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The Children Are Our Future, Or Something

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The thing is, Frank doesn't actually mean to become a babysitter. At first, he regards it as some kind of horrific accident that's somehow befallen him through no fault of his own. When his mom first mentions it, he's sprawled on the couch doing his best impression of an extremely sober person who was absolutely not about to jack off before passing out for the night.

"The Ashers need a sitter for Friday night," she says. "I told them you were free."

Frank lets that sentence slop around his brain until he's sure it doesn't contain the words "drinking" or "pot" in conjunction with "have you" and "been", then he makes a vague noise of acquiescence and promptly forgets all about the whole thing.


That Friday, he's on his way out to meet Mikey when his mom says, "Off to the Ashers'?"

Frank stops. "No," he says slowly. "Ma, I've got a... thing. To go to."

"Mm. Maybe I'd be sympathetic if by "thing" you didn't mean the Way basement." She points her spatula at him, and gives him her most terrifying stink-eye. "Franklin Anthony Iero, you gave your word. That's binding. You'll make a few bucks, maybe even learn something. Go."


He decides to let the kid do whatever the fuck she wants, on the grounds that this should significantly lower his chances of being asked again. Unfortunately, to say this backfires spectacularly is the understatement of the decade. Which is how, at eight o' clock on a Friday night (what the fuck, he thinks helplessly, how did he get himself into this?), Frank finds himself listening to little Victoria Asher practicing the piano. As she stumbles to the end of her piece, she turns to Frank.

"How was that?" she says.

Frank throws his hands up helplessly. "Don't look at me, kid. Do I look like I know jack sh-- anything about..." He squints at the incomprehensible mess of sheet music balanced on the rickety stand. "...Bach, do I look like a Bach kind of dude to you?"

She looks him up and down critically, and Frank feels uncomfortably exposed, even though he's about three times her size and she's wearing pajamas with Care Bears on them.

"No," she says.

"Good answer." He reaches out for the lid of the piano, then stops when he realizes he's too chickenshit to actually close it on her fingers. He's pretty sure he could get sued into oblivion or, like, sent to juvie for that. "Come on," he says lamely. He suspects he's failing pretty epically at being an intimidating authority figure. "Your mom said lights out by eight thirty."

She shakes her head, eyes huge. Butter wouldn't fucking melt, Frank thinks. He knows exactly what she's about to say, because he remembers trying to pull exactly the same trick on sitters when he was a kid.

"No-o-o," she says, like she thinks he's stupid, but the corner of her mouth twitches damningly. "She made a mistake. My bedtime's at..." she pauses to think, and Frank resists the urge to pat her condescendingly on the head. "Nine," she announces finally, with a defiant tilt of her chin.

"Nine," repeats Frank, unimpressed. "Seriously, what? Have some ambition, Jesus. You're not even gonna go for ten?"

She blinks, puzzled, and he sighs deeply. "Call it a life lesson," he says. "Aim high, or whatever. Bathroom, seriously. You're old enough to brush your own teeth, right?"

"I'm almost eight," she says witheringly, glowering at him, but she leads Frank obediently up the stairs and then into the bathroom.


"Frank," she says, peering beadily up at him as she drops her toothbrush back into the cup on the windowsill.

"Yeah?" He's picking at the hole in his jeans, perched awkwardly on the cold, hard edge of the bathtub, because the bathroom's kind of small and the only other choices were sitting on the toilet seat or sitting in the tub. There could be spiders in there, just chilling out while they wait for their chance to scuttle up the legs of his jeans or whatever.

"Why don't you have a girlfriend?"

He hesitates. Several answers spring to mind, and he reaches for one a little more G-rated than because I like dick. But before he can answer, she says, "You don't have to have a girlfriend, you know."

She looks so earnest that his throat feels a little tight – and, really, who put estrogen in his morning OJ? Fuck. He reaches out to ruffle her hair.

"I know, sweetheart, I know," he says, and does a double take that would probably be pretty hilarious to anyone else watching right now. Sweetheart? What the shit? This is terrifying. He has to get away from this kid, and soon, or before he knows it he'll start actually liking children. Scenes of horror unspool before his eyes. He imagines himself getting all misty-eyed over families in parks and picking out his own kids' names decades in advance and being reduced to incoherency by how fucking cute baby-sized shoes are. He feels nauseous.

She frowns. "No," she says. "I mean. You don't have to have a girlfriend. You could have a boyfriend instead. Why don't you have a boyfriend?"

The sudden chick-flick feelings dissipate as quickly as they'd arrived. He's acutely relieved to see them go, because that shit was not cool. "You tell me, kid," he says. "You tell me."

He's not bitter, he is not.


After he's tucked her into bed and personally checked there are no monsters hiding underneath (he's going to die if this gets out somehow, actually spontaneously combust on the spot from sheer humiliation), the novelty of the peace and quiet lasts all of half an hour before he's fucking bored senseless. He channel-surfs for a little while, then checks the time on his phone. It must be at least eleven by now.

9:08, it says, and he could swear the fucking thing looks smug.

He groans and digs the heels of his hands into his eyes. What the fuck is he doing here? He should be in the Way basement right now, arguing over the value of Shaun of the Dead as a commentary on the horror genre or whatever it is this week. An evening at the Ways' is guaranteed to be a warm, comfortable blur of dick jokes and illicit beer and zombies. It isn't fair.

As if on cue, his cell phone buzzes in his hand. He stabs at the button, feeling almost pathetically grateful for the distraction.

"'Sup," he says, then wonders slightly belatedly if it's the shrink his mom made him see last month, who's about a hundred and ten years old and doesn't appreciate being addressed as anything but "yes ma'am". At this point, he gives even less of a shit than he did when he was seeing her.

"Hi, Frank," says Gerard vaguely. "What's up, man?"

"I don't know, fuckface, you called me."

"Did I?" Gerard sounds genuinely surprised. Frank can almost hear the unspoken who, me? as Gerard lets out a high-pitched giggle, and Frank realizes with outrage that those fuckers are getting high without him. He can hear Ray and Bert and even fucking Mikey laughing in the background, and he suddenly wants to be there instead of here so badly it hurts.

"Anyway, where are you, man? I thought you were coming over."

The mournful lilt in Gerard's voice tells Frank that he's doing his kicked puppy face. Frank grits his teeth, because that's just playing dirty. "Grounded," he says automatically.

"Oh." There's a long pause while Gerard attempts to parse this out. "Like. Why?"

Frank gropes for a plausible reason why he could be grounded. Seventeen or so immediately present themselves, and he picks one. "Mom caught me smoking," he says. "She was really pissed." He begins to warm to his story. It's not really a lie; there's no specific incident he remembers, but he's pretty sure his mom knows. She certainly drops enough pointed hints about it into dinner conversation. "Said my lungs were already fucked up enough from all the times I've had pneumonia and bronchitis and shit, and don't I know I'm only making it worse, blah blah blah."

He makes himself stop talking. He knows how much detail to give so it sounds plausible, but not like he's trying too hard. He feels like a bit of a shit for lying to Gerard, but not enough to make him want to do anything stupid like come clean and tell them what he's really doing. He knows Gerard would promise to keep it a secret, but Gerard is a shitty secret-keeper when he's drunk, and he gets drunk a lot. Mikey would inevitably find out, and Mikey would have absolutely no compunctions about telling everyone ever.

"Oh," says Gerard. He sounds sort of distracted. "Right."

"Yeah. Bye, dude," Frank sighs. Gerard's already hung up, and Frank restrains himself from throwing his phone through the closed window. He's pretty sure they'd make him pay for that, and if they didn't his mom would. Unless he blamed the kid, of course.

It's a thought.


By the time Mr. and Mrs. Asher get home (hours later, or possibly days, or even weeks), Frank's entered a trance-like state. He's flicked past every channel they've got at least three times, never lingering on one for more than a minute or two. He's walked very, very slowly to the kitchen for a glass of water, back into the living room to drink it and then back again to put the empty glass by the sink (he got triple time-killing mileage out of this by going back for three glasses of water, then another minute or two from a trip to the upstairs bathroom to piss). He wishes he'd brought a book. There was even a dark and terrible moment when he thought he'd be glad of some homework to do. He suspects he's actually died, or at least slid into a coma. Maybe this is what limbo looks like. Or should that be purgatory? He'll have to ask Gerard sometime. He wonders if he still counts as a responsible adult if he's comatose. Probably not. He hums a couple of lines of Longview to himself and indulges in some half-hearted air guitar, then sighs as deeply as his lungs will allow. He'd be willing to bet that Billie Joe never had to put up with this shit. He lies back on the couch, resigning himself to a tragic and untimely death by ennui.

But then, the front door is opening and they're back, letting a rush of warm summer air in with them, thanking him and pressing three crisp ten-dollar bills into his hand.

He looks down at the money, his brain already ticking over as he mentally converts it to smokes, beer and weed, or maybe a trip to the record store. He was fucking bored, sure, but it seems like a lot of cash for the amount of actual work he's done.

He thinks he might be on to something.


It doesn't take him long to figure out that he sort of shot himself in the foot with his "grounded" masterstroke, because in order to maintain his cover he's basically got to act like he really is grounded. It's kind of cramping his style. He manages to get a pretty epic sulk going, though, and sustains it all the way through the following week. The guys are all totally sympathetic, which is so nice he doesn't even feel bad when they offer to share their smokes with him, assuming he's having trouble getting his own. In fact, the only thing that sucks is the part where he's pretty much grounded himself. He consoles himself with the thought of the thirty bucks still burning a hole in his wallet.

(Compensation, he thinks, for the most excruciatingly boring weekend in the history of recorded time. He even got halfway through his schoolwork before he realized that he was going to have to tone it down a bit if he didn't want people asking awkward questions. He carefully half-assed the rest of it, spending at least half an hour making it look like he wrote his chapter summary in ten minutes on the bus while having three different conversations and possibly eating a Twizzler, all without having actually read the chapter. He has a reputation to uphold, after all.)


So when his mom marches into his room on Wednesday night (without knocking, he hates that, god, can't she read the sign on the door?) and informs him that he'll be babysitting for the Ashers again on Friday night and that the Smiths down the street need someone for Saturday, he's bored enough that he doesn't argue.


"What are we watching?" he asks, flopping down on the couch next to Victoria.

"Back To The Future," she says. "The second one. It's my favorite."

"What," he says. "What, no. The second one sucked balls." He can't really believe he's having this argument with a seven-year-old, but then again he can't really believe that anyone could be retarded enough to think the second Back To The Future movie was the best one, either.

She doesn't respond, just sticks her tongue out at him and climbs into his lap. She somehow manages to jam a pointy little elbow into his ribs in the process, which he's pretty sure was deliberate. He mentally rolls her bedtime forward by ten minutes. She wriggles around, getting comfortable, but once she's settled, she feels more like the pet rabbit he used to have than an actual person. It's weird. Small children are weird, period.

Victoria watches the screen sadly, and Frank doesn't think it's to do with Marty McFly's (admittedly eye-meltingly horrible) "futuristic" outfit. He nudges her, less because he's concerned about her problems and more because he's curious about what kind of problems a seven-year-old could even have.

"What's up, squirt? You look like someone..." found your weed stash? No, inappropriate. "...took your candy."

She scowls. "They're making me be Little Red Riding Hood in the stupid play."

He looks down at her, nonplussed. "And this is the end of the world because...?"

"I don't want to be Little Red Riding Hood. Or, or some stupid grandma. I wanted to be the woodcutter."

Gerard would love this kid.

"Well," says Frank slowly, when he realizes she's looking at him like she expects him to whip out a magic wand and fix it for her. "Can't you. I don't know, talk to whoever's running the show and tell them you don't want to be little red riding hood?"

"Yeah," she says, but it sounds a lot like duh. "But they already gave the part of the woodcutter away. To a boy."

She looks so wounded that Frank almost apologizes on behalf of his entire gender.

"We can't even sit with the boys in class," she says. "They say we don't pay attention if we do."

Her eyes are huge, and her bottom lip is trembling dangerously, and he's sort of appalled. Clearly, this school is running some kind of whacked-out neo-Nazi regime. He pushes her hair back and looks her square in the eye.

"You sit with whoever you want," he says. "No matter what your teachers say, okay?" It's a social service, he figures, encouraging almost-eight-year-olds to fuck the rules and stick it to the man. How else is rock 'n' roll supposed to survive?

She nods solemnly.

"Seriously, though, what the--" he catches himself. "Fudge. Who doesn't like fudge?"

She looks up at him coolly. "You were going to say fuck, weren't you?"

The damage, Frank figures, is already done, right? "I was," he says. "I'm a sinful, immoral person who is going to burn in h-e-double-toothpicks for all eternity for his potty mouth. Now go and brush your fucking teeth, please."


He manages to get the kid to bed in record time, and when she demands a story, he recounts an abbreviated but graphic and liberally embellished version of the plot of the original Godzilla, which she loves so much she makes him tell it twice. The only hitch occurs when he's just turning the light out and she mumbles, "You'd make a good mommy, Frank," and he feels momentarily warm and gooey, then is instantly disgusted with himself. It passes quickly, though, and he decides to chalk it up to an imminent stomach bug.

He actually feels kind of proud of himself, until it occurs to him that if he's not careful he's going to get good at this. It's a sobering thought. Once again, he finds himself sprawled on the expensive beige couch, mindlessly eating his way through a bag of Doritos he found in the kitchen, staring at the TV and not taking in a thing that's happening on the screen. There's a mirror on the wall, and he studies his reflection idly. Multi-colored fauxhawk, lip ring, nose ring, plugs, Black Flag t-shirt, jeans that are well on their way to being more holes than actual denim, odd socks, an angry graze on his left knee, lots of places that are so obviously going to end up tattooed that there have been days when he could have sworn he's caught glimpses of the ink out of the corners of his eyes. He sees absolutely nothing remotely indicative of why yes, I am a responsible adult who will take care of your child and make sure they brush their teeth and get to bed on time.

He's bored.

He texts Gerard. He's working on an ongoing plan to make the oblivious fucker realize that he totally wants in Frank's pants. Which he blatantly does, because – well, who wouldn't, right? Gerard's just playing hard to get, because just boring the shit out of everyone at every given opportunity apparently doesn't do it for him and he has to take his whole thing about repressive gender norms and dominant paradigms or whatever it is he talks about to a whole new level of pain-in-the-ass by acting like a fucking girl. Frank's seduction plan is subtle, complex and multi-layered, and goes like this: 1. win Gerard's adoration by plying him with smokes, beer and good weed. 2. use the art of subliminal messaging to convince him that he totally wants to blow Frank. It can't fail.

(Frank does not have a crush. He doesn't even consider the possibility. He just has a vivid imagination which has latched onto the fact that Gerard has absolutely no gag reflex and hair just the right length for pulling. That's all it is, and anyone who so much as thinks otherwise is going to feel Frank's wrath, possibly in the form of a swift and expedient kick to the balls.)

Gerard doesn't text back. Frank texts him again: oh, so now ur too busy 2 talk 2 me in my hour of need? fuck u, man. i thought what we had was special.

This gets no reply either. Logically, Frank knows Gerard's probably just fallen asleep in front of Clone Wars again or something, but he feels righteously indignant. He leaves Gerard twenty-three messages over the next hour, all of them some variation or another on the running theme of gerarrrrrrrrd, stop ignoring me, motherfucker :(.

He stops after that, because he discovers that the Ashers have this badass stash of imported British comedy DVDs. He's delighted, not only because this is going to be a major part of his strategy to stave off the crushing boredom, but also because Gerard and Mikey would totally flip their shit over these, and he's getting paid for this. It still sucks, but at least it's not without perks.


It's another hour and a half before Gerard texts back: jfc, frank! how old r u, 5?

u were ignoring me, Frank retorts. i'm so fckin boreddddddd. He adds a frowny emoticon to convey his disappointment in Gerard as a terrible friend and a useless human being. If anyone could get all that from an emoticon, it's Gerard.

srry, replies Gerard a minute later, and there's a little face with a downturned mouth and an apostrophe tear under its eye. Frank is not moved to forgiveness, especially as the text goes on to say, bert was here, i guess i forgot to check my messages.

Frank re-reads this several times, then stuffs his cell phone back in his pocket and un-pauses the TV with a brutal stab at the button.

The sooner he can put phase one of his plan into action, the better.


He's almost glad to be at the Smiths' the next day. He thinks his mom knows Mr. and Mrs. Smith from church, and he realizes as he starts the two-minute walk down the street to their house that she's basically just started whoring him out now. Whatever, it's a good enough business model for him. He's made fifty-five bucks in the last week without mowing a single lawn, which is more than any of his loser friends can say for themselves. Those dicks can go fuck themselves, as far as he's concerned. The way he sees it, he's financing his twin love affairs with weed and beer by sitting in people's houses, eating their food and watching their widescreen TVs. He's way ahead on this one. Now he's had a while to get used to the idea, he can admit that there's not much about the whole situation that isn't fucking awesome.


The Smiths already are on their way out when he gets there, only sticking around long enough to make him promise that he'll get whatever he wants out of the kitchen if he's hungry, and to tell him that Spencer has a friend staying over. Frank glares wordlessly at the closed front door for a moment after they've gone, because – randomly dumping an extra kid on him like that? Seriously not cool. He's going to make a chart of his fees, he decides, flat rates plus extra charges for every kid plus even more if the kids are little terrors, and then he's going to laminate that shit and carry it around with him to illustrate to people exactly what his valuable time is costing them. He doesn't think that's unreasonable; he's got a plan, after all, and he isn't going to get into Gerard's pants without a little effort and dedication.

With a sigh, he turns to the kids, who are sitting side-by-side at the bottom of the stairs, both watching him intently. Frank is pretty sure Spencer is the sandy-haired one with the epic bitchface, which means the one with the huge, dark eyes and the worried expression must be the friend. Brad? Brett? Brandon? Something like that.

"Hi," he says, because neither of them is making any noise at all and it's really starting to weird him out. Kids who stare like that and don't speak belong in creepy horror movies, not three feet away from Frank's kneecaps. "I'm Frank."

He tries a smile, but Spencer just looks unimpressed and says, "Spencer. This is Brendon."

Brendon. Whatever, Frank was totally close with Brandon. The silence drags awkwardly, and he's on the verge of suggesting they pick a DVD or something when Spencer stands with a long-suffering sigh.

"I have math homework," he says. "Brendon, go wait with Frank, okay? I'll come back when I'm done."

Brendon jumps up so quickly Frank has to wonder if there was electricity involved. "Sure," he says, much too loudly. Frank watches him suspiciously. He's not going to be fooled by those big eyes; the kid looks positively guilty. He's shifting nervously from foot to foot, his gaze flicking between Frank's face and the carpet.

"Seriously," says Frank, raising an eyebrow. "Kid, what are you on?"

This earns him a deeply confused look. "Huh?"

"You – ah, forget it. Come on." He attempts to herd Brendon into the living room while Spencer disappears into the kitchen.


Frank is actually proud of the way he manages to get Brendon sat down in front of The Lion King. Brendon has even mostly stopped twitching like he expects Frank to morph into a terrifying monster at any second. Frank is totally the dude from that movie with Robert Redford and Scarlett Johansson – The Horse Whisperer, that's it. Frank doesn't remember much of the actual plot (an inevitable consequence of being really, really wasted when he saw it), but he's totally that dude, only he's awesome at understanding kids instead of horses. Clearly a more lucrative skill, and one which he doesn't have to spend time outside to profit from. But then that would make him the child whisperer, which sounds all kinds of creepy and inappropriate, so maybe not.

Brendon's bobbing his head and tapping his feet on the floor in time with The Circle Of Life, and he's mouthing the words under his breath. Frank recognizes that, even if Disney was never really his thing.

"Music, huh?" he says, and Brendon fucking lights up like a little doe-eyed Christmas tree. Frank subjects Brendon to a rigorous quizzing about what he likes, and "Pop" gets a hesitant nod, "punk" gets a look of earnest incomprehension, but "rock" gets an enthusiastic nod and a gappy grin. Somehow, they get into an involved debate about the merits of the banjo versus the saxophone, in which Brendon gives as good as he gets, and Frank's much more impressed than he'd willingly admit.

Brendon is getting all sniffly and shiny-eyed at Mufasa's death scene when Spencer appears in the living room doorway, pouting like his life depends on it. Pouting like Gerard, actually, which is really fucking unsettling.

"Finished?" Frank says.

"No," mutters Spencer. "I'm... stuck." He looks expectantly at Frank, and Frank can feel his most obnoxious shit-eating grin forming on his face. If Spencer wants help, he's going to have to ask for it. It'll be good for him. It's a life skill, or something. The stare-down doesn't last long.

"I think I need help," he says at last, scuffing his foot against the carpet. Frank makes an and? gesture, and doesn't get up off the couch.

"Can you help me?" Spencer says it so reluctantly that every word sounds physically painful. Frank's grin widens by another couple of molars.

"I fu-- I hate math," he says. "But yeah, sure. You're, like, nine."


"Ten, whatever. How hard can it be?" he says optimistically, and leaves Brendon with Timon and Pumba.


Very, it turns out, because of course the kid is in some kind of accelerated program. It's not actually difficult (or at least it shouldn't be, for Frank), and he knows he should be able to do it in his sleep, but there's a totally horrifying moment when he completely forgets how to add two numbers together, let alone attempt long division. They manage to get it finished between them, though, and Frank feels completely justified in high-fiving Spencer when they solve the last problem.

"Thanks," says Spencer, only slightly grudgingly.

"No problem," says Frank cheerfully, because that was actually kind of an ego trip. To Spencer, he must seem like the god of math or something. He is awesome. "Okay. Bedtime. You go and brush your teeth, I'll go get Brendon."

When Frank tells him he's going to have to leave the rest of The Lion King for another time, Brendon doesn't resist, and pads obediently out into the hall. Frank follows him up toward the landing, but Brendon looks back over his shoulder and stumbles. Frank's heart is in his mouth, but he still hears Brendon's head hit the banister with an audible crack.

Frank – not unreasonably, he thinks – freaks the fuck out.

"Oh, Jesus Christ," he gasps, sprinting up to get Brendon. "Don't you dare die on my watch, I'll be so screwed. Look at me. Okay. Okay. How many fingers am I holding up?"

"Four," says Brendon cheerfully. He sounds pretty chirpy for a kid who should have a bitching headache if not a straight-up concussion coming on right now, and Frank slumps against the wall and drops his hand, relieved.

"Awesome. Are you sure you're all right?"

"Fine! Look, look, I'm fine," giggles Brendon, and takes off toward the landing again at a run.

He trips on the second stair from the top, and tumbles all the way back down.

Frank nearly passes out. Why, some small part of him that isn't panicking thinks wildly, why would you ever have a kid if it means putting yourself through this stress voluntarily on a twenty-four/seven basis?

It takes him about another second and a half to remember that falling down twice in thirty seconds would actually have been pretty good going for him when he was a kid, and that helps him breathe a little easier. Small children are apparently built to withstand their own stupidity, so they must actually be much more resilient than most people give them credit for. Which makes sense, Frank supposes; if he survived childhood, how hard can it be?

"Brendon?" he says, and he can just about make out Brendon picking himself up off the floor. He dashes up the rest of the stairs and cannons into Frank, flinging his little arms around Frank and mumbling something about a spider.

Frank peers down cautiously into the gloom. "I can't see anything," he says, which somehow seems to reassure Brendon, because he unfastens himself from Frank and wipes his eyes on the back of his hand. Frank isn't entirely sure how, but they end up arguing the relative hazards of different types of spiders. This culminates in Frank saying, "So don't put a tarantula in your eye, then, loser," and sticking his tongue out at Brendon because it just seems like the only reasonable thing to do.

He is not getting paid nearly enough for this.


Flirtations with grievous bodily harm and spider invasion threats aside, it's actually going pretty well, because Frank is a fucking pro at this by now. Of course, it doesn't last. Frank is midway through Brendon and Spencer's bedtime story (the discerning listener might have noticed some slight similarities to a certain early issue of X-Men. Might have.) when his cell phone buzzes, and he answers it without thinking.

"Frank?" the voice is a hoarse stage-whisper, poised right on the edge of a pot giggle.

It's Bert.

It's Bert.

Holy motherfucking shitballs, this could be really, really bad.

Brendon is making big, confused eyes at him and Spencer is just opening his mouth, and Frank feels his own eyes widen with horror as he makes a frantic shhhhhh gesture. They both look puzzled, Brendon a little hurt, but at least Spencer closes his mouth again. Frank supposes he could have passed them off as noise from the TV or something, but he'd rather not risk Bert calling him on it.

Okay. Be cool. Remember you're grounded. Don't make him suspicious. Frank can do this. "What's up, man?"

There are noises of a brief scuffle, and the next voice is Quinn's. "Dude! We're at your house," he says, in a similarly stoned-sounding not-whisper, with Bert's weirdo laugh in the background. "We're breaking you out of there!"

Frank could swear he sees his life flash before his eyes. "No!" he says automatically, then wants to kick himself. Too quick, too panicked-sounding. This isn't a situation he's ever imagined having to deal with in any other way than enthusiastic participation.

"What?" says Quinn. "Come on, man, you've been stuck in that fucking place for ages."

Bert seizes the phone. "Yeah! I mean, it's not like we miss your stupid face or anything, we're trying to throw you a bone here."

Frank rubs his eyes and groans inwardly. He feels sort of bad now. They're both irritating fuckers, but they came to jailbreak him because they thought he was grounded. He feels bad, but not quite bad enough to want to break out the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Instead, he lies like a rug.

"Aw, guys," he says, drawing the word out mournfully and dropping his own voice to a whisper. "That's fu--" his eyes flick to Brendon and Spencer, still watching him intently. "Sweet. That's awesome of you, seriously, but my parents are awake. You know my mom's got the ears of, like, a genetically modified bat or something. There's no way I'm getting out tonight without them hearing me."

"We'll be sneaky," Bert promises. "Like, like..."

"Really fucking sneaky things?" suggests Quinn, and they both dissolve into another round of hysterical laughter. At this rate Frank's parents really are going to wake up. He can only hope they won't recognize Bert and Quinn if they do.

"Sorry," he says, then, for the sake of realism, adds, "Seriously. I'm about to chew my own arm off, I'm so bored. But thanks for coming out here, I guess."

He's proud of the "here". He thinks it's a nice touch.

"Okay, then, dickface," says Quinn. He doesn't sound too upset. "We're gonna go now. There's still a fuckload of beer left." He pauses. "We're going to drink it," he says, just in case it wasn't clear. "You know. Without you."

Frank would like nothing more than to tell Quinn what a fucking supreme douchebag he is, but he can't think of a remotely kid-friendly way to express this sentiment, so swallows his pride and hangs up.

"Who was that?" asks Spencer, his eyes narrowed suspiciously.

"No one," says Frank. Crisis averted, for now. "Prank call."


Back in the living room after what he feels was a rushed and unsatisfying ending to his epic bedtime story of mutants and betrayal, Frank is finding it difficult to really get into his (Gerard's) copy of Watchmen. That was way too close for comfort.


William Beckett has told Frank four times already that his name is Bill, not William, and that he's thirteen and far too old to need a sitter, which seems a bit excessive given that Frank hasn't even been in the house ten minutes yet. Actually, that's kind of all he's said. Frank sincerely hopes the kid's stupid cold shoulder act is going to thaw a bit, but then again, he's going to get paid either way, regardless of whether or not some snotty thirteen-year-old decides to keep on giving him attitude. He wonders if this is why some teachers are so fucking smug all the time. It's a revelation.

"I'm--" the kid starts again, and Frank rolls his eyes.

"I know," he says. "Seriously, man. I really do know. Even if I'd missed it the first, second and third times you told me, I'd still know."

Frank takes his hoodie off and slings it carelessly over the banister, then takes his iPod out of the pocket and peers intently at the headphones. He doesn't know what they make the cable insulation stuff out of, but it has this incredible ability to tangle itself to hell the instant you take your eyes off it. He finally gets the stupid things untangled, and he's about to curl them up properly and stick them back in his pocket when Bill says, "Is that yours?" His arms stay folded and he's still slouching like his life depends on it, but he looks at least a little bit interested despite himself (registering maybe a two on a scale from one to Gerard). It's pretty hilarious, actually. Frank is desperately tempted to ruffle his hair, but he reconsiders when it strikes him that Bill's a leggy fucker, tall and skinny like Mikey, and that Frank would probably have to reach up just to get to the kid's hair. He's pretty sure that would make it completely null and void as a patronizing gesture.

"Nope," says Frank. "I mugged a dude for it last week."



"Oh." Bill looks mildly disappointed, and then thoughtful. "You'd be kind of crappy at mugging people," he says. "You're not very... like, scary, you know? No offense."

Frank doesn't really know what to do with that.

"Can I see it?" Bill asks, and Frank shrugs and hands the iPod over. The kid's looking at it like it's the Holy Grail, staring at it wonderingly, turning it over in his hands once or twice and running his thumb over the click wheel. He flicks the hold switch on and then off again a couple of times, still wide-eyed.

"My precioussssss," hisses Frank in his best, most deranged Gollum voice and making the obligatory accompanying hand gestures. Even Gerard concedes that Frank's Gollum impression is pretty accurate, which means it's fucking uncanny by anyone else's standards. Bill, however, just looks alarmed, and Frank is almost sure he hears the slight whistling noise the reference makes as it soars over the kid's head.

"Dude," Frank says, reverting back to his normal voice. "You need more geeky friends. Seriously. Lord of the Rings is, like, mandatory viewing even if you don't understand half of it. And what's the big deal with that thing? It's an iPod. And kind of an old model, too."

It's also taken so much abuse since Frank inherited it from his second cousin Naomi that the battery life is comprehensively fucked and the casing is pitted with little scrapes and dents. Frank likes to think of them as battle scars.

"Still," Bill says wistfully, scrolling through the artist menu. "I'm saving my allowance for one, but. Oh, man, you like Weezer?"

"Kind of, I guess," says Frank, with a shrug, "But I've got a friend who fuckin' loves them, he gave me a bunch of their stuff."

(Whatever. Watching his mouth around ten-year-olds is one thing, but if this kid's somehow made it to thirteen without hearing anyone drop an f-bomb, then all Frank's doing is providing a healthy dose of reality.)

Bill doesn't even seem to notice. "Awesome," he says, and he's grinning.


Bill's actually a pretty cool kid, Frank discovers, once he's broken through the sulk barrier. Between the two of them, they get Frank's battered iPod hooked up to Mr. and Mrs. Beckett's expensive stereo system, and Frank lets Bill loose on his playlists. Bill's favorite is the one called "I HATE EVERYTHING", which Frank made for Gerard to apologize when Gerard didn't speak to him for a week after Frank accidentally destroyed a pristine early edition of Doom Patrol. This is closely followed by the one titled simply with a sad face, which Frank refers to in the privacy of his own brain as "The Angsty Movie Montage Playlist".

Frank is pretty sure he's earned Bill's undying hero-worship, which is deeply odd and not a feeling Frank's accustomed to. It makes him feel like he should start behaving responsibly or some shit like that. He doesn't like it.

He actually forgets all about watching the clock obsessively, and he doesn't even realize how late it's getting until he catches Bill stifling a yawn, at which point he checks his cell phone to find that it's nearly eleven, panics slightly, and packs Bill off upstairs.

Frank's more tired than he thought, and sways slightly on the spot while he waits for Bill to brush his teeth and swap his skinny jeans and Blink-182 shirt for pajamas. At least when he jokingly offers Bill a bedtime story, Bill declines with a middle finger and a bitchface to rival Spencer's, which is a relief. All Frank wants to do is go and zone out on the couch for a while, so he says goodnight and heads back downstairs. After a moment of sluggish thought, he ambles into the kitchen instead of the living room. Maybe something sugary or caffeine-rich (ideally both) will wake him up a bit. He opens the fridge, hoping that the Becketts aren't the kind of people who buy that zero sugar caffeine-free shit, because, really, why? He's tired enough that his eyes feel sore and gritty, and the fluorescent light from the fridge makes them sting. The cool air lapping at his cheeks and his forehead feels nice, though, so he stands there for a moment with the door open. There aren't any sodas or anything, but there's beer. The good shit, too, the stuff he doesn't drink unless someone else is buying because he's not prepared to make the necessary adjustments to his cigarette budget to afford it.

He can't drink. Not while he's alone and tired, because he will fall asleep. A couple of weeks ago, he would have welcomed the opportunity to leave the profession in disgrace (by way of beer, no less) with open arms. Now, though, he's become quite attached to his source of ready money. He closes the fridge again with a deep sigh. He is such a good person. Practically fucking saintly. Instead, he pulls out his cell phone, dialing Gerard's number from his recent calls list as he wanders back into the living room.

"Hey, Frank," says Gerard on the other end of the line. His voice is slightly slurred, which isn't unusual, but it's all... breathy, sort of like –

"Fucker," says Frank disbelievingly. "Were you jerking off? Don't even front, you totally were. I have magic powers of boner detection. Oh my god."

"Yup." Another slightly ragged inhale and, Jesus, he hasn't stopped. Gerard is talking to Frank while he's touching his dick. Does that constitute phone sex? If it's one-sided and that one side is drunk? "Why, does it bother you?"

Frank pictures Gerard with his head tipped back, his hair tangled and his cheeks flushed and his lip caught between his teeth, jeans shoved down his thighs as he jacks himself. Frank swallows, and files that image away for later. "Nope," he says. "Nope, not at all." He can control himself, he can wait until he gets home.

And then – "Care to join me?" breathes Gerard. Frank nearly chokes on his own tongue, because, fuck, there is absolutely nothing he'd like more.

But he can't.

Frank hangs up without another word, lamenting this stupid fucking job and the stupid kid upstairs and Gerard's stupid fucking face and his voice and his fucking tongue, and Frank's own poor, neglected dick and his poor blue balls. Because – just no. He's not exactly a only-with-the-lights-off, only-when-we're-married kind of dude, but there's a kid in the house who may or may not even be asleep. That's enough kinds of wrong to be the H-bomb of boner-kills.

Frank sits and stares unseeingly at the TV screen. He's not tired at all anymore; he feels wired and wide-awake. It's Gerard. Frank has absolutely no idea what to do with this. He spins in circles around it, and it still makes absolutely no sense to him. When his cell buzzes, he nearly dislocates his fingers in his hurry to get it out of his pocket.

It's a text. From Gerard.

relax, u freak! just fucking with you :P

Frank grits his teeth and drops the stupid thing on the floor. Because of course that wasn't Gerard's way of saying oh hey, Frank, I want to have sex with you, because it's Gerard, for fuck's sake. It was probably just another comment on non-heteronormativity, or how everyone should reject society's accepted standards of relationship boundaries. Or something. Although – Frank doesn't know, because this is something, even by Gerard's standards. Frank wonders if it's wishful thinking that's making him so unwilling to just dismiss it as one of those things Gerard does because he's drunk and they seem like a good idea, and invariably comes to regret profoundly afterwards.

The bitch of it is that Frank can't un-see that mental image of Gerard with his hand on his dick.


Gerard seems kind of weird at school the next Wednesday morning, but Frank's tired after a long night of keeping Victoria away from the food Mrs. Asher left out in the kitchen (he appreciates the gesture, but that child has a nose like a bloodhound and Frank has to hoard it obsessively if he actually wants to eat any of it). Consequently, Frank isn't at his most observant, and while the detail registers vaguely, he doesn't make anything of it. Besides, Gerard is always weird at school. It isn't like he's doing anything really out of character, like volunteering for non-compulsory physical exercise.

So when Gerard announces midway through lunchtime that he needs to talk to Frank, Frank lets Gerard lead him away to the quiet spot under the bleachers without argument. None of the others look like they're trying not to laugh, which means it probably isn't someone's idea of a hilarious prank. Gerard probably wants to pick his brain about second-wave feminism and its implications or something.

"What's going on, Frank?" Gerard asks when they stop. He doesn't sit down, just stands there with his arms folded. His expression is unreadable, which is weird, given that the dude's normally such an open book.

Frank hesitates. "Not much," he says carefully. It's weak, but it's better than nothing. "Why? What's up with you?"

"I went over to your house last night. Your mom told me you haven't been grounded in months."

Frank feels like the bottom has just dropped out of his stomach. "You," he says intelligently. "Gee, wait, I can explain."

"So explain!" Gerard throws his arms out, his eyes big and bewildered. "Frank, what are you doing that you can't tell us about?"

"Okay," says Frank. Fuck, fuck, fuck, he'd really hoped to avoid this. He doesn't know if it's better or worse because it's Gerard who finally found him out. "Okay. You can't... don't, like go telling everyone. Please?"

"You can tell me," insists Gerard, stepping into Frank's personal space and grabbing his hands because that's just the sort of thing he does. "I'm fucking worried about you, okay, fucker?"

Frank realizes that Gerard probably thinks he's leading a secret double life as a crack whore or something. That or he thinks Frank has a superhero alter-ego. A weak bubble of laughter pushes past Frank's lips.

"It's not," he says quickly, when Gerard looks hurt, "It's nothing like whatever you're thinking, I swear. It's just. Sort of embarrassing."

"Oh, woah, woah." Gerard takes a hasty step backwards, dropping Frank's hands like they're hot. "Do I even want to hear about this? Is it, like, gross-out embarrassing?"

Frank rolls his eyes and hip-checks Gerard, who's flailing his arms around like he can somehow ward off Frank's grossness. "No, you fucking pansy," says Frank. "You watch way too many horror movies to get grossed out as easily as you do, god. No, it's just, like. Lame-embarrassing."

Gerard makes go on gesture.

"I'm sort of...oh, fuck it. I'm a babysitter, okay, fucker?" Frank says, because if he doesn't spit it out now he never will.

Gerard laughs. And laughs, and laughs, and doesn't fucking stop. He laughs so hard he sort of forgets to breathe, and starts wheezing alarmingly and has to sit down to recover. "You," he says. "Kids." This sends him off into another bout of hysterical amusement, and Frank taps his foot impatiently as he waits for Gerard to be over it already.

"It isn't that funny," he says when he gets bored with waiting after another minute or two, feeling rather disgruntled. Gerard is still laughing. Frank is totally a mature, capable person. Why is the idea of him being entrusted with the safety of someone's children so hilarious?

"It is," says Gerard. "Like. I don't think. Oh my god, I don't think you even understand how funny this is."

This is exactly why Frank tried so hard to make sure no one found out. It's a good thing he doesn't consider himself too good for shameless blackmail. "Okay," he says. "No, I get it, it's sort of funny. But if you tell anyone, so help me, I will make sure everyone knows about that one time I called you when you were jerking off and--"

"Okay, okay! I wasn't going to tell anyone," Gerard interrupts quickly, looking wounded.

"You," Frank says, "Are a terrible, terrible liar."

Gerard sighs. "What gave me away?"

"You were doing that thing. That thing you always do with your eyebrows when you're lying."

"Treacherous bastards," mutters Gerard, scowling, and Frank cracks up.

"You loser," he says, and reaches out to help Gerard heave himself into a vaguely upright position. Gerard stands there for a moment, just looking at Frank, and something stirs uneasily in the back of Frank's mind.

"Hey," Frank says. "Are we okay? I mean, I felt like such a shit when I told you I was grounded, but you can see why I did it, right?"

Gerard snorts. "Yeah," he says, "I really can. I'm totally drawing a comic about you getting owned by other people's kids, you know."

Honestly, Frank would have expected nothing less.

Gerard's smile fades. "But," he says, "Just. You're, like, my best friend, you know? Don't let me freak out and start planning an intervention next time, okay?"

"Okay," Frank agrees amiably, and goes in for a hug, because he's not sure where this conversation's going but for some undefined, insistent reason, he doesn't want it going any further.

Frank tells himself very firmly that it's because Gerard's hugs are awesome, even if he does hug like a total girl. That's all it is.


Walking home later, Frank wonders what the fuck is bothering him so much. He should be relieved. So someone finally caught him out. It was pretty much always guaranteed to happen. It could have been so much worse. At least it was Gerard, who probably isn't going to stop laughing at him ever, but it could have been Mikey. Or – oh god, or Bert. He shudders at the thought and hitches his backpack up on his shoulders. That crawling unease still doesn't shift, though, and he sort of wants to give himself a good slap in the face to see if that snaps him out of it. Get it together, he tells himself. Jesus Christ, you are actually turning into Gerard. It's not like –


Oh, fuck.


In the end, Frank does the only sensible thing: he asks for help.

"What would you do," he says slowly, "If you really, really liked someone?"

Victoria looks thoughtful for a moment, then says, "I would..." she pauses, twirling a strand of hair around her finger as she thinks."I'd be really nice to them," she declares after several seconds, and nods decisively. "And not bite them or steal their things."

Frank considers this. It isn't actually a tactic he's tried yet. "Alright," he says. "Yeah. Yeah, that could work."


He spends the next week being really nice to Gerard, and not biting him or stealing his things. Mikey gives him suspicious side-eyes from behind his dorktastic glasses, and Ray asks him several times if he's getting sick again.

Gerard doesn't seem to notice anything out of the ordinary.


"It didn't work," Frank says, the week after that. "We need a new plan."

He gives the imaginary finger to the sniggers inside his head that sound suspiciously like Bert. There is absolutely no shame in consulting an eight-year-old girl about your love life, okay.

Victoria's expression is businesslike, and she's holding a packet of multi-colored crayons.

There is absolutely no way this can fail.


Somehow, it fails anyway. Frank's balls have now basically just accepted "blue" as their permanent state of existence, and he's pretty sure he's done long-term damage to his teeth by gritting them so hard.


There's a silver lining, though, and Frank doesn't realize what it is until one Saturday night a few weeks later – it seems like Gerard really hasn't told anyone yet. Frank's a little surprised, but he appreciates it. He turns it over and over in his head as he walks home after Spencer's parents get back, which is both pointless and irritating. At this rate, he's going to end up resorting to dragging Gerard into a closet somewhere and just getting down on his knees and blowing him already, because it feels like that's pretty much the only thing he hasn't tried yet.

Although, actually, he's had worse ideas. At least that one has a reasonable chance of getting him somewhere.

Frank's just closing the front door behind him and anticipating a marathon jerk-off session in the shower and the prospect of sleeping half of the Sunday away when his cell vibrates against his hip. He's tired enough that it takes him a few seconds to wrangle it out of the pocket of his too-tight jeans.

The screen reads incoming call: Gerard.

Frank toes his sneakers off and stumbles up the stairs to his bedroom, kicking the door shut and collapsing backwards onto his bed.

"Hey, Gee," he says, stifling a yawn. "What's up?"

"Want you," Gerard says without preamble. "Just came so fucking hard, thinking about what you'd do to me if you were here. So I'm drunk, so sue me."

Frank makes an attractive garbled noise as brain abruptly switches gears, because, really, what? He's suddenly not remotely sleepy. This is the second time this has happened, just out of the blue, and Frank can't understand how this Gerard can possibly exist alongside the socially incompetent geek Frank's known since they were both twelve.

"What," he says. "You. Eh?"

It isn't his fault that most of the blood in his body seems to have been redirected from his brain to his dick.

"I just thought..." Gerard's voice is low in his ear, and Frank is suddenly glad Gerard isn't in the room with him. This way, Gerard won't know a thing about the way Frank is lying back and palming at his growing hard-on through his jeans while he presses his cell phone to his ear with the other hand. What Gerard doesn't know can't hurt him.

Frank shoves the hem of his shirt out of the way so it rides up a little. "You – thought?" he prompts, licking his lips. His voice comes out shaky and obviously turned-on. If Gerard hadn't realized whatever he was doing was totally working, he'll know now.

"And I thought I should, like, return the favor, you know?"

And, oh. Frank doesn't know exactly what game Gerard's playing here (he isn't even sure Gerard knows), but he's along for the ride now. No way is he hanging up this time.

"Yeah," he breathes. This isn't something he's done before (holy shit, phonesex, he's totally about to have actual phonesex, when did his life get this awesome?), and he flounders momentarily for the right thing to say. "Yeah. Okay, tell me – tell me what you were thinking about. When you were getting off."

He's too impatient to draw this out any longer than he has to, and the ridge of the zipper on his jeans is digging in painfully. He fumbles for a moment with the button, and exhales an involuntary, "Fuck," when he finally gets them open. He wedges his phone between his ear and his shoulder as he lifts his hips and squirms halfway out of his jeans and boxers.

"Mostly about sucking you off," says Gerard, like a secret, and Frank has to spit into his palm and get his hand around his cock. He's fully hard already, and that first stroke feels so fucking good he makes a little helpless noise in the back of his throat, and Gerard echoes it.

"You're so fucking distracting," he says. "Right. I was – shit. I was thinking about sucking you off, wondering whether you'd pull my hair, you know? That's kind of a... thing, for me."

Frank knew it. He doesn't have precious brainpower to waste on gloating, though. This is actually pretty tame compared to most of the porn he's watched, but it's somehow so much hotter. "Your mouth," he says, in a strangled voice, because he can see it – Gerard's lips stretched shiny-slick around Frank's cock as he bobs his head with Frank's fingers tugging at his stupid hair.

Gerard's low, throaty laugh makes Frank's stomach swoop and his dick jerk in his hand. "Good?"

Frank doesn't dignify that with a response, mostly because it turns out that he's not at his most articulate when he's imagining Gerard going down on him. Gerard seems to take his silence as the assent it is, because he makes a pleased sound and Frank can hear he's breathing hard.

"Don't stop, asshole," Frank groans, pushing his head back into his pillow and bucking his hips up into his hand. "That was just getting good."

"Your fault I have to jerk off again, fucker."

And, yeah, Frank can just about make out the shift of his clothes as he moves and the drag of skin-on-skin through the tiny speaker. It's somehow even better like this, and it gets better still when Gerard lets out a full-throated porn moan of agreement that stops Frank in his tracks for a second. So he knows now that Gerard's not exactly a wallflower or anything, but Frank can only absorb so much new information at a time. His view of Gerard is fluctuating too fast for him to keep up with in this state.

"So then I, like, pull off," Gerard continues, sounding all needy and fucking debauched, which is a word Frank doesn't think he's ever actually needed to use before now, and not at all unsure of himself. "Frank, I want. I want you to fuck me."

Frank has to bite down hard on his tongue. "Motherfuck. How do I...?"

"On my back," Gerard answers instantly, like he's thought about this, imagined it every which way. "So you can, like, hold me down, make sure I don't come until you say I can. That's, uh, kind of a thing too."

Frank doesn't know what to do with that, but "jerk off frantically to the thought every day from tomorrow until the day he dies" would be a good start.

"You," he chokes out, and he's close, so close. "You cannot be all, all kinky and shit as well as everything else. You're actually gonna kill me, swear to god."

Gerard exhales a short huff of laughter and says, "Dude, you're watching the wrong porn. That's like, whatever. I guess this would be a bad time to talk about the lipstick?"

Frank comes hard and fast and and much too soon, all over his hand and his t-shirt and his stomach.

He returns to his senses just in time to hear Gerard saying, "Frank? Are you, did you--"

"I came, yeah," says Frank, which is actually a pretty dazzling piece of wordplay given that he's positive his brain is mush right now. "Gerard. Gee, oh my god."

"Right?" Gerard agrees, his voice rising. "Yeah, yeah, yeah – unh," and there's a moment or two of hitchy, gasping breaths and a noise that almost sounds like Frank but so wrung-out that it's hard to be sure, and then it's quiet again. Frank wipes his sticky hand on the sheets and struggles gracelessly out of his shirt. He can hear Gerard in his ear, just breathing, which isn't actually as weird or creepy as it should be. He wipes himself off as thoroughly as he can with the clean part of the shirt, but even that's warm and damp from touching his skin.

Part of him is grossed out. The rest of him is so far from caring it's unreal.

"So, what," Frank says, when it finally seems like the moment to break the oddly comfortable silence. "When you get drunk on your own you pick someone at random out of your phonebook and call them up to see if they're down for phonesex?"

"Ouch." Gerard sounds like Frank feels, too lazy and satisfied to be pissy or panicked or grossed-out. "Come on, I'm not that dumb. It's like you didn't even know you were staring half the time, you're really not subtle."

Frank bites back a comment about glass houses and black kettles, or possibly pots and stones. He doesn't know. He's sure he should be offended, but his brain is still slow and after-glow heavy.

"Like, at all," Gerard adds, casually. "You were basically a sure thing, you know."

Frank's mouth works silently around this for a moment or two. "You knew," he says accusingly. "You knew when I didn't even know."

"Yeah, pretty much," says Gerard apologetically. "Sorry, man."

"You knew," Frank says again. He's having trouble getting past the part where Gerard of all people noticed something that wasn't printed in a comic book or sprayed in ten-foot-high letters on a wall. "You didn't even notice that time Quinn bleached his hair. It was, like, a week before you realized anything was different. How did you know?"


"Asshole, think about all that time we wasted when we could have been fucking! If you'd just said something like a, a normal person--"

Gerard sniggers, and Frank wishes he were here in person so he could throw a pillow at him. Or possibly bite him, regardless of Victoria's advice.

"Okay, point," he concedes. "But, dude! What the fuck, seriously?"

"I was waiting for you to get it," says Gerard earnestly. He's sounding a lot more sober now, and Frank's starting to suspect that he was never actually drunk at all. "That time I was jerking off and you hung up on me? I thought you were having some sexuality crisis or something. I thought I totally freaked you out! I wasn't gonna, like, randomly molest you after that. You had to get there yourself, you know? It's like--"

If one of the next four words out of Gerard's mouth is "quest", Frank is actually going to have to kill him.

"No, no, I get it," Frank says quickly. He thinks back to sitting on the couch, the ohshit moment of realizing what it was he actually wanted and how it had felt, thinking he couldn't have it. "You didn't," he says, "You really, really didn't. I wanted to, I would have said yes, and then you sent me that fucking text and I thought it was just you being... you know, you."

"Huh," says Gerard slowly. "I did do that, I guess."

Biting. Definitely biting. Although Frank isn't sure if he means that in an angry way or a sexy way. Maybe both.

Speaking of which.

"Okay. too much talking about feelings," Frank announces, because this whole conversation is sort of a drag and he'd like to move on to more interesting things. "And not enough lipstick."


"Did it work?" is the first thing Victoria says to Frank next time she sees him.

"Nope," he says. He's grinning so widely his face hurts. "But hey, if he doesn't get that I like him by now, he never will, right?"