Sometimes Gerard wonders what the fuck he’s doing in New York.
No, fuck that. Every time Gerard steps out of his apartment he wonders what he’s doing in New York. Then he thinks about living in his parents’ basement back in Belleville and remembers.
Besides, by the time he gets to work his venti caramel double-shot macchiato whatever has hit the bloodstream, and everything short of getting hit by a bus is a-okay with him. In fact, fuck that. For the first time in Gerard’s life, things are going a-okay. Things are going awesome – awesomely? – they’re going so great, grammar is unimportant.
Gerard Arthur Way, unfortunate owner of the world’s honest-to-God worst taste in men, has finally found a boyfriend.
It’s a bigger victory than it sounds. Gerard’s grade-school boyfriend left him for a girl – a girl Gerard was totally prettier than, for the record. Gerard’s high school boyfriend had a sexuality crisis in the middle of senior year, punched him, called him a fag, and joined the football team. (Gerard was pretty used to the middle two. The last personally affronted him.) Gerard’s college boyfriends left him for prettier, skinnier, more artistic, more butch, more outgoing, less quirky, less geeky, less addicted to caffeine. Or his roommate. Or his project partner. Or another one of his ex-boyfriends. Eight million men in New York City, a decent amount of which were out and proud, and up until this point all Gerard had managed to find were complete bastards.
“Gerard. Gee. Gee!”
Gerard swung around in his chair and scowled. “Mikey, seriously, what the fuck?”
Mikey rolled his eyes. “I brought you coffee? It’s like ten-thirty, you should be on your seventh cup by now.”
Gerard made little grabby hands. “You’re my favorite brother.”
“I’m your only brother, moron.”
“Flattery won’t get you more coffee, you know,” Mikey said, but he looked pleased.
Gerard took an obnoxiously loud slurp of coffee, ignoring the dirty look Vicky sent him. “Not that I’m complaining, but shouldn’t you be working?”
Mikey shrugged. “I’m on break.”
Gerard was pretty sure Mikey spent ninety-percent of his time on break. Mikey worked in IT, at least technically, but it seems like he spent most of the day loitering in Gerard’s department and drinking coffee. Not that Gerard cared, because, hello, coffee.
“Shit,” Mikey said, looking up. “Suarez is coming. Look busy!”
Gerard glared at him. “I am busy!”
“Well, help me look busy!” Mikey flung himself at the nearest computer and started typing furiously. Gerard rolled his eyes. He was probably on MySpace.
Two seconds later, Gerard’s boss Alex poked his head in the door.
“Way, are you down here?”
“Both of them,” Nate said gloomily. “Both of them.”
“And Mikey brought Gerard more coffee,” VickyT added. The traitor.
Alex stared at Mikey for a moment. Mikey stared back.
Alex cocked an eyebrow.
“It’s decaf?” Mikey tried.
Alex didn’t exactly look convinced but he dropped his gaze. Even Gerard could admit Mikey had a creepy fucking stare.
“Whatever. Just don’t paint zombies on the bathroom walls this time.”
Gerard gave Alex his best dewy, wide-eyed look. Mikey might be a creepy motherfucker, but Gerard was cute.
Ryland snickered. “Cut the shit, Gee, we know it was you.”
“Can’t be proven!” Gerard pulled his coffee cup a little closer to him. “And you didn’t care how much caffeine I had last Friday when we had to finish all the Powerpuff slides!”
“Those were desperate times!” Ryland barked out in a surprisingly convincing British accent. “And desperate measures were called for, Master Way!”
“Oh my God,” Nate moaned. “Shut up, please, the both of you.”
Vicky continued calmly filling in her cels.
Alex cleared his throat. “Anyway. Gerard, look, the guys upstairs are looking for a new cartoon to add to the afternoon line-up.”
“Yeah?” Wow, that only happened next to never. “Do you mean…?”
“They’re shopping around, but there’s nothing that says you can’t present your idea. If you come up with something, I’ll back you. And since you’re actually in this job for the cartoons, unlike the rest of these clowns, I figured you’d want to know.”
That was true. Gerard had fun with everyone in the department, but he was the only one with more than a passing affection for cartoons. VickyT was doing this to put herself through college, Nate worked part time so he could eat and have running water while his band tried to make it big, and Gerard was pretty convinced that Ryland stuck around to be near Alex.
“I… yeah,” Gerard murmured, mind already furiously thinking away. The Umbrella Academy thing he’d been working on was good, but he’d never meant it to be anything long-term. The Demolition Lovers were probably a little macabre – or as Mikey liked to call them “really fucking creepy” – but Gerard had always wanted to do something with the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse…
“And now that I’ve officially lost your attention,” Alex continued, “I’ll be in my office. Bother me and die.”
Mikey sighed. “I take it I won’t be dragging you out anywhere Friday night?”
“Mike can’t manage it,” Gerard murmured. “What makes you think you can?”
“Speaking of Mike, you didn’t forget you were leaving early today, did you?”
Gerard stared at Mikey for a moment.
Mikey stared back. “Dinner?”
It still took him a minute. Then – “Fuck!” Gerard sputtered. “I was going to surprise Mike with dinner!”
Nate and Ryland started snickering.
Gerard felt to make sure he hadn’t smeared paint all over his forehead again. “What’s so funny?”
“Nothing.” Ryland paused. “Well – ”
“Just that you’re going to die alone,” Nate finished cheerfully. “Surrounded by comics. Maybe a cat, if you’re lucky.” Even Vicky giggled.
“I’m allergic to cats.” Gerard could feel his forehead wrinkling. “Why do I need a personal life if work makes me happy?”
“Because getting fucked is a whole hell of a lot better than making cartoons,” Vicky added decisively. Ryland and Nate nodded in agreement. Mikey caught himself from doing the same just in time.
Gerard was weighing how much he wanted to drink his coffee compared to how satisfactory it would be to dump it over Nate’s head.
Alex stuck his head out of the office door. “Ryland, could I see you in my office? I need to have a look at the, uh, Summer League reports.”
Ryland flounced off.
Gerard suddenly needed another latte. Maybe two. Seriously, if Ryland wanted to sleep with the boss, fine, but did he have to yell in a British accent while he did it? Some things were just too motherfucking weird, even for Gerard. “Do you think that could be me one day?”
Mikey blinked owlishly from behind his glasses. “If it ever got that bad, I’d shoot you and put you out of your misery.”
Gerard had never loved Mikey more in his entire life.
Gerard hummed to himself as he the climbed the stairs. He’d moved in with Mike a little over eight months ago and tonight he had a plan, he totally had a plan. Eight months wasn’t exactly an anniversary – it wasn’t like he expected Mike to remember, or anything – but making dinner was a totally cool thing to do, just randomly. Before Gerard’s mom had unceremoniously kicked him out of the house, she’d made sure he at least knew how to make a basic pasta sauce. And Italian was romantic, right? Gerard had even made sure to get all the stuff for garlic cheese bread, which he knew Mike loved and Gerard hardly ever burnt (always a bonus).
Gerard managed to juggle the bags of groceries and the keys successfully, and kicked open the door. “Mike? Mike, are you home, I was just…”
Mike was, in fact, home.
He was also in bed with a fucking supermodel. With Tyson fucking Ritter.
“Gerard. Gee, I never meant – ”
“How long has this been going on?” Gerard asked frostily.
“Fuck. I… just today. I mean, this is the first time, I didn’t – ” Mike ran one hand through his hair. “You know I was shooting the new Dior campaign. Tyson’s one of the top models at the agency, and we’ve… we’ve been working together on it for about three months now. I knew – I mean, of course he’s really fucking hot, right? But he’s from Oklahoma too, and he loves AC/DC and he’s really sweet and funny when you get to know him and –”
“Oh my God.” Gerard squeezed his eyes shut. “Please tell me you’re not waxing poetic about the guy I caught you fucking in our bed.”
“No!” Mike said, horrified. “No, I didn’t mean it like that, I just.” Mike took a deep breath.
Gerard braced himself.
“I think I’m really in love with him.”
“Dawn of the Dead or Legend?”
Gerard blew his nose.
“Dawn of the Dead,” Mikey said decisively. He put the DVD in before sitting on the couch next to Gerard. “How are you holding up?”
Gerard blew his nose again. “All right. I think. We were just doing so well, you know? Or I thought we were. Fuck.” Gerard sank a little deeper into his hoodie. “I really liked him.”
Mikey rolled his eyes. “You always really like them, Gee. That’s your problem. You think everyone’s basically good and worth loving, and you fall for them right away. Idiot.”
“Hey! Way to be supportive in my time of need, assmunch.”
“I’m just saying. You think all of this would have taught you not to get emotionally involved so easily.”
“I can’t help it,” Gerard said pitifully. He really couldn’t. He was a romantic soul underneath the black clothing and zombie movies and the caffeine addiction. “There are four million men in New York, Mikey. Why can’t I find one good one. Just one!”
“You know how you get weak in the knees and crazy over Doom Patrol?”
“Have you ever felt that way about a guy?”
Gerard made a face.
Mikey sighed. “That’s what I thought.”
“Hey, fuck you! It’s not like you’ve ever been weak in the knees over some guy.”
“I’ve never been weak in the knees over a comic either.”
Gerard blew his nose and tried to glare at Mikey, but it was honestly difficult to do both at the same time. And besides, Mikey might – just might – have had a point. “I guess. I should just focus on work and forget about men anyway, right? I need a ton of time if I want to make that new cartoon.”
“Right,” Mikey agreed, settling back against the pillows. “Sounds like a plan. And I always thought it was weird your boyfriend had the same name as me anyway.”
“I’m just saying.”
Gerard tried to pay attention to all of the zombies stumbling around the mall.
“And you’re starting to look for an apartment tomorrow, right?”
“Because ten years in the basement with you was more than enough.”
“I know, Mikey.” Gerard threw the snottiest Kleenex he could find at Mikey’s head. “Shut up and watch the movie.”
Gerard should have known something was wrong with the apartment the minute he saw the flyer. For one thing, it was purple and covered in rainbows and sparkles and looked like it had been made by a kindergartener on a sugar high. For another, it was only a block from Gerard’s work and cost less than what Gerard had been paying with Mike. It looked perfect. Even the outside of the building was beautiful.
He definitely should have been on his guard, because things never went that well in Gerard’s life.
Gerard braced himself and walked into the foyer, hoping that he was presentable and a little less paint-spattered than usual. The guy at the security desk just raised an eyebrow, so he must have more or less passed muster.
“Hi, uhm…” – nametag, nametag – “Zack. My name’s Gerard Way. I was just heading up to 504, to check out the apartment?”
Zack nodded and waved him on. “No problem. Elevator’s just to your right.”
“Thanks.” Just liked someone had timed it, the elevator reached the ground floor with a cheery “ding,” and when the doors opened what looked like a hundred pounds of furball came skittering out and straight into Gerard.
Okay, yes. This was more like Gerard’s life.
Gerard stumbled, flailed, and ultimately fell over, taking what looked like a potted plant from a nearby table with him. Someone was chuckling in the background – Zack, Gerard could only assume – and Gerard was still running through a mental checklist of possible injuries when the dog came back again to nose around in his crotch.
“Christ,” Gerard swore, batting at the dog’s head. “Back off…”
Gerard was suddenly batting at the empty air.
“Are you all right? I, uh.” Some random guy grinned down on him. “I think Hamlet likes you.”
“Would like to take a bite out of me is more like it,” Gerard bitched. “Do you always let him run people over?”
Mystery Guy’s eyes widened and he looked a little panicked. “No. Uh, no… it’s not my dog. I’ve just been walking it for my neighbor.” He tried a tentative smile. “She just got her hip replaced.”
“Oh, right,” Gerard snapped. “That’s what you say to avoid the lawsuit.” Forget that Mr. Lawsuit had the prettiest fucking eyes Gerard had seen in a long time, and a wickedly sharp grin. And, oh, a lip ring. Gerard was always a sucker for piercings.
“Uhm.” Mystery Guy had the decency to look a bit abashed. “I’m really sorry. Could I get you something? Coffee? Cigarette?”
Shit, and now Gerard wanted both of those like burning. He’d only quit smoking because it’d bothered Mike so much. He was tempted to start up again just for the self-destructive edge of it all.
“I don’t think so,” Gerard said dismissively, dusting himself off and pushing his hair back. “I have to go look at an apartment, so I’ll just…”
The Mystery Guy waved weakly. “Okay.” He looked like someone had just run over his puppy. Except – no, that would have brought Gerard some measure of satisfaction. Gerard stabbed at the button for the elevator sullenly.
“Oh!” Gerard squeaked, and turned around. “Hamlet. I get it!”
Mystery Guy was looking at him with a raised eyebrow.
“It’s a clever name for a dog, that’s all. Hamlet the Great Dane.”
Mystery Guy smiled. “I thought so too.”
Gerard kind of felt like an asshole for yelling at him before, but he was pretty sure if he stayed around any longer he’d do something embarrassing. Well. More embarrassing than falling on his ass and knocking over a plant. “Have a good day?” Gerard stammered, and bolted inside the elevator.
He was pretty sure Mystery Guy was laughing at him. “It was nice meeting you too.”
The man who opened the door to 504 looked like he could cut you with his hips and then make you apologize for getting blood on his clothes.
Gerard shook his hand gingerly. “Gerard Way.”
“So,” Spencer said abruptly. “The room is five-hundred a month. You can pay cash, check, money order.” He paused. “Cash.”
“Uhm. Can I see the room?”
It was a closet.
“This looks like a closet.”
Spencer stared at him. Gerard felt something seize up in his chest. “Closets don’t have windows.”
“Ah.” That explained it. Clearly.
“Besides,” Spencer continued, unperturbed. “This is the closet.”
When Spencer pushed open the door to the next room, Gerard thought his jaw was going to hit the floor. “This… is the closet?” It was the same size as his old apartment and it was stuffed full of clothes, not to mention the wall-to-wall shelving filled with shoes and boots, and what looked like an entire Hot Topic’s worth of hoodies.
“How much room do you need to sleep?” Spencer scoffed. “But shoes, they need their space.”
Gerard decided it would have been unwise to mention he’d been wearing the same pair of duct-taped army surplus boots for six years. Then again, Spencer was looking at a pair of white leather loafers with the same love Gerard reserved for mint-condition Star Wars action figures, so maybe he got it.
“Now, we have a lot of people interested,” Spencer said briskly, herding Gerard back into the main living room. “What is it that you do?”
“I work over at – ”
“You work? I like you.” Spencer crossed his arms and tilted his hips. Gerard couldn’t help staring. “Did I mention you’re in the lead for the apartment?”
Seriously. Hips. “Uhm. Thanks?”
Gerard couldn’t even look away when the door slammed open.
“Oh, hey.” Spencer pushed Gerard over to the door. “These are the rest of the guys. Guys, this is Gerard Way. He works.” Spencer gestured towards the tallest of the three. “This is William Beckett. Bill.”
“Hi, it’s nice to meet you.”
Bill raised an eyebrow at Gerard’s outstretched hand. “You know what’s nice? Paying the rent, that’s what’s nice. That’s fucking awesome, okay?”
Spencer looked like he wanted to slam his head into something. Like Bill’s stomach. “Ignore him. He’s hung-over. Again.”
“Hi!” One of the shorter, darker-haired boys bounced over. “I’m Brendon. And not, like, Brandon, okay? Brendon, Brendon Urie.”
Brendon’s eyes widened. “I totally had a pet gerbil named Gerard once.”
“A pet gerbil?”
“Yeah, but I’m pretty sure a cobra got it. Or Uncle Gabe, but that’s basically the same thing.”
“Right. Okay.” These people were all insane.
Spencer’s grip tightened on Gerard’s arm. Gerard wondered if he could sense fear. “And this is Ryan.”
Ryan put his hand forward and tilted his head. “Enchanté.”
Brendon rolled his eyes. “Christ, not the ring again.”
Gerard had never actually seen a guy wear a diamond ring before, but considering Ryan also had birds painted in eyeliner down the side of his face, Gerard was willing to bet Ryan did lots of things other guys didn’t do.
That said, it was a very impressive ring. The kind that would take Gerard the rest of his life to buy even if he had a job that paid better than crap.
“It’s beautiful. Are you engaged?
“Oh, God no,” Ryan scoffed. “It would take more carets than that. And scarves.”
This time Spencer rolled his eyes.
“Want a drink?” Bill asked. “It’s what, three o’clock? That’s totally tequila time.” Bill headed for what appeared to be a very well-stocked bar tucked into the corner of the room. “Seriously, anyone want anything?”
“It’s all yours, Bill,” Ryan said lazily.
Brendon looked up at Gerard with wide eyes. “Have you been in New York long, Gee? Can I call you Gee? You don’t seem like a Gerard.”
“Gee’s fine,” Gerard said automatically. “And I’ve been here for about… seven years? Since my first year of college.”
Brendon beamed. “Cool. I’ve been here… a year and a half? Brent wrote me and told me I should come out here, and seriously, seriously, New York is so awesome.”
“He used to live here.” Brendon scrunched up his face. “We went to school together back home, and he was Ryan and Spencer’s friend, I guess? But something went way wrong there, so just don’t mention it and no one’s gonna get hurt, okay? Anyway, the agency lets us stay here for free, so we rent out the extra closet – ”
Of course it was a closet.
“—for spending money,” Brendon continued. “So now it’s me and you and Ryan Rossy and Spencer-Spencer Smith and Billy Beckett!”
There was entirely too much alliteration there for Gerard’s mental state. “The agency?” he repeated.
“Our modeling agency,” Ryan cut in. “Free housing until our contract runs out.”
“Oh my God,” Gerard said faintly. “You’re all models.” It explained a lot. Okay, fuck, it explained everything.
Spencer thrust out his hip. Bill threw back his hair. Ryan – if it was possible – looked even more disinterested. “Yeah.”
Brendon took in Gerard’s fallen face and patted him once on the shoulder. “Oh, but dude, don’t envy us. We’re totally struggling.”
Bill’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t think he likes models.” Gerard thought he meant to whisper to Ryan, but it came out more of a stage whisper. Gerard got the impression that Bill wasn’t the type to do much of anything under the radar.
“Oh no, it’s not – there’s nothing wrong with being a model. It’s just. My boyfriend just left me for one.”
Bill froze mid-drink and Ryan started fiddling with his scarf.
Gerard wanted to slam his head into something. Again. “It wasn’t any of you.”
“Oh, thank God,” Brendon said. “Do you know what happened the last time Bill slept with someone’s boyfriend?”
Spencer put his arm around Gerard’s shoulders. “Let’s not scare him.”
“It’s not appropriate roommate behavior,” Ryan said. “God, Brendon.”
“Shut up, Ross,” Brendon shot back cheerfully. “Gerard, I’m gonna get you your key, okay? Oh, and are you vegetarian? Or vegan? On any special diet? I’m mostly vegetarian, Spencer’s currently no carbs, Ryan – ”
“Doesn’t eat,” Bill said snidely.
Ryan’s eyes narrowed. “And Bill’s on an all-liquid diet. Vodka, tequila, and gin.”
“And on that note,” Spencer sighed. “Welcome to the apartment.”
Gerard wheezed. Six months of no smoking and his lung capacity still wasn’t worth shit. And where the fuck was Mikey, anyway? Wasn’t this what younger brothers were for? Dragging heavy boxes upstairs? Manual labor?
When Gerard finally – finally, oh Christ, maybe he should go to yoga classes with Vicky – reached the fifth floor, there were two guys lurking outside the door.
Gerard groaned. Of course he would move into an apartment with crazy stalkers.
“’Scuse me,” he said quietly, holding the boxes out in front of him just in case he had to toss them and run. But the two men nodded at him and stepped back politely. One even tried to help him open the door.
Gerard tried not to slam it behind him too quickly.
Inside of the apartment was complete chaos. Everyone was running around half-naked and there were piles of clothes all over the apartment, though Bill seemed mostly concerned with stacking empty liquor bottles in the shape of a pyramid.
Ryan was standing in front of the mirror. He might have been frowning. Gerard wasn’t sure. “Does this shirt make me look like I’m homeless?”
Spencer didn’t even look up from the pile of shoes he was sorting through. “Yes.”
“And not in a good way,” Bill added helpfully.
Ryan shrugged. “Maybe with a vest.”
“Gerard!” Brendon bounced over. “Gerard, dude, the navy paisley or the maroon hounds-tooth?”
Gerard wanted to burn them both and never speak of them again. “Uh, the maroon? You shouldn’t wear blue with your coloring.” At least art school was good for something.
“Told you,” Bill said smugly. He grabbed the blue shirt out of Brendon’s hand and slipped it on. There was a solid three-inch gap between the bottom on the shirt and the top of Bill’s jeans. “Fuck yeah.”
Brendon pouted. Ryan had added a grey newsboy hat to his ensemble, and Spencer had managed to find even more shoes to sort through.
Gerard was seriously rethinking this apartment thing. “Uhm. Did you know there are two guys waiting in the hall for you?”
Spencer finished lacing up his boots. “Only two?”
Brendon raced over to the door and threw open the latch. “Back it up, boys!” Spencer and Ryan followed at a much more leisurely pace.
“Not bad,” Spencer murmured.
Ryan twined one arm around Spencer’s waist. “Not great.”
Spencer rolled his eyes and turned back towards Gerard. “See anything you like?”
“Uhm,” Gerard felt a sudden urge to hide. “I’m. Not really into dating right now?”
It was like being stared down by the Children of the Corn. If the Children of the Corn had been supremely attractive twenty-year-old models with bitch faces to rival Mikey’s.
“But they seem nice?” he tried.
Spencer shrugged, and everyone in the room let out a collective breath. “Of course they all seem nice. You have to learn to look past what they want you to see.”
Huh. Gerard might learn something here after all.
“See that guy?” Ryan pointed. “His suit’s Hugo Boss, but it’s straight off the rack. The tie is a Gucci knockoff, and those shoes are between him and Payless.”
Bill shoved his way to the front. With both of his bony elbows, the fucker. “But check him out. Either that’s a jewelry box from Tiffany’s in his pocket or…”
“Oh God.” Brendon covered his ears. “Stop it!”
Bill grinned like a Cheshire Cat. “Dibs.”
Gerard slowly backed away from the door. “So you pick relationships based on clothing and gifts?”
“Instead of what? Personality?”
“That never goes well,” Brendon said darkly, and stalked back over to the couch.
Gerard shook his head. “But… I mean…”
“C’mon, which one do you want?”
“Pick one!” Bill urged, bumping his hip up against Gerard. Gerard almost fell over.
“I don’t think I can afford to go out with you. In fact, I know I can’t.” Not to mention that Gerard felt like a huge fat slob next to every single one of them and their hipbones that could cut fucking glass, Christ. He was going back to his room and reading comics until he woke up tomorrow morning with ink dialogue stamped on his forehead.
Bill looked puzzled. “We don’t pay. We’re models.” Spencer tilted his head to the side, like he was trying to figure something out.
“I need to do my makeup,” Ryan said abruptly. “Bill, do you still have that fuchsia face paint?”
Gerard flopped onto the couch next to Brendon. “When did my life turn into a sitcom?”
“I blame Ryan myself,” Brendon said idly, looking out from behind his copy of Spin. “Oh, hey. You have a really symmetrical nose, did you know that?”
“Thanks?” Gerard wrinkled his forehead. “Why are your ears bandaged?”
Brendon shrugged. “The agency had them fixed. They were uneven.”
Gerard suddenly wanted to hug him. Ryan and Spencer seemed like symbiotic sarcastic bitches and Bill had already consumed a worrying amount of alcohol, but Brendon seemed like a sweet little innocent. Who knew what thoughts the modeling agency was putting into his head! “Brendon, you know really great faces don’t have to be symmetrical.”
Brendon blinked up at him.
Gerard tried again. “Beauty is often in the flaws. In the individuality of each person’s appearance!”
“Dude. I’ll still be an individual with even earlobes.” Brendon went back to his magazine.
Gerard tried to remind himself that this was the most awesome apartment, like, ever, and he would live with Mikey again to get this place if he had to. He could deal.
“So,” he tried again. “Nice view we’ve got, huh?” Their windows look out onto the other half of the apartment complex, all windows and brick. It kind of reminded Gerard of Rear Window, but they were high enough up that there was some skyline too.
“Pretty nice,” Brendon said off-handedly. “There’s this one woman on the floor below us, though. Total slut. I don’t want to see that much pussy, ever, you know what I’m saying?”
Gerard let his head slam up against the window. He might have to rethink that “innocent” thing.
When he realized exactly whose apartment they overlooked he reared back so quickly he didn’t even notice the grease spot he’d left on the glass. It was Mr. Short, Dark, and in Possession of One Particularly Evil Great Dane. Like, a fucking Hell Hound of a Great Dane. Although, Gerard quickly noted, there wasn’t actually a dog anywhere in the apartment. Maybe he’d told the truth about it being his neighbor’s. In which case – that was fucking adorable.
And – seriously, fuck, like Gerard needed a rebound relationship.
“Oh, hey, is that Frank?”
“Who?” Gerard asked dazedly.
Brendon tapped on the window. “Frank Anthony.”
“You know him?” Brendon knew him? Fuck, with Gerard’s luck, it was probably Spencer’s ex-boyfriend, or something, and Gerard would wake up with a knife to his throat.
“He’s a fashion exec. The hottest young guy in the business.” Brendon grinned. “And I mean hottest. You want him, huh?”
Gerard blushed. “How do you know that?”
“The look on your face. I always used to catch Uncle Gabe looking at me that way.” Brendon looked a little dreamy.
“Uhm. Right.” They were verging back into uncomfortable territory again. “It doesn’t matter. I never go out with guys like that. Even if I did date.”
Brendon waggled both of his eyebrows and looked back out the window. “I’m pretty sure even Spencer would go gay for him.”
Gerard paused. “Spencer’s not gay?”
“That’s what he says. I have my doubts.”
Gerard had the world’s worst gaydar, and he had doubts.
“Whatever,” Gerard said, deliberately turning away from the window. “I don’t care if I ever see him again.”
So of course Gerard ran into Frank on the way to work.
And by “ran into” Gerard meant something more along the lines of ‘had Hamlet push him onto the sidewalk and spill his coffee on Frank’s shoes.’
“We have to stop meeting like this,” Frank said solemnly, and pulled Gerard to his feet. “Well, I say that, but Hamlet must really like you to keep doing this.”
“He doesn’t tackle everyone?”
“He tackles fucking everyone, man!” Frank giggled. Giggled, oh Christ, Gerard was so gone. Then Frank leaned in and nodded mock-seriously. “But he only drools on his favorites.”
Gerard really shouldn’t have felt this awesome with dog slobber all over him. There had to be a rule about it somewhere.
“Which, you know, sorry about that,” he continued, finally letting go of Gerard’s hand. “Let me get you another coffee.”
“No!” Christ, first it’s coffee, then sex, then Gerard gets knocked up and Frank runs away with a bar maid. “No-no-no. Frank, man, it’s cool.”
Frank’s brow furrowed. “Dude, I don’t remember telling you my name.”
Oh my God, why can’t Gerard ever keep his mouth shut? “But. Of course you did! Because you’re Frank! Because that’s your name!” Gerard tucked his hands into his pockets so he wouldn’t flail. “And I’m Gerard. Gerard, Frank, Hamlet. That’s totally how it works.”
“Gerard, huh?” Frank grinned. “I dunno, I’m pretty sure I would have remembered your name.”
Gerard tried not to melt into his shoes.
“Seriously though. Coffee? I was gonna get some anyway. I can’t get through the day without, like, a pot and a half.”
“I’m, uhm.” Gerard pulled on the hem of shirt. Was the dog slobber noticeable? Spencer was going to kill him. “I’m actually late for a lunch date.”
“Oh.” Frank’s smile dimmed. “Well, yeah, you don’t want to be late, so…”
“With my roommates!” Gerard choked out. “A lunch date with my roommates! Not like, a date-date. Like a meeting! Eating lunch! Like, platonic and shit!”
Sometimes Gerard wondered how he manages to get laid at all.
Luckily, Frank was looking at Gerard like he found him more amusing than batshit crazy. Gerard had never been more grateful for what Mikey called his “strangely appealing brand of really fucking awkward.”
“Don’t let me keep you,” Frank said.
Gerard stopped himself from saying something like “would you please?” and choked out a goodbye.
The address Spencer had given Gerard was to some quietly swank place that took Gerard an extra fifteen minutes to find because there wasn’t even a name on the door. Everyone already had their food by the time Gerard arrived, and Ryan had apparently ordered something for Gerard that he couldn’t recognize on sight, but which tasted better than the stale poptarts he’d stolen from Ryland’s desk for breakfast, so he counted it as a win.
“And why didn’t you have coffee with him?” Bill asked, after Gerard had made his excuses. “You totally could have ditched us.”
“Bill would skip his mother’s funeral to get laid,” Spencer said wryly.
“I would not!”
“That’s a relief,” Ryan murmured, tugging on the end of his scarf.
“… everyone is always totally horny after funerals,” Bill continued. “Duh.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Gerard interrupted. “I can’t go get coffee with him.”
“Okay, seriously. Why not?”
“Cause then we’d have sex and I’d move in with him and wind up brokenhearted in a hotel room in Tacoma while he went off with the slut who ran the front desk.” Everyone stared at him. “Oh yeah. It happened.”
Brendon reached over and patted him on the shoulder.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Gerard muttered darkly.
“Spencer once went out with a girl who thought he was a lesbian.”
Everyone turned to stare at Ryan.
He shrugged. “Just thought I’d share something embarrassing to make you feel better.”
“You’re supposed to share something embarrassing about yourself,” Spencer hissed.
Brendon’s panicked expression clearly read help, please.
Gerard cleared his throat. “Question? If these guys are your dates,” he asked, pointing to the line of men standing at the bar. “Then why do you make them stand over there?”
Spencer glared at Ryan a moment more before making a noise of disgust. “Have you ever had a date with one of these guys? It’s all the same. ‘You look beautiful in that shirt, you look beautiful in this light, come marry me and be the queen of my country’.”
“Spencer tends to get the queen comments more than the rest of us,” Ryan said dryly. “It’s the child-bearing hips.” Spencer shot him another look.
Bill tossed back another shot of vodka. Gerard stopped counting how many half an hour ago, but he was still impressed. “He worked out the you-sit-over-there system. It’s brilliant.”
“He’s brilliant,” Ryan corrected, smiling a little, earlier tiff forgotten. “He turned down a full-ride to Stanford.”
Gerard wasn’t sure which he was more surprised at – Spencer turning down a full ride to Stanford, or Ryan smiling. “You ditched a full ride, really? Why?”
Spencer smirked. “Gerard, sweetheart, look at me. What do I need Stanford for? It’ll still be there when I’m old and ugly.”
Ryan wrinkled his nose. “God forbid.”
“Knock on fucking wood, man.” Bill rapped his knuckles on the table. “Do we have time for another bottle of vodka?”
Spencer signaled the waiter for the check.
Gerard peeked at the bill. And almost swallowed his tongue. “It’s a hundred-twenty dollars.”
Ryan huffed. “Its twelve-hundred, moron.”
This time Gerard thought he was actually going to have a fit. “Twelve-hundred dollars?”
Ryan rolled his eyes and pulled the check from Gerard’s clammy grasp. “Relax.” He raised his arm so that the check was visible from the bar.
The line of men who had been half-heartedly nursing drinks suddenly stampeded towards the table. One of them, blond and tan and with some kind of European accent, managed to snag the bill and clutched it to his chest.
“Gentlemen,” he said, bowing his head and smiling, “May I have the honor of taking you to lunch?”
Gerard wasn’t sure how Spencer managed to work his hips that well while sitting down, but he did it. Brendon fluttered his eyelashes and Bill worked on staying upright. “Oh, thank you.”
“You’re so sweet.” Ryan’s voice was so deadpan that Gerard choked on his water.
Gerard spent all of the next day watching Frank through the window.
Brendon shook his head. “Dude, I know you say you don’t like him, but you certainly watch him a lot.”
“I’m not watching him!”
Brendon gave him a Look. Clearly, he’d been taking lessons from Ryan and Spencer.
Gerard huffed. “Okay, I am, but not like that. I’m doing it just to prove to you that he has some huge flaw.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because I’m attracted to him.”
Brendon grinned and went back to Guitar Hero. “You’re sunk, dude. You might as well just admit it. Admit you want to have his tattooed, mini-goth babies and move on.”
“I do not!” Gerard insisted.
Brendon started to play ‘You Really Got Me.’
“Seriously! Seriously, there has to be something wrong with him. I’ll show you. Just wait, you’ll see!”
“Aw,” Brendon cooed. “Look at the baby.”
“Brendon,” Spencer said slowly. “Are you making grabby hands at the window?”
“Baby-baby-baby,” Brendon sang, and made grabby hands right in Spencer’s face. “It’s so cute, Spencer Smith! Come to Cambodia and adopt one with me?” He batted his eyelashes.
Gerard threw up his hands. “See? See, this is his flaw. He has a lovechild.”
Spencer raised an eyebrow and pointed back to the apartment. “Then who’s the woman?”
And okay, there was a woman in the apartment. Long dark hair, dark eyes. Definitely pretty, Gerard supposed. If you were into that thing.
“You can’t have a lovechild without a lover!” Brendon squawked, Cambodian babies already forgotten.
This time Ryan rolled his eyes. “Then who’s the guy with the ugly baby carrier strapped to his chest?”
Gerard looked back towards the apartment windows suspiciously. “A little threesome action?” His eyes narrowed. “They probably don’t even know who the father is.”
Bill grimaced. “Eww.”
Spencer looked bored again. “I’m erasing all the TiVo’d episodes of Days of Our Lives. It’s clearly for your own good.”
“Aw, schoolgirls!” Brendon cooed. “They’re so cute!”
“From anyone else that would have been disturbing,” Spencer said. “Try not to say things like that in public.”
“Ooh,” Bill cooed. “Schoolgirls!”
“Put it away, Beckett.”
“Do you remember the last time I dressed up like a schoolgirl?” he asked fondly.
There was a collective shudder. “Yes. Stop bringing it up.”
Gerard ignored them. “See, you think they’re schoolgirls, but really.” Gerard flailed. “Really, they’re underage prostitutes dressed as Catholic girls. Look! He’s giving them money!”
“That’s probably for the candy bars he’s buying,” Ryan said.
Gerard twitched. “Those little whores are good. They even brought the props.”
Bill patted Gerard on the shoulder. “I’m going to go hide all your Frank Miller comics. Obviously you need some time off.”
Gerard tried to run after Bill but couldn’t quite make it. Damn him and his spidery legs.
Gerard spent the next night watching Frank do chin-ups. If that fact that he could do about a zillion and a half of them wasn’t hot enough, he did them bare-chested. And sweaty. And he was covered in tattoos – beautiful swirls of ink that Gerard was giving serious thought to worshipping. With his tongue.
He was so fucked.
Bill clicked his tongue. “I don’t know, Gee. I’m looking very, very closely, and I don’t see any flaws.”
“I have to agree with Bill on this one. He’s perfect.”
Gerard narrowed his eyes. “Straight perfect?”
Spencer actually laughed. “Gerard. He works in the fashion industry. If he was straight, we would know.”
Bill nodded fervently. “I would have tried to convert him.”
“You can’t convert someone to a different sexuality,” Gerard started bossily.
Bill opened his mouth again, but Ryan cut him off with a swift elbow to the stomach. “Do not take that bet,” he hissed. “It will only end in tears.”
Bill rubbed his stomach and started to pout. “You’re no fun, Ryan Rossy.”
“I’ve been telling you guys that for years,” Brendon said gloomily.
The next day Gerard came home to find Brendon running around with cucumbers on his eyes under a sleep mask.
“For exfoliation purposes,” Brendon explained. His sleep mask had “hot bitch” stitched on the front, and Gerard did his best to nod seriously, even though he knew Brendon couldn’t see it.
“Brendon,” Ryan tried, his tone long-suffering, “you could just go and lie down, you realize that?”
“I need to be free! Free, Ryan Ross, like the spirit of Pocahontas!”
“Brendon…” Spencer warned.
Brendon grinned like a hyena and took an exaggeratedly deep breath. “Haaaaave you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon? Or asked the grinning bobcat why he griiiiinned?”
Ryan threw a shoe at Brendon’s head.
Spencer finished painting his toenails.
“Exfoliate that,” Ryan said satisfactorily, and Gerard had to walk away before he burst out laughing. He doesn’t gravitate to the living room window purposely. There was just a lot going on in Frank’s apartment tonight. What looked like a small swarm of men in tuxes were moving around tables, setting up a bar, and generally getting the apartment ready for what appears to be a really swanky party. And fuck, but Frank looked really hot in a tux. Shit. Shit, shit, shit, goddamn.
“We could go over,” Bill said off-handedly, hanging over Gerard’s shoulder. “It’s pretty much a win-win. I get free booze, you get to go over and properly introduce yourself.”
“I’m not even invited.”
“So what? We’ll crash it!”
Gerard blinked at him. “In what universe is that not a bad idea?”
Bill rolled his eyes. “This one, moron. Who would keep models away from a party?”
“Uh, no. I don’t think so.”
Brendon giggled. “Gee. Gee, you are so into him, you don’t even know.”
“I am not!”
“Oh really?” Spencer waved around a handful of sketches of a tiny cartoon Frank.
Gerard froze. His sketches. The ones –
“Those were in my room!”
“Busted,” Ryan deadpanned, and Gerard sputtered.
“He’s a very interesting looking character! And anyway, even if I did like him, he’s in the fashion business. He probably only dates…” Gerard flung his hand toward the other guys in a ‘you know!’ type of gesture.
“Sluts?” Brendon suggested helpfully.
Gerard sighed. “Models!”
Spencer looked at him for a long moment before smiling.
Gerard’s breath caught in his throat. This was probably what complete and total terror felt like.
“If he wants a model, then we’re going to give him a model.”
And it was, he thought despairingly, probably too late to run.
“I curse the day I moved in with you guys. Curse. Curse, regret, rue, lament – ”
“Shut up,” Bill said breezily. “And try not to smear your eyeliner.”
Spencer smacked Gerard’s hand away from his neck. “Don’t button the top two buttons. You have lovely collarbones.”
“Stop chewing on your lower lip,” Spencer continued. “Don’t slump. And stop shoving your hands in your pockets like that.”
“Is there something I’m doing right?” Gerard asked crossly.
Spencer pushed his sunglasses further back on his head. Why he was wearing sunglasses indoors, Gerard hadn’t even tried to ask. “Apparently Frank sees something he likes.”
Gerard tried to tell himself sulking was unattractive.
Bill tugged at the hem of his shirt. “Is this too long?”
Gerard could see Bill’s hipbones and the bottom of his ribcage. “Yes.”
Spencer kicked him. “It’s fine, Bill.”
Ryan looked shamelessly amused.
Gerard took a deep breath. “I think I’m gonna throw up.”
“Better now than later.” Bill shoved a box of breath mints at him. “Do it now, or get into that apartment before Ryan makes Spencer drag you in kicking and screaming.”
Spencer’s face made Gerard think that would be the least of his problems.
He tucked the breath mints into his pocket.
Everyone scattered the minute they hit the party.
“Good thing I wasn’t looking for a little moral support,” Gerard grumbled, murmuring apologies as he pushed his way through the crowd. When he finally spotted Frank on the other side of the room, his heart skipped a beat.
Which, okay, way to be ridiculous. Sure, Frank looked pretty hot in that tux, especially with the tattoos peeking out from under the edges of his shirt, but if Gerard’s heart was skipping beats, he should have been heading to see a doctor, not planning to flirt.
Frank was circulating the room, stopping here and there to make introductions and shake hands or kiss someone on the cheek or – Gerard’s eyes narrowed – to get his ass grabbed. Gerard watched, with a somewhat sinking feeling, as Frank stopped by a group of beautiful woman standing in front of the window.
“Ladies, ladies! The first glass was free,” Frank said, and waggling his eyebrows, “but this one is going to cost you.”
As the trio giggled, Frank grinned and pressed quick kisses to their hands and cheeks.
“I’ll be seeing you girls later, yeah?” Frank left after another few kisses and a bevy of giggles.
Gerard took a few steps forward, but Frank had already walked directly to another group, shaking hands before falling into a manly sort of half-hug with a short, tattooed guy.
“Brian, hey.” Frank’s smile was warm, and Gerard felt himself get a little weak in the knees despite himself.
“Frank. Frank, man, some people I want you to meet. This is Vincent Avarali, Andrew Escobar, and Steve Oyola. I think you’ve seen each other around.”
“Of course, of course.” There was a lot of hand-shaking, and Frank’s grin came back in full force. “You’re all here about Cortez, am I right? I know he was bringing in a whole truckload of models. No worries, no worries, I can hook everyone up.”
Gerard took a step back.
This was a really stupid idea.
Gerard pushed his way through the crowd of people, trying to find one of the other guys. Considering Bill was one of tallest, if not the tallest person in the room, Gerard found him pretty easily by the bar, which was becoming less of a hunch and more of a certainty.
“Bill.” Gerard pinched him. “Bill, I think I’m just going to head back the apartment.”
Bill stared down at him. “What? Why? Have you even had a drink yet? Tomrad here,” he purred, leaning across the counter to molest the bartender. “Makes an absolutely divine … martini? Manhattan? Mohican?”
Gerard was really going to start looking into Bill’s alcohol intake.
“No, I just… I don’t think Frank was the guy I thought he was, you know?” Gerard shrugged. “I’ll just go back and keep Brendon company.”
Bill hesitated a moment before shrugging. “All right.” He slung one spindly arm around Gerard’s shoulders and squeezed. “I’ll see you later.”
“Later,” Gerard echoed, and headed for the stairs. They were always quickest. Gerard had yet to live in a New York City building where the elevator worked more than half of the time.
Frank was sitting on the top step.
Gerard stopped short. “Oh. Frank?”
“Hi.” Gerard clutched the railing.
Frank waved. “Hi. Um.”
“Sorry. I, uh, almost didn’t recognize you without your big drooling dog.”
Frank grinned a little. “Are you leaving?”
“Yeah. My roommates are models and I was kind of their science project for the night, but I was feeling a little out of place, so. Just figured I’d go.”
“Wish I could.” Frank shrugged. “I kind of hate these things, you know?”
Gerard took a step towards Frank. “You seemed like you were having a great time.” What with all the pretty people and the schmoozing and flirting.
“My job is basically kissing ass and smiling while I do it. Fuck that, seriously. It’s not what I thought I was signing up for.”
Gerard raised an eyebrow. “What did you think you were signing up for?” Fashion would not have been Gerard’s job field of choice, and Frank didn’t seem like the type either.
Frank looked taken aback for a moment. “Oh, you know. Meet lots of interesting people. Travel the world.”
“Not so much?”
Frank rolled his eyes. “Everyone I work with is either a self-involved airhead or a cutthroat asshole. And what’s the point of traveling when all you do is go to the same non-descript warehouse and look at the same ugly dresses?”
“Tell me about it.” Gerard hadn’t gone to art school so he could spend the rest of his life coloring in someone else’s creations. “My job’s not going to win any awards for “most fulfilling” anytime soon either.”
“Oh yeah? And what do you do?” Frank grinned. “Something involving paint, I imagine.”
Gerard buried his head in his hands and groaned. “I was totally covered in it that first time we met, wasn’t I?”
Gerard felt Frank’s hand brush just over the nape of his neck. “Big blue streak in the back of your hair. And all over your shoes.”
“Kind of artistic punk,” Frank continued conversationally. “Don’t worry.”
“Comforting.” Gerard sighed. “I work at Cartoon Network. Mostly filling in the cels, shit like that. I always end up getting ink and paint and shit all over me. I just… I grew up on comics and cartoons, you know? They mean something to me, and its fun making them, but it’s not the same as actually creating something for yourself. I barely have time to do that anymore.”
“Maybe you should make time,” Frank said seriously. “If that’s what makes you happy, you should just do it, right?”
“Probably. When you say it like that, it seems like it should be easy.” Gerard sighed again. “Sorry, I should probably let you get back to the party.”
Frank patted the cement next to him. “They can live without me for a while. As far as I’m concerned, you’re the party.”
Gerard grinned and flopped down on the step next to Frank. “If you’re sure.”
Frank beamed. “Definitely.”
Gerard looked horrified. “You can’t be saying you like Spiderman better than Batman. You can’t.”
“Why not?” Frank’s eyes were twinkling. Twinkling with evil.
“Why not?” Gerard repeated hysterically. “Why not? Oh my God.”
He had a feeling Frank was laughing at him.
“This question is a deal-breaker,” Gerard said seriously. “Which one of Crazy Jane’s alternate personalities is your favorite?”
Frank’s eyes popped. “Dude. Dude, that isn’t even fair! You can’t pick a favorite!”
Gerard relented. “Maybe the top three. But you should still choose wisely.”
“Frank? There you are, Christ.” The guy Gerard had seen Frank talking to earlier poked his head out of the door. “Frankie, you need to come back to the party for a while. There are a few people I need you to meet. Some VIPs in from Antwerp.”
Frank nodded. “Sure, Brian. Two seconds?”
“I can hold ‘em off,” he sighed, and disappeared again.
Frank stood up, and Gerard scrambled to his feet after him. “Remember all of that ass I hate kissing?”
“Tell me about it. But I’ll see you around?”
“Yeah. Uhm. Maybe we could meet on purpose next time? Argue about Crazy Jane?” Gerard suggested, gratified when Frank broke into another of his sunny grins. He could get used to those.
“Yeah! Yeah, I’d like that. I –” Frank’s grin slowly dimmed. “But I’m. Oh, fuck it, I’m kind of busy for the next few weeks. Like, really busy, there’s no way I could…”
Gerard was going to cry when he got back to the room, and not one second before that. “No, it’s cool, I get it. I’ve actually got this project at work I should be focusing on.” Gerard tucked a strand of hair back behind his ear. “I, uhm.”
Frank hesitated. “Gerard…”
“I’ll see you later.”
Gerard took the rest of the stairs at a dead run. He was pretty proud of himself, actually. Not just for accepting Frank’s brush-off so coolly, but also for not dashing his brains out on the stairway. Coordination was not Gerard’s strongpoint.
Gerard stopped at the mirror in the lobby and just looked at himself for a minute. He scrubbed at the eyeliner Ryan had put on him. Because who was he fooling, really? Getting all dressed up like this…
Frank was running down the hall towards him.
“Frank? Frank, are you okay? What –”
“I really…” Frank gasped. “I really want to go out with you. I do. I just… I usually hide in my work. To keep other people from getting hurt – I mean, to keep myself from getting hurt. But I don’t want to pass this by, you know?”
Gerard was grinning so hard it actually hurt. “I know.”
“Cool,” Frank said. He grabbed a fistful of Gerard’s shirt and yanked Gerard towards him. The kiss was short and hard, a little wet when Gerard gathered enough presence of mind to open his mouth a little and gasp.
“So,” Frank asked, smoothing out the front of Gerard’s shirt, wrinkled from where Frank grabbed him. “What are you doing Friday?”
Gerard was still grinning when Bill, Ryan, and Spencer came back from the party.
Ryan unknotted his scarf and threw it over the back of the couch. “We were wondering where you’d run off to.”
“Or with,” Spencer said wryly. “How’d it go?”
Gerard beamed. “Guess what?”
Bill kicked off his shoes. “He proposed?”
“You really can fit anything up there?”
Spencer elbowed Bill in the side. “What, Gerard?”
“He totally kissed me!”
“And they’ve got a date for Friday night!” Brendon burst out.
Bill pumped his fist into the air. “Well done, team!”
“It’s like having my own personal Queer Eye,” Gerard said thoughtfully. “You guys are going to help me out on Friday, right?” That used to be Mikey’s job, but the best he could do was make sure Gerard wasn’t totally covered in paint and/or coffee.
Ryan looked critically at him. “Sure. There’s something I’ve been wanting to try.”
Okay, that sounded vaguely ominous, but Gerard was pretty sure Spencer wouldn’t let Ryan get too out of hand.
But Spencer wasn’t paying attention. He was looking down at Frank’s apartment with a strange expression on his face instead.
“What?” Gerard said, looking over. “What? Oh.”
Bill propped his chin on the top of Gerard’s head. “Who’s that?”
“Oh, it’s… she…”
Brendon gasped. “Another woman!”
Gerard felt the bottom drop out of his stomach.
“Gee’s not a woman,” Ryan said dryly.
“Maybe they’re just good friends,” Spencer said reasonably. Gerard loved Spencer.
“Then why is he closing the blinds?” Bill argued. “He never closes the blinds.”
“Maybe she’s his sister!”
“He’s not Mormon, Brendon!” Ryan hissed.
Brendon picked up a pillow and lobbed it in Ryan’s direction. It knocked over a lamp. “Fuck you!”
Everyone else looked back at the silhouette of Frank and the mystery woman. Spencer pushed Bill off of Gerard’s shoulder and gave him a quick hug. “Gerard, I’m sorry.”
Gerard hugged him back for a second before settling down in the couch for some long-term wallowing. Maybe he could have Mikey come over. “It’s alright.” And it would be, eventually. It seems like Gerard always bounced back enough to get involved with another loser. “I don’t know what made me think this guy was different from any other.”
“It’s because you believe in people,” Ryan said softly. “Which, you know. Idealistic. Idealistic, but stupid.”
Strangely enough, that made Gerard feel slightly better.
Bill pulled off his shirt and tossed it on the floor. “Well, why don’t you come out with us? We’ll get roaring drunk and make out with each other while everyone watches.”
“Tempting, but no. Maybe some other time.” Gerard saw some really campy vampire flicks in his immediate future. Possibly a pint of Chunky Monkey.
Bill shrugged. “Suit yourself.” He strolled off to the closet with Ryan and Spencer.
Gerard flopped back onto the couch. Was there something wrong with him? What about him attracted all these losers?
“Are you gonna be okay?” Brendon asked softly.
“I think. You know, later.”
“I can’t even see you and I can tell how depressed you are. It’s like, waves of depression, man. You’re fucking with my chi.”
“Do you even know what that is?”
“No,” Brendon said promptly. “But your negative vibes are fucking with it anyway.”
Probably true. Gerard sighed. Definitely time for the Chunky Monkey. He looked down at Frank’s apartment again – he was nothing if not a glutton for punishment – just in time to see Frank’s shadow, holding what looked like a baseball bat, swing and smash the woman to the floor. Gerard could see her hand outstretched on the floor in the gap between the blinds.
Spencer ran out of the closet. “Okay,” he said. “Okay, that better not have been because Brendon saw a mouse again.”
“Oh my God.” Gerard thought he might be hyperventilating. Ryan and Bill popped their heads out of the closet, twin expressions of confusion on their faces. “Oh my God, Spencer. Spencer, he killed her.”
Spencer’s look would have been described as skeptical, at best. “What are you talking about?”
“Look!” Gerard flailed and pointed. “Look, she…”
There was nothing there.
“There was a body there,” Gerard said slowly. “I saw him. He had a bat, and he swung it. She was on the floor, right there.”
Spencer was restraining himself from rolling his eyes again. “Gerard, it’s been a long day. And not a great one, you probably…”
“I’m calling the police,” Gerard said decisively. He scrambled for the phone, and dialed 911. “Yes, police? I’d like to report a murder! Oh… Yeah. Yeah, I’ll hold.”
“So what happened?” Mikey squawked.
“They didn’t believe me,” Gerard said sullenly. “Bill kept talking about the schoolgirls and Brendon still had his sleep mask on and kept running into things and Ryan just sat around looking like a murderous hobo. I think the other cop spent most of time looking for drugs.”
Vicky looked like she was seriously trying not to laugh.
“And when they questioned Frank, apparently he told them that Jamia’d tripped and he was just helping her back up. But the police also said they couldn’t find her to talk to her because she was out of town on a “business trip.” Which, okay, have these guys ever even watched an episode of Law and Order?” Gerard had moved to full-on pouting.
The door creaked.
“Fuck!” Mikey croaked. “Alex never cuts his lunchbreak short!” Mikey threw himself at the nearest computer and started typing. Gerard and Vicky exchanged a look. They had no idea why Mikey bothered. Alex knew he wasn’t ever really working.
But it wasn’t Alex. It was all of Gerard’s roommates, in all their shiny, sparkly hotass glory. Nate looked like he was going to swallow his tongue.
Ryan got to the bottom of the stairs and clutched Spencer’s arm. “Not one step further,” he said firmly. “This place is filthy.”
Gerard frowned. “What are you guys doing here?”
“Look, Gerard. I talked to my therapist today, and she said you were projecting. What you thought you saw Frank do is really what you want to do to all your ex-boyfriends.”
“Why are you talking to your therapist about me?”
Ryan shrugged. “She says I talk too much about myself.”
Spencer pushed him. “Basically what we came down here to say is that we think you should keep your date with this Frank guy. I mean, the cops don’t have anything on him, right?”
Brendon beamed. “And he’s way too cute to be a killer!”
Like that was any kind of reason. Although in Brendon’s world – Gerard shook his head. “Thanks guys, but no. Why don’t you just go home?”
Mikey’s eyes widened. “Please don’t make them go home.”
Gerard shot him a dirty look before turning back to his roommates. “No offense, but I am not going on a date with Frank Anthony the serial killer. You guys didn’t see what I saw.”
“And you didn’t see what we saw when you were on the stairs with him.”
“Or on your face every time you watch him.”
“Particularly if he’s doing chin-ups.”
“You did spend all morning staring at that picture of him,” Nate added helpfully. Gerard thought about stabbing him in the throat.
“Big deal. He has a good face! And yeah, maybe there’s some mysterious yet valid explanation for what I saw, but why should I start going out with a guy when he’s shaping up to be a bigger liar then the rest of them?”
Bill snorted. “So what? All men lie. We know that, c’mon.”
Spencer pinched the bridge of his nose. “Gerard, if you don’t like what the police told you, why don’t you start your own investigation?”
“Ooh!” Brendon breathed. “Ooh, you could be like Nancy Drew! And you could totally find out if Frank is a nice guy or a serial killer.”
“Or if he’s lying about being married,” Ryan added seriously. Gerard didn’t want to know.
“Look! I don’t care about him!”
Nate sighed. “Dude, if you don’t sort this out, you’ll never have a good relationship for the rest of your life.”
“We totally saw it on Dr. Phil,” Ryland added seriously.
“You’ll end up an old lonely women whose coworkers make you watch lame-ass videos about their dog’s birthdays. And seriously, man, no one wants that.”
VickyT’s jaw dropped. “You say what you want about me, asshole, but you leave Gizmo out of it!”
Ryland ducked under the table just as Vicky threw a container of pens at Nate’s head.
“Enough!” Gerard shouted. “All of you! Shut up and listen to me! Men and women, gay and straight!”
“Delicious,” Ryland purred, peeking out from under the table. Vicky threw another pen at him.
“I don’t care about him. I don’t care about his eyes, or his tattoos, or the fact that he can do a zillion pully-uppy-things on that bar. And I don’t care about his sexy grin or the fact that he loves Doom Patrol, and I really don’t care that I fall asleep every night dreaming about him.” Gerard sniffed. “Because I am not crazy! I saw him kill that girl and I know it!”
“Delicious,” Ryland purred again, chuckling to himself.
This time Vicky threw a sketchpad. “Ryland!”
Ryland tossed the sketchpad back. “What? I only caught about every fifth word, but Gee’s totally head over heels!”
Gerard stamped his foot. “I am not!”
Gerard’s eyes narrowed. “Fine! Fine, I am going to stalk his ass just to prove to you that there is something wrong with him! And then, if I don’t end up dead, I’m going to say ‘I told you so’ and find someone normal to date. Someone like…. someone like Nate.”
Nate batted his eyelashes. Vicky pulled a face.
Brendon was currently drawing what looked like a mollusk on his arm with Sharpie.
Gerard sighed. “I dunno. Someone.”
“I don’t see why I have to wear leather pants,” Gerard grumbled.
“It was either that or the lace-up ones,” Bill said pleasantly. “Your choice.” Bill ended up wearing the lace-up pants in question, and what looked like half a shirt. “And not a bad look for you either, might I add.” Bill knocked sharply on the door and flung it open without waiting for a reply.
Gerard lifted an eyebrow at the nameplate on the door. Whoever ‘Travis McCoy’ was, Gerard hoped he’d be more amused by Bill’s antics than annoyed.
The room smelled like pot and nachos, and so far the guy behind the desk looked firmly on the side of amused.
“Can I help you?”
“We were in apartment 422 last night,” Bill purred. “And we want to be… discreet.”
“We. We left some clothes,” Gerard stuttered.
Bill sauntered towards the desk and grinned. “What he meant to say is – we left some black assless chaps. And a red dress.”
“And the rest of the props. From our, uh, act.”
Bill gave Gerard an approving look before turning back to the super. “You understand, don’t you?”
Travis looked Bill up and down. Bill – Gerard noticed, with a sudden sinking feeling – was looking back.
“You party like that a lot?”
Bill shrugged. “I like to party.”
“You know AK-47?” Travis countered. “I DJ there on Saturdays. I could make sure your name’s on the list.”
Bill grinned like a hyena. “Travis.” He slung himself over the desk. “Can I call you Travie?”
Travis grinned back tooth for tooth. “You can call me anything you like, as soon as you give me your name.”
Bill actually purred.
Gerard decided to wait for Bill outside.
Bill came back out wearing a huge grin and a red polo shirt that actually fit.
Gerard paused. “That wasn’t the shirt you were wearing before.”
Bill kept grinning. “No, it wasn’t.”
It took Gerard a minute. “Oh, my God.”
“Look at it this way. The next time we need something in the apartment fixed? We’re at the top of the list.” Bill shoved a key into Gerard’s hand. “And I got you into Mr. Hotass Psycho Killer’s Apartment, so stop your bitching and get up there before he comes home from work.”
Brendon came scrambling out of Frank’s bedroom waving a shirt over his head. “Guys,” he hissed. “Guys, look what I found!”
“Why are you whispering?”
“It adds to the intrigue.” Brendon waved the shirt again. “There’s a red stain all over it!”
“What, like blood?”
Brendon looked at them blankly. “I don’t know. But he didn’t presoak. That baby’s stuck in there for life.”
Ryan grabbed a handful of the shirt and peered at it anxiously. “This is going into evidence!” His eyes went a little unfocused. “Imagine if he really were a psycho killer. Living this close to us the whole time. How many women has he lured to his apartment? How many have ended up thrown out like yesterday’s garbage while we were sitting in the apartment above? Almost watching, almost knowing…”
Brendon took a step back. “Ryan?”
“Stop talking like that.”
Gerard snatched the shirt away from Brendon to peer at the shirt more closely. Then he rolled his eyes. “There’s a yellow stain right next to it.”
Brendon tilted his head, like maybe that would make more sense sideways.
Gerard groaned. “It’s ketchup.”
Ryan frowned in disappointment.
“Gerard,” Bill called out. “If you find twenty dollars in someone’s apartment, is that the same as finding twenty dollars on the street?”
Bill sat back down. “Then I definitely didn’t find anything.”
Ryan’s eyes widened again. “Oh, oh, yes you did.” He snatched a box out from under Bill’s elbow.
Brendon’s jaw dropped. “Is that a box of knives?”
“Not knives. Daggers.” Ryan’s eyes started to unfocus again. “Do you know what he could do with daggers?”
“Stop right there, seriously.”
Gerard put Spencer on lookout, since Brendon’s attention span had a half-life of about five seconds, Ryan seemed like the type of guy to let Frank into the apartment “just to see what would happen,” and Gerard didn’t trust Bill not to drink himself into a stupor. Or go have sex with Travis again.
It was probably a good choice, because even though Spencer was polishing his shoes he still managed to notice Frank heading up the stairs to the apartment.
Spencer would later protest that he had to do some quick thinking, and could not be totally blamed for his thought process at the time.
He threw a kiwi at the window of Frank’s apartment.
Ryan frowned. “Is that a kiwi?”
Everyone looked at the window. Bill planted his hand on his hip and frowned. “What is Spencer doing, charades?”
Spencer was stamping his feet on their balcony, and pointing at the phone.
“Dude, no props in charades!” Brendon tilted his head again. “No props, and no clothes. Uncle Gabe’s rules.”
“Ew.” Ryan almost broke monotone.
Bill looked sick. “Please stop talking about your Uncle Gabe. Please.”
“What?” Gerard squawked. The others turned to look at where he was clutching the phone. “Did you… Frank’s in the hallway?” He slammed the phone down and turned to the others, wide-eyed. “Hide!”
Bill pulled the shower curtain completely shut before pouting. “I was here first!”
Ryan elbowed him.
Bill gasped. “You punctured my lung, you bony fucker.”
Brendon giggled. “Ryan’s wee! You’re lucky he didn’t puncture a testicle.”
Then Ryan elbowed Brendon.
“Shut up,” Ryan said serenely. “You don’t want Frank to find you and… and make lampshades out of your skin.”
“Shut up. I could get worse.”
Brendon shut up.
Okay, so, it had seemed like a good idea to hide under the desk at the time.
“Brian, hey, it’s me. The Cortez meeting went well. I had to eat more of those fucking pirogies, but I should get a meeting with the chairman soon. Okay. Yeah, see you in fifteen. Perfect.”
Gerard stared at Frank’s Chucks until the door closed behind him. He was even in love with the man’s footwear.
Gerard poked glumly at the desk.
Mikey watched him surreptitiously. “Well,” he finally ventured. “He sounds pretty damn normal.”
“Yeah, nothing really shouts out “psycho killer,” but I still feel like I’m missing something.”
“Might I add,” Mikey said off-handedly, “That as someone who spent three-fourths of his life-to-date in a basement watching slasher films, you don’t have much of a leg to stand on about what makes a person normal.”
Gerard scowled. “You think I’d be able to spot a serial killer at ten paces though.”
The door flung open, and Gerard stifled a shriek when Frank stumbled in with two cups of coffee in hand.
“Oh, hey,” Frank grinned at him, extra bright. “I’ve been looking for you! Dude, this place is a rat trap.”
“Frank! How’d you get in here?” Gerard grappled for his sharpest, pointiest pen. If Frank came near him, Gerard was going to give it his best shot of taking out an eye. Or giving him ink poisoning.
“The guard let me in when I mentioned your name.”
Damn Worm. Damn Worm all. To. Hell.
Mikey raised an eyebrow. “Oh, so you’re Frank.” He grinned. “The Frank.”
Frank blushed a little. “Nice to know I’ve been talked about.”
“You have no idea.”
“Oh, Frank, uhm. This is my brother, Mikey. He’s…” Gerard mentally flailed. “He’s a black-belt in karate.”
Mikey raised his other eyebrow.
Frank grinned again. “Hey, me too!”
Mikey took a step around the other side of the table.
“Sorry for barging in, but I got off work early, and they’re having an all-night Nightmare on Elm Street marathon at the old theater over on Figaro. I was wondering if you wanted to come?”
“I, uhm. I don’t feel comfortable leaving with you. I mean, I don’t feel comfortable leaving my work. Because of work! I can’t leave this. The, uh, work.” Gerard gestured towards his desk. His packrat messiness made it look like he was actually swamped.
Frank ducked his head. “I totally understand. Paperwork. It totally creeps up on you, and then, like attacks.”
Gerard laughed nervously.
“And, uh, sorry if I startled you, but it’s just me. Not some psycho killer, right?”
Gerard clutched the pen tighter. “Ahahaha. Right.”
“I just didn’t want to wait until Friday to see you,” Frank said softly, and leaned in to place one soft kiss to Gerard’s jaw.
It was disturbing how quickly Gerard could move from terrified to wanting to melt and throw himself into Frank’s arms.
“Oh, and this is for you too.” Frank placed a cup of coffee on the desk in front of Gerard. “I asked Jon what your usual was.”
“You know Jon?”
The grin was back. “I know he works at the Starbucks closest to our apartment building.”
Gerard took a wary sip from the coffee cup. “Oh God.” A double-shot low-fat sugar-free venti vanilla latte. “You’re my hero.” He hesitated a moment before leaning in and pressing his own small kiss to Frank’s cheekbone. “Still on for Friday?”
And Frank’s grin was even more dazzling up close. “Definitely.”
Mikey waited a full two seconds after Frank shut the door to ask, “So hey, did the police ever contact that woman or find her body?”
Gerard chugged half of the coffee in one go. “Thanks. Thank you so much. You couldn’t have just let me enjoy that for a minute.”
Gerard spent the next few days following Frank everywhere. When he went to lunch, on photo shoots, schmoozing, even signing for garments outside of a warehouse. Gerard had a date with potential murderer in 24 hours, and all he knew about Frank was that he preferred red wine to white, tipped well, schmoozed even better, and had handwriting like a doctor’s.
Time to visit Travis again.
“Heeeeey,” Travis greeted him. “Gee Way, my second-favorite tenant. What’s up?”
“Does Frank rent a storage space?”
Travis raised an eyebrow. “Is Bill coming to see my set Saturday night?”
Gerard tried not to think about Bill and Travis having sex on the desk. Tried and failed. “If I have to pour two bottles of tequila down his throat and drag him there myself.”
Travis whistled. “You’re pretty devious, Gee Way.”
“Gotta be to get what I want,” Gerard said grimly.
Gerard squinted down at his palm. Number 262, 20-3-27. Or was it 20-5-27? Gerard tried it once each way. Then twice. Then he tried 28-5-27. 28-3-27. Still no luck. Why hadn’t he brought Spencer for this? Spencer seemed so capable. Spencer probably stared at locks until they just cracked.
Someone was coming down the stairs.
Gerard stifled a squeak and ran around the corner. He’d spent a lot of his high school career hiding from the assholes on the lacrosse team, so at least this part of the adventure was second nature.
He had to stifle another squeak when it turned out to be Frank.
“Shit,” Gerard whispered. “Shit shit shit.”
When Frank opened the locker, a large duffel bag fell out and hit the ground with a loud thump. Frank slung the bag over his shoulder, and Gerard tried not to think about how it was roughly the size of a person.
He followed Frank anyway.
“This better be important.”
“Guys, it’s me. I found it, I fucking found it.”
“I found the body. Frank was keeping it in a duffel bag in his locker! It was the only place we didn’t search!”
“Where are you now?”
“Central park. The only place around to even bury a body. Seriously, who comes here after dark besides murderers anyway? Shit. Shit, he stopped. Go past, go past. I… okay, pull off here, thanks. Okay, yeah, I’m still following him.”
“Do you think maybe one of us should hang up and call the police?”
“Hang up on me and I will cut up all your Versace.”
“Okay, calm down. No need to bring the Versace into this.”
“Oh my God.”
“He just pulled out a shovel. He’s going to bury it right here! Wait. Wait it’s not a shovel… it’s a baseball bat?”
“Gerard, oh my God, run!”
“Oh. Oh, guys. He coaches a Little League team! That’s so sweet! Isn’t that sweet?”
“Guys? Guys, hello?”
“Gerard, please tell me you’re going to go out with him now.”
Someone knocked on the door in the middle of Bill’s exercise program. Bill rolled his eyes. He hated being interrupted during Pilates. By the time he’d untangled himself, the knocking at the door had grown more insistent. Bill yanked open the door with a sour look on his face.
“The waiting list for dinner doesn’t start for another four hours,” he growled, but stopped when he realized he was nearly the same height as the person he was growling at. “But we could always make an exception for someone of your stature.” Bill was partial to people actually taller than he was. Mm, those thighs.
“Oh no,” the stranger said. Bill blinked. His voice had been a bit higher than what Bill had been expecting. “My name is Toro. Ray Toro. I’m here to see a Mr. Gerard Way about some comics?”
Bill pouted. “He’s in here.” Well, at least maybe with a guy like this Gerard would forget about his weird Frank-obsession. If not, Bill saw nothing wrong with sloppy seconds. Or thirds, for that matter. “Gerard!” He looked Mr. Toro up and down one more time before frowning and going back to his Pilates.
Gerard stumbled out of his closet-bedroom. “Mr. Toro, hi! I’m Gerard Way. We talked on the phone?”
Mr. Toro had a really strong handshake. “Ray Toro.”
Gerard raised an eyebrow at his roommates. Bill was folding himself into a pretzel, Ryan was watching Bill, looking for all the world like a giant Siamese cat, and Brendon was doing his facial exercises in a nearby mirror.
“Why don’t we head into the other room?”
“Of course, of course. You have some interesting roommates,” Mr. Toro said politely.
“They’re models,” Gerard said conspiratorially, and Mr. Toro laughed.
Gerard snorted. “They just needed another roommate. You wanted to talk about some comics?”
Mr. Toro set his briefcase down and pulled out a small pile of comics. “I recently bought a number of blind items at a charity auction. Apparently the late owner of the estate was quite the comic collector. I, to be quite honest, have no idea what any of these are worth.” He set a small pile of comics on the table carefully. “Is this something you’d be interested in doing?”
Gerard’s jaw dropped. “This is a Detective Comics #38,” he said, picking up the top comic gingerly. “Do you have…” Gerard squeaked and cleared his throat. “Do you have any idea what this is worth?” When Gerard finally caught his breath, he turned toward Mr. Toro with a quizzical expression. “Not that I mind the opportunity, but… I’m sorry, why are you asking me to do this?”
“Well, I simply asked one of my employees to look around for someone with knowledge of comic books. You work at Cartoon Network, I believe?”
“Well,” Mr. Toro said quietly, smiling, “Someone there said you were just the man for the job. I don’t need much, really. Just some cataloguing, maybe selling or repairing a few of the items.”
Gerard grinned. “That I can do.”
As he was gathering his briefcase and coat, Mr. Toro looked out the window and into Frank’s apartment. “Interesting view,” he noted, smiling politely.
Gerard flushed. Busted. “Oh, yeah. I mean, if you’re into that sort of thing. We usually keep the blinds closed.”
Mr. Toro made a small, agreeable noise, and Gerard quickly walked him out.
Spencer tapped his foot impatiently, waiting for his turn on the runway. His first big show, and they’d done something absolutely ridiculous to his hair, not to mention that the makeup girl hadn’t been anywhere near as talented as Ryan. He looked down over the catwalk, watching some of the models and designers go by.
And Frank, Spencer suddenly noticed, perking up. He walked down the overhang, standing about where Frank was talking to a dark-haired women in a bright pink jacket and oversized sunglasses.
“So do you know what happened to Jamia?”
Frank’s hand twitched. “Jamia?”
The woman shook her head. “You know, Jamia? No one’s seen her since your party.”
“Really? That’s odd.”
“Yeah, everyone’s been looking for her!”
“I, uh.” Frank tapped his foot rapidly. “I think she said something about going on vacation.”
“During fashion week? But that’s insane!”
Frank looked uncomfortable. “Good seeing you, Alicia. Love the jacket, by the way. One of yours?”
Alicia beamed, and she and Frank walked arm and arm towards one of the exits.
Spencer stared at them for a minute before taking his turn down the runway.
“Spencer!” Gerard screeched. “SPENCER!”
Spencer didn’t look up from his book. “If you think Frank killed someone again, I don’t want to know.”
“Ryan’s trying to put a stripe across my eyes!” Gerard wailed. “A sparkly blue one!”
Spencer sighed loudly. “George Ryan Ross, stop torturing Gerard.”
The apartment went deadly silent.
Ryan stamped out of the bathroom. “You did not.”
Spencer looked unconcerned. “Just fix his hair and put some eyeliner on him. And no black clothing!”
Ryan crossed his arms and tapped his foot. Spencer pulled out his bitchface.
Bill’s gaze kept sliding toward nearby sources of alcohol and Brendon sank even deeper into his hoodie. Gerard thought suddenly of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Spencer relented. “I was thinking the storm grey Dior shirt, dark jeans.”
When Ryan nodded Brendon sighed with relief and Bill scrambled towards the bar.
Gerard stamped his foot. “Hello? Date with a really hot guy in half an hour! If you screw this up for me, I will kill you.”
All right, so far so good. Gerard hadn’t spilled anything on his shirt, which not only would have been embarrassing but Ryan also would have killed him for. There hadn’t been any glaring signs of crazy – re: the time Gerard went out with the cute guy from the Billy and Mandy team that turned out to be a Scientologist – and Frank was completely and totally the most awesome fucking thing ever. Gerard was going to have to prevent himself from continually stalking him.
Fuck. “I totally just zoned out, didn’t I?”
Frank smiled. “Yeah, but I was babbling like an idiot, so that’s probably a good thing.”
“Sorry.” Gerard made a little circular motion near his temple. “My brain goes completely walk-about sometimes. Uh. Can I ask an odd question?”
“Sure,” Frank said easily. “Shoot.”
“What did you want to do when you grew up?”
Frank held up his fists, knuckles out. “Be in a band. Couldn’t you tell?”
Gerard couldn’t help smirking. “How hardcore of you.”
“Shut the fuck up!” When Gerard burst out laughing, Frank grinned and bounced in his seat. “No, seriously. I had all these bands when I was in high school and college. The last one… Christ, the last one, I haven’t thought of that in ages. We were actually good. Could’ve maybe made it if we hadn’t, you know, imploded.”
“What’d you play?”
“Guitar. I was the frontman too. Screamed my fucking throat raw,” Frank said fondly. “It was kickass.”
“Do you miss it?”
“Sometimes, sure. Who wouldn’t want to be a rock star?” Frank absently rolled up his sleeves. “What about you? What did you want to be when you grew up?”
“Fuck, I never knew. I still don’t. Like, my job is fun enough, I guess. Just…” Gerard trailed off, twisting his hands in the bottom hem of his shirt. “When I was growing up, I was always the weird artistic kid. I never really had this burning vision to do much with it though. Make art? A comic book? A cartoon?” Gerard smiled ruefully. “At least I slid sideways with mine. How did you end up in fashion?”
Frank shrugged. “Just one of those things, I guess. Fell into it after college – some lame, low-level distribution job at a fashion company.” Then he grinned. “I’m pretty sharp though, so.”
“Worked your way up through the ranks, huh?”
“Like a shark.”
“Right. A tiny, colorful shark.”
“I’m deceptive. Like a stealth shark.”
“Would that be better or worse than a pirate shark?”
“Isn’t a pirate shark a bit of an oxymoron? Like, all the other sharks would try to eat it in the water!”
After Frank has signaled for the check, he smiled brightly at Gerard from across the table. “So I was thinking that after this we could go see Iron Man, if you wanted.”
“I saw it last week with Mikey,” Gerard confessed. “And not that I wouldn’t want to see it again…”
“Coffee at my place?”
Gerard put his hand over Frank’s. “Like I’d ever turn down coffee.”
“I’m stealthy like that,” Frank said.
Back at the apartment, Gerard watched Frank unbutton the top button on his shirt, suddenly reminded of all the other tattoos Frank had underneath and all over his skin.
“Coffee?” Frank asked, and Gerard paused.
“Can it be metaphorical coffee?”
Frank put his hands on Gerard’s hips and smiled. “I can get you literal coffee later.”
“A lot later?”
“Tomorrow morning later, if you want. Tomorrow afternoon even.”
If Frank didn’t stop, Gerard was going to drag Frank off to Vegas and marry him. He reached out to finish unbuttoning Frank’s shirt.
“Wait!” Frank grabbed for Gerard’s hand. “Look – fuck, okay – I know this isn’t the most guy-like thing ever to say, but you hardly know me. Do you think maybe… we should take this a bit slower?”
Gerard couldn’t help snickering. “Oh, I think I know you all too well.”
Frank raised an eyebrow.
Gerard panicked again. “I mean. It feels like I do?”
Frank grinned and leaned in to kiss Gerard again, hands curled up in the hair tucked behind his ears. “Yeah, you’re right. I’ve wanted to do this to do this ever since Hamlet first drooled on you.”
Gerard smiled and ducked his head. “Me too.”
“Do you believe in love at first sight?” Frank asked, yanking on the hem of Gerard’s shirt. “’Cause you make me think…”
Gerard squirmed when Frank’s hands dug into his side. “Fuck, I’m ticklish, you bastard.”
Frank kept grinning – “Yeah?” – and did it again. Gerard squeaked.
“Stop it, seriously. I’m fucking spastic when people tickle me.”
“Only when people tickle you?”
Gerard’s eyes narrowed. “And what about you, Mr. Anthony? Any ticklish spots I should know about?”
“My dick,” Frank says, totally straight-faced. “Ticklish as fuck, I swear. You could get your revenge.”
Gerard groped for the front of Frank’s pants, gratified when Frank whimpered. “Serves you right. And no, I don’t.”
“Don’t what? Put out on the first date? Because we’ve pretty much established that you’re that kind of girl, Gee.”
Gerard snorted. “No, I meant I don’t believe in love at first sight. It’s too easy, you know? I believe in taking a closer look at someone. Making sure you really like what you see.”
“And?” Frank asked softly.
Gerard kissed the corner of Frank’s mouth. “I’m here, aren’t I?”
“Do you think we should tell Gerard?”
Spencer shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s probably nothing.”
“We should probably at least say something.”
“Spencer doesn’t want to ruin their relationship,” Ryan explained. Brendon nodded sagely.
“Which seems to be going very well, by the way,” Bill yelled. “They’re really clicking sexually!”
Ryan didn’t lift his head from the counter. “And how would you know that? Your slut sense?”
This time Bill cackled. “He forgot to close the bliiii-iiinnds!”
Spencer grabbed his pint of emergency Phish Food out of the freezer. “Time to relocate to the couch, boys.”
“Okay, so.” Frank began. “I have decided to start a new religion. It’s called Gerardism, and it’s basically me, worshipping you.”
Gerard grinned. “Well then, maybe it’s time for a little confession.”
Frank squinted. “Can the confession wait until after I blow you?”
Okay, yes. It totally could.
“Seriously though.” Gerard struggled to sit upright. “Tell me more about you.”
“All of your secrets,” Gerard said, in his best mad scientist voice, and it was just proof of Frank’s awesomeness that he only grinned and poked Gerard in the stomach.
“I’m not really a ‘secrets’ kind of guy.”
Gerard put on his best puppy dog eyes. “Come on. Tell me something.”
“Tell me something about you first,” Frank countered. “Something you’ve never, ever told anyone.
“In college, I used to dress up in drag sometimes,” Gerard said promptly. “And just hang around campus like any other girl.”
It seemed like it took Frank a long time to blink. “Really.”
“I think that’s less of a secret than a secret weapon, but okay. Fuck,” Frank said harshly, biting off the word. “Fuck yeah, you’d be hot in a dress.”
Gerard felt his skin flush.
“You don’t do it anymore?”
“Not for awhile.” Gerard leaned back against the couch and smiled, sharp and bright. “Maybe in return for a really amazing secret.”
Frank looked sideways at Gerard. “Well, there is one fact I’ve been hiding from you.”
“Yeah.” Frank stood up, walked over to his desk. “I’m actually a master at daggers.”
These sudden flashes of complete and utter terror were really unappealing in every way.
“A… a master of daggers?”
“Uh huh.” Frank was playing around with one of them now. Gerard felt like now would be a good time to confess to a fear of sharp objects. He’d thought it was just needles, but no. Daggers were definitely on the list.
Frank grinned wickedly, and let the dagger fly.
Gerard shrieked and ducked his head under the nearest pillow. “Motherfuck.” Then he frantically checked all his extremities. Oh my God, how was he going to work without fingers?
When he looked up Frank was laughing at him, and the dagger Frank had thrown was stuck in the plaster near the corner of the room, far away from any of Gerard’s limbs or his pretty face.
“Hey!” Gerard said indignantly. “Hey, don’t laugh, I totally know your secret!”
Frank raised an eyebrow.
“You throw like a girl.” Gerard smiled, and pulled Frank back onto the bed.
It never occurred to Gerard that if he’d looked more closely at where the dagger had landed, he might have seen something beneath it – a small black fly, still twitching.
Gerard nearly danced his way back to the apartment. In fact, he might even have attempted to two-step his way across the lobby; there were no witnesses but Zack, and Zack had already seen him run over by Hamlet and act like a complete idiot over Frank before, so what was the harm?
His good mood lasted until he got back to the apartment, and found everyone laying around in front of the window.
“Ohhhhh fuck,” he hissed. “Fuck, I forgot to close the blinds.”
“Gee, darling,” Bill said lazily, stretching out on the divan. “After that performance, I want to be your friend.”
Brendon grinned. “And how’d you do that thing with your back? There’s a party trick I’d like to learn.”
Ryan and Spencer just snickered.
“Okay. Okay, I could get totally freaked out about this, but you know what? I’m not. This is weird, but Frank and I are going away to Vermont for the weekend to like, hike or fucking something, and I’m probably going to break a leg, but it will be worth it because I’ll just make my perfect, hot, overly tattooed boyfriend give me apology blowjobs.”
“Congratulations,” Ryan says wryly. “You’ve bagged him.”
Gerard beamed. “I’m trying not to get too excited, ‘cause I’ve still got work. Actually, fuck, I’m gonna be late. Someone make me coffee?” he called out, slamming the closet door behind him.
Brendon bounced so hard he almost fell off the end of the couch. “If they get married, I wanna do the shower!”
Ryan almost smiled. “I'll do the reception.”
Bill smirked. “I’ll do the groomsmen.”
“Not to be the bearer of bad news,” Spencer broke in. “But he’s taking Gerard away. Maybe permanently away?”
There was a collective ohhhh. Spencer tried not to roll his eyes, because if they ever got stuck like that he was so fucked.
Gerard rushed back in. “Hey Brendon, can I borrow that red shirt again?”
Brendon stepped behind Spencer. “I dunno, dude. If I give it to you, I might never see it again.”
Ryan elbowed him.
“Fine! Take it away!”
The doorbell rang.
“Dibs!” Brendon hollered, and scrambled away.
Gerard finished mashing the shirt into his backpack. “Did I miss something?”
Spencer crossed his arms. “It’s just… at yesterday’s show, I heard someone asking Frank about that girl. Jamia? It turns out that she’s still missing.”
“And you were worried about me.”
“That’s… kind of sweet, Spencer.”
Ryan nodded. “You bring out his maternal instinct.” Spencer shoved him onto the couch.
Brendon skipped back over, arm and arm with Mikey. “Gerard! Gerard, your brother’s here!”
“So I see.” Was Mikey… smiling?”
“Hey, Gee. I thought we could walk to work together.”
“Mikey,” Gerard said dazedly. “It’s like a block away.”
Mikey gave him the evil eye. “I thought you could use the company.”
“Gerard,” Spencer started. “Look, about Frank…”
“It’s okay,” Gerard interrupted. “Seriously, it’s totally okay. I have followed him, I have searched his apartment, and now that I know him…” Gerard blushed. “Intimately.”
“Gee, you left the blinds up.” Bill grinned and gave him a thumbs up. “We all know him intimately.”
“Gerard, it’s not like….” Spencer paused. “We want it to work out between you too. I mean, if it can work out between you guys after all this? The rest of us might actually have a shot.”
“Yeah,” Ryan echoed softly. “Right now we’re hothouse flowers in bloom, but in a few years we’re going to be the wilting daisies panhandlers sell on corners. Faded before our time from the misuse of –”
Spencer cut him off at the pass. “The point is, we’re going to want real relationships before then.”
“Preferably with at least a four-caret ring, D-flawless,” Ryan cut back in.
“Yeah, me too. But I want A-flawless,” Bill purred.
Ryan rolled his eyes. “You can’t have A-flawless. Diamond ratings start with D!”
“You can’t fool me, I want A.”
Gerard grabbed Mikey’s arm and pulled him towards the door. “Going now, bye!”
Alex paused over Gerard’s desk. “Is this your new concept?”
“Wow. It’s.” Alex scratched his head. “I liked the outline you sent me, but it’s actually pretty amazing.”
Gerard grinned. “Yeah. He is.”
On the way to meet Frank for the weekend, Gerard reflected that this was pretty much the happiest he’d been in a long time – maybe in his whole life. He had a real relationship with a guy who wasn’t a pervert, alcoholic, drug addict, sexaholic, in the closet, commitment-phobic, or, probably most importantly, a serial killer.
He kind of felt like skipping until he passed the first newsstand.
BODY OF MISSING GARMENT EXEC FOUND WITH NO CLOTHES, the headline screamed, and there was a large, grainy picture of a garbage bag with a hand peeking out right below it, with another smaller portrait of Jamia to the side.
Gerard ran the rest of the way to Frank’s building.
“When are we meeting?” Frank asked.
“There’s time for just a brief meeting,” Mr. Toro said evenly. “At five o’clock, on the runway.”
Frank bounced on the balls of his feet. “Fucking fantastic, man. Which airport?”
Gerard whapped Frank in the back of the head with the newspaper. “What the fuck is this?”
“Fuck!” Frank spun around. “Gerard! What are you doing here?”
Gerard shoved the newspaper in Frank’s face, less violently, but still with no little force. “You just helped her up, right? She tripped and you helped her up!”
Frank looked completely confused. “What are you talking about?”
“This is the woman I saw in your apartment. Jamia? The woman… The woman I saw you kill.” Gerard’s voice wavered on the last word. Holy fuck, was he seriously confronting a murderer with a piece of newspaper? Where was his survival instinct?
“What do you mean saw?”
Gerard frowned. “Okay, so my apartment overlooks yours and I can see everything you do. Like, everything.”
“I know,” Gerard sighed. “I know I should have told you, but I didn’t. Mr. Toro knows! Wait. How do you know Mr. Toro?”
“Gerard,” Mr. Toro said evenly.
Gerard got a bad feeling at the very base of his spine.
Frank grabbed for Gerard’s wrist. “Uhm, you know what, Gee? Why don’t we get to the car, we’re really late.”
Gerard took a step back. “I’m not going anywhere with you.”
“Actually,” Mr. Toro broke in. “I think you’re both coming with me.
Once Gerard saw Mr. Toro’s gun, things got hazy really quickly. Gerard spent about two seconds wishing that he’d been a little nicer to Mikey this morning before moving straight on to just freaking out. In those two seconds, Frank managed to punch Mr. Toro, throw daggers at two men near the door, and drag Gerard outside and stuff him upside down into a car.
Which, okay, that might have been more than two seconds. Gerard might be freaking out.
“Let go of me!” Gerard shrieked, trying to right himself and mostly just flailing and smacking himself in the face. “Let go of me!”
“Stop it!” Frank shouted.
Something flew past Gerard’s feet and hit the windshield. Gerard couldn’t stop shrieking. “Are they shooting at us? Are they shooting at us?! I can’t believe this is happening. You’re gonna whack me. You were gonna take me to Vermont and whack me!”
Frank swatted at Gerard’s feet. “Stop it, okay? I’m not going to whack anyone!”
“Why was Mr. Toro shooting at us?”
“Because he’s not ‘Mr. Toro,” Frank hissed. “He’s Raymond Toroporta, a very well-connected Russian criminal. And now he’s a very pissed off well-connected Russian criminal. Thanks so much for that.”
“So what, are you a cop?”
“Kind of?” Gerard screeched. “Let me see your badge!”
Frank swatted at Gerard’s feet again. “I don’t have one!”
“Why don't you have a badge?”
“Because I'm undercover!”
“Well, hey!” Gerard didn’t know his voice could get this high. “You know what? I'm undercover too! Did you want to see my badge? Oopsie! I don't have one!”
Frank looked like he was going to explode. “Would you calm the fuck down?” He pulled the car over into an alleyway. Gerard frantically pulled at the door-handle until he tumbled out and onto the pavement.
“Will you stop it!” Frank snapped. “What’s the matter with you?”
Gerard actually stopped and stared at him. “Uh, maybe the part where I saw you murder that woman.”
Frank rolled his eyes. “You didn’t see me murder anyone! That whole thing was staged for Toroporta. He was watching from a building across the street.”
Gerard was officially confused. “What?”
“I’m with the FBI. So is Jamia.”
“FBI?” Gerard repeated dumbly. Just… what?
“Yeah, FBI,” Frank said patiently. “Jamia’s cover got blown, so we used it as an opportunity to prove my loyalty. That picture in the news? We planted it. Toroporta was getting suspicious when no body turned up.”
“But.” Okay, so. That made sense. “But what do these Russian guys do?”
Frank sighed and ran one hand through his hair. “Look, when criminals like Toroporta make millions of illegal dollars, they can’t just put it in the bank. They have to launder it somehow. So they find a young hotshot like me, they give me the money, I buy the dresses from Antwerp, and then they import them back here. After all that, the money’s clean.”
“But that must be a lot of a dresses. Millions of dollars worth?”
Frank slammed his hand onto the hood of the car. “But that’s the thing. They’re hardly importing any dresses.”
Gerard was still totally confused. “Then how do they get their money back?’
“I was about to find out before you showed up early and blew my cover!”
Gerard chewed on his bottom lip. “I was only early because I was so excited about going away for the weekend with you.”
Frank sighed, uncurling his fists. “Me too. Look, Gerard, I’m sorry. I didn’t plan to meet you, or get so involved, or…” Frank’s phone started to ring. “Just… hang on.” He turned away. “Brian! Yeah. Yeah, it’s definitely Toroporta. He was talking about a meeting at a runway at five. No, I don’t know which one. No. No, Gerard showed up early and blew my cover.”
Something finally clicked in Gerard’s head.
“Uhm. If Toroporta knows that I saw Jamia’s murder, or – fake-murder, or whatever… what about my roommates?”
“Oh. Oh shit.” Gerard hopped back in the car.
When Frank peeled to a stop in front of Gerard’s apartment building, a large blond guy with a gun was pushing Spencer, Bill, Ryan, and Brendon into a small white panel van. And when Frank jumped out, guns blazing – which Gerard could objectively admit was pretty hot – it even seemed like things were going to be okay.
“FBI! Freeze! Put your hands on your head!”
Spencer, Bill, Ryan, and Brendon all did so obediently.
Frank shook his head. “Not you guys! Him!”
Toroporta’s henchman started to slowly raise his hands to his head.
That’s when Gerard heard the barking.
“Hamlet, stay!” Frank shouted. “Hamlet, no!”
The whole ‘one hundred pounds of flying dog’ thing was getting really old really fast. By the time Gerard managed to push Hamlet’s snout out of his crotch and stand up, Toroporta’s henchman had his gun to Frank’s head.
They were driven to the warehouse and chained to a garment rack while the big blond guy watched them impassively. Gerard was a lot more scared of him than Toroporta, he wasn’t going to lie.
“These handcuffs are too tight,” Bill grumbled.
Ryan snorted. “And he would know.”
“He’s the kinky one,” Brendon whispered.
There was a brief scuffle where Bill tried to kick Ryan from the other side of the garment rack. Toro’s henchman watched it with a kind of detached amusement.
Spencer sighed. “Will someone please tell me what is going on?”
Gerard let his head hang against one of the metal bars. “Frank’s an undercover FBI agent.”
Brendon tilted his head to look up at Gerard. “No he’s not. Everyone knows he’s Frank Anthony.”
“Oh my God,” Gerard said dazedly. “Oh my God, I slept you with and I don’t even know your real name.”
“It’s, uh. Frank, still. Frank Iero.”
“Frank Iero.” Gerard tried it out. “Iero. Frank Iero. I’m going to die next to a man with too many vowels in his name!”
“I can’t die here,” Ryan said, slightly panicked. “This place is filled with ugly dresses!”
Spencer sighed, mostly looking bored by the whole ordeal. “Frank, or whoever the hell you are, if you’re ever pretending to be in the fashion business again, here’s a little bit of advice. Except for strippers, women like jewelry on their fingers, not on their tits.”
Ryan snorted again. “And he would know.”
“He’s the straight one,” Brendon whispered to Frank. Frank looked suitably impressed.
“Maybe there are a lot of strippers in Antwerp,” Gerard suggested. What was in Antwerp, anyway? Besides the Russian mob.
Bill sneered. “Antwerp? Nobody makes dresses in Antwerp.”
“The only thing that comes from Antwerp is diamonds,” Ryan said dreamily. “Good ones.”
Next to Gerard, Frank went very still. “Antwerp,” he said softly. “Antwerp, Russia.” Frank pushed himself up on his knees and mouthed the glittering edge of one of the dresses on the rack. “Motherfuck…” A second later he spit something shiny out onto the floor. “If that was a rhinestone, I would have been able to bite through it instead of chipping a tooth. The dresses. I was so obsessed with tracking the money I forgot about the dresses. Antwerp. Antwerp, Russia! They weren’t laundering money, they were smuggling diamonds!”
Gerard idly thought that this would have made a kickass comic book.
Brendon looked puzzled. “But you can go to Tiffany’s and have a fat businessman from Chicago buy you all the diamonds you want.”
“Not Russian diamonds,” Ryan corrected. “It’s illegal to take them out of the country.”
Toroporta’s henchman shoved back his chair and stood. “Diamonds, huh. So that’s why Toroporta never let us take any of the dresses.”
Everyone looked at him.
He looked evenly back. “For my girlfriend. Or wife. I could have one.”
“Bob,” Frank said evenly. “If you get us out of here, and turn state’s evidence, I guarantee they’ll go easy on you. Think about it. Federal Witness Protection Program? I hear we’re booking people into Hawaii right now.”
Bob ignored them.
Spencer rolled his eyes. “Must I do everything?” he hissed. “Robya, Послушай меня.”
“Is he speaking in tongues?” Gerard whispered. He would totally trust Spencer to like, call up Satan and save them. It’s probably how he got the hips.
“Russian,” Frank whispered back, fingers curled around the bar next to Gerard’s. “Look, Gerard…”
Whatever it was, it was totally working. Spencer kept talking, Bob looked mildly interested, and once Spencer twisted and arched his back and just did…. God, something with his hips, Gerard was pretty interested too.
Then when Bob got close enough, Frank whipped out one leg and hit Bob in the back of the knees. Bob went down like a sack of bricks, when Frank kicked him once more across the face he was out for the count.
“Well,” Bill said, unwillingly impressed. “At least he wasn’t lying about the black belt.”
“See, the dresses ship out of Russia with diamonds on them. Once they get to the warehouse, the diamonds are replaced by cheap zirconias before they’re shipped out again.” Frank yanked a bejeweled sleeve off of one of the dresses.
“What’s that for?” Ryan asked curiously.
Ryan reached around him and pulled the other one off.
Frank furrowed his brow. “What’s that for?”
Frank rolled his eyes. “We need to keep moving.” He reached for Gerard’s elbow, but Gerard stepped quickly out of range.
“So everything we’ve been through together has been a lie.”
“Not everything,” Frank burst out. “Just the little things!”
“Like your name, your job, the fact that all of your exes are in the witness protection program…” Gerard had a flair for the dramatic when he let himself get going.
“Shit.” Frank yanked on Gerard’s arm, pulling him back towards the other side of the warehouse. “We need to go. The rest of Toroporta’s guys are here.”
Brendon paused where he was pushing through one of the marginally less hideous garment racks. “So what you’re saying is…”
They ran. They ran all the way though the warehouse and out towards the loading area, where a stretch limo was idling outside.
“The limo!” Frank yelled. “Get in the limo!”
Brendon and Bill slid over the top and in through the sky roof headfirst. Spencer and Ryan glanced at one another before opening the limo doors and sliding smoothly inside. Gerard tried to follow their example, but Frank shoved him inside. They all ended up in a dogpile on the floor of the limo.
The guy inside – tattooed, dark-haired, hot, and petting a large bulldog who seemed completely unconcerned with all of the proceedings – started to freak out a little.
“Whoa, dude? Not that I don’t appreciate men falling into my lap, but this is my limo.”
“Drive!” Frank yelled. “Let’s go!”
Gerard and Brendon shrieked at the pop-pop-ting of bullets hitting the limo, which finally pulled away from the warehouse with a screech.
The guy in the limo reached out to pat Brendon on the head. “No worries, dude, seriously. I bought this at the Jay-Z auction. It’s totally bulletproof.”
Brendon picked himself up off the floor and blinked dazedly. “Pete. Pete Wentz?” His eyes widened, and he started to bat his eyelashes. “I’m Brendon Urie, and dude, it is so awesome to meet you.”
Pete grinned. “C’mon man, don’t tease. It’s bad enough that half my models canceled on me with the flu. What, like most of them don’t spend half of their lives throwing up anyway? Where am I supposed to find extra models for my five o’clock runway show?” He sighed. “I’ll have to send out Patrick. Which, okay, I would be fine with, but that would probably be the thing that pushed him over the edge and into a psychotic break.”
“Who is that?” Gerard whispered.
“Pete Wentz,” Ryan hissed. “Everyone knows Pete Wentz does the hottest runway.”
“Runway,” Frank whispered. “Like. Fuck. Like a fashion runway.” He pulled out his phone again.
Ryan tugged a little on the edge of his bangs. “So. Pete. You need models?”
“What the fuck have I been saying, seriously?”
“What the fuck do we look like?” Bill shot back.
“Ooh.” Pete blinked. “Ooh, models with attitude. I love it. You’re mine, all mine.” He made little grabby hands. “We’re gonna get Bartskulls tattooed on your asses, all of you.” He pulled his Sidekick out of his pocket and dialed. “Patrick? Patrick, ‘Trick, are you listening? I totally found some models!”
On the other side of the limo, Frank was shouting into his own phone. “Brian? Brian, look, it’s Frank again. I don’t think Toroporta meant an airplane runway, I think he meant a fashion runway.”
While everyone was on their respective phones, Gerard started flailing. Someone had to do it and it was apparently going to be him. “Hey, okay, did everyone forget we’re still being chased by those Russian guys!”
“Pfft. We lost those losers ages ago.”
“Plus, you hanging with the g-man just got us a gig.”
“Bill, did you just say g-man?”
“Straight up, yo’.”
“I know!” Frank yelled into the phone. “I know, I know. I know I screwed up! No. No, I had him, but I lost him! Look, Gerard showed up early and blew my cover. What? No. No, I didn’t tell him who I was! Of course I lied to him! Look. Look, I’m pulling up to the tent right now. If Toroporta’s at this show, I can bust him. Trust me.”
Gerard felt like someone had punched him in the gut.
The minute the limo pulled up to the tent Pete pushed everyone out. “Okay, get your skinny little asses to makeup, pretties. Right now!” Pete was watching Ryan’s in particular, Gerard was pretty sure.
Frank grabbed Gerard by the arm. “Gee. Gee, I need to get Toroporta, then I am personally making sure that you get out of here.”
“Aw, that’s okay, Frank. You do what’s important to you. I’ll be fine on my own,” Gerard spat out, and blindly followed the other guys into the building.
Pete sighed. “Okay, thank god. This is the last one. Make him beautiful.”
A short, red-haired man who looked like he was on the verge of exploding and killing everyone grabbed Gerard by the arm and pulled him towards what looked like a small group of drunken college students with hair products.
“I’m Patrick Stump. Pete’s right-hand man, babysitter, and best friend. Mostly the last two.”
Gerard blinked. “Um, Gerard Way.”
“Charmed,” Patrick said shortly. “This is Mike, Siska, and the Butcher. They’ll be taking care of you.”
“The Butcher?” Gerard said weakly.
Patrick nodded. “Sounds far more threatening than he is, trust me.” He pushed Gerard into the styling chair. “Make no sudden movements, and I’m pretty sure you’ll get through this alive.”
“But I’m not even a m— ” One of the guys – Gerard though he looked like a Siska – stepped forward with a pair of scissors.
Gerard sat back and shut up.
Gerard stared at the mirror in horror.
“I look like Liza Minnelli!”
Which was, Gerard realized, not a bad thing in and of itself. There were places he could work this.
Patrick looked up from his Palm Pilot and patted Gerard on the shoulder. “I know, I know, just…” Patrick took a deep breath and braced himself. “Fall Out Boy is Pete Wentz’s searing vision of a post-apocalyptic world where beauty is both a weapon and a statement, and fashion is a defense against the overbearing depression of a desolate world.” His right eyebrow twitched.
“Wow. That was a mouthful,” Gerard said earnestly.
Patrick seemed to deflate. “It’s such a load of bullshit too. He totally came up with these designs after his last girlfriend left him and he listened to Morrissey for two weeks straight. He should just call it his emo-fag collection and have done.”
Gerard really wanted to give Patrick a hug.
Patrick sighed again. “Let’s get you to the runway. You know what to do right?”
“Uh. Walk down the runway?”
The corner of Patrick’s mouth twitched. “You got it.”
This modeling thing wasn’t so hard. Even though Gerard was wearing these ridiculous high-heeled, buckled boots – which he had a feeling Mikey would have loved – he managed to get to the end of the runway without tripping over anything.
Then he came face-to-face with Toroporta sitting in the front row. Which, okay, fuck. Toroporta seemed just as shocked, thank God, and Gerard seized the moment to scramble back down the runway. Except Bob was already coming up behind him on the catwalk.
This was getting ridiculous and Gerard was panicking. He did stupid shit when he panicked.
Gerard whirled back around and took another turn down the runway, smiling maniacally. Maybe like he was going to bite someone. Behind him, Ryan and Spencer pulled what looked like another of their freaky mind-melds and tackled Bob at the same time. Bob might have outweighed them – probably even the two of them put together – but no one could sustain an attack from the both of them together. Bob hit the runway with a solid thunk that caused the stage to shake. Gerard, who was in boots with heels – actual honest-to-god heels, what was Wentz thinking? – flailed, fell, and pitched forward onto Toroporta, hands scrambling for purchase in Toroporta’s face and occasionally – potentially purposefully, Gerard would admit nothing – in Toroporta’s eye sockets.
“Get off me!” Toroporta shouted. “Get. Off!”
Gerard clutched Toroporta’s hair tighter. Toroporta flailed. When Frank pushed his way through the crowd, Gerard wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or just scream more.
“Move you hands!” Frank shouted.
“No!” Gerard shrieked. He moved his hands, he died.
“Your hands, Gerard!”
“Gee,” Frank said seriously, all dark eyes and earnest expression and fucking fucking fuck. “Trust me.”
Gerard lifted his hands.
Frank stood on the balls of his feet and punched Toroporta out. Toroporta fell backwards onto the front row of the audience, taking Gerard with him.
The entire tent was silent.
Then – slowly, haltingly – the applause built. And built. And built. When Gerard managed to disentangle himself from Toroporta’s hair and look around, everyone was on their feet.
“Fashion theater,” Gerard heard someone say. “Trust Pete Wentz to bring drama back to fashion…”
At the end of the runway, Pete looked up at the chaos, obviously shell-shocked. “Okay. Okay, so that was…”
Ryan pulled himself off of the pile and finished sashaying down the runway.
Pete started to grin. “That was pretty fucking amazing.”
Ryan, to Gerard’s amazement, grinned back.
Pete stood and smoothly put his Sidekick back into his pocket before offering his hand to Ryan.
“Oh no, I’ve got it,” Ryan said, letting just the tips of his fingers rest on Pete’s palm as he stepped down. “But thank you,” he added demurely.
Pete grinned, Gerard noticed, like a shark. “Maybe I just wanted an excuse to touch you, dude.”
“Maybe you don’t need one.”
Gerard was going to throw up, and not just from all the excitement.
“Patrick!” Pete hollered suddenly. “Patrick, Ryan Ross is my new top model, okay? He is my face, he is my muse – ”
Patrick appeared – seriously. Fucking seriously – out of nowhere to stand at Pete’s elbow. “And you need fifteen minutes to make out in the back closet, got it. I’ll fend off Vogue for a while. Talk of your genius, grand vision, etcetera.”
Pete gave Patrick a loud, wet kiss to the side of the face. “Remind me to give you a raise. And Rihanna’s number. She totally thought you were cute.”
Patrick blushed. And, okay, Gerard could see where the cute was coming from.
Ryan settled his hand firmly in Pete’s. “I heard you were basing your fall collection on Hemingway’s work?” When Pete mhmm’d, he casually added, “I like the beat poets, myself.”
“Are you a Chuck Palahniuk fan?” Pete leered. “Answer carefully. If you get anymore awesome, I might lock you up somewhere to keep for myself.”
It might have been the shock, but Gerard thought Ryan actually giggled.
Gerard sat glumly on the end of the runway. Brendon was humming something to himself, Spencer was texting someone, and Bill was complaining loudly to anyone who would listen.
“Can we hurry this up?” he yelled, completely unconcerned with the way people were staring at him. “At this rate, I’m going to miss Travis’ set, and then I’ll have to make it up to him.” Then he paused. “Actually…”
“Oh God,” Brendon murmured. “La la la la la…”
Finally, one of the Feds came over, smiling apologetically. Brian, Gerard thought dimly. Frank’s friend Brian.
“Gentlemen, I just wanted to let you know that you will be given a medal for meritorious service from the Director of the FBI, and I wanted to personally thank you for your involvement with the case. Agent Iero said he couldn’t have pulled it off without you. Thank you.”
“Can we leave now?” Brendon asked.
Spencer looked unimpressed. “It’s time for his nap. He gets cranky without Capri Suns and his blankie.”
Gerard still couldn’t tell when Spencer was being sarcastic or not.
“You’re free to go,” Brian said calmly, and Bill brightened.
Gerard felt someone take hold of his elbow.
“Hey,” Frank said. “Gerard. Can I talk to you?”
“Yeah. Yeah, sure.” Gerard let Frank grab hold of his hand and pull him away towards one of the doors.
“So. So I totally owe you an apology.” Frank looked over his shoulder, where Brendon, Bill, and Spencer were all avidly watching. “And, uh, this isn’t the place for this. Suck. But listen, because. Because I’m sorry I lied to you,” Frank said earnestly, eyes wide. “I’m really, really fucking sorry I lied to you. But I’m not sorry I met you, okay? Not at all. And I was hoping you would forgive me, and we could start over.” Scrunched up his face. “What do you think?”
Gerard took a deep breath and pulled his hand out of Frank’s. “I don’t know. I just broke up with this guy because he wasn’t honest with me, you know. Just like all my other ex-boyfriends. And I’m not really sure I want to jump into a new relationship with… with whoever you are,” he finished.
Brian walked back over. “The fuck, Iero, c’mon. We’re going to be filling out paperwork for the rest of our lives.”
Frank hesitated. “Gerard...”
Gerard shook his head. “Goodbye, Frank.”
When Frank finally walked away, he told himself that he really was better off.
Except, okay, Gerard had totally blown that one. He knew it. He’d completely blown it, but by the time he’d pulled his head out of his ass, Frank was already gone.
“You look like someone told you Lindsey Lohan was starring in the new Wonder Woman movie.” Mikey’s voice was low and amused in Gerard’s ear.
Gerard pasted a smile on his face and turned around. Brendon beamed at him from under Mikey’s arm. It was kind of like watching a giraffe hug a koala bear. Or something.
“How was Vegas?”
“Dude,” Mikey said. “That place is ridiculous. I can’t believe B grew up there.”
“Well, I grew up in the Mormon part, so it wasn’t really the same thing. But yeah, we managed not to gamble away our life-savings, which is always a plus.” Brendon stuck his hand in Mikey’s back pocket. “Oh, hey, is this your cartoon idea?”
“It looks just like… oh. Hah. I get it.”
Mikey rolled his eyes, though whether it was at Brendon or Gerard was up for debate. “Have you tried calling him?”
“His phone was disconnected when he moved.” Gerard shrugged. “Not that I tried calling him.”
“Oh,” Mikey said softly. “Oh, he moved?”
“Yeah. And it only took two movers five hours to pack and move everything.” Mikey and Brendon stared. Gerard shrugged again. “Not that I was watching.”
“Yeah, uh huh. Note my skeptical face.”
“Yeah.” Gerard fiddled with his pens for a minute.
Mikey took pity on him. “So Alex liked the concept, huh?”
“He fucking loved it, man. And so did the board. Unless someone pulls the rug out from under the whole thing, we should have the contracts signed next week. At least get a pilot out.”
Mikey nodded. “You don’t sound exactly happy about that.”
“It’s just,” Gerard burst out. “The cartoon is good, you know? The sketches, the idea…”
“It’s a little tattooed undercover ninja of awesome!” Brendon burst in. “What’s not to like?”
“… but I don’t know if I can, like, immortalize him like that, you know? Work on this every day, see it on TV…”
“Yeah.” Mikey said suddenly. “Yeah, I agree. I think you should totally get rid of it.”
Gerard dropped his pen. “What?”
Mikey nodded. “Get rid of it all, definitely.”
“Dude.” Brendon stopped playing with the Sharpies long enough to bounce back over and grab one of Gerard’s mock-ups. “Dude, can we burn it all? How awesome would that be, seriously? Bonfire!”
Gerard clutched the sketches to his chest protectively, horrified. “You can’t just burn them! You… I…!”
Brendon and Mikey stared at him pityingly. Which…
He deflated. “Oh.” Okay, Gerard got it – and he knew they were a couple and all, but this new Tweedledee-Tweedledum act was starting to freak him out.
“Obviously,” Mikey said, rubbing Gerard soothingly on the back. “You’re not quite ready to let him go.”
Gerard stopped at Starbucks on the way home. Jon had bumped his usual from a double- to a triple-shot without Gerard even asking, which probably only showed how depressed and dejected and generally pathetic he was. Gerard scowled into his coffee, pushed his sunglasses further back onto the bridge of his nose, turned the corner to his building and slammed soundly into someone.
“Fuck,” Gerard said, grappling to keep hold of his coffee cup, because wasn’t that just his luck lately? “I’m sorry, I wasn’t looking – ”
Gerard’s head snapped up. Either he’d moved on to full-on hallucinations, or that was actually…
“Hi,” Frank said softly.
Gerard could feel his eyes widening. “Hey.”
“So, uh.” Frank licked his lips. “So, hi, I just moved into the neighborhood.”
It felt kinda like that one time Mikey threw the DVD remote at Gerard’s chest so hard he couldn’t breathe for a minute. Only, you know, better. “Oh, really. Where?”
“The building that faces this one, actually. It’s got a great view.”
Gerard smiled. “Sounds nice.”
“You wanna come up and see it?”
“I don’t know.’ Gerard ducked his head a little. “I mean, we only just met. I don’t even know your name.”
Frank held out his hand and beamed. “I’m Frank Iero.”
“Gerard Way.” He was actually grinning so hard it hurt. “Now, I’ve really gotta be honest with you, Frank –”
Frank waved him off. “I know, man. Iero is a strange sounding name. Way too many vowels.” He leaned in a little. “It’s good to be honest from the get-go.”
“I think that’s a good policy in relationships.”
“I learned that one the hard way,” Frank said earnestly. Gerard had to hold himself back from kissing his stupid fucking face.
“So what’s your line of work, Frank?”
“Weird you should ask, man. I totally just quit my job. Which was kind of stupid, because I just got this nice, cushy promotion, but I realized it wasn’t what I wanted, you know? And someone recently made me realize that you should always go for what you want.”
Gerard’s stomach clenched. “So what do you want?”
“Well.” Frank thought for a minute. “I have always wanted to be in band. I mean, for real, you know? I used to be pretty good on guitar. Bet with a little practice I’ll be good as new.”
“Very cool.” Gerard nodded. “Guitar players always get the girls.”
“What about the guys?”
“Oh, well, if you’re into that sort of thing,” Gerard said airily.
Frank giggled and leaned in to press a kiss to the corner of Gerard’s mouth. “You’re such a weirdo. C’mon, lemme show you my new place.”
Gerard took Frank’s hand. “Is there a bed?”
Frank stopped to give Gerard a Very Serious Look. “I was stupid,” he said softly, and squeezed Gerard’s hand. “I’m not completely retarded.”
Gerard swallowed around the lump in his throat. “Huh. I learn something new everyday.”
“Just for that I’m not showing you how to work the coffee machine.”