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Creepy Carnival

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Late Winter

It’s the third job fair that Frank’s been to this week, and he’s starting to feel like his eyes are glazing over. He’s completely numb, running on automatic pilot, stopping at every table and filling out every application. He doesn’t pay attention to what the job is, or where or how much the starting pay is, although it’s almost always minimum wage, he just keeps filling out forms. He smiles and tries to look engaged as people tell him about their companies and why they’re such great places to work. Frank wants to like these people. He doesn’t want to hate them on principle the way he does. He knows these people will chit-chat and make nice all day and then go back to their restaurants or their offices or their stores and pick maybe one or two of the hundreds of people who filled out forms today to call for an interview.

Frank knows he won’t be one of the people who get a call. He’s 24 and has never managed to complete even one college course, despite several attempts. His only marketable qualities are basic office skills that 90% of the population possesses. He has too many visible tattoos and his handwriting is terrible.

It’s his own fault really. He’s only had one job since high school and he’d known for a while that his uncle’s auto body shop was going under. He should have been preparing for this eventuality ages ago. He should have tried college again. It’s been three years since he last enrolled in a course; maybe he’s mature enough to keep up with the work now? He should at least have some idea of what he actually wants to do with his life. But he doesn’t. Not a fucking clue.

He stops at a table that has balloons tied to the legs at the corners. That’s not what gets his attention, though; a lot of the tables are decorated to try to get people to take notice. What gets his attention is the black and white clown face painted on the balloons. It’s the creepiest fucking clown he’s ever seen. He’s not really even afraid of clowns, but he kind of wants to run away from this one. He squints to read the scraggly cursive under the clown picture Carnival Pier & Boardwalk, Point Eerie Beach, NJ. Huh… amusement park, that could be kinda fun, actually. Frank thinks he’s probably too old to be interested, but it’s the first positive thought he’s had all day, so he goes ahead and fills out the application just like all the others.

By the time he’s visited every table in the library’s event room and zipped up his coat to head outside, he’s forgotten all about the amusement park. It’s over a week before he thinks of it again. He’s on his very last nerve by the time he gets the call. When he does, it’s the first thing to go right for him in a very long time.

*_*_*

It’s a Thursday morning. Frank knows it’s Thursday, because the garbage truck does its pickup right outside the window of the room he’s sleeping in. It wakes him up at precisely 7:00 AM, just as it has for the last three weeks while he’s been staying in his mom’s extra room since his wife kicked him out. Every time it happens, he rolls over in a vain attempt to go back to sleep, but the noise of the truck sets off the neighbor’s dogs barking, which lasts for approximately fifteen minutes. By the time they finally stop, there is no way he’s going to be able to go back to sleep.

He shuffles out to the kitchen to make coffee and finds his mother sitting at the table eating toast and reading the paper. He’s just pulling the coffee canister down out of the cabinet when she says, “There’s a job fair at the Methodist Church on Saturday morning. You should go.”

Frank snorts and accidentally drops some coffee grounds on the counter. He looks up in time to see his mother make a sour face at the mess. He cleans off the counter before he finishes measuring out the scoops of grounds and starts the machine brewing. He stretches his neck, cracking both sides of it as he waits for the little drip-drip sound to start and doesn’t miss it when his mother sighs dramatically. He closes his eyes and rubs at them for a few seconds before he finally says, “I’ll go to the job fair. Would it kill you to say good morning before you start harping on me?”

She rolls her eyes at him so dramatically he’s afraid she’ll give herself a headache. “Good morning… if it is a very good one. You left your phone out here last night, you have a missed call.”

Frank grabs his phone off the table and looks at the missed call. It’s from Elissa. She left a message. He considers the phone for a moment and then considers the coffee pot, there’s probably just enough through the drip for one cup. He sets his phone back down on the table before pressing the button to stop the coffee drip. He pours himself a mug, preparing it the way he likes with lots of cream and sits down to drink some before he listens to the voice mail.

As he sits, his mother starts in on her usual lecture. “Ignoring things won’t make them better.”

“I know that.” Frank sighs and takes a long swallow of coffee. It’s almost hot enough to burn his throat, but not quite. Perfect. He wonders if he can make perfect coffee, why can’t he fix all the other messes in his life?

“Did you tell her you’ll go to counseling with her?” she asks as she folds up the newspaper.

Frank huffs a little in frustration. “She doesn’t want counseling, mom, I’ve told you that. I don’t know why you’re having so much trouble grasping it.” He takes a deep breath, cracks his neck again and tells himself he’s not going to start another day off fighting with his mom. Not again. Not today. “I’ve always told her I’ll do anything. I fucking love her. Every time she pulls this shit, I ask her, ‘what can I do?’, ‘how can I fix it?’” He closes his eyes and rubs at them with the heels of his hands.

His mother ‘tsks’. She makes an actual ‘tsking’ sound before she speaks again. “I just can’t understand her, then. What kind of a woman would throw her husband out and not let him know how to make it better?” Her tone is softer than Frank’s heard it in a while and he thinks he must look pretty terrible this morning to be earning sympathy from her instead of the usual disappointment. She stands up and comes around the table, running her fingers through his hair and resting her hand on his cheek. “So handsome. Lissy has the handsomest man,” she says, wistfully. “I wish she would stop throwing these tantrums. It’s been almost a month now. She’s never held out this long, before.”

Frank sighs and sits back, dislodging his mother’s hand from his face. “I think this time might be for good.” He’s surprised to hear himself admitting this out loud and even more surprised to find that he believes it. He looks at his phone again. He’s starting to think about changing the background picture. It’s always been a picture of him and Lissy. He’s never thought about changing it before, but lately whenever he looks at it, he just gets this sinking feeling in his stomach like there won’t be any more happy pictures of the two of them together. He’s been having trouble putting his finger on what it is that’s different this time, but he’s starting to think that him being out of work for so long was the last straw. Lissy hasn’t said in so many words that him coming home depends on finding a job, but in the past she’s always seemed to cave right when she started running out of money. This time he doesn’t have any money to give her.

His mother kisses the top of his head softly and pulls away to put the dishes in the dishwasher and start it running before she leaves for work. She pulls on her coat and on her way to the door she pushes the paper toward him gently. Her voice is soft when she says, “There were a couple of ads for temporary day labor. I know it isn’t what you want, but it might be good, you know, just for now, until you find something better…” Her words trail off as she walks out into the cold morning. A gust of wind slides in behind her as she closes the door and Frank shivers.

He finishes his coffee before listening to Elissa’s message. It’s from 10:00 PM last night. It seems that his dog, Pugsley, is sick and she doesn’t have the money to take him to the vet. Frank’s heart sinks because he has less than no money right now and he can’t borrow any more from his mom. He feels a bit like he wants to cry. He’d tried to take Pugsley with him when Lissy kicked him out this time, but she threw a fit about it and he backed off. She’s never been that attached to the dog, but when she gets like this, she seems to really enjoy holding onto things she knows Frank cares about. Frank figures if he’s going to be the one paying for the vet, then he should get to keep the dog, but he’s not even sure if his mom will agree to letting him have a dog here. She’s not really much of an animal lover.

He’s scrolling through his phone contacts, thinking about who he hasn’t borrowed money from yet when his phone rings in his hand. It startles him and he drops it on the table before getting a hold of himself and answering. It’s a number he doesn’t recognize, but he’s learned that when you’re looking for a job, you always answer the phone.

“Hello?” His voice shakes slightly when he answers and he realizes that he was closer to crying about Pugsley than he’d thought.

“Is this Frank Eeyeroh?”

Frank cringes at the mispronunciation, but doesn’t have it in him to correct the caller. “Yes.”

“Hi, my name is Brian Schechter,” the voice says brightly. “I’m calling from Carnival Pier and Boardwalk in Point Eerie. We received your application from a job fair a couple of weeks ago and I was wondering if I could schedule a time to have you come down for an interview.”

“Yeah, of course.” Frank winces. He knows he sounds too eager, but he can’t help it. He’s been out of work for almost four months and hasn’t been called for an interview since Lissy kicked him out. He needs this job so badly. He needs to at least be able to tell her he has an interview.

“Would you be available to come down tomorrow?”

“Yeah, sure. Definitely.”

They iron out the details and Frank gets the address. He’s pretty sure he can find it, though. He hasn’t been to this amusement park since he was a kid, but Point Eerie isn’t very big and the park is literally right on the beach, so it shouldn’t be any problem to find it. The guy doing the hiring, Brian, reminds Frank that it’s only a seasonal job - from late March to early November, and Frank assures him that he’s still interested. Any job is better than none and it’s already the beginning of March, so it isn’t like he’ll have to wait too long to start. By the time Frank ends the call, he’s starting to feel a tiny little trickle of hope forming somewhere deep inside him, but he’s kind of afraid to acknowledge it.

He’s just on the edge of allowing himself to bask in the idea that one thing in his life might actually be on its way to getting better, when his phone rings in his hand again. It’s Lissy. He answers and before he’s even finished saying “Hey,” she’s started in with “Your dog just threw up on my carpet again-”

Frank ends the call before he can hear anymore and leaves the phone on the table while he goes to shower.

*_*_*

Frank married Elissa on his 21st birthday. She had only been eighteen for a couple of months, but he doesn’t remember ever feeling like they were too young. They’d known each other since they were children and had been dating since they were thirteen and sixteen, when they started skipping mass to make out in the back stairwell of the church. Their parents had been good friends. Both families were Italian and Polish, so the match should have been perfect, and it was perfect… for a little while.

But that was all before Frank realized that Elissa is crazy.

Elissa is the worst kind of crazy, because she’s the kind of crazy that isn’t crazy all the time. She’d always been quirky growing up, but most of her moods had been easy to write off and explain away, rationalized because of life circumstances or hormones or changes in the weather.

Sometimes Frank longs for the days when he was still young and naive, when Lissy would get mad at him for nothing and he’d feel lost for days, but then she’d come back crying and apologizing and begging him to hold her and he would tell himself that she was just a little melodramatic but it was worth it because she was so exciting to be around… and he would believe all that.

He misses those days because when he was deceiving himself he didn’t have to do anything about it, because he could say he just didn’t know. It should probably seem strange to him now, that he misses being able to lie to himself.

The most recent fight, the one that had Lissy pushing him out the door in the middle of the night during a February snowstorm had started because she’d charged up their credit card again to the point where they couldn’t afford the minimum payment. She had that hysterical look in her eyes, the one that always frightens Frank because he’s never quite been able to figure out how it gets there. She’d been nearly incoherent in her attempts to explain to him why she truly needed to have all the things she bought. That was when Frank broke.

Frank knows by now that the fatal mistake is always when he breaks down and begs her to try and get help. That’s the one thing Lissy will never tolerate and it nearly always results in Frank sleeping in a strange bed for at least one night. Elissa is the proudest, most independent woman Frank has ever known, it’s one of the things he loves about her. And it breaks Frank’s heart a little bit every time she gets that look on her face. That look that says Frank is killing her by insinuating that she needs professional help, because somehow in her mind, by suggesting she’s anything less than perfect, Frank is saying he doesn’t love her. That’s not true, and he’s never said that. But it’s what she hears, every time.

So he should have known better than to ask her to get help this time, because Elissa is a true Iero - when she believes she’s been scorned she certainly lives up to the idiom of ‘Hell hath no fury’, which is why Frank is more than a little bit afraid to go and try to get Pugsley back.

Frank’s only been in their apartment once since she kicked him out this last time and that was the very next day to get some of his clothes and books and his iPod and laptop, basically just what he could carry in one trip. He’s not exactly sure what he’ll find when he goes back now. He stands outside the door for a good five minutes and doesn’t get up the nerve to knock until he hears Elissa inside, yelling, “Again, Pugsley? Again?!”

Frank knocks and it’s only a second before he can hear her stomping across the apartment. She flings the door open and glares at him before stepping back to let him come in. Frank stares at her and hates himself a little bit because all he can think upon seeing her is that she’s still the most beautiful woman in the world to him, with her long dark hair and fiery green eyes. It doesn’t matter what she’s done or how crazy she’s acted, if she’d take him back, he knows he would go back. Every single time.

He belatedly realizes that a tiny part of him has been hoping that upon seeing him, she would soften and take him into her arms and welcome him back home and the whole nightmare could end. He realizes he’d hoped this because of the pang of disappointment that hits him in the gut when she simply stands there with her arms crossed in front of her and says, “He’s thrown up three times this morning already. I think he has worms again from eating poop.”

“He doesn’t eat poop,” Frank says quietly.

“He does,” she says matter-of-factly as she leads him over to see the stain on the carpet. “And he’s going to need pills. You have to take him to the vet.”

Frank sighs and looks around the apartment. Things look pretty much the same, actually, except when he looks in the corner where his guitar and amp are supposed to be, he sees nothing but dust and cobwebs. He immediately asks, “Where’s Pansy?” The one thing he lamented not getting that day when he came back for clothes had been his guitar. He’d figured he’d come back for it a lot sooner than this but his mom hates it so much that it seemed pointless. It isn’t like he can really play it much while he’s staying with her. It never even occurred to him that it might not be here when he got back.

He pins Elissa with a glare, waiting for some kind of response, but all she does is shrug.

He moves toward her and she pulls back as if she’s afraid. It’s ridiculous. He’d never lay a hand on her and she knows it, and she’s taller than him anyway. That doesn’t stop him from raising his voice, though, when he says, “I swear to fucking God, Elissa, where is my fucking guitar?”

She swallows and manages to at least look the tiniest bit guilty as she glances down at the floor before looking up again and pushing out her chin determinedly. “I needed to pay the cable bill.”

Frank takes a step back. He’s at a loss for words for a moment. Finally he manages to grit his teeth and get out, “Are you saying that you sold my guitar so that you could pay for fucking cable television?! That’s not-” Frank throws his arms out, aghast. “That’s not even a necessity!”

“It’s for the internet, too!” Elissa counters.

“It’s fuh-” Frank wants to tear his hair out. He can’t even speak. He feels his hands balling into fists and he has to take a few steps back from Elissa and take a deep breath, counting to ten in his head. Finally, he asks, “How are you even out of money again? You make more on tips at the diner than I ever made when I was working.”

Elissa wraps her arms around herself protectively and sniffs. “Carole cut my hours this month. I was barely able to pay the fucking rent.”

Frank stares in disbelief for a few seconds before he can speak. “Oh great, that’s just great. And now my guitar is fucking gone. My most prized fucking possession, I can’t even believe…” Frank trails off, feeling like he wants to cry and he can’t stand that, because he can’t cry in front of Elissa over this, he just can’t. As much as she loved the idea of him being in a band, she never really seemed to understand what Pansy meant to him. It was the first big thing he ever bought on his own. He thought he’d be playing that guitar until he died.

He’s looking up at the ceiling, trying to hold back the tears and feeling his chin tremble when Elissa says, “Oh my God, Frank.” She drags out the vowel on ‘God’, pronouncing it like, ‘Gaaaad’. “Will you relax, please?” Frank looks down in time to see as she fucking rolls her eyes at him. “I sold it to Hambone, okay? You can buy it back.” She shrugs and snorts, she’s practically laughing at him. “You should see your fucking face.”

Blinding rage rushes into Frank as he shouts, “FUCK YOU!” and rounds away from Elissa, punching the wall and denting the plaster. It’s an outside wall and it’s fucking freezing and it fucking hurts. He pulls his arm back to his chest and cradles his hand, attempting to reign himself in. He’s a bit calmer when he says, “Why should I have to fucking buy it back? It’s my goddamn guitar! Why couldn’t you sell something of your own?”

Elissa shrugs again and waggles her ring finger at him. “What’s yours is mine,” she says glibly.

Frank rolls his head back and lets it hit the wall behind him. He’s at a loss. “I don’t see how that can be the case if I’m not even living here right now. Why should my guitar get sold to pay for your fucking internet?” Frank can’t wrap his mind around how Elissa’s brain works. That’s not really anything new, but right now it’s making his head hurt worse than normal.

Elissa’s expression softens minutely. “You’re still my husband.”

Frank gasps. “How can you say that?” He suddenly doesn’t even feel mad anymore. He just feels that bone-deep weary sadness start to flow in again and he allows it. He shakes his head slowly, and sees Pugsley lying on his bed in the corner, whimpering. He always gets upset when they fight. Frank goes to pick up the pug and gather up his bedding. When he comes back to Elissa, she’s just looking at him like she’s confused, like she doesn’t understand why he went from angry to sad so quickly. He knows it’s useless, but he asks again anyway. “How can you say that so easily? Like it’s such a simple thing? Like being your husband is so easy for me?” Frank is practically whispering, choking on the words.

She opens her mouth to speak more than once, but doesn’t say anything. Eventually she turns and walks over to the table where her laptop is open and sits down at it, apparently finished with Frank for now.

Frank stares at her for a minute and says, flatly, “I’m not bringing him back after the vet.”

Elissa shrugs and moves her mouse around, acting like she’s involved in something.

Frank looks around the kitchen, his eyes land on Pugsley’s empty dishes. As he goes to add them to the bundle in his arms, he asks, “Is there even any dog food here? Have you even been feeding him?”

She looks up at him as if she’d forgotten he was here. Her face is carefully blank, her tone void of emotion as she answers, “We ran out a couple days ago. I’ve been giving him cereal.” She goes back to whatever it is she had been doing on the computer and Frank takes that as his cue to leave. He can tell that she’s put up the wall inside now. The one that keeps her innermost thoughts carefully separated from harsh reality. Frank’s never been able to break through that wall once she puts it in place and he’s had enough of futile arguing for one day.

As he leaves, he notices a stack of mail on the little table by the door, it’s all his. He scoops it up with him on his way out and makes the decision that after he’s done with Pugsley at the vet, he’s going to go to the post office and fill out a change-of-address form. He’s never even thought of doing that before. For the first time, he forces himself to entertain the idea that he’s never going to be living in this apartment again.

*_*_*

The drive to Point Eerie takes almost an hour. It’s still pretty cold out for March and the heater in Frank’s car has been broken for a while. He spends most of the ride smoking and shivering and trying not to think too much about Pugsley. He feels guilty for leaving him alone at his mom’s all day when he’s still sick. He’d ended up borrowing some money for the vet from his friend James in return for promising to wash his car in a few weeks when it starts getting warmer. It turned out to be worms just as Elissa thought. Frank’s not going to tell her that unless she asks, though. He’s not particularly interested in giving her that satisfaction if he can help it.

Frank slows as he approaches the pier and follows the signs to the employee entrance like Brian told him to. When he pulls in to the lot by the office, it’s practically deserted, only two cars parked in it. Frank figures that makes sense since it’s the off season right now. Downtown Point Eerie Beach had been pretty empty when he drove through. It gave him kind of an odd, ominous feeling on the flat grey, dreary day.

The receptionist stands up when he comes in. She was clearly expecting him. “Frank, right?” She extends her hand. Frank recognizes her from the table at the job fair.

Frank shakes her hand and nods. “Good morning.”

“I’m Christa,” she says as she smiles and gives Frank a clipboard and a pen. “If you can fill out these forms for me, Brian will be with you in just a few moments.”

“Thanks,” Frank says and takes the clipboard.

It takes him a while to fill out the forms as he’s writing very slowly, trying to make his crazy printing as neat as possible. He has no idea if this is the kind of job where anyone will even notice his handwriting, but he figures it doesn’t hurt to do his best. This is his first interview in almost two months. He doesn’t like to think about just how much is riding on it. The last few weeks he’s only been able to afford cigarettes because of the money he’s made shoveling his mom’s neighbors’ driveways when it’s snowed. It’s almost spring, though, so he can’t count on making money that way for much longer. He supposes he could offer to mow lawns. He sighs as he finally finishes with the last page. He really hates mowing lawns.

He gives the completed forms to Christa and then goes back to sit down in the small waiting area. As he waits, he looks around the room. The walls are painted a drab gray color and there’s only one tiny window by the receptionist’s desk. Otherwise, it’s all artificial fluorescent lighting. Frank hopes they don’t offer him a “back office” job. When he got to the form where he could check what type of job he was interested in - rides, games, merch, food-service, office, etc… he wasn’t quite sure what to choose. The last thing he wants is to limit his options, though, so he’d ended up checking them all. He hopes that will make him seem versatile rather than desperate.

Frank stands up to stretch, and when he turns to look behind him, he notices a series of old black and white photos framed and hanging on the wall. He looks at them closely and sees a circus tent, a ferris wheel, a carousel, a rollercoaster, a funnel cake stand, and a creepy clown, just like the one on the balloons, selling cotton candy. He wonders if these are old pictures from this pier and boardwalk. They seem vaguely familiar, but it’s been so long since he’s been here, he isn’t sure. What’s weird is that even though the photographs show things that are supposed to be fun and happy, they have an empty, stark quality to them that leaves Frank feeling cold and makes him shiver.

He’s still pondering the pictures when he feels someone walk up beside him. “I never did like those pictures,” the man says. “Christa thinks they cheer up the office, but I find them fucking creepy. I’ve just never really been able to explain why.”

“No, they are creepy,” Frank confirms.

“You must be Frank.” The dude extends his hand, smiling. “I’m Brian.”

Frank shakes Brian’s hand and is thrilled to see from where his shirtsleeves are rolled up that Brian’s arms are covered in tattoos. Frank hopes that means there’s hope for him with his slew of ill-advised neck and hand tattoos. Not that he’s ever regretted any of his ink; he just never realized how many companies still have policies against tattoos that can’t be covered by clothing.

Frank smiles as he shakes Brian’s hand and says, “Frank Iero,” in as casual a tone as he can. He says his full name as a greeting, but he’s also found it’s the easiest way to model the correct pronunciation when he’s meeting new people so that he doesn’t have to actually come right out and tell them they’re saying it wrong.

“Well, Frank,” Brian says, dropping his hand and turning away. “Let’s head back where we can sit down and talk without creepy carnival photos staring at us.”

Frank laughs at that and follows Brian back to his office. The office really is much nicer than the reception room. There’s an actual normal-sized window that looks out into an alley, concert posters on the walls, and the overhead fluorescent lights are turned off, in favor of a large lamp on the desk. “Nice office,” Frank can’t help but comment.

“Thanks. When I’m in here, sometimes I can almost forget what kind of business it is that I’m running. Coffee?” Brian gestures to a coffee maker at the side of the room under a Black Flag poster.

“Oh sure, thanks!” Frank is sure his whole face lights up at the prospect of coffee, but he doesn’t feel embarrassed by his excitement. There’s something about Brian that makes him feel completely at ease. “I love Black Flag, man,” Frank says as he goes to fix himself a cup. When he sits down across the desk from Brian, Frank finds himself telling him about how he searched high and low to get every Black Flag album on vinyl when he was in high school. The desk is messy, but Frank has a feeling that Brian knows exactly where everything he needs is.

“That was me with the Misfits,” Brian says, and begins telling Frank about his love affair with punk bands. They fall into a discussion about all the different and creative ways they managed to sneak out to punk shows when they were underage. They both have quite a lot of stories to tell.

Frank gets lost in the conversation and forgets for a little while that he’s supposed to be interviewing for a job. He feels like Brian might be someone that he met at a bar or a concert who just happens to like all the same things he likes. He isn’t sure how long they talk- maybe twenty minutes, maybe an hour. They’re just winding down from a heated debate about mosh pit etiquette when there is an actual pause in the conversation for the first time since they started talking.

It’s then that Frank remembers where he is and that he’s supposed to be making a good impression. He quickly tries to remember if he forgot and said fuck anytime while they were talking. He’s usually really good about not swearing in interviews, but talking to Brian felt so much like talking to a friend that he’s afraid he might have forgotten. He’s still pondering this as Brian picks up a pen and starts making some notes on one of the forms that Frank filled out. Brian taps the page a few times and looks thoughtful before he looks up and says, “Okay, so I think I’m going to have you work closely with Mikey at Carnival Delights, that’s the big store at the street end of the pier. It’ll be opening up in just a few weeks. Mikey’s the manager in there. You can work with him for the first couple of months of the season and then at the end of May when we open up the shop at the end of the pier, you’ll be trained to be the manager in there. Does that sound good?”

Frank is stunned for a moment and doesn’t respond right away. “Wait… so I have a job?”

Brian shrugs. “If you want it. I’d be happy to have you. You seem like a pretty energetic guy and you’re obviously down for anything. I think you’ll fit in well here.”

Frank gapes and nods his head. “Okay, sure, great! But wait, you said manager?”

“Sure.” Brian waves his hand as if it’s no big thing. “It would only be for the summer months and you’d just be managing a couple of teenagers, but with your sales experience from working in your uncle’s shop and a couple months of training with Mikey, I think you’ll do great.”

Frank is so surprised at the job offer that he’s quiet for a moment, just processing everything Brian said.

“Does that sound okay?” Brain asks after a minute.

“Oh yeah! Yeah, that’s awesome,” Frank finally replies, enthusiastically. He ignores the impulse to run around the desk and hug Brian, instead reaching across to shake his hand warmly.

“Great!” Brian claps his hands together once as he says it and begins telling Frank about when he needs to come back for orientation and training. He explains about pay scale and how Frank’s lack of education puts him pretty low, but that he’ll get a slight increase while he’s managing. That’s all fine with Frank. He’s just stunned that he found a job, let alone one that pays more than minimum wage, albeit not much more. But that’s okay because Frank has a job; a job that starts in less than two weeks.

He has a job.

*_*_*

Spring

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…
- Jack Kerouac, On The Road

Frank doesn’t end up getting to meet Mikey until his first actual day of work. That day doesn’t come until the first Friday in April, a week after Frank’s orientation, three weeks after his interview with Brian.

He sat through a day of orientation with about ten or so others who hadn’t worked at Carnival before. Carnival is what everyone calls the Pier & Boardwalk complex for short.

The two days after orientation, Frank has training along with a guy named Ray. Ray has massive hair and also plays guitar. He’s new like Frank and is going to be working at the other big store in the complex. It’s at the entrance to the Boardwalk, right where the main street through downtown Point Eerie Beach dead-ends at the beach. That store is called Carnival Pleasures and is managed by Bob, the dude who runs the training for Frank and Ray. Frank likes Bob because he doesn’t make them go over things a million times and he lets them go home over an hour early on both training days. Of course, Frank knows he should be annoyed because he doesn’t get paid for those extra hours, but it’s such a long drive home that he’s happy to leave early so he can get back and see Pugsley.

Pugsley’s been doing better since he’s been on antibiotics, but Frank’s mom is annoyed at having him around. She’s not much of a dog person, so Pugsley spends most days shut up in Frank’s room. Frank’s already decided that as soon as he can figure something out after he gets a few paychecks in the bank, he needs to get out of his mom’s hair. Hopefully, he can find a place that’s closer to Point Eerie, so the commute won’t be such a hassle.

Frank is unreasonably nervous on his first actual day of work. He arrives almost a half-hour early and spends most of that time just sitting in his car, smoking and taking deep breaths and constantly checking and rechecking his hair in the mirror. It feels like the first day of school or some shit. He thinks it’s ridiculous that he’s so nervous. Bob said that for the first few weeks, the stores will be deserted during the day on the weekdays, and they’ll only be busy on weekends if the weather is really nice. He said that April is the most boring month, so Frank should bring a book. Frank laughed at that and then asked if he would get in trouble with his manager for reading on company time. Bob had said something about Mikey Way being the most laid-back manager in Carnival history and then laughed for a long time. When Frank asked why Mikey didn’t lead any of the training, Bob just said that Mikey teaches best by example. Frank isn’t sure what that means, but he’s about to find out.

Frank’s been in the store before, part of one of the training days was spent getting it all set up. He walks in today at five minutes before noon and finds it empty. He’s surprised that he’s arrived before his manager and it’s a bit unnerving. The door was unlocked and the lights are all on, though, so obviously someone’s been by to open things up before the complex officially opens at noon. Frank thinks maybe it was Brian, he had seen him walk by his car earlier. Frank puts his lunch away in the space under the register where his personal things are supposed to go. He tries to bring back to mind everything he learned in his training last week as he keys his social security number into the computer to have access to the system. He reminds himself that this job is important. He can’t fuck it up. He has to show his competence from the start.

He’s still mentally psyching himself up when a tall skinny dude with longish, floppy, dyed-blond hair walks in and plops himself on the counter right in front of Frank. Frank backs up a step unconsciously and surmises from the dude’s nametag that this is Mikey, his immediate boss. Mikey looks Frank up and down for a moment before nodding his head and seeming to come to a conclusion. He touches Frank’s nametag with his long index finger and instead of making any kind of introduction at all, simply says, “So, I’ll be calling you ‘Frankie’, kay?” With that, he hops down off the counter and plugs his iPod into the store’s stereo before manically thumbing through titles on what seems like an endless playlist until he finally settles on a Smashing Pumpkins song.

When Mikey turns around, Frank has finally found his voice. “Okay, well, really only my mom calls me that, so…” he trails off.

Mikey looks at him as if he has no idea what he’s talking about. Like’s he’s already forgotten the last thing he said until understanding dawns and he puts a hand on Frank’s shoulder. “It’s better, though. It’s cute, like you’re cute.” Mikey cocks his head to the side and narrows his eyes, taking in Frank’s face. “And I don’t mean that in a condescending way.” He straightens up as if the matter is settled. “Anyway, it suits you.”

Frank shrugs. It’s not worth it to argue, and he doesn’t actually care, so he lets it go. He’s trying to think of something to ask or tell Mikey that will make him seem intelligent and competent, when Mikey grabs a pad of paper and pen and writes something down. He thrusts the pad at Frank, it says 4 people before 4 PM.

“Okay, now you,” Mikey says. “Whoever guesses closest wins. Loser gets to buy the first round of drinks after work tonight.”

Frank stares blankly at the pad of paper as he tries to process Mikey’s words. Finally, understanding dawns. “Oh!” Frank says, “Four people in the store before four PM today?”

Mikey nods.

“Hmmm…” Frank ponders and taps his chin with the pen. “Is that four people total, or four purchases?”

Mikey raises his eyebrows. “Good question.” He appears to consider for a moment. “I guess four people total.”

Frank nods and writes down under what Mikey wrote, 7 people before 4PM. and passes the notepad back over to Mikey.

Mikey nods and puts his hand out to shake Frank’s. His grip is warm and solid. He doesn’t let go as he says, “You’re a quick study, Frankie. What makes you think there’ll be more people?”

Frank shrugs after Mikey finally releases his hand. “School gets out at three and it’s unseasonably warm today. I think teenagers will wanna come to the beach.”

“Aaaaah. Sound logic, that is. We’ll see.” As he says it, Mikey actually smiles at Frank for the first time since he walked into the store. Frank likes Mikey’s smile. He finds himself contemplating ways to try and get him to smile again before he even realizes what his mind is doing.

He’s distracted from his reverie when their first customer comes in and Mikey makes a check mark on the notepad that he’s set on the counter. Game on.

*_*_*

By the time they’ve finished their third round of drinks, Frank has decided that he reallylikes his manager. Like, a lot.

Mikey ended up paying for their first beers, and then for no apparent reason, their second and their third, as well. It amuses Frank when he thinks about how close he came to losing the bet.

It had really looked bad for him when it got to be after 3:30 and only three people had come into the store. But then at 3:58, four high school kids walked in and Frank had let out a very unprofessional whoop at his good fortune. Mikey just fixed him with a death glare and made four check marks on the notepad before giving Frank the finger under the counter where the kids couldn’t see.

Even though it was quiet like Bob said it would be, the day had actually gone by pretty quickly. It wasn’t boring because Frank and Mikey never ran out of things to talk about. They alternated choosing which song to listen to next on Mikey’s iPod and Frank promised to bring his tomorrow. They talked about comic books and music and horror movies and the next thing Frank knew, it was eight o’clock, and time to close up for the night.

It hadn’t taken much prodding for Mikey to get Frank to agree to come have drinks with ‘everyone’ from Carnival. When they got to the bar called Summertime, just a block away from the main entrance to the Pier, Frank saw that ‘everyone’ was Brian, Bob, Ray, Mikey, and a few other guys from food service whose names Frank never really caught.

As they’re nearing finishing their third beers, Brian comes by and claps Frank and Mikey on the back at the same time, standing between them. “So Frankie, Mikey didn’t scare you away?”

Frank giggles a bit, partly because the question seems absurd, and partly because the beer is affecting him more than normal since he hasn’t had much to eat today. “Not at all, and hey! Who says you get to call me Frankie?”

“That’s what Mikey said we’re calling you now.” Brian squeezes the back of Frank’s neck. “Honestly, though, I’m sorry I didn’t have a chance to come by and check on you guys today to see how you were doing. Things got crazy in the office. I’m glad Mikey made you come out tonight, though.” Brian moves his hand down to rub between Frank’s shoulder blades. The gesture feels friendly and nice and almost too familiar. “You just stick with MikeyWay, Frankie. He’ll take care of you.”

Frank nods as Brian leans down to speak more into Mikey’s ear as he ruffles his hair. “Right, Mikey?” he says. “You take care of Frankie like I told you.”

Mikey gives Brian a mock-solute and Brian laughs as he walks away to harass more of his new employees after hours.

Frank laughs. “Is that some kind of initiation ritual?”

Mikey shakes his head. “Nah, he just really likes you. He said he’d never seen a punk kid so earnest and shocked at being offered a job.” Mikey scratches his head. “Like, I guess Brian feels like this place is really kinda shitty, even though he loves it so much, and he can’t quite figure out why so many of us keep coming back each year.” He stops to take a drink of his beer. “I mean, I like it mainly just because it’s easy and Brian makes it fun. But anyway, he said you acted so surprised that he’d wanna hire you and so pleased about getting the job… I guess he finds you endearing.” Mikey shrugs and signals the bartender for another beer, turning to ask Frank if he wants another.

“No thanks.” Frank waves him off. “I have to head home in a little while. It’s a long drive.”

“Aww, that sucks man,” Mikey says. “You should just stay at my place tonight, my brother won’t care.”

Frank shakes his head. “No, I can’t I have to take care of my dog.” Thinking of that makes Frank look at his watch and realize that by the time he gets home it’s going to be close to eleven and he has to leave again in the morning by nine. “I better go, actually,” he says as he stands up and shrugs into his jacket. He places a hand on Mikey’s shoulder. “You sure you won’t let me pay for those last two drinks?”

Mikey smiles again. Damn, but Frank loves that smile. “No way, man. Totally on me. My treat for a job well done on the first day.”

Frank’s not exactly sure what he did so well, since he can’t remember doing much more than talking all day, but he nods and says thanks again before he says goodbye to the rest of the guys and heads out of the bar for the walk back to his car. It’s still warm out for April and when he looks up, he can see stars. The moon starts to rise as he’s driving home and he thinks about his dog and how much it sucks that he’s going to have to keep leaving him alone all day on weekends now that he’ll be working more. He thinks about his mom and wonders what she made for dinner tonight because he’s incredibly hungry by the time he gets off the freeway at the exit for Belleville. He thinks about Pansy and wonders if he’ll have enough left over from his next paycheck to be able to buy her back from Hambone.

What he doesn’t think about is his wife. He doesn’t even realize that until he’s walking Pugsley around the neighborhood at midnight, after filling his belly with his mom’s amazing veggie lasagna. The best part of the realization is that he’s not really even bothered by not thinking about her. When he falls into bed a little while later, for the first time in as long as he can remember, Frank doesn’t see Elissa’s face in his mind when he closes his eyes. Instead, he sees Mikey Way’s face. And he’s pleased to find that he’s really okay with that.

*_*_*

The next day is busier because even though it’s not as warm, it’s bright and sunny and windy and it seems like a couple hundred people come out to the beach just to fly kites. It’s pretty cool, because Frank can watch all the kites flying around out the front window of the store. It gets annoying, though, when people come into the store only to give themselves a break from the raw, biting wind for a little while with no intention of buying anything. It’s not that Frank doesn’t want people in the store, it’s that they mess things up as they walk around looking at and touching the souvenirs, postcards, clothes, and stuffed animals.

Mikey teaches Frank a new game where each time a person walks in the door, they write on the pad yes or no for whether they think the person will actually make a purchase or not, and then also write down a number for how many things they think the customer will touch, but not actually buy. Frank adds his own spin to this by guessing how many minutes he thinks each customer will stay in the store and then writes that down, too. It actually turns out to be pretty entertaining and helps the day go by quickly.

The only part of the game that isn’t so much fun is how many things people touch. Frank can understand people wanting to feel stuffed animals or read the backs of postcards or pick up snow globes to see the price on the bottom. He also completely understands why people would pick up t-shirts and sweatshirts from the display to see the whole design on the front, or just get an idea of how big the shirt is. The problem, though, is that when people are done looking at the shirts, they don’t put them back nicely. And so Frank has to go back over to the shelf and refold the shirts neatly after every time someone else looks at them. And if someone pulls a large out from the bottom of the pile and then leaves it on top, Frank has to re-do the whole pile with the large on the bottom to make it look neat again.

About the fourth time that Frank goes back to do this after a customer leaves the store, he feels that Mikey is laughing at him. He turns around to see that Mikey is indeed laughing at him, out loud now, and he’s bending over a bit and holding his belly. Frank huffs and turns around to fix the shirts, deciding to be the bigger person. After a few seconds Mikey stops laughing and says, “Last year I tried to convince Brian that keeping the large sizes always on the bottom of the piles was discriminatory against large people because it means that they always have to lift up the whole pile to find their size. I said that since we can use the folding board to make the shirts all the same size when they’re folded, there’s no reason why we can’t put the larges on the top and the smalls on the bottom.”

Frank raises his eyebrows after he’s finished with the last pile on the shelf and is walking back to the counter. “And?”

Mikey smirks. “He didn’t go for it. He started going on about something to do with ‘industry standards’ or some shit and I zoned out.” Mikey shrugs, but then turns his head quickly as if he’s just thought of something. “So you should totally crash at our place tonight, so you don’t have to do the long drive home and then back in the morning.”

Frank’s shaking his head before Mikey finishes. “I really can’t, I don’t have any clothes to change into or anything, and I need to take care of my dog.”

“Awww, c’mon.” Mikey waves his arm. “You can wear the same clothes two days in a row, no one’ll care. It isn’t like you’re exactly working up a sweat here with your master folding.”

Frank is mock-appalled. “My folding is a thing of beauty,” he asserts. “An art form, even.” Frank waits until Mikey stops laughing at him to say, “Anyway, my dog, though.”

Mikey looks thoughtful. “Your mom can’t watch him for you for one night?”

“She’s not exactly a dog person. Really, she wouldn’t go for it. I’d have to sit through a lecture about responsibility and acting my age.” He shakes his head. “It just isn’t worth it.”

Mikey doesn’t look happy, but he lets it go until they’re sitting at the bar at Summertime later that night. Frank’s forgotten about the whole thing until Mikey says, out of nowhere, “Okay!” He slaps the bar, startling Frank, who had been watching a report about the tides on the TV over the bar. “Next weekend, you bring Pugsley with you and you can both stay at my place for the weekend together!” He looks incredibly pleased with himself at having come up with this solution.

Frank isn’t sure. “You don’t think your brother will mind?”

Mikey shakes his head, but then stops as if maybe that wasn’t the best idea after who knows how many beers he’s had. “No way, man, Gee loves dogs. And you said Pugsley isn’t that big, right?”

“No, he’s small. I carry him around all the time. He’s totally house trained and everything.”

Mikey looks really excited. Frank thinks maybe a bit more excited than the situation warrants, but that could be the beer. “All right then! So you bring him over on Friday morning before work and we can even walk to work together, man. We live right here in town. And you won’t have to spend all that money on gas, going back and forth, either.” He slaps Frank’s shoulder. “It’s perfect!”

Frank laughs. He doesn’t know why this is so important to Mikey, but he’s glad to have someone who seems to actually want him around, someone who seems to actually want to help him. Most of his friends helped him as much as they could while he was out of work, but they all have their own lives, their own problems. And there were only so many times they could deal after Frank kept going back to Elissa after she’d kick him out. After a while they stopped feeling sorry for him, told him he should just leave her. Frank gets that, he doesn’t hold it against them.

He sips his beer slowly now since it’s getting late and he’ll have to drive home soon. He thinks about how Elissa always had to have the expensive, fancy beer whenever they went out. She refused to ever just drink what was on tap or on special. She was actually kind of hard to take out with his friends. Frank gets why they got tired of hearing about all her issues after a while. It just sucks because he had grown apart from so many of them over it that by the time she kicked him out for what now seems to be the last time, he didn’t really have anyone left to count on for moral support for well… anything.

Frank wonders if any of Lissy’s friends have been helping her out with money since her hours got cut. He hasn’t heard from her in weeks and he refuses to be the one to call first. He’s sorta bummed that she hasn’t called him, though, he had really wanted to gloat about finding such a fun job. He wonders if she’s okay. He feels kinda guilty that he hasn’t even tried to find out about how she’s doing. He still cares, but… she just always made it so hard to love her.

Frank is kicked out of his mournful thoughts when Mikey throws his arms around him for no apparent reason and says, voice slurred, “I have the best boss ever.” He rubs his nose on Frank’s shoulder. “I have the best boss ever because he gave me Frankie to keep me company during the slow season. I’m so lucky I got Frankie.”

Frank laughs and helps Mikey sit more or less upright again. “I think you’re done drinking for tonight.”

Mikey’s eyes are glassy as he looks at Frank. “You think?”

Frank nods.

“Next weekend is going to be the best, Frank, you’ll see, because after Summertime, we can go back to my place and order pizza and watch horror movies and play video games…”

Mikey goes on, but Frank tunes it out as he thinks about the prospect of hanging out with Mikey next week. He can’t remember the last time he just got to hang out with his guy friends without having some huge worry looming over his head. Mikey falls over again with his head on Frank’s shoulder, still talking, and Frank smiles. He hadn’t even realized how much he had been missing time with his friends and just like that, he has a new one. He ponders that and wonders what other surprises are going to come with this job. He really can’t wait to find out.

*_*_*

Pugsley can’t contain his excitement on the drive to Point Eerie the following Friday morning. He doesn’t lie down once the whole drive. Instead, he pokes his nose out the window and wags his tail constantly as if to say, ‘Where are we going? Where are we going?’ over and over again. It makes Frank smile and puts him in an excellent mood by the time he pulls into the driveway at Mikey’s house at 11:30.

It’s a small house only a few blocks from the beach. Frank can see that the yard is fenced in which is excellent for Pugsley. He holds Pugsley under his arm as he waits after ringing the door bell. He’s about to ring again when Mikey opens the door. He’s grinning from ear to ear and Frank tries to quickly memorize the grin and catalogue it away in his Mikeyway smile memory bank. He’d been finding himself bringing those smiles to mind all week during stressful moments. The most stressful of which was when he had to go to the bank and get his name taken off his and Elissa’s joint account and set up his own. That really sucked, but he had to do it. He hadn’t touched their account in weeks because he knew there was nothing in it, but a slew of overdraft notices in his email alerted him to the fact that Elissa, apparently, hadn’t quite figured that out yet. Frank sold some of his comic books to pay the overdraft fees and then got his name off the account. Elissa’s on her own now.

Mikey immediately reaches for Pugsley, he’s practically cooing. “I love animals, man. My roommate in the city has this hilarious cat that he dresses up in all kinds of costumes. You should come see her sometime.”

Frank follows Mikey into the house after he waves him in. He can smell coffee immediately. “So, uh, the city, you mean like, New York? Is that where you live in the winter?” Frank trails after Mikey into the kitchen. “Is that coffee?”

“Oh yeah, you should totally have some,” Mikey answers absently as he sets Pugsley down, scratching behind his ears until he won’t stay put anymore and runs off to explore the house. Mikey stands up and looks at Frank for a moment like he’s replaying Frank’s last words in his head. “Yeah, the last few winters I’ve lived with some buddies in this tiny little place in midtown. It’s not like, glamorous or anything, but it’s fun.” He turns around and pulls a travel mug down from the cabinet and pushes it into Frank’s hands. “Take as much as you want. Gee can always make more when he wakes up later. There’s cream in the fridge.”

Frank fills the travel mug up all the way and adds sugar from the bowl on the counter and plenty of cream. His first taste is amazing. “This is really fucking strong coffee.”

Mikey, who’s in the midst of filling a bowl with water for Pugsley, shrugs. “My brother makes it that way. I guess I’ve assimilated over time. All other coffee tastes weak to me now.”

Frank sets down his mug to pull the dog food that he brought with him out of his duffel bag so that Mikey can fill a bowl with it for Pugsley to eat during the day. “So, what exactly do you do in the winter? For work, I mean, since Carnival is closed.”

“Oh!” Mikey seems surprised. “Did I not tell you this? I work at Midtown Fun Zone. It’s like,” he waves his arms around, “an indoor amusement park basically. It’s like Carnival, only inside. I mean, there’s even a circus, it’s not as big as Carnival’s, but still awesome. It’s owned by the same company that owns Carnival. There are three of them in the city. A lot of the managers at Carnival work at Fun Zones during the winter.” He pauses for a minute as he opens the back door. “Most of our jobs get taken by college and high school kids while we’re down here in the summer, so it works out. Where did Pugsley go? He should go out before we leave, right? Gee could be sleeping for a couple more hours still.”

They call Pugsley and get him to go outside, and Frank ends up drinking about half his coffee before they finally start walking to work. Mikey wasn’t kidding, it is a short walk. Frank doesn’t think it takes them even five full minutes to get to the store. They manage to beat Brian, and Mikey has to unlock the door to let them in. He turns on all the lights and Frank plugs his iPod into the stereo since it’s his turn to supply the music today. He chooses Nirvana’s Heart Shaped Box to start their day and Mikey seems to approve as he smiles and hums along with the song.

As Frank is putting his lunch away under the register, something occurs to him. “So, does your brother live in that house all the time by himself? Like, does he own it or what?”

Mikey’s eyes seem to cloud over a tiny bit before he answers. It’s so miniscule that if Frank hadn’t been looking right at him, he would have missed it completely. “Yeah, Gerard owns it. It was our Grandmother’s house, actually. She left it to him.”

“Oh, she died?” Frank feels bad about asking and he’s not sure why. It’s a reasonable question.

Mikey seems to shake himself as he moves to straighten all the pens and pencils for sale on the rack by the register. “Yeah, three years ago. Gee took it really hard. They were close. He loves her house.”

“But so…” Frank doesn’t know why he’s so curious about this, but since he’s started asking, he really wants to know, “so Gerard lives there all alone in the winter.”

“Yup.” Mikey says it matter-of-factly, like it’s a simple thing, but the way his lips seem to stick on the ‘p’ at the end of the word make Frank think there’s nothing simple about it at all.

At that moment, Brian walks in, so Frank lets the conversation drop. He can’t help being curious, though. The only other thing Mikey has told Frank about his brother is that he’s an artist who actually makes enough to live off it, which is pretty unusual. Frank figures he’ll get to meet Gerard at some point this weekend and he’s suddenly very excited about it.

*_*_*

He doesn’t get to meet Gerard right away that night. When he and Mikey stumble in from Summertime, after way too many drinks, Gerard is still upstairs in his studio, involved in some project that Mikey says looks complicated and convoluted. He’s talking as he comes down the stairs carrying Pugsley after checking on Gerard. “He’s doing something with painting bricks and then making prints with them on these giant…” Mikey waves his arm, “canvasses. I don’t know.” He’s slurring his words. “When he gets like this, he’ll stay up there for hours.”

Frank follows Mikey into the kitchen where he opens the back door and puts Pugsley outside. “He said Pugsley was a great help, um, and he might have some paint on his paws.”

Frank shrugs.

Mikey keeps talking as he pulls a bag of popcorn out of the cabinet and sticks it in the microwave. “That was our grandmother’s studio. He says he can ‘feel’ her presence when he’s up there.” He does the air quotes around the word feel when he says it. “I don’t know, whatever. Whatever it is that he does up there, it’s apparently brilliant. I don’t understand what he’s doing most of the time, but people always buy his stuff.”

“Well, that’s good, though.” Frank can’t help but pipe up. “It’s great that he can make a living doing something he loves.”

Mikey shrugs. “It is, but… it’s like as long as he doesn’t have to, you know…” he waves his hands again as he goes back to the door to let Pugsley in, “deal with the world, then he can just hole up here and never move on. I mean, he says he has, but he hasn’t.”

The corn starts popping in the microwave and Mikey suddenly looks startled. “Please don’t tell him I said anything to you about all that.”

Frank shakes his head. “I won’t.”

“I mean, it’s bad enough that I’m drunk around him so often. I know he’s sick of me giving him a hard time about his work. Like,” he stops the microwave and pulls the bag of popcorn out now that the popping has almost stopped, “he should totally be in New York, you know?” He pins Frank with his eyes and Frank has to nod. “He could have his work in so many galleries. Every year he says, ‘just one more winter and then I’ll go to the city with you.’ Every year he says it, but he never does.”

Frank has no idea what to say to all this as Mikey opens the bag of popcorn, letting the steam escape before he starts eating it. He waves the bag at Frank and Frank takes a handful. He chews and thinks. After a few minutes of popcorn eating in companionable silence, he asks, “Why is it bad that you’re drunk around him?”

Mikey finishes chewing before he answers, “He’s an alcoholic. He was a total disaster the first year after Elena died.”

“Oh, okay,” Frank says quietly.

Mikey pulls a glass down out of the cabinet and fills it with water. He takes a sip before he starts speaking again. “Yeah, so, he was a mess, but he’s been sober for two years and he’s doing really good now. I never leave alcohol around or drink when he’s like… in the room or anything.” He shrugs. “I guess it’s okay. He always says he’s fine and I’m fine, but I still wonder sometimes. I still worry.”

“Well,” Frank starts, and Mikey looks up almost like he’s startled for a second, like he forgot in all his musing that Frank was even there. “He’s your brother, of course you worry. That’s what families do.”

Mikey smiles just at the corner of his mouth and Frank counts that as a win. “Thanks, Frank. I didn’t mean to dump all that on you.”

“It’s fine,” Frank says quickly. “It’s actually kinda nice to hear about someone else’s problems for a change. I’m so used to wallowing in my own.”

That makes Mikey chuckle before he asks, “Did you want water?”

Frank shakes his head and Mikey turns him around, steering him toward the living room with his glass and the bag of popcorn in one hand and the other hand at the small of Frank’s back. “Okay, so since you’re the guest, you get to pick the first movie.”

*_*_*

They end up watching the original Dawn of the Dead. It took Frank a while to choose, because Mikey and Gerard own approximately every horror movie ever made, but he settled on that one because it had been so long since he’d seen it.

They sprawl on the couch to watch and by the time it’s done, Frank is lying with his feet in Mikey’s lap. As it turns out, Mikeyway gives really awesome foot massages. It’s incredibly relaxing and Frank finds himself loosening up all over, he’s sobering up, too, which is a really good thing when Mikey starts talking as the end credits are rolling.

Frank notices Mikey looking at him kind of thoughtfully, his face half hidden in shadow as the only light in the room is coming from the TV. Mikey scrunches up his eyes as if he’s steeling himself before he says, “So what is your wife’s deal, anyway?”

Frank looks at Mikey kind of blankly for a few seconds before slowly shrugging one shoulder. He has no idea where to even begin.

“Think she’s ever gonna take you back?”

“Nah.” Frank shakes his head. “Not this time. This is…” He scratches his eyebrow with his pinky, hating to say the words. “This is it.”

Mikey twists Frank’s ankles really gently in a way that seems to drain all the tension right out of him. “How do you know?”

“It’s just been so long, and…” he trails off, not entirely sure what to say.

“Would you go back?”

Frank tries to sit up a little to scoot closer to Mikey on the couch. “See, that’s the thing. I don’t know if I would. In the past, I… I’d always go right back.”

Mikey stops massaging Frank’s feet and pulls him closer so that Frank’s legs are in his lap now. “But I don’t get why she keeps kicking you out? What is her deal?” he asks again, enunciating carefully as if he’s angry at the words.

“She has like… issues.” Frank snorts and decides to just get it all out there. Mikey was honest with him about his brother, it’s only fair. “No, really, she has serious issues. Like, I think she’s probably bi-polar or something, but she won’t get help, so…” His voice is quieter when he continues, “So, it’s really hard with her… was hard. She’s not an easy person to deal with.”

“But she’s pretty, though, right?” Mikey gives him a knowing look.

Frank snorts again. “Oh yeah, she’s fucking beautiful.”

“Of course,” Mikey says, knowingly. “The crazy ones are always the most beautiful.” He stops and looks thoughtful as he slowly puts just the back of his fingers against Frank’s cheek like he’s touching a horse he’s afraid might startle. “I’m not surprised your girl would be beautiful, though. You’re so fucking beautiful, it only makes sense.”

Mikey drops his hand and Frank almost feels like he’s been burned. He touches his cheek as if to check. It feels normal.

“I’m sorry, that was weird,” Mikey says sheepishly, ducking his head.

“No, it’s fine.” Frank grabs Mikey’s hand and realizes that it is fine. It’s totally fine. He’s got no problem with Mikey touching him. He really doesn’t want to talk about Lissy anymore, though. He needs to change the subject. “So what about you? You dating anyone?”

“Nah, not right now.” Mikey straightens up and links their fingers together where Frank’s still holding his hand. “I was dating this dude back like… before Christmas. Wow, jeez, it’s been a while ago.” He scratches his head. “I mean, I really liked him, but he just… I don’t know. I guess he just didn’t really wanna be gay. Like, he was fine when it was just fooling around, but when I messed up and let slip that I had like, feelings for him. He was just gone, man.” He snaps his fingers. “Just like that.”

“Wow, that sucks.” Frank rubs his thumb around inside Mikey’s palm and thinks he’d like to punch this guy out. “What a douche.”

“Whatever, it’s fine.” He shakes his shoulders like it’s nothing. “I hooked up with a couple chicks in like… January, but since then it’s been just nothing man, total dry spell.”

“It’s been since January for me, too,” Frank says before he even realizes he’s going to.

“I thought you said she kicked you out in February.”

“She did, but she would like… withhold… when she was pissed at me about something.” Even if it was something ridiculous, Frank thinks.

“Seriously?” Mikey looks scandalized. “But like the whole point of being married is so you know you can get laid regularly.”

Frank laughs. “I’m not sure that’s the whole point.” He shakes Mikey’s hand in his as he laughs. “But yeah, she could hold out for a really fucking long time.”

It’s quiet for a minute before Frank adds, “Pretty sure she was cheating on me, though.” He’s not actually pretty sure, he knows. There’s only so many times your friends can have that conversation with you that starts like, ‘hey man, I hate to be the one to have to tell you this…’ before you just can’t make excuses anymore. And it wasn’t even like it was always while Frank had been kicked out that she’d do it. In fact, there never seemed to be any rhyme or reason to it.

“Bitch,” is all Mikey says in reply to that. But then he looks like maybe he wants to take it back. “I mean, I know she’s your wife, but…”

Frank smiles. “No, it’s fine. She is a bitch. She really is.”

“Why’d you stay then?” Mikey says it so quietly, it’s almost a whisper.

“I love her.” It comes out before Frank can stop it and makes him want to cringe. He isn’t sure how that can still be true but it is. The longer he’s away from her, though, the more he hopes it will go away eventually. He realizes now that she was never really good for him. There’s no way she ever loved him as much as he had convinced himself she did. It hurts to admit that, but he thinks it’s better to figure it out sooner rather than later. At least they didn’t have any kids.

Mikey nods and takes Frank’s hand in both of his and starts massaging it like he did his feet. It feels good and Frank lets his head rest against the back of the couch. He watches Mikey’s hands work, his long fingers. He can’t help but think about Mikey with another dude now. It’s hot, he can’t pretend it isn’t. Mikey starts doing this thing where he massages the knuckles of each finger and Frank tries to remember the last time he hooked up with a dude. He had to have been only like, nineteen, at the oldest. Because he never hooked up with anyone else after he got engaged. He made out with a couple chicks during times when Elissa had kicked him out, but that’s it.

Mikey purses his lips in concentration as he massages and Frank tries to remember what it’s like to kiss a guy. How it’s different than kissing a girl. He doesn’t remember. He wants to remember.

He kisses Mikey.

Mikey seems startled at first. He stops massaging and goes completely still for a second before he just kind of clings to Frank’s hand, while his other hand lands softly on Frank’s shoulder. In the next second, Mikey moves in and opens his mouth, his tongue pushing in and Frank lets it. Frank places his free hand on Mikey’s side as the kiss deepens and Frank thinks it feels nice. Not that different from kissing a girl. It’s good and Frank wants more and he doesn’t resist when Mikey starts leaning into him, forcing him to lie back on the couch.

Frank’s head hits the arm of the couch and he lets Mikey continue exploring his mouth with his tongue. There’s some shifting where Frank’s legs seem to spread of their own volition and Mikey settles between them, the kiss not breaking as Mikey fits his body on top of Frank’s. It feels good. Frank hadn’t realized how much he’d been missing this, this closeness with another person. Mikey’s hips are narrower than Frank’s and they settle between his nicely. It feels like only seconds before they’re both hard from rubbing their groins together, Frank’s hand now clutching at the small of Mikey’s back. Finally, Mikey pulls away from the kiss, panting. “Fuck, Frank,” he gasps. “Ugh. I’ve wanted to do this since…” he licks a long stripe across Frank’s neck, “Since I first saw you in the store.” He goes back to Frank’s neck where he starts biting gently, just rubbing his teeth across the skin. It gives Frank chills even though he’s hot all over. “Your fucking neck, Frank,” Mikey mumbles against him, his mouth barely breaking contact with the skin. “How is it so…” He backs off just barely and brings his hands up to span around Frank’s neck loosely. “How is it so fucking thick? And your tattoos…” Mikey goes back to licking Frank’s neck, working his way lower, pulling the collar of Frank’s shirt to the side to lay wet kisses on his clavicle.

It’s hot. Frank is hot, and he wants to feel Mikey’s skin. He figures if he’s doing this, then he might as well really do it. He pushes his hands up under Mikey’s shirt and Mikey moves back enough to let him pull it over his head. Frank follows immediately with his own shirt and then that’s better. Skin on hot skin is so much better. Frank runs his hands around on Mikey’s chest and shoulders and Mikey grins at him as he shimmies down Frank’s body. He tongues at the lines of his chest piece and stops to suck at his nipples, sending little zings straight to Frank’s groin. It’s when Mikey gets down to Frank’s belly, when he’s got his palms over the swallows and is licking right into Frank’s navel that he gets that old feeling back. The one that comes when he’s drunkenly making out with some chick and the next logical step would be to grab her tit. It’s this feeling like ice crawling up his spine and a voice in the back of his head that screams ‘Married! You’re married!’ Usually, it’s that feeling and that voice that stops him, has him pushing the girl away and going to find fresh air as soon as he can get some.

But tonight that doesn’t happen. Frank almost wants to put a hand on Mikey’s head to stop it when he starts undoing Frank’s belt, he comes pretty close, but doesn’t. Instead, he takes a deep breath and leans back against the arm of the couch. He rolls his head around and stretches his neck and tries to just relax. He threads his fingers through Mikey’s hair as he takes his time pulling down Frank’s jeans. Mikey runs his palm up and down Frank’s cock on the outside of his underwear a few times and then pulls his briefs down just enough so that the head is sticking out. Mikey leans down and licks at it, just the head, and then he licks at Frank’s belly all around it and then the head of his dick again. He says, “Mmmm,” when he finally starts pulling Frank’s underwear off, torturously slowly.

Frank grunts in frustration and jerks his hips, and Mikey fucking laughs at him as he finally pulls Frank’s pants and underwear all the way off and drops them on the floor. When he comes back, he rubs his hands all around on Frank’s hip bones and belly and then reaches back, grabbing at the swell of Frank’s hips and pulls him further down the couch until he’s lying flat. “I love this,” Mikey says, massaging around Frank’s hips still. “I love that there’s something to grab here.” Mikey settles over Frank again and, as if to prove his point, begins gnawing on Frank’s right love handle. It tickles and Frank laughs. Mikey finishes up just licking and kissing the area. “Don’t laugh, man, you have such a fucking nice body.” He’s smiling, though, as he finally starts stroking Frank in earnest. That stops Frank’s laughter pretty quickly. He gasps and lets his head fall back on the couch again, his hands landing in Mikey’s hair.

Mikey’s not teasing anymore as he takes Frank in his mouth, sinking down further than Frank ever would have thought possible. It’s obvious that Mikey knows what he’s doing, that he’s done this before, a lot. Frank wonders how bi Mikey really is or if he’s been with mostly guys. He knows it doesn’t matter, but he’s curious.

All coherent thoughts about sexuality fly from his head when Mikey pulls off, his thumb following his tongue all the way down the vein on the underside before Mikey’s nuzzles at Frank’s balls and then licks them. He sucks them gently, still jerking Frank off with his hand. Frank doesn’t think that Elissa has ever sucked on his balls unless he asked her first, and even then, she’d always make a face about it as if his balls were dirty or something. Mikey seems to have no such problem with Frank’s balls. And even if they were dirty before, they certainly aren’t now, with the way that Mikey’s licking and sucking at them.

Mikey backs off and reaches his hands under Frank’s ass, tilting it up and then he’s got his mouth in a place that no man or woman has ever gone before. Frank is stunned, he’s only ever heard of people going there, but Mikey is definitely licking directly at his asshole. And it feels… good. It feels really fucking good. Frank’s initial shock wears off and he’s just beginning to relax into it when Mikey slips his index finger inside and Frank makes a noise so high pitched, he’s surprised it doesn’t wake up Pugsley. Mikey immediately looks up at Frank questioningly. “This okay?”

Frank nods and tries to fucking breathe. It’s totally okay. He’s stuck his own finger up there before, sure, but not since he was a curious teenager. This is… this is completely different because Mikey knows what he’s doing. Mikey moves his long finger around and finds Frank’s prostate, and Frank realizes immediately that everything he’s ever heard about it is true. It’s like a little lightening storm hits each time Mikey works his finger over it, and Frank’s breath is coming in these little gasping pants and he’d be embarrassed by it if he didn’t feel so goddamed good right now.

Finally Mikey comes back to Frank’s cock, licking the head and making yummy noises again before sinking down, taking Frank in just as deep as before, maybe deeper, while still moving his finger in Frank’s ass. Mikey gets a rhythm going, using his hand to stroke Frank as he sucks. Frank knows he isn’t going to be able to last much longer. He’s got his hands on Mikey’s head, trying hard not to push or pull on his hair, but it’s hard. He feels his muscles start to tense up, his fingers and toes curling. He manages to squeak out, “Mikey,” as a warning, but Mikey doesn’t let up. He just keeps sucking and stroking and it’s only a few more seconds before Frank’s vision whites out as he comes right down Mikey’s throat. Mikey swallows and strokes Frank right through the whole thing, his finger finally slowing down in Frank’s ass until Frank’s just laying there, a shuddering pile of goo, basking in the afterglow.

Frank’s eyes are closed as he feels Mikey pull his finger out. He feels strangely empty without it. There’s some shuffling and Frank opens his eyes to see Mikey getting his jeans and underwear off. His dick is huge and gorgeous and Frank wants to touch it, but he feels too boneless still to do anything about it. He makes a feeble to attempt to reach for it when Mikey lies back down on top of him, but Mikey stops him, grabbing his hand and placing it back on his own chest. “No, it’s fine. I’m just going to jerk off against you. That okay?”

Frank nods and watches as Mikey’s long fingers work his own cock. He spits on his hand after a minute and says, “Yeah,” out loud when he gets a good rhythm going. Frank’s so mesmerized by watching Mikey’s hand on his dick that he’s surprised by it when Mikey kisses him again. It’s good, though, and he goes with it, tasting himself in Mikey’s mouth as he swirls his tongue around. He wraps his hand around the back of Mikey’s neck and pulls him closer, as close as he can be while still jerking off. Frank feels like he’s floating, he’s totally relaxed, completely calm and just sort of going along for the ride. It’s not more than a couple of minutes before Mikey breaks out of the kiss, gasping and shuddering, his whole body tensing up and Frank looks down in time to watch him come against Frank’s hip, spunk squirting all over Frank’s belly. It’s feels funny, hot and wrong, but so good at the same time.

Once he’s finished coming, Mikey lies down on Frank’s left side. Their sticky, sweaty skin rubs together in a way that gives Frank chills again. He’s not so hot anymore and he starts getting the pins and needles feeling when Mikey runs his fingers around on his stomach, making some kind of design with his own come.

Frank giggles. “You are such a dork.”

Mikey looks up at him and raises an eyebrow. “You just let me come on you, so what does that say about you?”

“Point,” Frank says. And then because he can’t stand the way Mikey’s looking at him so fondly, he has to grab his face and kiss him some more. They don’t stop kissing for a long, long time.

*_*_*

When Frank wakes up he has no clue at first where he is or what’s going on. Before he opens his eyes, he hears an unfamiliar voice saying, “Mikey, wake up, Mikey,” and feels something heavy shifting on top of him. He opens his eyes to see Mikey, apparently still asleep with his eyes closed, his head resting on Frank’s chest. There is a dude who’s hard to see in the dark, pushing at his shoulder to try and wake him. The guy pushing Mikey has longish dark hair and Frank assumes it’s Gerard. Frank swallows and moves his arms up to stretch and Gerard backs off suddenly, startled, just as Mikey finally opens his eyes.

Mikey smiles up at Frank and says, “Hey, Frankie,” before yawning big and pushing himself to sit up. “Oh ewww,” he says, making a face. “We never cleaned up.”

Frank looks down and sees that his stomach is still covered in dried come. He also realizes that he and Mikey are both naked in front of Gerard. He sits up immediately after Mikey and moves to cover himself. Gerard is thrusting a pair of underwear at him. He says, “Here, I think these are yours,” without the slightest sign of any embarrassment over finding them both naked on the couch.

Mikey seems completely comfortable and disaffected as well, as if he’s completely unconcerned about his brother discovering him in this state. He finds his own underwear on the floor and pulls them on at the same time as Frank scrambles to get in his. When Frank looks up at the DVD player, he can see that it’s almost 2:00 AM. He’s not sure exactly what time they fell asleep, but he feels like they were still kissing around one, so they can’t have been sleeping too long. The kissing is the last thing he remembers.

Gerard chuckles and seems to read his mind as he says, “Did you guys like, pass out mid-make out session or something? It looked like you didn’t even try to get comfortable. Like, you must both have really stiff necks now.”

Frank immediately starts rolling his neck and realizes that yeah, his neck is totally sore. He also realizes that he never introduced himself and Mikey doesn’t seem inclined to do it for him. Gerard is smiling at them both in a way that’s almost eerily friendly but also kinda cute. Like a little kid trying to crash an older sibling’s slumber party. Frank can’t help but smile back. “I’m Frank, by the way.” He reaches out to try to shake Gerard’s, but instead Gerard pushes a glass of water into his open palm.

“I figured. Hi, Frank. You should totally drink all of that. If you were even half as wasted as Mikey was when you guys got home, you’re going to have a killer headache in the morning if you don’t.”

Frank says, “Thanks,” and drinks the water because, yeah, he’s really fucking thirsty.

“Also, you guys should really move your sleeping to the beds or else you’re gonna be hurting in the morning. This couch is fine for sex, but it’s shit for sleeping on.”

Mikey nods and stands up as soon as he’s finished drinking the glass of water that Gerard handed him. He stretches his whole body for a long time and yawns dramatically and Frank can’t help but notice that the way Gerard is looking Mikey’s body up and down is decidedly un-brotherly.

Once Mikey’s done with his display, he reaches down and grabs Frank’s hand and pulls him up. “Okay, so either you can sleep in my bed on your own or you can sleep with me and Gee in his bed, it’s huge and super comfy.”

Frank just looks at Mikey for a minute, trying to process this. After a minute, Gerard says, “It’s weird, Mikes. You always forget people think it’s weird… because it is weird.”

Mikey shrugs and starts pushing Frank around the couch and down the hall toward the bedrooms. “Frank’s cool, Gee. He’s not going to freak out.” He nuzzles into Frank’s ear and whispers, “You’re not going to freak out, right?”

Frank shakes his head and is about to ask about Pugsley when Mikey stops abruptly in front of the bathroom. “Oh! Did you want to shower tonight, Frank? I’m sorry I left that mess on you.”

Mikey doesn’t look like he’s very sorry about it at all as he grins and tickles Frank’s belly. Frank can’t help but grin back. This whole night just seems to be getting more and more bizarre. He laughs and shakes his head. “Nah. I do need to pee before we sleep, though. Where’s Pugsley?”

Gerard answers, “He’s asleep in my bed. I hope that’s okay. I guess he already figured out that bed really is the most comfortable place to sleep in this house. That’s why Mikey always just sleeps with me. The bed in his room is about two thousand years old.”

Frank nods and lets Mikey push him into the bathroom where they both pee. Mikey gives him a washcloth and he’s working on trying to wipe at least some of the mess off his belly when Gerard comes in with his bag that he left in the kitchen this morning. “I didn’t know if you had like, a toothbrush or anything in here that you might need.”

“He can use my toothbrush,” Mikey chimes in happily from where he’s brushing his own teeth.

Frank shudders. He draws the line at shared toothbrushes, that’s something he never even did with his wife. “No, that’s fine. I have my own in here. Thanks Gerard.”

Gerard winks at him as he leaves, and it finally occurs to Frank after all the weirdness of the last little while that Gerard is really fucking pretty. Like crazy pretty. He’s exactly the type of dude that Frank always found himself crushing on in high school. ‘Guys who look like girls’ is what Hambone always used to say.

Frank looks at Mikey who raises an eyebrow at him before he leans down to spit foam out of his mouth. Mikey’s a nice looking dude, for sure, and he’s pretty in his own way, but not stunning like Gerard. Mikey is more what you would call, ‘classically handsome’. The family resemblance is there, too. Frank can see that now. He ponders it as he brushes his teeth, almost taking out a molar - his hand slipping when Mikey grabs his ass as he leaves the bathroom, winking over his shoulder.

Frank finishes brushing and rinsing. He wonders if he should just take Mikey’s bed, even if it is uncomfortable. He’s never spent the night with a guy in his whole adult life, certainly not two in the same bed. He takes a deep breath before he turns off the light and forces himself to go into Gerard’s room. This is fine. He can do this. It’s just Mikey and his harmless, weird, pretty older brother.

When he turns into Gerard’s room, he sees that it really is fine. The bed is huge just as advertised and there’s more than enough room for all three of them. Gerard is on the far side of the bed smoking a cigarette and reading in the lamplight from the nightstand with Pugsley curled up at his side. The lamp on the other side of the bed is off. Mikey’s in the middle with his arms open for Frank. “You’re the little spoon, Frankie,” he says gleefully and Frank laughs. Mikey’s serious, though, Frank figures out as soon as he gets into bed. He lies down on his side and Mikey moves behind him immediately, wrapping him up in his long limbs and stroking his fingers through Frank’s hair. “You need to breathe,” he murmurs into Frank’s ear. “You’re all tense.”

Frank breathes deeply several times and closes his eyes before Mikey says softly, “That’s better,” and begins rubbing his fingertips gently over Frank’s eyebrows.

The last thing he remembers is Mikey humming low in his ear and then he sleeps. He sleeps hard and he doesn’t dream.

*_*_*

Frank goes for a walk on the beach during his break on Saturday. He eats his lunch as he walks. It’s a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that Gerard made last night.

It was a weird morning, Mikey’s alarm woke them up with just enough time to each shower and throw clothes on before they left, eating blueberry pop tarts on their walk to the store. They didn’t talk about anything that happened last night. Mikey didn’t seem like he thought there was anything to talk about. Maybe there’s not, maybe it’s weird that Frank thinks there is or that maybe there should be. He doesn’t know, but the weirdest part of the morning was when he learned that every night before he goes to bed Gerard makes Mikey’s lunch for him for the next day. And last night, he made a lunch for Frank, too, complete with a bag of chips, an apple, and a Gatorade. He even labeled the brown bags with each of their names because he’d made a cheese sandwich for Mikey. Apparently Mikey had told him at some point that Frank can’t eat dairy.

And now Frank is eating his chips and having a really hard time figuring out how he feels about, well, everything. He feels good about his lunch. It’s nice to have someone else make your lunch for you. He can’t remember the last time anyone did that for him. Usually, he just scrambles in the morning, grabbing whatever he can find in the kitchen and throwing it in a bag as he rushes out the door. The fact that Gerard actually put thought into making something for him… and he doesn’t really even know Frank, it’s like… touching. And also weird. Frank can’t help but find it kind of weird that Gerard makes Mikey’s lunch, but when he thinks about it, he can’t really find a reason why it’s weird. Why shouldn’t Gerard make Mikey’s lunch for him? Frank supposes it’s just a nice older-brotherly thing to do. Gee and Mikey are obviously very close, it’s just part of that is all. It’s fine. This is what Frank tells himself.

As Frank sits down on a log at the far end of the beach, he thinks he also feels pretty good about getting laid. With Elissa in the last few months they were together, he’d been starting to think that maybe, well… maybe he wasn’t really good at it. And Mikey just seems so into him, it just… it’s so nice to feel wanted again. Mikey’s been acting normal all morning, but he’s definitely touching Frank more, like, affectionately. Or maybe not, maybe it’s the same as before, Mikey’s always touched him a lot, maybe it just feels different now. But Mikey’s been looking at him differently, that much Frank knows for sure and that’s exciting him because he totally wants to hook up with Mikey again and try other things and see maybe if he’s with someone who actually seems to want him, maybe Frank will find that he doesn’t suck in bed after all. He always tried to be a good lover to Lissy. He definitely tried because he loved her and he wanted to make her feel good, but in the last year or so it really got to feeling like just one more area where he was disappointing her and he didn’t know how to fix it.

So thinking about sex with Elissa gets him thinking about all the things he feels shitty about. He dumps out all the crumbs that are left in his bag of chips for the seagulls to eat and starts eating his apple and thinks about how he feels guilty because he doesn’t feel guilty about hooking up with Mikey. That sounds dumb, but Mikey grabbed his ass as he was leaving the store for his break and he had this weird moment of déjà-vu thinking about how Lissy used to grab his ass like that when he left for work in the morning back when they first got married. She hasn’t done any such thing in years, but Frank just got this horrible sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach because once he let Mikey get started last night, he didn’t really think about Elissa at all; maybe once while Mikey was going down on him, not at all when he was finished while they made out on the couch, and not even after Gee woke them up and made them get in the bed.

He sort of thought about her this morning when Mikey gave him his lunch and he admitted that no one’s made his lunch for him since he was a kid, but it wasn’t a deep and meaningful thought or anything. But that feeling he got when he left for his break, it just… it’s just making him sad. Because he doesn’t feel like he cheated on his wife. He feels like it’s a non-issue because his wife doesn’t give a shit. She doesn’t care, so he shouldn’t care either, he can do what he wants. He thinks he should be glad he’s basically free to hook up with Mikey, and he is but… it doesn’t make him any less depressed about the fact that his marriage is obviously finished. Somehow hooking up with a dude and hardly even thinking about her feels like a nail in the coffin. It’s over. It really is over.

Frank’s always been a hopeless romantic. He thinks about it as he finishes up the last of his Gatorade and starts walking back toward the store. He’s always told people that Elissa is the ‘love of his life’. He’s always thought that she was it. He’s loved her since he was a kid, for fuck’s sake. He thought they were going to grow old together. He shoves his trash into a garbage can he passes with probably more force than is necessary because he feels like an idiot. Everything he thought about how wonderful his marriage to Elissa would be just sounds so immature and naïve in his own head now. He always knew she had issues. He just let himself rationalize them all because he loved her so much. He was so stupid. He was stupid and now he has a failed marriage at the age of 24.

By the time he gets back to the store, he’s talked himself into a rage inside his own head. He thinks he must be scowling because the smile falls off Mikey’s face immediately when he looks up from arranging stuffed animals and sees Frank’s face as he walks in the door. Mikey doesn’t say anything. He just comes around the display and envelopes Frank in a hug. At first Frank thinks he won’t like it because he doesn’t feel like being hugged right now, but he surprises himself by flinging his arms around Mikey’s middle and hugging him right back, his face buried in Mikey’s neck. Mikey’s rubbing a hand up and down Frank’s back, and suddenly Frank doesn’t feel angry anymore. Now he just feels pathetic.

“Shhh,” Mikey says, even though Frank isn’t making a sound. “It’s okay.”

“It’s not.” Frank isn’t crying, but his voice comes out sounding strangled.

“It’s going to be okay,” Mikey says fiercely. Pulling back, he pushes Frank’s hair back and tucks it behind his ears. He holds Frank’s face in his hands and doesn’t say anything, just looks in his eyes and strokes his thumbs up and down his cheeks, they catch on the sides of Frank’s lips each time they pass.

Frank takes a deep breath and backs up a half step, not enough to dislodge Mikey’s hands. Somehow he’s feeling desperate and he knows it’s wrong to put it on Mikey, but he says, “Promise?”

Mikey doesn’t even blink before he says, “I promise.”

And Frank believes him.

*_*_*

The rest of the weekend goes by pretty quickly. Frank and Mikey don’t mess around anymore on Saturday night. They decide to marathon the Lord of the Rings movies, watching on the TV in Gerard’s room instead of the living room, since the bed is more comfortable than the couch for long viewing sessions. When Frank wakes up on Sunday morning, he’s curled up between the Way brothers with popcorn in his hair and Pugsley eating it off the pillow just above his head. They were eating it in bed last night and at some point one of them must have knocked the bag over in their sleep and it got everywhere.

By the end of the day Sunday, Frank’s exhausted from how late he’s stayed up the last few nights and he can’t stop yawning while he’s sitting with Mikey at the bar at Summertime, finishing up his last beer. That’s when Mikey stages an intervention of sorts and convinces Frank that he doesn’t need to drive home tonight. He had planned to because he was going to get up early tomorrow to do some work in his mom’s garage. He had promised her that he would clean it out before he starts working full time. He wants to do it, really, as a thank you to her for letting him stay with her rent-free all this time. He knows she doesn’t mind, but he hates feeling as if he’s been a burden to her. Not that she’s ever said that, but she’s lived alone for a long time and Frank just has this feeling that maybe she misses having her house to herself.

So Frank argues with Mikey about going home, but in the end, he relents, because he really is just too tired. They leave Summertime earlier than normal and walk home slowly, enjoying the spring evening. Mikey pulls Frank off on a side street that is not the way home and drags him to a park a couple of blocks from the house. There’s a small playground and a really pathetic looking beach, but there’s also a long wood fishing pier with benches on it. They sit and watch the waves for a while and talk about the stars and Frank smokes. It’s nice. As Frank is stubbing out his cigarette on the bench next to him, Mikey grabs his face at his jawbone, turning it toward him and kisses him.

Frank is startled by it, but opens up right away and tastes whiskey in Mikey’s mouth from Summertime. He backs off minutely, less responsive, because he’s surprised. Mikey hasn’t made any move to do anything or grab Frank anywhere inappropriate since he came back upset after his break yesterday. As much as Frank still wants to do more with Mikey, for some reason he thought it would be up to him to initiate it. Mikey pulls back, his fingers smoothing around on Frank’s neck and Frank looks down at his lap. He doesn’t know why he’s hesitating.

“Hey,” Mikey says, his deep voice sounds loud in the quiet of the night, the waves the only other sound. Mikey brings his hand down to Frank’s shoulder and tightens it. “We don’t have to do anything, Frankie.”

Frank nods, but doesn’t look up. “I know.”

Mikey grabs Frank’s hand from his lap, intertwining their fingers. “I really like you a lot but it doesn’t have to be sexual. If Friday night was just blowing off steam, or whatever, that’s fine.” He pauses for a moment, tapping his fingers in Frank’s palm. “I’m really starting to care about you is all. And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m incredibly attracted to you.”

Frank looks up. “No, I want to…” he squeezes Mikey’s hand, “do things with you. Maybe it was just blowing off steam then, but I want to do more. I like you, too. I like… I wanna know if I can remember how to give a good blow job…”

Mikey chuckles, bringing his hand up to card through Frank’s hair. “I don’t think it’s really something you can forget.” He squeezes the back of Frank’s neck firmly. “So you’re okay about all this? Just… maybe just slow? I mean, I know you’re getting over Elissa and I’m not trying to take advantage of that-”

“No, I know,” Frank interrupts him. “Yeah, I think… just slow. That’s good. I can’t… I can’t just stop living because I’m sad about Lissy.” He closes his eyes for a second and swallows, trying to find the right words. “I guess all this is just taking me by surprise. You guys have been so nice to me…” he trails off because he doesn’t know where he’s going with this.

Mikey tightens his hand on Frank’s neck again. “Why shouldn’t we be nice to you?”

Frank shrugs. “I don’t know. I think it’s just something I stopped expecting from people a long time ago.”

“Well, that’s shitty,” Mikey huffs, “Because you are like… the awesomest dude I’ve met in a while. And I know you don’t know Gee very well yet, but he’s fond of you if I am, so whatever…” Mikey waves his hand as he talks. It lands on Frank’s arm and he wraps his long fingers around Frank’s elbow. “Gee’s going to be nice to you because that’s how the two of us work. When I’m here, it’s him and me, we’re a set.” Mikey’s expression grows harder, his voice taking on a serious edge. “We don’t keep anything from each other. If you like one of us, you get both of us and like, I can’t remember the last time I brought a dude home who didn’t freak out about that.”

Frank’s confused. He wipes his eyes as he suddenly realizes they’re wet. He wasn’t at all aware of being on the verge of tears. “Why should anyone freak out about that?”

Mikey nods. “Exactly, Frank.” His hard expression turns into a grin, his whole face and body seeming to relax with it. “You get it.”

That’s not really an answer, but Frank shrugs because he supposes that by not objecting, maybe he does ‘get it’, whatever ‘it’ is.

Mikey shifts closer on the bench, both his hands coming up to squeeze Frank’s shoulders. “So we’re keeping you, okay?”

Frank just has time to get out, “Okay,” before Mikey captures his mouth again in a searing, hot kiss. Frank feels like a teenager, getting hard while making out on a bench on a public pier where anyone could find them.

No one finds them, though. No one disturbs them as they jerk each other off slowly and leisurely. All Frank is aware of is how good it feels and the sound of the waves crashing in the background.

*_*_*

Frank’s week is busy and goes by fast. He gets tons of work done in his mom’s garage, washes James’s car as promised in return for him lending Frank the money to take Pugsley to the vet, manages to sell some of his old LP’s that are less important to him on eBay, and even finds time to clean out his mom’s gutters. He’s feeling pretty good about all his productivity and finds his mood on an upswing, more optimistic than he’s felt in ages when he returns with Pugsley to Point Eerie Beach on Friday.

The day goes by as usual at the store, but Frank is beginning to notice things picking up more in the evenings now that it’s warmer and light out longer. The store stays open later now on Fridays, and Gerard has promised to make his famous veggie sloppy joe sandwiches for dinner, so Frank and Mikey decide to skip Summertime and head straight home after work.

Mikey doesn’t really take his hands off of Frank at all the whole evening. Well, that isn’t entirely true. Frank does go to the bathroom on his own, but that’s about it.

Mikey had his hands on Frank’s ass the minute they left the store, kneading into his ass cheeks, crudely. Even when he stopped molesting Frank over his clothes, Mikey kept a hand in his back pocket the whole walk home. It seemed like he was touching him somewhere all the time they were in the kitchen helping Gerard cook. Then, when they all sat down together in the living room to eat, Mikey had an arm around him or a hand on his thigh the entire time. Now they’re watching Mystery Science Theatre and Frank is leaning back into Mikey on the couch. Mikey’s arms are wrapped tightly around Frank’s waist and Frank almost feels like he’s sinking into him, his head resting back against Mikey’s collarbone, bouncing every time Mikey laughs.

“Are you actually comfortable like this?” Frank can’t help but ask.

Mikey rubs his hands around on Frank’s belly. “Sure, are you?”

Frank nods, and then says, “Yeah, I am actually.” He smiles. He has his legs up on the coffee table and Gerard is on the couch with them too, sitting at the other end with Pugsley in his lap and his feet up on the couch, tucked under Frank’s legs. It’s nice. Frank feels, like… sandwiched, or bookended or something. All he knows is it’s really fucking cozy and more and more he thinks he doesn’t want to go back to his mom’s house next week.

Gerard wiggles his toes around when it gets to the end of the movie and they all start shifting and stretching. Pugsley hops down off Gerard’s lap and wanders around before curling up on the recliner in the corner. Gee says, “Frank, I don’t think my feet have ever been that warm during a movie. Is your body always so hot like this?”

Frank huffs out a little laugh. “I don’t know, maybe.” He tries to figure out if there’s some kind of double meaning to the question.

Gerard just smiles at him. He has a really fucking pretty smile and Frank can’t help but smile back. “So you’re staying with us until Monday again this weekend?”

Frank nods, “Yeah, it should be another busy week. I have a few more things left I promised my mom I’d do around the house before this job becomes full time.”

Mikey sounds incredulous as he asks, “You still have more to do after everything you did for her this week already?”

Frank shrugs. “Well, she’s lived alone for a long time and I didn’t help her out nearly as often as I should have before I lost my job.” Frank scratches his eyebrow. He’s actually kind of embarrassed about that when he thinks back on it now. “I was pretty involved with my band then and that’s where most of my extra time went, so I guess… things just got left undone at my mom’s place. I should have been paying more attention before.”

Gerard looks at Frank with the softest expression. It brings out the femininity of his features. “You’re a good son, Frank.”

Frank isn’t really sure about that. “I guess. I mean, I try… I’m the only kid she has and sometimes I feel like I should be doing more. I don’t know.”

Gerard’s mouth quirks up at the corner. “Well, we’ll miss you while you’re back at her place. This house is more fun with you and Pugsley here.”

Frank isn’t sure, because the words he’s saying are totally innocuous, but the way that Gerard is looking at him, he can’t help but feel like he’s being flirted with.

Mikey interrupts his thoughts by piping up happily behind him. “Frank will only be gone for three days this time, though, Gee, because next weekend is when we start being open on Thursdays and Mondays, too, so we’ll start getting Frankie for five days!” Mikey squeezes Frank’s middle and sounds so excited as he says all that, Frank has to turn and look up at him. He’s grinning so wide, he’s practically glowing. Frank can’t remember anyone ever seeming quite this excited just at the prospect of spending time with him before. It feels really, really nice. His chest feels warm. It’s new and he likes it a lot.

Frank turns back to Gerard to see if he seems to share this excitement. Gerard looks thoughtful for a moment before he says, “You know, Frank, during the season, once Carnival is open seven days, you guys will be on a rotating schedule. You should just plan to live with us all summer.”

Frank shakes his head immediately. “I don’t want to impose. You guys don’t have to do that.”

Gerard leans closer and puts his right hand on Frank’s thigh. “Frank, we like having you here. It wouldn’t make sense for you keep driving back and forth all the time.” He starts moving his hand up and down Frank’s thigh soothingly. “I mean, obviously, you can go visit your mom if you want to, but you should like, move some of your stuff down here, you know? So you can feel more settled. It seems like you’ve been shuffled around an awful lot lately. That has to really suck.”

Frank leans his head back against Mikey’s shoulder and tries not to get teary-eyed again. He was hoping he wouldn’t be quite as emotional this weekend as he was last weekend. But yeah, what Gerard’s saying is true. It really has sucked the last few months feeling like he was just ‘staying’ someplace, but not actually ‘living’ anywhere. He shakes his head to try and dislodge the weepy feeling before he answers, “Okay, but I’m totally paying rent.”

Gerard squeezes Frank’s knee and says, “No fucking way, Frank. No way. Any extra money you have, you need to finish paying back people you borrowed from when you were out of work, and you need to get your car checked out because it doesn’t sound safe right now, and you need to buy back your guitar.”

Frank can’t understand why Gerard cares so much about all of Frank’s problems. Most people won’t touch Frank’s issues with a ten foot pole and Frank knows he never told Gerard about Pansy, which means that Mikey told him and Gerard cared enough to remember. He’s still shaking his head in refusal and just plain confusion, but the look on Gerard’s face makes it clear he isn’t going to back off on this.

Gerard starts moving his hand again at the same time that Mikey tightens his arms further around Frank’s middle. “No one needs to pay rent in this house, it’s been paid for in full for decades, there’s no mortgage or anything,” Gerard argues.

Frank protests, “But you must have other expenses - electric and gas, property taxes, internet and cable-”

Gerard waves his hand to shush Frank. “It’s fine. I never have any trouble paying for those things. I have more money than I need. Seriously, don’t worry about it.” Gee scoots a bit closer and puts his left hand up on Frank’s cheek. “You just need to worry about yourself right now.”

“I agree,” Mikey says. “Frank, you’ve been taking care of other people for so long- your wife, your mom, the dog. You don’t seem to have a selfish bone in your body and that’s crazy.” He hooks his chin over Frank’s shoulder. “Worry about yourself, or even better, just let us take care of you for a while.” He starts running his hands around on Frank’s belly just as Gerard backs off, dropping his hand from Frank’s face. He doesn’t take the hand off Frank’s leg, though, just keeps moving it up and down Frank’s thigh.

Frank nods and swallows and closes his eyes. He feels completely relaxed. He’s totally calm and yet, he thinks his body might be getting signals messed up right now because his dick is starting to get hard. He thinks his body is confused, but he doesn’t want to get up. He’s way too comfortable. He’s about to say something about how comfortable and relaxed he is when he feels fingers beginning to undo his belt buckle. He opens his eyes and looks down to see that it’s Mikey. He’s got the belt and the button undone and now he’s working on the zip and Gerard is still right there, licking his lips as he watches Mikey’s hands work. He only stops rubbing Frank’s thigh when Mikey’s got the zip all the way down. Gerard puts his hands on Frank’s hips and looks up, questioningly. “Okay?”

Frank manages to breathe out, “Okay.”

Gerard curls his fingers down under the sides of Frank’s jeans and pulls them off his hips and down to the middle of his thighs. Gee rubs Frank’s dick through his underwear and Frank gasps as Mikey snakes his hands up under Frank’s shirt and begins tweaking his nipples. The way that Gerard is working Frank’s cock through his underwear and staring at it like it’s the most delicious thing he’s ever seen is eerily similar to what Mikey did last Friday night. Frank has an odd sense of déjà-vu and he almost wants to laugh because this is so crazy. Thoughts of laughter flee from his mind, though, as he watches Gerard spitting on and licking his hand, slicking up his fingers methodically. Frank thinks it’s vaguely pornographic and then Gerard slides his hand inside Frank’s underwear. Gerard works Frank’s dick so good right from the start, stroking his hand up and down and then twisting his fingers around the head.

Frank can’t help it when he starts bucking his hips up and then he does laugh because Mikey laughs behind him. “Stop teasing him, Gee,” he says and then seems to abandon watching Gerard’s efforts in favor of licking Frank’s ear.

Gerard does as he’s told and pulls off Frank’s underwear and jeans and then grabs at Frank’s hips - not very gently - to pull him farther down the couch. Frank’s head lands in the middle of Mikey’s chest. Gerard seems to have a position in mind and Frank figures Gee probably knows way more about blowjobs than he does, so he lets himself go limp while Gerard spreads his legs out. Gee pulls one of Frank’s legs off to the side and links it over Mikey’s leg to hold it there and the other he lifts up and slings over his own shoulder. Frank barely has time to register how completely exposed he feels before Gerard sinks down, taking Frank’s cock into his mouth so deep Frank can’t believe he isn’t choking on it. The tight, hot, wet pressure feels so amazing that Frank forgets to care about feeling exposed. Gerard doesn’t waste any time, but gets a rhythm going right away, working more of Frank’s dick than Frank ever thought would be possible with just his mouth.

It’s not long before Frank starts to feel overwhelmed because at the same time as Gerard sucks him off, Mikey is sucking hickeys into the back of his neck and still tweaking his nipples. Frank doesn’t know which sensation to pay attention to and too soon he starts to feel like he could come. Gerard must have some kind of sex telepathy, though, because he senses this, backing off and wrapping his hand firmly around the base of Frank’s dick in the universal gesture for ‘don’t come yet’. He smiles up at Frank. “It’s a lot to take, right?”

Frank just nods. He can’t get himself to speak. He’s too close to going off.

Gerard squeezes his dick tightly again. “Just take some deep breaths. Try to relax and enjoy it. Let it all wash over you.”

“Okay,” Frank manages to gasp out. He takes several deep breaths, and after a minute, Gerard slowly unwraps his fingers from around Frank’s dick. He pushes Frank’s cock up to lie flat against his belly and moves down, this time to lap at Frank’s balls. Again, Frank wants to laugh because the way Gerard is sucking at his nuts just feels so much like when Mikey did it.

Mikey can apparently read minds too, because at that moment, he stops sucking on Frank’s neck and tugs on his hair, causing him to shiver, and whispers in his ear, “I learned everything I know about sucking dick from Gee.” He runs his nails over Frank’s scalp and Frank actually trembles. “If you’re really interested in learning to give good blowjobs, Gee can teach you. He’s a great teacher.”

Frank doesn’t want to think too hard about what kind of method Gerard might have used to teach Mikey these things. Right now, all Frank can think about is how Gerard isn’t licking at Frank’s balls anymore. He’s licking at his asshole. Just like Mikey did.

Gerard does more than just lick, though, once he’s got Frank’s ass dripping wet, he actually starts darting his tongue inside Frank’s ass. He works it around the hole, loosening it up and then pushes in. Mikey whispers, “Relax” in Frank’s ear and Frank tries, but it isn’t until Mikey reaches down and starts to stroke his dick that Frank is distracted enough to let go and open up, letting Gerard’s tongue finally work it’s way inside. It’s the strangest sensation Frank has ever known and it’s freaking him out a little because tongues are not supposed to go inside assholes, but that is definitely what’s happening here and it doesn’t feel bad at all.

Mikey goes back to sucking on Frank’s neck as he strokes his dick, and finally, after what seems like a very long time to spend with your tongue in someone’s ass, Gerard pulls his tongue out and replaces it with a finger. He finds Frank’s prostate, and in a matter of seconds, Frank is reduced to a quivering mess, he’s going to come at any moment, but then everything stops.

It’s like Mikey and Gerard can read each other’s thoughts. Mikey’s hand stops moving on his dick, instead holding it flat to his belly and Gerard stops moving his finger in his ass. Gerard runs his other hand firmly up and down the underside of Frank’s thigh where it’s still resting on his shoulder. “Deep breaths, Frankie,” he says.

Frank tries, but then says, “No, I can’t, I want to-”

Gerard drops his leg abruptly, moves up Frank’s body, and kisses him. Frank kisses back because he feels like he’s supposed to. Like it’s some kind of instinctual response - ‘this person has his finger in my ass, I should kiss him back.’ He doesn’t question it, but he can taste his ass in Gerard’s mouth. It’s not exactly disgusting, but it’s foreign and unusual and bitter. Gerard kisses him deeply, his tongue exploring, demanding, and Frank lets it happen.

They must kiss for a while, because by the time Gerard pulls out of the kiss, Frank is feeling much, much calmer. He’s still hard under Mikey’s hand holding him firmly in place, but he doesn’t feel like he’s going to blow his load at any second anymore. Gerard pets his face very softly and says, “Okay, now?”

Frank takes a deep breath. “Yeah, now I’m okay.”

Gerard nods and moves back to lift Frank’s leg up over his shoulder again. He starts wiggling his finger around where it’s still lodged inside Frank’s ass. It doesn’t move as easily as it did before and Gerard ends up just pulling it out completely. It stings a little on the way out. Gerard looks thoughtful as he sits up and sets Frank’s leg back down again. Frank kind of wishes Gerard would make up his mind about where he wants him, but then Gerard says, “Be right back,” and he leaves.

Frank feels slightly hysterical and makes a really embarrassing whining noise. “Shhh,” Mikey says and resumes slowly stroking Frank’s cock. “Gee’s going to take care of you, don’t worry.”

Frank just nods. He doesn’t know what’s happening right now. He feels like he’s completely lost control of the situation, if he ever had control to begin with. Then Mikey stops stroking him and pushes him to sit up. He pulls Frank’s shirt off over his head and Frank can’t help but protest. “How come you guys still have your clothes on? Why am I the only one who’s naked?”

Mikey laughs and Gerard comes back in at that moment, smiling and chuckling. He must have heard Frank’s complaint. Gerard has a bottle of lube and a strip of condoms. Frank’s eyes widen at the condoms and he swallows. Gerard sees it and says, “Just in case,” and shrugs. “We weren’t like, actually planning to seduce you tonight, or we’d have had these in here already.” Gerard winks at him and Frank feels himself shiver. Is that what’s happening here? Is he being seduced? He feels more like Gerard and Mikey are playing him like some kind of instrument, playing him expertly.

Frank feels shifting behind him and turns to see Mikey pull his shirt off. He undoes and pulls off his pants too. The minute Frank sees Mikey’s hard dick through his briefs, he has the urge to touch it again, but Gerard grabs his hands, holding them tightly together by the wrists. “Not right now,” he says, shaking his head. “We’re taking care of you, remember?”

Frank does remember that. He nods and Gerard lets his hands go. Mikey gets his underwear off and sits back on the couch again, pulling Frank to lie back against him like before.

“Okay,” Gerard says, looking at Frank kindly while running his fingertips up and down his arm. Frank finds it interesting that Gerard is so obviously the one in charge here and not Mikey. “Okay, Mikey’s naked now, too. I’m not going to fuck anybody tonight, so not losing my pants, but would it make you feel better if I at least take off my shirt?”

Frank thinks about it for a second and realizes that he really wants to see more of Gee. “Yeah, it would.”

Gerard nods and pulls his shirt off before moving back between Frank’s legs. He spreads them, hooking one leg over Mikey’s and the other up over his shoulder like before. Frank runs his hands over Gerard’s shoulders, his skin is so pale. Frank’s kind of mesmerized by it, but he can’t focus on it for long because he feels Mikey shifting behind him. He feels Mikey’s dick hard against his back. It’s leaking, leaving a trail of precome across his skin. He shivers as Mikey starts sucking on his neck again at the same time as he brings his hand back to Frank’s cock and starts stroking slowly. Slowly, but firmly, and it gets smoother when Gee squirts lube out on top of his dick and Mikey’s hand and then it’s so much better. Frank thinks that lube was a really good idea.

Gerard also squirts lube all over his own fingers and then he’s got one circling Frank’s hole, spreading the lube around before he slides the finger inside. Frank gasps because it feels good. He’s realizing that he really likes the filled-up feeling. Gerard finds his prostate again in seconds, and begins working his finger over it as he leans down to suck on Frank’s balls.

Frank really tries to relax this time, to just let it all wash over him. Mikey increases the speed of his strokes at the same time that Gerard adds another finger to his ass. Two feels better than one, the full feeling even stronger and more intense now. After a long time spent on his balls, Gerard says, “I wanna suck his dick again, Mikey. Let me suck him.” Mikey abandons his strokes as Gerard goes down and instead he lets his hand fall in Gerard’s hair, carding through the strands as Gerard deep-throats Frank.

Gerard’s lips stretched around Frank’s dick and the way he’s taking it all the way down is somehow the hottest thing that Frank has ever seen and he can’t handle it. He lets his head fall back and has to close his eyes. He feels Mikey start thrusting against his back.

When he chances a look down, he sees that Mikey and Gerard are watching each other, looking into each other’s eyes as Gerard sucks Frank’s dick. After a minute, Gerard pulls off and looks up at Frank, his eyes are dark with lust. “Frank, would you let Mikey fuck you?”

Frank isn’t sure. His breath seems to catch as he tries to answer. Mikey puts his palm flat on Frank’s belly, steadying him, as he says, “You don’t have to.”

Gerard wiggles his fingers around in Frank’s ass, scissoring them and stretching him from the inside. “You’re pretty loose. I think you can take it.”

Frank feels overwhelmed. He doesn’t know what to say. He thinks he probably can take it, but he has to tell them, he thinks they should know. “I haven’t… I mean, I don’t… I’ve never…” he trails off, he can’t say it. They can figure out what he means.

Gerard nods. “Ah, okay then, that’s fine.” He plants a series of tender kisses on Frank’s hips and belly before he says, “Another time, then.”

“Nest time,” Frank blurts out, before he even realizes he’s going to. “Next time, I want to.” And he really does, too.

Mikey chuckles and bites his ear. “Okay, next time,” he says and resumes stroking Frank’s dick, not slowly this time. When he speaks again, it’s low and Frank can feel his lips against his ear. “You’re going to come soon and when you do it’s going to be spectacular.”

Frank trembles and at that moment, Gerard slides another finger into him. He flutes all three fingers and Frank feels the stretch like nothing he’s ever felt. It burns at first, but it’s also so, so good. The fullness is just on the edge of being too much as Gerard moves his fingers in and out, hitting Frank’s prostate on every stroke.

Gerard puts his mouth back on Frank’s dick, but Mikey doesn’t stop stroking this time. They work together to get a rhythm going that’s almost faster than what Frank wants. It’s almost too much, too soon, but it’s good that way, better that way. Mikey’s sucking on Frank’s neck again and tweaking his nipple with his free hand, all the while still thrusting his dick up against Frank’s back.

Frank lets his head fall back and breathes as deep as he can. He closes his eyes and just feels. Gerard’s mouth so hot and tight on him is so good, better than any blowjob ever. Gee sucks hard and in perfect time with Mikey’s stroking and still his fingers hit Frank’s prostate each time each time they slide out, sending a million tiny lightning strikes up and down his spine. Frank starts panting, he feels his whole body clenching up. He’s so close, he’s right there. He’s about to tumble over the edge when he hears Mikey’s voice saying, “Come now, Frank. Come for us.” And Frank does. He comes down Gee’s throat for what feels like forever, his breath hitching and all his muscles shaking, and still Mikey strokes him and Gerard sucks him and slides his fingers in and out. He’s vaguely aware of Mikey coming against his back, just seconds after he does, but he feels like he’s going to black out. He’s verging on the point of hysterical, sensory overload before Gerard finally stops sucking him, his dick totally soft by the time Gerard lets it fall out of his mouth.

Frank blinks his eyes open as Gerard pulls his fingers out. He lifts them up to Mikey’s mouth and Frank watches Mikey suck and lick them clean. He says, “Mmmmm,” as if fingers fresh from Frank’s ass are the most delicious thing he’s ever tasted. Then he licks Frank’s neck and strokes his belly, saying, “So good, Frankie, so fucking good and so delicious.”

Frank can’t even respond. He feels completely boneless and wrung out. He’s never had an orgasm like that before in all his life.

After a minute, when Gerard gets up slowly and walks away, Frank realizes something. “What about Gee?”

“Hmmm?” Mikey murmurs against his shoulder.

“We didn’t… he didn’t…”

“Yes he did.” Mikey nips at Frank’s shoulder playfully. “He did, but he does it on the sly sometimes and you didn’t notice because you were a little, ah, occupied. He’s probably just changing his pants now.”

“Oh.” Frank actually feels disappointed. “I wanted to see him, though.”

“You’ll get to.” Mikey sounds completely certain.

“You think?” Just as he asks it, Gerard comes back in wearing pajama pants in place of his jeans from before.

Gerard smiles at Frank and says, “Definitely.” Then he lies down and rests his head on Frank’s chest. “I just thought adding another dick to the mix tonight might be a little much for you.” He pets Frank’s hip gently.

“Yeah, I guess,” Frank says. He’s fading. He can feel his eyes drooping. He feels utterly exhausted, but completely relieved of all the tension he’s been carrying around for the past few months. He thinks he could sleep for days. “Thank you,” is the last thing he manages to get out before nodding off.

He vaguely hears both Mikey and Gerard saying something that sounds like, “No, thank you.” And even in his half-awake state, he smiles, and he feels happy.

*_*_*

Frank wakes up snug between the Ways again. His head is on Gerard’s chest and Mikey is spooned up behind him, his arm lying casually over Frank’s hip.

Frank’s also naked, he doesn’t usually sleep naked.

He swallows and tries to remember everything from last night. He remembers all the sex on the couch. It feels like there was so much sex, but he realizes that he only came once. He thinks it was probably the best orgasm he’s ever had, though. It’s kind of weird to him that he feels like he had sex for so long, but wasn’t disappointed at all with only one orgasm.

He remembers falling asleep on the couch and then a little while later, Mikey and Gerard woke him up just enough to get him upright and half-carry him down the hall to the bed.

He sits up carefully and stretches, working the kinks out of his back and scoots down to the end of the bed. He grabs underwear out of his bag and pulls them on. On the walk to the bathroom, he realizes that his ass feels… not really sore, but… sort of loose, maybe? He can definitely feel how much Gerard’s fingers stretched him last night. It makes him feel a little bit dirty and a little bit deviant, but mostly it just makes him feel sexy. He’s almost embarrassed by that response, but he can’t really help it.

He pees and washes his hands and face and then looks at himself in the mirror for a minute. He tries to sort out his feelings. He doesn’t know what it was about what Gerard did to him last night, but it just made him feel so… special. It was both of them really, not only Gerard, but Mikey, too. They made him feel like he’s something precious. He’s never felt desired like that before. But the way Gerard looked at him made him feel like he was the sexiest person on the planet.

Frank wanders into the kitchen and starts a pot of coffee brewing. He opens the fridge to get a glass of orange juice and sees that Gerard made lunch for him and Mikey just like normal. Frank almost chokes when he has that thought - ‘normal’, none of this is normal, he’d be deluding himself if he tried to say it was. Fuck. Frank gets frustrated for a moment, thinking about Gee and Mikey. He realizes he doesn’t even know if Gerard actually even likes him. He’s suddenly afraid that last night might have just been something that Gee does for Mikey when he brings boys home, it might not have had anything to do with Frank.

And yet… the way Gee talked to him before he went down on him… the way he talked about Frank coming to live with them for the summer… he seemed so genuine. Frank really, really wants to believe it was genuine because the more he thinks about it, the more he realizes that even though he doesn’t know Gerard very well, he definitely likes him. Maybe it’s just a crush, but Frank can’t ignore it. Especially not now after everything that happened last night. Gerard doesn’t seem like the type of person who would have sex like that with someone he doesn’t actually care about. But then Frank doesn’t really know Gerard.

Frank turns to look out the back window at the small yard and thinks about how much Pugsley will love being here and getting to play in that yard all summer. Frank just hopes he isn’t getting himself into something really dysfunctional here with Gerard and Mikey. There’s still time for him to change his mind and say he doesn’t want to move here this summer after all. Frank is pondering this as he hears Pugsley’s little footsteps coming down the hall and then his nails clacking on the linoleum kitchen floor. He’s about to move to open the back door and let him out when he feels arms coming around his waist. It’s Mikey, he knows Mikey’s arms, but he can tell it’s him before he feels him nuzzling into his hair because he can smell him. Frank stills as he realizes this. He knows the difference between Mikey and Gee by smell. When did that happen?

Frank lets himself melt back into Mikey who’s mumbling, “Mmmmm, Frankie, Frankie, Frankie,” and rubbing his hands around on Frank’s belly and chest.

Gerard comes in and goes to the door to let Pugsley out before walking back over to Frank. He smiles at Frank affectionately, almost unsurely and rubs his hands up and down Frank’s upper arms. “Good morning.” He says it almost tenderly. “How do you feel?”

Frank has to think about it for a minute. He feels confused for sure, but… he also feels good. “I feel good.”

Some of the uncertainty leaves Gerard’s face. “Yeah?”

Frank nods and Gerard kisses him, with tongue and everything. Frank kisses him back, but he isn’t sure what to make of this because it isn’t like last night when it was to calm him down during sex, this is just… sweet. It’s a sweet ‘good morning’ kiss and by the time Gerard pulls away, Frank feels warm in his chest.

Gerard goes to let Pugsley inside and fills his food and water bowls, and after a minute, Mikey comes around to Frank’s front. “You sure you’re good?” He has one eyebrow raised like he’s asking a serious question, but doesn’t want to let it be too serious.

The whole idea of the two of them handling Frank like he’s something fragile this morning makes Frank want to laugh, it feels absurd. He grins and nods decisively. “Yes, I’m definitely good.”

Mikey grins back and kisses Frank. They stand there in the kitchen and kiss like lovesick teenagers until Gerard has to pull them apart so that they can get in the shower in time to not be late for work.

*_*_*

The spring goes by fairly quickly. April turns into May, and before Frank is really ready for it, Mikey is spending more time each day at the store going over managerial responsibilities with Frank and making sure that he knows how to do them all on his own. Frank is excited about the extra pay that will come in the summer once he gets to manage his own store. He also appreciates that managerial experience will be a great thing to be able to put on his resume, but he’s also sad. He’s going to miss working with Mikey every day. Of course they’ll still see each other all the time since Frank is still planning on moving in with the Ways. He almost already has moved in, for all practical purposes. Each weekend he brings more of his stuff with him from his mom’s house. And Brian has promised that Mikey and Frank can arrange to take their breaks at the same time, so they can have lunch together. But Frank is still a little bummed.

It hasn’t been just the two of them all day in the store in recent weeks because things have been busier in the afternoons and on weekends, so they’ve had high school kids helping them out during the busy times. But Frank will miss the boring days when it was just him and Mikey. Mikey keeps reminding Frank that they’ll get more of that in the fall and that makes Frank feel a little bit better. He also is kind of excited because his new store is, for all practical purposes, right at the end of the pier, literally standing out over the ocean. It has windows on all sides and it’s really pretty. Frank has to admit he’s looking forward to having those beautiful views of the water every day.

It’s Frank’s last weekend working with Mikey and he’s just getting into Point Eerie on Thursday morning. He’s been bringing stuff from home with him each weekend for the past few weeks, but today he has a surprise. He was finally able to buy Pansy and his amp back from Hambone this week and he’s excited to show Gee and Mikey. They’ve both mentioned wanting to hear him play the guitar and he can’t wait to play for them.

He pulls into the driveway and enjoys how much quieter his car is when it idles now. It’s been a week since Gerard took Frank’s car to get checked out by a mechanic in town. He didn’t even tell Frank until after he did it. He did it while Frank was at work. He just said that he couldn’t stand the noise anymore. He also mentioned again that he wanted to be sure that Frank was safe driving back and forth from his mom’s house. Frank remembers getting some pretty strong butterflies in his stomach when Gerard said that. Gee wouldn’t let Frank give him any money for it either.

He uses the key that Gerard had made for him last week and lets himself in the house, setting Pugsley down as he comes through the door. He hears Gerard say, “Oof,” when Pugsley runs in and jumps up on the bed to greet him. Pugsley has become quite attached to Gerard lately, more than Frank’s ever seen him be with anyone besides himself. He certainly was never fond of Elissa like this. Frank can hear Mikey humming in the shower as he heads into the kitchen to get himself a cup of coffee. He prepares two mugs of it and brings one in to Gerard.

Gerard is just sitting up, rubbing his eyes and awkwardly trying to light a cigarette in his half awake state. Frank comes around the bed to him. “Here, let me help you.” Frank gets the cigarette lit and watches as Gerard takes his first sweet drag of the morning, it’s almost sensual. He opens Gerard’s hand and places the mug in it, wrapping Gee’s fingers around it so he doesn’t drop it. “Coffee for you,” he says softly.

Gerard looks at the coffee strangely for a minute, but doesn’t drink it. Instead, he looks up at Frank. His eyes are kind of… shiny. Dropping his cigarette in the ashtray on the nightstand, he uses that hand to reach around the back of Frank’s neck and pull him down for a kiss. Frank sits down and kisses Gerard back, his hand landing on Gee’s neck, rubbing it, slowly.

When the kiss breaks, Frank backs off and Gerard says, “Missed you, Frankie,” before he takes a sip of his coffee. His eyes roll back in his head as he does and he says, “Mmmmm, you always know how to make it perfect for me.”

Frank smiles and shrinks back a little bit as Gee pets his hair for a few moments before picking up his cigarette again. It’s been like this between them more lately. Frank is starting to feel more like it’s okay for him to be affectionate with just Gerard sometimes. It doesn’t always have to be with Mikey. Frank likes it, but in so many ways, Gerard is still a mystery to him. Frank kind of wants to make it his mission for the summer to get Gerard to open up to him more. He keeps so much of himself hidden away and Frank can’t help but be intrigued.

Mikey comes in from the shower at that moment and says, indignantly, “Where’s my coffee?”

Frank grins and stands up, coming back around the bed to where Mikey’s standing with a towel around his waist and an irritated expression on his face. “I can get you some, but what’s it worth to you?” Frank says, saucily.

Mikey pulls Frank close. He’s wet, but Frank doesn’t care. It’s nice. He likes Mikey so much. Mikey buries his face in Frank’s neck and says, “Hmmmm… I’ll buy you food at the circus tonight. Anything you want.”

Frank laughs. He had totally forgotten that he and Mikey and Gerard were planning to go to the circus tonight. When Mikey realized that Frank had been working at Carnival for almost two months and still hadn’t seen the circus, he insisted that they needed to go as soon as possible. ‘Creepiest clowns you’ve ever seen!’ Mikey had said and Frank had been convinced. On Thursdays, Carnival employees get in for half price for the last show of the night, so they’d decided they would go tonight after work.

Frank nuzzles his cheek in against Mikey’s. “So you’re going to buy my food because I’m your date, is that it?”

“Mmmmhmmm, exactly,” Mikey says. “And since you’re my boyfriend, you’re going to bring me coffee now. That’s how it works.”

Frank snorts and kisses Mikey hard until he’s breathless. He has to. He almost can’t stand it sometimes when Mikey’s just being cute. Mikey looks a bit starry eyed when Frank pulls back. Frank leaves him like that, a little unsteady. Frank can hear Gerard chuckling at Mikey as he leaves the room.

As he hums to himself while walking down the hall, all Frank can think is that he’s going out on a date tonight and he’s excited about it. After everything that’s happened with Elissa, he never would have believed he’d have another chance at a relationship so soon. But here he is. He’s going on a date. He’s someone’s boyfriend. Frank decides not to question his good fortune. He just makes a mug of coffee the way Mikey likes it and throws a nod to whoever is up there running the show, grateful for second chances.

*_*_*

Mikey wasn’t kidding about these being the creepiest clowns ever. They’re funny, too, but in a really morbid and dark way and it’s creeping Frank the fuck out. He thinks he manages to hide his discomfort for the majority of the show. The circus, even though it’s small, is actually really cute for the most part. Frank’s favorite thing about it is that they don’t use any animals, because Brian doesn’t believe in that. But there are acrobats and tight-rope walkers, flying trapeze artists and amazing jugglers, contortionists and games where they have kids from the audience come down and play, and of course the really fucking creepy clowns.

Frank feels sort of like he’s shrinking back into himself as he watches, and he hopes none of the other guys notice. Bob and Ray decided to tag along with them tonight and it’s been a blast hanging out with everyone. They’ve had a really fun night, but the longer this clown bit goes on, the more Frank feels like he wants to leave. It must show on his face, because after a minute, he feels Gerard’s hand come up to the small of his back and start rubbing in slow circles. He’s been sort of sticking by Gerard all night. He isn’t really sure if it’s only been him doing it intentionally, or if Gerard’s been trying to stay by him, too, but he’s glad of it now as Gerard hooks his hand over Frank’s hip and pulls him close. He leans down to whisper in Frank’s ear, “You okay?”

Frank shakes his head and feels his stomach lurch. He suddenly feels that he is not okay at all.

Gerard stands up and pulls Frank along with him. “Come on, let’s get some air.”

Frank follows behind Gerard off the bleachers and feels so much better once he gets outside into the warm night air and can finally breathe. He turns away from the circus tent and takes a few deep breaths, trying to steady himself. Gerard comes up behind him and rests his hand firmly on Frank’s neck. “You look seriously green, Frank.”

Frank’s stomach does that terrible lurching thing again. He shakes his head. “Yeah, I need to um, go to the bathroom.”

The bathroom isn’t far from the circus tent. Gerard walks with Frank, keeping a hand on his back the whole time. Frank is glad Gerard doesn’t follow him inside. Frank goes all the way to the stall farthest from the door and curses his sensitive digestive system. He knew he shouldn’t have asked Mikey to buy him churros before the show. They were way too greasy and now he’s paying the price.

He’s always had a sensitive stomach and had trouble digesting certain foods. Mikey and Gerard are well aware of it by now, since he’s been staying with them. It’s pretty much impossible to hide. Frank always feels bad when it seems like he stinks up the whole house. Elissa and his mom got him pretty well trained to always open a window and turn on an exhaust fan and spray air-freshener after he’s done. He was dismayed the first time it happened at the Way’s house when he looked all over the bathroom and discovered that they didn’t have any air-freshener. He asked about it when he came out of the bathroom and they both shrugged and looked at him strangely, as if air-freshener was a new and foreign thing that’s only used by women because they have sensitive noses or something. Frank still opens a window and turns on the fan every time it happens, but Gee and Mikey never make any faces at him or say anything bad about it. Gerard even told Frank once that he didn’t think it smelled that bad. He said Frank’s probably just more aware of the smell because he’s self-conscious about it.

Frank isn’t sure how long he takes in the bathroom, but he figures he’s probably missed most of the rest of the circus by the time he gets done. He washes his hands and splashes water on his face, hoping he’s not so green now. He definitely feels better.

When he comes out of the bathroom, he finds Gerard leaning against the wall right outside, smoking. He pulls Frank in for a hug when he sees him. “Better?”

Frank just leaves his head buried in Gerard’s chest and nods. When he pulls back, he looks up at Gerard and asks, “I’m not green anymore, am I?”

Gerard smiles fondly and runs his fingertips through Frank’s hair. “No, you just look like your beautiful self now.” All of Frank’s butterflies begin wildly swooping around in his belly. “The churros weren’t a good idea, huh?” Gerard asks.

Frank snorts. “Nope, I should have known they’d be too greasy.”

Gerard finishes his cigarette and lights a new one that he gives to Frank. It goes a long way in helping to settle Frank’s stomach and by the time the rest of the guys come out of the circus tent and find Frank and Gerard leaning on each other, Frank feels almost totally better.

“What happened to you guys?” Bob asks, “You didn’t sneak out here just to make out did you?”

Frank makes a sour face at that because he didn’t think anyone knew he was with Gerard, too. Everyone knows about him and Mikey. There was no hiding it. Mikey seemed to want to shout it from the rooftops and nobody seemed bothered by it, so Frank just went with it. He’s never talked to anyone at Carnival about what’s been going on with Gerard, though. He wonders if it’s possible that everyone just somehow knows. Maybe the Way brothers have a reputation for this kind of thing. Mikey did say he’d had other guys freak out when he’d tried to share them with Gerard before so maybe people just assume that if Frank is with Mikey, he’s with Gerard, too. Frank doesn’t really want to have to get into it with anyone yet, though. He still isn’t totally sure how he feels about it. He hopes Bob is just teasing. That’s the kind of thing he might say just teasingly. Gerard doesn’t seem bothered by it at all. He doesn’t make any move to separate himself from Frank, just squeezes his hand on Frank’s hip a bit tighter and says, “Nah, we just needed some air. Those clowns are fucking creepy, man. I can only watch them for so long.”

Frank looks up at Gerard a little bit in awe because he knows Gerard wasn’t bothered by the clowns. He’s just saying that so no one will ask about Frank. Frank suddenly has the startling thought that he’s maybe a little bit in love with Gerard. Gerard winks down at Frank. It’s so small, Frank is sure no one else notices it.

“Anyway,” Gerard says to the group of guys at large. “I’m fucking starving. Circus popcorn does not make a dinner. We need real food. I’m buying for anyone who wants to go to Catch of the Day with us.”

Mikey whoops at that and starts skipping down the pier. Frank can’t count the number of times Mikey’s talked about how much he loves that restaurant. He doesn’t go very often, though, because apparently it can be hard to get Gerard to go there. Mikey and Gee’s grandmother used to take them there a lot, so Gerard tends to get emotional about going. He seems okay with it now, though. He’s all smiles as he turns them to follow Mikey, Bob, and Ray down the pier toward the boardwalk. He whispers in Frank’s ear as they walk, “They have a couple of fish dinners that are bland but not tasteless, and their biscuits are amazing.” He kisses the top of Frank’s head quickly after he says it. Frank’s butterflies are trapeze artists having a fucking three ring circus in his stomach right now. Mikey turns around and grins at Frank quickly before turning back to say something to Bob. Frank grins right back at him and feels kind of crazy, but not bad at all.

*_*_*

The biscuits really are amazing, and Gerard was right about the fish dinners. Frank ends up having flounder, it’s really flaky and not too buttery with just light seasonings - it’s delicious and perfect. It’s filling, but not too much and settles Frank’s stomach.

They linger over dessert, key lime pie, and everyone nurses beer except for Gerard who’s drinking coffee. They talk and laugh until there’s almost no one else left in the restaurant. Frank leans back in the booth, snug between Gerard and Mikey and feeling sleepy. He thinks he could nod off right here until Bob says, “So Gee, you taking another road trip this summer?”

Gerard nods and sits forward, “Yeah, I can’t wait. I’m thinking I’ll go for about a month if I can swing it.”

Frank is suddenly completely awake. He hasn’t heard anything about Gee taking a trip. The thought of it stills the butterflies that have been swarming around so happily in his belly all evening. Frank feels like his butterflies are all saying, ‘Wait, what?’

Mikey laughs and Frank looks up to see him raising his eyebrow at Gerard. “You gonna actually camp this time, Gee?”

“I just might,” Gerard says with a smile and takes a sip of his coffee.

Mikey elbows Frank gently in the side and says, “Gee always says he’s going to camp most nights of these trips so he can be closer to nature or whatever, but it never fails - he ends up camping for the first two nights and then he stays in hotels the whole rest of the time he’s gone.” Gerard gives Mikey the finger and Mikey scratches his eyebrow, “Although he doesn’t usually go for quite that long. You really think you can handle a month on the road, Gee?”

Gerard smiles. “I need to channel my inner Jack Kerouac. I don’t think I’ve let myself go quite long enough on these trips before.” He rubs absently at the back of his neck. “I mean a few weeks is nice, but I think if can just let myself get away for a good solid month, I just… I feel like there’s more I can get out of it if I can go a little longer.”

Mikey grabs at Frank’s thigh, excitedly. “Gee always comes back with the most amazing ideas for new pieces from what he sees on these trips.”

“I fucking love Jack Kerouac,” Frank blurts out. It’s true, but he hadn’t been planning to say anything about it. His mouth continues, though, “I read On The Road when I was pretty young, like, in high school. It always made me want to take long driving trips across the country.”

Gerard lifts his eyebrow. “And did you?”

“Nah.” Frank shrugs. “I got all involved with my band and then got married and that was really it. I mean, we played some road shows, but the most we were ever gone for was like, a week.” He scratches his head. “I just always had to work, you know? Just taking off and leaving wasn’t really an option. And I couldn’t leave Lissy; she was never interested in going with me.”

Mikey nods and Gerard says, “Ah, okay. Yeah. That makes sense.” He looks a little sad as he says it, though.

Frank shakes himself and tries to smile. “So where do you go, Gee?”

Gerard takes a drink of his coffee before he answers. “I usually just pack up the car and sort of…” he waves his hand, “go wherever… wherever the wind takes me.” He laughs. “I mean, just go wherever I feel like. I don’t usually have a specific plan in mind.”

Bob asks, “So when do you think you’ll leave?”

Gerard drains his coffee mug and finally picks up the bill that’s been sitting on the table for fifteen minutes. “I’m thinking I’ll be able to head out the weekend after next. I just have one commission left that I need to finish, but it’s a big piece.”

Frank feels a little sick as he listens to Gerard telling Bob and Ray more about his plans. He isn’t sure if it shows in his face, but Mikey keeps rubbing his hand up and down his thigh and giving him concerned looks. Frank really wanted to be able to get to know Gerard better this summer. He had no idea he was going to lose him for a whole month. That just sounds so long. His butterflies are angry in his stomach now and Frank wills them to relax. He needs to get control of his ridiculous emotions. He quickly drains what’s left of his beer and tries to get himself to calm the fuck down. He’s tired of being so fucking fragile and sensitive all the time. He reminds himself that he’s just had a really fun night out with his new friends and two dudes who would do anything for him and a super hot and talented artist just bought him a really nice dinner. He has no reason to be unhappy right now.

His inner pep talk works and he’s feeling better by the time they walk out of the restaurant and say goodnight to Bob and Ray who have to walk the opposite direction to get home. Once they say goodbye and turn the corner, Mikey and Gerard both throw an arm around Frank’s waist and they slowly start walking home all entwined like that with Frank in the middle. Gerard lights up two cigarettes and gives one to Frank. Frank smokes slowly and enjoys the feel of it - the deep breaths in and out. He’s really relaxed. It’s warm for late May and he gets an idea when they walk past the public beach.

He pulls himself free of Gee and Mikey’s arms abruptly and starts running, dropping his cigarette as he goes. He’s standing on the sand, stripping his shirt and jeans off by the time Mikey and Gerard get to the top of the steps down to the beach. Gerard yells, “Frank, what are you doing?”

Frank throws his head back and laughs gleefully because he honestly can’t remember the last time he went swimming in the ocean and he’s lived less than an hour from the coast his whole life. “I’m going swimming!” he says breathlessly.

Mikey catches up with him first and grabs his arm, “Frankie, no, no, no, this water is so disgusting. You don’t want to go swimming here.”

“Fuck you. I do!” Frank is laughing maniacally now as he thinks, ‘what the fuck?’ and pulls his underwear off so that he’s naked, shaking Mikey’s grip off his arm. “It’s a perfect night for swimming.” He looks back to see Gerard grinning at him, the moonlight making his dark eyes sparkle. Frank’s stomach whoops, and then he’s off running down the sand.

He hears Mikey yell, “If you catch any funky diseases from that water, don’t say I didn’t warn you!” just as his feet splash in. It’s fucking freezing when it hits his legs, but he keeps going. It’s fucking great. The waves aren’t that big right now, but he relishes the feel of the icy water swirling around him. He turns back and sees Mikey and Gerard watching. Mikey still has a look of horror on his face and Gerard is just laughing. He looks thoroughly entertained and happy and that makes Frank happy as he backs further out into the waves.

Eventually, he drops down and lets the water wash over his head. He shakes his hair when he comes up and flashes Mikey and Gerard double thumbs up. “The water is perfect!” he yells, before going back under again. He feels completely exhilarated. He’s wide awake and totally aware of every sensation. He feels alive.

 photo Creepycarnivalart_zps6765b8e2.png

Summertime

Frank’s first weekend running his own store goes really well. He works six days and then has two days off. The rotating schedule for the summer means that the days he works will be different each week and Brian said he’d do his best, but he couldn’t promise that Frank and Mikey would always get the same days off. So far, it’s okay, though, as they’re both off tomorrow, which is Wednesday.

They make spaghetti together in the evening after work. Gerard isn’t home because he went to an AA meeting. For some reason this surprises Frank. He hasn’t been aware of Gerard going to meetings before. He always had the impression that somehow Gerard is totally recovered from his old alcohol issues. He doesn’t seem bothered by Frank and Mikey drinking, although he never goes to Summertime with them, even though Mikey always makes it clear he’s welcome to come if he wants to. Frank asks Mikey about the meetings while they’re finishing up dinner.

“He always goes to meetings on Tuesday nights, but you didn’t know that because this is the first time you’ve stayed on a Tuesday night.” Mikey shrugs like it’s no big deal. Maybe it isn’t.

“Oh yeah,” Frank realizes, sheepishly. That makes total sense. It did feel weird to him to wake up this morning and get ready for work again instead of leaving to go back to his mom’s house. It was nice, though, not having to rush, not having to worry about traffic, or the long drive, or the list of chores waiting for him to get done before coming back to Point Eerie later in the week. And now he can just relax and look forward to two days off. Two days to just enjoy being here with Mikey and Gee. Although Gerard is still really involved in this project he’s trying to finish before his trip, so he hasn’t been hanging out with them much in the last week or so.

“So you like this kid they have working with you?” Mikey asks Frank. They’ve been spending every evening together like normal, but Frank realizes they haven’t talked about work much aside from Mikey saying he misses Frank and would much rather have him over Dave and Sharon, the two teenagers he has working for him all summer.

“Yeah, Kevin’s a good kid.” And he is, too. He’s really helpful and polite. Frank likes being in charge and he likes the views from the store. It’s busy enough that the days don’t drag and Frank thinks he’ll get through the summer just fine. The best part is that during the calm moments, when no one is in the store, he and Kevin take turns going out on the pier to stand in the sunshine and enjoy the fresh air. That’s probably Frank’s favorite perk of the job.

“Good, I’m glad,” Mikey says as he starts clearing up their plates. “I told Brian to make sure he got someone good for you. I told him to give the annoying teenagers to me and Bob if he had to hire any, and make sure you got a good one.”

Frank chuckles as he stands up and stretches. “Mikes, I do appreciate you looking out for me, but I think I can handle annoying teenagers just as well as anyone.”

Mikey puts the last of the dishes in the sink before coming around the table and placing his hands on Frank’s belly. He smirks at Frank affectionately. “I know you can handle it, but I don’t want you to have to if I can help it. Anyway, I have tons of experience managing teenagers because I do it all winter at Fun Zone.”

“Hmmm,” Frank says. “Mikey.” His tone is more serious now. Frank suddenly feels like there’s something he really needs to say. It’s been bothering him for a few days, actually.

Mikey grasps Frank’s somber tone and his smile falters. “What?”

“You have to stop saving me all the time.”

“No, I don’t.” Mikey makes a petulant face and Frank can’t help but smile because it’s so damn cute.

“You do, though, Mikes.” Frank puts his arms around Mikey and rests his hands up on his shoulder blades. “I appreciate everything you guys have done for me, and I’m going to stay here this summer and I promise not to make a big fuss about not paying rent, but…” Frank trails off and takes a deep breath as he thinks about what he’s trying to say, “I am a grown up, you know?” Mikey nods and looks like he wants to interrupt, but Frank continues before he can. “You guys need to let me do more around here to help out and earn my keep some, and at work just… just let me have all the same experiences as everyone else. If I fuck up, it’s fine, I’ll just learn from it. Just…” He nuzzles his nose into Mikey’s collarbone and takes a deep breath before he finishes, “Just don’t feel like you need to protect me from everything or fix things for me, okay?” Frank looks up to see Mikey’s response.

Mikey doesn’t look happy, but he nods and doesn’t say anything.

Frank continues. “It’s been so great, everything you guys have done for me. I love staying with you and the way you’ve both looked out for me has just been awesome, but I’m good now, okay? I’m not… like, I haven’t cried over Elissa in a while. I’m doing better.” Frank rubs his hands up and down Mikey’s back as he speaks. “It’s over with her and that’s fine. I’m over it. I’m fine, so just… I’m not as fragile as I was, okay? I just want to make sure you know that.”

Mikey looks troubled, his eyebrows drawn tightly together. “Frank, I know how much you really want to be over this, but you’re not really giving yourself much time to grieve, I mean you… you’re not even divorced. You guys were together for a really long time and like,” Mikey waves his hand, “I get that you seem to truly want to move on, but… you’re still wearing your ring. I’ve never seen you take it off.”

Frank sighs. He should have been prepared for that argument. His mom’s been bugging him about it, too. “I know, I… It’s just going to be hard to get used to. I’ll…” Frank lets his hands fall off Mikey’s back and looks down at his fingers, fidgeting with his ring. “I’ll take it off soon, and about the divorce, I told you that my mom is going to get me the names of some divorce lawyers to call, right?”

Mikey nods. “Yeah, you did say that.”

“Right.” Frank takes Mikey’s hands in his. So I’ll be ready to take the ring off soon and I’ll start calling lawyers so I can move on.”

Mikey shakes his head. “But, Frank, that’s the thing. You don’t have to move on so quickly. You don’t have to be over it yet. You can take your time. It’s okay to hurt for a while. And if you aren’t ready to start on the divorce yet, or take off your ring, that’s fine, too.”

Frank stamps his foot. “But I don’t want to hurt anymore. And I don’t want to go back to Lissy. I just want you guys and you just need to stop treating me like I’m so fragile, okay? Because I’ll never move on if I don’t keep moving forward. I need to be a responsible adult. I refuse to wallow in this.”

Mikey sighs; he looks completely at a loss. After searching Frank’s eyes for a moment, he brings his forehead down to touch Frank’s. “Okay, Frankie, okay. That’s fine. I get that.” He kisses Frank quickly and then asks, “Do you want me to tell Gee all that, too? Sometimes I’m afraid you’re going to feel like he’s smothering you and get scared away.”

Frank laughs a tiny bit at that. “Yeah, you can tell him, but no, I don’t feel smothered. I really like his attention, actually.”

“Really?” Mikey appears very pleased by this news. Frank nods and Mikey says, “I’ll be sure to tell Gee that, too.” Mikey turns Frank around in his arms and starts steering them down the hall toward the bedroom, kneading his hands into Frank’s ass as they go. By the time they get to the bedroom door, Mikey’s nibbling on Frank’s neck and has his hands up under Frank’s shirt, pushing it up to his armpits. Frank lifts his arms so that Mikey can pull the shirt off and then allows himself to be turned again and pushed to lie down on the bed on his back.

Mikey says, “Scoot back. Put your head up on the pillow. I want you to get comfortable.”

Frank smiles because he knows what’s coming. He likes it when Mikey runs the show. He’s not as gentle with Frank as Gerard always is. Frank likes the change. Mikey knows Frank will tell him if he’s not okay or doesn’t want to do something. Frank moves back, shifting the pillows around until he gets his head at a comfortable angle. Mikey stares at Frank intently for a few seconds before he pulls his shirt off over his head and begins unbuckling his pants. All Frank can think as he watches him strip is how much he loves Mikey’s body. Frank’s always been sort of intrigued by it, the hard planes and tightly-coiled muscle. If you never touched Mikey, you wouldn’t realize how strong he is, but Frank knows.

Mikey drops his pants, but leaves his underwear on as he climbs up over Frank, settling over his chest with his knees on either side of Frank’s torso. “Tease me,” is all he says.

Frank knows what to do now. He remembers being scared the first time he did this, he can hardly believe that it was only a little over a month ago. Gerard sat behind him, rubbing his back while whispering instructions in his ear. Frank was nervous, but it was exhilarating. Mikey wasn’t kidding about Gerard being a great teacher. Frank is a pro now, he knows Mikey’s reactions as well as he knows his own and he knows exactly how to drive Mikey crazy in a good way by running only the tips of his fingers up and down Mikey’s hard cock outside his underwear. Frank leans his head up and blows a long stream of hot breath over the tip of Mikey’s dick and then darts out his tongue quickly, just barely licking over the fabric of Mikey’s briefs. Mikey shudders and Frank watches in fascination as his stomach quivers. Frank runs his fingers over Mikey’s belly, causing him to shiver as goose bumps break out on the flesh. Mikey gasps and Frank can tell he’s holding himself back from complaining, steadfastly keeping his arms at his sides, even as he has to close his eyes and swallow so as not to lose his composure.

Frank takes pity on him, grabbing him hard by the hips and pulling him in closer. He licks up and down the hard line of Mikey’s dick now until his underwear is totally soaked. Frank smiles, satisfied, as he rubs his face all over the wet fabric. Mikey isn’t able to hold back his moan and Frank knows he loves this, knows it because Gerard told him the first time he did it. Frank continues until Mikey can’t take it any longer. As soon as he feels Mikey’s hands land on his head, he lets go of Mikey’s hips and lets his head fall back. He pulls as the waist band of Mikey’s briefs with his fingers and says, “Off.”

Mikey scrambles back off the bed and is just bending down, pulling his underwear over his legs when Gerard comes walking down the hallway. He stops in the doorway, taking in the situation and says, “Looks like I got here just in time for the good part.” Mikey freezes when he hears Gerard’s voice and Gerard steps forward, placing his hand possessively on Mikey’s back, stilling him, keeping him from standing back up.

Mikey swallows and says, “Hey Gee.”

Gerard moves his hand in small circles on Mikey’s lower back and says, “Hey, Mikey,” and gives Frank a long look, his eyes dark and dangerous. Frank stares right into Gerard’s eyes and smiles. Gerard smiles back as if he can’t help but smile at Frank and then he walks toward the bed, pulling his shirt off and motioning for Mikey to follow him. Gerard pulls his pants off quickly and settles next to Frank on the bed. As Mikey climbs back up over Frank, Gerard takes Frank’s face in his hands, rubbing his thumbs over Frank’s lips and says, “Hello, beautiful.” Frank pulls Gerard’s thumbs into his mouth with his teeth and sucks on them, watching as Gerard unconsciously licks his lips before leaning down to capture Frank’s mouth in a kiss. It’s deep and dirty and Gerard wraps his hands around Frank’s neck, holding him tightly, almost too tightly, but not quite, because Gerard knows. He’s always paying attention and somehow he just knows what feels good to Frank, what’s not enough, and what’s just right, and always somehow manages to stop just before the point where too much will become unbearable.

When the kiss breaks and Gerard lets go, Frank gasps for air. He doesn’t get in too many deep breaths, though, because Mikey is there, running the head of his dick around on Frank’s face and grinning down at him. Frank opens up and takes it in. Mikey’s dick is big, there’s no denying that. Frank still can’t quite take all of him down, but he’s working at it, getting better each time. He relaxes his throat and takes it as Mikey fucks his face. Periodically Mikey will pull all the way out and Frank will try to get some good breaths in, but it always feels like Mikey knows when to plunge back in just before Frank feels like he’s completely caught his breath. He’s getting really good at breathing through his nose.

Frank closes his eyes and allows himself to get lost in the sensation, the repetitive motion nearly hypnotizing him. It overwhelms him in a good way. He loves the taste and the smell and the feel of being used. After a few minutes, he feels Gerard lift his hand and begin sucking on his fingers. He sucks and licks until Frank’s hand is dripping and then he places Frank’s fingers at Mikey’s hole. Frank slides his finger in and feels around until he finds Mikey’s prostate. He’s sure he’s found it when Mikey’s hips jerk sharply and he has to pull his dick out of Frank’s mouth. Mikey stills himself, trying to catch his breath as Frank adds another finger, working them both over his prostate. Mikey looks down at Frank, his eyes glazed over and pats at Frank’s head and face randomly. He looks almost completely gone, but Frank loves that he does this. Maybe it’s silly, but the gesture makes Frank think Mikey just wants to let him know that he knows who’s sucking him, and that he appreciates it. Mikey seems to be almost calm again when Gerard says, “Now, Frank,” and Frank plunges a third finger into Mikey’s tight hole at the same time that he leans up and sucks Mikey’s dick back into his mouth.

Mikey cries out and begins fucking Frank’s face urgently. Frank opens his throat and closes his eyes and tries to just focus on massaging Mikey’s prostate. It’s hard because of the way he’s moving, but Frank thinks every time he does this, he gets better at it because he knows Mikey’s responses so well now. Frank is just beginning to feel like his fingers are going to cramp up when he feels Gerard’s head nestle in next to his on the pillows. He knows Gerard is just watching Mikey now. It’s what he always does, like he can never get enough of seeing his brother get off. Gerard whispers in Frank’s ear, “He’s so close, Frankie, so close, just a little longer.” Gerard runs his fingers through Frank’s hair and kisses at the side of face, his lips landing on Frank’s cheek, right outside where Mikey’s dick is sliding in and out so quickly it feels impossible. Frank tries to concentrate on breathing through his nose. His senses are completely overwhelmed when he finally feels Mikey still, pull back just slightly, and then he comes. It explodes in Frank’s mouth, some of it dripping down his chin. The flavor is bold and salty/sweet on his tongue and Frank swallows and swallows until Mikey stops coming and pulls back. Gerard licks up the excess come that ran down Frank’s chin and then he kisses Frank deeply, almost desperately. Frank pulls his fingers from Mikey’s ass and in an instant, Gerard has them in his mouth, licking and sucking and cleaning every last bit of Mikey’s taste from them before putting his mouth back on Frank’s again.

Frank kisses back, he feels like he’s drowning in Gerard’s kisses. He’s vaguely aware of Mikey getting up, and after a minute, he feels Mikey pushing Gerard away from him roughly. “Now you,” Mikey says to Gerard firmly and pushes him to lie down on his back in the middle of the bed. Mikey pulls Frank to sit up and lean over Gerard. He nuzzles at Frank’s ear, his voice low as he says, “You can take more, right, Frankie?”

Frank nods because he can. He wants to. He doesn’t want to stop, now. He wants to take Gerard, too. He’s only gone down on Gerard once before and he was nervous as hell the entire time. Mikey talked him through it just as Gerard had done the first time Frank went down on Mikey, but it was different somehow because it was Gerard and Frank still feels so unsure of Gerard sometimes. He trusts him completely, but he’s less secure about Gerard’s feelings for him than he is about Mikey’s. He just needs to be able to make Gerard feel good. He needs to make it so good that Gerard will know that Frank is irreplaceable, so that Gerard will never want to let him go. Frank knows Mikey likes him a lot, but he also knows that this is Gerard’s house and Gerard is in charge. He would be deluding himself if he didn’t accept that Mikey wouldn’t want to keep him around if Gerard were to decide he didn’t want him anymore.

It’s with all of that in mind that Frank starts rubbing his palm slowly up Gerard’s dick, again outside his underwear like he did with Mikey. Gerard and Mikey have a lot in common when it comes to how they like blowjobs. They both love a slow build-up and Frank is more than happy to provide that. Gerard is already rock hard. He’s just as big as Mikey, if not bigger, and Frank licks his lips as he thinks about sucking him down. Frank realizes that he’s basically gagging for cock right now. He wonders how that happened to him so quickly. He always knew he liked dudes, but he never imagined he could be like this. Somehow, it isn’t really an issue for him, though, and that surprises him. He likes it. He’s happy like this. That thought makes him smile and he can’t wait any longer. He pulls Gerard’s briefs all the way off and rubs his palms firmly up Gerard’s thighs as he moves back up his body. He nibbles and licks and kisses over Gerard’s hip bones and looks up at where Mikey’s sitting by Gerard, staring down at him and running his fingers through his dark hair. “Mikey,” Frank says, “Grab the lube?”

Mikey says, “Oh yeah,” and gets up to walk around to the other side of the bed where there’s lube in the nightstand drawer. He pours a generous amount over Frank’s hand and Gerard’s dick and then moves to lie down behind Frank, tracing only the tips of his fingers over the lines of ink on Frank’s back. It gives Frank the chills and makes him grin even harder as he works on jerking Gerard’s cock. He strokes until Gerard starts shifting his hips involuntarily and then stops, holding his dick in place while Gerard catches his breath. Gerard sighs and looks down at Frank. He brings his hand down and runs the backs of his fingers over Frank’s cheek. “Frankie, Frankie, Frankie.” He says it so tenderly. The happy butterflies in Frank’s stomach start doing cartwheels at the same time as Frank feels a little like he wants to cry. He turns his head down and hides his smiles in a dozen wet kisses that he places all over Gerard’s belly.

Now that Gerard’s calm, Frank moves his fingers down further, working over his balls, massaging them with one hand, while he uses his other hand to push Gerard’s leg off to the side. Once Gerard’s legs are spread wide enough, he moves his fingers down to circle around Gerard’s hole. Mikey pours more lube onto Frank’s fingers without being asked and Frank doesn’t wait before plunging two digits inside. Gerard gasps and whimpers and tangles his fingers in Frank’s hair. It’s good, though. Gerard likes it this way. He says it feels better to him if he’s surprised and not quite ready for it. Frank only massages Gerard’s prostate for a few seconds before he adds a third finger and Gerard is mumbling incoherently above him. Frank catches some of the words falling from his lips, “Frankie, so good, sweet, perfect, love, amazing, Frankie…”

Frank buries his nose in Gerard’s hips and breathes in deeply, relishing the way Gerard’s body responds to him so easily as he moves his fingers around in his ass. Frank’s bringing his mouth down to lap at Gerard’s balls when he feels Mikey’s fingers reaching around his waist to undo his pants. Mikey doesn’t waste any time, he pulls Frank’s jeans and underwear off together in one swoop and then he moves back up the bed, placing wet, open-mouth kisses all over the small of Frank’s back. It feels good, but Frank can’t let it distract him. Gerard’s put Frank through this before while he’s gone down on Mikey. Gerard will be touching him and kissing him and licking him and bringing him to the brink of orgasm, all the while, reminding him gently, ‘Keep sucking, Frankie, don’t stop sucking.’ It’s not easy, but Frank is getting better at it. He’s getting better at focusing on giving pleasure, even while someone else is expertly pleasuring him.

After a few more minutes of nuzzling and kissing Gerard’s balls, Gerard’s fingers tighten in Frank’s hair and he says, “Suck me, Frank, now.” So Frank licks a long stripe up the bottom of Gerard’s cock before taking just the head into his mouth. He suckles at the tip, swirling his tongue around and waits for Gerard. He doesn’t have to wait long before Gerard grabs his head firmly in both hands and starts thrusting up into his mouth. Frank loves this part. He loves it, but it’s much harder this way to do anything for Gerard’s prostate with his fingers. He starts to feel frustrated even as he’s trying to relax his throat to let Gerard all the way in, but it isn’t working, he can’t do both at the same time. After an awkward minute, Gerard pulls Frank’s head all the way off and Frank lets his fingers fall away from his ass. He’s afraid to look up at Gerard for guidance. Even though he knows he’s still new at this, and still getting to know what Gerard likes, he hates to admit that he isn’t sure what to do now.

Gerard runs a hand over Frank’s head gently. “Frankie, I need you to turn a little so that you’re lying on your side. We’re going to do this a bit differently.”

Frank nods and turns, and Gerard follows suit, turning on his side as well. Gerard says, “His hands, Mikey,” and Frank feels Mikey carefully pulling at his arms, even the one under him, until they’re both behind his back and Mikey’s holding his wrists together.

This is completely new and different. They’ve never done anything like this before. As much as Frank wants to seem like he knows what he’s doing, he has to look up at Gerard for reassurance. Gerard pets his face and head and looks down at him. “Mikey’s going to hold onto your hands because I just want to feel your mouth, okay?” Frank nods and looks down, swallowing. Gerard reaches his hand down to wrap around the back of Frank’s neck and squeezes. “Frank.” Frank knows Gerard wants him to look up, so he does. Gerard grins at him, showing all his teeth and all the knots that had been tied up in Frank’s stomach start to unfurl. “You’re doing perfectly,” Gerard says. Then he lies his head back down and looks up at the ceiling.

Mikey’s hand tightens where it’s holding onto Frank’s wrists and he says, “Go ahead, Frank. Suck him.”

Frank opens his mouth and takes Gee in. He has to work to find a comfortable angle this way, but soon he does, with Gerard’s hands guiding his head. Together they find a rhythm and Frank relaxes enough to be able to close his eyes again. He feels like he can’t take Gerard as deep this way, but this is what Gerard wanted, so he tries not to worry about it. Instead, he focuses on hollowing his cheeks and working to get the tightest suction possible.

After a few minutes, once Frank’s really starting to feel like he’s getting the hang of sucking dick in this position, he feels Mikey push his top leg up and start working his fingers around Frank’s ass. Mikey keeps holding Frank’s wrists with one hand while he uses the other to squirt lube all over Frank’s ass and then he works a finger inside. One finger is easy for Frank to take. He notices it and it feels good, but he has no trouble continuing to suck Gerard. It’s weird not to be able to use his hands, though. Mikey isn’t holding them that tightly, so Frank knows if he really wanted to get loose, he could. But he’s determined not to try and pull his hands away. Gerard wanted him to do this with his mouth and that’s what he’s going to do.

Mikey slides in a second finger and it’s harder for Frank to keep sucking through that sensation. Gerard gives Frank a break, pulling his hips back and holding onto Frank’s head while Frank pants and gasps, adjusting to the intrusion and catching his breath. Mikey slides his third finger in at the same time that Gerard pulls Frank’s mouth back over his dick. He shoves it in hard this time, all gentleness completely gone. Frank feels the head hitting the back of his throat on every deep stroke and he’s really working now not to gag. At the same time, Mikey’s fingers are working their way around inside him, all three fluting and scissoring around and opening Frank up. It burns. He’s just so, so full, but it feels good.

Frank keeps sucking as he lets all the sensation wash over him like he’s learned. He breathes through it all through his nose and lets himself go, his eyes closed as he starts involuntarily thrusting his ass over Mikey’s fingers. It feels too good and he’s completely shocked when he feels Mikey slide his pinky finger into him. Gerard lets him pull his head off and Frank cries out, not meaning to. He tugs slightly on his hands, but Mikey’s grip holds them firm. This is like nothing Frank’s ever felt. This is just… so much. He can’t catch his breath. Gerard says, “Jesus, Mikes.” His voice is deeper than Frank’s ever heard it.

“He’s taking it, Gee. He’s taking it easy. The way he’s moving. You can’t see…” Mikey works his fingers deeper. Frank closes his eyes and swallows. He swears he can feel it all. Mikey’s third knuckles are nudging at his entrance now. “You should see this, Gee. He’s taking it all so greedily. He’s fucking hungry for it.”

“Frank.” Gerard hooks his finger under Frank’s chin and pulls his head up. “Can you open your eyes?” Frank opens his eyes and looks up at Gerard. He feels tears of pain escape the corners. Gerard wipes at them softly with his fingertips. “We can stop. It’s okay if you can’t take it.”

Frank shakes his head. He takes a deep breath and forces himself to calm down. He can do this, he has to. They love it so much. He can do this for them. “No, it’s okay, I can…” he has to rub his face around on the bed for a few seconds before he can continue, “I can take it. It’s good.”

“You sure?” Gerard holds his gaze until Frank nods again, then he says, “Okay,” and pulls all of Frank’s hair away from his face before slowly moving Frank’s head and pushing his dick back inside his mouth. Frank’s ready for it. He swirls his tongue around the head on the way in and sucks hard. He can do this. This is good.

Mikey’s fingers start working again and it’s all Frank can do to not fall apart, but to keep sucking, relaxing his throat as Gerard hits home on every thrust in and out. Frank knows it’s good. He knows he’s doing well because Gerard is close, he can feel it. It won’t be long now, Frank tells himself. He’s almost done. He’s just thinking this when Mikey leans down over him and whispers into his ear, “So good, Frankie, you’re doing so good. Any second now.” And that seems to be the trigger. That’s when Gerard seizes up, his hips stilling, and his fingers digging into Frank’s head where they’re holding on and he comes. He hardly pulls back at all and Frank just swallows and swallows until Gerard pulls out and finally Frank can breathe again.

Frank takes in huge gulps of air as he feels Gerard moving down the bed. He gasps, “Let me see, Mikes, I have to see,” and Frank remembers the fingers in his ass. He must be getting used to it somehow, because all he was aware of was Gerard coming, but all of Mikey’s finger are still definitely buried in his ass up to the knuckles and they’re moving now, in and out, hitting his prostate and Frank swears they’re sinking in deeper each time they hit home. Now that Gerard’s come, Frank doesn’t stop himself. He throws his head back and fucking whimpers over it. It’s so much. It’s too much. He feels like he’s falling and then suddenly Gerard’s hands are on him, holding him. Gerard cradles Frank’s head with one arm and reaches the other around to stroke his dick. His dick. Frank feels like he practically fucking forgot about his dick. All his thoughts have been zoned in on Gerard’s dick and his own ass and suddenly it’s so much better because Gerard knows exactly how Frank likes to be stroked. Gerard kisses his ear and says, “Shhh,” because Frank thinks he must be practically crying. “It’s good, Frankie. It’s so good. You’re fucking perfect taking all Mikey’s fingers like this. I wish you could see how fucking beautiful your ass looks right now. Just let me.” Gerard licks at Frank’s neck and starts increasing his strokes on Frank’s dick. “Let me take care of you. I’ve got you, Frank.” And he does. Gerard knows exactly what he’s doing as he tightens the circle of his fingers and twists just the right amount at the tip. Mikey’s pushing in still, insistent, not relenting, and Frank feels like he’s on fire. Mikey’s hand is in past his knuckles now and Frank can’t believe it. He can’t believe he practically has Mikey’s entire hand in his ass. It’s too much. He thinks he’s going to spontaneously combust, but he doesn’t, he just comes. He comes so fucking hard, he’s afraid he’s going to pass right out.

Gerard keeps stroking him all the way through the aftershocks and Mikey finally pulls his fingers out. Frank feels strangely empty and alone and for a second he feels like he wants them back. Mikey’s let go of Frank’s wrists now and he hooks his thumbs into each side of Frank’s asshole and pulls it wide open again. Gerard moves away to look. “Fuck, Frank. You’re so fucking loose, so open.” Frank’s ass feels cold and weirdly exposed like this. Then Gerard’s fingers are running in circles around on his ass cheeks before Mikey finally pulls his thumbs out and lets Frank’s knee fall back down the bed.

Mikey and Gerard begin murmuring things to him that he can hardly comprehend, things about sex and beauty and love and perfection and then they’re licking all the come off his belly together. They get every drop and keep licking even after it’s all gone. Frank starts to giggle when they don’t stop and then they both move up his body to kiss him. He kisses Gerard, and then Mikey, and then Gerard again. When he feels like he can’t kiss anymore, Gerard spoons up behind him, his arms holding him close and tight and Mikey drapes himself over his front, resting his head in the crook of Frank’s neck. Frank is completely covered by their bodies. He feels warm and tired. He feels like he’s just run a marathon, like every ounce of his energy has been depleted. He feels completely used. But he feels good. It’s a little bit like he’s floating. He thinks he’s probably glowing.

Gerard lights a cigarette and gives it to Frank before he lights one for himself. He nudges Frank’s ear with his nose. “Are you okay?”

Frank turns his head to look at Gerard and at first he doesn’t understand the question, how could Gerard think he’s not okay? “Fuck.” He laughs and Gerard looks startled for a moment before he smiles. Frank says, “I’m perfect.”

Gerard laughs and Mikey says against Frank’s neck, “Yes, you are, Frankie. You’re perfect.” He giggles as he nibbles on Frank’s collarbone and soon they’re all laughing happily together.

Frank never knew sex could be so good.

*_*_*

Before Frank is even remotely ready for it, the day comes when it’s time for Gerard to leave on his trip. He’s finished up his big commission and the buyer adored it, and he’s been buying stuff and packing for his trip for days. So Frank should be ready, but he’s not. It’s a day that Mikey and Frank both have off, so Frank hasn’t really been able to ignore the packing, even though he wants to. Mikey excitedly helps Gee with loading up the car, but Frank just… can’t. He makes excuses about wanting to organize and put away all his stuff he brought from his mom’s house and just dumped in the extra bedroom. He manages to make that project last most of the day.

But then it gets to be late afternoon and Gerard is ready to go. He calls Frank to come say goodbye. They hug for a long time in the driveway. Frank’s kind of embarrassed by his display, but for some reason, he can’t help it. He just hides his face in Gerard’s neck and clings to him tightly until Gerard has to actually remove his hands and say, “Frank, it’s time to let me go. It’s only a month. You and Mikey are going to stay busy and I’ll be back before you know it.”

Frank reluctantly lets go and has to walk back inside the house before Gerard actually leaves. Somehow, he can’t bear to watch him drive away. He sits in the kitchen, holding Pugsley, who’s been moping and whining and trying to get in Gerard’s car all afternoon, while Mikey and Gee say goodbye and then he finally hears the car pull out of the driveway.

Mikey comes in holding his arms out to Frank and Frank enters the embrace gladly. They hug with Pugsley between them for a long time. Frank lets his head rest on Mikey’s chest and closes his eyes and tries to just breathe. He has no idea why he’s reacting this way. It’s weird because he hasn’t been with Gee and Mikey that long, and he knows the trip really doesn’t have anything to do with him, but for some reason he feels like he’s being abandoned.

He knows that isn’t fair, though, because he keeps telling Mikey and Gerard that he’s okay and doesn’t want them to coddle him. Gerard seems to be trying to take him at his word and respect his desire to move on without them protecting him so much, so he has no way of knowing that Frank is still feeling needy.

Frank takes a deep breath as he reminds himself of all this, and finally backs away from Mikey, putting Pugsley down on the floor. He goes to the fridge and starts pulling out fresh vegetables for a salad to go with rice & beans for dinner. Frank had tried to convince Gee to stay and eat with them before he left, but once he got his last bag in the car, he was raring to go. Frank realizes now that Gerard has wanderlust greater than what he ever felt as a teenager. Gerard’s had a fire in his eyes for the last few weeks. Every once in a while, he’d start talking about all the places he was thinking about going and what kinds of paints he wanted to take with him. Frank would usually just try to tune it out or go in another room because it made him sad.

Mikey comes up behind Frank as he’s cutting up a cucumber. “You don’t have to cook tonight if you’re too sad. It’s fine. We can go out, take our minds off it.”

Frank shakes his head as he drops a handful of cucumber slices into the salad bowl and begins chopping up a red pepper. “No, Mikey, nothing’s going to take my mind off it, not for tonight, anyway.” He flinches away when Mikey tries to place a hand on his neck. “It’s my turn to cook, anyway, and I want to. The routine is soothing. It makes me feel better.”

Mikey drops his hand and backs away. “Okay, Frank. I’m going to take Pugsley for a walk. I’ll be back in a little while.”

Frank nods and chops a tomato more harshly than is necessary.

After he hears the front screen door slam, Frank breaks down. It’s only a little. He doesn’t sob or anything, but there are real tears keeping him company as he tears up a head of lettuce and mixes it in with the rest of the vegetables. He uses instant rice and canned beans because it’s faster and by the time Mikey comes back, he’s finished crying and is setting flour tortillas, salsa, and sour cream on the table to go with dinner.

Mikey stands in the doorway for a while, too long. Frank finally looks up, once he’s sure he hasn’t forgotten anything and he sees that Mikey has obvious tear stains on his cheeks. “I hate it, too, Frank.” His voice is choked. “I miss him all winter long. He hardly ever comes to visit me in the city.”

Frank suddenly feels like such a dick. He abandons the table and walks over to hug Mikey again. This time, he’s actually hugging instead of just leaning into it. “I’m sorry, Mikes.” He really is. He hasn’t even thought of Mikey’s feelings about Gee leaving.

Mikey takes a deep breath. “So I get it, okay? I know Gee somehow seems to make everything better just by being here. It sucks that he has to go, but he needs this.” Mikey places his hands on the sides of Frank’s face and brings his own head down so that their foreheads touch. “But I’m here, okay?” Frank can only just barely nod because Mikey’s grip is so tight. “I’m here with you… for you, and I’m not going anywhere. So just hold on to me, okay?”

Frank does. He holds on so tightly. Mikey clings right back. Their dinner is cold by the time they let each other go.

*_*_*

So Frank and Mikey make a plan that they’re going to be active and stay busy so that they don’t have much time to think about Gerard being gone. It works really well for a few days.

The first night they hang out with Bob and Ray. They come over to the house after Summertime and play video games and watch movies and eat pizza. The best part is that Ray brings his guitar, and he and Frank play together for hours and hours. It ends up being one of the best nights that Frank’s had in a long time. He doesn’t think about Elissa at all and only thinks about Gee a little bit. They end up deciding that for the rest of the summer, they’re just going to plan on having Bob and Ray come over every Thursday night to hang out.

Friday night is good because it’s a special night at Carnival. During the summer months, Carnival stays open late one night each month just so that the staff can stay and ride the rides and play the games without having to deal with the normal daytime crowds. It’s an amazing night. Frank eats food that he knows will make him sick later, but he doesn’t care. He wastes more money than he can afford to lose on stupid carnival games, but does manage to win a small stuffed unicorn for Mikey. Then he rides the rollercoaster seven times in a row before becoming violently ill and throwing up all the food he ate at the beginning of the night. It’s disgusting, but the most fun Frank has had in a while. He’s laughing when he comes out of the bathroom after throwing up and he lets Mikey drag him to Summertime where they manage to get in just before last call, each ordering two beers that they down in record speed. They’re falling over and probably look like fools by the time they get back to the house, but they don’t care. As Frank falls into bed on top of Mikey, he has the startling thought that he really is falling in love again, with Mikey, and he feels like the luckiest person alive.

*_*_*

On Saturday, Frank and Mikey have dinner at Catch of the Day after work. It’s as delicious as it was the last time and Frank’s feeling pleasantly full as they walk home in the warm summer evening. It starts to rain about halfway home, and he and Mikey get soaked, giggling as they skip the last two blocks back to the house.

Once inside, Frank pushes Mikey straight into the laundry room where they strip and throw their clothes into the washer. Frank starts a load of wash going. “Oh, I forgot I still have towels in the dryer I need to fold.”

Mikey starts licking the back of Frank’s neck. “Do it later, I want to bathe you with my tongue now.”

Frank laughs and shimmies away. “It’ll only take a few minutes and then you can lick me.”

Mikey rolls his eyes. “Okay fine, I’m going to bed, though, don’t blame me if I fall asleep before you get in there.”

Frank tickles Mikey’s belly. “I’m not sure you can call it sleeping, after the meal you just downed, it would probably be more like a food coma.”

Mikey sticks his tongue out, but he’s smiling as he heads out the door and toward the bedroom.

Frank pulls on a pair of underwear from a basket of clean clothes, so he’s not wandering around the house naked. Then he folds up all the towels and puts them away before he lets out Pugsley and makes sure his food and water bowls are full. He turns off all the lights and makes sure the doors are locked and then heads back to the bedroom where he hopes Mikey is still awake. He’s just walking through the bedroom door when he suddenly remembers, stops and says, “Oh shit, the dishwasher.”

Mikey groans and rolls over in bed, glaring at Frank. “Fuck the dishes.”

Frank bites his lip. “But we’re out of glasses.”

Mikey motions for Frank to come closer to the bed, Frank does. “Are the dishes in the dishwasher clean?” Frank nods. “And there are clean glasses in there?”

“Yes, I ran it while we were at work today.”

Mikey sits up and grabs Frank’s hand. “Okay, then I think it will really be okay for us to get clean glasses from the dishwasher to use in the morning if we need them, right?”

Frank shrugs. “I guess. Or maybe I can just set my alarm to wake me a few minutes early and I’ll empty it in the morning?”

Mikey rolls his eyes again. He looks annoyed and Frank isn’t sure why. “Fine, whatever, I don’t care. I’m not worried about dishes. I just want you to come to bed so that I can make love to you!” Mikey pulls Frank down on the bed as he says that and kisses him roughly.

The kiss isn’t sweet or tender like Mikey’s kisses normally are. It’s hard and unrelenting. Frank doesn’t like it. After a minute, he pulls out of the kiss. Mikey only lets him go reluctantly, huffing impatiently. Frank asks, “Why are you mad at me?”

“I’m not mad at you.” Mikey’s expression doesn’t change, though.

Frank is at a loss. He feels as if he’s messed up and he doesn’t know how. He looks around for a moment and finally says. “I don’t know what I did.”

“Everything.” Mikey’s voice is flat.

“What?”

“Everything, Frank, you did…” Mikey waves his hand around, “You do everything. Everything Gee usually takes care of while he’s home – the dishes, the laundry, cooking, taking care of Pugsley. You haven’t given me a chance to help with anything since Gee left. You started doing all this even before he left, it’s too much.”

“I’m just,” Frank swallows, nervously rubbing his hands together, “I’m just trying to do my part.”

“Frank, you…” Mikey grabs at Frank’s hands and holds them still in his lap. His irritated expression turns thoughtful and he finally says, “You’re trying to earn your keep, like you said before.”

Frank nods. “Exactly, I just need to help-”

Frank tries to say more, but Mikey puts his fingers up to Frank’s lips and says, “Shhhh.” He drops his hand down and grabs Frank’s hand again. “You don’t need to earn your keep. You don’t have to do anything. We just love having you here.”

Frank pulls his hands out of Mikey’s grasp. “I want to, though.” He gives Mikey a long look before he continues. “If I don’t do anything to help, I’m just…” He looks down at his lap. He doesn’t even know how to say what he’s feeling right now. “With everything you guys do for me, if I don’t do something in return it just feels like… like I’m just your boy toy or something.” Frank closes his eyes and swallows. It’s been bothering him for a while. He hadn’t planned to say anything about it so soon, though. He was going to wait to talk to them about it after Gerard got back from his trip.

Mikey is quiet for a few seconds, but then he starts rubbing his hands softly all over Frank. Up and down his arms, around the back of his neck, over his face, through his hair. He’s saying, “Frankie, Frankie, Frankie,” over and over again until he finally hooks a finger under Frank’s chin and gets him to lift his head. “Frank, have we made you feel like that?” Frank opens his eyes to see that Mikey’s eyes are shining like he might be on the verge of tears. “Have we… I mean have we been treating you like that, somehow? To make you feel like that’s all we think of you?”

Frank shrugs. “I don’t know… I mean no, I just…” Mikey grabs both of Frank’s hands in his again and squeezes them. Frank takes a deep breath, he has to be honest. He still isn’t entirely sure how he managed to fuck things up so badly with Elissa, but he isn’t going to let another relationship fall apart if he can help it, especially when everything else about it is so good. “I guess I’m just scared.” He shrugs.

Mikey says softly, “What are you scared of?”

Frank lets out a long stream of air before he says, “If all I’m good for is sex… I mean, if I’m not doing anything else for you guys, like, not contributing to the household or whatever, like…” Frank looks around the room in frustration, anywhere but at Mikey. “You’re going to get bored with me after not too long. I mean… I’m not even really putting out like I said I would.” Frank feels like that’s a dumb way to put it, but it’s the only thing he can think of to say what he means without actually saying the words. He still hasn’t let Mikey fuck him. It’s been more than two months since the night when he said, ‘next time’. He had meant it completely at the time, but then… He still isn’t quite sure what’s happened. He’s been afraid to initiate it for some reason. He doesn’t know how to ask for it. And neither Gee nor Mikey have brought it up, both seemingly satisfied with lots of varied and creative blowjobs. Frank’s beginning to feel like he’s gone down on Mikey more since he’s known him than he went down on Elissa for their entire marriage. Although, that isn’t really a fair comparison because receiving oral sex was never really Lissy’s thing, even when Frank tried to make it good for her. Mikey and Gee certainly don’t share that sentiment, though. The best thing about it all is that Frank isn’t even getting tired of it. He feels like the more he does it, the more he loves to do it and wants to keep doing it and keep getting better at it.

“Frank,” Mikey says it so tenderly, it almost makes Frank want to cry. “Frank,” he says again, lower this time, and turns Frank’s face toward his. “Look at me, love.” Frank does, reluctantly, and he sees that Mikey’s crying. He has an actual tear running down his left cheek. “Frank, I want you to listen to me, okay?” Frank nods. “Are you listening? Tell me.”

Frank manages to choke out, “I’m listening.”

“We want you here, not because of anything that you can do for us, not even sex. We love the sex because we want to make love to you. We want to make you feel good. Obviously, it’s good for us, too, and I know I can get a little carried away sometimes, but our pleasure really isn’t what’s motivating it. We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t think you liked it.” Mikey pushes all of Frank’s hair back from his face, his fingers running through the strands soothingly. “It isn’t because of anything that you can do for us that we want to be with you. We want to be with you because of who you are. We…” Mikey stops and takes a deep breath. “We love you, Frank.”

That admission startles Frank. “Even, Gee?”

“Of course even Gee!” Mikey smoothes his thumbs over Frank’s eyebrows. “He won’t like it when he finds out I’m telling you all this. He feels like it’s too soon for you. Too soon after Elissa, he feels like… he’s afraid we’re taking advantage of you.”

Frank shakes his head. “No, you’re not, not at all. I’m not a child, I can make my own decisions, you know? Even if I am sad, it’s still my choice to be with you guys.”

“I know that. Gerard is just a little overly-conscientious sometimes.”

Frank huffs out a laugh, because he knows it’s true. “But… but Gee just… he hardly talks to me, and like, I still haven’t been upstairs to see his art.” Frank looks down again. “I thought… I wasn’t sure he even liked me that much. I thought maybe he was just doing all this and being so nice to me for you.”

Mikey laughs loudly. “Are you kidding me? Frankie, Gerard is fucking falling in love with you! He has been for weeks!”

Frank looks up and frowns at Mikey, he’s annoyed now. “But how would I know that?”

Mikey sits back and looks thoughtful. “Well, I guess you wouldn’t… because he doesn’t want you to know. You know he has kind of… issues about being loved. He doesn’t really believe he’s lovable.”

Frank is flabbergasted. “But how could I not love him? Gerard is seriously one of the most lovable people I’ve ever met!”

Mikey grins. “Exactly. He totally is. We just need to try to help him understand that.” Mikey stops for a minute and furrows his brow before he continues. “About his art- well, have you asked to see it?”

“No.”

“Well, you should ask him. I know you don’t want to intrude or be nosy, I get that, but sometimes with Gee you need to give him a little push. He isn’t used to people caring, not really.”

“That’s horrible,” Frank says sadly.

Mikey nods. “Yes, it is. But I’m working on trying to get him to see how great he is. And as for not talking to you much, it’s basically the same. He just doesn’t really open up to people without a lot of work. He’s afraid of showing himself, you know? He doesn’t want to get hurt.” Mikey intertwines his fingers with Frank’s. “And he hasn’t wanted you to know how he feels because he doesn’t want to pressure you and he doesn’t know if you feel the same, so he wanted to wait a while before letting you see how much you’re starting to mean to him, that’s all.” Mikey stops talking for a minute and moves his head to catch Frank’s gaze again because his eyes have started to wander. Once their eyes meet, Mikey says, “But Frank, the most important thing I want you to know is that we are not going to get bored with you. We just like you way too much. You have no idea how happy you’re making Gee right now. You don’t know because you didn’t know him before, but the change is just…” Mikey waves his hand around, “amazing. And you don’t have to ‘put out’. Like I said, the sex isn’t about what we do or don’t do; it’s about making you feel good. So we aren’t going to do that unless it’s what you want.”

Frank believes Mikey. Mikey’s never given him any reason to think he’s less than genuine. Frank’s slowly starting to feel better after everything Mikey’s said, so he feels like a total jerk when the first thing that comes out of his mouth in response to all this is, “But if I’m making Gee so happy, then why did he leave?” He turns his face away because he hates himself for even bringing it up. It makes him feel like such a whiny brat.

“Oh Frankie,” Mikey says, sliding his hand around to the back of Frank’s neck and holding him there. “That’s not about you at all. Gee needs to take his trips, it’s for him, it’s just… something he needs to do. He has some wanderlust, is all.” Mikey pushes Frank’s face back so he has to look at him again. “And it’s only for a month, and I’m really not convinced he’s going to stay gone that long.”

Frank sighs and gives in to the urge to just fall into Mikey’s arms. He buries his face in Mikey’s neck and wraps his arms around his middle. Mikey immediately pulls him close and holds him tightly. He hesitates for a moment before he finally just lets go and says into Mikey’s warm skin, “I love you guys.”

Mikey doesn’t even pause before replying, “We love you, too, Frank, so, so much.”

Frank stays wrapped up in Mikey’s safe embrace like that until they fall over from exhaustion. They move up the bed and arrange themselves comfortably and Frank is asleep before Mikey even turns off the bedside lamp.

*_*_*

Frank fiddles with his ring while he watches Mikey play fetch with Pugsley. Gerard’s been gone for ten days now and today is the first day since he left that Mikey and Frank have had off together.

Mikey insisted they needed to do something fun to keep their spirits up, so they decided to spend the day at the beach. Mikey drove them over an hour south to a really nice park beach that’s out of the way and not very crowded. He explained that it’s the only beach in Jersey where the water is clean enough to swim in without having to worry about getting parasites. The best thing about it is that dogs are allowed off-leash, so they’ve been able to let Pugsley run around and swim and get some exercise and take his mind off missing Gee, too.

Pugsley’s been moping since Gerard left. He hasn’t been eating as much and seems less excited about walks and playing in the yard. Extra depressing is how the only place he wants to sleep is in Gerard’s spot on the bed, and he keeps nosing at the door to the attic like he thinks maybe if he goes up and looks one more time, Gerard will be up there. When they open the door to let him go up and see for himself that Gerard isn’t there, he never comes back down on his own, instead curling up in a ball at the top of the stairs like he thinks Gerard might be back at any moment and he needs to be ready.

Frank told all this to Gerard when they talked on the phone last night. Gee sounded really sad about it. Frank thinks it might have been a mistake to let him talk to Pugsley over the phone because Pugsley got all excited upon hearing his voice, but then he seemed to mope more than normal the rest of the evening. Or maybe Frank is just imagining things, projecting his own feelings onto the dog. Mostly, he feels guilty because he was actually annoyed with how happy Gerard sounded when he spoke about all the things he’d seen and photographed so far. He had been up in the mountains in New Hampshire somewhere. He kept going on about how beautiful it was. What Frank can’t figure out, though, is whether he’s more mad that Gerard left them, or angry that he couldn’t go with him. Not that he asked to go or anything, he couldn’t, he needs to work. But he’s frustrated by it, just the same. He’d certainly like to see some mountains.

Frank’s brooding and he knows it. He must be scowling because Mikey comes over to him all smiles and kisses him. Just like that, where anyone can see. He does that kind of thing a lot and Frank always finds it a bit unnerving. No one seems to notice or care, though. Mikey stays close to Frank, even after he pulls out of the kiss. His eyes darken and he says, “You’re brooding.”

Frank laughs. When did he become so transparent? Or is he only transparent to Mikey? “I was just thinking that. I’m sorry.”

Mikey pets at Frank’s face for a moment before he sits back and grabs two beers out of the cooler, handing one to Frank. “Want to tell me what it’s about?”

Frank shrugs and tugs on a loose lock of hair. “I don’t know, everything.”

Mikey quirks up a corner of his lip and raises an eyebrow. “I dare you to be more vague.”

Frank smiles. He really doesn’t want to talk to Mikey about everything that’s going through his mind. Instead, he decides to ask something else he’s been curious about. “How long have you worked at Carnival?”

Mikey appears surprised by the question. Frank’s actually surprised that he hasn’t asked about it sooner. Mikey’s expression - his narrowed eyes – seem to indicate that he isn’t convinced this is what Frank was brooding about, but he answers anyway. “I guess it’s been ten years now.” He scratches his head. “Wow, I didn’t realize it had been so long.”

“Was it your first job?” Frank is curious.

“Yup. I started when I was 15. Me and Gee used to stay at my Grandmother’s house in the summer a lot.” Mikey scratches his eyebrow with his pinky. “I remember that year she basically just informed me that I’d be working part-time at Carnival all summer. It wasn’t really a choice.”

Pugsley comes running up to the blanket at that moment and jumps into Frank’s lap, licking his neck and chin. Frank smiles and giggles. He’s glad Pugsley seems to be in a happy mood today. Once the dog settles down on the blanket next to him, Frank asks, “Were you annoyed that she made you work instead of just being allowed to goof off all summer?”

Mikey waves his hand. “Nah, I didn’t mind. I remember being bored a lot during the summers before that. She was good friends with the Schechter’s - Brian’s parents, so I didn’t really even have to interview or anything. It was fun for me.” Mikey shrugs. “It still is.”

“Did she make Gee work there, too?” Frank finally opens the beer that Mikey had handed him.

“No, she ah…” Mikey cracks his neck. “Things were different between her and Gee. Like, he always showed such great artistic promise. She would make him take art classes all summer and enter art competitions, even if he didn’t want to. Each year, she would have different styles she’d make him practice in. He used to complain about it, but I know he really loved it.” Mikey’s lip quirks up the tiniest bit. “He loved her attention.”

Some things about Gee start to click into place in Frank’s head. “So that’s why they were so close?”

“Oh yeah, definitely.” Mikey scratches his head. “I always kind of thought… Well, she was an artist, too, and like, I guess sometimes it felt like she was pushing him to do what she always wished she had done… like instead of getting married and having kids and stuff.” Mikey furrows his brow and looks down. “I guess she was right to do it, though, you know?” He looks back up at Frank. “Because Gee really is brilliant and I think it was her encouragement and the high standards she set for him that got him to this point. I don’t think he would have come this far without her support over the years. She paid for his art school, did you know that?”

Frank shakes his head.

“Anyway, so I guess she felt bad that she never paid as much attention to me and she worried that I would get into trouble without anything to keep me busy, so she got me the job.” Mikey takes a long drink of his beer before continuing, “And it was great, I mean, I’ve always loved it, it’s a really fun job. Before I started working, she would make me volunteer at different Catholic charities all summer - thrift stores, and vacation bible camps, and the food pantry. None of that was as fun as working at Carnival, so it turned out to be pretty great, actually.” Mikey shrugs before swallowing down the rest of his beer and then lying down on the blanket. He puts his head in Frank’s lap and closes his eyes.

Frank idly runs his fingers through Mikey’s wet hair for a little while, just thinking about everything he’s said. Eventually he says. “So I remember you said before that Gerard hasn’t moved on from Elena’s death… That’s why, right? Because they like, bonded over the art stuff? So he’s always reminded of her?”

Mikey reaches up and takes Frank’s hand and just holds it, their fingers linked loosely together. “Yeah, and like… I think Gee feels like he owes so much to her, because of everything she did for him. He just can’t let go, you know? Even though he knows this isn’t what she’d want for him… to be alone so much and just kind of stagnant.” He grabs Frank’s other hand. “I don’t mean like, artistically stagnant, when it comes to that he’s great, but… personally, you know?”

Mikey opens his eyes and looks up at Frank. Frank nods.

“Right, like, he has a few friends from Carnival, and he has me, but that’s it. And I know he could do even more with his art if he would just promote himself, but for some reason, he just doesn’t want to.” Mikey shakes his head in Frank’s lap. “But I don’t think it’s because he doesn’t want the attention, honestly, I think he’s just scared.”

“What is it you think he’s afraid of?”

Mikey sighs. “I think he’s got himself convinced that he needs Elena’s influence, like how he always says he can feel her presence in the studio. He thinks he needs that to be able to make great art and that’s just bullshit. He’s amazing. He could do amazing work anywhere.”

Frank squeezes Mikey’s hands. “I get that, though. This is his comfort zone. It’s scary to leave that. Some people never do unless something happens that forces them to.”

Mikey shrugs. “I guess.” He rolls over onto his side so that he’s looking right up at Frank. “But that’s where you come in.”

“Me?”

“Yeah.” Mikey nods. “Because I think if I can convince you to move to New York with me this winter, he’ll come too. I believe he would come to be with you, Frank, I really do.”

Frank is stunned. “Move to New York with you, what? I don’t-”

Mikey puts his fingers up to Frank’s lips. “I know I haven’t said anything about it yet, but it would work out. I already talked to Brian about getting you a job at Fun Zone, and if Gee comes with us, we could afford a place for just the three of us. It would be perfect. And we could still come back here in the summer.”

Frank shakes his head, trying to think of reasons to disagree, but Mikey reaches up and puts both hands on his face and before he can come up with anything, says, “Just think about it, Frank. You don’t have to decide anything right now.”

Frank takes a deep breath. “Okay.” He screws up his face and rolls his neck around before relaxing everything. “Okay, I’m not promising anything, but I’ll think about it.”

Mikey smiles. It’s one of his big smiles that show his teeth and everything. One of the smiles he saves for special occasions. “That’s all I’m asking, Frankie.”

*_*_*

Later that night, after he’s finished loading the dishwasher and started running it, Frank stands in the kitchen by himself for a few minutes. He turns off the overhead light and leans against the counter with only the light above the sink on, and he takes off his ring. There’s a really obvious tan line in its place and Frank is surprised because he didn’t realize he’d been getting so much sun this summer. He switches the ring from hand to hand a couple of times and then puts it back on. He feels better with it on. He doesn’t really think that’s about Lissy anymore, though. He’s just always liked being married. He likes feeling settled. He always hated dating, always hated feeling unsure about his future. Somehow being married was one question answered, one less thing to worry about.

So much for that.

Frank will count it as a win the day he takes it off for good. He thinks what he really needs is to be okay about the ‘not knowing’ – not knowing what’s going to happen with his jobs or relationships, or even where he’s living. He’s always hated the ‘not knowing’. But he’s never met two people more mellow about it than Gerard and Mikey. They seem to rarely plan more than a couple of months in advance and they do okay. He thinks they might be the best possible influences on him right now.

Frank wanders down the hall and finds Mikey lying in bed reading Kill Your Boyfriend. Frank stands in the doorway and just watches him. It’s been weeks since their talk about Frank taking his ring off or calling a divorce lawyer and he hasn’t done either, but Mikey hasn’t said a word about it. Frank realizes Mikey was totally serious when he said Frank could take as much time as he needs. Because Mikey doesn’t seem to worry much about the ‘not knowing’, not that he isn’t committed to Frank; he just doesn’t seem to need anything concrete to make it feel real.

Even though Frank knows for sure that it isn’t needed, or maybe because he knows it isn’t needed, Frank suddenly wants something concrete; something concrete and very specific. The more Frank looks at Mikey, the more he wants it. Mikey is fucking beautiful. Anyone would be lucky to be in Frank’s place, to be able to have Mikey any way he wants; Frank’s getting hard just thinking about it. He’s been hesitating because somehow it feels like intercourse is what constitutes “real sex.” Even though Gee and Mikey always refer to everything else they’ve done as ‘sex’ or ‘making love’. But Frank’s heteronormative background can’t quite be silenced on this one. Frank wants to consummate this relationship. He balked at it before because to him it seems like a promise of permanence, even though no one’s ever asked Frank to make any such promise. But suddenly Frank really, really wants to, even if it’s only a ‘promise’ in his mind, and just another way of ‘making love’ in Mikey’s. Frank wants to do it. He’s ready.

Frank’s thoughts are interrupted when Mikey says, “Stop staring at me. You’re freaking me the fuck out.”

Frank laughs and finally walks into the room. Stopping at the side of the bed, he takes Mikey’s book out of his hands. Mikey complains, “Hey, you’re going to lose my place.”

Frank rolls his eyes. “It’s a short enough book, I’m sure you’ll be able to find it again.”

Mikey shrugs, grabs at Frank’s hips and pulls him down on top of him. “Why were you staring at me?”

Frank kisses Mikey quickly before answering, “I was thinking about how fucking beautiful you are.”

Mikey looks surprised by this, pulling his head back and furrowing his brow. “Really?”

“Shut up,” Frank says before nibbling on Mikey’s chin. “You know how hot you are.”

Mikey rubs his hands around on Frank’s ass. “Okay, hot, I guess. But beautiful is more Gerard’s department.”

Frank burrows his face into Mikey’s neck and licks it. “You’re both beautiful.” He pulls his head back so he can look at Mikey in the eye. “Mikey, I want to fuck.”

Mikey opens his mouth and makes an ‘o’ shape for a second before he finally says, “Okay, um…”

Frank kisses him, he has to. And he grinds his hips down on top of Mikey’s, making his interest quite clear. When he pulls out of the kiss, he says, “For real fucking, okay. Like, for real, for real.” Frank doesn’t know why he can’t say the words.

Mikey surprises Frank by flipping them over so that he’s on top. There’s that strength Mikey has that no one would believe. Frank thinks of it as stealth strength. Mikey grinds around over Frank for a minute while smiling down at him, but then he stops. He brings his hands up to Frank’s face, petting his cheeks. “Frankie, I’ve been thinking…” His voice is so soft it’s nearly a whisper. “I didn’t want to say anything because I don’t want to pressure you, but… what if we did it the other way?”

Frank isn’t sure what Mikey means. “What?”

Mikey puts his fingers over Frank’s mouth. “I mean, what if you fucked me?” Frank feels his eyes go wide. He’d never even thought of that. For some reason he thought that wasn’t really Mikey’s thing. Mikey reads his mind again. “I mean, it isn’t my favorite thing, but… well…” He smoothes his fingers over Frank’s eyebrows. “When it’s with someone you love, it feels good no matter how you do it. And I just thought-” Mikey leans down and kisses Frank lightly, “I thought maybe if we did it that way first then maybe getting fucked wouldn’t seem quite so scary to you.”

“I’m not scared.” The words are out of Frank’s mouth before he even thinks them. It’s true, though, he isn’t scared. He’s not scared of having Mikey’s dick in his ass. He’s had practically all of Mikey’s hand in his ass; he knows he can take it. It’s what it’s supposed to mean that he’s scared of – was scared of, he isn’t scared anymore. “I’m not scared, Mikey. I love you. And I do want to fuck you sometime, but not tonight. Tonight I want…” Frank takes a deep breath. “I want you to fuck me. And I know it will be good because we love each other, so how could it not be good, right?”

Mikey grins down at Frank, practically beaming now as he nods. “Right, exactly. It’s going to be so good, I promise you-”

“I know,” Frank interrupts him. “Kiss me first? For a long time?”

Mikey does. He kisses Frank deep and sweet and tender as he runs his hands up and down Frank’s sides and around his chest and neck, then back across his cheeks again. He kisses Frank’s nose and chin and eyelids and forehead. He whispers in Frank’s ear, “Love you so much, you have no idea. Sometimes I think you can’t be real because how could anyone so perfect for us be real? Want you forever, Frankie.”

That’s all it takes. Those words do it and Frank’s ready. He pushes Mikey off. “Okay, okay let’s do it, I’m ready. I want you. Want to feel you inside me.”

Then don’t waste any time pulling their clothes off and Mikey grabs lube and condoms out of the nightstand drawer. Then he’s back on top of Frank, licking him and kissing his way down Frank’s body. He traces over the lines of Frank’s ink first with his fingers and then with his tongue. He stops periodically to leave little open-mouth kisses in places Frank notices he always likes to sneak in an extra kiss or lick or nibble – right in Frank’s clavicle, just at the outside of his armpit (that one always makes him giggle), inside his elbow, right on his belly button, at the tendon on the inside of his thigh. Then Mikey puts his mouth on Frank’s dick. He only sucks for a few minutes before sinking lower. He licks at Frank’s balls and then laps at his asshole until it’s dripping wet. Then he backs away. He pours a generous amount of lube on his fingers before sinking in one and then quickly after it, another. He finds Frank’s prostate and massages it while stroking Frank’s dick with his free hand.

Mikey watches Frank’s face closely and after a few minutes, says, “How do you feel?”

Frank shudders momentarily before answering, “Good, I feel good. Don’t-” Frank gasps as Mikey hits his prostate again, “Don’t stretch me too much, okay? I really want to feel you.”

Mikey nods. “Okay, do you think you’re ready now, or do you want a little more?” Mikey asks as he’s fluting and scissoring his fingers around inside.

It feels so good. “Maybe just, just one more finger, but only for a few seconds.”

Mikey bites his lip as he slides in a third finger. He works the three fingers in and out only about a half dozen times before he says, “Okay?”

Frank nods. “Yeah, yeah that’s good. Perfect.”

Mikey pulls his fingers out and settles back on his heels. He tears a condom off the strip and opens it. Frank sits up to watch him roll it on and then Mikey completely drenches his cock in lube. Frank smiles as he lies back down because he knows Mikey just wants to make sure he won’t hurt Frank at all.

Mikey lifts up Frank’s legs, running his hands up and down the bottoms of his thighs. “So, it’s definitely harder this way the first time, but I want to look at you. Do you think you’ll be okay?”

“Yes.” Frank is sure he’ll be fine. “I want to look at you, too.”

The smile Mikey gives Frank as he says that is practically blinding. Frank memorizes it and immediately adds it to his Mikeyway smile memory bank. He smiles back and basks in it. This is one he knows he’ll never ever forget.

Mikey pulls Frank’s legs up onto his shoulders and moves into place. Frank gasps when he feels Mikey’s dick at his entrance and Mikey smiles down at him. “Okay? Just relax, don’t hold your breath.” Frank nods and Mikey puts his hands on Frank’s shoulders as he gently eases himself inside. Frank relaxes and breathes through it as Mikey gradually pushes in. Closing his eyes, he’s completely calm. He feels so full, but it doesn’t hurt at all. Frank realizes he’s been ready for this for a while. He knows how to take penetration now. It isn’t just feeling full that makes it so good, though. It’s that it’s Mikey.

Frank smiles and opens his eyes to see Mikey holding himself perfectly still. He’s all the way in now. Frank can feel Mikey’s balls at his ass. There’s sweat beading on Mikey’s forehead and Frank realizes Mikey’s waiting for him. “It’s okay, go, move.”

Mikey does. Slow at first, little thrusts in and out, but then he gradually speeds up until he’s getting good long thrusts, sliding almost all the way out and hitting home each time. He changes his angle a couple of times before finding one that’s good for hitting Frank’s prostate on every thrust. It feels different like this. The fullness is different than just fingers because Mikey’s going so much deeper, and the thrusts are longer. It’s good. It’s so good and Frank is so glad he didn’t wait any longer to do this. It feels amazing and he thinks he’s going to start wanting to do this all the time now.

After a few minutes, Mikey reaches for Frank’s dick and starts jerking him off in time with his thrusts. Frank can’t believe the sensation. It’s overwhelming, his ass and dick being worked expertly in tandem like this. Mikey knows how to stroke him just the way he likes, firm and with a little twist at the end, but not too fast, not yet. Frank is afraid he isn’t going to last long enough and this is too good, too perfect, he wants it to last. He pulls Mikey’s hand off his dick and intertwines their fingers, squeezing tightly. Mikey seems to understand when Frank pulls him in with his other hand for a kiss. Kisses are messy like this, with Mikey fucking him, even though he’s slowed his thrusts some, but it’s still nice. Frank whispers “I love you,” up into Mikey’s mouth.

Mikey whispers, “I love you, too,” right back in between kisses. Their tongues dance outside their mouths. It’s hard for Mikey to stay close for very long because Frank isn’t that flexible and he’s basically being folded in half right now with the way that Mikey has his legs up over his arms. It’s fine, though. Frank can’t pay too much attention to that because what’s happening in his ass is so much better and extremely distracting. After a few more minutes of kissing, Frank places Mikey’s hand back on his dick and allows him to resume stroking it.

Mikey gradually speeds up his thrusts and his strokes again while petting at Frank’s face with his unoccupied hand. Frank catches Mikey’s fingers in his mouth and sucks on them. It makes Mikey smile. “Always gotta have something in your mouth to suck on, huh, Frankie?” Frank gives him the finger, but keeps sucking on his fingers just the same.

In the next moment Mikey says, “Oh fuck, Frank,” and doesn’t seem to be able to help it as his thrusts increase their speed. Frank experimentally tightens his ass muscles around Mikey’s dick and is rewarded with a delightful high-pitched wheezing noise and incoherent babbling that ends in, “Fuck Frank, so fucking tight, so good, so close, Frankie!”

Mikey’s strokes on Frank’s dick speed up now to a crazy fast pace. They only match his thrusts into Frank’s ass for a few more seconds before faltering. Frank is almost surprised by it when his orgasm overtakes him because he’s so mesmerized watching Mikey writhe on top of him. But when he does come, he comes hard and feels Mikey coming less than a minute after he does, while he’s still shaking with aftershocks. Mikey thrusts for a few more seconds after he’s finished and then collapses on top of Frank, littering Frank’s neck and chest with dozens of tiny kisses. He kisses his way up Frank’s neck and licks and nips at his ear before he whispers, “Never just sex with you, Frank, never just sex. I fucking love you. I fucking love you so much. I almost can’t take it sometimes.”

Then Mikey buries his face in Frank’s neck, licking and nuzzling and making the most adorable sighing noises as he finally finishes coming down from his afterglow. Frank runs his fingers around on Mikey’s back, feeling gooseflesh break out and Mikey shivers periodically. When Mikey finally pulls out and moves away to get rid of the condom, Frank feels a bit like crying. “Come back.” He can’t believe how pathetic it sounds when he says it, but Mikey just smiles at him and comes right back to kiss all over Frank’s face and hair. Frank squeezes his eyes shut trying to hold back as he still feels like he wants to cry. He almost feels it more now. He can’t believe how emotional he is. “Fuck.” Mikey backs up and looks at him with concern. Frank has to make himself laugh and Mikey relaxes a fraction. “I feel like…” He doesn’t even know how to say it.

Mikey places his hands on either side of Frank’s face and taps his thumbs on his cheeks. “How do you feel?” He says it so tenderly; Frank thinks he might break from it.

Frank shrugs. “Like a girl?” Mikey laughs and Frank shakes his head and goes on, “That sounds so misogynistic and wrong, but I don’t know how else to explain it.”

Mikey smiles and says, “Frank, I think the word you’re looking for is ‘loved’. I just made love to you and you’re feeling all of that attention and energy focused on you. It can be overwhelming. You feel loved.”

“Yeah, I guess that’s it, but…” Frank closes his eyes, trying to think of what he means to say. “But it was both of us, we made love together.”

Mikey nods and brings his forehead down to touch Frank’s. “Yes, we did. We made love.”

*_*_*

Frank feels strange when he wakes up in the morning. Not just physically, although he definitely feels that, but something in his mind is just… off.

Because of the way he and Mikey fell asleep wrapped in each other, it takes Frank a few tries to free himself. They must have slept most of the night with their legs intertwined, and Mikey’s fingers have several locks of Frank’s hair around them. Frank has to untangle them very slowly and carefully so as not to wake Mikey or have any bald spots.

Walking to the bathroom is… interesting. Mikey had warned him that this would feel different from how he feels in the morning after only having fingers in his ass, even all four of Mikey’s. Mikey had explained that fingers don’t typically penetrate as deeply as a dick, unless there’s fisting involved (and as much as Frank loves Mikey and wants to make him happy, the one time he brought this up, Frank didn’t even hesitate before making it quite clear that Mikey’s thumb is not going to be joining the rest of his fingers in Frank’s ass anytime soon, and Mikey’s never brought it up again). Mikey said because of the depth of penetration, Frank would likely feel more sore in the morning. He was right. It’s not bad, though. Frank loves it when he wakes up and can immediately feel what Mikey or Gee did to him last night.

Frank has to work today, but Mikey doesn’t, so he tries to be quiet while he showers and shaves. It’s a dull gray morning with rainclouds threatening. Frank knows his only customers today will be fisherman. For the first time since he’s been at Carnival he really doesn’t want to go to work. All he wants to do is crawl back into bed with Mikey and hold him tightly all day long. He feels sort of desperate about it for some reason that he can’t explain.

He sits on the edge of the bed and lingers for too long before he leaves, petting Mikey gently, running his fingers through his silly dyed hair. His roots are growing out and it’s driving Frank crazy. He wants to either go after Mikey with scissors to cut off the blond part or bleach to touch up the roots. Mikey won’t let him, though, he says it’s fine like this.

Mikey blinks his eyes open and smiles up at Frank. “Hello, love.” He lifts a hand and pets at Frank’s cheek. “Leaving for work?”

Frank nods and leans down to give Mikey a long, tender kiss. He says, “I love you,” as he stands.

Mikey grabs his hand before he can go and kisses his fingers. “I love you, too. I’ll miss you today. I’ll bring you lunch, okay? Text me what time your break is.”

Frank nods and pulls his fingers back. As he walks through the bedroom door, Mikey mumbles, “Grab an umbrella from the front closet, it’s supposed to rain,” before yawning and rolling over in bed again.

*_*_*

Just as Frank had anticipated, the only sales in the store all morning are on fishing tackle and bait. Brian calls over just before Frank’s break and tells him to send Kevin home after he gets back from lunch. It’s one of the rare days in summer where things are so quiet at Carnival that Brian sends people home early.

Mikey comes and meets Frank halfway down the pier where there’s a covered picnic pavilion. It starts raining while they eat the veggie burritos Mikey brought and Frank’s glad he has an umbrella for the walk back to the store. Mikey holds his hand almost the whole time they sit together. It makes Frank feel warm in his heart even as he feels anxious for no apparent reason.

“How do you feel today?” Mikey looks concerned as he says it. “Are you very sore?”

Frank shakes his head. “No. Well, I mean I am sore, but it’s fine, nothing I can’t handle.” Frank attempts to give Mikey a reassuring smile and squeezes his hand. “I feel good. I still feel um,” he quirks up the side of his lip, “loved.”

Mikey grins and ducks his head, curling his lips into each other. He is the most adorable person alive. “Good, Frank, I’m so glad. You seemed sad this morning, so I was worried. You’re just very quiet today.”

Frank shrugs. “I don’t know, I do feel a bit off, but I think maybe it’s the weather or just missing Gee?”

Mikey cards his fingers through Frank’s hair. “That’s probably it.”

They finish up and Frank heads back to the store to let Kevin go for his surprise afternoon off. The rest of the day drags and Brian ends up calling down and telling Frank to go ahead and close the store up over an hour early.

It’s still raining when Frank gets to Summertime where he’s meeting the guys. He sees Mikey and Ray in a booth in the corner. When he sits down, they inform Frank that they’ve already ordered a basket of onion rings for him. Summertime only serves food during the summer months and Frank has found the majority of it to be terribly greasy bar fare, most of which he can’t handle. He loves their beer-battered onion rings, though, which for some unknown reason don’t ever seem to bother his stomach.

Frank smiles and thanks the guys for thinking of him. Apparently Brian had all but the two main stores close up early, so he and Bob are the only ones still working. Mikey wraps his arms around Frank’s waist and nuzzles his face in his neck. “Ray texted me that everyone was getting off early tonight because of the rain, so we’ve actually been here a while.” Mikey’s voice is already slurring as he says. “How many beers have we had so far, Ray?”

Ray holds up three fingers. His current beer is almost full, as opposed to Mikey’s empty one, though. Mikey continues, “So anyway, we’ve been here for over an hour. I was so damn bored today, Frankie, it’s so hard to be in the house without Gee, and I couldn’t even walk Pugsley since he won’t go out in the rain.” Frank laughs at that, because he knows what a wimp his dog is. “I was so glad when I got Ray’s text. We’ve just been discussing The Rocky Horror Picture Show. We’ve decided we want to watch it on our next movie night, which happens to be tomorrow!” Mikey’s voice brightens as he shares their plans.

Frank pets at Mikey’s hair and Mikey nuzzles up into his hand, like a cat arching into being petted. Mikey doesn’t get emo-drunk very often, but when he does it can be spectacular. Frank’s very glad that Ray texted him and got him out of the house at least. Frank can imagine Mikey moping around all alone today and the thought upsets him. He leans his head into Mikey’s and sighs just as his onion rings arrive. They’re delicious, just like usual and Frank eats them all in record time.

Ray gets him caught up on their Rocky Horror discussion while he eats, and time just seems to fly by. Soon Bob and Brian arrive, sliding into the booth while ordering beers and burgers. Frank’s still hungry, so he and Ray decide to split a cheeseless veggie pizza.

It’s just after the pizza arrives and Frank takes his first delicious bite that Brian makes angry eyes at someone across the bar and says, “Fuck no, she didn’t.”

Ray and Bob both look to see who Brian’s looking at and both make the same sour face at the same time before immediately looking at Frank with concern all over their faces. Frank finishes chewing and swallows. He doesn’t know what to think, but Ray says, “Don’t look, Frankie,” so Frank has to look.

Mikey sighs audibly next to him and grabs Frank’s hand. Frank squeezes it as he slowly turns around and leans up to look over the high back of the booth to the bar where Brian, Bob, and Ray are shooting dagger glares.

Frank closes his eyes once, twice, and when he opens them she’s still there. It’s Elissa. She’s sitting at the bar drinking what is undoubtedly some snooty, overpriced foreign beer and looking around in all directions. Frank ducks back down before she can see him and hits his head against the back of the booth a few times. He feels Mikey’s hand come up and rub his back gently. When Frank doesn’t move, just leaves his head lolling against the wood, Mikey pulls him down into a hug and cradles him protectively.

Brian speaks up. “You don’t have to talk to her, Frank. One of us can distract her. You can go out the back way, she’ll never know.”

Frank shakes his head. “No. I can’t…” he swallows, “do that. I should talk to her. She came all this way.”

Frank looks up at Brian. “She’s here for me, isn’t she? You recognized her? How did you know?”

Brian looks apologetic as he explains, “I guess one of your buddies told her where you were working. She’s been asking around since yesterday, but I kinda told everyone not to tell her anything.” He grimaces. “I should have known she wouldn’t give up, though. She must have found someone who didn’t know better than to tell her where you hang out.” Brian shakes his head. “I guess she was pretty determined to find you.”

Frank sighs. “I’m not running from her, Brian. We’re still married. It’s fine,” Frank insists.

“No, Frank. You’ve been too happy,” Brian argues. “And I don’t trust her. She seemed really cagey when she came into the office to ask about you. She wanted to know where you were living and Christa told her employee information is confidential. She seemed to think the fact that she’s still technically your wife should make a difference. She was pissed when we wouldn’t tell her.”

Frank snorts. “Yeah, she has a temper.”

Brian nods and Bob says, “She’s been persistent. I swear to God she loitered in my store for almost an hour today trying to get me to spill shit about you. I finally had to tell her to buy something or I was going to call security.”

Frank is stunned, he had no idea. “You guys weren’t going to tell me?”

Bob waves his hand in Elissa’s direction. “I fucking knew we wouldn’t have to. Here she is. She isn’t going away.”

Ray says softly, “We were trying to protect you is all, Frank.”

Frank turns and looks at Mikey who hasn’t said a word. “Did you know?”

Mikey nods and sighs, “Ray told me when I got here this afternoon. That might have had something to do with why I got drunk so fast.”

Frank rubs at his eyes. “But I don’t understand. Why didn’t she just call me? I would have answered her call. I’ve never ignored calls from her.”

Mikey grabs at Frank’s hands so he can’t dig his fists into his eyes anymore as Brian says, “Christa and I asked her the same thing. She said her phone got turned off and she had to get a new number. She said she was afraid you wouldn’t answer a call from a number you didn’t know.”

“Ha!” Frank surprises himself with the sarcastic laugh. He so does not want to be dealing with this right now. “All she’d have to do is leave a message. I’d call her back if she wanted to talk to me, always. She’s my wife for fuck’s sake.”

Mikey flinches as Frank says that, but he quickly tries to cover it, grabbing his beer and taking a long deep drink of it.

Ray nudges Frank’s foot under the table. “She heard you laugh just now, man. She keeps looking over here.”

Frank sighs and looks at Mikey, who’s staring down at the table. Frank picks up his beer and finishes drinking it all in one go and then grabs Mikey’s face and kisses him hard. He whispers firmly, “I love you,” into his ear and slowly slides out of the booth.

Elissa’s looking right at him when he turns around and Frank feels like he’s been punched in the gut. She smiles at him tentatively as he walks over to the bar and breathes out, “Frank,” as soon as he’s within earshot. The way she says his name, it’s… It’s so fucking sweet and soft and her eyes are shining like she might cry, which is crazy because she never cries. Once he’s near enough, Frank opens his hands to take hers in his and squeezes them. They’re cold, her hands are always so cold. Frank looks down and sees that she’s still wearing her rings. When he looks up, she bites her lip and lets out a tiny laugh as she pulls him in for a tight hug, burying her face in his neck, like she always used to do when she got scared about something. She seems to read his mind and whispers, “I was so scared, Frank.”

Frank rubs her back for a few seconds before pulling back to look in her eyes. He places a palm on her cheek and asks, “Why were you scared, baby?”

She puts her hand over his and turns her head to the side. “I was afraid...” She takes a deep breath. “Hambone said you were really happy when you went over there to buy back your guitar, he said… he said you seemed happier than he’s ever seen you. I just…” She squeezes his hand. “I was afraid you had moved on. I thought you might not be happy to see me.”

Frank pets at her face and rubs his thumb over her lip. “No, it’s fine. It’s fine. I’m always happy to see you, you know that.”

She nods her head and swallows. “I know.” She smiles at him for real now and it’s one of her genuine smiles. It took Frank a long time to learn the difference between her ‘I want something’ smiles and her ‘I’m actually happy’ smiles and this is the real deal.

Frank finally sits down on the barstool next to hers. “Lissy, why didn’t you just call me?”

She shrugs, looking down at the bar. “I don’t know, I guess… Well Hambone said you made all these new friends and were living with a couple of guys down here. I mean,” she looks up at him and smiles again, “I’m really glad you’re happy and that things are going good for you. Like, if you were all settled down here, I thought you wouldn’t want to talk to me.”

Frank grabs at her hand and holds it. “It’s not like I could ignore you,” Frank says softly. “You’re still my wife.”

Elissa seems to freeze momentarily as Frank says this, but then she just nods and takes a sip of her beer.

Frank feels a hand on his back and turns to find Mikey standing behind him looking extremely skittish. “So we’re going over to the Beach Bowl if you wanna go bowling with us.” He lifts a hand and waves awkwardly at Elissa.

Frank jumps up. “Right! Mikey, this is Elissa. Elissa, this is Mikey.”

Lissy smiles and shakes Mikey’s hand. “Is this who you’ve been staying with?” Frank nods and she says brightly to Mikey, “It’s so nice of you to let Frank stay with you this summer.”

Mikey steals his hand back and pushes his hair behind his ear, a nervous gesture. “Well, we’re happy to have him.” He smiles but it doesn’t reach his eyes. “It’s no trouble at all.”

Elissa puts her hand on Frank’s shoulder and says to him, “I understand if you already had plans with your friends, but I was hoping we might have some time to talk?” She bites her lip and looks hopeful.

“Right,” Frank says as he takes a few steps toward the door with Mikey. “Right, so rain check, Mikey?” He looks at Mikey pleadingly. With his eyes he tries to somehow communicate, ‘Please don’t be upset.’

Mikey seems to get it as he nods and says, “That’s fine, Frankie. I’ll see you at home later.”

Frank can’t help but notice the emphasis that Mikey puts on the word, home. Frank says, “Okay, later,” and before he can let himself think too hard about it, he leans in and pecks Mikey on the lips before he turns to walk away. Mikey looks surprised, but he squeezes Frank’s hand. Frank watches him and the other guys leave, and figures that it’s really no big deal for Lissy to figure out what’s going on since she’s always known that Frank is bi.

When he turns around to look at her, she doesn’t seem the slightest bit bothered by his display with Mikey. She just smiles at him and pats the barstool next to hers, beckoning him to come sit down.

*_*_*

Elissa talks Frank’s ear off for over an hour. She catches him up on the lives of all their mutual friends that Frank hasn’t talked to since he started at Carnival. Then she tells him that she’s enrolled in two summer courses at the community college in Belleville and she’s really enjoying them. She’s thinking about getting a certificate in marketing since direct marketing firms seem to be the only places doing a lot of hiring in their area. She gets a funny look in her eye when she says, “I can’t just work at the diner forever.”

This surprises Frank somewhat, because he’d always thought she liked her job at the diner. She’s still working there now and has a lot of new stories to tell. She’s always had a lot of stories to tell from the diner. She used to come home every night with funny ones. Listening to her talk about work was often one of the highlights of Frank’s evening. Hearing her stories now feels a little bit like coming home, after going so long without listening to her bold laughter and sarcastic tone as she bemoans the trials of waiting on rude customers. It’s nice.

By the time they leave Summertime it’s almost eleven. It turns out Elissa doesn’t have a hotel room for tonight; she had been planning on driving home if she couldn’t find Frank today. Frank convinces her not to try to drive home tonight since it’s so late and it’s still raining and also Frank really just doesn’t want her to go yet. He can’t quite remember the last time she was in such a good mood without that crazy manic glint in her eye. She seems like she really is doing well. She seems… healthy.

They drive over to Mikey’s house in her car. He’s still not home when they stumble, laughing, through the front door, but Pugsley’s waiting just inside. Lissy bends down to pet him and he actually snarls at her. Frank is taken aback. Pugsley’s never done anything like that before. He reprimands Pugsley and apologizes to Lissy, and after they’ve been in the house for five minutes and Pugsley still won’t stop growling at her, Frank finally has to shut him up in the attic.

Frank comes back into the kitchen where Lissy’s drinking a glass of water, leaning against the counter. “Sorry about that. I don’t know what’s come over him,” he says.

She shrugs. “It’s okay. He always liked you the most, anyway. He was always your dog more than mine. I’m really glad he likes your friends so much.”

“Yeah, he does.” Frank smiles. “He’s happy here.”

“That’s good, Frank, I’m glad.” Elissa smiles at him again, one of the real smiles. Then she sets her glass down on the counter reaches her arms out to Frank.

Frank doesn’t even think. He just walks right into her embrace. She’s warm and soft and she smells so good. She smells the same. Frank never knew he could miss the smell of a person so much, didn’t even realize he’d missed it until faced with it again. They hug for a few moments before Elissa pulls back, she wraps her soft hand around the back of Frank’s neck, pulls his face close and kisses him. She’s not tentative or careful, she just goes for it. It’s deep and desperate and Frank feels like he’s drowning in it. He wants to cry because it feels so good to taste her again, to feel her body move against his.

They kiss against the kitchen counter for a few minutes before Elissa backs off, looking right into Frank’s eyes, she says, “Make love to me.” Frank nods, but doesn’t move, his brain slow in processing the request for something he never thought he’d get to have again. After a second Lissy asks, “Where’s the bedroom?”

This seems to wake Frank up. He pulls her down the hall to the extra bedroom and figures that for tonight, the two thousand-year-old mattress is going to have to do. “The bed is really uncomfortable,” he says apologetically as he pulls her into the room.

Elissa giggles as she shuts the door behind her and says, “I really don’t care.”

*_*_*

Frank wakes up alone and he knows. He doesn’t feel around on the bed to see if it’s still warm from her body. He doesn’t look around the room to see if her bag is still here. He doesn’t even have to open his eyes. He just knows. She’s gone.

He lies awake in the uncomfortable bed for a long time. He hears Mikey get up and shower and start the coffee. He wonders if maybe he can get away with pretending to be asleep until after Mikey leaves for work. The bed is really fucking uncomfortable, though, and his back fucking aches. He rolls over and reaches down on the floor to pull his phone out of his jeans pocket only to find that it’s after ten and he can still hear Mikey puttering around in the kitchen. Mikey was supposed to go in at nine today. Frank is glad he doesn’t have to go in until noon.

He finally has to get up when he needs to pee so badly that he can’t hold it anymore. He pulls on his clothes from yesterday and a quick glance out the window confirms what Frank already knew in his heart. Elissa’s car is gone. Frank quickly darts across the hall to the bathroom. After he’s done pissing, he washes his face and stares at himself in the mirror, trying to muster up the guts to face Mikey. His reflection doesn’t tell him anything helpful.

Mikey’s waiting for him in the hallway when he comes out of the bathroom. He says, “Hey,” and tries to hug him, but Frank evades his grasp. He pulls back, wrapping his arms around himself instead. Mikey doesn’t look hurt by the rejection, just sad.

Frank scratches the back of his neck and after a minute, says, “Aren’t you supposed to be at work?”

“I’m not going to work today, and neither are you.” Frank has never seen Mikey look as sad as he does right now.

Frank’s throat is dry as he croaks out, “Why not?”

“Just go look in the kitchen.” Mikey’s voice is flat.

Frank turns around and walks to the kitchen, his mind filled with so many things that could be wrong. He wonders briefly if something happened to Pugsley, but stops short in the doorway when he sees what’s on the table. There’s a large manila envelope with Frank’s name on it. As Frank gets closer, he reads that the return address is a divorce attorney firm. It’s one that Frank’s mom had suggested to him.

Next to the large envelope, there is a small white envelope that simply says ‘Frank’ on it in Elissa’s tiny neat script. Frank decides to open the large envelope first. It’s exactly what he figured - official file for divorce. The bundle of papers is actually not as big as Frank always imagined divorce papers would be. Frank scans the pages. Aside from the legal mumbo-jumbo that he can’t interpret, it all appears pretty straightforward. They each keep the belongings they had coming into the marriage, and since they have almost no joint assets, there’s very little stipulation for how things will be divided. Frank flips back to the first page and sees the reason listed as “irreconcilable differences.” He snorts and shakes his head and thinks, okay, fine, whatever. He would have reconciled. He wasn’t the one who refused to ever fucking bend on anything, the one who always had to be right and have the last fucking word. He thinks Lissy did a pretty damn good job of making sure she would have the last word on this. Frank knows he’ll have to have a lawyer explain to him what everything means, but from what he can understand, it all looks fair. It’s clear he can contest anything he doesn’t like so he’s not too worried about it. He decides that when he goes back to work tomorrow, he’ll ask Brian if he knows a good lawyer. Yeah, Brian’s probably the best person to ask about that.

He sighs and sets down the packet of papers before finally picking up the smaller envelope. He tears it open and pulls out the note card. Elissa used her fancy stationery. Something about that makes Frank want to cry before he even starts reading. He squeezes his eyes shut and forces himself to open them and look down and read.


Dear Frank,

In the last few months since we’ve been apart I’ve been able to do a lot of thinking and I’ve realized some important things. The most important thing I realized is that I settled when I married you. I was too young and for some reason I didn’t think I should aspire to any more than a simple life with you. I know you won’t understand because you’re always so damn content, but I’m not. I’ve never really been happy in our marriage and it’s my own fault because I got married too young to the first boy who showed interest.
I was wrong to do that. I was wrong because I know I’ve ended up hurting you, but most of all, I’ve hurt myself. I owe it to myself to find my own way, now, before it’s too late. I’m still young. I can do anything I want and I need to figure what that is on my own, without you.
I’m sorry if this hurts you, but I’m not sorry for ending it now. The longer we try to hang onto this sinking ship, the harder it’s going to be to swim away once we have no choice. I really think we were doomed from the start, Frank. We were never meant to be forever.

The lease on our apartment ends in the fall, but I’ve already moved out. Only your things are left, you’ll need to get them out by September 30th. I’ve had my rings appraised and I’m going to sell them to pay for the last three months’ rent so that you won’t have to worry about it. It’s the least I can do. I think you should sell your ring, too, and buy yourself something really nice with the money. Although, if what I’ve heard about your artist boyfriend is true, you don’t have to worry about money anymore.
I’m happy for you, I really am.

Lissy

It’s only when Frank feels Mikey’s hands landing softly on his shoulders that he realizes he’s crying, thick tears streaming down his cheeks. He lets Mikey pull him back into his chest and hook his chin over Frank’s shoulder, his hands rubbing up and down Frank’s arms as he says, “Shhhhh.”

Frank wipes at his nose with his arm. “I don’t understand.” It comes out wet and sounding like a sob. “This doesn’t make any sense.” He waves Elissa’s note around and Mikey grabs it out of his hand. Frank turns around and buries his face in Mikey’s neck and he’s helpless to stop the sobs that wrack his body. Mikey holds him still, rubbing his back to try and stop him from shaking. Frank knows Mikey’s reading the letter, he doesn’t care. He wants Mikey to read it actually because right now it doesn’t feel real to him and he hopes that if Mikey reads it all too, the whole thing will feel less surreal.

Mikey keeps shushing him and rubbing his back even as he reads. After a second Frank hears him set the card down on the table and he brings both arms around to hold Frank tightly. “Oh, Frankie.” He puts one hand on Frank’s head and rocks him gently from side to side, seemingly prepared to hold on until Frank calms down, whenever that may be.

Eventually Frank pulls back, wiping at his face with his sleeve. He looks pleadingly up at Mikey. “She says she settled. She was never happy with me. How could she say that? How could she say she was never happy? We were happy. I remember…” Frank shakes his head. “I remember being happy.” Frank swallows and feels dizzy and for a second he thinks he’s going to fall, but Mikey has him around the waist, holding him steady. “She’s selling her rings. She doesn’t even want to keep them. Do you know how long I saved up for those rings?”

Mikey just shakes his head and pulls Frank close again. Frank looks up and realizes that Mikey’s crying, too. Mikey takes a couple of deep breaths and says, “Breathe, Frank.” Frank does. He takes deep breaths along with Mikey and it helps. He lets Mikey steer him to the living room where he lays down on the couch with his feet in Mikey’s lap. Mikey massages Frank’s feet and listens to him go on and on about Elissa. He talks about how they played together as children and how they snuck around as teenagers when Lissy’s parents still thought she was too young to date. He tells Mikey about their first time in the backseat of Frank’s first car. He talks about their wedding and how crazy Lissy and Frank’s mom went with all the planning and how beautiful Elissa looked on their wedding day. He talks about how they used to go to Atlantic City for a weekend every summer and how much fun they always had. He tells Mikey all of this and more and Mikey just listens.

*_*_*

Frank must have fallen asleep at some point; because he wakes up when Mikey insists he needs to lie down in bed so he won’t be sore later. Mikey makes him put on pajama pants and a soft t-shirt and drink a glass of water before he lies down. Frank almost breaks down when the first t-shirt Mikey hands him is one Elissa gave him for his birthday last year. Mikey grabs it back immediately and puts it somewhere out of sight and returns with a t-shirt of Gerard’s instead. Pugsley cuddles up with Frank and licks his hands and arms for a long time before he settles down.

The next time Frank wakes up it’s dark out and it’s the doorbell that wakes him. Pugsley jumps up to go see who’s here. Frank hears Mikey letting in Bob and Ray and listens as they talk about what kind of pizza to order and start watching Rocky Horror. He lays there by himself in the dark and doesn’t really think about anything. He tries not to anyway. After the pizza arrives, Mikey turns on the hall light and comes to stand in the doorway. “Frank, you should come have some pizza. We got the kind you like, all the veggies and no cheese.”

Frank turns his head to look at Mikey standing shadowed in the doorway, the light from the hall falling in shafts around him. “How did you know I was awake?”

“Pugsley told me.”

Frank groans at the bad humor. “I’m not hungry.”

Mikey comes into the room and stands at the side of the bed. “I don’t care. Come eat pizza and say hi to your friends, they’re worried about you.” Frank rolls over onto his side and looks up at Mikey. Mikey runs his fingers through Frank’s hair and grabs his hand. “Just for a little while. You can’t just not eat.”

Frank feels like he wants to cry again. He nuzzles his head up into Mikey’s hand and sighs. “Okay.” He stands up slowly and lets Mikey hug him for a long time before they walk out to the kitchen together.

Bob and Ray are at the table eating. Bob gives Frank a wry smile and a wave, but Ray gets up and comes around the table to envelope Frank in a tight hug. It’s nice, really nice, actually. Frank sits down and forces himself to eat a slice of pizza while the guys talk around him. No one asks him any annoying questions or makes him talk about anything. While Ray is telling them about something that happened in Frank’s store today, something occurs to him, “Ray, you were supposed to be off today. Did you work in my store for me?”

Ray nods. “Of course. Brian called me early this morning and told me what happened. I’m taking your shift again tomorrow, too.”

Frank shakes his head. “No, no Ray, you don’t have to do that.” Not that Frank actually wants to go to work tomorrow. He just feels bad.

Ray shrugs. “It’s fine, I don’t mind. I’m going to end up with some nice overtime. It works out well for me.”

Frank looks at Bob and realizes he must have worked for Mikey today. He and Ray had been talking yesterday about doing something together on their day off. Frank says, “You’ll be getting overtime, too, I guess?”

Bob nods. “Yeah, Brian’s not too happy about that part of it, but he basically ordered Mikey not to leave you alone. I think he knew last night, though. Brian’s sharp. I think the whole time we were bowling, he was making a plan in his head for how to cover for you guys today.”

Frank snorts. “So Brain could see it from a mile away, but I couldn’t? What the fuck is wrong with me?”

Ray says, “Love makes people stupid sometimes, Frank. It’s nothing that’s wrong with you. It just means you have a big heart.”

Frank says, “I’d like to trade mine in for a smaller one, please.”

Ray looks pained. “Don’t say that.”

Mikey rubs Frank’s neck while he finishes eating. Once his slice of pizza is gone, Frank’s had about all the company he can take. He thanks the guys and goes to take a hot bath while they finish watching the movie. They don’t stay late, saying goodnight as soon as it’s finished, but Frank’s glad they came. He realizes it’s actually quite comforting to have people around doing normal things, even if he doesn’t want to actually be with them for very long.

While Frank’s in the bath, he pulls his ring off and sets it on the side of the tub. He just looks at it while he lies there in the cooling water. He thinks about how crazy it is that this ring used to symbolize something so special and important and now it’s just a piece of jewelry. It’s weird how that happens. He carries it with him when he goes to get in bed and sets it on the nightstand. He thinks he could sell it, but it’s not worth nearly as much as Elissa’s rings were. It was more important to them that hers be nice. If he’s lucky, he’ll get a couple hundred bucks for it, tops.

When Frank rolls over to cuddle with Pugsley and try to sleep, he thinks about his naked finger and how strange it feels. He thinks about the ‘not knowing’. He decides it’s perfectly appropriate for him to be feeling weird not having his ring on, because if what that ring symbolized was the ‘knowing’ then there’s no way in hell he should be wearing it now. Because Frank has never felt more unsettled and lost in all his life. He doesn’t know anything anymore.

*_*_*

Frank wakes up when Mikey crawls into bed. He doesn’t know what time it is, but he’s pretty sure it’s late, later than normal even for Mikey.

Frank reaches out because he doesn’t think Mikey knows he’s awake but he wants him to know. He needs to touch him. He grabs Mikey’s hand and when Mikey comes to lie down facing him, he strokes through Frank’s hair gently and asks, “How are you?”

Frank shrugs. He can smell whiskey on Mikey’s breath. After a few seconds of silence, he says, “She just wanted one last fuck.”

Mikey sighs and furrows his brow. “Oh, Frank, she’s just so young, she doesn’t know what she wants.”

“I know, I know.” Frank does know that but it doesn’t help. He hates that he couldn’t be what she needed. All that time, everything he did for her didn’t matter. He was never going to be enough. “I fell asleep,” he says and Mikey looks at him quizzically. “I fell asleep right away after… last night after we…” Frank coughs and clears his throat. “She was with me in bed when I fell asleep, but I don’t think she ever slept. I mean, I think she left pretty quickly.”

Mikey nods. “She knows you. She knows you tend to sleep really hard after sex.”

Frank swallows, “Did you see her? Was she still here when you got back?”

Mikey shakes his head. “No. When I got back at two she was already gone.”

Frank breathes out a long sigh. He should have known. How could he not have seen what she was doing? He snorts. “Pugsley snarled at her, wouldn’t stop growling.”

“Really?” Mikey quirks up his lip. “Smart dog. Is that why he was in the attic?”

Frank nods. “Yup. I should have listened to my dog.” He rubs his face around on the pillow and scoots closer to Mikey.

Mikey rubs his shoulder. “Did you think she wanted to get back together?”

“I don’t know.” Frank shrugs. “Maybe, but that wasn’t the point. It didn’t matter, that’s not what I was thinking about.”

Mikey swallows. His voice is nearly inaudible as he asks, “What were you thinking about?”

Frank feels a tear on his cheek and wonders for a second how it got there. How is she able to bring him to tears so quickly when she’s not even here? “She just wanted me, you know?” When Mikey doesn’t say anything Frank continues, “She just… She was really happy and happy to be with me and she was looking at me like… like she loved me. I can’t…” Frank wipes at the tears on his cheeks. “I can’t remember the last time she looked at me like that. Mikey, I know I didn’t show it and maybe I didn’t even realize how much until last night, but I’ve really missed her.”

Mikey sighs. “I know.”

“I wasn’t thinking about what it meant, I just wanted to be with her. I just wanted it to be like before, during the happy times.” Frank pushes his head into the crook of Mikey’s neck. “She was lying when she said she was never happy, she was, I know she was.”

Mikey’s hand comes up and holds Frank’s head close. “I know, Frank. Of course she was happy. She was with you, how could she not be happy?” Mikey nuzzles the side of his face. “You excel at making people happy. If she became unhappy later it was because of something inside her. It was nothing to do with you.”

Frank starts to shake as he cries again, listening to Mikey’s words. He wishes he could believe them. Mikey simply holds him close and shushes him and pets him until he calms down and finally falls asleep again.

*_*_*

Frank wakes up because Pugsley jumps off the bed and runs out of the room, barking like crazy. As he blinks his eyes open, Frank can see that it’s right before dawn. The sky outside the window is just beginning to lighten. Pugsley barks and barks and Frank can’t figure what could be causing him to make so much noise at this time in the morning.

Mikey groans and rolls over to look at the clock. Frank is surprised to hear the front door open at the same time that Mikey mumbles, “Must be Gee.”

This startles Frank into full wakefulness. He sits up and says, “What?!”

Mikey yawns and answers, “When I called Gee, he said he would probably get home around this time.”

Frank looks at Mikey, stunned. “You called him?”

Mikey shrugs and says, “Of course,” like it’s the most obvious thing in the world.

Frank is out of bed and down the hall in seconds and before his brain even has a chance to catch up he’s looking at Gerard, who’s knelt down on the floor to pet Pugsley. Frank breathes out, “Gee,” and only then does he realize he’s crying again.

Gerard immediately stands and pulls Frank into his arms. He doesn’t say anything, just holds Frank close and rubs his back. Frank feels Pugsley jumping up on their legs and running around them in circles. After a minute, Mikey comes and shushes Pugsley, picking him up and taking him away back to the bedroom. It’s completely quiet for a few minutes while Frank just cries into Gerard’s shoulder and can’t believe he’s feeling this embrace again. He knows it’s ridiculous since it’s only been two weeks since he’s seen him, but it feels like it’s been years. Finally, Frank pulls back and looks up at Gerard’s face. He hasn’t shaved. He doesn’t exactly have a beard, but there are scraggly hairs all over his cheeks and chin and it makes him look rumpled and unkempt. It’s cute. Frank puts his hand up on Gerard’s cheek and feels the soft facial hair. Gerard nuzzles into his hand. When Frank can’t stand the silence anymore, he says, “You came back.”

Gerard nods. “I did.”

Frank’s brain finally catches up to everything that’s happened and what Gerard standing in the front hallway embracing him actually means. “You cut your trip short.”

“Yes.”

“Why did you-” Frank starts but then realizes it’s a dumb question. He knows why Gerard came back early, because Mikey called him and told him about Elissa and the divorce papers and the letter. A sick feeling wells in Frank’s belly because he’s certain that Mikey would have told Gee everything, which means that Gerard knows Frank slept with Elissa. Frank shakes his head, upset at that realization and also because Gerard cut his trip in half and came running back home for Frank. “You didn’t have to do that.”

Gerard pulls back slightly and takes both of Frank’s hands in his. His tone is deadly serious when he speaks. “Frank, I’m not going to argue with you about this. I came home because you need me and it’s fine that you need me. I came home because the people I love need me. So this is where I need to be.” He puts his hands on the sides of Frank’s face. “It’s where I want to be. Okay?” Frank nods and Gerard leans down and kisses him. It’s wet with Frank’s tears, but Gee doesn’t seem to care. He keeps holding Frank close and kisses him gently, tenderly. When the kiss breaks and they pull apart, Gerard says, “I’m going to bring in some of my bags from the car. Will you start a pot of coffee for us?”

Frank says, “Yeah, sure,” and squeezes Gerard’s hands before going into the kitchen.

Making coffee is nice. The routine soothes Frank and he’s completely stopped crying by the time Gerard comes in after making a couple of trips to the bedroom with his bags. “Do you need help bringing in more stuff?” Frank asks. “I can help you.”

Frank begins to rise from where he’d sat down at the table, but Gerard stops him with a hand on his shoulder. “No, it’s fine. Everything else can wait until later.”

Gerard moves around behind Frank and massages his shoulders while they wait for the coffee to brew. It isn’t long before the silence begins to be too much for Frank. He knows he’ll risk irritating Gerard by asking about it, but he needs to. He needs the reassurance like he’s never needed to be reassured of anything before. “You said umm…” Frank reaches up and holds onto Gerard’s hand. “You said, ‘the people you love.’ Did you mean-”

Frank doesn’t get to finish his question because Gerard says, “You and Mikey. I meant you and Mikey.” Gerard turns Frank’s chair out slightly and then comes and sits in the chair next to his, shifting it and pulling it close so that their knees are touching. He takes Frank’s hands in his. His voice is solemn when he says, “I should have told you how I felt before I left.”

“Yes.” Frank bites his lip and shakes his head in agitation as he speaks. “I wasn’t sure, I mean, I thought but…”

Gerard wraps his hand around the back of Frank’s neck, stilling him. “But?”

Frank sighs. “But it’s hard with both of you!” Frank hopes his voice doesn’t sound as whiny to Gerard as it does to himself. “Because, like… you and Mikey are a set. That’s what he said.” Gerard nods and waits for Frank to continue. “So, I’m just still trying to understand because I know Mikey loves me and I know you love Mikey and what I don’t know is if you love me because Mikey loves me and you love everything Mikey loves or if you love me because… well, because you love me.” Gerard sits back a bit and looks troubled, but doesn’t say anything right away, so Frank says, “Mikey says you do, but you… you left. I mean I know it wasn’t about me. I do. I just really missed you and I was afraid I’d gone and let myself get all attached again to someone who’s not as attached to me.” Frank scratches his neck and looks down at his lap. “I know it’s dumb, I just… I’m kinda messed up right now about like… love and stuff… really messed up.”

It’s quiet for a minute. Gerard appears to be lost in thought. Then he leans forward minutely and rubs his hands up and down Frank’s thighs several times before saying, “Okay.” He nods and begins to stand as he says, “We need coffee for this.”

Frank doesn’t register all the words. He just knows Gerard is moving away from him and he’s not sure he can take that right now. He grabs his wrist tightly and says, “What?”

“Shhhhh.” Gerard sits back down and holds Frank’s hands. “I’m just getting us coffee, okay? It was a really long drive and I need to gather my thoughts.” He starts to get up again but then leans back in and says, “It’s going to be all right, Frank.”

Frank breathes out, “Okay,” and lets go of Gerard’s hands. As he watches Gerard pull two mugs out of the cabinet, he notices the deep circles under his eyes and sees that his skin has an ashen pallor. He realizes Gerard probably hasn’t slept since Mikey called him. He probably just got in the car and drove straight home. Frank feels horrible that Gerard’s getting coffee so he can stay up and talk to him. “Gee, we don’t have to talk right now, if you’re too tired. Do you just want to go to bed?”

Gerard shakes his head as he pours coffee into the mugs. “No. I had a lot of time to think while I was driving, so I want to go ahead and talk about this.” He adds cream and sugar to each cup. “Even though I’m tired, I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to get my brain to turn off to be able to sleep.” Gerard comes back and hands Frank a mug, continuing, “And anyway, as much as I know you’re hurting and I don’t want to make it worse, I do have some questions for you about what happened.” Frank swallows as he takes the mug. His hands are shaking and Gerard holds them steady for a few seconds before letting go. He whispers, “It’s okay.”

Frank nods and takes a drink of the coffee. It’s good. The flavor and aroma are comforting. Frank closes his eyes and relaxes, trying to still the storm of his thoughts. He’s grateful when Gerard lights up two cigarettes, handing one to Frank. Frank looks at it strangely for a minute. “You know, I haven’t been smoking as much since you’ve been gone?”

Gerard smirks as he inhales a long drag of his cigarette. When he breathes out, he says, “Yeah, that’s what Mikey said. He says I started smoking more after you got here, so perhaps we’re a bad influence on each other.” Gerard puts down his coffee and picks up Frank’s hand, intertwining their fingers. “I don’t care, though.” He smiles. “I like smoking, and I like you.”

Frank squeezes Gerard’s hand. “I like you, too.” His voice comes out dry. He clears his throat and says, “I love you, Gee.”

“I know. I know you do, but it’s really nice to hear you say it. And as to your question from before – I love you because I love you.” Gerard scoots closer and cards his fingers through Frank’s hair. It gives him the nice kind of chills. It’s soothing. Gerard continues, “I’m really glad that Mikey loves you so much and that was definitely what made me interested at first, but… I really believe that if we had met somewhere else, some other way - I would have fallen in love with you all on my own.”

Frank nuzzles his head into Gerard’s hand and has to ask the next question, even though it’s awkward. “Would you have brought me home to Mikey and tried to share me with him? Or is that more Mikey’s thing than yours?”

Gerard surprises Frank by smiling at the question. He scratches Frank’s scalp a little more before taking his hand back. “I would have tried. It’s not just Mikey, it’s both of us.” He picks his mug up off the table and takes several swallows before continuing. “We’ve both dated people separately from each other, but we’ve always had this… I don’t know - dream I guess.” He waves his cigarette around, gesturing as he talks and Frank watches the smoke swirling around the room. It’s pretty. “We always imagined how incredible it would be to find someone to share. That’s always been something we were looking for when we dated people.”

Frank hesitates for a beat, but then asks, “Would you break up with someone who didn’t want to be shared?”

Gerard shrugs. “Usually that wasn’t the reason it ended. Most of the time, it was something else that kept us from wanting to get serious with them.” He puts down his cigarette and turns all his attention on Frank before he goes on. “But see Frank, most people don’t hang around long after they find out what we’re interested in. It’s not something you can offer someone and then expect them to say, ‘No, I don’t want to be shared between you and your brother, but I’m happy to keep dating just you.’ Most people got freaked out and took off running because it’s… well, it’s weird.” Frank is about to reply when Gerard continues, “And the ones that were interested almost always just wanted the sex. They were turned on by the idea of doing something taboo and illicit. It was never really about their feelings for me and Mikey.”

Frank frowns, furrowing his brow. “Did that happen a lot? That people just wanted taboo sex?” Frank hates to think of people treating Gee and Mikey so callously when they both put so much of their hearts into everything they do.

Gerard shakes his head. “No, just a couple times. We got more careful after that about who we got involved with.”

“But you guys…” Frank takes a drag of his cigarette as he tries to think back. “I don’t feel like you guys waited that long with me.”

Gerard finishes draining what’s left in his mug and smiles. “No, we didn’t. I wanted to wait but Mikey was so certain of you. Frank, it was like love at first sight for him. He went on and on about you that first night after you guys met. He was so sure right from the start that you were the one for us.” Gerard picks up Frank’s left hand and squeezes it. “And he was right.”

Frank feels a tear trickle unbidden down his cheek. He wipes at it angrily with his right hand. “I thought I was the one for Elissa. How could I have been so stupid?”

Gerard’s face hardens. “You’re not stupid, Frank. You were just young and wrong. Even smart people are wrong sometimes, and young people are wrong even more. The point-” Gerard stops short and takes a long, deep breath - Frank imagines him counting to ten in his head before he goes on - “The point is that you’re ours now. You belong with us.” When Frank doesn’t respond right away, Gerard says, “You know that, right? Please tell me you know that.”

Frank swallows. “I do. I know.” He can’t say anymore, just wipes at his idiotic tears and finishes his cigarette.

Gerard seems relieved and turns his chair so that he can pull Frank to lean against him. “I should have… we should have talked about all this before I left, I…” He puts his arm around Frank’s shoulder and holds him close. “I was so afraid that we were pressuring you. I thought it was too soon, but…”

Gerard doesn’t finish and Frank looks up at him questioningly. “But?”

Gerard takes one last drag of his cigarette and puts it out. Then he puts both his arms around Frank and clasps his hands together, holding Frank tight. “But I can’t help but wonder if… if we had established all this before I left or if I hadn’t gone at all - if maybe you wouldn’t have been so keen to jump back into bed with Elissa after everything she did to you.”

Fingers of guilt crawl up Frank’s spine. He’s been trying to ignore them since he woke up alone yesterday, but he clearly can’t anymore. All he can think to say to Gerard is, “I’m sorry I did that.”

Gerard squeezes him and says darkly, “I know you’re sorry, Frank. That’s been clear since I first looked at you when I got home.” Frank shivers and Gerard loosens his hold a little bit, sighing. “I know you’re sorry, but you need to tell Mikey that. And what I really want to know is why you did it. What were you thinking? Did you think she wanted you back? Were you going to go back to that?” Gerard nuzzles his head against Frank’s and Frank thinks Gerard might be crying. “I’m just trying to understand. I know you really loved her and I know she’s sick, so maybe you tried to excuse her behavior because of that. But when I left for my trip you had me convinced that you were moving on… that you were going to be calling a divorce lawyer any day. What happened?”

Frank’s thoughts are a jumbled mess. He has no idea how to answer Gerard. He knows all the questions are justified, but he has nothing to say for himself. He’s feeling nearly hysterical, but all that comes out is, “I told you I’m just really fucked up right now about all this stuff.” His voice doesn’t even sound like his own.

Gerard shakes his head and says quietly, “That isn’t an answer.”

Frank’s voice is wet with tears when he says eventually, “I wish I could take it back. I didn’t… I would never want to hurt Mikey like that, you know that.”

“I know.”

Frank speaks his thoughts aloud, even though they make no sense. “I almost feel like it wasn’t me that did it. I feel like it was me from a year ago, not me now. Is that crazy?”

Gerard sighs. “No, it’s not.”

Frank feels encouraged as he tries to explain. “It was almost like… going back in time. And I didn’t forget everything that’s happened. I just forgot… I forgot about how angry I was at her. And I forgot about how it would make Mikey feel.” Frank closes his eyes as he remembers. “I was only thinking about me and her.” He opens his eyes and looks up at Gerard. “I told Mikey that.”

Gerard slowly smoothes Frank’s hair back from his face. “That’s good. Mikey’s pretty understanding about stuff most of the time, but I still think… I don’t think you realize how much it hurt him. I think he’s pushed all his feelings down because he’s so worried about you.”

Frank feels so weary and sad hearing that. Now that he’s letting himself think about it, he can’t stand how badly he’s hurt Mikey. “I’ll talk to him, I’ll tell him… I’ll tell him how sorry I am.”

“That would be a good start, but Frank…” Gerard moves back so that he can look Frank in the face more easily. “If you… I mean knowing what you know now – that it was just a goodbye fuck and that Mikey and I are totally committed to you – would you do it again?”

Frank shakes his head before Gerard even finishes speaking. “No, of course not. I wouldn’t even touch her now.” Frank motions toward the pack of cigarettes and Gerard hands him one and lights it for him. As he exhales the first drag, he says, “I should have known it was a goodbye fuck. Maybe I thought…” He tries to think of the right words. “It felt more like reconciliation. Not like, ‘let’s get back together’ reconciliation, but maybe, ‘let’s be friends’, you know? And that…” He takes another deep drag. “That felt really nice. I didn’t know it was just a ‘let me fuck you and then walk out of your life forever, oh, and also tell you that you were a shitty husband while I do it’ fuck…” He waves his hand, trying to illustrate what he means. As an afterthought, he adds, making air quotes as he speaks, “And also, ‘I never loved you and was never happy with you.’” He shakes his head. “Yeah, I didn’t know that’s what it was. So definitely not worth hurting you guys for that fuck. What I thought I was doing, I thought you guys would understand.”

Gerard leans closer to Frank again and says, “We do understand, Frank, it’s just hard.”

“No, I know you do.” Frank needs to explain this right, and he feels like he keeps failing. “I just don’t want you to think I was being callous or that it was some kind of dirty revenge sex. I just… I just wanted to make love to my wife, you know?” He scratches his head. “She… she asked me to make love to her. I couldn’t say no.” Frank shakes his head, this isn’t coming out right. “I mean, I wanted to make love to her, but it was because she was acting like the best version of herself. The girl I fell in love with.”

It’s silent for a little while as they sit together, holding each other. Frank finally wipes all the tear stains off his face and finishes his cigarette and coffee, even though it’s long since gone cold. After he sets his mug back down on the table and snuggles into the side of Gerard’s body, Gee says softly, “I hope you know you weren’t a shitty husband.”

Frank huffs out a wry laugh and asks, “How could you possibly know that?”

“Because I know you, and I know that you have the biggest heart of any person I’ve ever met – big enough to love both me and Mikey completely and perfectly.” Gerard wraps his arm around Frank and squeezes. “And I know that you put all of your heart into everything you do. Elissa was damn lucky to have you, and as far as I’m concerned it’s her very grave loss that she’s letting you go like this.” He shakes his head. “If anyone is an idiot in all of this, it’s her. But I’m also glad for that because it means that Mikey and I get you.” His voice softens. “We are the two luckiest bastards alive for having found you. No one else on this earth could love us as well as you do.”

Frank cries again, listening to Gerard’s words, but he’s not hysterical or anything, just overwhelmed. No one’s ever said anything like that to him before and he isn’t sure what to do with all the feelings that well up inside him. After a few minutes, he says, “I don’t deserve you guys.”

Gerard rests his head on top of Frank’s and says, “I’m going to start ignoring you when you say shit like that from now on, okay? Because it’s so ridiculously untrue that I refuse to even dignify it with a response.”

Frank finds his lips curling up into the smallest of smiles and he says, “Okay.”

*_*_*

Frank and Gerard sleep most of the day. Mikey has to go in to work now that Gerard’s home to stay with Frank. Frank doesn’t get a chance to talk to him before he leaves, but he’s determined that tonight he will. He needs to apologize for real. He loves Mikey and he doesn’t want to leave this hanging between them.

When he wakes up at two in the afternoon to pee, Gerard won’t let him go right back to bed like he wants to, instead forcing him to sit at the kitchen table and eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that Gerard makes for him.

It’s a bright, sunny day and the kitchen is flooded with warm sunlight and Frank can’t stand it. He feels silly about it, but he picks Gerard’s sunglasses up off the table and wears them while he eats. Gerard makes a face at him about it when he sits down with his own sandwich, but Frank just shrugs and says sarcastically. “The sun has no business disturbing me right now. It’s like it doesn’t even realize that I am in distress!”

Gerard smiles at him and says, “Stupid sun. Did you want me to close the shades?”

Frank looks down at where Pugsley is sunbathing on the floor inside the patch of sunlight coming in through the back door window and shakes his head. They finish their lunch in silence and Frank is glad Gerard didn’t let him go back to bed.

*_*_*

Frank falls asleep again on the couch with Gerard while he watches reruns of I Love Lucy for a couple hours. When the DVD ends, Gerard rubs at Frank’s shins and tells him to wake up.

Frank grumbles, “Don’t wanna,” and tries to curl up into the fetal position, but Gerard won’t let go of his legs.

“C’mon, Frankie, c’mere.” Gerard pulls him upright and kisses at his face until Frank yawns and opens his eyes.

Gerard smiles at him and runs his fingernails around on Frank’s cheek and says, “Hi.”

Frank stretches his arms up and smiles back. Despite everything that happened with Elissa, there’s no end to his happiness over having Gee back again so much sooner than he was expecting. He says, “Hi,” and grabs Gerard’s face, it’s still all scruffy and stubbly, and kisses him.

As they kiss, Gerard pulls them up to standing and as soon as Frank breaks off the kiss to breathe, Gerard turns and starts walking away, pulling Frank behind him toward the stairs up to the attic. Frank hesitates on the bottom step. Gerard turns around and looks at him questioningly. “Mikey said you wanted to see.”

“I do.” Frank swallows. “I just… did you want to show me? You don’t have to.”

“I do.” Gerard doesn’t even blink. “I just wasn’t sure if you were interested. I don’t like to force my art on people if it isn’t their thing.”

Frank squeezes Gerard’s hand and says, “Show me.”

Frank’s never been up here before. He’s come up to the top of the stairs to get Pugsley while Gerard was gone, but he always just turned around and came right back down again once he had the dog. Mikey told him from the start that Gerard thinks of this as his sanctuary and can be kind of weird about other people being up here, so Frank’s stayed away.

When he gets to the top of the stairs, he stops and looks around for a minute before stepping into the room. Gerard stays right behind him, his hand at the small of Frank’s back. The first word that comes to Frank’s mind upon looking around is that it’s ‘peaceful’. There are no busy posters or decorations on the light wood-paneled walls, and there’s very little clutter. Late afternoon sunlight shines in through the dormer windows on each side of the roof, making it feel bright and airy. Frank feels sort of like he’s floating up in the sky, even though he’s only come up one flight of stairs to get here.

“A lot of my materials are missing because I took them with me on my trip and they’re still in the car,” Gerard says from behind him, and Frank notices empty spaces on the low shelving units that stand along one wall of the room. The occupied bins hold paints and pencils and charcoals and paper and notebooks and all sorts of other things that Frank can’t quite identify. Gerard leads him over to a corner where there’s a stack of canvasses leaning against the wall. He leafs through them and tells Frank about the pictures one by one. They’re all beautiful and Frank is captivated. He knew Gerard had to be a genius to be able to make such a comfortable living doing this, but his work is truly brilliant; far beyond anything Frank could have imagined. After they’ve looked through all the canvasses, they sit down together in a window seat and Gerard flips through one of his sketchbooks, talking to Frank about his style and influences and telling him stories from art school.

Time flies and it’s growing dark outside before they realize it and they finally decide to head back downstairs to get some dinner. Gerard offers to cook, but Frank decides that he’s up for making pancakes. It’s easy and familiar and comforting to him. They don’t talk much while they eat, but as they’re finishing up, Frank surprises himself by saying, “I’m thinking about going to New York with Mikey this winter and I think you should come with us.”

Gerard simply looks at him blankly for a few seconds before he swallows and says, “What?”

It occurs to Frank that Mikey might not have had a chance to mention to Gerard yet about his plan to invite Frank to go to New York with him. Frank forges on ahead anyway. “I think I need a change, you know? Like, a big change, something really different so I can feel like I’m moving forward and not just being stagnant. I’m not… like trying to run away or avoid anything. I just think it’ll help me move on.” Frank thinks back over what he’s just said and asks, “Does that make sense?”

Gerard reaches across the table and takes Frank’s hand. “I get that. It makes sense and I don’t think it’s running. I don’t think you’re the type to run from things.”

Frank sighs. “My mom said that coming to live down here all summer was running. She said I needed to either fix things with Elissa or call a divorce lawyer.”

Gerard shakes his head and lifts Frank’s hand to his mouth, kissing the tan line where his ring used to be. “You aren’t running. It’s just change, is all. Change is inevitable and necessary. Coming here was the best kind of change for you. You needed to get away from a toxic situation.”

“I know.” Frank shakes his head. “I can see it so clearly now – how bad it was with Lissy. So why couldn’t I just call the damn lawyer? Why didn’t I tell her to leave when I saw her at Summertime?” Frank is so frustrated with himself, he could scream. He looks at Gerard pleadingly. “What’s wrong with me?”

Gerard narrows his eyes and looks thoughtful for a moment. “She made you feel good, right?”

Frank has to think about it before answering. “Yes… sometimes. But then…” He scratches his head trying to find the words to explain what she would do. “It would feel so good, like amazing to be with her sometimes. Like, she could make me feel like the most awesome guy alive - like I could rule the world if I wanted, but then…” Frank shivers remembering it. “But then it was like she would pull the rug right out from under me. She would get so angry and act so hurt – as if I’d done something horrible to her and I’d go crazy trying to figure out how I’d upset her so much, but like… she’d have me convinced it was me – that it was my fault.” Frank looks down at his lap. “And it always ended up being something so silly, if it was anything at all. I don’t… understand why I let her do that to me.”

It’s quiet for a few minutes and when Frank looks up Gerard is smoking and holding a lit cigarette out for him. He takes it gladly. Gerard says, “It was like… she was constantly pulling you close just so that she could push you away again, over and over.” Frank nods and Gerard looks at Frank thoughtfully and asks, “Do you think your mom realized it was that bad?”

“No,” Frank answers immediately. “No way she could have known, I think… I don’t think I ever really admitted it was that bad to anyone until just now. Being honest about it - it just makes me feel like such an idiot, you know?”

“Okay.” Gerard makes a sour face. “I’m not going to dignify the ‘idiot’ comment, but honestly, I think if your mom knew how bad it was, she wouldn’t say you were running, she’d be glad you were farther away from Elissa.”

“Maybe.” Frank shrugs. “Still doesn’t explain why I didn’t start the divorce process on my own. Why did I have to wait for Elissa to rip my heart out with it?”

Gerard’s face softens. “Because despite how much she hurt you, you loved her and wanted to make her happy. I think… I think it’s simply not in your nature to kick someone out of your life. That’s not a bad thing, Frank.” He takes a drag of his cigarette and adds reasonably, “Some people are separated for years before they’re finally able to let go enough to get divorced. It’s okay.”

Frank sighs. “I guess.” He takes a few drags of his cigarette and realizes that the conversation somehow got completely derailed from the reason he brought up going to New York to begin with. He picks up Gerard’s hand and kisses the middle inside of his palm. “But you should come with us, Gee.”

Gerard leans back and sighs, looking up at the ceiling. “I don’t know, Frank. I really love working here.”

Frank watches Gerard for a minute and then scoots his chair over next to his. He cuddles up into Gerard’s side. He seems surprised by it, but he automatically brings his arm around Frank and holds him close. Frank plays with a frayed spot on the thigh of Gerard’s jeans and says, “I know you miss your Grandmother.”

Gerard’s silent for a minute and then he says, “It’s not just that.”

He doesn’t say anymore, so Frank looks up at him and finds him rubbing at his face with the cigarette in his hand. Frank takes the cigarette away and asks, “What else, then?”

Gerard bites his lip, still staring at the ceiling. “I don’t know how to explain it.”

“Gee.” Gerard looks down at Frank. “If you wait here until you can make it make sense in words, you’ll never move on.” Gerard closes his eyes, but doesn’t argue. “You can always come back in the summer. You don’t have to get rid of the house. But we need you, we’re better with you.”

Gerard opens his eyes and says, “I know,” with a wry smile.

Frank puts out both their cigarettes and leans up, taking Gerard’s face in his hands. “I need you to help me move on from my divorce and I’ll help you move on from Elena’s death. You probably won’t ever stop missing her completely, but I think she would want you to go. Not just for us, but for you.”

Gerard kisses Frank’s forehead and says, “I think you’re probably right.”

*_*_*

By the time they finish cleaning up the kitchen, Frank is exhausted again and just wants to go to bed even though it’s not that late. After he washes his face and brushes his teeth, he crawls into bed and buries his face in the pillow. When he turns his head to try and get more comfortable, he notices his ring on the bedside table where he left it last night. He’s still staring it a little while later when Gerard comes in. He lifts the covers and slides in bed, scooting up behind Frank and begins massaging his shoulders. It feels nice and Frank finds himself relaxing into it after a minute, closing his eyes and trying not to think about the ring on the nightstand. He swallows and before he can over-think it too much, forces out, “Make love to me?”

Gerard slides a hand around Frank’s waist and pushes it up under his shirt, rubbing circles on his belly and pulls him close. He kisses the back of his neck and murmurs, “Anything you want.”

“Fuck me,” Frank gasps. “I want you to fuck me.”

The hand on Frank’s belly stills and Gerard says, “Are you sure?”

Frank nods. “Yes, I’m sure. That’s what I want.” He turns around in Gerard’s embrace, so that he can look into his eyes. They’re dark with lust, but Gerard looks unsure.

Gerard’s brow is furrowed as he says, “You don’t have to let me just because you let Mikey.”

“No, no.” Frank shakes his head. “I didn’t let Mikey, I wanted him to. And I want you now. I really do.” Frank’s voice rises. “I love you both. Can’t I have you both?”

“You can.” Gerard smiles, his forehead smoothing out, and puts his hand on Frank’s cheeks. “Of course you can. I just never…” He pets Frank’s face for a few seconds. “I never imagined that we could find someone who would love us both this much.”

Frank thinks that’s crazy. How could anyone not love them both so much? “Well, I do,” he says indignantly and then leans up to kiss Gee hard.

Frank surprises himself with his boldness as he pulls Gerard onto his side, hooking his leg up to wrap around his waist. He’s growing hard quickly and grinds up so Gerard can feel it. Gerard just goes with it, reaching down to grab Frank’s ass, kneading his hand into it. It makes Frank tremble. He wants this, he really does. He doesn’t want to waste time. Without saying anything, he pulls his shirt up and off over his head and then pushes his hands up under Gerard’s t-shirt. “Off, off. I need to feel your skin, your body.”

Gerard seems a little surprised by the demand, but complies quickly. He throws his shirt off the bed and when his hands come back, he grabs the sides of Frank’s face and holds it close. He searches Frank’s eyes before kissing him deeply. When he backs off, he says, “Okay, Frankie, okay. How do you want it? You’re in charge.”

Frank repeats, “I’m in charge,” and tries to think about what he wants.

Gerard pushes Frank’s hair back from his face and says softly, “Tell me what you want,” and then leans down to plant a dozen tiny kisses along his collarbone.

Frank enjoys the sensation of the wet little kisses, which soon turn to light nips and runs his hands around on Gerard’s shoulders. After a minute, he turns to lie on his back again and says, “I want, umm…” He spreads his legs and pulls Gerard by the hips to settle between them. “I want it like this.” Gerard smiles down at him and nuzzles in to kiss his neck again while working a hand down between them to slide inside Frank’s pajama pants. Gerard doesn’t tease at all, but works his hand right into Frank’s underwear and begins stroking him slowly. Frank wonders if he should feel weird about wanting Gee to fuck him the same way Mikey fucked him. Somehow, he thinks he should, but he doesn’t. All he knows is that he really liked doing it this way with Mikey and it suddenly occurs to him that he has plenty of time to try doing it differently with both of them later. This thought makes him feel so happy, he thinks he might burst from it, and he thinks that since there’s plenty of time to try it differently in the future, it’s perfectly fine for him to want it the same way for now. He knows he likes it this way and at the moment he needs it to be familiar and comfortable. He isn’t interested in kinky sex. He just needs Gerard to make love to him.

It isn’t long before Gerard pulls Frank’s underwear and pants all the way down and off. When he gets to the end of the bed, he gets out and stands to pull off his pants and briefs. He goes around to rifle through Mikey’s nightstand drawer where they keep all the sex stuff and comes back with lube and a strip of condoms. Settling between Frank’s spread thighs, he looks at Frank thoughtfully while running his hands up and down Frank’s legs. He says, “I want to open you up with my tongue.”

Frank nods. “Okay.”

Gerard leans forward and rests his body on top of Frank. He kisses Frank’s forehead and says, “Only with my tongue.”

Frank shivers and breathes out, “Okay.”

Gerard smiles slightly. “Yeah? You sure?”

Frank nods and says firmly, “Yes, definitely.”

Gerard grins and moves down the bed in seconds. He pushes Franks legs up to rest on his shoulders and bypasses Frank’s dick completely, instead licking Frank’s balls as if he’s a starving man and Frank’s balls are the only thing that can possibly satisfy him. He strokes Frank’s dick very slowly, but firmly, while he licks. Frank breathes as deep as he can and reminds himself to relax. It’s so good. It’s the best kind of attention; he revels in it, running his fingers through Gerard’s hair and sighing contentedly.

Eventually, Gerard moves down to lick Frank’s ass and this is the part Frank loves the most. Gerard’s tongue is so insistent and so fucking strong. Frank almost can’t believe what he can do with it. Frank relaxes his muscles and breathes deeply and has no trouble letting Gerard’s tongue in. Gerard works the tiny muscle around in Frank’s hole for what feels like ages, he gets in deeper than should be possible and Frank feels Gerard’s lips and teeth pressed up tight against his ass. It should feel wrong, but it doesn’t. It feels crazy and impossible and so, so good. It’s like no other feeling ever and Frank can’t get enough of it.

When Gerard’s tongue must be getting so tired that it’s probably numb, he finally backs off and sits up. He opens the condom packet quickly and slides it on, slicking himself up with an insane amount of lube, just like Mikey did. Frank smiles at the similarity. He isn’t freaked out by Gerard and Mikey’s sex similarities anymore. Now they just feel natural and make sense to him. After all, what could possibly make more sense than falling in love with brothers? So many of the things they have in common are the things that Frank loves about them. It makes it so easy for him to love them both.

Gerard scoots close between Frank’s legs and stops with his dick just nudging Frank entrance. He plants his hands firmly on Frank’s thighs and asks, “How do you want your legs?” Frank doesn’t get the question at first. He shakes his head, trying to dislodge the lust fog that’s overcome him. Gerard says, “Sometimes it’s easier with them up, like if I put them on my shoulders, but it’s up to you. It’ll work with them down like this, too.” Gerard pats Frank’s legs as they are now, almost wrapping around his waist.

Frank feels really comfortable like this, and while it probably was easier with them up the way he and Mikey did it, he doesn’t think he’s up for trying to be quite so flexible tonight. “Like this,” he finally manages to get out and Gerard nods.

“It’s going to be really tight,” Gerard says, “Because I could only open you up so much with my tongue, so you need to just really relax and don’t stop breathing, okay?” Frank nods. Just before pushing in, Gerard says, “I promise it’s going to be so good like this, Frankie. You’re going to feel so full,” and then he presses in. Frank is completely lax and calm and when Gerard encounters no resistance at all, he just keeps pressing forward until he’s seated completely, balls-deep inside Frank.

Frank just breathes and thinks Gerard never lies to him about sex, ever, because it does feel good. It feels so fucking good. It’s tight, but he feels so full it’s almost too much. It almost overwhelms him but it’s the best feeling ever because he feels like he’s as full as he could ever possibly be of Gerard. It’s Gerard stretching him and now slowly starting to move inside him and it’s all Frank can do to not get all emotional and start fucking crying. He has to make himself laugh instead and starts babbling, “So good, Gee. It’s so good like this. I love it. You feel so fucking huge inside me, stretching me open. Gah, love your dick in my ass.” Then he has to stop because Gerard is really moving now, thrusting in and out in a slow, but sure rhythm and Frank has to grab at his shoulders, his fingernails digging in so deep, he’s sure they’ll leave marks. Gerard is almost too good at this. He finds Frank’s prostate in no time and Frank feels like everything in the world has stopped except for this – this moment and them just fucking so perfectly, so beautifully. He feels like their perfect lovemaking is the only thing that exists, the only thing that’s real.

Gerard leans down closer as he increases the speed of his thrusts and kisses Frank. It’s sloppy and wet, but Frank doesn’t care. He loves tasting Gee’s mouth after he’s rimmed him. Gerard kisses his way across Frank’s cheek and over to his ear where he stops and says, “I love you, Frank. You’re so fucking beautiful and so sweet and so delicious. You don’t even know. You don’t even know how amazing you are. You’re so good for me, always so completely trusting and brave all the time. How do you do it? I can’t even believe you’re real sometimes.”

Frank can’t help it that he’s crying by the time Gerard moves away to get a hand between them to stroke Frank’s dick. He’s never been spoken to during sex the way that Mikey and Gee do. It changes it. It changes the sex - what they’re doing, because it makes it about so much more than simply getting off. Frank doesn’t ever want to have sex any other way again. He doesn’t care that he feels silly for crying during sex because Gerard notices. He’s looking right at Frank, so he can obviously see the tears and he clearly doesn’t think there’s anything wrong about it at all. Frank wants this kind of sex, the kind that means something, only this, forever. He doesn’t think he could ever go back to the other kind of sex again.

Gerard’s strokes on Frank’s dick speed up gradually along with his thrusts and it isn’t long before Frank is close. He doesn’t try to stop it, just rides out his orgasm when it hits and then watches in wonder as Gerard sweeps all the come off his belly with his hand and licks his fingers clean, smiling down at Frank the whole time. When he’s done licking, Frank grabs at Gerard’s hand and brings it to his mouth to suck on his fingers. He squeezes his ass as hard as he can around Gerard’s dick and says, “I love you, Gee. Wanna feel you come. Come on, come for me.”

Gerard throws his head back and cries out. Frank doesn’t think he’s saying actual words, but it’s so fucking hot looking up at Gerard in the throes of ecstasy like this. It’s only seconds before Gerard’s thrusts become erratic and Frank can see the flush spread out over his chest as he jerks inside, coming long and hard, deep inside Frank.

When Gerard collapses down on top of Frank, he pants and gasps for a little while and says, “Can you feel that?” He picks up Frank’s hand and places it over his heart so that Frank can feel how hard it’s beating. “Do you feel what you do to me, Frank?” Gerard lifts his head up and looks into Frank’s eyes for a long time, still holding Frank’s hand over his heart. “You make me feel like my heart is going to explode,” he laughs, “In a good way!” He shakes his head and bites his lips. “How do you do that?” And then he kisses Frank and Frank tastes salt. He thinks they both must be crying now, but he doesn’t care. He feels like he and Gerard just went through something that was bigger than sex, bigger than any way Frank’s ever connected with another person before. They cry and kiss and cry some more and Frank doesn’t ever want it to end.

*_*_*

Mikey comes home very late and very drunk. When he stumbles into the bedroom, Gerard is still reading by the lamplight, but Frank has been asleep for a while already. He’s startled awake when Mikey falls on the bed saying, “Frankie, Frankie, Frankie.”

Frank rolls over from where he’d been cuddled up against Gerard’s side and lets Mikey grab him and hold him close. Mikey pulls Frank’s head into his chest and holds it there and Frank realizes he’s way too drunk and incoherent for Frank to be able to apologize tonight. Mikey pulls Frank’s face up and kisses him sloppily. He tastes strongly of whisky and his kisses are almost violent. Frank wants to pull away, but Mikey’s crying, and then he’s mumbling, “Frankie, I love you so much, so much. I love you, I really do. Why couldn’t I make you see, make you know how much I love you? I’m sorry, Frankie. I’m so, so sorry.”

Frank doesn’t know what to say. He’s never seen Mikey like this before. “What are you sorry for?” Frank’s crying now too because he can’t stand that Mikey’s apologizing to him.

“I’m sorry I didn’t protect you, I should have… I should have loved you harder. Frankie, I’m sorry.” And then he starts trying to kiss Frank again, but Frank pulls away and instead pushes Mikey’s head to his own chest and holds on hard in a battle of wills until Mikey gives in and just sobs, shaking against his chest.

Frank cries along with him because he doesn’t understand why Mikey’s so upset, but he’s so sure it’s his fault and he can’t take it that he hurt Mikey this badly. Gerard’s arms come around him, holding them both tightly. He says softly against Frank’s ear, “He’s just too drunk. It’s okay. He gets like this when he drinks sometimes. He won’t remember in the morning.”

Frank wipes his face with the back of his arm and counters with, “But I’ll remember.”

Mikey finally stops sobbing and shaking, apparently passed out. Gerard runs his fingers through Mikey’s hair gently, and Mikey seems to sigh in his drunk-sleep state. “He just feels so guilty about what happened with Elissa. He feels like it’s his fault,” Gerard explains.

“But why?” Frank kisses Mikey’s sleeping head. “Why would he think it’s his fault?”

“He thinks he should have stepped in and pulled you away from her, tried to make you see what she was doing.”

Frank shakes his head. “No, I wouldn’t have listened, Gee. I would have been pissed at him if he’d done that.”

“I know that. And so does he, that’s why he didn’t try to stop it, but he wishes he had. He just can’t stand how much she hurt you.” Gerard sighs and runs the backs of his fingers over Mikey’s cheek. “He always thinks he can fix things, you know? He wants to protect everybody from themselves, even me. He hates it when the people he loves are hurting.”

Frank just holds Mikey close, kissing his head and rubbing his shoulders. After a minute, Gerard turns away to shut off the light, but then he comes back, reaching his arms around Frank and stroking Mikey’s hair again. They fall asleep like that.

*_*_*

Frank wakes up in the morning to the sound of hushed angry voices coming from the kitchen. He can tell Mikey and Gee are trying to be quiet, but they almost never close doors in this house and it’s tiny and old and the sound carries unless the air-conditioner is running and making white noise. There’s no white noise right now.

Frank sits up and slowly scoots over to the edge of the bed, listening. He hears Gerard say, “Will it make you feel better if I say I blame you? Do you want me to be mad at you?” There’s only silence, and then, “Okay fine, I was pissed at you when you first told me what happened, but from talking to Frank yesterday, it’s obvious he would have done it anyway.”

Frank hears a chair scraping across the floor, and then Mikey says, “I know that.” It’s almost too soft for Frank to hear, so he creeps slowly to stand just inside the bedroom door. Frank hears the sound of movement, and then Mikey, louder this time, “Gee… I know it isn’t fair, but, I swear if… if you had just been here-”

Gerard cuts Mikey off mid-sentence. “I fucking know, Mikes, okay? And it isn’t fair. You could be right, but we’ll never fucking know, okay?” Frank can hear footsteps across the kitchen floor as he slowly creeps down the hall. He stops at the bathroom door when he hears someone sit down again, a chair scraping the floor. Gee says, “I regret it, I really do. I regret leaving when I did. I know we talked about it and he seemed so sure he was moving on, but…” Frank hears papers rustling on the table as he edges closer to the kitchen door. “Hindsight is 20/20. I know it’s cliché, but it’s true. She would have brought the papers down to him anyway and he would have been hurt even if they hadn’t slept together.” As Frank rounds the corner to look into the kitchen, he sees that Mikey and Gerard are sitting side-by-side at the table, facing away from him, looking through the divorce papers. Gerard’s holding the note Elissa left. “I just can’t believe this shit, though,” he says, looking at the note, “How do you say shit like this to someone who would try to move the fucking moon for you if you asked him?”

Mikey shrugs his shoulders and leans his head against Gerard’s. “I don’t know. It almost seems sociopathic, you know?” Gerard nods and Mikey says, “These two, though, it’s so classic, really. When I saw how he responded to her in the bar… You didn’t see, Gee, it was crazy, like… like a moth to a flame. She had him in the palm of her hand the minute he laid eyes on her.” He takes the note from Gerard and looks at it for a moment before setting it back down on the table. “It’s like they always say with abuse cases. Why the girls keep going back. It was like that. He just loves her so much and I gotta tell you she did an amazing job of playing sweet. If I didn’t know how she treated him, I would have thought she was a nice girl.”

Mikey sits up straighter as Gerard shakes his head. Then Mikey puts his arm out behind him and says, “Hey Frankie,” reaching out to Frank.

Frank steps forward and takes Mikey’s hand. As he sits down, he thinks through everything Mikey’s just said and wishes he could argue with it. Wishes he had some way to defend himself. All he comes up with is, “Lissy’s not a sociopath.” What the fuck? He shakes his head. He can’t believe that’s all he can think of to say.

Mikey shrugs, looking at him sadly and says, “Okay.” His voice is completely flat.

Frank sighs and grabs Mikey’s other hand, holding them both tightly in his. He feels his chin start to tremble slightly as he starts speaking and has to work to hold back the tears. “I am so sorry, Mikey.”

“Frank, it’s-”

“No!” Frank stops him, shaking his hands forcefully. “I need to say this, let me say this.” Mikey bites his lip and nods. Frank takes a deep breath and decides to go ahead and let the tears fall since they want to so badly. “I’m sorry I slept with her. I know there’s nothing I can say now to fix it. But I… I hurt you and I would never mean to do that.” Mikey’s eyes are shining and he looks like he wants to say something, but Frank forges on. “I love you.” His voice is choked and he needs to swallow and say it again. “I love you so much, Mikey. I am so fucking lucky to have you in my life, you and Gee.” He looks at Gerard who nods and gives him the tiniest of smiles. “I won’t… say that I don’t deserve you because I know that’ll just piss Gee off, but…” Frank feels encouraged when both Mikey and Gerard laugh slightly at that last and he keeps going, finishing what he desperately needs to say to them. “I hurt you guys and that’s not okay. Especially after everything you’ve done for me. So I just need to know, I just… need to hear you say that you forgive me.”

Mikey breathes out, “Oh, Frank,” and pulls his hands from Frank’s so that he can grasp his face and kiss him deeply. It’s a real kiss this time, a nice one. Not like the kisses from last night. Mikey pulls back to say, “Yes, of course I forgive you.” He keeps giving him shallow kisses in between saying, “Would forgive you anything, love you so much, so lucky to have you, Frankie, love you.” And then he buries his face in Frank’s neck, his arms holding tightly around Frank’s middle.

Gerard stands up and comes around Mikey’s chair. He stops by Frank’s chair and pulls him to lean against him, so that Frank’s head is rested on his belly. Frank looks up at him questioningly. Gerard says, “Of course I forgive you. You already know that.”

“I know.” Frank swallows. “I just needed to hear you say it.”

Gerard nods. “Well, now you’ve heard, and we aren’t going to obsess over it anymore, okay?”

Frank takes a deep breath. “Okay.”

Gerard runs his fingers through Frank’s hair and says, “Today Brian is going to call his lawyer and schedule a time for him to come over and look at the divorce papers. We’re going to get all of this taken care of as quickly as possible so that you can put it behind you and then we’re all going to move forward together, okay?”

Frank nods. “Okay.”

Mikey lifts his head up, pulling his face out of the crook of Frank’s neck. He looks up at Gerard and asks, “All of us? Together? Even you move forward?”

Gerard puts his hand on the back of Mikey’s neck and squeezes gently. “Yeah, Mikes. I have some moving on of my own to do and Frank has promised that you guys will help me, so yeah. All of us.”

Mikey looks up at Gerard with an expression that could only be described as pure adoration and says, “I love you so much, Gee.”

Gerard kneels down next to them and rests his forehead against Mikey’s. “I love you, too.” He turns to look at Frank and grabs his hand. “Both of you. I’m not going to make you guys go without me anymore if you don’t have to. I promise.”

*_*_*

On Frank’s first day back at work, Brian surprises him by coming into the store an hour before Frank is supposed to go on break and tells him he’s taking him out for lunch. Frank’s been pretty mopey all morning, so he’s sure Kevin’s glad to have a break from him. Someone had filled Kevin in on what happened, so he just gave Frank a big hug when he got in this morning and hasn’t asked any annoying questions.

Frank’s surprised when Brian leads him all the way off the pier and into the employee parking lot. It’s not uncommon at all for Brian to take his employees out for lunch sometimes. He’s a very hands-on boss, but he usually just takes people to one of the restaurants at Carnival, since employees can eat there for free. Instead, he drives Frank over a mile down to the other end of the public beach to the Marina. Brian apparently knows the Maitre d’ at the restaurant here and is able to get them a table by the window even though they don’t have a reservation.

Frank wonders if he’s under-dressed in his white polo shirt and black jeans, it’s what everyone at Carnival wears, but Brian doesn’t seem the least bit bothered. He orders expensive sounding wine for them and tells Frank he can have whatever he wants from the pricey menu.

While Frank’s trying to decide what he wants to order, Brian starts talking about Gerard and what a talented artist he is. It’s weird because Frank hadn’t realized that Brian knew Gerard well, but he certainly knows an awful lot about his art.

When Frank closes his menu and sets it aside, he can’t help but ask, “How do you know so much about Gerard’s art?”

Brian just looks at him, his expression changes as if he’s thinking through something in his mind. When he seems to come to a conclusion he says, “We used to date.”

“Oh.” Frank feels his eyes get big. For some reason he’s really surprised. He had no idea.

Brian narrows his eyes, “Is that a problem?”

Frank shakes his head. “No, no, no, not at all. I just… didn’t know.”

Brian says, “Clearly,” but doesn’t say anything else because the waiter comes to pour the wine and take their order.

After he leaves, Frank asks, “So what happened?” Brain just looks at him. “With Gerard, I mean. Obviously, you guys aren’t still together. Was it…” Frank has no idea how to ask this. He lowers his voice. “Did you not want to be shared?”

Brian grins and shakes his head. “No, no. It had nothing to do with that. This was before they got serious about looking for someone to share. I mean, we talked about it a couple times and I was up for it, even though Mikey’s pretty young for me, but nothing ever happened.” He takes a drink of his wine before he continues. “No, what happened was their grandmother died and Gee just… lost it for a while.” It’s weird for Frank to hear anyone else call Gerard ‘Gee’. He’s only ever heard Mikey call him that. Brian frowns as he goes on. “He got really depressed and he was drinking so much, I mean…” He waves a hand, “He always drank a lot but, it got really crazy. I was a heavy drinker then, too, and it was just too much.” He sighs. “In the end, I had to tell him I was going to cut back my drinking, but he wasn’t ready and I just… couldn’t be with him if he wasn’t going to clean up. So we broke up.” He shrugs. “Stayed friends, obviously. I mean, not terribly close, but I see Mikey all the time and love the kid to death.”

Their salads arrive, and then their meals and they don’t talk much while they eat. After the table’s cleared and they’re waiting on the check, Frank asks, “Do you ever wish you’d tried again with Gee? I mean, after he got sober. Like, you could have tried the sharing thing with him and Mikey. Did you ever want to try again?”

Brian shakes his head. “Nah. I could tell I wasn’t what they needed. I knew they’d need someone stronger than me to be able to handle all their neuroses at once.” He looks directly into Frank’s eyes, his voice deadly serious as he says, “I couldn’t do it, Frank, most people couldn’t. You’re one in a million for them. I hope you know that, a fucking diamond in the rough.”

Frank shakes his head, sitting back. “No, you don’t get it. They’re so easy to love. Anyone would love them.”

“But both at once? That’s fucking hardcore. Do you think perfect triad relationships just pop up every day? That shit takes work! You guys are like… a fucking fairy tale or something, I swear.”

Frank wants to argue more, but then the check comes and Brian pays and they leave. When they step out into the sunshine on the dock, Frank turns to go back toward the car, but Brian steers him the opposite way and says, “Let’s walk for a little while.”

Brian takes Frank around on the docks, showing him all the different kinds of boats and talking about how fast they are and how they’re made. Frank says, “I had no idea you knew so much about boats.”

Brian nods. “Yup, boats - or ships actually, were my first love.”

He doesn’t say any more and they walk in silence until they get to the slips farthest out. It’s where the yachts are docked. Some of them are huge and gorgeous. Brian gestures at one of them, “This is a renovation. This yacht was probably built in the 1960’s, but it’s been refurbished. They don’t make them like this anymore. This baby could probably sail nine months of the year with minimal upkeep and never give you any trouble.”

Frank looks at the boat, yacht, whatever, for a while. He can’t see much difference between it and all the others. So he just says, “It’s pretty.”

There’s a bench at the end of the dock. Frank follows Brian to it and they sit down. Brian says, “It was always my dream to have my own yacht and sail the world on it. For three years after college, I worked two jobs and saved up everything I had so I could buy one. I had enough saved that I might have been able to take a year off and just sail wherever I wanted.”

Brian stops and stares out at the water for a little while. Frank fishes his cigarettes out of his pocket and after he’s lit up, he can’t stand the silence any longer, so he takes the bait. “So what happened, Brian? Please tell me the rest of the story because that is why we are here, isn’t it?”

Brian laughs and slaps Frank’s leg. “You little shit. Okay, yeah, that is why we’re here. What happened is my dad got really sick. He got better later and he’s fine now, but while he was sick my mom was running everything at Carnival and things were in sad shape, financially.” He scratches his knee, flicking pieces of jean-lint onto the dock. “The Fun Zone company approached my dad and offered to buy Carnival from him. They wanted to create a ‘Fun Zone South’. My dad was gonna do it. It would solve all their debt problems and he and my mom would have been able to retire early.”

Brian looks at Frank expectantly. Frank says, “But,” and waves his hand.

Brian smirks, “Thanks for playing along, kid.” He rolls his eyes before going on. “Bu-ut,” he says dramatically, dragging out the word, “I couldn’t let them sell my childhood. I fucking grew up at Carnival. I swear to god I slept on the couch in the back office more often than I slept in my own bed some summers. I fucking love this place and couldn’t stand to let it go and be turned into just another charmless corporate chain with no personality.” He turns toward Frank and puts his sunglasses up on top of his head, so he can look him in the eye. “I took everything I’d saved up and had enough to pay back most of my parent’s debts. It wasn’t enough to fix everything, but my dad signed the company over to me and I ended up going into a partnership with Fun Zone. It’s about 60/40 on ownership right now, but I have the bigger share, so it keeps the Carnival name and I get to run it how I want. As long as we keep making money for the Fun Zone company, everyone’s happy.”

Frank tilts his head and tries to figure out what Brian’s angle is on all this. He says, “So all’s well that ends well, right?” He feels like he’s missing the whole reason Brian wanted to tell him this so badly.

“Yes.” Brian nods. “But that isn’t the moral of the story.”

Frank straightens his head up and says sarcastically, “Wise teacher, please tell me the moral of the story.” He blinks his eyes and tries to look angelic.

“This is why you could never do college, you little punk.” Frank just shrugs and Brian sighs. “The moral of the story is that we don’t always end up where we think we should be, and that isn’t wrong. I was really angry for a long time after all this happened, even after I started running things here.” He pauses and waves his hand, “Hence all the drinking. I didn’t get it for a while, I thought… I thought that something in my life had gone wrong and I wasn’t where I was supposed to be, but that isn’t possible. That’s what I had to figure out.” Brian’s quiet for a minute, but Frank doesn’t think he’s done, so he just finishes smoking his cigarette while he waits.

Eventually Brian turns toward him and says, “Frank this is about you.” Frank looks up and nods. Brian says, “You thought Elissa was the love of your life. You thought you’d be her husband forever. I’ve been watching you all the time you’ve been here and as much fun as you were having in the spring, you still thought you had ended up in the wrong place, somehow. But in the summer, you finally seemed to realize that you are where you’re meant to be now. It’s just that Elissa coming back made you forget that, just for a little while.” Brian puts his hand on Frank’s knee. “I know you’re sad about the divorce and don’t have a fucking clue what you’re supposed to do with your life now, but I’m telling you, you aren’t here by mistake. Anyone can see that you’re meant to be with Gee and Mikey.” He pauses for a minute, seemingly gathering his thoughts. “I don’t know if there’s someone running the show,” he points up at the sky, “from up there, or if it’s just that the Universe has a way of working things out, but the point is - don’t worry about it so much. You’re a good kid. You’ll end up right where you need to be. Just go along with it. Just… stop trying to be a driver with a fucking GPS and a destination plan. Just ride for a little while. Be a passenger.”

Frank doesn’t say anything for a few minutes while he mulls over everything Brian’s just said. Finally it all seems to click. “It’s the ‘not knowing,’” he says.

Brian raises his eyebrows. “The what?”

“The ‘not knowing’.” Frank waves his hand. “It’s like… Like I always hate not knowing what’s gonna happen. I like to have a plan, I like to be settled. But right now I just… can’t be.” He sighs. “And I have to be okay with that.”

Brian smiles, nodding. “Yeah, exactly. You need to embrace the ‘not knowing’. I mean, it’s fucking scary, right? I get that. But it can be thrilling, too, like riding the rollercoaster with your eyes closed. It’s exhilarating, because you’re taking a risk. You just have to let go and trust that things will be okay.”

Frank nods and repeats softly. “Embrace the ‘not knowing’.”

*_*_*

When they get back to Carnival and Frank is about to get out of the car, he remembers something and stops. “Brian, I wanted to ask you something.” Brian looks at him and waits with a raised eyebrow. “Did you know? I mean… me and Mikey and Gee, did you think something was going to happen there?”

Brian just winks at him and says. “I hadn’t interviewed Ray yet when you came in. I totally could have had you work with Bob… but I didn’t.”

Frank feels his face flush and smiles to himself. He feels a bit lighter all day after that.

*_*_*

Autumn

The week of Labor Day is the last week Carnival is open daily and Frank finds himself getting a little sad. Kevin went back to school almost two weeks ago and Frank’s been working alone in his store each day since then, but it’s been fine - nice, actually. He’s really enjoyed the peace and quiet.

This week he’s going through inventory and getting the shop ready to be closed up for the season. He’s really going to miss his little store. One day the errant thought occurs to him that he hopes Brian will let him have it again next summer. It makes Frank smile because it makes this job feel like something permanent. Even if he doesn’t come back next year, Brian’s made it clear that he’s welcome to and that gives Frank a fraction of security that he holds close.

He’s been doing really well about the ‘not knowing.’ The dog days of summer seemed to drag on in August and there were a lot of days when he really didn’t want to get out of bed or go to work, but with Mikey and Gerard’s help, he did. They’ve stayed busy together and Frank has found himself more and more able to wake up each day and not worry so much about what’s going to happen next. He’s been able to allow himself to enjoy what he’s doing each moment, instead of constantly looking ahead.

As promised, Brian’s lawyer came and read through the divorce papers. It turned out that everything was pretty agreeable and with a couple of very minor adjustments, they were able to draw up the final papers. The finalized papers arrived in the mail yesterday. Last night Mikey and Gerard sat with Frank at the table while he flipped through each page and signed and initialed at each place where the lawyer had stuck a tiny post-it note. Gerard came and met Frank and Mikey during their break today and walked with them to the post office to put the packet in the mail. In a couple of months, Frank will receive his copy of the papers, signed by the judge, and he will officially be divorced.

Frank thinks about all this as he sits at the end of the pier outside his store and smokes. He isn’t technically supposed to smoke while he’s working, but it’s been a slow afternoon and he’s bored. While he sits and enjoys the sunshine warming his shoulders, he thinks about cooler weather coming and Carnival slowly closing down for the winter. Brian’s already arranged a job for Frank at the same Fun Zone Mikey works at. Frank will be starting at the bottom again and there’s no promise of a promotion any time soon. He’ll make a little more than minimum wage, though, and he’ll get to be with Mikey every day, so he thinks it’s going to work out okay.

Frank and Mikey will get a week off in November after Carnival closes, before they have to start at Fun Zone and Gerard has already talked about potentially taking a road trip that week. He seems genuine when he says he wants all three of them to go, and Pugsley, too. Frank hopes they can do it. He’s seen now the things that Gerard’s inspired by when he travels and the kind of amazing art that comes out of it. Frank wants to be a part of that.

Frank finishes up his cigarette and goes back into the store to clean out displays until closing time. Brian told him this morning that for these last few days, all he needs to keep out is the fishing stuff. So he boxes up the few souvenirs they have, stopping to flip through a bunch of postcards that he’s never looked at very closely at before.

There’s a selection of art postcards that are prints of the pictures hanging in the waiting area of Carnival’s back office. Frank looks closely at the one of the clown and still thinks it’s the fucking creepiest thing he’s ever seen. He thinks back to the night of the circus when the clowns were freaking him out and he got sick and Gerard just waited for him and hugged him after and acted like it was no big deal. Frank thinks it’s pretty silly now that he didn’t realize then just how much Gerard loves him. Even back in April when Frank first started staying with them and was concerned that he was stinking up the house when his stomach got upset, Gerard basically told him that his shit didn’t stink. Frank should have known then, because if that doesn’t say love, Frank doesn’t know what does.

Even though it’s creepy, Frank decides to buy the clown postcard for himself. Those creepy clowns were the first thing about Carnival that grabbed his attention. Coming to Point Eerie Beach was the best thing that’s ever happened to him, certainly worth paying fifty cents for the souvenir postcard.

*_*_*

The first day that Carnival is closed in the fall is a Tuesday. Gerard and Mikey ride with Frank up to Belleville that day to get the last of his stuff out of his old apartment.

Originally, it was only supposed to be Frank and Mikey going. Gerard was involved in a project and wanted to stay and work and he didn’t think there would be enough room for everything in the car with three people. But then Frank woke up in the middle of the night Monday night; hysterical after having a terrible nightmare about Pugsley being stuck in the burning old apartment and not able to get out. Frank never went back to sleep because he felt so anxious about going back there the next day. He wasn’t able to calm down until Gerard promised to come with them.

Of course, once they got in the car this morning, Frank felt silly about the whole thing. He kept apologizing to Gerard because he felt bad about keeping him from his work. Gerard eventually ended up getting frustrated with him and had to tell a long story about how the fable of ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’ applies to grief and how Frank has anxiety because he’s still trying to get over things too quickly and he needs to just slow down and let himself be upset if he needs to. Frank didn’t think the spiel made very much sense, but it was distracting enough to make him stop apologizing and as they pull into the parking lot of his old building, Frank can’t help but wonder if that had been Gerard’s intention in recounting the fable all along.

There isn’t a ton of stuff left in the apartment, but Frank can tell it will take most of the day to get it all boxed up and loaded into the car. Elissa didn’t leave much furniture, which doesn’t surprise Frank at all. There are a couple of end tables, two tall floor lamps, several folding chairs, and the trunk that Frank’s always kept keepsake items in.

Gerard starts by carrying things that are clearly trash down to the dumpster outside and Mikey and Frank start packing up in the bedroom. Frank’s trunk is in there, and he can’t help but open it up to see what all is inside. He feels like it’s been ages since he’s looked in it. The first thing he finds when he opens the top is a bunch of flyers from his old band’s shows. “Oh shit,” he says out loud. “I forgot I’d saved all these.”

Mikey comes over to look and laughs right away, pointing at one of the pictures. “Why was your hair blond?” he asks. Then he shakes his head and says, “Damn, you look so young.”

Frank sticks his tongue out over the blond comment and shrugs about the looking young part. Thinking back on it, Frank realizes that he was really young. At the time, he remembers having this attitude that it was him against the world. It’s actually kind of funny, looking back at his 19-year-old self, because things had come pretty easily for him up to that point. He’d worked for his uncle since high school and always had everything he needed. He didn’t know anything about hardship or having to work extra hard for things back then. He had no idea what it meant to be up against the world.

He laughs at his younger self and Mikey asks him what’s funny. He says, “I was just such a snot-nosed punk is all. For the life of me, I can’t remember what I was so angry about.”

Mikey shrugs. “I think that’s just part of being young. I remember being angry about nothing when I was that age, too.”

Frank shrugs. “Maybe.”

Mikey considers one of the flyers more closely and asks, “How long was your band together?”

“Only about three and a half years,” Frank answers. “These flyers are from some of our first shows. We broke up a while ago, and I remember when everything went sour I was really sure that I’d find another band right away, but I just didn’t.” He scratches his head, remembering. “I really miss it.”

Mikey looks thoughtful, tilting his head. “You know, you and Toro should start a band. You guys always sound awesome when you jam together.”

Frank raises an eyebrow. “You think?”

“Sure, why not?” Mikey smiles. “It’s something to think about anyway, right?”

“Yeah, I guess it is.” Frank feels more optimistic about things the rest of the day.

They decide to take the folding chairs back to Mikey and Gerard’s because they’ve run out of chairs a couple times recently when they’ve had a few extra guests come over for movie and game nights.

Gerard also decides he wants to keep the two floor lamps. He says they could come in handy for extra light in his new studio in the city in case they aren’t able to find an apartment with a southern exposure. Gerard’s been talking more and about the impending move, lately. He knows exactly what he wants in an apartment for the three of them and they have plans to go looking for a place, soon. And he’s been gradually working on deciding what he wants to take with him and what he wants to leave at the house over the winter. Frank finds this really encouraging. A lot of it is just talking, but it seems to be helping Gee to be more confident about the move. It’s as if he thinks that if he just talks about it enough, it won’t be such a big, scary change for him.

The best thing is that a friend of Gerard’s from art school has already invited him to do a showing at a gallery in Soho. Frank isn’t really surprised that all it took was for Gerard to mention to some of his old art school friends that he’s moving to the city, and he already has new opportunities to show his work. He really is brilliant. Frank thinks he must have been brilliant even when he was still in school, since his friends all seem to remember.

Before leaving Belleville, they stop at the pawn shop Frank’s always gone to, and sell his ring and some of the old movies, books and games from the apartment that he doesn’t want anymore. He knows he could get more for this stuff if he sells it himself on eBay, but he doesn’t want to take the time. It’s like Gerard said in the summer, he needs to put this behind him, and hanging on to old stuff isn’t going to help him with that.

What does help him, though, is the next day going to a music store near Point Eerie with Mikey and using the money he got for his ring to buy new stuff for Pansy. He’s been wanting to refurbish his guitar for a while, but hasn’t been able to afford it. It’s the best thing he can think of to do with the money from his ring. He figures it makes perfect sense to use it for something that Elissa would have begrudged him if they were still married. Frank buys new pickups, tuning pegs, and enough strings to last him for months. He even has enough left over to buy an effects pedal he’s always wanted. When Ray comes over the next night, they play nonstop for hours.

*_*_*

The following Tuesday morning, Frank is awakened by wet, tickling sensations. It doesn’t take him long to figure out that Mikey and Gerard are each kissing him in different places. Frank smiles before he even opens his eyes and is thrilled to realize that he knows which kisses belong to which mouth based on sensation alone. Gerard is slowly tracing the lines of ink on his chest and following with his tongue, stopping every now and then to nibble on Frank’s nipples, while Mikey is working on licking and kissing all of the ink on Frank’s legs. Frank opens his eyes and makes a move to stroke Gerard’s hair, but he finds that his hands are tied loosely behind his back with what feels like yarn or ribbon. Whatever it is, it isn’t very strong, but Frank is going to play along. He won’t even try to get free.

He says, “Mmmm,” and Gerard looks up at him and smiles.

Gerard says, “You’re awake.” He grins and leans up to kiss Frank on the mouth before moving back so that Mikey can, too. Frank sees that they’re both already naked. He wonders if this surprise was spur-of-the-moment or planned in advance.

Mikey’s eyes are already blown with lust when he pulls out of the kiss. He says, “Frankie, you’re so responsive to us even in your sleep. You’re already getting hard and we haven’t even touched your dick yet.”

Frank realizes that he is getting hard. He smirks at Mikey before leaning up and biting playfully at his lips. Mikey only lets him a couple of times before placing a finger on his lips and saying, “Now, don’t get uppity or we’ll have to gag you.”

Mikey winks before he moves away to pull Frank’s underwear off and Frank feels himself shudder at the suggestion. He catches Gerard’s eye where he’s watching closely. “He wants it, Mikes.” Gerard nods. “I can tell.”

Frank feels himself blushing because Gerard is always able to read him so easily. He likes it, but sometimes it’s scary when he feels like Gee is reading his mind.

Gerard whispers in his ear, “Do you want to be gagged now? We can.”

Frank looks into Gerard’s eyes for a moment and then shakes his head. He curls his lips into each other, though, to show that he’ll play along. He isn’t going to talk.

Gerard grins and runs his fingertips up and down Frank’s cheeks. “Okay, then. No talking. Involuntary noises are okay, but no words.”

Frank nods and Gerard goes back to licking his ink.

After pulling off his underwear, Mikey licks his way back up Frank’s legs and doesn’t tease at all when he gets to his dick. It’s not fully hard, but Mikey sucks it all into his mouth anyway. He’s told Frank before how much he loves the feel of a dick hardening in his mouth. It only takes a few seconds of Mikey sucking before Frank is fully hard.

While Mikey sucks him, Gerard continues bathing Frank with his tongue. Once he’s finished going over all the ink on Frank’s chest, he gently turns Frank to lie on his side and begins licking over all the tattoos on his back. It tickles a little bit, but mostly just makes Frank shiver. He’s getting better at handling all the sensation when Mikey and Gerard pleasure him at the same time, but he still often has to remind himself to breathe and relax into it so that he doesn’t go off too soon.

Mikey lifts Frank’s leg up as he switches from sucking his dick to sucking his balls. At the same time, Gerard follows all of Frank’s ink down his back to his guns and lingers there while his fingers go exploring further down, gently nudging at Frank’s entrance. Once Gerard seems satisfied that he’s tasted every tattoo on the upper part of Frank’s body, he shifts himself farther down the bed. His hand joins Mikey’s in holding Frank’s leg up and Frank should really be prepared by now for what Gerard does next, but somehow it still catches him by surprise when Gerard plunges his tongue into Frank’s ass.

Gerard works his tongue around expertly just like always, and Frank keeps breathing through it all. After a few minutes, Mikey backs off from licking his balls and moves up the bed, stroking Frank’s cock gently, just enough to keep him on edge, but not enough to move him closer to orgasm. Mikey quickly kisses a path up Frank’s belly and chest and doesn’t stop until he gets to Frank’s ear. He bites the lobe and worries it with his teeth for a few seconds before whispering, “Gee’s going to fuck you while I suck you and you aren’t going to say a word. Okay?”

Frank gasps, but manages not to say anything, only looks at Mikey and nods. Mikey grins and Frank feels blinded by it. He wonders if there will ever come a time when Mikey’s smiles don’t make him feel like the sun is shining on him and warming him from the inside out. He hopes not.

As Mikey moves back down to lick Frank’s dick again, Gerard pulls his tongue out and Frank immediately feels cold and empty without something inside him. He’s quickly satisfied, though when Gerard slides fingers in to begin opening him up. They’re slick with lube and it isn’t long before Frank knows he’s ready to take Gee’s dick. He can’t say anything about it, though, and he wants to.

Mikey swallows Frank down and Frank is afraid he’ll go off too soon. He needs Gee in him now. He turns his head to look behind him and tries to catch Gerard’s eye. It’s only a few seconds before Gerard looks up, grinning at him, and seems to get the message. He pulls his fingers out and Frank is again struck by the emptiness he feels. It astonishes to him just how much he loves having his ass filled - the more, the better, and Mikey and Gerard seem more than happy to provide the filling for him. More and more lately, he feels like he’s some kind of sexual soul mate for them. He’ll never know, but he can’t help but think that most people don’t have sex as good as they do on a regular basis. He wishes he could tell them he’s thinking all this, but he just files it away, hoping he’ll remember it later, once he’s allowed to talk again.

Mikey stops sucking and holds Frank’s dick still at the base, while Gerard quickly puts on a condom and slicks himself up. It’s only seconds before he’s nudging at Frank’s entrance and then slowly pushing inside. Frank can’t help it as he cries out while Gerard fills him up. It’s too good. The stretch is like no other feeling imaginable and soon Gerard is seated fully inside him, wrapping his arms around Frank’s waist and whispering in his ear, “So fucking tight, Frankie, so perfect. Love your ass so much. Never had anyone else be so good for me all the time. Love filling you up and making you feel good. Love you.”

Frank wants to say he loves Gerard back. He wants to, but he can’t, but it’s okay because he knows Gerard knows he does. He nuzzles his face into Gerard’s and smiles and ‘hmms’ happily and knows that Gerard will get the idea.

Gerard doesn’t take any more time than that before he starts thrusting, working up to a smooth rhythm. Mikey swallows Frank back down just a few seconds after and together they’re able to find a matching rhythm and it is honestly the best thing that Frank has ever felt. He’s being worked from every angle. He feels like all his nerve endings are on fire. Gerard doesn’t even have to try anymore to find a good angle to hit Frank’s prostate, he just knows. He hits it on every stroke and it’s like a lighting bolt going up Frank’s spine each time. Frank tries to breathe deeply and let it all wash over him but it’s hard. He wants to push Mikey’s head back to get him to slow down, but he can’t move his damn hands. He unconsciously pulls at his bonds and Gerard notices. He reaches around to push Mikey’s head back. “Slow down, Mikes, he isn’t ready yet.”

Mikey pulls off with an audible pop and grins up at them. “Sorry, guys. I always get carried away, Frank. It’s your dick, it’s too fucking delicious. I love how good it feels filling my mouth up completely.” Mikey considers Frank’s dick before reiterating, “Seriously, you have a really nice cock.”

Frank feels himself blushing and thinks that’s silly because Mikey and Gerard know everything about him, he doesn’t get how they can still make him feel bashful. He’s always known they like his dick, but it’s definitely nice to hear it spoken aloud. He turns his head again to nuzzle it into Gerard’s and Gerard says, “It is a really nice dick.”

Mikey places his hand on Frank’s cock and begins slowly stroking again. He looks up and says, “Okay?” and Frank nods.

Mikey strokes casually for a little while before sinking his mouth back down again, this time working his hand and mouth on Frank’s dick together. Gerard gradually increases his thrusts and whispers in Frank’s ear, “Okay, this time, we go until we finish.”

Frank nods and then just lets himself go. He gets lost in all the sensations as they overwhelm him. Mikey’s suction and Gerard’s thrusts fall into a matching rhythm within seconds and it’s perfect. Frank doesn’t last very long but it’s okay. He knows Gerard and Mikey would never judge him for going off too fast. His orgasm washes over him and he whites out, throwing his head back and squeezing his eyes shut as he comes down Mikey’s throat. Mikey sucks him until he’s whining because he can’t take anymore, but he doesn’t speak. He shudders and shakes and cries out, but he doesn’t say any words.

Gerard speeds up his thrusts after Mikey finally releases Frank’s dick from his mouth and moves up the bed. Mikey licks and sucks at Frank’s nipples as Gerard’s rhythm becomes almost too fast before faltering. Just before he comes, Gerard bites down hard on Frank’s shoulder and Frank knows he’ll have a purple mark there for a while. It feels like Gerard comes forever, his dick jerking inside Frank while Gerard pants loudly in his ear. He doesn’t pull out right away. He pulls Frank closer to him, their bodies snug up against each other, and kisses his shoulders. Frank can feel him softening inside him and finally Gee says, “Speak, Frank,” just as he unties the ribbons from around Frank’s wrists.

Frank holds onto Gerard’s arm that’s planted firmly on his chest and reaches his other arm around to pull Mikey close to him and all he says is, “I love you, I love you, I love you both so much,” over and over again.

*_*_*

Mikey and Frank don’t have to work during the week anymore now that Carnival is only open on weekends and Gerard is between projects, so they decide to abandon all pretense at productivity for the day. They get waylaid in the bathroom on their way to the kitchen where Frank goes down on Mikey in the shower, returning the favor for his lovely wake-up call.

They finally get to the kitchen for coffee at half past noon and have big bowls of cereal for lunch. A planned afternoon Star Wars marathon gets derailed when Gerard starts massaging Frank’s shoulders and Frank’s dick decides it wants to come out and play again. They don’t even get through one movie.

The afternoon’s activities end in a post-coital afterglow nap and by the time they wake up, evening sunlight is streaming in through the windows. They order pizza for dinner and argue about which one of them is going to be the one to have to put on pants to answer the door.

After dinner, they walk Pugsley around the neighborhood and Frank thinks to ask Mikey if any of the apartments they’ve found online are near the dog parks in midtown. That’s really the only thing that’s important to Frank about where they end up. It needs to be a good place for Pugsley.

Frank knows he’ll miss Point Eerie; he’s really come to like it a lot, but he’s excited about the prospect of moving to the city. In some ways, he feels like his life is just beginning. He’s decided there are countless adventures in store for him and he can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next. It’s a pretty amazing feeling, considering that just a few months ago he felt like his life was ending.

*_*_*

They’re all three reading comic books in bed later that night when Frank remembers what he wanted to tell them from this morning when he couldn’t talk. He snatches away all the books and throws them to the floor to combined complaints of, “You’ll lose my place,” from both brothers.

He shushes them and pulls them close, one on each side. “I need to tell you something. This is important.” Both of their faces grow serious as they turn to face him expectantly. Frank takes a deep breath and says, “I think I’m your soul mate.”

Mikey and Gerard look at each other strangely for a few seconds. Mikey takes Frank’s hand in his as Gerard says, “Of course you are, Frankie.”

Frank shakes his head. “No, that sounds dumb, I mean, like… sexually. I realized this morning while you guys were… you know…” Frank doesn’t understand why he still has trouble talking about sex after everything they’ve done.

Gerard takes Frank’s other hand and says, smirking, “…Expertly making love to you.”

Frank nods. “Yes, that. I realized that we all just seem to fit somehow. I don’t know, but I really don’t think that everyone in a relationship has a sex life as good as ours. I mean, everything you guys like to do to me, I like how it feels when you do it so everyone’s always happy.” Gerard grins at Frank and nibbles on his fingers and when neither of them says anything right away, Frank asks, “Everyone is happy, right?”

Gerard nods and Frank turns to Mikey and sees that he has a tear running down one cheek. Frank turns and nuzzles into Mikey’s face, kissing the tear tract. He doesn’t think what he said was really tear-worthy and it’s making him a little nervous. He says, “Mikey?”

Mikey laughs and sniffles and nuzzles Frank back and says, “It isn’t just the sex, Frank. I mean, obviously, the sex is phenomenal, and no, I don’t think a lot of other people’s sex lives are this great, but…” He brings his hand up to push Frank’s hair back from his face. “It’s everything, Frank - everything about you.” He turns his hand over and runs the backs of his fingers over Frank’s cheek. “We used to talk about how it would be if we could find the perfect guy to share. It always felt like such a silly fantasy. Even once we started really looking, I don’t think either of us ever thought we’d actually find someone who would fit like you do.”

Gerard pulls himself close to Frank, wrapping his arm around Frank’s middle. He says, “We’ve always loved each other, me and Mikey, you know that, right?” Frank nods because he does know, and he knows it’s weird, but he doesn’t care anymore. Gerard continues, “But we never thought of giving up dating other people and trying to just be together because it never felt right. Not because of the brother thing, but because there was something missing. Someone was missing.” Gerard turns Frank’s face toward his and looks into his eyes. “It was you. We needed you, and now we’re complete. You’re like,” he kisses Frank’s forehead lightly, “the final missing puzzle piece.”

Frank swallows and he gets why Mikey would cry about that. He thinks about Gerard and Mikey and how great they are and how much they love each other. He thinks about them both trying to date other people and never being happy. He thinks that the three of them just might be the luckiest people alive for having found each other. He thinks about all of this and he wants to cry, but he doesn’t. Instead, he says, “I want you both.”

Mikey says, “You have us both,” at the same time that Gerard says, “What do you mean?”

Frank shakes his head because that didn’t come out right and he doesn’t know how to explain what he means, what he wants. He only realized he wants it in this very moment and he takes a deep breath to try again. “I mean, I want you both to… fuck me.” He swallows. “At um… at the same time.”

Mikey’s eyes go wide and Gerard says, “Oh, uh… oh-kay.” He wrinkles his brow.

“It’s possible, right?” Frank asks. “I mean, I know it’s possible, I’ve seen it in porn.” He looks back and forth between their shocked faces. “I can take you both. I know I can. You guys always know how to stretch me, I don’t know how you do it, but you always do. So we can do it.”

Gerard’s face finally relaxes and he smiles. “It isn’t what we do so much as it’s you relaxing, Frank. We wouldn’t be able to stretch you like that if it didn’t feel good to you. So it isn’t just us.”

Frank shrugs. “Okay, fine then. It’s me too, because it does feel good to me and I know this will feel good. I just want to feel you both, together.”

Frank looks at Mikey and places a hand on his cheek. “Please.”

Mikey swallows and finally says, “Okay.” He takes Frank’s hand and kisses his fingers.

Frank looks at Gerard and he nods. “Sure, if you really want to. I guess I don’t see why we can’t. As long as we’re careful and use lots of lube and you tell us if it hurts.”

“I will, I’ll tell you.” Frank sits up. He pulls his shirt off over his head and pushes the covers down to the end of the bed.

Mikey seems surprised as he asks, “Now? We’re doing this now?”

“Fuck yes,” Frank growls out as he pulls off his pajama pants and underwear. “I got hard just talking about it.”

“Jesus, Frankie.” Gerard laughs. “Okay, we can do it now, okay.”

Frank grins once he’s naked and looks back and forth between the two of them. “Why are you both still wearing clothes? Get naked so I can suck you both until you’re hard.”

That finally gets them moving and they laugh and smile as they pull their clothes off. Frank doesn’t hold back at all, once he has them both in front of him on the bed. He goes back and forth between them, licking and sucking until they’re both hard and squirming. That’s the easy part. That’s when he backs off and looks to Gerard (because Gerard is usually the one in charge) and says, “Now what?”

Gerard shakes his head and smiles. “Frank, I’ve never done this before. What do you think we should do next?”

Frank feels a unique thrill at the thought of being part of ‘first’ for Gerard. He turns to Mikey. “Have you?” He doesn’t have to finish the question because Mikey’s shaking his head and grinning so hard, he’s practically glowing.

“Okay,” Frank says more to himself than anything and tries to focus his thoughts. “Okay, I think we need lube.”

Mikey opens his nightstand drawer and locates the lube and condoms quickly. Frank looks to Gerard again (it’s a habit) and asks, “How do you think it’ll be best to… you know, um… open me up?” Frank rolls his eyes at himself for suddenly feeling coy.

“I think you should lie down, well… actually, easiest would probably be if you went up on your knees?” Gerard shifts around on the bed and moves Frank to lie with his head down on his arms on a pillow. “Yeah, like that, and with your ass up.” He moves Frank to stick his ass up in the air and says, “Yeah, perfect.”

Frank snorts because he feels silly presenting himself like this, but he’s also really glad that Gerard is here because he’s right, this will definitely be the easiest way to open him up.

Mikey goes first with his long, slender fingers. He works them in slowly, one by one, until he has three sliding in and out easily, fluting them and scissoring them around inside. When Mikey pulls his fingers out, Gerard slides his in. He starts with two fingers and quickly works in a third. Frank turns around and looks back to see that Gerard is sucking on Mikey’s fingers that were in Frank’s ass while he works his fingers around inside.

Gerard works over Frank’s prostate for a little while and soon Frank feels like he could come. He decides to go for it, figuring he might be more relaxed if his own orgasm isn’t hanging heavy in his thoughts. He jerks himself quickly, it only takes a few strokes for him to come hard and as Gerard continues working him over with his fingers, Frank almost feels like he just floats away in a cloud of bliss.

Once Gerard has three fingers moving around easily enough, Mikey and Gerard begin working together. Frank buries his face in the pillow and tries to breathe deeply through it all. Gerard and Mikey are murmuring ideas and strategies to each other as they work, but Frank doesn’t hear most of it. He’s just lost in the sensation.

It isn’t long before they each have two fingers inside and are working them around, pulling in opposite directions. By the time they each have three fingers inside, Frank stops trying to identify which fingers belong to who because it’s just too much and it’s all he can do not to just melt into the mattress. Frank thinks that both of their pinkies have been nudging at his entrance and finally worked inside when Gerard says, “I think that’s good.”

Frank feels all the fingers slip from his ass and just like always, he feels cold and empty and alone and has this insatiable need to be filled - to be filled up deeply and tightly. He tries not to whine as he hears Mikey and Gerard both sliding on condoms and lubing up.

Gerard comes back, rubbing Frank’s back and kissing his shoulder and telling him to relax. He pulls Frank over onto his side and says, “We’re going to have you ride Mikey first and then when you’re ready, I’ll join in from behind, okay?” Frank nods as he sees Mikey lying down on the bed, working more lube all over his already slick dick. Gerard says, “You might not get hard or be able to come again. Sometimes, even though it feels good, people just can’t because it’s, well, I’ve heard it’s a lot to take.”

Frank reaches down and gives himself a quick stroke, it’s been a little while since he came last and he can feel his dick already responding again. He smiles and shakes his head, “No, I think I can come again.”

Gerard kisses his forehead. “Okay, I just don’t want you to be disappointed.”

Frank grabs Gerard’s face and kisses him hard before leaning down and kissing Mikey. “I’m making love with you guys, how could I possibly be disappointed?”

They both smile and Frank straddles Mikey, positioning himself just over his cock. Just before he slides down, Frank looks at them both and says, “I love you guys.”

In tandem, they answer, “We love you, too.”

Frank slides down onto Mikey’s dick, letting gravity do its work. It’s easy. There’s no pain or discomfort or even tightness at all. It only feels good. Frank leans forward with his hands on Mikey’s shoulders and starts shifting until he finds a place where Mikey’s dick will hit his prostate. They move together, finding a good rhythm and Frank starts growing hard again right away. He leans down to kiss Mikey several times because it’s so good and because he’s excited for what’s to come. It doesn’t take long for him to want more. Mikey and Gee did such a great job loosening him up, he knows he’s ready for it, knows he can take Gee, too.

He looks at Gerard who’s just been watching him and Mikey fuck while stroking himself slowly and says, “Now, Gee, I’m ready for you, too.”

Gerard nods and moves into place behind Frank. He licks and kisses at Frank’s shoulders as he lines himself up with Mikey, nudging Frank’s hole. Mikey stops when he feels Gerard’s dick settle into place. Gerard pushes down on Frank’s back and slowly presses in. There is resistance, but it’s okay. Frank breathes and relaxes and just stays perfectly still as Gerard pushes hard, forcing Frank’s ass to accept the intrusion. Frank swallows and closes his eyes tightly against the pressure. It’s so, so tight, but it’s so good, too.

Finally, after what feels like forever, Gerard is in as far as he can go. Frank feels Gerard’s forehead come down between his shoulder blades and he says, “Fuck.”

Mikey gasps like he’s been holding his breath. “This is the tightest fucking thing I have ever felt in my entire fucking life.”

Frank opens his eyes and runs his fingers over Mikey’s face. “Is it too tight, does it hurt? You aren’t supposed to hold your breath. Why were you holding your breath?”

Mikey makes a face that’s halfway between a grimace and a smile and shakes his head. “No, it’s okay, it doesn’t hurt. It’s actually, like, really, really good. It’s just a lot though.” He leans up and kisses Frank’s chin. “I’m okay.”

Gerard shifts a little bit and says, “Guys, I really need to move now.”

Mikey nods and says, “Yeah, me too.”

Gerard nudges Frank’s ear. “Okay?”

Frank nods. “Yeah, okay. Go ahead, move.”

Moving turns out to be the hard part. It feels good, but it just feels like so, so much. Frank gets used to it quickly and he likes it. The hard part is for Gerard and Mikey to get a good rhythm going together. It’s awkward, but they manage to do pretty well. Mikey doesn’t manage to find a way to hit Frank’s prostate on each stroke like this, but he gets it a lot of the time. Frank’s confident that with enough practice, they’ll become really good at this. For now, though, he just rides along with Mikey and Gerard’s fits and starts and doesn’t complain.

Amazingly enough, it’s only a little while before Frank grows completely hard again. He jerks himself off and comes long before Gerard and Mikey do, but that’s okay. After the second orgasm, he’s so wrung out that he feels like he’s practically fucking grown wings and is flying away in a blissful haze. He feels like it goes on forever. He just hangs on and enjoys the feeling of Mikey and Gerard moving inside him, sometimes in rhythm, and sometimes not.

It’s Gerard who comes first, with Mikey following soon after and they grow soft inside Frank together. It feels weird, but not bad. Not bad at all. When they do finally slip free, Frank feels emptier than he’s ever felt and he whines, just like he always does, until they’re both cuddled up to him again. They don’t say much in the afterglow this time, but it’s okay. Frank is sure it’s okay, because they just know. They don’t need to say anything. They kiss and kiss and caress each other and hold each other close until the sweat starts to cool on their bodies. Gerard pulls the covers up before Frank can get cold and Frank falls asleep between them, feeling like the most loved and adored person in the world.

*_*_*

On a crisp, cool Wednesday in early October, Frank, Gerard, and Mikey drive into the city early to spend the day apartment hunting. They park in a garage and take cabs between each of the apartments they look at. Mikey has a list of about half a dozen places he’s found online and they tour all of them in one day, only taking a break for lunch. After looking at seven different apartments, they have dinner at one of Mikey’s favorite restaurants before heading home.

The meal is delicious, but Frank is exhausted by the time they get in the cab to ride back to the garage where Gerard’s car is parked. Frank doesn’t join much into the apartment debate Mikey and Gerard are having in the back of the cab. He really doesn’t care which place they end up taking, so long as Gerard and Mikey are both happy. Frank thinks he could fall asleep to the sound of their bickering. He rests his head against the window and looks up, imagining he can see the stars. He can’t, it’s way too bright in mid-town, but he can see the moon and it’s huge. Frank thinks it might be nearing a full moon. It’s beautiful and so bright and Frank is sort of mesmerized by it as it plays hide-and-seek with him, hiding behind this building or that truck or this lamp post.

From the back seat, Frank hears Mikey saying something about Thanksgiving and how Frank is invited to their parents’ house. Frank makes a noise of assent, still intently following the moon. He feels sleepy and content and full from the big dinner he just had.

Frank doesn’t know which apartment they’ll choose, or what his new job will be like, or how Pugsley will behave on their upcoming road trip. Those are all the kinds of things he used to obsess over, but not right now. Right now, all he wants to do is stare at the moon and that’s okay. Frank doesn’t know what’s going to happen to him tomorrow or next month or next year, but he knows he’ll be with Mikey and Gerard and that’s enough for him.

 

END

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