously) and Mikey listens and smokes and doesn’t laugh too hard when Gerard admits to being a total fucking loved-addled flake-brained loser and not getting the guy’s number, and then Gerard says, “Hey, but what about you? You hooked up, right?”

“Yeah.” Mikey shrugs. “This guy.”

“A guy, this time,” Gerard sits up, finally, and stretches out the kinks in his back. “And I suppose you got his name and number and everything, huh?”

“Yup.”

“You gonna see him again?”

“Eh.” Mikey stubs his cigarette out. “I dunno. I’m going home tomorrow, you know?”

Right, of course. Mikey gets his guy’s name and number, and he doesn’t even care about it. Meanwhile Gerard has no way of contacting the love of his life. He points the irony out to Mikey, who rolls his eyes.

“Don’t make me explain irony again, Gee,” he says, standing up. “I gotta crash.”

Gerard picks moodily at a thread on his jeans. “Fine. Abandon me to my pit of despair.”

Mikey pats his shoulder and shuffles off to the couch. “If he’s really your fucking destiny or whatever, he’ll bump into you on the subway and spill coffee all over you or some shit.”

“But what if he doesn’t?”

“Then I guess it wasn’t meant to be,” Mikey mumbles sleepily, and then as if he hasn’t just dropped a bomb of doom on Gerard, he starts to snore.

Gerard pads miserably back to his room and strips off his clothes. The birds swoop past and drop a baby wipe into his right hand. He didn’t even know he had baby wipes, but he uses it to get most of the shit off his face. “Thanks.”

The birds close the shade over Gerard’s window as he pulls on his PJ’s, and the mice scuttle around doing something, setting his alarm or whatever. Gerard climbs into bed, curls up under the blankets and sighs deeply.

“It is meant to be,” he tells the birds and mice, who are sitting on his nightstand, watching him with sympathetic eyes. “It is.”

He’s asleep before they can reply.

 

*

 

In the morning the birds make Gerard shower, which sucks, but he can’t argue with them when they’re flying threateningly at his original sketches for Breakfast Monkey. He actually does feel pretty gross, too, and probably he should try and get rid of the glitter, but he feels like washing last night off him is erasing the fact that it happened at all, or something. He tries not to watch the water swirl down the drain.

Then there’s this whole thing with trying to get Mikey on a train, and Mikey can probably take care of himself enough to use public transport, at least, but their mom made Gerard promise, and he can just bet that if he let Mikey get home by himself he’d end up beaten or murdered or raped or something, and it would all be Gerard’s fault.

So he’s almost late for work, and everyone’s running around trying to get the Very Fucking Special Episode ready, and Paul looks like hell and Gerard makes him like, fifteen cups of coffee to try and show him how grateful he is, and it’s just a busy fucking morning, all told. He doesn’t have time to think about how unhappy he is until lunchtime, when Paul clears his throat and says,

“Gerard? Not that this is any weirder than your usual shit, but – what’s with the glove?”

Gerard looks down at his right hand, and the lone skeleton glove he’s wearing. “I lost the other one last night,” he says dully, and hopes Paul won’t make fun of him for being really fucking bummed about it. “They’re my favorite.”

“No, I get that, I just mean, you know.” Paul waves his chopsticks around. The bosses sprung for Chinese food for everyone for lunch as a sort of thank you, which Gerard supposes is pretty nice, in a muahaha-nobody-gets-to-leave-the-building sort of way. “Why did you put it on to eat?”

“I didn’t put it on to eat.” He took it off to draw – he can’t have anything between his hand and the pencil, it interrupts the flow or something – and putting it back on just seemed like the thing to do. He can’t decide what sounds lamer, ‘I miss my brother’ or ‘I was wearing them last night when I met the guy I’m supposed to be with for the rest of my life’ so he just goes with, “It makes me feel like a rockstar.”

Paul laughs, and he’s got such a fucking dorky laugh, dorkier even than Gerard’s, that it makes Gerard smile despite himself. “You’d be the worst rockstar ever.”

“I would be a great rockstar,” Gerard says. “You should see me rock the hairbrush mic, man. I’m a fucking legend.”

“You’re a fucking dork,” Paul says, grinning. “And I don’t believe for a second that you own a hairbrush. What, did birds attack you on the way to the office?”

Gerard chokes on an egg roll, and uses that as an excuse not to answer.

***

Late in the afternoon, Hateful Dale shows up.

“Good work last night, Gerard,” he simpers, deliberately pronouncing it GErud. Gerard has long since given up correcting him.

“Thanks,” Gerard says, biting his tongue so he won’t start crowing about Hateful Dale getting shut down by Gerard’s guy. “Glad to help.”

Hateful Dale moves further into their office, his creepy fucking smile stretched sideways across his face. “You didn’t have to stay here all night, I hope?”

Warning bells go off in Gerard’s head – fuck, did Hateful Dale recognize him after all? “Not all night, no.”

“I see. Well, you certainly seem to have been thorough.” Hateful Dale is holding a stack of the frames Gerard’s mice did, and he purses his creepy little mouth, tapping them with his thumb. “And this is all your own work? You didn’t have any,” his eyes flicker briefly to Paul, “assistance?”

Paul’s foot touches the back of Gerard’s chair and Gerard says, “Nope, just me.”

Hateful Dale stares at him, and Gerard holds his breath and stares back, trying to look as little like a glittery love-struck idiot with a really fucking great officemate and a bunch of genius animal buddies as possible.

He must pull it off, because Hateful Dale just makes a snide remark about Gerard’s hair (which, what the fuck? It isn’t any different from normal) and leaves.

Gerard lets out a huge breath and turns to face Paul. “I so fucking owe you one, man.”

Paul waves his hand. “Hey, any chance to piss off Bastard Dale, you know?”

Gerard grins. Hateful Dale is totally a better nickname, but Bastard Dale works too. “Yeah.”

Paul makes a weird sort of uncertain face, and then says, “Is something going on between you two? I mean, more than the regular ‘I will dance on your grave, not if I kill you first’ thing?”

Gerard gapes, then closes his mouth because he thinks the totally unbidden image of Hateful Dale touching him inappropriately might make him vomit, then opens it again when he’s sure he’s not going to blurt out the story of the guy in the club, and says, “No, just the usual desperate loathing and burning mutual hatred, I guess.”

“Well, just checking.” Paul turns back to his desk – they’ve still got a few last-minute things to finish up. Gerard does the same, but like two minutes later Paul says, “You’re doing it again.”

“Doing what?” Gerard isn’t doing anything. He’s not even doing his work, he’s just eyeing the skeleton glove on his desk and moping. Quietly.

“Singing,” Paul says, in a pained voice. “So this is love? What kind of chick shit is that?”

Fuck. Gerard really needs to do something about the fucking involuntary singing. It’s getting out of control. “Sorry.”

“Whatever, just stop it.” Paul shakes his fist at Gerard – god, what a dweeb – and then adds, “You’re still all glittery.”

“Yeah.” Gerard closes his eyes and thinks about the way the guy’s skin felt, under his hands. “I know.”

When they’re finally allowed to leave, Gerard goes straight home, gets stupendously drunk, and passes out on the bathroom floor.

***

The next morning is just, it’s hell. Gerard only makes it out of his apartment on time because the mice wake him up by putting a cup of coffee in his hand and tipping a glass over water over his face, and the birds drag him through the shower and then into his clothes.

He stumbles his way to work, squinting even though he’s wearing sunglasses against the fucking evil fucking light, and stops to get a bottle of the strongest Tylenol-Advil-what-the-fuck-ever-just-make-it-stop money can buy on the way.

Then he has to wait in line to sign into the building instead of just flashing his pass at the bored girls who work in reception, because of some change in fire regulations or whatever, and it takes for-fucking-ever and Gerard is seriously going to pass the fuck out if he doesn’t get to sit down soon.

It’s only when he gets into his office and slumps down in his chair, groaning, that he realizes the mice have come with him.

“Guys, what the fuck,” he moans, covering his face with his hands. “If anyone sees you they’ll Raid your asses.”

The mice seem unconcerned, skittering gleefully around Gerard’s office, peeking and checking things out. He supposes it must get boring for them, stuck in his apartment all day – when they’re not flying through the air on kamikaze make-up missions, that is.

“Just stay out of sight, okay?” he tells them, and on cue, they disappear into thin air when Paul walks through the door.

“You look like shit,” he says, by way of greeting. “I mean, more than usual.”

“Thanks,” Gerard mutters, fumbling open the bottle of painkillers. He downs a handful – no more than two pills at any one time his ass - and chases them with a gulp of coffee. “Tell me we don’t have to do any actual work today, man.”

“We live in hope,” says Paul, and then he points at the window. “Check it out! Bluebirds!”

Gerard stares blearily at the window, and sure enough, there are his fucking birds, hopping about and chirping to each other about the fucking view, or something. “Oh, God.”

“I didn’t even know we had bluebirds in New York!” Paul is really fucking excited – Gerard supposes bluebirds are a bigger deal if they don’t follow you around bugging you to fucking shower all the time. “Hey, are there any of those cookies left? You think they’d eat them?”

“No!” Gerard tries to grab the box off Paul’s desk but he’s moving so fucking slowly, fucking hangovers, that Paul gets there first. “Man, don’t give them fucking cookies.”

Paul is already digging one out. “Why the fuck not?”

Gerard can’t exactly say, ‘Because they’ll bug me to buy them all the fucking time and turn their noses up at their fucking birdseed, that’s why’ so he improvises. “I read their beaks can get stuck in the chocolate chips. And uh, a lot of birds are, like, diabetic.”

“Birds don’t get diabetes, for fuck’s sake.” Paul opens the window and crumbles the cookies onto the sill. The birds flutter away, disturbed by the movement, and hover a few feet away. “The Onion isn’t actual news, you do know that, right?”

“Fuck you, The Onion.” Gerard watches glumly as Paul closes the window and the birds like, have a fucking cookie orgy. “They’re going to get fucking addicted, you know.”

Paul holds his hands to his mouth. “Oh my God, you’re right! I should have given them the cookies that don’t have heroin baked right in!”

“Fuck you, heroin.”

Paul laughs. “You’re such a fucking freak. Bird welfare, shit.”

There really isn’t much to do, it turns out. Gerard half-heartedly sketches out a few Breakfast Monkey plots, and Paul spends the morning fighting with his girlfriend via text message. Apparently she’s all mad about Paul not wanting to go fishing with her dad, or something. Gerard’s on Paul’s side, and not just by default. Fishing is such a fucking weird thing to do, especially when people drag the fish up with fucking hooks in their fucking mouths and then throw them right the fuck back.

Also, Gerard has never been much of a hit with parents. He wonders what the guy’s parents are like, if he’d get along with them.

He’s deep into a fantasy where the guy’s mom really hates Gerard, but then he like, saves the guy’s life by dragging him from a burning building or saving him from being hit by a bus – no, saving him from being hit by a bus that’s on fire, when Paul startles him by announcing,

“Fuck this, man, I’m going to get some fucking lunch.”

Gerard nods, still thinking about giving the guy the kiss of life in the middle of Times Square. “Cool.”

“You want anything?”

Gerard shakes his head no, and as Paul leaves the office, Gerard’s mice come sneaking rapidly in through the door.

“I told you to stay hidden,” Gerard scolds them, even though Paul totally didn’t even notice. The mice ignore him and somehow clamber up on to his desk, squeaking really loud and running sort of crazily back and forth. “Fuck, what, are you on a sugar high? Did you get into the fucking cookies too?”

The mice run back and forth, picking up a black marker and drawing right over the fucking top of the Breakfast Monkey stuff. “Fuck! Guys, no!”

The mice are kind of frantic, though, and they scribble away so fast Gerard is surprised little puffs of smoke don’t start rising from the desk. They’re all tumbling over each other, over the desk, and he can’t see what the fuck they’re doing until they stop suddenly and line up at the top of the page, six little beady eyes watching him expectantly.

They’ve drawn like, an entire comic. Of…Gerard. Weird chibi-ish Gerard, but still definitely him, and he’s wearing the shirt he had on at the club, and his chibi face is all glittery. He’s holding hands with some random dude, and they’ve both got those stupid semi-circle grins and triangular eyes, like they’re so happy they’ve spontaneously transformed into a collection of pre-drawn shapes. There’s a fat heart hanging in the air between them, and - “Is this the other night? Is that my guy? He looks nothing like that, for the record. He’s way shorter. And hotter. Or didn’t I tell you that?”

The mice hop and squeak impatiently, and Gerard looks at the next panel. In it, Gerard’s guy is standing in what he guesses is meant to be a club somewhere, holding up, “Is that my other glove?” and gesturing with a pained expression at someone behind the bar, out of sight. There’s a big speech bubble and in it, a seriously tiny Gerard, and a thick black squiggle of a question mark.


“What? He’s got my glove? Is that what you’re trying to tell me?”

One of the mice runs down and stamps his little foot over the guy’s other hand, twice. In it, he’s holding a little piece of paper, and there’s a detail magnification bubble zooming out of the frame, so Gerard can see a scribble of numbers, and like, a little phone symbol.

Gerard thinks, staring uncomprehendingly at the mouse, that it’s entirely possible he never actually got to work this morning, and is still drunk. Maybe he took acid again. Fuck, he hopes not.

The mice are getting mad, and Gerard pushes his hair out of his face. He’s a smart guy. He can figure this out. “All right, there’s me, there’s the guy, there’s my glove, yeah, the fucking question mark and the phone, okay, quit stamping. Oh, wait!” Gerard might actually click his fingers, all ‘eureka’ and shit. He’s not sure. “Has he been looking for me? And leaving his number for me to call? How would you even fucking know that?”

The mice run in circles around the next panel, and Gerard looks down. All the ‘he likes me, he likes me’ elation gets killed dead in one fell swoop by what he sees.

Because.

Of course.

It’s Hateful Fucking Dale.

The fact that he’s all chibified does not disguise his core of pure evil, Gerard notices. The mice have even got his creepy little simpering smile down to a fucking T. Hateful Chibi Dale is lurking Hatefully in what looks like a different bar to the one in the first panel, and in the background Gerard can see his guy, waving Gerard’s tiny glove and doing the question mark thing again.

“Hateful Dale…was in one of the bars? So he knows he’s looking for me?” Gerard rubs his eyes. How is this even happening? Other people don’t have to decipher mouse-drawings in their day-to-day lives, he’s sure. “Wait, how do you even know what Hateful Dale looks like? And how would he know – oh, shit, he recognized me, didn’t he?”

The final panel shows Hateful Dale and Gerard’s guy both on the phone, separated by the jagged diagonal line that’s like, the international comics sign for ‘speaking to each other’. Gerard’s guy has another stupid semicircle smile on his face, and there’s a bubble coming out of Hateful Dale’s mouth. In the bubble, Hateful Dale is covered in glitter.

And he’s wearing Gerard’s gloves.

“Fuck!” Gerard stands up and spins in a frantic circle. Then he sits back down again, because he can’t remember why he stood up. “Fuck. Fuck! You guys, fuck! Hateful Fucking Dale’s calling my guy? And pretending to be me?”

The mice run in anxious, elated circles, and Gerard presses his hands over his heart to stop it from just beating its way out of his chest and killing him before he can do anything to fix this. Fuck, fuck. Why didn’t he go back to the bar last night? Why didn’t he think of that? Why is he such a fucking moronic fucking asshole?

“Okay,” he says, leaning forward and propping his head in his hands, directly over the comic. “I can – I can go back to the bar tonight, right? Get his number? And it’s not like he’s going to not fucking realize Hateful Dale isn’t me, right? Once they meet? So he’ll keep looking. It’ll be fine. It’s fine.”

He sits back in his chair and tries to breathe, or like, channel Mikey, or something. Yeah. Mikey wouldn’t panic, he’d like…he’d be zen. Gerard can do that. He can be zen.

Oh, for fuck’s sake. Gerard has never been zen in his life, he’s not about to start now, when his entire, like, future happiness depends on it. He stands up. Purposefully. “I gotta find him.”

Before he can even get as far as the door, though, the birds start freaking all to fuck outside the window, fucking throwing their little bodies against the glass and shrieking in a way they’ve only done once before, when Mikey was staying and he managed to set the bathroom on fire. Gerard runs to the window before bird-bones start breaking and throws it open. “Jesus, what now?”

The birds swoop steeply down towards the sidewalk, and Gerard follows their line of sight and oh, fuck, there’s his guy. “There’s my guy! Fuck, I gotta get down there!”

The birds freak out again when Gerard moves away from the window, so he rushes back and puts his hands on the windowsill, avoiding the mice, who are craning their little necks trying to see what’s going on. He lifts himself up as much as he can – not much at fucking all, God, why do none of his hobbies improve upper body strength – and shoves his torso out of the window so he can see the sidewalk better.

Fuck. Hateful Fucking Dale. He’s gesturing at the guy, and the guy is like, shaking his head and holding his hands up and stepping backwards, but Hateful Dale’s all in his space, and oh, God, is he going to try and kiss him? Gerard braces his shoulder against the window frame and shoves one arm out, trying to get their attention. “Hey! Don’t kiss my fucking guy, asshole! Guy, hey, you! Don’t fucking kiss him! He’s not me! You’re looking for me!”

“Is this part of your creative process too?”

Gerard turns around and forgets he’s on one hand and almost fucking falls out of the window, catching himself at the last minute on the sill. “Fuck!” he gasps, heart banging, and turns his head to see Lucy-from-editorial leaning out of the next window along, smoking. “What?”

“You know.” Lucy-from-editorial takes a drag on her smoke and blows it sideways and up, so it won’t blow back into the room. “Like the glitter.”

Fuck, does fucking Paul tell everyone everything? Whatever, Gerard doesn’t have time. “I’m having an emergency,” he tells Lucy-from-editorial as he gets his feet back on the floor. “An emergency of the heart.”

“So I see,” Lucy-from-editorial stubs her cigarette out under the sill. She squints down at the sidewalk and says, “So, is Paul the asshole? Or the guy?”

“What?” Gerard whips his head around so fast the birds bump off it and careen backwards a little – Gerard makes a mental note to apologize later – and looks down, and sure enough, Paul’s there. Gerard’s guy is waving Gerard’s glove at Hateful Dale in kind of a manic way, and Paul points at it. Then he points up to the window, to their office, to Gerard. “Paul! I fucking love you! Fucking keep him there!”

“They can’t hear you,” Lucy-from-editorial says, but Gerard isn’t listening.

Hangover suddenly forgotten, he almost falls down like three times trying to get to his door (remembering at the last minute to grab his glove off his desk) and twice more on the way down the hall. The fucking elevator isn’t working, of course, of fucking course, so Gerard skids into the stairwell and takes them two, three, whatever at a time, just, fucking broken bones don’t even matter as long as they don’t stop him getting where he’s going.

He bursts out into the lobby and fucking security’s in his face, wanting him to sign out because of the fucking fire regulations, so Gerard has to get in line behind everyone who fucking works for Cartoon Network, fuck fuck fuck, and Gerard can see his guy looking suspiciously from Paul to Hateful Dale. The doors swing open as people leave, and Gerard hears Paul say,

“I’m telling you, man, he never fucking takes it off. It’s so weird. He’s a pretty fucking weird dude, just to warn you, but if you want I can take you up to our office.”

“Really?” Gerard’s guy gets this smile on his face and Gerard wants to cry, knowing that the smile is because of him and that it’ll probably be gone before Gerard gets out there and has a chance to kiss it. “You’re not fucking with me?”

The doors swing close again and the line shuffles forward. Gerard twitches and bounces on his feet and tries not to mutter too loudly because he doesn’t want them to make him see the company psychologist again, and he watches Paul nodding and Gerard’s guy saying something to Hateful Dale.

The doors swing open again. “Sorry, Frank,” Hateful Dale sneers. Frank, Gerard thinks, thrilled. Frank! “Authorized personnel only, you know?”

“Fuck!” Gerard says out loud, and everyone looks at him but he doesn’t fucking care, he just ducks sideways and cuts to the front of the fucking line, already. “I’m really sorry,” he says to the chick there, grabbing the pen out of her hand. He scribbles his name in the book. “I fucking hate it when people do this to me. But I’m in love.”

The chick goes, “O…kay?” and Gerard grabs her and kisses her cheek, and then slams the pen down and runs to the doors and throws himself out onto the sidewalk and into Frank’s arms.

“Hi,” he says, when they’ve stopped stumbling with the momentum and Gerard can get his feet under him and hold Frank’s face in his hands. “It’s me. I mean, I’m me. The guy with the glove. Is me. Hi.”

He takes one hand off Frank’s face and holds it up, like, see? But Frank isn’t even looking, he’s just staring at Gerard’s face like he’s never wanted to see anything so much in his entire goddam life.

Gerard knows the feeling. “I really - I need to be kissing you. Like now.”

Frank smiles again, that same smile, and this time Gerard is here to kiss it while it’s still on his pretty fucking face. “Yes.”

It’s better than the kiss on the fire escape, so much fucking better, and Gerard wouldn’t have believed anything could be better but it really fucking is. It’s fireworks and thunderbolts and choirs of fucking angels. It’s the best kiss Gerard has ever given anyone, the best kiss anyone’s ever given anyone, Gerard is sure.

Frank wraps his arms around Gerard’s neck and kisses back with everything he’s got, like he wants to crawl inside Gerard’s skin and never, ever leave. Gerard doesn’t even realize that he’s got Frank bent over backwards like something out of Gone with the Fucking Wind until Paul clears his throat and says,

“Uh, guys? Not to interrupt your emotional climax, or anything, but people are staring. And I think that kid is taping you on his cellphone.”

Gerard breaks off but not away, setting Frank carefully upright and leaning down so their foreheads are resting together.

“Fuck,” Frank sighs, winding his fingers through Gerard’s hair, his eyes closed and his mouth red. “Please tell me you want to be my fucking boyfriend forever and ever amen or something, man, you have no idea the shit I went through to fucking find you. You’re like Waldo, I swear to God.”

Gerard laughs and kisses him again, gently this time, slow and sweet. “I do.”

Hateful Dale makes a really bizarre, ugly noise of like, impotent rage, and Gerard pulls away from Frank just far enough to turn around and give him his biggest, brightest grin, the creepy one that freaks Mikey out when he’s stoned.

“I am so much fucking prettier than you, man,” he says, grinning even wider when Hateful Dale’s entire face goes a really unflattering shade of purple. “You couldn’t even pass for me at Halloween.”

“My birthday is on Halloween,” Frank says, and Gerard turns back to him, because fuck Hateful fucking Dale and his evil fucking plans. Gerard has way more important stuff to do, like learn everything there is to know about Frank.

Paul kind of claps Gerard on the shoulder as he passes back into the building. “Still gotta work, Don Juan. Lunch is over in five minutes.”

Gerard waves at him, and is vaguely aware of Hateful Dale stomping after him in a rage. He’s probably going to make their lives even more of a hell now, but whatever. Gerard doesn’t care. “I can’t believe I have to go back to work now. This sucks.”

“Yeah.” Frank tugs Gerard down for another kiss, and then releases him with obvious reluctance. “I’ll meet you here later, right? What time do you get off? And what’s your fucking name?”

“Five,” Gerard tells him and pulls him back for more kisses, fuck the kid with the cellphone, whatever. “Gerard. Is my name. Fuck. I really gotta go. I’ll see you soon. Fuck. I’m so glad you fucking found me. You’re amazing. I – yeah. Okay. Bye.”

He’s almost to the door when Frank calls after him, “Gerard?”

Gerard grins stupidly, because his name has never sounded so good before. “Yeah?”

Frank sticks his hands in his pockets and shrugs, all casual. “You want to maybe give me your fucking number this time?”

Gerard laughs, because he already gave Frank his number, of course he did. Except…no, he didn’t. “Fuck! What the fuck is wrong with me?”

“Nothing,” Frank says sort of dreamily, and Gerard hurries back over to him and they exchange numbers and Gerard puts Frank’s in his cellphone and scribbles it on a folded-up Post-It he finds in his jeans and then rolls his sleeve up and writes Frank’s number down the skin of his forearm, for good measure.

“Stuff happens to me,” he explains, but Frank doesn’t even look weirded out, he just smiles and kisses Gerard again, deep and with so much intent Gerard almost decides to fuck his job and just bundle Frank off to the nearest hotel, instead.

He can’t leave the birds and the mice, though, after all they’ve done for him, so he reluctantly peels himself away and goes back to work, leaving Frank with promises and one more kiss, one more, one more.

The stairs back up to his office seem to take forever, and Gerard is standing in the hall, catching his breath, when he hears a weird noise from the next office along. He panics, thinking the mice and birds have finally got their asses caught, and opens the door.

“Fuck!” Paul and Lucy-from-editorial spring apart, looking guilty. “Don’t you knock?”

Gerard stares from Paul to Lucy-from-editorial and back again, and then laughs. “You forgiven him for not wanting to go fishing with your dad?”

Paul steps forward. “Gerard, we really don’t want people to know about this.”

“I didn’t want anyone to know about the glitter,” Gerard says airily, spreading his hands. “Didn’t stop you telling your secret office girlfriend.”

Lucy-Paul’s-girlfriend says, “Gerard!” and wrings her hands and Gerard laughs and then on an impulse, darts forward and pulls Paul into a hug. A real one, none of this ‘slap my back, we’re so manly’ crap.

“I owe you so many,” he says, squeezing harder when Paul makes a noise and tries to get away. “Thank you.”

Paul shoves Gerard off, but he’s grinning.

“Your secret’s safe with me,” Gerard tells Lucy-Paul’s-girlfriend. “And hey, hang onto this one. He’s a good man.”

“I know,” says Lucy-Paul’s-girlfriend, rolling her eyes, and Gerard grins and closes the door.

In his office, the birds and mice have a total fucking mental interlude, the birds circling crazily around Gerard’s head and the mice skittering happily back and forth over his desk. Gerard can’t hug them on account of how they’d probably be crushed and die, so he kind of pats the mice on the head with one finger and lets the birds perch on his shoulder for a minute, even though he really hates that.

“Thanks, you guys, you saved my life” he says, really meaning it, and they make little bashful noises and kind of bob up and down, congratulating themselves.

The afternoon stretches ahead, long and empty of Frank, but Gerard is too full of like, moonbeams and stardust to be too bummed about it. He tries to call Mikey but it goes straight to voicemail, so he picks up his marker and pulls over the comic the mice drew. He draws quickly, scribbling a tiny star on Chibi-Frank’s arm, and adding in a few more frames. The conversation with Lucy, the bit in line in the lobby, kissing Frank outside. Hateful Dale getting shot down. Lucy and Paul kissing. Tiny little birds and mice.

Underneath, because no-one is ever, ever, ever going to see this except Gerard, he writes, ‘And they all lived happily ever after’ and signs his name with a flourish. Whatever, it’s not the first time he’s taken credit for mice-art.

He sits back in his chair and sighs happily, smiling at the menagerie on his desk. “You think it’s too early to call Frank?”

They look back at him, inscrutable.

“Yeah,” Gerard tells them, and picks up the phone.