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Frankie was totally fine with his old school, but when the second kid in a month got caught with a gun in his locker, his mother decided she'd had enough of it. (The first time was only a cap gun, and the second time it wasn't even loaded; Danny was only worried his mom was gonna use it on his dad who had just come home from eighteen months inside, but that didn't seem to matter to her.) Her solution was private school, which she convinced Frank's dad to pay for with this dramatic speech about how his son's future, nay, his very life was in danger. She's really into the idea of Frank going to college. And, like, sure, it’d be great to live long enough to see his eighteenth birthday and all, but he doesn't see why he can't do that in a school where he doesn't have to wear fucking slacks and a tie and a fucking ugly blazer. Besides which, her plan of keeping Frank safe totally backfired, because sure, no one has ever brought a gun to school here, but there's this one kid, Frank's heard all about him, and he apparently ate a live frog in biology class, and at his old school, tried to pull a kid's tongue out with his bare hands. Which, in Frank's book? Is way more psycho than trying to keep your mom from killing your deadbeat drunk of a daddy.

Frank would like to point out, if he had anyone to point it out to, that he didn't get his information about psycho boy because people are lining up to share gossip and good times with the new kid. It's more that he's so invisible that no one thinks to check their conversation just because he's sitting right at their fucking lab table in chemistry or standing at the next bench in the locker room during gym. Even half the teachers can't be bothered to learn Frank's name around here. He's almost tempted to bring a gun to school himself, just to see if his mom would send him back where he belongs if he did. Except, no, she'd probably send him to fucking boarding school or something, where he'd have to shine the older boys' shoes with his tongue. Which is not one of his things. (He's pretty sure.)

So Frank goes to class and does his homework and lets his mom iron his uniform shirt every morning even though he’s tried to tell her that it’s not going to make any difference. It makes her feel better, and he figures that at least one of them should feel good about something. At this point it’s pretty unlikely that it’s going to be him.

He’s been a Beaver (and seriously? What the fuck kind of high school has the beaver as a mascot?) for almost three months when he finds out psycho boy’s name. Frank thought he was going to be in the dark forever, since everyone just calls him “psycho boy” or “that crazy kid”, except one boy from the lacrosse team—obviously not scared of having his tongue ripped out by the roots—who calls him “fagtard”. Even though Frank’s curiosity grows with each time he hears the guy mentioned, there is no one for him to ask. But the weather’s getting cold and wet enough that Frank can’t sit outside to eat his lunch anymore so he has to go to the cafeteria, which apparently is the secret.

Like the administration knows there are going to be kids without friends, there’s a row of small, four-person tables lining the back wall. Frank finds an empty one and puts his brown bag down—his dad’s help with tuition for this place doesn’t stretch to the meal plan, which, fine, whatever, the food doesn’t look that great anyway. There’s a short girl with greasy brown hair at the next table, and two boys at the table beyond her. They have even greasier hair than the girl (is Frank the only outcast at this school who showers? What the fuck.), and are bent over a notebook, or maybe a sketchbook; Frank can’t really see from his vantage point. The two tables beyond them are empty. With luck, Frank can finish his food and get the fuck out before those fill up and someone expects him to share his table in the corner. Not that it wouldn’t be nice to have a friend, or at least someone to sit with sometimes, but Frank would prefer it if he got some say in who that person was gonna be.

Half of Frank’s peanut butter sandwich is still sitting on his torn-open bag when two of the biggest jerks in his gym class bump his chair from behind. “Freak,” one of them mutters at him, and he bristles, but before he can respond they’ve moved on to hissing, “Loser,” at the girl at the next table as they pass. She doesn’t even look up from her apple or her book, and Frank figures she’s probably gotten immune to the assholes around here. Not that she was their main target anyway. They actually stop at the table with the two boys, and glare down at them. Frank can see the one with long, dyed-black hair clutching a pen in his fist as he glares back. The bony one with glasses is watching his friend instead of the assholes. Frank’s own hands grip the edge of the table in anticipation.

“Hey, foureyes,” asshole number one says. (If they won’t learn Frank’s name, he sees no reason to try to learn theirs.) “You get psycho boy there to suck your dick yet?”

Frank’s eyes snap to the kid with the pen in his fist. That’s the violent maniac everyone’s been talking about? It’s kinda hard to tell when he’s sitting down, but the dude doesn’t look a whole lot bigger than Frank. He does look pretty pissed, though, straining against his friend’s hold, trying to lunge at his taunters, pen first.

“Ignore them,” the friend says, and when psycho boy growls and—WTF—barks at the assholes, glasses boy snaps, “Gerard! I said leave it.”

The gym-class jerks laugh, and asshole number two says, “I wouldn’t put your dick anywhere near those teeth, Way, he might bite it off.” Gerard growls again and nearly lunges out of the Way kid’s grasp to snap the teeth in question in the assholes’ faces.

They keep laughing, but they leave, stumbling off towards the jocks’ table, slapping each other on the back in congratulations. But Frank doesn’t even notice.

Gerard. Psycho boy’s name is Gerard, and he’s little, and kinda emo looking, and somehow, he has a friend. Frank’s idle interest in the dude tips over into fascination.

 

Frank figures now he knows who Gerard is, he’ll start to see him everywhere. That’s how these things work. Or at least it’s how they’re supposed to work. But even though he eats at the losers tables every day for the rest of the week and into the next, and lurks near the bike racks and the janitor’s closet and the bathrooms near the library—all the places the unpopular kids tend to gather—he doesn’t catch so much as a whiff of unwashed hair. Well. Not of Gerard’s unwashed hair. Considering half the kids in this school could probably afford to buy a shampoo factory, there are a disturbing number who take the grunge aesthetic a little too seriously.

But the point is, Frank would like to get a better look at his new school’s resident psychopath. Unfortunately, Gerard doesn’t seem to want to be found.

 

It’s Thursday morning, and Frank is at school super early, because his mom has a first-thing dentist appointment and needs to drop him off on the way. He’s got his book, and also his math homework which he hadn’t bothered to do the night before, and he’s hoping the doors will be open, because it’s fucking December, but if they’re not, he’s got his grandfather’s old duffle coat which comes almost down to his knees, and like three scarves because he keeps forgetting he has one in his bag and grabs another one off the coat rack, and the steps are pretty sheltered from the wind. He’ll be fine. “No, seriously, Mom. I’ll totally be fine. I promise I won’t get sick, or, like, kidnapped. Go get your filling.”

She drops him by the school gates and goes.

It figures that the first day in over a week Frank isn’t actually looking for Gerard is the day he finds him. Most of the kids who drive to school have to park in the big lot around the back of the grounds. But the lacrosse team gets to park in a special lot right up by the school’s front doors. Frank has gotten used to walking past their cars every day, because the team’s always at school early for practice, and so, nose buried in his book, he doesn’t even notice them this morning. Until a clatter and an unexpected movement draws his attention.

“Mikey, be quiet,” someone hisses, and if the dude thinks he’s whispering, he seriously needs some lessons in the art.

The stage whisper is followed by a noise like someone slapping a car’s door, and more movement about three rows in. Frank tracks it, and sees two boys all hunched over, shuffle-crawling towards a bright red SUV. The one with his back to Frankie looks like a small Professor Snape in a frayed, grey coat dragging on the ground, and the other one, who Frank can see in profile, has short hair and glasses. Is, in fact, the kid with glasses who was sitting with Gerard the other day at lunch. Frank stops breathing and moves a little closer so he’s better hidden by the rows of cars between them. And maybe so he can hear better. Whatever.

Snugged up against a blue four-door, Frank has a good view through the windows to where the kid who must be Mikey, and Snape—who, now that he’s turned a little bit, is definitely Gerard—have stopped to squat against the back tire of the SUV. Mikey has a screwdriver the length of his forearm in his right hand, and is clutching Gerard’s sleeve with his left. Gerard seems to be holding a bottle of something with a red label. Frank doubts it’s water if the way he’s wobbling and the volume of his whispers are anything to go by.

“Mikey,” he’s saying. “Mikey, do it.”

Mikey, who actually understands the concept of whispering, even if he did—Frank assumes—drop his screwdriver, says something back that Frank can’t hear. Gerard frowns in response, eliciting a flat-eyed stare from his friend. They tussle for a minute, still squatting, and the only thing that keeps them from taking each other down is that they’re mostly shoving each other into the fender of the SUV. Mikey relents first, plopping onto his ass, just watching Gerard who is now holding the bottle in one hand and the screwdriver in the other. He doesn’t seem sure what to do with either of them. After a moment, he hands Mikey the bottle and goes to his knees. Before Frank even has time to wonder if he’s going to do it, Gerard rears back and slams the screwdriver into the tire.

Or. Slams the screwdriver onto the tire, where it rebounds, sending Gerard’s wrist careening into the wheel arch. “Motherfuck!” Gerard yells, with not even the tiniest pretense at whispering now. Mikey manages to keep a straight face for about two and a half seconds, and then he just sort of tips over onto his side, curled up on the asphalt, laughing like he might die from it.

He and Frank notice at the same time that Gerard is bleeding. It’s only obvious when Gerard pulls back the too-long sleeve of his coat and starts sucking blood off his hand. Frank’s starting to suspect that licking blood does not fall into the same not-his-thing category as licking upperclassmen’s shoes where he’s concerned, but he’s not going to think about that right now. He’s also not going to edge closer. He’s really not. Because that is likely to get him caught, and this is a kid who ate a live frog and tried to tear a boys tongue out with his bare hands, and gets drunk at seven in the morning and eats his own blood. Frank doesn’t want to sneak up on him when he’s armed.

Mikey apparently doesn’t have any conflicted kinky feelings or fear of an armed Gerard, because he’s wrenching Gerard’s hand out of his mouth, and gesturing pointedly, and Frank can hear words like filthy and toxic and then tetanus, which makes Gerard flail backwards and fall on his ass, holding up both hands like he’s warding off a ghost. Mikey ignores that, and grabbing Gerard’s arm again, pushes his sleeve up farther and pours what Frank’s now 99% sure is vodka onto the wound.

Gerard lets him do it, but before Mikey can deplete the level of alcohol too much, Gerard takes the bottle back and downs a healthy gulp or two. They argue too quietly for Frank to hear, but only for a moment, and then Mikey unscrews the valve cap, picks up the screwdriver, and jams the tip into the valve, letting the air out that way. It’s way more effective than Gerard’s attempt, and still pretty fucking badass. Frank’s fascination officially becomes obsession.

Before Frank can get too distracted by all the ways his stomach’s twisting up as he watches Mikey and Gerard half clinging and half shoving at each other on their knees in the players’ lot, he hears the scuff of footsteps behind him. He spins, trying to look innocent, but the two girls haven’t seen him, their heads close together, attention caught by the phone they’re holding between them. One of them is in his English class. She’s never talked to him, but he’s never seen her talking to the jock assholes either, so even if she does notice him lurking around the lot, he’s probably safe from her tattling if the car’s owner starts looking for a vandal. He still edges away from the cars, circling around behind the girls to let them go into the school first. When he turns back around, Mikey and Gerard are gone.

This time, though, Frank’s luck is better. It’s still half an hour to first bell, and only the entrance hall with the admin offices and bathrooms are open. Frank sits himself on a bench in a corner where he can keep an eye on the girls by the drinking fountain and on the front doors, where Gerard and Mikey will have to appear eventually. Probably. He reads three pages of his book before they do. There’s no sign of the screwdriver or the bottle, but Gerard still has a smear of blood on his cheek, and Mikey’s holding onto his arm like he’s afraid Gerard won’t come with him if he doesn’t. A burst of giggles from the drinking fountain catches Mikey’s attention, but Gerard just keeps staring down at his feet, or maybe the weird shit-colored flecks in the floor.

“Hi, Mikey Way,” the girl from Frank’s class calls, still giggling a little and giving him a twiddly finger wave. Frank thinks she’s making fun of him, but then sees her friend is bright red and elbowing her in the side, and he realizes the friend has a crush.

Mikey gives them a half nod, which makes the girls clutch each other’s hands, but he doesn’t slow down as he drags Gerard into the boys bathroom. Frank really wants to follow them. But he has no idea what he’d say, and he doesn’t exactly want to get his dick out in front of either of them (because he really kind of does), and his hands and face are clean so he’d look like he has OCD if he went in just to wash his hands, and going into a stall to eavesdrop is a level of creepy he’s not sure he’s ready for.

So he sits and pretends to read his book, keeping half an eye on the bathroom and half an eye on the girls, who aren't pretending to do anything but wait for Mikey to come back. The three of them hold their ground as the doors to the rest of the school open and kids start to filter in, and as the hallway fills so Frank has to stand on his bench to keep sight of the bathroom door. The girls finally give up when first bell rings, but Frank gives it another two minutes, until if he doesn't go right now he's going to get a tardy and detention. But Gerard and Mikey still don't come out of the bathroom.

 

Though he makes it to homeroom on time, Frank completely forgets to do his math homework while he’s sitting and ignoring the principal’s announcement over the PA and the teacher’s announcements for the class. He’s too busy wondering what Gerard and Mikey were doing in the bathroom for so long, and whose tire they were trying to slash and why, and if they’ll get caught or if they’ll get away with it. He also can’t help wondering if some of the stuff he’s heard about Gerard was actually stuff Mikey did the way the stunt in the parking lot today was. Maybe Mikey’s just better at not being seen. Frank would probably be pissed if he had a friend who kept doing shit that Frank got blamed for, but maybe Gerard likes that. Maybe the whole point is his reputation. Maybe Mikey’s helping him.

The bell rips him out of his reverie and Frank clambers to his feet to get to English class. At least he’s done the homework for that one.

Mrs. Canetti is probably Frank’s favorite teacher. She gives interesting assignments and cares what people have to say about the books they’re reading, even if it’s something she’s never heard before. Especially if it’s something she hasn’t heard before. Also, when she has them do group work she always draws their names out of a hat, which means that Frank doesn’t have to sit in the corner hoping someone might actually pick him. There’s always that feeling of dread while he waits to see how annoyed his partners are to see they got landed with him—it ranges from indifferent to hostile, usually more of the former than the latter—but that’s still better than being left ’til last the way he always is in History.

Today Mrs. Canetti wants them in pairs so they can interview each other as though the interviewee is a character in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Frank only has to wait for three teams to be drawn before his name comes out of the hat. His partner is Janine Brewster. He doesn’t recognize the name, but when he turns to see who’s making a that’s-me face, it’s the girl from this morning. The one who knows Mikey Way. If she doesn’t hate him, this might totally work out for something more than keeping his grades up.

Janine is chilly to start with, but once she finds out he’s not only read the book but loves Orwell and wrote an essay on him at his old school, she’s positively toasty. By the time they’ve chosen their characters and written about half the interview questions, she’s dropping in queries about what he likes to do when he’s not reading, and they’re chatting a little about music and stuff, and he feels pretty comfortable saying, “So, you know Mikey Way?”

If she thinks it’s a weird question, she doesn’t let on. “Sure,” she says. “He’s in my bio class. Kinda weird, but, you know, pretty cool.”

“Huh,” Frank says. Before an avalanche of questions like, “Weird how?” and “How well do you know him?” and “Do you know his friend too?” and “Are they having sex?” come spilling out of his mouth, Frank covers it with two layers of scarf, biting down as hard as he can on the wool.

“He’s probably going to be at this party me and Rachel are going to tomorrow night. At least Rachel hopes so. She’s got a massive crush on him.”

Frank wonders if there is a way of asking if Rachel has any chance at all without sounding like a total asshole. He’s still debating when Janine says, “You should come. It’s at Bob’s house. Bob’s awesome.”

Given Frank has yet to meet anyone awesome at this school and he’s been here since the beginning of October, he’s not sure how convinced he is by this news. Except that Janine actually does seem pretty nice, and Frank does have to admit that he hasn’t exactly gone out of his way to actually chat to anyone. “Bob?” he says.

“He goes to Central. He’s a senior. But he was really good friends with my brother before he went to college, and he likes me. He’s chill with sophomores coming to his parties. It’ll be fun.”

“Okay.” Frank tries not to chew his scarf while he waits for Janine to write down Bob’s address. He’s mostly successful. A party. And Mikey might be there. And he might bring Gerard. Plus, everyone at school doesn’t hate him. Today is totally made of win.

 

He still has to sit on his own in the cafeteria at lunch, but Mikey and Gerard are there again, right at the next table this time so it totally looks natural if Frank’s gaze happens to fall on them occasionally. Gerard seems to be blood free, but Frank can see the edges of several bandaids sticking out of the cuff of his shirt as he lifts his spoon to his mouth. He and Mikey both have some kind of red soup in old-fashioned blue thermos flasks like Frank’s dad used to have. Frank imagines them down at the thrift store picking through the junk, finding a matching set, probably stuffing them into the pockets of Gerard’s coat instead of paying the fifty cents or whatever they were marked. Or maybe Mikey’s mom has two thermoses and she made the soup and Mikey brings lunch for Gerard, because he’s drunk before school and can’t remember to bring his own. That’s probably it, because they also both have saltines in a little baggie to go with the soup, and cookies afterwards. And it would be super weird (like, weirder than eating live frogs in biology class) if they have a matching lunch schedule.

After they finish eating, Gerard swaps his thermos for a sketch book and a pack of pencils, leans his head on Mikey’s shoulder and starts drawing. Mikey rests his cheek on Gerard’s head and watches him. Right there in the cafeteria, like that isn’t asking for commentary from the gang of assholes. Sure enough, less than a minute later, someone calls, “Fags!” from across the room, accompanying his shout with an apple missile. The apple falls short and rolls to rest against Gerard’s foot. He doesn’t seem to notice either the taunt or the fruit. Mikey doesn’t move either, but something in the set of his jaw makes Frank think he’s not oblivious but actively ignoring it.

When Gerard pauses to swap pencils, Mikey looks up and catches Frank watching. Frank gives him his best winning smile—the smaller, sincere one for people he actually likes, not the one for teachers and other people’s parents and anyone he’s trying to impress with his general innocence and good behavior. Mikey doesn’t exactly smile back, but his face relaxes in a way that suggests he’s not about to sic Gerard and his pointy pencils on Frank’s eyes. Frank totally views this as a step forward.

He also views it as permission to continue watching them, but then he remembers that he still hasn’t done his math homework, and he has math right after lunch, so he gets that out of his backpack and starts working on it. He occasionally hears Mikey and Gerard murmuring to each other over the general hubbub of the lunch crowd, but he does his best to keep his eyes on his work, and manages to get all but the last two questions done before bell. Those he can totally bang out while Mr. Bromley takes attendance and deals with Tiffany’s inevitable complaining about whatever today’s topic is.

The lacrosse team seems to be holding an impromptu kangaroo court on Frank’s usual route from Math to History, so Frank goes the long way around, and clearly his luck is still in, because right outside the art room, he spies Gerard putting books in a locker. The pictures inside the door aren’t cut from a magazine, but pulled from a sketch book, and seem, from what Frank can see as he passes, to feature zombies, and blood, and possibly a human-sized cat thing. Frank can see why Mikey likes to watch him draw; he’s really good. Frank would love to stop and look closer, and he’s already opening his mouth to say, “Hey, zombies. I love zombies,” when the bell rings and Gerard slams the door, turning with a scowl that would wither Voldemort. Frank’s mouth snaps shut, and he remembers that he really does have to get to History.

Friday, Frank finds an excuse to go past the art room between almost every class. Even the two that are three doors down from each other on the other side of the school. But he sees Gerard four more times, and is able to determine that yes, it’s totally a human-sized cat—possibly Cat Woman without the leather; he doesn’t get quite close enough to see for sure—and its claws are shredding Freddy Kreuger’s chest. Mikey is never with him, but Janine told Frank—after they kicked ass on their interview-presentation thing—that Mikey was in Bio and he confirmed he’s definitely going to be at Bob’s party. Rachel apparently nearly peed herself.

Frank’s bladder has no interest in the news at all, and he ignores anything else in the region that takes notice. Mostly because he’s pretty sure Mikey has a boyfriend. One who Frank’s a little scared of. (And more than a little turned on by, as long as he’s being up front here. And is it weird to maybe want to do two dudes who are probably already doing each other? Like. If you’re not in porn or whatever, because he’s totally seen that in porn.)

Frank’s still thinking about Mikey and Gerard when he bumps into Janine and Rachel outside his locker after seventh.

“So we’ll see you at the party, right?” Janine asks, interrupting Frank’s musings on the likelihood of his getting to experience an actual gay threesome while he’s still in high school.

“Uh, yeah.” Frank is so going to be there.

 

His mom is so excited that a girl invited him to a party that she doesn’t even ask where it is, or if anyone’s parents will be home. She even offers him a ride. It’s cold, and too far to walk sober, so he finds an address a couple blocks away and lets her drop him there, making it the rest of the way on foot. It’s still early enough that the party’s contained in the house, and Frank’s not sure if he should knock or ring the bell, and is standing on the porch like an idiot when a tall dude with a mane of curly hair and a guitar case comes up the walk. “Just go in,” he says. “No one will hear you anyway. Bob’s always got the music up.”

Because the dude has his hands full with the guitar and a six-pack, Frank does as he’s told. And wow. Yeah. The music’s much louder than he expected. Bob must have good storm windows. “Thanks!” Frank shouts over the music coming from a giant set of speakers in the archway to their right, shutting the door behind the guitar guy. “I’m Frank!”

The guy looks around for a second before propping his six-pack on the hall table so he can hold out his hand to shake. “Ray,” he says. “Nice to meet you.”

They shake, and kind of nod and smile for a minute, then Ray picks up his beer and heads toward the back of the house, probably in the direction of the kitchen. Frank fully intends to investigate the kitchen soon, because he fucking needs a drink. He’s hoping this is the kind of party where it’s okay to bring cash instead of an actual alcohol offering, because there’s no fake in the world that would make the asshole down the LiquorMart believe Frank was twenty-one, and he didn’t have time to wait around the parking lot to find someone to buy for him this afternoon. He doesn’t want to look like he’s following Ray like a lost puppy though, so he turns right and checks out the crowd in the living room first.

About a quarter of the kids he recognizes from his new school—including Rachel, though he doesn’t see Janine—and at least half the crowd looks like they’re old enough to have graduated, and then he sees a knot of kids in the corner from his old school. Waving his arm above his head as he makes a point is Larry, who Frank’s known since junior high, and two of the other dudes were in his World Studies class before he transfered, so Frank heads over to say hello. They all shoot the shit for a while, the guys ribbing Frank about having to wear a uniform now, and asking if the pussy at private school is any easier to come by than at public school, which, Frank doesn’t even know what to say to that except, “Are you fucking kidding me?” and they decide that’s totally a front for him getting laid every weekend. They’ve got a flask they’re passing around, which Frank’s pretty sure has an inch or two from each of the bottles in Larry’s dad’s liquor cabinet in it, and it’s disgusting as hell, but it warms his chest and makes him feel like life is pretty fucking sweet.

After a while they run out of booze and Frank volunteers to go on a mission for more. Halfway across the room he’s waylaid by Janine, who slides her arms around his neck and gives him a smacking kiss on the cheek. Her breath smells like bubblegum schnapps. His friends in the corner start cat-calling and whooping at him, toning it down a little but not stopping when he flips them off behind his back, because Janine’s still clinging to him. “I like you,” she yells in his ear. “But I don’t think I want to make out with you tonight, because we really only started talking two days ago, and I’m not a slut.”

“Okay,” Frank says. He had no idea making out might be on the cards. Like, none. “Don’t worry. I didn’t think you were a slut. Not that I’d think you were a slut if you did want to make out. With anyone. Not necessarily me. Because I didn’t. Think that. Okay. Yeah.” Trying to back away, Frank pulls Janine’s arms from around his neck. She’s pretty hot, and also cute, and she’s almost definitely never tried to pull out a dude’s tongue, because she just doesn’t seem like that kind of girl. He would be pretty much totally into making out with her. If she were less not in to making out with him. Like, if she wanted to. The thought doesn’t give him quite the same scary-dirty thrill as thinking about making out with Gerard or Mikey (or Gerard and Mikey) does, but it’s almost definitely more likely. Because he’s pretty sure what she meant is that she doesn’t think they should make out tonight but she would be into it in the future. After they’ve talked more. He can do that. He likes talking.

“Bob has a lot of parties,” Janine says, patting Frank on the shoulder. “You should sit next to me in English.”

“Right. English.”

“Now I have to go see if Rachel’s found Mikey Way’s tongue yet.”

Frank is going to be thinking about tongues forever.

Janine wobbles off, and Larry shouts, “Dude, go tap that!” and Frank flips him off again, and heads in the direction Ray went earlier.

The kitchen is not hard to find; he just follows the chants of, “Drink! Drink! Drink!” to their source. Ray is doing a beer bong being held by a dude with red hair standing on the kitchen counter wearing an inside-out t-shirt and shorts. When it’s fucking forty degrees outside. As you do. There’s a guy with huge arms covered in ink leaning against the fridge door. Frank wonders if that’s Bob guarding the booze. But then people start chanting, “Bob! Bob! Bob!” and the guy in shorts jumps off the counter and takes the business end of the beer bong from Ray. Mr. Tattoos gets two beers out of the refrigerator and pours them into the funnel end without a word. Bob nods his thanks before handing the funnel to a pretty girl with long dark curls and wide, brown eyes. Once Bob gets the tube in his mouth she lets Ray help her climb onto a chair and lifts the funnel above her head. The chants of, “Drink! Drink! Drink!” start up again.

While everyone’s distracted watching the beer bong, Frank takes a look around, spying a cluster of bottles in the corner by the door that goes through to the dining room. The area is refreshingly free of muscled booze guards. When no one tries to stop him edging closer, Frank gets bolder and aims directly for one of the three mostly full bottles of vodka he spies right at the edge by the door. He grabs it just as the chanting reaches a frenzied peak, and darts into the dining room. Perfect. They can re-fill Larry’s flask, leave the bottle in a corner somewhere, and no one will know.

The dining room is playing host to a drinking game that seems to involve cards, several many-sided dice, the board from a Candyland game, poker chips, and a system of tapping shot glasses with a spoon. Frank gets lost watching for at least ten minutes, but he’s pretty sure he fails to figure out even one of the rules. When two of the girls playing launch into a round of high-speed pat-a-cake while the rest of the people at the table flick cards at them, Frank decides he’s seen enough. He fortifies himself with a slug of vodka from his bottle, and heads back out into the hallway. Where he runs into Rachel again. Literally. Apparently she did find Mikey Way’s tongue. Also, his tonsils.

Mikey’s leaning against the wall, legs spread wide with Rachel between them. Even after Frank tripped on Mikey’s foot and stumbled into Rachel’s shoulder, they’re still fused at the mouth. “Sorry,” Frank mumbles. Mikey takes a hand off Rachel’s ass to wave at him in what Frank takes to be a Don’t worry about it, she’s still attached, it’s all good gesture. He’s looking at Frank, but with no loss of kissing skill at all. It’s pretty impressive. “I’ll just, yeah,” Frank says, and checks his path for any further trip hazards before hurrying back to the living room.

His dudes have disbanded by the time he gets there, which means more vodka for him, yay, but also means he doesn’t really have anyone to talk to. But that’s cool. If Mikey’s here, that might mean Gerard is too, and Frank can get a chance to see what he’s like not at school, or maybe Janine has decided she and Frank have known each other long enough now and wants to make out with him.

There are people on the stairs and the landing, so Frank figures it’s okay to head up and see what’s shaking in the rest of the house. And, hey, maybe there’s a bathroom up there. Somehow the vodka bottle he’s carrying is emptier than it should be, which is probably why he’s gotta piss. He reaches for the first door he comes to, but a guy in a t-shirt with a bow-tie painted on around the neck (why?) says, “Don’t bother. Linen closet,” so Frank moves on. No one stops him trying the next door he comes to, so he turns the handle and opens it. It’s not a bathroom.

It’s a bedroom, Bob’s probably, unless he has a brother, and there’s a couple making out furiously on the bed. Frank has time to recognize Ray’s hair and bright-green shirt as he’s attempting to back out again without being heard, but before he escapes, the girl pushes Ray off and sits up. It’s Janine.

“Oh, Frank. Hey, hi,” she says, sounding a little slurry. “I’ve known Ray for two years, so this is totally not slutty.”

Frank is starting to strongly suspect Janine’s parents still make her go to Mass and confession every week.

“Okaaaaaaay,” Frank says, sort of hovering in the doorway.

“You’re not mad, are you? Don’t be mad.”

“Oh god,” Ray says, looking back and forth from Frank to Janine and back. “Are you guys? Did I? I don’t want to be stepping on any toes here.”

So awkward. How did this even get so awkward? Frank only came to this party to stalk the school psycho and his maybe-boyfriend, and suddenly he’s trapped in the middle of a love triangle (kissing triangle? Talked-about-kissing triangle?) with a girl from his English class and a beer-bong-doing dude who plays guitar. Probably. Unless he was just carrying it for someone. Maybe Bob plays and Ray just borrowed it and was bringing it back, and god, why won’t Frank’s brain just stop.

“No toes,” he says. “Stepping. There hasn’t been stepping. We just, English.”

“He was Winston,” Janine says, clarifying absolutely nothing. “We just met.”

“I thought your name was Frank.” Ray looks supremely puzzled. Frank knows how he feels.

“I am Frank. Winston was a thing for English class.”

“Ray was in my brother’s band,” Janine continues. “But he doesn’t think of me as Josh’s little sister anymore.”

“Oh god,” Ray says again. He looks like he’s going to throw up.

Janine pats him on the face sloppily. “Don’t worry! Josh likes you. And you’re not— You’re still— I’m allowed to date boys if they’re still in high school. As long as my dad doesn’t find out.”

“Your dad.”

Frank wonders if he should hand Ray the wastepaper basket by the desk. Bob probably doesn’t want puke on his bed. Instead, he says, “Okay then. I’m gonna go.” And he goes.

Conveniently, someone is coming out of the room across the hall as Frank finally escapes, and he can see it’s a bathroom, and no one else is waiting to dart in before him. He doesn’t bother turning on the light, just locks the door behind himself and stares at his reflection in the mirror in the glow of the nightlight. He’s skinny, and little, but he looks okay—hair the right amount of messy, shirt and jeans the right amount of baggy, pretty good face—but he knows he can’t compete with in-a-band. Well, not in-my-brother’s-band. Because Frank could totally be in his own band. If he had some guys to play with.

Remembering what he came in here for, Frank pisses, washes his hands, and takes one last look in the mirror. “Whatever,” he mutters, and heads back to the party.

The door to the room where he left Ray and Janine is closed, so Frank is guessing they either worked out the whole brother’s friend/friend’s sister thing, or another couple got in there in the time it took Frank to empty his bladder. He’s not going to check. What he is going to do is head back downstairs, because so far tonight, downstairs has worked out better for him.

The stairs are wobbling just a little bit, and he’s clutching the banister with both hands when he realizes that means he must have left the vodka in the bathroom. But that’s probably best, what with the whole stairs wobbling thing. Or, or, maybe Bob’s house is like Hogwarts, and the stairs are actually moving. That would be awesome. But dangerous.

“Frankie! Sup!” someone yells from below him. Frank focuses and finds Larry and the other dudes from before. “You missed beer bongs!”

“Sorry,” Frank says, even though he’s not. He concentrates on the last four steps, only looking up again once he’s on stable ground.

“Woah, dude,” one of the guys whose name Frank can’t remember says. “Looks like you found the alcohol anyway. You okay?”

“I’m great,” Frank tells him. “Definitely great.” He’s not great. He needs to sit down.

There’s a dim room off to his left that looks like some sort of den. There’s probably a sofa in there. Or a carpet at least. “I’m just—“ Frank waves his hand and heads for the dark.

It’s perfect. Somehow there’s no one in here, and there is a sofa. Even better, there’s a large pile of pillows on the floor, the kind you sit on to watch TV. They look amazing. Frank collapses onto them and closes his eyes. Just for a few minutes.

The sounds of whispering and—god, seriously, again?—kissing wake him up. He considers keeping his eyes closed, but of course they pay no attention whatsoever to the fact that he’s seen enough kissing tonight to last him a month. A year. Unless he’s doing the kissing. That could happen any time now and he’d be good. And hey, look. Right there, not three feet away on the sofa Frank had been eyeing up as a bed, is Mikey Way. Again. Only this time he’s macking on the girl who was holding Bob’s beer bong earlier. Maybe his thing with Gerard is that he can kiss any girls he wants, as long as he doesn’t kiss any of them twice.

“Really?” Frank says, totally without meaning to. Mikey and the bong girl leap apart. Now he’s interrupted, he figures he might as well continue. “I’m right here.

The girl laughs like she thinks that’s the funniest thing she’s ever heard. Mikey looks at him like he doesn’t get the point.

“Right here. You could have at least told me to get lost.” Frank is aware that he’s not being rational and is probably breaking like ten party rules to boot, but he’s drunk and he just woke up, and he doesn’t really give a fuck.

“Didn’t even see you,” Mikey says at the same time the girl says, “You were sleeping.”

“Fine,” Frank grumbles, struggling to get his feet out of the mound of pillows. “Fine. You two just have fun.”

“Hey,” a voice says from the doorway, sending Frank flailing back onto his ass. “I’m the one who gets to decide who has fun around here.” The speaking silhouette is wearing shorts, so Frank figures it’s Bob. Also, he’s the logical person to be saying, “My house; my rules.”

And the girl and Mikey both say, “Hey, Bob.”

“Colette’s looking for you. You have her phone,” Bob says.

The girl starts patting her pockets. “Shit. Yeah.” She stands up. “Later, Mikey. Later, sleeping dude.”

“Later, Roxie,” Mikey says.

Roxie pinches Bob’s cheek as she squeezes past him out the door. He glowers at her then comes in and plops down next to Mikey on the couch.

“If you two are going to start making out, can I leave first?” Frank asks, and god, he really needs to wake up and engage that brain-to-mouth filter.

“Mikey’s not really my type,” Bob says. He doesn’t look offended, though, which is awesome.

“Yeah, well,” Mikey says, jabbing Bob in the ribs with both hands, ratta-tat-tat, “I don’t make out with drummers, so you’d be shit outta luck anyway.”

Bob turns and looks at Frank. “Hi,” he says. “Do I know you?”

“Janine invited me?” Frank says.

“He goes to school with me and Gee. I’ve seen him around.”

“Oh. Okay.” Bob nods a little. “Janine’s good people. Wish her brother didn’t have to fucking go to Arizona for college, though. What the fuck. Who goes to Arizona?”

“People whose grandparents live there, I think,” Mikey says.

“Gee like Gerard? Is he here?” Frank says. Because his mouth hates him so fucking much.

Bob snorts, and Mikey’s nose wrinkles a little bit. “You know Gee?” he asks.

“No. I mean. Just I’ve seen him. You. Guys. The two of you. At school. Around. Like you said.”

Bob snorts again. “I bet,” he says. “It’s practically fucking impossible to get that dude to come to a party.”

Mikey frowns. “You know a lot of the guys at school are assholes to him. It’s not that he doesn’t like to party.”

“That’s the truth,” Bob says, then when Mikey jabs him again, harder this time, “Aww, come on, Way. You know I like the guy. But even you have to admit he’s kind of a weird fucker.”

Mikey glares for a moment longer, then he relaxes back against the cushions. “He’s a fucking genius. You just don’t appreciate the art of being Gerard.”

“Guess I don’t.” Bob nudges Mikey’s knee with his own. “You guys coming to our gig tomorrow?”

“Duh,” Mikey says. “We’ll see about Gee, though.”

“You should come too, friend of Janine’s,” Bob says, turning his attention to Frank again. “It’s gonna be good.”

“Sure,” Frank says. “Where is it? Also, I’m Frank.”

“Hawkshead on Washington.” Bob squints at him. “Over eighteens. You got a fake?”

Frank has an old Rutgers ID he found in the street a couple years ago that looks a little like him. In dim lighting, if you kinda scrunch your eyes up. “Sorta?”

“Come with Mikey,” Bob says. “He’ll get you in.”

“Cool,” Mikey says. (Cool. Like Bob didn’t just suggest he take a dorky stranger from his school to a gig.) “Meet you outside at eleven.”

“Yeah.” Frank’s voice doesn’t squeak or anything. “Cool.”

“Well, boys,” Bob says, planting his hands on either side of his knees, “gotta go make sure there’s enough music lined up. Wouldn’t want to ruin my rep.” Which means he’s leaving Mikey Way alone in a room with Frank with no filter and no chaperon. Bad idea. Bad, bad idea.

“Me too!” Frank says, rather more loudly than he intended. “I’ve gotta— Tomorrow. Eleven. Washington.” Somehow he finds his feet, and rushes out of the room. He is such a fucking tool.

While he’s still drunk enough to not mind the cold, Frank digs his coat and scarf out of the pile in the corner, and sets off on the two-mile walk home.

 

By the time he gets there, his teeth are chattering and his legs are numb, and he’s sober as hell. But his mom is sound asleep, and she left the heater on in his room, and he’s going to a gig tomorrow night with a kid who’s not afraid to get creative slashing tires, and who everyone, except apparently Bob, wants to make out with. Plus, Janine wants to kiss him. So she wanted to kiss Ray more, whatever, she at least thought about kissing Frank. And the guys at his old school haven’t forgotten him completely. Life could be way worse.

Just in case, Frank takes a handful of vitamins and a couple aspirin with two big glasses of water to counteract the vodka and the walk home in the cold before he heads for bed. He plans to go to sleep, but there’s Janine all pressed up against him, sugar-sweet breath on his face, and Mikey, in jeans and a hoodie instead of their stupid uniform, his mouth moving slow and determined on Rachel’s, his hands up under the back of Roxie’s shirt, the way he held Gerard’s bloody hand away from his mouth in the parking lot, Gerard drawing, so focused it’s like nothing else (except maybe Mikey) exists, the way he doesn’t care about pissing people off, the way he stands at his locker, hip cocked but shoulders hunched, like he’s caught between diva and emo, and Frank’s got his hand down his pants, jacking hard and fast and rough, thinking about how Mikey and Gerard pushed and shoved and grappled with each other in the parking lot, somehow gentle and careless all at once, imagines them treating Frank like that, maybe Mikey kissing him while Gerard jerked Frank’s dick, both of them pinning him down, and he’s caught between them while they have their way with him, and he’d do it, whatever they wanted, if they’d just let him— fucking just— just fucking let him come.

After, Frank’s chest feels tight, and he can’t catch his breath, but it’s just because he came so hard. He’s not getting sick. He’s got a fucking gig to go to.

When he wakes from the nightmare he’s having the next morning (or one forty-five in the afternoon, whatever, it’s Saturday), his lungs feel full of ground glass, and he wants to fucking cry. But then he takes a deep breath, and it’s just whatever he was dreaming lodged in there, stress tight and choking, and he actually feels fine. No sniffles, no sore throat, not even the hint of a headache. Clearly it’s a sign that going to Bob’s party was the right thing to do, and that he’s fated to meet Mikey at Hawkshead, and they’re gonna have a great time. Or he’s gonna have a great time. Mikey might ditch him the second he gets him through the door, and that would be okay. Frank likes the music Bob was playing at his party last night, so he’ll probably dig Bob’s gig.

But maybe Mikey won’t ditch him. Maybe he’ll let Frank hang with him, and maybe Gerard will come and they’ll all three hang out, and Mikey and Gerard will think, Hey this Frank kid’s pretty cool, we should sit with him at lunch, and maybe tell him next time we’re gonna fuck some asshole’s car up, and— Yeah. Whatever. Cool stuff could totally happen tonight.

Frank did not even dare to dream big enough.

 

Mikey is totally waiting for him when he gets there, and he looks happy to see Frank, and they have no trouble getting in—they don’t even get their IDs out, Mikey just says, “Hey, Tony,” and the guy on the door says, “Hey, Mikey,” and they walk inside—and then they’re hit by a wall of noise and smoke and fucking energy that makes Frank feel like he stuck his hand in a tank of electric eels. In a good way. He’s a little bummed that Gerard isn’t here, but maybe that’s better. Gerard is still a little scary. Mikey’s at least talked to Frank.

And, apparently, bought him drinks. Frank’s still getting his bearings, trying to figure out where the best place to get into the crowd up near the stage is, when Mikey’s arm comes over his shoulder, bearing a bottle of beer. Frank looks twelve, he knows, but he doesn’t think Mikey looks that much older than him, and yet here he is getting served in a club. A dank, dirty, basement club, that clearly doesn’t get too stressed about letting high school students in, but still. “Thanks,” Frank says, trusting Mikey can read his lips.

They drink their beers and edge to the right where the crowd is a little thinner. “Bob and Ray are up next!” Mikey shouts over the music. “We’ll head for the pit while they’re setting up.” Frank didn’t know Ray was playing, too. He wonders if Janine is here, but it’s not like he’d have a chance with her anyway. Not if Ray’s going to be on stage.

And Ray is so on stage, holy shit. Frank can play guitar. He’s not great or anything, but he can play in a way where he knows once he’s been doing it longer he’ll get better. And he’s got the basics. He knows what it takes. If Ray’s still in high school, he can’t be more than a couple years older than Frank is. But he plays like he was fucking born with a guitar in his hands. If he’d been in Frank’s older brother’s band? Frank totally would have spent the last two years wanting to fuck him, too. He does not blame Janine one little bit. “Damn!” he says to Mikey, eyes wide. Mikey manages to convey, Right? Totally amazing, with a nod.

Abandoning their empty bottles, they worm their way into the center mass, where Frank loses track of Mikey, his own limbs, everything but the way his heartbeat throbs with the sound. It’s been months since he came to a show, and he’d almost forgotten how it feels to get lost in it. He closes his eyes for a minute and lets the crowd move him, not really caring if he’s tripping and falling or being pushed, then he dives in and gets active, a pinball in a bag of pinballs, immune to bruises as long as the music’s playing. It’s like being high.

In the changeover between Bob and Ray’s band and the one following them, Mikey appears behind Frank again, another beer in his hand. Frank’s starting to wonder if this is his super power. And, man, if you’re the type of guy who likes to drink at seven in the morning, that would be a totally amazing power for your boyfriend to have. Plus, even though he’s super bony, Mikey looked pretty good to lean on, like Gerard was doing in the cafeteria the other day. Cuddles and beer. Frank’s almost jealous.

“Wanna smoke?” Mikey asks as he hands over the beer.

Frank can’t tell if Mikey means a cigarette break or bud, but either way the answer is a whole-hearted “Yes.”

Looping an arm around Frank’s neck as though they’re actually friends, Mikey steers him over to the stage door like he totally belongs and has been there before. Ray and Bob are wrestling with an amp on the other side. They shouldn’t have a problem, but half the width of the hallway is taken up by a stack of broken chairs that look like castoffs from a church hall, and they’re starting to fall where the guys are walking past.

“Hey, here,” Frank says, shoving his beer into Mikey’s hand and darting around Ray’s legs under the amp to rescue them from the attacking furniture. He holds back the tide long enough for them to pass, and then Mikey comes and helps him stack the pile less precariously. Frank’s pretty sure he hears Ray ask Bob about him as they make their way out the door to the alley, but half of what he says is swallowed up by Mikey saying, “You’re quick, dude. Nice,” and most of the rest by the night.

“Do they need help carrying shit?” Frank asks.

“Nah, Bob lets the Crackerjacks use his kit and most of the rest of the setup tonight’s JoJo’s, but Ray’s particular about who uses his amp.”

Frank can totally see how a guy as good as Ray would be picky about his equipment, but he doesn’t want Mikey to be putting him off because he thinks Frank’s too small to haul gear. “I’m totally stronger than I look,” he says. “If anyone needs any help later.”

“Good to know,” Mikey answers, pulling Frank into a headlock to drag him out back.

The alley is bigger than Frank was expecting, with room for six or seven cars under the too-bright security lights, but is otherwise the same rough brick, cracked and pitted asphalt, and sagging chain link fence he’s seen a hundred times out back the drug store and the music shop and his mom’s favorite deli. He figured they’d be smoking huddled between the wall and a dumpster or something, but apparently Bob is one of those dudes who always has a place to party. He and Ray are loading the amp into a little trailer on the back of an 80s-era VW van, open side door revealing a bench seat draped in blankets and a pile of the same pillows he had in the den, only twice the size.

“Mikey,” Bob says, checking the padlock on the trailer’s door is set. “Tell us you found Steve.” Neither Bob nor Ray seem to think it’s weird that Mikey still has his arm around Frank’s neck, so Frank tries putting an arm around Mikey’s waist. It goes a long way toward lessening the choke-hold aspects of the embrace and doesn’t seem to bother anyone either, so Frank leaves it there.

“I found Steve,” Mikey says, patting the breast pocket of his jacket. Pot then. Because if Mikey can buy beers, it seems real unlikely he needs to get someone else to buy his smokes for him.

Bob ushers them all into his lair. He and Ray take the pillows, leaving the bench seat for Frank and Mikey. Mikey needs both hands to roll, and Frank gets time to wonder what it meant that Mikey had his arm around him. He’s seen him with his arms around Gerard, of course, and then everyone he saw his arms around at the party he was kissing. Does he want to kiss Frank? Or does he only kiss girls when he’s not kissing Gerard?

“So, Frank,” Ray says, interrupting Frank’s musings before he can get to the part where he thinks too much about his jerk-off fantasy from last night. “I didn’t know you knew Mikey.”

“I, um—“ Frank says, just as Bob says, “They go to school together, but they met last night at the party.”

Ray’s face scrunches up and he drops Frank’s gaze. “Uh, about that—“

The dude almost looks like he thinks Frank’s gonna punch him, and like maybe he deserves it. “Oh, hey, no.” Frank rushes to say. “Seriously. I just met her this week, and we did like, one project together in English class. She’s obviously really into you, which, I get that. Have you seen you playing guitar?” Oh, god, why is it so hard for him to just stop talking?

Bob looks at Frank, looks at Ray, and bursts out laughing.

“Who wants to start?” Mikey says, holding out a neatly rolled joint. Frank grabs it.

Mikey starts a second one while Frank, Ray and Bob pass the first one around, and before long they’ve hotboxed the van and Frank’s starting to get a little worried he might slide right off the seat onto the floor. Except then Mikey’s hand appears out of nowhere to settle on the back of Frank’s neck, and while it should feel like it’s pushing him down, it’s more kind of pinning him right where he is. Especially once Mikey starts feathering his fingers through the hair at the back of Frank’s neck. A sharp pain in his fingers makes him jump, and he realizes he’s just holding onto a joint and letting it burn down. “Sorry,” he mutters, and hands it to Mikey. Mikey quirks a smile at him and takes it, other hand never pausing in playing with his hair. He and Bob seem to be having a seriously earnest discussion about the sound mix during the show.

“It was fucking awesome,” Frank contributes. “Lotsa beat, lotsa guitar, not too much of your singer, who, I don’t know if you’re friends or whatever, but I don’t think he’s doing a lot for you, so it’s cool if he’s more in the background.”

“Fucking Josh,” Ray says. Bob adds, “Fucking Arizona.”

Frank’s brain chugs through the smoke and the stupor induced by Mikey’s fingers and lands on Janine’s brother. “Fucking college,” he says. “With a better singer, I bet you guys could really make it.” He sits forward, better to emphasize his point. Mikey’s hand drops to the small of his back, resting just below the hem of his jacket, his thumb stroking up and down, rubbing Frank’s t-shirt against his spine. It feels really fucking good, but it doesn’t distract him. Frank totally has feelings about college.

“Music is fucking important, okay?” Frank says, looking at Bob and Ray, waiting for their nods of agreement. “And you hafta fucking just do it. You can’t say, ‘Well, I’ll just take four years out of living my dream to take all these classes that might get me somewhere I don’t even want to fucking be, anyway, right?”

“You have a band?” Bob asks.

“No. I mean, I play guitar a little, and my dad taught me drums, and there were some guys at my old school and we used to jam sometimes, but it’s what I love, ya know?”

“You gotta love it to do it,” Ray says and takes a hit so huge he looks like the big bad wolf.

“You could totally blow the brick house,” Frank says.

Bob starts laughing again, so hard this time he has to clutch his stomach and rock back and forth.

“What?” Frank says, and then they’re all laughing.

Mikey rolls another joint, and Frank’s back feels cold where his hand isn’t anymore, and they smoke it, and Frank thinks about how three days ago he didn’t have any friends, and now here he is, and Bob is being really fucking serious again, Frank thinks about pedal setups—which, doesn’t he play the drums?—and Ray is nodding really earnestly which makes his hair bob up and down like Sideshow Bob’s, and wow, there’s a whole lot of bob happening in the van right now, and Mikey puts his arm around Frank’s shoulders and pulls him so he’s kind of resting his head on Mikey’s chest, and he is pretty bony, but weirdly kinda comfortable, and his heartbeat is really loud.

“Ray and I need to go,” Bob says suddenly, in the middle of a sentence about something else entirely. “And see. Some people. About a thing. We’ll be a while, lock the doors if you have to leave before we get back. I have the keys.”

“We do?” Ray says.

Bob looks at Frank’s face pressed against Mikey’s collar bone. “We do,” he says, tugging on Ray’s wrist.

“Oh,” Ray says, pushing himself up. “Oh. Right. The thing.”

“You fail,” Mikey tells them. “Subtlety failure across the board.”

“I assume,” Bob says drily as he opens the van door, letting smoke out and icy air in, “that you understand the irony in you making that kind of accusation.”

“Fuck off,” Mikey says.

“Wait.” Frank’s brain catches up to the fact that people are exiting the van. “Are we leaving?”

“They’re leaving,” Mikey says, fingers twirling the hair that tufts out over Frank’s left ear. Ray’s feet hit the ground and he heaves the door shut. “They didn’t want to watch us make out.”

“We’re making out?” Frank is a little worried that he’s blurring the line between fantasy and reality again.

“Only if you want to,” Mikey says, low and reassuring, but he’s tugging Frank up by the handful of hair he’s gripping at the back of Frank’s head like he’s pretty sure Frank is going to want to.

Frank is totally going to say that he wants to, but before he can get the words out, he kind of launches himself at Mikey’s face instead. The action pulls sharply at his hair, but Frank discovers he doesn’t actually mind that. Is, in fact, really glad he didn’t take any of his mom’s hints that he should get a haircut.

Mikey doesn’t flinch away from Frank’s attack, but he does slow him down, the hand not fisted in Frank’s hair stroking his cheek, down his neck, down his arm and back up again, mouth moving slowly against Frank’s, teeth nipping gently when Frank does his best to stuff his tongue down Mikey’s throat in his excitement. Frank tries to remember to breathe, tries to slow down and let Mikey do his thing, since only including the ones Frank knows about first hand, Mikey’s kissed more people this weekend than Frank’s kissed in his whole life. Oh, wait, no, they’re tied. Because Mikey’s not only kissing Frank, Frank’s also kissing Mikey.

“Hey,” Mikey says, framing Frank’s face with his hands, pushing him back a little bit. “Bob won’t come back for at least an hour. We’ve got time.”

Frank nods, gets as much air into his lungs as he can before Mikey pulls him back in. He’s a really really good kisser.

When Frank made out with Becky Wilson on the sofa in her basement, she climbed into his lap, which meant he could get his arms tight around her, and after a while grope her boobs, edge his fingers up under her skirt. He wonders if Mikey would think it was weird if Frank crawled onto him. (The idea of Mikey sitting on Frank’s lap is both awesome and ridiculous, but not what Frank’s body is itching for.) He probably wouldn’t; Frank can totally imagine Gerard sitting on Mikey’s lap.

Gerard. Fuck. “Oh, hey, hang on,” Frank says, pushing Mikey to arm’s length. “Doesn’t Gerard mind that you keep kissing people?”

Mikey looks at him like he’s not speaking a language Mikey understands. “Why would Gerard care who I kiss?”

He looks so confused that Frank’s too embarrassed to explain. He’s certainly not going to judge their relationship. As long as he’s not going to piss Gerard off by making out with Mikey, Frank’s good. “Nothing,” Frank says. “No reason. Let’s make out some more.”

Mikey gives him one last bemused look and reels him back in.

Kissing Mikey is mostly amazing but also kind of maddening. Becky had always let Frank take the wheel, and he’d pretty much aimed at getting where they were going as fast as possible. Not that they were going very far ever, but there was always the risk of her parents coming home, or coming downstairs, and Frank wanted to get as much tongue as he could in the window of opportunity he had. Matt had been so drunk he’d mostly licked the lower half of Frank’s face for a few minutes and then dropped to his knees and sucked Frank off. So Frank has definitely never kissed anyone as in control as Mikey Way.

When Frank tries to pull Mikey down on top of him, Mikey just pulls him up, and when Frank tries to edge onto Mikey’s lap, Mikey holds him back. He seems perfectly content to just kiss, hands never exploring lower than Frank’s ribs. Not that that isn’t good. Frank feels like his face is melting and his skin is on fire and his dick is hard as fuck, and it’s not exactly like this is the first time Frank’s been hard where he couldn’t do anything about it, plus the high takes the edge off a little anyway. He concentrates on how Mikey’s licking into his mouth, gentle and pushy at the same time, and it reminds him of how he was grappling with Gerard in the parking lot, and oh. Yeah. Gerard. That’s probably why Mikey isn’t getting all up on Frank’s junk.

The sound of doors slamming breaks through Frank’s stupor and he pulls away in case it’s Bob and Ray coming back. He knows how it feels to have to watch other people making out in your face. “We should probably—“ Mikey says, adjusting his coat and straightening his glasses on his nose.

“Yeah,” Frank says. “Probably.” Then, “You’re a really fucking good kisser.”

“Like the man says: You gotta love it to do it.”

Frank isn’t sure what man Mikey’s talking about, then remembers that’s what Ray said about music earlier. “Well, you must really love it.”

“Kissing’s awesome.” Mikey smiles, pats his pockets like he’s checking for his weed and whatever. “And anyone can do it. No big deal, just fun. No harm, no foul.”

“Oh, yeah. Totally.” Frank is stoned, but not stoned enough to miss the big neon ‘THIS DOESN’T MEAN WE’RE BOYFRIENDS NOW’ Mikey’s flashing in his face. “No strings attached, just kissing. Some fun between friends.” Great, Frankie, way to make assumptions. “I mean. Not that we— Not that you have to be my friend or whatever now just because we kissed. You probably— God. Just fucking shut me up.”

Mikey laughs, a quick burst of sound, then kisses Frank soundly on the lips. “Shut up,” he says. “We’re totally friends now. Not because we kissed, but, dude, we totally went to a gig together, and smoked up, and Bob clearly likes you, and Bob doesn’t like just anyone, believe me.”

“Oh,” Frank says, grinning fit to split his face in two. “Okay then.”

“Come on, though. He’ll like you better if we give him his van back.”

 

Sunday, Frank goes with his mom to visit his grandparents. She gets him up earlier than he would have gotten up on his own, but pot hangover is not nearly as bad as drink hangover, so by the time he’s had a shower and a couple cups of coffee, he’s feeling pretty good. With his mother still in her happy-he-has-friends-again state, she’s not complaining about two late nights in a row, and hasn’t even asked if he has homework he should be doing. (He doesn’t, but it’s nice not to have to justify anything.) Plus, his grandma is a really good cook, and gives him twenty bucks for being a good boy, then sends him and his mom home with a veggie lasagna, a pot of bean soup, a tray of cannelloni, and a bag of chocolate-covered toffees that she claims will break her teeth if she tries to eat them so it would be a favor for Frank to take them off her hands.

Monday, Frank’s almost looking forward to going to school. He’s pretty sure he’s got someone to talk to in English, and almost certain he has someone to sit with at lunch, and that’s two more people to talk to than he’s had since he started at this school, and maybe, if Mikey’s told Gerard about Frank, there will be three people for him to talk to. Frank would really like that.

His mom’s got a headache, so she’s running a little behind, and Frank has to jog up the drive and he still misses first bell. Mrs. Hopewell marks him tardy for homeroom, which means if he gets one more he’ll have to do detention, but he doesn’t even care. When he gets to English, there’s still an empty seat next to Janine, so he drops into it. “Hi,” he says, grinning, possibly scarily hugely. “How was the rest of your weekend?”

Barely glancing at him first, she covers her face with her hands. “I’m mortified,” she says, all muffled. “I can’t believe I did that.”

“Did what?” He thought they’d already established he was cool about the whole Ray thing.

“I really do think you’re cute,” she says, taking her hands down, but still not looking him in the eye. “And I would have— you know. If I were a little drunker, or maybe not so drunk— But I shouldn’t have come on to you and then gone off with someone else like that.”

“Well,” Frank says, wishing she would look at him so she could see he’s being sincere. “You pretty much said you weren’t gonna kiss me, so I wasn’t really expecting anything. And, I mean. Ray. I saw him play on Saturday, and dude. I would totally, too. If. Well. I get it is what I’m saying.”

She sneaks a look at him again. Holding his gaze when she sees his (much more normal-sized) smile. “You do?”

“I do,” he says more quietly, as Mrs. Canetti picks up her attendance book. While her attention’s on the other side of the room, he quickly whispers, “I hope he called you.” Ray seems like the kind of guy who calls, so Frank’s pretty confident he’ll get the nod and pleased smile Janine gives him.

They have a freewrite assignment in class, and Janine takes the opportunity to pass Frank a note. He hasn’t had a note passed to him ever, he’s pretty sure. His friends were mostly boys at his old school, and they had assigned seating in all their classes and he never sat next to them anyway. It probably shouldn’t be as thrilling as it is that someone wants to pass notes with him, but whatever. He’s really glad Janine wants to be friends with him still. The note says, ray and I talked for like four hours sunday on facebook, and then he called me. asked me to come see him play next weekend. And maybe go see a movie. I think he likes me!!! Hope you don’t mind me getting excited at you. Can’t tell rachel because she’s sad mikey didn’t call her.

Sneaking a peek at Mrs. Canetti first—she’s doing her own freewrite—Frank grins at Janine so she knows he’s not upset, and then he shifts the paper onto his notebook so it looks like he’s still doing the assignment. hung with him some on sat nite. he’s an awesome dude you should totally go for it. He thinks for a minute, but it only seems fair, so he adds, pretty sure mikey isn’t going to call your friend. He kisses a lot of people I think. Folding the paper along the same lines as Janine had, Frank tosses it back onto her desk.

She smiles when she opens it, then frowns a little, Frank assumes when she gets to the part about Mikey. With a glance at the front of the room, she scribbles below Frank’s words. told her he doesn’t actually date but she wouldn’t listen. She said he’s the best kisser. I think ray’s the best tho.

Frank decides not to comment on Mikey’s kissing skills and the fact that he knows about them. Just says, yeah. Saw him kissing other people at party and also saturday. She should move on.

“Okay!” Mrs. Canetti says before Frank has a chance to toss the note back onto Janine’s desk. “Time’s up. Does anyone want to read what they wrote?”

One of the girls who cheers for the lacrosse team raises her hand. Boy. Frank can’t wait. He slides the note over as the cheerleader stands, watches as Janine reads it and nods, and then he zones out and waits for the bell to ring.

After making out with Gerard’s probably boyfriend, Frank feels a little weird about stalking him at his locker, so he avoids the art wing between classes. He considers going outside for lunch, too—the grounds are so big that he’s pretty unlikely to run into Gerard and Mikey out there—but he doesn’t want Mikey to think he’s avoiding him and decide he doesn’t want to be friends anymore, so he heads for the cafeteria instead. And there they are, sitting at the same table Frank’s seen them at before, facing the door.

Mikey nods in Frank’s direction when he catches his eye, and Frank nods back, sketching a little wave with the hand not holding his lunch. Gerard is looking at something on the table; Frank can’t see what it is due to the crowd between them. When he gets closer, Mikey says, “Hey, Frank, eat with us,” and Gerard’s head snaps up. Frank is pretty sure he doesn’t look like he’s going to attack or anything, but he definitely looks like someone who might eat a live frog in front of his biology class—eyes wide and a little crazed, mouth crooked awkwardly around the tip of his tongue caught between his teeth. Frank is pretty sure the normal reaction to someone looking at you like that isn’t supposed to be an overwhelming desire to kiss the look off his face. It’s probably also not supposed to be a strong urge to see the guy he’s sitting next to do it for you because you’re too scared to do it yourself. But apparently if you’re Frank Iero, Gerard’s crazy looks really really kissable, because that’s all he can think about as he follows Mikey’s instructions and sits down across from them.

 

“Frank,” Mikey says. “Gerard. Gerard, Frank.”

Frank doesn’t gush or bounce or ask if Gerard really ate a live frog or if the drawing in his locker is Cat Woman with fur instead of a leather suit—he nods a little and says, “Hey,” like it’s no big deal to be meeting the dude he sort of maybe accidentally somehow got obsessed with while he wasn’t looking.

Eyes still big, Gerard nods back, and looks at Mikey, making his eyes even bigger, and then smaller, and then big again, and he does a thing with his hand that’s like, his fingers splay out and he flicks his wrist, all of which obviously means something to Mikey because he says, “Yeah,” and Gerard says, “Okay,” and looks at Frank consideringly, and mumbles, “Hi.”

“Gerard’s drawing me an army of hipsters,” Mikey says. “But their irony is no match for the zombies.”

“That,” Frank says. “Yeah.” Because how could it be? “Unless they had actual iron. Or maybe irons. Could you take a zombie’s head off with an iron if you swung it hard enough d’you think?”

Biting his lip again, Gerard starts to sketch something in the hand of the figure at the front of the pack. After a few seconds, it takes the shape of an iron. Gerard draws a plug, but then he erases it.

“Yeah,” Mikey says. “It would probably be better if it was one of those old fashioned ones you put on the stove, not one of those modern light-weight ones. No power behind that.”

“If you had two,” Frank says, warming to the subject, “one in each hand, you could crush the head between them. Like the Three Stooges clap, only, squish!

For the first time, Gerard looks him in the eye. It’s only for a second, but it makes Frank feel special. “Squish,” Gerard says. “Disgusting.” He says it like ‘disgusting’ is a total achievement. The lead figure gets a second iron, and then Gerard erases his face and when he draws it again, Frank can see something of himself in the lines.

“Is that me?” he blurts.

“I’m not saying you’re a hipster,” Gerard says. “Sorry, Mikes. But if the humans are gonna win, they’re not gonna be hipsters.”

“No,” Mikey agrees. “Obviously.”

Frank’s stomach rumbles softly, making him remember that technically he’s here to eat, and he plunks his bag down on the table. Pop-Tarts, a granola bar, two fruit rollups, and a little baggie of carrots that his mom must have snuck in there while he wasn’t looking, because he definitely didn’t pack them.

“Fruit rollups,” Mikey says. “Hey, Gee, d’we have fruit rollups today?”

Frank looks at the food abandoned for the clearly more interesting zombie-fight drawing. They have matching ham-and-cheese sandwiches this time.

“No,” Gerard says. “Mom didn’t buy any. I’ll tell her we want some.”

So much for Frank’s theory Mikey’s mom is feeding Gerard. Maybe Mikey spends all his lunch money on drugs and shows, so Gerard is feeding him. Or maybe they take turns, and that way each of them only has to think about lunch half the time. Maybe Frank shouldn’t be so fascinated with his new friend’s (Or maybe friends’? The jury’s still out on Gerard.) lunch habits.

“You can have one of mine,” Frank says, pushing one toward Mikey. Gerard eyes the packet inching across the table toward his boyfriend. Frank wonders what Mikey told him about Saturday night.

“You can have one too.” Frank starts to poke the second one in Gerard’s direction, but Gerard shakes his head.

“We can’t take your whole lunch,” Gerard says. “Mikey’ll share with me.”

Mikey elbows him in the ribs and says, “That’s what you think,” but he’s already tearing off a piece and handing it over.

“See?” Gerard says, grinning up at Mikey, eyes shining. He tears off a bite with his tiny teeth, and his cheeks hollow as he sucks it, getting back to his drawing.

Frank tries really hard not to stare at the way Gerard’s tongue is moving in his mouth, obviously pressing the fruit to his palate, licking it, but he can’t tear his eyes away. When he finally manages it, he catches Mikey watching him, smirking. Which is embarrassing, but much better than Mikey watching him and glaring.

“So, zombies!” Frank says a little too loudly as he tears into his Pop-Tarts. Dialing it back, he adds, “I guess they’re a thing for you?”

Stopping all intriguing mouth movements, Gerard looks at him, eyes flat. Frank suddenly remembers that half the school calls Gerard psycho boy.

“I just— In your locker. You have— I totally love zombies. You’re really good at them.”

“You’ve been in my locker?”

Frank can’t tell if that’s alarm or anger, but it makes his stomach twist the way watching Mikey and Gerard fight over Gerard’s bloody wrist had. “Just walking past,” Frank says quickly. Now Mikey’s looking at him, too, no smirk in sight. “You were getting your books? And I could see— Zombies. They’re awesome. And, like, a cat woman, too. I wanted to— But you— Really. You’re really good.” Frank flaps his hand in the direction of the drawing Gerard’s doing now, where Mikey is starting to take shape in the face of the little figure next to Frank.

“Told you,” Mikey says to Gerard.

Frank watches them stare at each other for a moment and demands, “Told him what?”

Before Mikey can answer, Gerard pushes him and says, “Nothing!” with a hard glare right up in Mikey’s face so he can’t miss it.

“Nothing,” Mikey agrees placidly, but his little smile doesn’t say ‘nothing’ to Frank. It says something Frank wants to know about.

“I have to go,” Gerard says, shoving his sandwich back in his backpack, stuffing his pencil case and hastily closed sketch book in after it.

“You don’t have to go,” Mikey says.

Gerard doesn’t answer.

“Should you go after him?” Frank asks, watching Gerard dodge a flying bread roll as he ducks out the door.

“Nah,” Mikey says. “He just needs to sulk and smoke for a while. He sometimes gets weird about anyone but me and Mr. Zukaris liking his art.

“I didn’t mean—“

“He needs to get over it. Just, a lot of people make fun of the weird kid sitting in the back of the class drawing gory comics, so he kinda figures that’s people’s default. But you’re not like that.”

Frank is so not like that. He’s totally the weird kid, too. Only he can’t draw.

“Want some of my pudding cup?” Mikey asks. “I’ll get you a spoon.”

 

Frank has to run to get to Math. He and Mikey get caught up talking about the gig Saturday night and all the other shows they’ve been to—Frank far fewer than Mikey since Frank tends to be hampered by being a sophomore in high school, a problem he’s going to have to get Mikey to teach him how to get around. It means he doesn’t have time to swing past Gerard’s locker on the way. Mr. Bromley keeps droning on after the bell about what they can expect on their quiz, which makes a traffic jam near the door. Frank still detours down the art hall on his way to History, but Gerard is already shutting his locker and pushing through the classroom door by the time Frank gets there. Plus side, it looks like he definitely has art sixth period. Which is good to know. Just out of curiosity.

Between History and Business Skills, Frank catches Gerard slipping out the door that leads to the half-hidden corner made by the maintenance building and the wall around the staff parking lot where sometimes kids go to smoke. Business is a stupid class, and they’re just practicing typing today—Frank can already type just fine, thanks—and Frank hasn’t had a cigarette since the weekend and he’d really like one. He’s pretty sure there’s a crumpled pack at the bottom of his bag.

“You got a light?” he asks as he approaches Gerard’s huddled form tucked tight in the windbreak made by the walls.

Gerard eyes him suspiciously, so Frank holds up his last sad and slightly mangled cigarette. “Don’t you have class?” Gerard says, failing to produce a lighter or any matches.

“Don’t you?” Frank asks.

It seems Gerard thinks if he doesn’t answer Frank might go away, but Frank’s not cutting class and then not even getting some nicotine out of it, so he watches Gerard drag smoke into his lungs and send it billowing up over the wall until it’s all he can do not to jump on him and lick the taste of smoke off his lips. And wow, okay, now all he can think about is getting stoned with Mikey again, only this time with Gerard there too, and maybe pushing him back into Bob’s pile of pillows, straddling his hips, leaning closer and closer as Gerard takes a hit, diving in as soon as the joint’s out of the way, brushing their lips together, breathing in as Gerard exhales, getting dizzy but not stopping, melting into him, maybe with Mikey watching, saying, Yeah. Look at you.

“Please,” Frank says. Okay, begs—thanking god Gerard’s a smoker and surely will credit Frank’s obvious desperation to jonesing rather than wonder about the contents of Frank’s imagination. “You’ve gotta have a lighter or something.

“Mikey doesn’t smoke unless he’s drinking,” Gerard says, still not coughing up a flame.

“Okay,” Frank says. “Random. Or you could let me use your cherry.”

Gerard does cough at that, sputtering and hacking. While he’s distracted, Frank plucks his cigarette from between his fingers and uses it to light his own.

“Hey!” Gerard protests, wheezes out another cough and repeats himself a little more quietly. “Hey. That’s mine.”

“And this one’s mine.” Frank holds his finally lit stick of nicotine heaven aloft and hands Gerard’s only slightly worse for wear one back to him. “You were withholding. Desperate times and all that.”

“Mikey didn’t say you were this pushy.” Gerard is sulking. It shouldn’t be so cute. But it is. Totally cute. It’s also not a face anyone would call psycho, and Frank tries not to be too pleased that he’s getting to see it.

“What did Mikey say about me?”

“That you’re short,” Gerard mutters, still sulking, but standing up to full height so he’s got a couple inches on Frank. “And into music. And Bob approves of you.”

Frank tries to get bent out of shape about being called short, but Gerard is talking to him and doing distractingly hot things with his mouth again, and he just can’t. Instead he says, “So tell me about the cat woman gutting Freddy.”

“He also said you’re not an asshole and I should let you look at my drawings.” Gerard doesn’t exactly sound like he agrees with this course of action.

“I’m not,” Frank agrees. “And you should.”

“Freddy forgot that cats have claws,” Gerard says, flicking his butt to the ground and stepping on it. “I have studio time now. Have to work on my project.”

Before Frank gets a chance to suggest Gerard stay just another minute while Frank finishes his smoke, Gerard’s scooting around the edge of the building.

On principle, Frank smokes down to the filter before going back inside. He debates just going home early, but he might not get detention if he goes to class, so he does that instead. Mrs. Ware doesn’t notice him slipping in, and he even gets the assignment in by the end of the period, easy peasy.

 

When Frank got his locker when he changed schools, the secretary made a point of telling him how lucky he was to get one in the sophomore hall even though he was a late transfer. Frank doesn’t see what’s so great about it. He just gets to spend even more time surrounded by the assholes he already has to put up with during class. Like the jerks at the next table in chemistry who today decide that nothing would improve Frank’s day more than being shoved into his locker. He so should have just gone home after his cigarette. Though the one good thing about the lockers here is that their designer clearly used to get shut into lockers as a kid because there’s a latch on the inside, so all Frank has to do is wait for the assholes to stop congratulating themselves on their awesome wit and leave.

But they don’t seem to be leaving. One of them breaks off mid guffaw to say, “Fuck off, Way. Go blow your boyfriend in the bike shed.”

“I blew your boyfriend in the bike shed and he said I was the best he ever had.” The voice, clearly Mikey, comes closer, and by the time he gets to “best” he’s right outside Frank’s locker door. Great. Now Frank has to wait for all of them to go away.

“Fuck you, fag,” Frank hears. He can’t tell which asshole it is.

“I thought the possibility of my fucking you was the problem you have with me,” Mikey answers.

That’s greeted with a moment of silence and then, “Oh, go blow the short kid.”

Mikey doesn’t bother responding, and all Frank can hear is the general sound of people in the hall, until Mikey taps on the locker door. “You can come out now, Frank. They’re gone.” He doesn’t ask for the combination or anything, which makes Frank suspect he has reason to know about the latch on the inside. That makes coming out a little less embarrassing.

“Fucking assholes,” Frank mutters as he steps out of his locker with as much dignity as possible.

“Yeah,” Mikey agrees, handing Frank his coat which had gotten dropped on the floor in the scuffle. “Randy sits behind me in History. He’s a total fuckwit.”

“Chemistry,” Frank says. “He set his own homework on fire last week.”

“So do you wanna come over and watch movies or something?” Mikey asks.

Frank’s brain cycles through Yes! and Wait, is that a euphemism? and Will Gerard be there? and settles on, “You don’t have to feel sorry for me.”

“Between you and Gee, god,” Mikey says, pushing Frank’s shoulder. “I came over to invite you, saw Randy and his friend shutting you in your locker, you’re out now, so I’m inviting you. I don’t do pity fucks.”

Pity what? “Wait,” Frank says, stopping dead in the middle of the hall. “We’re gonna—“

Mikey looks at him like he’s crazy and tugs him back into motion by the cuff of his blazer. “It’s just a saying. No need to panic.”

“Wasn’t panicking,” Frank protests. He wasn’t. Just it sounded like— and he was pretty sure Mikey wasn’t interested in that with him, and how was he supposed to know?

“You’re funny,” Mikey says, opening the main doors and ushering Frank out.

“Yeah. And short. Gerard told me.” Frank isn’t sulking. He’s just a little out of practice having friends who rib him, and Mikey has one of those faces that hides when he’s being sarcastic.

But hey! He has a friend who ribs him again, and that’s pretty awesome.

Not so awesome is that Mikey lives about a mile from school in a direction none of the buses go. But it turns out to be not that far from a bus that goes to Frank’s house, which at least means he won’t have much of a walk home after movies, even if his mom can’t come and get him. Speaking of which, he should probably leave her a message. Mikey doesn’t make fun when Frank says, “Love you,” before hanging up on the machine, which wins him points. Not that he really needs them where Frank’s concerned.

His house looks pretty normal from the outside, but the inside’s kind of a freakshow. If this is the aesthetic Mikey grew up with, Frank can see why Gerard and his macabre art appeals to him. Not that Gerard isn’t appealing even if you grew up in a house like Frank’s. Obviously.

“Let’s go downstairs,” Mikey says. “All the good movies are down there.”

As far as Frank can tell, all the everything is down there. It’s definitely not so much with the dolls and stuffed birds theme that was going on upstairs, but it looks like ten teenagers’ bedrooms exploded all over the floor and an artist’s studio vomited in the corner. “Wow,” Frank says, awed and impressed, and maybe a little horrified. “Is this your bedroom?”

“Naw,” Mikey says, wading through the detritus toward the bed. “It’s Gee’s.”

“Gee’s? Gerard lives with you?” Frank tries to imagine his mother being cool with someone Frank was dating living in their basement. He can’t do it.

“Is there a reason he wouldn’t?” Mikey asks, giving Frank another one of those looks like he doesn’t quite get how Frank’s brain works.

It’s not like Frank can’t sympathize—he’s not always sure how his brain works either—but this doesn’t actually seem like one of the times when he’s being particularly out there. Before he can say any of that, though, footsteps come down the stairs, giving a second’s notice before Gerard comes in.

“They didn’t have—“ he’s saying as he opens the door, looking toward where Mikey’s sitting perched on the edge of the bed. But he obviously caught Frank hovering out of the corner of his eye, because his head whips around.

“Mikes?” he says, looking at Frank as though if he stares hard enough Frank might either disappear or explain himself. “Did he follow you home?”

“I invited him,” Mikey says. “We’re gonna watch movies. He might even stay for dinner if he’s feeling brave.”

“I might?” Frank says.

“We’ll see what we’re having,” Mikey answers.

“Movies?” Gerard echoes, turning to look at Mikey, since Frank isn’t really saying anything helpful.

“Movies.” Mikey confirms. “You pick. Frank and I are easy.”

Gerard snorts at that and Mikey’s eyes narrow and Frank is suspicious that they probably did have a conversation about the kissing. “Did you want me to leave you two alone?” Gerard asks.

“Don’t be stupid.” Mikey scoots up the bed and settles himself against the wall by the pillows. “Something with zombies.” He turns to Frank. “C’mon. Have a seat.”

Frank tries to sit at the other edge of the bed, leaving room for Gerard between them, but Mikey pulls him over so Frank will be in the middle. It’s a lot like how his most recent fantasies have started (only there was never so much stuff on the floor or the bed in his imagination), and he hopes against hope that he won’t get hard.

When Gerard turns around he gives Mikey a look Frank can’t read, but he doesn’t say anything, just climbs on the bed and wedges himself in the corner. Frank suspects it’s not going to be nearly as easy to get Gerard’s arm around him as it was to get Mikey’s. He tries not to be too disappointed.

“Good choice,” Mikey says, and Frank looks up at the TV finally.

“Oh hey!” he says. “Astro Zombies! Like The Misfits song. I’ve always wanted to see this.”

“You like The Misfits?” Gerard says, uncoiling a fraction.

“There are people who don’t?” Frank asks.

“See?” Mikey says. Frank doesn’t see, but apparently Gerard does, because he leans across Frank and punches Mikey in the thigh. Mikey ignores the violence, and, sounding bored, instructs Gerard to press play.

They’ve been watching for about fifteen minutes when Gerard starts digging around between the mattress and the wall and pulls out a fifth of vodka with a red label that looks like the one he had in the parking lot the other day. Only this one’s full. Frank watches him side-eyed as he takes a slug, then another, then goes to wipe the mouth on his cuff. He thinks better of that, and offers the bottle to Frank as-is.

“You can wipe it,” he says. “Your shirt looks cleaner.”

Gerard isn’t wrong about that, but Frank’s not actually bothered about wiping off Gerard’s spit since he’d quite happily drink it right from the source. Or. Something that sounds a little less gross but means the same thing. “It’s cool,” he says and takes a small sip to assess the burn factor before taking a second, bigger one and then passing the bottle along to Mikey, who doesn’t wipe the bottle either.

Frank doesn’t mean to get drunk. Though he carefully hands the bottle back to Gerard when Mikey’s done with it so he’s not drinking coming and going, and after the first few rounds he limits himself to one sip each time even though Gerard is totally taking two, they’re not even half-way into the movie when Frank starts feeling floaty and finds it harder to concentrate on the plot than it should be (or harder to tell if there’s a plot at all. He’s not actually sure on that point), and he stops feeling like there’s any good reason he shouldn’t lean against Gerard’s side if he wants to. He hasn’t stopped wanting to.

It’s just his knee at first, resting against Gerard’s thigh, maybe pressing against it a little each time Frank reaches out to take the bottle. Gerard doesn’t seem to notice, so when Mikey shifts around to adjust his pillows, Frank takes the opportunity to move his own ass so his whole leg is up against Gerard’s. That puts him close enough that there isn’t really any good place to put his arm except his own lap, which is right there next to Gerard’s lap, and it’s probably not his fault if his fingers drift a little.

They’re all still in their uniforms, so Gerard’s pants should be just like Frank’s, but they’re not. The texture’s smoother, not really like chinos smooth, but more like Frank’s dad’s tux pants that he wears when he’s performing sometimes. They feel good under Frank’s fingers. He goes back to touching his own pants for a moment to appreciate the difference, then rubs Gerard’s again with his whole hand. He forgets that means he’s rubbing Gerard’s leg until he hears a squeak and looks up to find Gerard staring at him, eyes wider than Frank’s ever seen them. He had no idea eyes could even do that.

“Um,” Gerard says, shifting his gaze to Frank’s hand which is still on his thigh. But, like, at least six inches from his dick. Which is good. Because if Frank’s gonna grope Gerard, he wants to be aware he’s doing it.

“Your pants are soft,” he says.

“I think we need snacks,” Mikey says, and oh yeah. Mikey. “I’m going to go find some. Upstairs. It might take me a little while.” It’s weird the way he says it. Stilted. Not Mikey-like. Though really it’s only been a couple hours Frank’s spent with Mikey total so far, so maybe he talks like that sometimes.

“We don’t need snacks,” Gerard says, glaring at Mikey over Frank’s shoulder.

“Yes, Gee. We do.” Mikey reaches across Frank to pat Gerard’s leg just above where Frank’s hand is still resting. Still resting awkwardly. Suddenly really awkwardly. Frank moves it back to his own lap. “Be back in a while,” Mikey says, clambering off the bed.

It seems weird to just go back to watching the movie, so when the door closes behind Mikey, Frank says, “It’s nice of Mikey’s parents to let you live here.”

Gerard looks at him, at the bottle in his hand, at Frank again. “It would suck if your parents kicked you out of the house before you even graduated from high school.”

That would totally suck. Frank would cry if his mom didn’t want to live with him anymore. “Is that what happened?”

“Is what what happened?” Gerard asks.

“Did your parents kick you out?” It’s like fucking Abbot and Costello in here.

Gerard shakes his head slowly. “If they kicked me out, I wouldn’t be living here.”

“Where would you be living?”

“Somewhere not with my parents, I guess.” Gerard screws the lid back on the vodka and stuffs it back between the wall and the mattress. “I never really thought about it.”

“Wait,” Frank says. “I thought this was Mikey’s house.”

With his head tipped to the side and his eyes narrowed in confusion, Gerard looks a little like a puppy. Frank wants to pet him.

“This is Mikey’s house,” Gerard says, still looking at Frank like Frank’s the perplexing one here. “It’s Mikey’s house and it’s my house. But mostly it’s our parents’ house. Because we’re in high school. And we live with our parents, which is what most people in high school do, I think.”

Realization hits Frank like a snowball to the face. “Oh my god,” he says, scrabbling to his knees because this news is too big to process slumped against the wall. “Oh my god, you guys are brothers.”

The whole knee thing makes him dizzy and he pitches forward and has to catch himself on Gerard’s shoulders. “That explains so much.”

“You didn’t know we’re brothers?” Gerard asks. He reaches up to grab Frank’s wrists, but he doesn’t try to pull him off. “How did you not know we’re brothers?”

“I thought you were his boyfriend.” Frank says. How was he supposed to know they’re brothers, anyway. It’s not like they wear badges or anything.

“His—“ Gerard starts laughing, and he does push Frank off then, but more because he’s doubled up with his head on his knees, cackling and gasping for oxygen, than because he’s exhibiting a burning need to get Frank away.

“You’re always cuddling,” Frank says over the sound of Gerard’s honking and braying. And come on. It’s not that funny. “And the way you were wrestling in the parking lot when you—“ But Mikey and Gerard don’t know Frank knows about the tire thing. “And people always talk about you sucking each other’s dicks.” Frank pauses, mourning for a moment the fact that his dreams of a real life gay threesome while he’s still in high school are probably not going to be realized. “Wait. Do they know you’re brothers?”

“I’m pretty sure everyone but you knows we’re brothers.” Gerard says. “Those assholes just can’t think of any more imaginative insult than ‘cocksuckers’.”

Frank thinks about that. “To be fair, they’re calling you incestuous cocksuckers, which raises the baseline a little bit, right?”

“No,” Gerard says. “It doesn’t.” But he looks like maybe he’s mulling it over a little, so Frank takes it as a win anyway.

Not that he wants to defend the assholes. Just apparently something inside him likes disagreeing with Gerard. Mostly he likes the little wrinkle he gets over his nose and the way his mouth quirks down at the corner. Carefully, because the vodka in his system has made Gerard’s bed feel like it’s filled with water, Frank returns to his seat up against the wall. And against Gerard’s side. He’s warm. And cute. And not Mikey’s boyfriend.

“So are you dating anyone who’s not Mikey?” Frank asks. He never claimed to be smooth.

“No,” Gerard says, eyes on the screen where a woman seems to be burning someone with her cigarette.

Frank leans in and kisses him.

Gerard leaps back, though he only gets about half an inch before his head meets the wall with a thunk. Frank remembers the part where Mikey asked him if he wanted to kiss before he laid his lips on him. Asking might have been a good idea.

“You can’t just— Ow.” Gerard rubs the back of his head, pushing Frank out of his breathing space. “Just because I’m Mikey’s brother doesn’t mean we’re interchangeable.”

“I know,” Frank tells him, wondering if this is going to be the start of another one of those conversations where apparently neither of them’s making sense.

“Okay,” Gerard says. “Good.” He goes back to watching the movie.

“Just to clarify, does that mean okay I can kiss you?”

“What?” At least Gerard’s looking at him again now. “No! It means okay, we both agree I’m not a Mikey substitute and if you want to make out with my brother, you’re going to have to talk to him.”

“Oh,” Frank says, stuck on the ‘no’ part of Gerard’s answer. He was really hoping there wasn’t going to be a no. Then the rest of his sentence penetrates. “But wait.” He puts his hand back on Gerard’s thigh, but it’s not awkward this time because it has a point. “What if I want to make out with you?”

“You don’t,” Gerard says. Which makes no sense, because Frank really really does.

“I really, really do.”

Gerard glances down at Frank’s hand and then back up at Frank’s face. “Why? I, but.” He flaps his hand the way Frank’s seen him do at Mikey several times. Mikey always seems to know what it means, but Frank doesn’t have a fucking clue.

“I don’t have a fucking clue what this means—” Frank does his best approximation of Gerard’s hand flap— “but because I’m pretty much obsessed with you.” Frank plays that back in his head. “Not like in a dangerous stalker way. Just. You. With your—“ Frank gestures in a much less flappy, much more specifically pointing out the ways Gerard is awesome kind of way. “You.”

“Huh,” Gerard says. He doesn’t look all that convinced.

“How ‘bout this. You could try kissing me. I’m not— I haven’t had as much practice as Mikey, so— But hey. You’ve never kissed Mikey? Right? So that’s okay. You could try it. If you don’t like it we can stop. I won’t, like, be a dick about it.” Frank moves his hand a little higher and leans in a little closer, but he remembers to wait for Gerard to say yes this time.

Gerard tilts his head a little, and Frank thinks, Yes! but then Gerard says, “What if you don’t like it?”

Frank breathes. He’s pretty sure no two boys in the history of ever have had to talk this much before they kissed. “I’ll like it. I promise.”

“Okay,” Gerard says, fucking finally.

The angle they’re sitting at is not the best for kissing, especially because Gerard seems reluctant to move his shoulders off the wall, but Frank goes for it anyway, moving the hand on Gerard’s leg up to his waist, hooking the other one around the back of his neck in case Gerard tries to run away again. Not that Frank was lying about stopping if Gerard hates it. But he wants the guy to give it a fair shot first. Thinking about how hot it was when Mikey did his whole slow exploration thing, Frank tempers his urge to shove his tongue down Gerard’s throat. It’s hard, because he’s drunk, but actually thinking about kissing Gerard is part of what makes it awesome.

He seems to appreciate Frank’s careful approach, if the way his hands are gripping at Frank’s shirt and the soft noises he’s making are any indication, though neither of those things are making careful any easier to maintain. Mostly, they’re making Frank want to pin Gerard to the bed and hump him ’til they both come in their pants. Instead, he does the next best thing, which is straddle Gerard’s lap, easing the crick in his neck and getting a lot more body contact.

“Is this okay?” Frank tries to ask, because he’d only gotten permission for a kiss and now he’s kind of rubbing his nuts on Gerard’s junk. But Gerard has his arms around Frank’s back and his hands hooked over his shoulders and is pulling Frank down and grinding up into him and kissing him so hard Frank’s having trouble breathing, so he figures the question is moot.

In bed at night imagining this, Frank thought kissing Gerard would feel dangerous. It feels thrilling—heat, excitement, anticipation coiling in his belly—but weirdly safe, too, like Gerard’s got him, won’t let him fall, and like he’s got Gerard. That might be the vodka and the death grip he has on the tangle of Gerard’s hair, but Frank doesn’t care. He likes it. Likes feeling solid in Gerard’s hands.

He’s contemplating rolling them, making use of the fact that they’ve got a whole bed at their disposal, when Gerard shoves him back. Not in the fun lying down way, but in the holding him at arms’ length way. Frank frowns, draws breath to protest, and is hit in the thigh with a bag of potato chips.

“Hey, Mikey,” Gerard says, voice rough and cracking. Rough and cracking from kissing Frank. Hell, yes.

“Hi,” Frank says, trying not to grin too inanely.

“I’d leave you to it,” Mikey says, and Frank’s pretty sure he’s never seen someone manage quite that combination of perturbed and smug with nothing more than their eyebrows before, “but Mom brought Chinese home and it’s getting cold. There’s enough for Frank if he wants to stay.”

Frank would love to stay, but when he gets his phone out to call his mom and ask her, there’s a voicemail from her demanding to know where he is and did he forget his dad is coming over tonight.

“Fuck,” he says. “Fuck! My dad. I’ve gotta go.”

“Is he okay?” Gerard asks, face creased with concern. Mikey’s helpfully making sure none of the detritus from Gerard’s floor is tangled in Frank’s backpack straps.

“He’s fine. Just he’s here. Well. Not here, but at my mom’s house. To see me. And I’m here.” Oh, god, and clearly still drunk. “Fuck,” he says again.

“I’d drive you, but—“ Gerard does his flappy wave again, but enough in the direction of his vodka stash that Frank gets the meaning this time.

“No, it’s cool. I’ll call my mom.”

Gerard’s scooting over to get off the bed, and Frank envisions an awkward goodbye at the front door in front of his whole family. It’s not pretty. So Frank flees. “Bye!” he calls, already climbing the stairs. “I had fun. Lots of fun!” He makes it out the front door without running into either of Gerard and Mikey’s parents. He can meet them later, when he’s not already in trouble with his own.

 

Frank’s mom sends his dad to pick him up. He’s afraid he’s going to get a lecture about responsibility, but his dad just wants to hear all about school. It’s a relief to be able to tell him about his interview project with Janine, and about meeting Bob and Ray, and not have to make up stories about how he’s fitting in and making friends. With the vodka still sloshing around in his brain-to-mouth filter, he doesn’t trust himself to start talking about Gerard and Mikey. His dad really doesn’t need to hear about him getting wasted and sucking on other boys’ tongues. Boys who are brothers, and wow. That is still a total trip.

They go out to dinner, and Frank sobers up over tofu in black bean sauce and an entire pot of green tea, though he does have to practically suffocate himself in his napkin to stop the giggles when he opens the menu and the irony of skipping Chinese food with the Ways only to have it anyway strikes him.

Morning comes much too early the next day. Frank blames MSG when his mom asks him why he looks like he’s going to puke when she puts a plate of eggs in front of him, which gets a rant about his father not worrying enough about Frank’s health, trying to poison him blah blah, but he can mostly tune it out and it’s way better than getting grounded for drinking on a school night. He feels better once the eggs are in the trash and he’s washed a couple aspirin down with a glass of water and a mug of coffee. It doesn’t seem fair that he was fine after Bob’s party and feels so shitty after drinking in the afternoon, but Gerard wasn’t exactly serving up top-shelf stuff, and hell. Maybe it is the MSG.

With a hoodie, two scarves, a beanie he wouldn’t be caught dead in, and an extra pair of mittens stuffed in his backpack courtesy of his mom’s fretting, Frank trudges up the steps to school. Fortunately, he also managed to snag an extra pack of Pop-Tarts, because now that he’s caffeinated, he’s getting hungry. Eating in homeroom doesn’t carry the penalties that eating in any of his other classes does, so he sneaks pieces of pastry into his mouth while Mrs. Hopewell gives what is probably supposed to be an inspiring lecture about school spirit and supporting the stellar lacrosse team. Frank heads to English uninspired and a little jittery.

The last place he wants to go after English is PE. He figures he might feel better about it if he gets to see Gerard first, so he takes the art-hall route to the gym. Gerard’s standing on the floor of his locker with practically his whole head inside the cubby made by the top shelf, muttering expletives. Frank doesn’t want to scare him, make him bump his head or anything, so he stands quietly (lurks) and waits for him to be done. It’s only half successful. Gerard doesn’t end up with a scalp wound, but he does jump and bash his elbow on the locker door when he turns around and sees Frank right there.

“Hi,” Frank says. “Sorry.” His face is doing that involuntary smile thing again, so he probably doesn’t look as sincere as he feels. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“I thought you said you aren’t a stalker.”

“If I were stalking, I’d be over there.” Frank points at the little alcove across the hall, half hidden by a display cabinet. “I’d be a ghost. You’d never see me.”

“I think you’re confusing stalker with ninja,” Gerard says. He sounds pretty grumpy.

He’s cute when he’s grumpy, but Frank wants to see him smile. (Then he wants to kiss the smile off his face, but he’s pretty sure even in the art wing, school is not a good place for that.) “Did you lose something?” Frank asks.

“Out of fucking smokes,” Gerard says. “Don’t suppose you have any?”

Frank wishes. “Smoked the last one with you yesterday.”

Scowling, Gerard pulls his messenger bag out of his locker. “Fuck government. I need cigarettes.”

They’re almost to the doors when Gerard notices that Frank’s still with him. “You’re coming with me?”

“Duh,” Frank says. “Nicotine and good company, or sweating with a bunch of meatheads. It’s not much of a contest.”

“I’m not good company,” Gerard says.

Frank doesn’t dignify that with a response.

“Coach Ghastly will make you polish the lacrosse trophies for detention.”

They haven’t cleared the gates yet, but Frank lets his laughter bubble up anyway. “See?” he demands. “Fucking liar. You’re great company. Ghastly. He is, too. Fuck.”

The twitching at the corner of Gerard’s mouth tells Frank that the look of disdain he’s trying to pull off is a total lie. “You can’t tell me you’ve never heard him called that before.”

Frank snorts. “I don’t hear shit, man. Mikey was like the second person in this whole school to say two words to me.”

“Stalker like you, don’t tell me you don’t hear the gossip, though.”

“Who’s gonna gossip about Coach Astley?” Frank skips ahead a little and turns to walk backwards, facing Gerard. “Heard how you ate a live frog in Biology, though.”

It’s Gerard’s turn to honk a short laugh. “Why the fuck would I do that? No one would do that.”

A bubble of delight bursts in Frank’s chest. Bad-ass story or not, he’s never down with animal cruelty. “I did wonder.”

“I refused to put my frog in a jar of formaldehyde,” Gerard says. “And I might have called the teacher a sadistic prick and told him to go fuck himself when he sent me to the principal.”

“Did you really pull a kid’s tongue out with your bare hands?”

Gerard grabs Frank’s arms, yanking him against his chest. Does mentioning the tongue thing make him mad? Horny? Is he going to punch Frank or kiss him? But he swings Frank around so Frank’s facing forward on the inside of the sidewalk rather than the outside. Apparently he was just saving Frank from backing into a hydrant.

“Thanks,” Frank says. “So did you?”

“It was his lip,” Gerard mumbles. “And I didn’t pull it off.”

“Ow.” You can get a much better grip on someone’s lip than you can on their tongue.

“He threatened to cut off Mikey’s balls.”

Frank’s pretty sure the last thing he’d do is threaten harm to Mikey Way while Gerard was in hearing distance. Or tattling distance, though Mikey doesn’t really strike him as a rat, or as someone who particularly needs his brother to stand up for him. Not that Frank wants to threaten Mikey. Just, Gerard’s way more of a cupcake than the rumor mill would have it, but he takes that big brother thing pretty seriously.

“What’d he have against Mikey’s balls?”

“I think Mikey made out with his ex. But she was his ex, so he had no right to get mad.”

Frank’s not sure about that—jealous is jealous, it doesn’t matter how much right you have about it—but mad or not, you don’t get to fuck with a dude’s junk.

“What—“ he gets out, and then Gerard’s grabbing his arm again.

“Do you have a death wish?” Gerard’s staring at him all frownyface, and Frank realizes that he almost just walked out into the street on a red light.

“Does it sound too much like a line if I say you’re distracting?” Frank tries.

Gerard says, “Yes,” but he turns a little pink and his mouth is doing that twitching thing again, so Frank’s happy.

“You are. Totally distracting. I can’t stop wondering if I can get you to kiss me again.”

Dropping Frank’s arm like it’s hot, Gerard goes even pinker, and stares hard at the light as though he can make it turn green with the power of his mind.

“Oh, wow,” Frank says. “That would be an awesome superpower.”

“Making people kiss you?” Gerard asks, only half looking at Frank.

“No. Well, yeah. That would be awesome, too, but I was thinking about being able to change lights to green with your mind.”

“Has anyone ever told you you’re kind of a weirdo?” The light changes and Gerard starts crossing, not checking to see if Frank is coming. But Frank is totally paying attention now, so it’s cool.

“All the time,” Frank says cheerfully.

Gerard obviously doesn’t have a comeback for that, because they walk to the 7-Eleven at the end of the block in silence. Tasting the cigarette already, Frank starts to speed up when they get to the parking lot, but Gerard says, “Wait.”

Waiting is not exactly Frank’s best trick.

“Hafta see who’s working. If it’s the guy with— Yeah. That guy calls the school if he sees you in there in your uniform. There’s another place in a couple blocks.”

But Frank wants a cigarette now. Not in another couple blocks. Using the cars in the lot for cover, he ducks around the side of the building and around the back of the cardboard recycling bin, Gerard at his heels asking what the hell he’s doing.

“I’ll just take off my uniform,” Frank says, propping his backpack on one knee and digging for the clothes his mom made him take that morning.

“Weird and crazy,” Gerard says, hastily turning his back when Frank starts unbuttoning his blazer.

“You’re the one they call psycho-boy,” Frank points out. “And oh my god, I’m just taking off my jacket. I don’t think it’s going to melt your face off or anything.”

“How am I supposed to know what you’re taking off? Just trying to give you some privacy.”

“Is this a no to the making out again?” Frank asks. He’s not actually worried, though maybe he should be. But Gerard had been pretty into the kissing yesterday before Mikey interrupted them, and the way he won’t meet Frank’s gaze seems more shy than uninterested. “Just so I don’t get my hopes up.”

“You’re more obsessed with making out than Mikey is,” Gerard mutters.

“Pretty much just obsessed with making out with you,” Frank corrects him, tugging his sweatshirt down over his head. Gerard still has his back turned when Frank’s face clears the neck hole.

“We can’t just make out in the street,” Gerard points out.

“Okay. Let’s go somewhere we can make out, then.” Wrinkling his nose a little, Frank pulls on the fugly beanie in the hopes it will distract from his school slacks, and remembers he’s got his sneaks in his bag since he was on his way to PE. “Here,” he says. “Help me balance.” Gerard turns and Frank grabs his arm. Not that he couldn’t lean on the recycling bin, but Gerard’s a lot cuter.

“Do you have your whole closet in there?” Gerard asks, eyeing Frank’s backpack like Frank might have put an undetectable extension charm on it.

“Mom’s a big believer in knitwear preventing bronchitis and stuff.” Frank pulls off his second school shoe and stuffs his foot into his sneaker. “And I’m cutting PE, remember?”

“Huh, you look different,” Gerard says. He touches Frank’s shoulder with a finger and his mouth does that lopsided quirk like when he’s drawing. Frank can’t help darting in and pecking a kiss on the downturned corner.

He expects Gerard to protest, ask what Frank thinks he’s doing, or maybe pretend it didn’t happen. He does not expect Gerard to surge forward, stumbling over their feet as he pushes Frank back against the wall, jarring his spine and sending a flood of heat to his dick.

“Mrmph,” Frank says around the tongue Gerard’s shoved into his mouth. Gerard does ignore that.

The wall is cold and hard, and Gerard is warm and soft, and Frank definitely has a thing about being pinned between them. Rather than trying to finesse the kiss the way he did last time, Frank lets Gerard set the pace, turned on by how Gerard can’t seem to get close enough fast enough as much as he is by how he’s rubbing his hip up against Frank’s dick. It doesn’t feel at all like the kind of making out that could go on for hours and not lead to anything.

Frank’s got his hands under Gerard’s blazer, fisted in his shirt, and is making whimpering noises into his mouth, trying really hard not to hump his thigh so good he has to buy smokes with a load in his shorts, when a horn bleats from the lot making Gerard jump back, panting, eyes glazed.

“Fuck,” Frank says, out of breath himself. “Fuck. You are so fucking— Why’d you stop?”

Gerard blinks at him, then blinks some more, fingers still griping the shoulders of Frank’s sweatshirt. “We need cigarettes,” he says slowly.

Frank grins. “Aww, sweetie, it was good for me, too.”

That snaps Gerard out of his daze, makes him pfft and push Frank as he lets go his hold. “You’re a brat, too. Anyone ever tell you that?”

“Be nice, or I won’t get you any smokes.”

“Brat,” Gerard repeats, digging out his wallet so he can give Frank some cash.

Gerard stays in the alley with their bags, out of sight of the plate-glass storefront while Frank goes in to get them cigarettes. The dude behind the counter blatantly checks Frank against the height tape on the door jam, and his hand disappears under the counter about where you’d expect a panic alarm—or maybe a gun—to be. Frank wonders if it’s the fucking beanie he’s wearing of if the guy’s just been robbed one too many times. Either way, he seems a little high strung to be in the minimart business.

“Hey,” Frank says, making sure his hands are visible. “How’s your day going?”

The guy just looks at him.

“Two boxes of Marlboro Reds, please.” Frank concentrates on looking and sounding as old as possible. He hasn’t been carded buying smokes since he was thirteen, but it would not surprise him at all if this were the dude to break the streak.

“Smoking kills, you know.” Now that Frank’s almost to the counter and still has his hands visible, the guy takes his own hand off whatever he’s got down there.

“I have heard that,” Frank says, and what the fuck? Isn’t this guy supposed to be selling shit, making money here?

“Just so you know,” the guy says, and turns to his racks of cigarettes. Frank’s not in the clear yet with the whole ID thing, but things are looking good. The dude gets out two boxes of Reds and puts them down just out of Frank’s reach.

“Thanks,” Frank says, pulling out his money.

“How old are you?”

“Eighteen,” Frank says confidently.

“Super. You got your ID on you?”

Not super. Not super at all. “Sorry,” Frank says, contrite as he can. “Must’ve left it in my other pants.”

“No problem.” Frank starts to slide his money over, but the guy continues, “These’ll be right here for you when you come back.”

Frank doesn’t bother to ask if he’s kidding. The guy is not a kidder. He also manages to resist flipping the dude off as he leaves, but only because he’s still not sure that wasn’t a gun he was reaching for when Frank came in. Asshole. Gerard’s gonna think Frank’s a total loser if he can’t even fucking buy some god damn smokes.

When he rounds the corner of the building, Gerard takes one look at him and says, “Do not tell me the fucker carded you.”

“The fucker carded me.” Frank feels like the biggest tool ever. Which doesn’t even make sense, but he can’t help it.

“Eh, don’t worry about it,” Gerard says. “Guy’s even carded fucking Mikey, and Mikey never gets carded.”

Frank wants to ask why the hell Gerard sent him in there in that case, then remembers that Gerard wanted to go to another store and it was Frank’s idea to stay here. “Just want a fucking cigarette, man.”

Gerard shoves Frank’s backpack into his arms. “Now can we go to the Dixie Dip?” he asks.

“Fuck you,” Frank says. “Why didn’t you tell me instead of wasting our time?”

“You started taking your clothes off. I lost my train of thought.”

It’s all Frank can do not to bust out his victory fistpump. He does treat Gerard to a shoulder-shimmy though. “Oh, yeah.”

“Keep it in your pants, brat,” Gerard says. But he’s smiling as he heads through the lot to continue their quest for tobacco.

 

The Dixie Dip is another four or five blocks from school, and half way there Frank checks the time on his phone. “What have you got after Government? Because it looks like we’re cutting third, too.” Frank has no qualms about missing his French class—he’s got a detention at this point no matter what, and they just had a pop quiz yesterday so there won’t be one today—but he’d feel bad if all the time he wasted at the 7-Eleven made Gerard miss an art class or something.

“Psychology. We have to go back for lunch or Mikey will worry, but if you want to skip fourth, too, there’s a comic store next to the Dip.” He says it like he thinks maybe Frank is going to argue about a comic book store being a worthy place to spend his time, but all Frank hears is Let’s spend the next two hours hanging out together even though we’ll get in trouble for it. Not that he has anything against comics. And he bets he’ll get to see that happy-excited look on Gerard’s face again—the one he had while he was talking about his drawings with Mikey in the cafeteria the other day. Frank likes that look.

They get their cigarettes and two crappy cups of coffee and stand huddled against bricks between the windows of the Dip and the comic store watching each other feed their addictions.

“You’re seriously a smoker,” Gerard says when Frank’s smoked half his cigarette in the time Gerard’s gotten his lit and taken two puffs.

“Yeah,” Frank says. It’s shit for his lungs, and if his mom finds his stash she always throws them away, so sometimes he has to go a few days between the end of one pack and the start of the next, but he gave up trying to convince anyone he’s just a social smoker sometime last year. “Did you think I was pretending?”

Gerard looks at him, takes another drag and another sip of coffee. “Maybe. I thought you were just looking for an excuse to follow me, find out more about Mikey.”

“If I wanted to find out more about Mikey, wouldn’t it make more sense for me to have followed Mikey somewhere?”

“No,” Gerard says in that way that means yes.

“Besides. Mikey didn’t run off in the middle of lunch. I didn’t need to follow him.”

“Whatever.” Cigarette down at his side, Gerard communes with his coffee for a minute. “Wait. If you thought I was Mikey’s boyfriend, what were you doing making out with him?”

Probably Gerard knows his brother’s lips get around, so if Frank explains he won’t exactly be sharing state secrets. “I’d already seen him kissing two different girls at Bob’s party. And I asked, and he said you don’t care who he kisses.”

“You didn’t think that was strange?”

“I thought you had a modern and open-minded agreement.” Frank remembers Mikey’s distinct lack of groping. “It also explained why Mikey didn’t try to get to second base.”

Gerard snorts. “Mikey doesn’t really believe in going to second base with anyone unless he’s dating them. Thinks it’s leading them on.”

“Guess I’m glad he didn’t try with me, then.”

From the look on Gerard’s face, that’s the last thing he expected Frank to say. “Why?”

“Because Mikey’s not who I wish I were dating.” Frank looks right at Gerard as he says it so his point is clear.

He either succeeds or totally fails, because Gerard says, “Wanna see if there’s anything new?” and makes a grab for the door of the comic book store. Frank ditches his coffee and stubs out his cigarette and follows him.

The store is smaller than the one Frank usually goes to out by his dad’s house, but they’re using every inch of space, so it looks like they have at least as many titles.

“Gerard, my man,” the guy behind the counter says. “You know it’s only Tuesday, right?”

“That was one time. During the summer. Days are more confusing then.” Gerard turns to Frank. “Dave is never gonna let me live that down.”

Dave (Frank assumes) lets his gaze slide from Frank’s beanie to his ratty PE shoes. “Mikeyway, I always suspected you might be a shape shifter. I like the new look. Not sure I see the point, but who am I to question?”

“Funny,” Gerard says. “I do have friends besides my brother, you know.”

Dave gives him a look like Gerard’s trying to convince him he was raised on a moon colony. Gerard just rolls his eyes.

“This is Frank.”

“Hi,” Frank says. He’s not exactly sure what to do with Dave or this Gerard who doesn’t get all bent out of shape when someone teases him.

Dave comes out from behind the counter and holds out his hand for Frank to shake, but is looking mostly at Gerard when he says, “Is this you trying to tell me Mikey doesn’t have superpowers?”

“He totally has superpowers,” Gerard answers. “Just nothing so obvious as shapeshifting.”

“Nice to meet you,” Dave says, finally remembering to give Frank his hand back before he’s focused on Gerard again. “I’m gonna have to wait for the book, aren’t I?”

“There’s a book about Mikey?” Frank asks.

“Not yet,” Dave tells him. “Not yet. But your friend here’s gonna write one, and it’s gonna be epic. Batman: Year One epic.”

“You’re writing a book about Mikey?” Frank doesn’t ask if his superpower is getting served beer, because while Dave seems pretty cool and so far hasn’t called them on cutting school, he is an adult, and if he just knows Mikey and Gerard from his store, he might not know about the whole alcohol thing.

“Dave,” Gerard says, pointing at him and looking as stern as a kid with too-long greasy hair and an ill-fitting school uniform can look. “New rule. No talking to Frank.” Gerard turns on Frank. “You, no listening to Dave. No one’s writing a book about Mikey.”

“Do you have Year One in hardback?” Frank asks Dave, ignoring Gerard’s rules. His paperback got destroyed when his grandma’s basement flooded, and his dad gave him some hardback collections last Christmas, so a hardback replacement would look better on his bookshelf.

“Do you want to show him where they are, Gerard, since I’m not allowed to talk to him?”

“I don’t know why I keep coming in here,” Gerard mutters.

“Because I brought you back a signed copy of Arkham Asylum last time I went to London and you owe me an eternal debt of gratitude.”

“Holy fuck. You have a signed Arkham?” Frank wants to see that.

“Mikey has it. Gave it to him for his birthday. And you’re not following the rules.”

“Yeah,” Frank says. “I’m not very good at rules.”

“We like him, G-Way. He can stay.”

Gerard stops in front of a display of hardbacks. “And people wonder why I just want to hang out with my brother,” he says.

Spying Year One, Frank picks it up. “Don’t front. You know you love hanging out with me.”

Gerard blushes a little bit and shoots a panicked look in Dave’s direction, but the door’s opening and he’s distracted looking at his new customer.

“Don’t worry,” Frank whispers. “I won’t tell Dave why you love hanging out with me.”

“Ugh,” Gerard says. “Are you buying that or not?”

“Yes.” Then Frank remembers that it’s the middle of December and his mother will probably kill him if he tries to buy himself anything until he’s seen what’s under the Christmas tree. “No. Fuck. Christmas. But I know it’s here.”

“You like Arkham?” Gerard asks.

“Of course.”

Gerard hooks a finger in the pocket of Frank’s hoodie and tugs him toward the back of the store. “You seen We3?”

Frank hasn’t, but he’s more than happy to let Gerard show him.

Without Dave teasing, Gerard loses his long-suffering air and as they wander around checking out the inventory, showing each other things they’ve read, Frank gets to see his happy-excited smile more than once. He does keep asking Frank what time it is though, until finally Frank asks why he doesn’t just text Mikey if he’s freaking out that much about missing lunch and worrying him.

“Lost my phone,” Gerard admits.

“In your room?” Frank wouldn’t be surprised if Gerard loses his bed sometimes, never mind a phone.

“Maybe,” Gerard admits.

“I could come over after school if you want, help you find it.” Frank doesn’t usually invite himself places—that’s not how his momma raised him—but from what Bob and Mikey’ve said and what Frank’s seen himself, if he waits on Gerard for an invitation they’ll be in their eighties when it happens.

“You— I guess.”

“Don’t sound so enthusiastic. You’ll be able to text your brother again, and—“ Frank lowers his voice— “if you’re nice, I’ll let you kiss me.”

Let me. That’s what we’re calling this?” But his gaze is fixed on Frank’s mouth and he doesn’t seem able to look away.

 

They get back to school just in time for lunch to start, Frank remembering as they hit the hall outside the cafeteria that he’d better put his blazer back on if he doesn’t want detention for being out of uniform as well as cutting class.

“Fucking blazers,” Gerard says, watching Frank try to smooth out the wrinkles in his. “Teenagers are uncomfortable enough in their skin without making them uncomfortable in their clothes, too. And don’t try to tell me that a uniform levels the playing field and erases class and social differences; that’s a fallacy, and a dangerous one.”

“Um, wow,” Frank says, staring a little. “I— was not going to try to tell you that. I fucking hate this thing.”

“And don’t get me started on how they’re enforcing gender stereotyping and dictating a false gender binary to the student body.”

“Please,” someone who sounds a lot like Mikey says from behind Frank, “don’t get him started.”

“You know it’s wrong to force the girls into skirts and the boys into pants. You know it is, Mikes.”

“I know, Gee.” Mikey puts an arm around Gerard’s shoulders, herding him toward the cafeteria. “Did you give him coffee?” Mikey asks sotto voice in Frank’s direction.

“Yeah,” Frank says, “but like an hour and a half ago.” Although Gerard had actually been just as passionate in the comic book store, it’s just that Frank had been expecting that—the lecture on school uniforms seemed a little random.

“I can hear you,” Gerard points out.

“Coffee gets you excited,” Frank says. “Good to know.”

“Usually it’s not so bad, but I wasn’t paying attention and he ordered a quadruple shot latte on the way to school so whatever he got with you was on top of that.”

“My ear is seriously like nine inches from your mouth right now.” Gerard has his hand up flapping back and forth between his ear and Mikey’s lips, and he looks ridiculous and fucking adorable and Frank wants to hold hands with him really badly.

 

When they get to what Frank’s hoping he’s not premature in already thinking of as their table, Gerard sits down next to Mikey, which means that Frank can’t lean into him or nudge their knees together, but at least he can look at him without having to turn his head. And it does make sense, really. Mikey is Gerard’s brother and best friend in the whole world, and Gerard’s known Frank for two days.

“I told Frank he could come over after school again,” Gerard tells Mikey, after he explains that they practically had to cut three whole classes because the asshat at the 7-Eleven carded Frank.

“Okay, cool,” Mikey says, and then he actually looks at his brother. Frank thinks Gerard’s face pretty much looks like Gerard’s face, but obviously Mikey sees something in his eyebrows or whatever, because he says, “Oh. I totally forgot. I’m going somewhere. So it’ll just be the two of you.” It’s only marginally more subtle than the stilted getting-snacks conversation. Gerard tries to hide the pleased look on his face, but he isn’t any more successful than Mikey is subtle. Frank doesn’t try to hide his pleased look at all.

Math isn’t too interminable, because they have their quiz so there’s the whole ticking-clock thing going on, but History is at least a hundred years long. During Business Skills Frank imagines Gerard in his studio class working on his art project, tries to picture it, wonders if it’s some kind of still life, or a portrait, or if he gets to draw zombies and cat people and household-appliance weaponry. It’s a better bet than thinking about Gerard’s bed and how in an hour or so Frank might be lying on it with Gerard’s tongue in his mouth. That way lies madness. Also boners. Frank’s not that big a fan of in-class boners. Especially not in Mrs. Ware’s class, because she looks like she might be your grandma, and that shit’s just not right. When the final bell rings, it’s all Frank can do to contain his whoop of joy.

Gerard isn’t at his locker when Frank gets there, but people are still coming out of the studio, and Frank’s classroom is only in the next hall, so he probably didn’t miss him. He peers through the window in the door and can see Gerard’s arm and shoulder up to where his hair falls over his collar. He’s gesticulating passionately, paintbrush in hand, in the direction of a man in his fifties Frank assumes is Mr. Zukaris. Craning his neck to try to see Gerard’s canvas, Frank misses the kid coming at the door from the other direction, and gets beaned in the head as she opens it.

“Sorry,” she says when she catches him rubbing his skull. Then, and Frank’s not sure he isn’t hallucinating this part, she says, “Oh, hey, Frank, right? Janine’s friend from English. You were at Bob Bryar’s gig with Mikey Way.”

“Um,” Frank says intelligently.

“Nice to meet you. See you around.” And she’s off, down the hall and around the corner.

Frank rubs his head again. This whole not being invisible thing might take some getting used to.

While he was distracted with head injuries and total strangers knowing his name, Frank missed Gerard wrapping up whatever conversation he was having and getting his things together, and suddenly he’s there, almost tripping on Frank’s feet as he tries to get out of the classroom.

“Oh hi,” he says. “You’re here.” Frank can’t tell if his tone is pleased-but-distracted, or perturbed.

“I didn’t think you knew where my locker was so it seemed logical to come to yours.”

“Yeah.” Gerard starts fiddling with his combination lock. “Mikey might have pointed yours out to me after lunch.”

Frank hopes Mikey didn’t mention he knows where it is because he saw Frank getting stuffed inside it. “So you still want help finding your phone?”

“Sure.” Gerard shuts his locker with a clang and hooks his bag over his shoulder. Apparently there is something super interesting about where the strap attaches. “Or. We don’t have to look for my phone if you’d rather do something else.”

“My dad’s not coming to take me for dinner tonight,” Frank points out.

“Cool.” Looking up from his bag, Gerard gives Frank a smile half-way between his little drawing-something-he-likes one and the excited-about-a-great-comic one.

They walk really close to each other on the way to Gerard’s house. They don’t hold hands, but their knuckles brush, and every time they do, Frank catches Gerard looking at him out of the corner of his eye.

By the time they get to the top of the stairs down to Gerard’s room, they’re practically running, and there is none of the pretending they’re here for any reason other than making out that Frank was half expecting. They drop their bags on the floor and dive at each other, hands twisting in polyester blazers, teeth clacking. “Ow,” Gerard mumbles against Frank’s mouth, kissing him again, and again, finally finding an angle that doesn’t mush either of their noses or pinch lips between teeth, then ruining it almost immediately by pushing Frank across the minefield of his room.

“Can we—“ Frank pulls away, but keeps his grip on Gerard’s elbows as he backs toward the bed so he doesn’t lose him. “Just let me—” He almost goes down, but Gerard catches him, and they make it the last couple of feet to where Gerard can safely tackle Frank onto his mattress.

The bed is nothing like the wall in the alley, but it’s just as good to be pressed against with Gerard’s soft warmth in terms of making Frank’s dick hard, and then even better, because they’re alone, and Frank’s not wearing a ridiculous beanie, so Gerard can grab his hair, pull his head back, suck on his neck. And when Frank says, “Oh my god,” way louder than he means to at the feel of Gerard’s teeth on the patch of skin right under his ear, there’s no one to hear them and come investigate. Gerard groans, sucks harder, makes Frank arch nearly off the bed despite Gerard’s full weight on top of him, and Frank can’t help but think of Gerard sucking his own blood in the parking lot, can’t help wondering what it would feel like if he were sucking Frank’s blood right now.

“Sorry,” Gerard mumbles when Frank starts whimpering.

“No. That was— Good. Noises of good.”

Gerard peers at his neck. “I mean I think I gave you a hickey.”

Never has Frank been more grateful for his mother’s habit of fussing at him to wear scarves and keep his hood up even in the house, because it’s hard to keep it warm enough for her to be satisfied he won’t get sick. “S’okay,” Frank assures him. “Really.” Since they’re paused anyway, Frank tries to get his hands between them, undo Gerard’s blazer buttons.

Gerard stares a moment and then rolls off Frank onto his back, says, “You too. And shoes,” and then they’re both flopping around, trying to get their jackets off, kick off their shoes, and move up the bed all at once. Frank gets a forearm in the ribs and very nearly elbows Gerard in the eye, and he says, “Come to a show with me,” as he’s pulling off his tie, because he really wants to see Gerard sweaty and wild in a pit.

“A show?” Gerard’s on his side, jacket gone, one shoe off and one still on, struggling with the knot on his tie. Frank can’t wait any more to kiss him.

“Later.” Pushing Gerard onto his back, Frank climbs on top of him and Gerard immediately gives up on his neckwear, grabs Frank’s hair again, gets back to licking his mouth. It’s not as good as having Gerard’s weight on top of him, except for the ways it’s better: Gerard straining up to reach him; the way he can snug his dick right up against Gerard’s; the way it makes him feel tiny and powerful at the same time; the way Gerard’s leg comes up to hook around his, pull him closer.

Frank’s pretty sure he could stay here forever, just like this, but he also wants more. He wants everything.

The thin light coming through the basement window has gotten thinner and Frank’s sweating through his shirt, rutting against Gerard and not even caring if he comes in his pants, when Gerard gets his hands on Frank’s shoulders and pushes him back. “Gotta get my tie off. Dying,” he gasps. The perverse part of Frank wants to pull Gerard’s tie tighter, go back to kissing him, see how much he’d squirm, but the rest of him would like Gerard to invite him over again, and decides that he should probably not choke him on their first date. Assuming this counts as a date.

“Just so you know,” Frank says while Gerard’s picking at his knot, “I’m planning on going for second base. Maybe even third.”

Gerard looks at him, eyes still a little glazed, but serious, too. “You’re not worried I’ll think you’re my boyfriend?”

No point beating around the bush. Worst case scenario, Frank’s life goes back to what it was last week. Which would suck, sure, but it’s not like he hasn’t been pretty obvious here already. “I want to be your boyfriend. I also want to get in your pants. Either would be good. Both would be fantastic.”

Gerard’s mouth does that thing Frank loves where half of it smiles and the other half almost grins. “I’ve never really been sure where the baseball analogies fit, but whatever base is you taking your shirt off, I think we should do that now.”

Frank only bothers with the top two buttons before yanking his shirt over his head. Gerard’s still working on his tie by the time Frank’s topless. “Seriously?” Frank asks. “What did you do to it?” Already moving to run his hands down Frank’s torso, Gerard doesn’t complain when Frank takes over.

Somehow it’s like Gerard soaked the knot in water after he got it around his neck, and they end up with Frank straddling Gerard’s stomach, digging into the stubborn fabric with his nails while Gerard skates his hands up and down Frank’s ribs, circles Frank’s nipples with his fingers.

“You can touch them,” Frank says, pausing his efforts in order to eye the half-inch of skin Gerard’s treating like a force field.

“Yeah,” Gerard breathes, but he doesn’t get closer. “Kinda like watching them get hard when I’m not even touching them, though.”

And wow, okay, speaking of hard, Frank could kill a zombie with his dick right now. “I’m gonna cut this off you,” Frank says, pulling frustratedly at Gerard’s tie. But that loosens it so he can get his fingers between the fabric and Gerard’s neck and yank it open enough to pull it over Gerard’s head. “Fucking finally.”

Clearly Gerard agrees, because as soon as his tie’s off, he starts undoing the buttons on his shirt. Frank shoves it up and off as soon as there’s enough access. Which leaves Frank’s junk resting on Gerard’s pale belly. God, he wants to rub all over it. “Is it too soon to say I want to jerk off on you right now?” Frank asks. It’s all he can think about.

“Um.” Gerard looks at the bulge in his pants, the way his hips are rocking a little. “Maybe? I mean, that would— Really?”

“Yeah,” Frank says. “Never mind. Next time. But can I—“ Scooting down, he leans in and presses the side of his face to Gerard’s belly. It’s even better than it looked, so soft and so warm and perfect. He turns his head, presses in with his other cheek, then his nose, and then he’s kissing it, and this. This is what he wants to do forever.

Gerard’s wiggling, like maybe it tickles, and without even thinking about it Frank brings his arms up to pin him down, hold him right there so he can sniff and lick and kiss and rub his face over every delicious inch of skin. He’s heard a guy talk about titty facewashes before, and how he just wanted to get all up in there and drown, and that’s how Frank feels right now. Not that Gerard’s belly is like a girl’s tits, but it has some give, just the right amount so if Frank pushes in he can’t breathe, and he had no idea. He’s humping the mattress, clinging to Gerard’s waist, digging in with fingers and chin and nose and teeth, and Gerard’s panting and twitching, and he’s practically pulling Frank’s hair out by the handful, but he’s not telling Frank to stop.

When Frank bites a little too hard, Gerard whimpers, and Frank apologizes, lapping at the bite marks, soothing them with his tongue and lips, and then his “sorry, sorry, sorry,” becomes, “please, please, please,” and he isn’t even sure what he’s asking for. But the hand he had on Gerard’s far hip starts inching closer to his dick and, god, that’s what Frank wants. He wants to touch it. Wants to feel Gerard come with Frank’s face right there, cheek pressed to his quivering belly, feeling him go tense then liquid. “Can I?” he asks, but his hand’s already there.

“Fuck,” Gerard answers. “Fuck. Yes. Fuck, oh god, oh god.”

And he’s so hard already, dick like a fucking rod under Frank’s hand, so he doesn’t even try for Gerard’s zipper, just squeezes and rubs him through his pants, kneading his belly with his other hand, rocking his face into the softness, digging in deep as he can, so he’s suffocating himself, lungs working to inhale Gerard’s skin, and it’s so fucking good. Fucking perfect, until Gerard rips him away by his hair, says, “Breathe, Frankie, jesus, fucking breathe.” And that’s when Frank comes.

Sometimes coming wears him out, and he just wants to sleep, but sometimes it energizes him, makes him feel like he can do anything. This is one of those times. Propping up on one elbow, he gets both hands working Gerard’s fly, has it peeled open and away from his dick before Gerard can ask what he’s doing.

“Gotta touch you,” Frank says. “Please. You gotta let me touch you.”

Gerard just flops back against the pillows, his hips lifting into Frank’s hands.

“Yeah,” Frank murmurs. “Yeah.” Gerard’s thick and heavy between his palms, blood-hot and flushed. Frank hasn’t spent a lot of time looking at cocks—he feels weird watching porn on a computer he shares with his mother, and when his own dick’s hard he’s usually too busy jerking off to really examine it that closely—but Gerard’s is pretty awesome. And like, right there. Frank wants to kiss it, but there’s gonna be a next time, there has to be, and he’s probably scared Gerard enough for one afternoon. He rubs it between his hands instead, kissing Gerard’s belly, his hipbone, the curve of his ribs.

“Stop fucking teasing,” Gerard moans, making Frank realize that random fondling doesn’t exactly a stellar handjob make.

“Right,” he says. “Right.” He tries to focus.

While he’s doing that, Gerard takes him by the wrist and pulls his hand up to his mouth, licking the ball of his thumb, his palm, up his fingers. It’s wet, and slimy, and pretty much the hottest thing anyone has ever done to Frank in his life, including having his dick in another dude’s mouth. “Jesus,” Frank breathes, and Gerard mumbles, “’s better wet,” around the fingers he’s sucking on.

“If you don’t stop that soon, I’m gonna need that hand to jerk myself off.” Frank tries to care that that isn’t even fair to think about getting off twice before he’s gotten Gerard off once, but holy fuck it just feels so good.

Gerard obviously doesn’t think it’s fair either, because he gives Frank his hand back. Like, still super sensitized. Gerard’s dick feels like it’s burning up, slipping through Frank’s fist fast and easy, and yeah. Yeah. The angle’s wrong for Frank to get his face back in there, but he lays his other hand flat on Gerard’s belly, feeling it tense and jump, feeling Gerard’s dick respond when Frank squeezes the flesh there.

“So much hotter without your clothes,” Frank tells Gerard’s belly. “So fucking hot.” He speeds up, wanting to see Gerard’s jizz against his skin, wanting to feel it.

He expects a sound, or a change in Gerard’s breathing, but all he gets is Gerard’s dick jerking in his hand and then come spilling over the fingers splayed on his belly. He’s the one who gasps, releases his breath on a drawn-out moan, while Gerard just keeps inhaling and exhaling, deep and steady.

“Was that—“ Frank says. He came, so it can’t have been horrible.

Like Frank’s words released him, Gerard takes a shuddering breath, and hauls Frank up the bed onto his chest, smearing jizz everywhere on the way. Frank takes the rib-crushing hug and the way Gerard’s got his face buried in Frank’s neck as a good thing.

Until it starts getting hard for him to breathe. The squeak he makes isn’t exactly dignified, but it is effective. More effective than expected, in fact.

Gerard releases him, pushing him up until he can stare into his face, eyes wild and intense. Frank’s stomach does that swooping thrill like when Gerard pinned him to the wall in the alley, or was bucking underneath him while Frank was on his lap, and the guy’s just looking at him. “Fuuuuck,” Frank breathes.

“You don’t even—” Gerard says, his grip on Frank’s shoulders so tight it aches. “You don’t even know.”

“Don’t know—“ What. Frank’s gonna ask what, but Gerard’s flipping him, surging up and over, looming in Frank’s face, and the word’s knocked right out of him.

“You gotta, please, Frank, you gotta let me—“

There’s no time for Frank to even wonder, never mind ask, gotta let him what, before Gerard’s pawing at his waistband, his fly, careless of the fact that Frank’s junk is right there and gonna get mauled if he’s not careful.

“Lemme—“ Frank says, pushing Gerard’s hands out of the way, because what’s he gonna say, No, please don’t get my dick out, I’d rather die of blueballs? Uh huh. No. He gets the button done, and as soon as he starts on the zipper, Gerard’s pulling, fingers hooked in not only the pants but Frank’s briefs, yanking the works down to his knees.

“Please,” Gerard says again, running a finger down the edge where Frank’s pubes thin to a smattering of leg hair, a look of wonder on his face.

“You need an engraved inv— aaak!” Frank dares anyone not to squawk when a dude basically faceplants in their naked crotch.

“Gnnngh,” Gerard moans, nuzzling his nose deeper into the groove at the top of Frank’s thigh. “You smell like sex.”

Which, duh, that’s what happens when you cream your shorts. But Frank’s not feeling very quippy at the moment, what with the way Gerard’s nuzzling and sniffing is heading for Frank’s dick. “Ungh,” he says instead.

“Can you—“ Gerard tries to push Frank’s thighs apart, but since he’s lying on Frank’s left leg and Frank’s still hobbled by his pants, he’s not that successful. Apparently he’s willing to make do, though, because before Frank can offer to get more naked, Gerard starts licking his dick like it’s a popsicle in August.

“Okay,” Frank says weakly.

“Taste like sex,” Gerard mumbles, lips brushing the base of Frank’s cock.

Frank nods, not that Gerard’s paying any attention. He’s too busy kissing every inch of skin between Frank’s hipbones.

And Frank was so, so wrong thinking Gerard licking his hand was the hottest thing ever. Because Gerard fucking sniffing him is somehow hotter, never mind the things he’s doing with his tongue, and god, his fingers, cupping Frank’s dick so he can rub little circles under the head with his thumb, suck wet, clinging kisses to the shaft, jack him a few times before—oh god, fuck—opening his mouth around the tip, licking, sucking, so fucking good Frank doesn’t even care when his teeth catch for a second on his way down.

He squeaks, flinches a little, but he doesn’t care.

Gerard pulls off, says, “Sorry. I’ve never—“

And god, why is that even hotter? That Frank’s is the first cock he’s ever had in his mouth? “No, s’good. Don’t stop. Please. Fuck, Gee, please.” Gerard doesn’t complain about the nickname, and Frank hopes that nuzzling a guy’s junk means you’re past the need for formalities.

“D’zit always taste this good?” he slurs, chin propped on Frank’s thigh.

Since Frank’s had exactly zero dicks in his mouth, and he’s not really into licking his fingers after he jerks off, he’s not super qualified to answer that question. “Just fucking suck me, please. We can talk after.”

Gerard, thank god, giggles at that and gets back to what he was doing.

Objectively, maybe, Gerard is not all that skilled at giving head. Even after the first time, he hasn’t really got the hang of keeping his teeth out of the way, though Frank can tell he’s trying, and at least he hasn’t stopped to apologize again. He hasn’t got any rhythm, and he’s for sure not deep throating, but he keeps making these hungry, greedy noises that make Frank feel like he’s gonna vibrate out of his skin, and his mouth is wet and hot and tight and he keeps doing this thing with his tongue that makes Frank’s dick jerk, and the way he’s drooling everywhere makes his fist a slick-wet tunnel to thrust into, and skilled or not, Frank is a big fan of his technique.

The last (and only) time Frank got a blowjob, he was so drunk that he had to work to come. Now he’s having to work to hold on, despite the fact he came like fifteen minutes ago. He tries to get a hand in Gerard's hair, maybe slow him down some, but he just ends up cupping the back of Gerard's head, grinding awkwardly into his face.

That makes Gerard cough―and oh, there are his teeth again―makes his hand tighten roughly, and Frank should probably be squawking and flailing and protecting his junk, but he's too busy coming.

"Are you, um?" Gerard says, squinting up at Frank.

"Good. Great. You bit me."

Ducking Frank’s gaze, Gerard nuzzles his groin, kisses the top of his thigh. “If I promise I’ll get better, will you let me practice?”

“All day, every day,” Frank answers, voice thick with feeling. “Except the parts where I’m practicing on you.”

That gets him Gerard’s most blinding grin yet.

 

The next day at school is confusing, because Gerard decides he wants to walk Frank to his classes, and Frank decides he wants to walk Gerard’s to his, so they end up lurking around the other one’s locker getting tardies, wondering if they’d somehow misread the sappy, dirty texts they’d exchanged after Frank made good on his promise and helped Gerard find his phone before going home, and the clinging, frantic kisses in the janitor’s closet before school. But at lunch Mikey explains to both of them how meeting up in the halls works a lot better if you know where you’re meeting, and after that, things go much more smoothly.

Since Frank already has practice going by Gerard’s locker between classes, mostly they meet there, and they look at each other longingly, hating everyone else in the halls, and Gerard shows Frank his locker art, even lets Frank tape up the Frank-and-Mikey-led, iron-wielding not-hipster army picture once he finishes it. They’re standing there before Gerard’s studio class a few days after winter break, debating whether the irons would be any good as weaponry against Gerard’s cat woman (not because Frank really cares, but because that’s much more socially acceptable behavior than sucking Gerard’s dick in the middle of the hall) when the girl who hit Frank with the door a few weeks ago approaches.

“Hi, Frank. Hi, Gerard,” she says, reaching for the door of the classroom.

Frank debates just asking Gerard what her name is, but figures that even with Gerard and Mikey and Janine, and even Bob and Ray who they’ve been hanging out with over break, it’s not like Frank’s so flush with friends he shouldn’t try to make more where he can. “So you never told me your name,” he says, before she can escape into the studio.

“Oh,” she says. “Yeah. It’s Erika.”

“Nice to meet you,” Frank says, holding his hand out. She shakes it.

“Nice to meet you, too. Officially,” she says, and as the bell rings, hurries inside.

“Do you have to go to Business?” Gerard asks, voice tickling in Frank’s ear.

“No.” He doesn’t even have to think about it. Except, “But don’t you need your studio time?”

“Fuck.” Gerard frowns, and Frank doesn’t take his thumb and smooth the wrinkle that puts between his eyebrows. “Yes. I’m already behind on my oil painting.”

“That’s what I thought.” Gerard hasn’t complained, quite the opposite in fact, but Frank knows they’ve both been getting behind on their schoolwork. “See you after, though,” Frank says, darting a look around the hall before dropping a quick kiss on Gerard’s shoulder.

“Yeah. See you after.”

 

After, Frank and Gerard are waiting for Mikey at his locker, and he’s taking forever. They aren’t making out against the wall or anything (although Frank wishes they were, because damn is Gerard a good kisser) but Gerard has his chin propped on Frank’s shoulder and an arm around his ribs pointing out details in the sketch for his painting Frank’s looking at.

“Hey, shortass,” comes a sneer from behind them. “Psycho-boy sucking your dick now?”

The urge to let his fist fly is strong, but Frank would pretty much have to elbow Gerard in the stomach to do it, so he just turns and gives PE-class Asshole Number One a nasty smile. “Yes,” Frank says. “He is. And he’s amazing. Better than you’ll ever get.”

The asshole doesn’t look like he knows what to say to that. “Yeah, well,” he sputters. “I get plenty of head. You don’t know how much head I get.”

“Don’t care, either,” Frank points out.

Erika from Gerard’s art class shows up at asshole’s elbow. “God, Carl, you’re not going to try to count that pity blow Alexis gave you at your party last summer when you drank so much gin you cried about being a virgin and then couldn’t get it up, are you?” When he boggles at her wide-eyed, she boggles back, mocking him. “And their names are Frank and Gerard, not shortass and psycho-boy.”

“Like I care what their names are,” Carl mutters.

“Like we care about your sexual inadequacies,” Gerard says, arm still around Frank’s waist, chin still hooked over his shoulder.

“I get being obsessed with Gee’s mouth,” Frank adds. “Believe me. But I’m not sharing. Sorry.” Erika laughs at that, and Carl scowls.

“Fuck you all,” he says, pushing Erika aside to get away.

“Not if you paid me,” Frank calls after him.

“Paid you for what?” And there’s Mikey, finally.

“Carl is jealous that your brother’s giving Frank head instead of him,” Erika explains. “And Frank doesn’t want to fuck him.”

Mikey draws his eyebrows together slightly in what Frank has learned is his frown. “No,” he says. “We’re not talking about Gee and sex.”

“Am I really amazing?” Gerard whispers in Frank’s ear.

“The most amazing,” Frank whispers back, letting his shoulders settle against Gerard’s chest.

“Ugh,” Mikey says. “You two are not making out through the whole movie again.

“I like movies,” Erika chimes in. “I can distract you so you don’t have to watch them.”

“Great idea,” Frank says before Mikey can protest.

Erika puts an arm around Mikey, and the other around the bundle of Gerard and Frank. “That’s what friends are for, right?”

~fin~