Post-night-out Sunday morning coffee with Mikey was one of Gerard’s favorite traditions.
It wasn’t a long-standing one – there had been years when Gerard hadn’t really gone out a whole lot, and then years when he’d been spending his post-night-out Sunday mornings hunched over a toilet seat.
But, whatever, it was a tradition, and a pretty awesome one, and Gerard intended to keep it. He got to hear all the gossip on the Jersey scene and make up for lost big brother time; the coffee was just the cherry on top.
Usually, Sunday mornings went like this: Mikey spent the first ten minutes curled up over his giant cup, eyes half-closed and looking for all the world like he was still asleep, or on his way back there.
He didn’t drink the coffee, something Gerard was unable to keep himself from doing, no matter how badly his tongue hurt after the first scorching hot sip.
Mikey was usually wearing the previous night’s clothes and stinking of perfume; sometimes there were still lipstick smudges on his neck, even, though these days the lipstick always seemed to belong to Alicia.
Gerard would fill those ten minutes doing his bit on being too old for the club scene and doomed to remain a bachelor and die a poor, failed artist. At some point, Mikey would interrupt the tirade with an eye-roll, tell Gerard he was being stupid, and start spilling the beans about his latest crazy adventure.
This particular Sunday morning, though, was different. Today Gerard had a conquest to talk about. Two of them, even.
“You know how it is, when you’re watching someone and it’s, like, they’re not immediately obvious? Like, there’s something to figure out… I don’t even know how to say it, exactly. It’s not that I was wondering ‘boy or girl,' you know, it’s… It’s more complicated than that, there was just something to him –“
“So it was a him?” Mikey was still peering intently into his cup, but he’d entered the phase where he was able to respond to Gerard, at least.
“What? Oh, yeah, yeah, totally a him. But I didn’t know that at the beginning.”
It had taken Gerard some time, but he’d finally come to the conclusion that the pretty creature was a guy.
A guy with makeup running down his face and a nose ring and perfect eyebrows, who had been grinding up to girls and boys alike in the darkness of the club.
Gerard kept moving his feet to the rhythm and dodging Gabe's wandering hands.
Dancing with Gabe and getting groped a little was, like, a Jersey Saturday night tradition. Usually Gerard found a way to decline, but tonight he'd accepted for the excuse to leave his usual spot near the bar and approach the guy on the dance floor.
All eyes were on the guy and he was aware of it, too. He was playing it up, throwing his head back, his hair flinging sweat around as he rubbed against his latest dance partner.
Suddenly Gerard found himself propelled even closer, close enough to feel the heat pouring off of the guy's skin, as Gabe maneuvered them next to him and grabbed the pretty dude's dance partner out of his arms, shoving Gerard in his place.
“See you later!” Gabe shouted over the music, and winked at Gerard as he made off with his new prey.
“Um, sorry!” Gerard cringed, leaning in close to the guy's ear. “Gabe's kind of... Sorry!”
“No problem!” the guy shouted back, and Gerard shivered as lips brushed his ear.
“You have to dance with me now, make up for it,” he said, then leaned back to grin at Gerard. The black light turned his teeth blue, and Gerard found himself grinning back.
“I don't really dance!” Gerard shouted, trying to cover the music. It seemed to get louder and louder, and Gerard leaned even closer to the guy.
“I noticed!” the guy replied, but he put his hands on Gerard's hips and pulled him close anyway, sending sparks up Gerard's spine. “Wanna know my secret?”
Gerard nodded, licking his lips.
“Don't give a fuck, just move!”
So Gerard did, for a while, letting the rhythm and the guy's body guide him, the press of people around them bringing them together, then apart again, like a sweaty, bony tide.
The guy's eyes were closed most of the time, but when he opened them he would grin at Gerard, looking at him intently. His hands were tight on Gerard's hips, not letting go for the whole song.
Then there was a crowd shift as the song segued into another, a group of drunk girls taking over the dance floor, and Gerard lost sight of the guy.
Time for a drink, he decided. He hadn't seen Mikey in a while, either. He made his way to the bar and leaned on it, staring through the crowd as he waited for his Coke.
When the guy reappeared, he was dancing with a dark-haired girl.
Neither of them were the best dancers out there, but they moved with a reckless abandon that made them a compelling sight all the same. They looked almost like twins in the club lights, like two sides of the same beautiful coin, wild hair and runny eyeliner emphasizing the similarities in their features even more.
Gerard stared, absently sipping his Coke, letting his tongue play with his straw once his glass was empty. When they started whispering into each other's ears, the girl's hand around the guy's wrist, he turned his back to them.
Maybe it was time to go home for tonight. If he could find Mikey.
Gerard was startled out of his thoughts by the same girl, the one who'd been dancing. She was leaning close to him, looking at him with expectant eyes.
“Um, I. What?” Gerard said, in a stunning display of social ineptitude, even for him. This was exactly why he didn’t talk much to people who weren’t Mikey or Lindsey.
“I saw you looking earlier,” the girl explained, leaning even closer and shouting in Gerard’s ear. “I said he’s pretty! Don't you think?”
“He’s, uh… Yeah!” Gerard shouted back because, well, the guy really was.
The girl grinned at him like that had been the right answer. She didn’t say anything else, though, just took a sip of the beer she was now holding, so Gerard went back to playing with his straw and looking down at his feet.
He felt self-conscious, now that he’d been caught looking at the guy, like maybe he shouldn't have been. Which even he realized was pretty stupid, because what were these places meant for, if not for people to look at pretty young things who were out of their league?
“You should get back over there,” the girl started again, shouting in his ear. “He's still looking at you.”
She’d put a hand on Gerard's shoulder, tugging him down so she could talk to him more comfortably. Why was she even talking to him? What did she want? Was the guy really looking?
“I don’t think so,” Gerard said.
“You sure?” she yelled, and then Gerard caught the attention of the tender and ordered a refill, and while he was fumbling for his wallet he felt the girl leave his side.
She was back on the dance floor when he looked again, dancing with the guy, and it was beautiful and painful how evenly matched they were.
Something tightened in Gerard’s chest, tentacles of want and envy squeezing his insides.
He watched for a few more seconds, until the guy ran his hand up the girl's neck and pulled her to him, telling her something or maybe licking her ear. Then the guy’s eyes darted towards Gerard and they looked at each other for a second.
Gerard looked away first. He didn’t want to see it when the guy laughed, or when the two started making out in earnest, or when they left hand in hand.
He felt tired, suddenly -- tired and drunk and absurdly old, too old to be staring at pretty guys in clubs full of people he didn’t know. He wanted to find Mikey, get the car keys, and go home to his dark, silent, empty apartment.
He put his half-full glass down on the counter and started towards the door, elbowing people on his way, apologizing when he accidentally nudged a couple apart and they had to take their hands out of each other’s clothes to right themselves.
“Watch where you’re going, dude!” someone said, and Gerard mumbled, “Sorry, sorry,” a couple more times and tried to get away quicker, but a group of drunk frat boys in front of him was blocking the exit and they weren’t moving.
A hand grabbed his arm and he tried to shrug it off. “I said I was sorry!” he said, turning to face whoever it was, preemptively holding up his other hand.
It wasn’t a frat boy, though. It was the girl from the bar, and she was holding the pretty guy’s hand.
“You’re leaving?” the girl asked, and then she added, “I mean, if you want to leave it’s okay, it’s just… We were, um, we were wondering...”
She trailed off and look back at the guy, who stepped forward, wrapping an arm around the girl’s middle and resting his head on her shoulder.
“What Jamia is trying to say,” the guy said, “is that we were kind of hoping to talk to you before you left. Can we go outside? Um, I’m Frank, by the way.”
“I need a cigarette,” Gerard said, mostly to give himself a reason to step outside.
They sounded like... Well, what Gerard's brain was equating the situation with was bad porn, really, but that didn't happen in real life. Or, if it did happen, it certainly didn't happen to him. Maybe Gabe, or Mikey.
He managed to squeeze past the frat boys at last. The cold air was a slap to the face, but when he turned around they were there, Frank and Jamia, looking at him expectantly.
It was kind of uncanny how alike they looked, their sweaty faces next to each other like this, both delicate and strong and perfect.
“So, uh,” he started as he fumbled for his pack, because surely he was reading this wrong.
“There's really no good way to say this, so, you know. We were wondering if... Would you maybe want to come home with us?” the girl – Jamia – said. “You don’t have to, but we want you to?”
Gerard fumbled with his cigarette. He said, “What?” even though he'd heard perfectly well.
“Come home with us,” Frank said, stepping precariously close to Gerard. Gerard took a drag of his cigarette in defense.
“I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name?” Frank’s eyes were green and he was so, so pretty, and none of the situations Gerard had been in, none of the stories he’d heard in his life had prepared him for this.
“Gerard,” Gerard blurted out.
“Gerard,” Frank repeated, and the word sounded good in his mouth. He plucked Gerard's cigarette right out of his hand, brought it up to his lips, and took a drag. He blew the smoke into Gerard's face.
“You should come home with us, Gerard.”
“So, wait, you just went home with them? Fuck, Gee, you're never allowed to complain about me dragging you out again.”
Mikey didn't sound nearly as impressed as he should, Gerard thought. It wasn't like their Sunday coffee dates were usually filled with tales of threesomes with hot couples. Never from Gerard, at least.
“Actually, I didn’t, exactly. Go home with them, I mean.”
“What does that even mean? Did you guys fuck or not?”
“What? Oh yeah, no, we totally did, but I didn’t go home with them. I, um, I took them to my place? They’re from Trenton, I think, and I didn't really want to spend an hour on the Turnpike at that point. Plus, you know, home turf advantage and all. Since it was two to one.”
“Dude, I don’t care if you took them to Mom’s house – actually no, that would be kind of gross, I would care.” Mikey still sounded bored, which he always did when he was hung over, but he was starting to talk in full sentences. “So come on, spill. How was it?”
“Well, duh,” Gerard started, but Mikey's unimpressed look told him that wouldn't do it. “Fuck, okay. It was really fucking hot,” he added, because, well, yeah. Hot didn't even begin to cover it. “Awkward at first, you know? Like, I didn't really believe it was happening, not even when I was watching them make out on my couch. Especially then. It's like I kept waiting for the moment they'd ask me to leave.”
“Leave your own place?”
Gerard chuckled. “Yeah, maybe my brain wasn’t really online anymore by that point. It was just… surreal. That kind of stuff never happens to you, you know? Well, not you you, but me. After months going home alone, suddenly I bring home the hot punk couple?”
The air in the Starbucks was sweet, the cloying smell of chocolate filling the air. Jamia had unearthed some hot chocolate mix from one of Gerard’s cupboards this morning, and had been drinking it when he’d shuffled into the kitchen. He'd turned down her offer of a cup but accepted a cigarette.
He breathed in the smell of his coffee, filling his nose with that instead, trying to shake off the memory.
“So…” Mikey prompted. “What happened? After they didn’t make you leave?”
“Well, you can probably guess,” Gerard said.
He was so out of practice, talking about hookups. It had been a while since he'd had sex with anyone but Lindsey, when she was in town every other month, and he didn't tell Mikey about her either, anyway.
Mikey used to have no such qualms about this stuff; Gerard had heard more than his fair share of filthy, funny and impressively kinky stories over the years. Those stories were becoming rarer, though, getting vaguer and vaguer the longer Mikey was with Alicia.
Gerard still didn’t know what to say.
At some point, last night, Jamia had stopped kissing Frank, then squeezed his hand and nudged him towards Gerard. Frank had put his hands on Gerard’s waist, kind of carefully, and kissed him -- too hard at first, almost aggressive, until Gerard had slid his hands under Frank’s shirt and Frank had shivered.
“At first I thought it would be Frank and me, and Jamia would watch, you know, because she was leaning against the dresser and watching… And it seemed like kind of a shame, almost, because if you're going to have a threesome, you should get the full experience, right?”
Frank had handed Gerard a condom, and Gerard had hesitated, a little taken aback. Fucking seemed kind of advanced for this, and he didn't know if he felt comfortable with it, not right then.
“No, I want to blow you,” Frank had said, eliciting a gasp from Jamia, and, wow, Gerard had definitely been comfortable with that.
Frank had started licking at the latex covering Gerard's dick, methodically, Jamia providing a constant, low-pitched commentary of “Is it good? Is it good, Frankie?” that only seemed to fuel Gerard's need, so much so that he was glad for the condom toning down the intensity of the sensations.
When Frank had taken Gerard in his mouth and started sucking, though, nothing could have stopped Gerard from crying out. That only seemed to spur Frank on, making him go down faster and deeper, jerking himself like just giving head would be enough to make him come.
When Gerard shifted to give himself more leverage to push into Frank's mouth gently, Frank had pulled back and coughed a little. It had probably been a while since he'd last sucked cock, Gerard thought, but that only made him harder.
Jamia had continued talking, whispering about how hot it all was and how wet it was making her, until she said, “Wish you could put your mouth on me right now, Frank, need to get off so bad,” and Gerard had moaned and blurted, “I could do that.”
“Yeah?” she'd answered after a pause, and a look had passed between her and Frank before she’d scrambled off the bed. She came back a few moments later with a piece of latex she handed to Gerard, then took off her bra and panties and knelt above Gerard’s head.
“You really sure?” she’d asked, just as Frank had given a particularly hard suck, and Gerard had positioned the latex on her and dived in.
She hadn’t been kidding, she really was wet; Gerard had been able to feel it in the way the dam slid against her, and he’d wished he could actually taste her instead of latex. He licked in long, slow stripes, trying to hit her clit every time, then stay there and suck.
It had been a while since he’d done this, but he was glad to find that he didn’t seem to have forgotten all about it, judging by the way Jamia gasped and hitched her hips back and forth, rubbing herself on his tongue.
Gerard had been happy to let her; even happier when she’d readjusted the latex, pulling it tighter against her cunt, then left her hands there, freeing his to grab her thighs, relishing the softness of her skin.
Frank had still been sucking on his cock, rubbing his hands all over Gerard’s hips and belly, and Gerard had known he would come soon.
But Gerard couldn't tell Mikey about any of that, he realized. He didn't want to.
He wanted to keep it all to himself -- how hungry Frank had looked when Gerard had pulled him off, stripped off the condom, and stroked himself through his orgasm; how Jamia had moaned into Frank's mouth when she'd come; the way she'd pushed Frank onto his back and taken him inside her, working until she’d come again and he’d cried out, clutching her hips.
None of that was for Mikey to hear.
Gerard didn’t even know Frank and Jamia, and neither did Mikey; it was probably stupid to feel so protective about the whole thing, about them. But there it was. That night wasn’t something he wanted to brag about, not even to his brother.
“Okay, then, don't tell me,” Mikey said, startling Gerard out of his thoughts. “What now?” His face was neutral as he took a sip of his coffee.
“Um, what do you mean?” Gerard was usually better at reading Mikey. “You know Mom is expecting us in the afternoon.”
“Hot threesome, dude. Focus. Was it a one-time thing or what?”
“Well, yeah,” Gerard replied. “I guess? It was just fun.”
That's what they'd said this morning, before Gerard had dropped them back at the club to get their car. They'd been wanting to try a threesome for a while, and they were both happy they'd met Gerard, and it had been fun.
Gerard’s brain skipped to Frank and Jamia leaning in to kiss him in turns, before walking towards their car hand in hand.
“Uh-huh,” Mikey said. Mikey was infuriating.
“Shut up, I can totally have one-night stands,” Gerard said. “I've done it before.”
“Spending one night with the same girl every two months doesn't qualify as one-night stands, dude, sorry to say,” Mikey deadpanned.
That was all it could be, though, Gerard knew. One night. One pretty incredible night.
Frank and Jamia were a couple, and they were obviously pretty happy about it. Gerard would have had to be an idiot to miss it, and a pretty spectacular idiot to get invested.
Plus, it wasn't like they’d even given him a number. Or a last name to google, though there probably weren't that many Jamias in Jersey...
“Uh-huh,” Mikey said again. He was staring at Gerard with that look in his eyes, the one that said, I see right through you.
“Shut up,” Gerard said. “Aren't you the one always telling me I need to have more fun? So maybe I'm a bit of a mess this morning. It'll pass. I've got this, Mikey. Trust me.”
“Uh-huh,” Mikey said once more, but Gerard didn’t need him to say any more.
Of course, Mikey was right.
That was always Gerard's problem: he fell. He fell for things and people alike; he liked being in love like he liked immersing himself in art.
Both had dried up for a while, after he’d left Bert and New York and Cartoon Network, and then he’d fallen into a milder kind of love.
It was more mature, he thought, how he now appreciated living in Jersey, how he took satisfaction in finding the perfect way to arrange all his stuff in the place where he was living on his own for the first time.
There was Lindsey, too, and their relationship was the best of both worlds. There had been a passionate week, but then she'd gone back on tour with her band and they'd found out that despite all their affection, neither of them really wanted a long-distance commitment. They really worked better as best friends with benefits.
Being with Bert had been exhausting, taking up all of Gerard’s energy and mental space. This no-strings-attached, no-pressure kind of deal suited Gerard better. It was easy. Uncomplicated.
And maybe his work as a freelance graphic designer was just as boring as what he’d done working for The Man, but at least no one but him made money off it.
This morning, though, for the first time in what felt like forever, Gerard felt an urgency again.
He unearthed a sketchbook and his favorite markers from one of the drawers – he did all his work on the computer nowadays – and sat at the kitchen counter, sketching and smoking and drinking his coffee.
It wasn’t the plan when he started drawing, but he still found himself outlining Jamia and Frank, intertwined as they slept.
Gerard honestly never thought he’d see them again, was the thing. And it was okay, Mikey’s knowing looks notwithstanding. That night had been a freak accident in his life, a statistical anomaly of awesomeness in his otherwise dull routine.
And that was all right. Dull was safe. Normal was good. Unsurprising was way better than waking up in someone else’s bathtub to the sounds of your boyfriend puking his guts out.
Gerard’s life was different now, and in this life, threesomes didn’t strike the same place twice.
He was nursing his beer, only half-listening to what Gabe was telling him, when he saw them come through the door hand in hand. They looked just as good as he remembered - which was a surprise – he had a tendency to embellish – and so was the bright smile on Jamia’s face when she spotted him.
She tugged at Frank’s hand and crossed the room to come join him.
Gerard was petrified. He had no idea what they were doing here, what to tell them, or how to introduce them to Gabe, who was shooting Jamia interested glances. She started talking to him, and Gerard wondered if he should warn Frank, or intervene, but Frank didn’t seem concerned.
“Hey,” Gerard said finally, and hoped that Gabe would behave himself. “I didn’t know you guys knew…” He trailed off, realizing that either he'd forgotten who was hosting that night's party, or Mikey had never told him. “Whoever owns this house?”
Frank chuckled. “Our friend John invited us. He said everyone we needed to know to get settled here would be there, so.”
Gerard cast a glance over at Jamia, who was deep in conversation with Gabe.
“Getting settled here?” he repeated.
“Yeah,” Frank said, taking a sip from his cup. “We’re, um, moving here?” It sounded like a question. “Jamia’s uncle is moving, and he has this house, and he wanted to keep it in the family, so he’s selling it to us at a good price. No way we could afford to buy a house otherwise, the business isn’t nearly profitable enough… We love Trenton, but we wanted to try living on our own, no roommate, and this house has a garden, so it’s perfect for the dogs.”
Gerard stared at Frank’s mouth, his thoughts buzzing in his head. Frank and Jamia were moving to his town! They were buying a house! With a garden! And they had several dogs, and apparently a business?
He looked at Frank again, with his nose and lip rings, and his stretched ears and his visible tattoos, and then at Jamia in her short skirt and combat boots, and tried to make sense of it all.
They didn’t look like responsible adults; they couldn’t be older than maybe twenty-two. How was it possible that they had it all together like this, all figured out, when Gerard was twenty-six and could barely remember to buy coffee and pay his electricity bills?
Gerard was fascinated. And so, despite his best intentions, despite being old enough that he should have known better, he let the thrill guide him.
He didn’t excuse himself and go looking for Mikey, or for someone – an available someone – more suitable for him. He didn’t stop himself from laughing when Jamia joked at Gabe’s expense, or from teaming up against him and earning more of her bright smiles. He didn’t refrain from asking about Frank’s Lady of Sorrows tattoo and touching his skin lightly, even when he saw Frank’s skin break out in goose bumps.
And at the end of the night, he didn’t let Mikey drive him home.
It was dark, but Gerard could make out the picket fence and a bird feeder.
The house was in a good neighborhood and it seemed… nice. It was the kind of house he could imagine a happy young couple moving into to raise their children. Not the happy young couple with the tattoos bringing in their threesome partner, though.
“You’re actually our very first guest,” Jamia said as she fumbled with the keys. There was barking inside the house, and Gerard remembered what Frank had said about the dogs. He hoped they weren’t too big.
He didn’t get a chance to even see the dogs before Frank and Jamia were rushing him through the house, Jamia leading the way, pointing here and there, Frank crowding at Gerard’s back.
Downstairs, the house was mostly boxes and bare walls, but the upstairs looked fully unpacked, and the bedroom was a haven, just messy enough to look comfortable.
There was art hanging on the walls, beautiful photographs that Gerard couldn’t help but investigate. He didn’t recognize the artist, but there was something about the colors and the movement that appealed to him.
“You like them?” Frank asked, close to Gerard.
Gerard reached up, tracing the outline of a woman’s smile through the glass. That smile… He looked at Jamia, then back at the picture. The same smile, it was…
“Frank’s a man of many talents,” Jamia confirmed with an easy smile, and Gerard added this to his ever-growing list of ways these two surprised him.
“They’re amazing,” Gerard said sincerely, and Jamia nodded like he’d gotten the right answer.
The amount of validation Gerard felt at that was probably dangerous, but he would deal with it in the morning, he thought. Frank was pressing against his back, nosing at his nape, and Jamia was taking her shirt off.
“I want to fuck you,” Frank groaned into Gerard’s neck, “if that would be okay. Fuck, please tell me it’s okay?”
“I,” Gerard started, feeling his whole body flush, suddenly hyper-aware of everything, how much he was sweating and the fact that he hadn’t trimmed since the last time. He wasn’t really prepared for this. “Let me jump in your shower real quick?”
He grabbed the towel Frank handed him and cleaned himself as quickly as he could, grateful for the cool water and the time alone to try to get a grip on his thoughts.
When he came back, wearing just the towel around his waist, Frank and Jamia were naked on the bed, Frank’s head bobbing between her thighs.
“Come here,” she called, high and breathy, and beckoned for Gerard to join them.
He let the towel drop to the floor and climbed in, watching where Jamia’s bare legs rested on Frank’s tattooed back, the contrast between her skin, naked and pale, and his, marked and colorful.
She grabbed at his hand, tugging it to her breast, then drew his head closer by the neck and kissed him, wet and clumsy as she came under Frank’s tongue, shuddering.
When Gerard slid his hand down to her stomach to feel the muscles jump, he found Frank’s hand there already. Frank’s fingers were wet when he laced their fingers together.
“Where’s your lube?” Gerard asked.
“You’re sure it’s okay?” Frank asked as Gerard uncapped the bottle. It was just regular lube, but Frank sounded kind of nervous.
“Sure,” Gerard answered, trying for reassuring. It had been a while since he'd been fucked, but he wanted to. He wanted to feel Frank inside him and Jamia watching them. “Do you want to, or should I?”
Frank shuffled closer on his knees. He was biting his lip, worrying at the ring there.
“I’ve never -- with a guy, only Jamia,” he said. “But it’s not that different, right?”
Gerard's stomach swooped at the words. He'd suspected Frank wasn't that experienced with guys –his blowjob last time had been more enthusiastic than skilled – but knowing for sure Gerard was the first man to do this with him was thrilling.
He felt absurdly proud and dangerously honored, like he’d been chosen for something important.
“It's not quite the same,” Gerard said, but he coated Frank’s hand and guided it between his legs. “You’ve never tried on yourself?”
“She’s the one who does it, though,” Frank said, a look of deep concentration on his face.
“Well, just go slow, okay? I’ll let you know how it feels.”
Frank nodded again and pressed against Gerard’s hole. Jamia was lying on her side, watching, face flushed from her orgasm still, or maybe again.
Frank was clumsy at first, but careful, and once Gerard had relaxed a little bit, he reminded Frank to press upwards and shifted his hips until the shivery feeling started radiating through his belly.
Jamia was stroking Gerard’s dick by the time Frank pressed himself inside, slow and careful -- almost too much so -- and it was weird, too much and not enough for a moment.
Gerard turned his head against the sight of Frank, sweating above him, looking as wrecked as Gerard felt.
Jamia’s touch was light on Gerard’s cock, close to teasing, but it was almost comforting in how it distracted Gerard from the way Frank was moving now, tiny hitches of his hips dragging in and out, back and forth, giving Gerard the barest hint of how good it could be.
Gerard was grateful for the reminder that there were three of them in the bed, that he couldn’t let himself get lost in Frank the way he usually did when he let someone fuck him.
Frank was Jamia’s and she was Frank’s; somehow, having their attention on him brought home the fact that Gerard was a guest in their house, in their bed.
“Come on, harder,” Gerard gritted out then, tilting his hips to get Frank where he needed him, and when Frank gripped his hips harder Gerard turned to Jamia, seeking her mouth and smell and skin.
Her hand moved faster on his cock, too, and Gerard gave up trying to keep track, letting himself be taken care of, feeling the way they worked together to bring him off.
Frank came first, collapsing on top of Gerard, sweaty and trembling, trapping Jamia's hand until she pushed him gently to the side and resumed her strokes.
It didn't take long for Gerard to lose it after that, and then he got to listen to the noises she made as Frank worked his fingers inside her while she rubbed her clit.
There was something about a woman's sex noises that was really incredible, Gerard thought, and it was kind of awesome to be able to lay there, sore and sated, and just enjoy them.
They slept for a few hours after that -- Frank and Jamia did, at least, curled around each other easily. Gerard dozed, startled awake periodically by the unfamiliar noises and shadows of the room.
When he gave up on sleep around 8 am and got up gingerly, cursing himself for agreeing to bottom on a day when he would have to walk back to his car, Jamia lifted her head from the pillow and rasped, “I'll drive you.”
Gerard looked down at his sketchpad, at the almost symmetrical profiles he'd outlined, facing each other on a sea of dark curls. He reworked the arch of Frank's eyebrow, the shell of Jamia's ear, remembering how delicately Frank had traced it when he’d kissed her, how their hands had looked on each other’s skin, holding each other even in sleep.
He wished he could recreate the whole night in sketches and preserve it as fresh in his memory as it still was, his for the keeping, whatever happened next.
They lived in Belleville, now, and Jamia had given him her cell phone number when she'd kissed him goodbye at his car. And they'd gotten together twice, so there was no way to think of it as a one-time thing anymore.
Though what that meant it was, exactly, Gerard wasn't quite sure. More alarming still, he had no idea what he wanted it to mean.
Maybe he would call Lindsey and ask her how she did things with Chantal and Jimmy. Or maybe he would wait and see if he bumped into them again, now they lived in his part of Jersey. See how things shook out.
Plus, Mikey would be pleased, Gerard thought, closing the sketchpad, if Gerard showed a little more enthusiasm for getting out of his apartment. And maybe Gerard would go downstairs later and do a load or two of laundry. Just in case.
Gerard didn't call Lindsey, and he didn't call Jamia, either. He didn't need to.
He consciously didn't seek her or Frank out, doing nothing out of the ordinary, keeping to his routine. Maybe he was just a little more enthusiastic about going out to Mikey's friends' house parties, a little more careful about his personal hygiene and choice of attire.
Those were just natural consequences of those nights, though. He'd had a great time with the new hottest couple in town and that had boosted his confidence, and he wanted to get out there more. That was all.
Except he never went home - or even upstairs - with anyone after those parties. And maybe he spent a little more time and effort scanning the room for dark hair and tattoos and sharp smiles than he did keeping track of conversations.
He didn't run into them again at parties, though. No, that would have been too easy. Gerard could have dealt with that, he was prepared for that.
Instead, they were suddenly all over his town. And apparently they knew exactly when to show up to catch Gerard at his worst.
One Monday, he ran into them at the 7-Eleven as he was just popping in for a late-night cigarettes run, wearing his rattiest leather jacket, hair unwashed and crazy because he'd been working on a sketch all evening. They just waved, then, arms full of juice and milk cartons, and Gerard resisted the urge to go ask if they needed help.
That Friday, he went to the early matinee at the art house cinema he loved, having failed to convince his mother to join him for the Truffaut retrospective -- “Oh, honey, you know me,” she'd said, “old movies put me to sleep even when I do understand the language” -- and when he sat down in his usual seat, he heard someone hiss his name across the aisle.
“Gerard!” Jamia waved, surprise plain on her face. “I didn't know you were into the nouvelle vague.”
“Art school grad, remember?” Gerard said, sheepish, but then realized he couldn't recall telling her that. “Frank's not with you?”
Jamia chuckled. “You couldn't pay him to watch anything made before 1980,” she said, “unless it's a horror movie. This is way too experimental for him.”
“Yeah, there's something about it that scares people off,” Gerard replied, “which is so dumb, if you ask me. I mean, clearly I'm not the right example here, but you don't actually need to come out of art school to understand art, you know?”
Jamia nodded, then said, “You mind if I sit with you?”
“Sure!” Gerard grabbed his stuff out of the seat to his left and transferred it to the other side. “I mean, unless you mind people talking to you during the movie. I'm warning you right now, I can't help myself.”
“Are you kidding? Talking's totally the best part. Why would you go to the movies with someone and then not talk to them?” she said as she settled comfortably, her arm brushing Gerard's on the armrest. “It drives Frank insane when I do it, though.”
“Yeah, Mikey, too,” Gerard said. “Mikey's my brother,” he clarified quickly when she cast him a glance, and then felt stupid for it. What was he doing?
Her smile was bright and happy, though, and it made him giddier than he had any right to be. They chatted through the screening, their heads bent together even though the room was basically empty.
The movie was over in a flash, or so it felt to Gerard, anyway. The next two hours flew past just as fast, the debate over the respective merits of Truffaut and Godard requiring multiple cups of coffee and hot chocolate, and by the time Gerard remembered he'd promised his mom he’d come by in the evening, he was already late.
“This was great,” Jamia said as she kissed Gerard's cheek at the door of the coffee shop. “We should do it again. Next week?”
“Awesome,” Gerard replied honestly, and spent the rest of the evening dodging his mom's pointed remarks about how happy he seemed lately.
Mikey told me you're getting good reviews out in wherever the fuck you guys are playing right now. So proud of you. Hope you haven't all killed each other yet.
Hey, so there's something I've wanted to ask. You don't have to answer, I'm just curious.
How does your thing with Chantal and Jimmy work exactly?
See you soon, back in the Jerz?
“So, who is it?” Mikey asked. “Mom says you have a new sweetheart -- come on, spill.” Gerard could actually hear Mikey's smirk. Fucking Mikey.
“Oh, for fuck's sake,” Gerard hissed, “can't I be in a good mood once in a while without getting the full interrogation? There isn't anyone.”
“Right, no, I don't believe you either. I'm coming over.”
Gerard closed his eyes and let his head thump back against the wall. “I'm not home. I'm out to dinner.”
“Oh yeah? Where?”
Gerard looked down at the cardboard box on which he was sitting. The scrawl on the top spelled out FRNK – COMICS, because life was so unfair that Frank was not only hot and tattooed, he was a hot, tattooed comics nerd.
“Nowhere, Mikey,” Gerard replied. “I'm just having dinner, okay. With friends. Is that so hard to believe?”
“Friends I don't know? Sorry, Gee, not very convincing. What the fuck are you up to these days?”
And the problem was that Gerard didn't have an answer to that. The chain of events that found him lying to his little brother in Frank and Jamia's house had felt so natural, and yet now that he looked back on it, he couldn't find any way to explain the situation to Mikey that would sound like ‘just having some fun.’
He'd run into Frank at the comic book store, because it was Wednesday and Gerard never missed comic book store Wednesdays.
He hadn't expected to find Frank already there, though, browsing through the trades, looking just as gorgeous with glasses on as he had in eyeliner that first night. Maybe even more, but Gerard had pushed the thought down and gone and said hi like a normal person, asked Frank what the hell he was doing there at this time of day. Didn't he have a business to take care of?
“Perks of being an entrepreneur,” Frank had said, grinning, and then he'd held up a copy of Gotham Central and asked Gerard if it was worth buying.
They'd started talking, and found they had a lot to say, so much so that Gerard ended up tagging along with Frank on the rest of his errands. All the while they'd talked, about Batman vs. Wolverine and DC vs. Marvel, and whether Morrison or Gaiman was the best writer – an issue on which Frank was clearly, deeply wrong, no matter how many times he exclaimed “But, Sandman!” – and how photography was underrated as an art form and where to get the best sushi in town.
Night had begun to fall when Frank’s cellphone had rung, Frank mouthing “Jamia” even though Gerard hadn’t asked. He’d been thinking about where to get take-out on the way home when Frank had nudged him in the arm and asked “Wanna come over for dinner?”
How could Gerard have said no? The smile on Frank's face when he'd accepted had been enough to make Gerard warm all over.
He hadn't really known what to expect from the evening. Part of him hoping there would be sex again, because he couldn't pretend he hadn't been sneaking glances at Frank all afternoon, looking at his hands, his shoulders, his tattoos, the way his hair curled around his ear.
But they'd just had a drink, then pasta around the kitchen table, Frank and Jamia working seamlessly around each other in their new home, moving together like old couples do when they know each other's spaces so well.
They’d just talked, the three of them, and eaten and drunk, and talked some more, the sprawling conversations Gerard recognized from when he met someone he really liked, and they liked him in return. Like a really good first date, or meeting someone he knew was going to be his friend.
And that was what was happening here, right? Gerard wasn't actually lying to Mikey. Frank and Jamia were becoming his friends – he was pretty sure that was what the lack of sex meant in this context. People didn't invite one-night stands to dinner at their house and tell them embarrassing stories.
And that was fine, totally fine with Gerard. He could be friends with the hot couple who'd just moved here -- he could be the friend they once had a threesome with. Wouldn’t that be a cool and edgy story to tell in ten years when they’d be spending New Year’s Eve together?
Maybe by then Gerard would have someone to tell the story to, even. Someone who wasn't Frank or Jamia - Frank-and-Jamia - but with whom he’d have what they had. Someone who'd make his body react the way it did when he saw them casually brush hands and look at each other.
“Hey, Gee, how's stuff, tell me everything!” Lindsey said when he picked up, and there was a smile on Gerard's face before he realized.
He put his sketchpad down and made himself more comfortable on his couch. “Hi, Linds. You got my email, huh?”
“Yup!” There was no commotion in the background, so he assumed she was calling him on one of her rare moments alone on the road. Sometimes he got a little jealous when she told him about her crazy road adventures, but most of the time he was glad it was her, not him. “I don't have a lot of time, either, so spill now, dude.”
“It's really nothing--” he started, but she interrupted, her voice more serious this time.
“Sweetheart, if there's one thing I've learned it's that it's never nothing with you. Come on, Gerard, I'm not stupid; I can read between the lines. You came to me with this, now let me help.”
Gerard needed more people in his life who would let him get away with stuff. He sighed.
“There's... Okay, there's this couple?”
The noise Lindsey made was knowing. “Right, so what's up with them?”
“Yeah, so. Okay. I hooked up with them. Um, twice now? And it's totally casual. They've been together forever, and Frank – that's the guy, Jamia's his girlfriend – Frank had never fucked a guy, so they wanted to try it and they picked me up at the club.”
“Sounds cool,” Lindsey says. “So what's the problem?”
“There's no problem!” Gerard shot back. “I just, I guess I'm just... a little confused. ‘Cause it's like, we've had sex twice, right, and it was awesome, but now I keep running into them everywhere and I just, I really like them, you know? Both of them, they're awesome – you'd love them too, by the way. Frank takes these awesome pictures, and Jamia's really into old movies, these fucking weird French movies I hadn't talked about with anyone since art school – we're seeing another one soon. And then the other night they invited me over to their house, and we all had dinner and talked half the night and I kept wondering, you know. What is this? Are we having sex now, or is this something different, or... I just. I'm confused. Did you ever do this stuff with Chantal and Jimmy at all?”
There was a beat of silence. “Linds? You still there?”
“Yeah.” She sounded pensive. There was a pause, then: “Gerard, you guys talked about this, right?”
“Well, the first morning? They told me they'd been looking for someone to try it out, like, one fun night, you know?”
Lindsey let out a sigh. “Did you re-negotiate that since? Because if they're inviting you on dates in their home, you're past 'one fun night,' dude. And if that's what you're going to do, you need to talk.”
Lindsey didn't specify what “that” meant, but Gerard thought back to that night, the laughter around the table, the easy conversation. The way they'd both pecked him on the lips when he'd left, affectionate like they did this all the time. The way his stomach had swooped. Date, a voice in his head screamed.
“It wasn't... They never said it was a date,” he said. He rubbed his head on his arm. “Isn't that... Shouldn't there be dates? You guys don't do that?”
“With Chantal and Jimmy? Nuh-uh. I mean, me and Chantal, sure, we go out sometimes. And Jimmy has dates on his own, but it's never really the three of us. I like Jimmy and all, but he's my friend and my partner's partner, you know? That's it. We're a pretty classic V -- like, he and I have never fucked or anything. That's not what it sounds like you guys are doing.”
“Yeah, no,” Gerard started saying, but there was a burst of noise down the line suddenly, and Lindsey said, “Listen, sorry, I have to go. But, Gerard, seriously. Talk to them. You need to figure out what the hell you're all doing before someone gets hurt, okay? I'll see if I can send you some links next time I have a computer. Just... don't do anything stupid. Stupider.”
“I'll do my best,” Gerard said, looking down at his sketch, the dark hair and dark eyes looking up at him from the paper. Stupid was already a few miles behind him, he thought. “Thanks, Linds. Love you.”
“Love you too, dumbass. Okay, gotta go be awesome! Use your brain, okay? Make me proud.”
Gerard stared at his phone for a long while after she hung up, feeling stupidly nervous. Talking shouldn't feel so daunting; Gerard loved to talk, and he even loved to talk about himself -- it was just that talking about this meant trying to define it, contain it, limit it. And there was always the possibility that he’d gotten this wrong, had misinterpreted somehow.
He wasn't sure he wanted to find out, not yet. He wanted to keep this thing to himself for a little while longer, nebulous and warm and thrilling, full of possibilities.
Reality would catch up soon enough, he told himself. Then, they would talk. Soon.
“Soon” didn't really work out. There was no good time, Gerard found, to sit down and talk about your place in a couple's life, especially not while everyone involved was caught in the whirlwind of infatuation. Talking about this seemed forced, unpleasant, and uncomfortable, while experiencing it, enjoying it, was new and daring and exciting.
Gerard was startled the first time Jamia cornered him in his own kitchen and kissed him, running her hands through his hair, answering, “It's okay,” when Gerard mumbled Frank's name.
Frank was just in the other room, Gerard thought, maybe they should call for him if they were starting something, but Jamia seemed content to just kiss Gerard sweetly again and again, pressing against him until Gerard gave in and gave himself over to the softness of her, lips and breasts and hips. Her smile was so happy, so genuine, and the flush on her nose made Gerard's heart flutter in his chest.
Frank was there when Gerard pulled away anyway, watching with warm eyes, and Jamia rushed to him and kissed him too, desperate and hungry and so unlike the way she'd just kissed Gerard.
“I came to see if you guys were coming back,” Frank said, tucking Jamia against his chest. Gerard nodded and joined them back on the couch, watched as Jamia kicked Frank's ass at Need for Speed, answering Frank's incredulous faces with his own when she squealed in delight at winning yet another race.
The three of them exchanged regular texts and emails, now, but those were for flirting and jokes and silly internet links. Gerard couldn't see himself sending one of those “we need to talk” emails. What would they say? What could they even say?
Sometimes it seemed to him like this thing they had was a soap bubble, beautiful and pure, but so, so fragile, something that could only keep existing if no sharp moves were made on anyone’s part.
So he didn’t try to talk either, when he dropped in at the house and Jamia was out drinking with her friends.
“Hey, Gee, come in,” Frank said, face all lit up, one of the dogs tucked under his arm.
Fuck, he's beautiful, Gerard thought, following Frank down the hallway and into the study. There was something about Frank that made Gerard want to be close to him, watch, listen, touch at all times.
“Jamia’s out, I was just catching up on some work.”
“Oh, I can go if you need to be alone,” Gerard said, but Frank tutted, closing the spreadsheet he’d been working on, then powering down the computer.
“You want a drink?” he asked. “Coke, right?”
Gerard nodded and sat next to another tiny, fat dog on the couch. Frank came to sit next to him, sideways on the couch so his feet were right up against Gerard’s thigh, handing him a can. Gerard took the can with a thank you, resting his other hand on Frank’s bare foot.
It was ridiculous how thrilling such a small gesture felt, but they both must have felt it, because Frank ducked his head with a smile just as Gerard’s heart seemed to give an extra beat.
The move revealed Frank’s scorpion tattoo, usually barely visible through his hair, and Gerard leaned in, brushing aside the strands to take a closer look.
“I was a very rebellious teenager,” Frank said, gooseflesh appearing in the wake of Gerard’s fingers.
“Is that what it means?” Gerard inquired. “Rebellion?”
“Well, this one does, at least,” Frank answered. “I got it when I dropped out of college to start Skeleton Crew.” He turned his head the other way so Gerard could see the S//C symbol etched behind his other ear. “I wanted to force myself not to settle for an ordinary life, you know? I thought making sure I couldn’t get a desk job was part of that.”
“I guess I can see that,” Gerard said, instead of what he really wanted to say. ‘You could never be ordinary’ seemed kind of over the top. He truly believed it, though. Frank was extraordinary in all possible ways.
“What about the others, then?”
“Well, you’ve seen them before,” Frank said. “What do you think?”
Gerard smiled. “Well, to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t really paying attention to the symbolism at the time.”
“Is that a cheap ploy to get me to take off my clothes?” Frank replied, but he’d drawn his shirt over his head before Gerard could protest that his intentions were pure.
Frank shifted to his knees, shuffling even closer to Gerard.
“You can touch,” he said, and Gerard did, tracing the lines of the angry chest piece down to the swallows, following the lettering across Frank’s hips, making him draw in sharp, short breaths.
“Like scars, but more beautiful,” Gerard breathed as his fingers traveled up Frank’s arm, and Frank moaned when Gerard stroked across the colors there, around the crook of his elbow, chasing the shudders up Frank’s skin until Gerard couldn’t help himself anymore, had to replace fingers with mouth.
Frank’s hands were tight in Gerard’s hair by the time Jamia came back, Gerard on his knees in front of Frank, learning more of his skin and his noises.
Gerard felt awed and wild and privileged, overwhelmed by the strength of his feelings, and maybe he couldn't totally turn off the part of his brain that was chanting “What are you doing?” but he could shut it up for now. Soon, he told it, and went down deeper on Frank's cock.
“Fuck,” Jamia said when she stepped in the room, and for a split second Gerard was worried that he was doing something wrong, but she rushed to them and dropped to her knees behind Gerard. She whispered dirty tricks in his ear for him to try on Frank, and once Frank came in the condom, she unzipped Gerard and brought him off right there and then, pressed along his back as he rubbed his face against Frank's sweaty thighs.
This morning Gerard was sitting at their kitchen table, wearing his boxers and one of Jamia's vintage metal shirts. He was desperately clutching a giant mug of coffee to his chest and cataloging all the places his body hurt – knees, thighs, ass, back, neck, jaw – and thinking that he was probably getting too old to stay up all night engaging in strenuous activities and then sleeping in a queen bed along with two other grown adults. And then taxing his body some more when he woke up, but he wasn't so tired that he was going to turn down sleepy blowjobs, now was he?
Jamia and Frank, of fucking course, were involved in a game that seemed to consist of gathering all the necessary ingredients for pancakes, then chasing each other around the table trying to cover each other in them.
They didn't seem tired at all, Gerard thought grumpily. He held his cup out of the way while Frank clambered onto his lap and gave him a quick, flour-flavored kiss, breathless with laughter, then started off towards Jamia again.
“Jesus, could you guys stop flaunting your youth and energy in front of me?” Gerard whined, taking another gulp of coffee.
“Aw, did we wear you out, old man?” Frank teased, but he swatted at Jamia's ass playfully one last time and sat down at the table. “Woman, get your men some pancakes! We need nourishment!”
Jamia snorted, dumping Frank out of his chair and swiftly taking his place, and Frank cast Gerard a dramatic glance as he fired up the stove. “See what I have to put up with, Gee? Can a man live like this for the rest of his life? I'm asking you.”
“Oh, shut your face, “Jamia shot back as she poured herself a cup of coffee. “If you didn't like it, you shouldn't have asked me to marry you. You're stuck with me, Iero, better get used to it,” she singsonged.
“Do you see the oppression inherent in the system, Gerard? Say something here, help me out!” Frank pleaded, but Gerard put his cup down on the table and swallowed.
Jamia smiled brightly at him. “He proposed when we were both eighteen and he was too young to know better. Well, too bad, Iero, a promise’s a promise! You’re stuck with me.”
“But how can you blame me, baby, I needed to secure the future of the Iero line!”
Gerard's breath was coming in short bursts, suddenly, and he felt removed from the scene, like he was watching a play. Frank was still going on with his lines, voice light and careless.
“It’s your child-bearing hips, baby, I never had a chance,” he said, then interrupted the script to ask, “Gee? You all right?”
But Gerard couldn't listen anymore, couldn't hear anything over the noise of glass shattering in his ears. This was it, the moment he couldn't pretend any longer, the one he'd thought would be right to talk. Instead, he found himself getting up and climbing the stairs, getting dressed as fast as he could. He needed to get out.
Jamia and Frank were both standing in the hallway downstairs when he came back down and grabbed the rest of his stuff.
“I have to go meet Mikey,” he said as he walked past them as fast as he could. He had to get out of there. He’d always been the extra, here. He didn’t belong in the scene.
“Gerard, what's going on?” Frank asked, but Gerard ignored him, keeping his eyes down, very purposefully not looking at either of them. He had to do this. He had to get away while he still could.
“I have- There’s a lot of work that's been piling up. Clients. So. I'll just. I'll see you around.”
He got into his car and concentrated on the non-existent Sunday morning traffic until he felt like he could breathe again. It only took four turns around his block.
“You don't get it. They're getting married, Linds.”
“So you said about six times already, Gerard, and I'm telling you it doesn't necessarily change things! Chantal and Jimmy are married, aren't they?”
“But it's not the same. You said it yourself, what you guys are doing, it's different. Chantal, Jimmy, you said they were poly from the start. You guys all knew what you were getting into, but Frank, Jamia... They're just kids, and they have this whole life planned, the house and the wedding and the babies. Where do I fit into that, Lindsey? You really think they were planning on introducing me to their families?”
Lindsey sighed, but she didn't add anything. There was nothing to add, Gerard thought. She hadn't said, “I told you so,” at least, but it's not like she actually needed to.
“I should have known,” he said, for what felt like the tenth time, but he couldn't stop himself. “I think I did know, I just didn't want to face it. Fuck, none of us did, or we would have talked about it weeks ago. This stuff doesn't happen in real life. Only in bad porn,” he scoffed.
Lindsey remained silent for a few more seconds, then she said, calm and measured, “I've known people in triads who made a life together, who grew old together, okay. You don’t get to decide what they had wasn’t real. It could work if all three of you wanted it, if you were willing to discuss it and do the work. I'm not saying it would be easy, but don't say it was doomed from the start. Just because you guys might have fucked it up doesn't mean it was impossible to make it work.”
Whoa, okay. Gerard thought about protesting, but as much as it hurt to hear it said, he knew Lindsey was right. He didn't say anything.
“What are you going to do?” Lindsey's voice was softer now.
That was the problem. He had no idea.
“Gerard? Will you talk to them now?” she insisted when he didn't answer.
“I don't know, Linds.”
He knew what he wanted. He wanted them back, both of them, back to how it was before, before the bubble had burst. But it was too late now. Maybe it was selfish to even try. The consequences of fucking up here were too dire. Maybe he should be the responsible adult and walk away, leave them both to pick up their life, their perfect life, where they'd left it off.
“They still have each other,” he sighed finally. “Maybe I should just move on from this, you know? Find my own relationship instead of crashing other people's. Do something selfless for once in my life.”
“Fuck, Gerard. You still don't get it, do you?” Lindsey said, and he could almost see her shaking her head. “Listen, I'll be in New York next week for that art show. We'll talk then if you still feel the same way, okay?”
Gerard nodded and then said, “Yes,” when he remembered she couldn't actually see him.
“Take care of yourself, Gerard. And think about it carefully, okay? Don't write it off because you're too scared to try.”
The next week was both insanely busy and incredibly lonely.
Gerard turned off his phone for a while, and ignored his personal emails. He hadn't actually been lying when he'd told the future Mr. and Mrs. Iero that he had a lot of work. There were several contracts he'd neglected in the weeks of his crazy affair, which he suddenly had a lot of time to devote to.
He dealt with the backlog of emails in his professional inbox, sent a couple of quotes for future work, and turned in the mockup of the flyers for the mall's next promotional event, but everything he accomplished professionally just reminded him of how immensely empty his life now felt.
Gerard still hadn't come clean to Mikey about seeing Frank and Jamia again, and the thought of having to tell him exactly how stupid he'd been was too much at the moment. He didn't think he could deal with Mikey's disappointed face -- or, even worse, his worried and pitying one.
Not wanting to talk to Mikey also meant staying away from their common friends, which meant most people Gerard knew, anyway.
He thought about going to spend time with his mom, but he knew he couldn't put on a convincing enough happy face to fool her for long. Any prolonged visit would result in getting concerned phone calls and maybe visits from Mikey, so it was back to square one.
On top of that, Gerard had a feeling he'd said something that had hurt Lindsey during their last phone call, so he didn't call her again, giving her time before they saw each other the following week.
He avoided the comic book store, the art house cinema, the 7-Eleven, and all the other places he'd run into Frank and Jamia before. He didn't want to risk coming across them and having to explain. He didn’t know if he’d be strong enough to keep his distance. If he saw them, if they acted like nothing was wrong, he wouldn’t be able to resist.
The other scenario was even worse. If Frank and Jamia saw him and walked away, if they ignored him... Illogical as it was, seeing as that was exactly what he himself was doing, Gerard didn't want to even consider it.
They'd come to mean so much to him.
Gerard had never been very good at being friends with his partners, or being partners with his friends. Bert had been more obsession than affection, and they'd never even pretended they would remain friends. They'd never been, really. With Lindsey it was the opposite; they worked better as friends than as a couple, although sex with her was always good, hot in that comfortable and familiar way.
With Frank, with Jamia, Gerard had actually found a sort of balance in the relationship, neither his brain nor his dick taking precedence in how he related to them. They'd been amazing as lovers but also as people Gerard wanted to spend time with, talking, just hanging out, doing nothing special.
Maybe it was because there had been three of them, the pressure spread more equally. There hadn’t been the same pressure to be perfect; to be everything, all the time.
The irony was killing him. He'd stumbled into something he'd had to struggle with in all his previous relationships, and now he couldn't have it anymore.
He couldn't even imagine being just friends with them. It would be too hard.
He was well and truly fucked.
There was only so long Gerard could hide from his brother, of course, so he wasn't that surprised when Mikey showed up at his door on Saturday night, dressed in his clubbing clothes. The difference from his normal clothes was admittedly subtle, but Gerard was used to telling the difference.
“Come on, get dressed,” Mikey said, once he'd taken in Gerard's ratty sweatpants and old Iron Maiden shirt. “You have to come out with me as penance for ignoring my texts all week.”
“My phone's broken,” Gerard lied.
He let Mikey in, but made no move to get dressed. He was pretty set on not leaving his apartment for a couple more days at least. He wasn’t ready yet.
“And you lost your email password?” Mikey cleared the pile of sketchbooks and take-out containers off the couch and sat down gingerly. “I won't make you tell me what you did wrong if you start getting ready right now. Move your ass, come on.”
“Mikey, no. I can't.”
Gerard must have sounded final enough, because Mikey looked up from the magazine he was absently leafing through. “So it is serious,” he said. “And you don't wanna tell me?”
Gerard nodded. He needed to have a better plan before he talked to Mikey.
“Are we talking Bert-levels of serious?” Mikey asked, his face blank but his voice tense.
“Fuck, Mikey, no. You know it's been years. It’s nothing like that, okay?” Gerard came to sit on the couch next to Mikey, leaning until their shoulders were touching. “I just want to be on my own for a while longer. While I think about stuff. I don't feel like going out right now.”
Mikey pushed back against Gerard. “Okay. But you better be at the coffee shop tomorrow morning, okay? You can't hide from the world forever.”
He gave Gerard an awkward sideways hug and got up. “Turn on your phone, asshole. You're making Mom nervous,” he said as he walked towards the door, and then called, “And take a fucking shower!” before slamming it behind himself.
When Gerard turned his phone on, it beeped with five unread messages. He opened the first -- “busy tonight? frnk” -- then deleted the rest unread.
Gerard was early the next day.
He’d gone to bed at midnight for want of anything he actually felt like doing, and woken up what felt like a mere couple of hours later, unable to go back to sleep.
He had no new comics to read, because he’d been avoiding the shop, and he wasn’t in the mood for cartoons on tv. He’d showered, grabbed his car keys, and driven to the coffee shop, intending to people-watch and maybe sketch while he waited for Mikey.
He thought he still had a good hour to go before Mikey showed up when the chair opposite his was dragged back and someone sat down.
“Oh hey,” Gerard said, “early night?” He smudged his finger down the arm of the figure he’d been sketching. He’d stopped himself from drawing tattoos all over it.
“Not particularly,” Jamia answered.
Gerard fumbled his pen and pad, almost knocking over his cup in the process.
“Hi,” he croaked, because that was all he could think to say.
“Hi, Gerard. I was hoping to find you here,” Jamia said, and then she must have seen his baffled face, because she said, “You told us you had a standing Sunday morning coffee date with your brother, remember? I won't keep you too long, don’t worry. I told Frank we were out of flour.”
Gerard's mind flashed back to that morning, just a week ago, and Frank's flour kiss.
He looked at Jamia for a clue as to how this was going to shake down, but she was sitting back in the chair, a cup of hot chocolate in front of her, and her face wasn’t giving away anything about her mood in that moment.
It didn’t change, either, when she leaned on the table and said, “So, I think there might have been a misunderstanding between us.”
Gerard’s stomach dropped. “What do you mean?”
“Frank and I, we made a mistake.”
Well, at least they were finally having that conversation. Lindsey would be proud. Gerard concentrated on keeping his breathing regular.
“We thought... Gerard, we thought you got it. The way you fit in with us, the way you kept coming back. We thought you knew what was going on, and we thought we didn’t need to talk about it. That things would just… fall into place somehow.” Her face looked pinched, her eyebrows knotted together. “Yeah, that was stupid.”
Gerard felt lost. It sounded like an apology, almost, but she looked kind of pissed off.
“You – wait, what are you saying?”
“I’m saying…” She huffed out a breath, clearly frustrated. “I guess I’m saying that we started off on the wrong foot. And we want to fix that, me and Frank.”
“But fix what? Jamia, what are you talking about, exactly?”
“I’m talking about our fucking relationship! The relationship we started, you and me and Frank. The three of us. Before you ran away without a word and then ignored all our calls for a week.”
She was drumming her fingers against the cup now. He took a breath.
“It’s not like that,” he replied weakly.
“Well, how is it, then? We might not be blameless, Gerard, but you fucking ran! What are we supposed to think?”
Her words felt like they were cutting through Gerard’s throat, blocking his air. He’d never seen Jamia upset or angry before, he realized. He was completely unprepared.
“Fuck, I don’t know. What was I supposed to think? All you ever said was that you wanted a bit of fun, and then… It started looking like. I started wanting it to be more,” he forced out. “And then I realized. You have plans for your life together. I can’t do this to you. Someone needed to stop, so I. I did.”
“What does that mean, ‘do this to us’? What do you think you’re doing?”
Gerard swallowed, unable to put it into words.
Jamia leaned further in. “Do you intend to take him from me or me from him?”
“What?” Oh god, did she actually believe that? “No, I -- no! No, Jamia, fuck, I would never -- you can’t think --“
“Then why would you even say that? Anything that’s happening, we consented to, Gerard. We made a mistake not talking to you about it, but don’t you think we talked to each other before we decided to include you?”
There it was again, that uncomfortable and confusing feeling of being scolded for trying to do the right thing.
“You can’t tell me that this is what you planned!” he protested. “I’m not the bad guy here, Jamia, fuck. You said you wanted kids! You talked about getting married, for fuck’s sake. Tell me where I fit there? How will you introduce me to your mother, Jamia? To your friends?”
“I don’t know!” she cried, almost a shout, and he could see her struggling to keep a handle on her temper. “I don’t know any of that, okay?” she continued at a more normal volume. “All I know is that I met Frank and I fell in love, and I know in my bones I want to spend my life with him and one day I’ll have his kids. I never thought this” - she gestured between the two of them – “would happen to me, that after I found the love of my life, I’d find room for one more person in it. But I did, and it’s fucking confusing, okay? I’m trying to deal with that. But I don’t have a new plan yet. I just know that I want you around, and so does Frank, for as long as you want to stay with us. And when it comes to marriage and kids, if you’re still with us, then we’ll make it work somehow. Isn’t that enough for now?”
Her voice was trembling by the end of the sentence. It was costing her to reveal herself to him like this, Gerard knew, to come to him even though she clearly felt like Gerard had betrayed them by running away.
How much her pride must be suffering from this, he thought. In that moment, he wanted nothing more than to be able to tell her it would all be okay, to take her in his arms and back to Frank and to start again where they’d left it off.
He couldn’t, though. Someone had to be realistic about this.
“I want it to be enough, Jamia, but it’s… This is not how things work in the real world, you’ve got to know that.” He sighed, rubbing his hands over his face. “Maybe it’s not the same for you. You’ll always have each other. It’s… easier.”
She laughed, then, wet and cold and humorless. “Easy? You think it’s easy to let yourself feel things for someone you barely know, when you’ve been safe in your relationship for years? When you promised you would only love each other? You think it’s easy to see the man you love fall in love with someone else? You don’t think I’m scared? Let me tell you a little story, Gerard.”
She brought her cup to her lips but didn’t drink, lowering it again to clutch it to her chest.
“When I told my best friend that Frank thought he was bi, she said he would never be truly happy with me, because there were things he needed I could never give him. She said if he told me otherwise, he would, at worst, be lying to me – and, at best, be lying to himself.”
Gerard shook his head, although he’d been hearing the same kind of insinuations about his own bisexuality in certain circles. The thought of someone saying it to Jamia, though, and about Frank, who was so honest and open, was making his face heat up.
“I know, fucking bullshit friend, right?” She snorted, and her tone was still distant when she continued, but her eyes were intent. “Did you know you were the first man Frank ever slept with, Gerard?”
He gasped aloud this time, because no, he hadn’t known. He’d known Frank wasn’t too experienced, but not that it had been the first time. He remembered Frank’s face when he’d kissed Gerard, that first night at his apartment, and then when he’d undressed him. The meaningful looks that had passed between Frank and Jamia.
Gerard wished that he’d known, back then, that he could have appreciated the moment for what it really meant, that he could have shared it fully with the two of them.
He could barely hear Jamia over the cacophony of thoughts in his head.
“You know why?” she was saying. He shook his head, still trying to wrap him mind around the whole thing.
“Because all these years we’ve been together, all this time, he didn’t want to make me feel like I wasn’t enough. Can you imagine how hard it was, deciding to finally give it a try? How much we thought about it and talked about what it meant, about how dangerous it might be if those people were right?”
Gerard was torn, sympathy and betrayal warring in his chest. “Why didn’t you tell me?” he whispered.
“Because… I don’t know, because we didn’t want you to feel like that was what it was about, I guess. Fucking a guy. I mean, it started with that, but it’s not what it's about anymore. It's not about him getting fucked, or sucking cock. It's about him falling in love with you, with who you are. I'm pretty sure by now that if you were a chick he'd love you anyway.”
Gerard’s mind was still reeling. It seemed like every word Jamia added was just increasing the echo in his head. First, first, first, it went. And now, Love, love, love. He scrambled for some kind of response, some way to cover the mess of emotions inside him.
“So that’s Frank, but what about you?” he asked. “How long will you be able to do this for him?”
“Oh, wow.” She closed her eyes. They were shiny when she opened them again, but her face was red with anger. “Is that what you were thinking, all those times I kissed you? And when you kissed me? That I was just going along with it?”
“You know that’s not what I meant,” Gerard protested, but just as he was going to try and make his case, he caught sight of Mikey pushing open the door to the coffee shop, and he didn’t dare argue anymore. He could only hope that Mikey wouldn’t hear too much.
“Frank fell for you because he throws himself at things,” Jamia continued. “That’s just how he is. He says when we met it took him two days to know he wanted to spend his life with me. I'm not like that. I’m more… cautious.”
She looked at him for a long second, then got up. “Here’s the thing, Gerard. I didn’t come here to beg you. We’re in this if you are, for the long run, okay? So you need to decide whether you are, and then come talk to us. But whatever you decide, you need to be sure, because I’m not letting Frank get hurt again.”
And she was off, wiping her eyes and bumping into a bewildered Mikey on her way out.
“Whoa, what’s her deal?” Mikey asked, sitting in the chair she’d just vacated. “Gee?”
Mikey looking actually, sincerely concerned was something Gerard had never been able to resist. He sighed.
“That was Jamia.” He waited for the recognition to dawn of Mikey’s face.
“Jamia… From that threesome?”
“Yeah.” Gerard sighed again. The rest of his coffee was cold by now, so he just swirled it in the cup. His stomach was in knots, anyway. “I’ve been… I saw them again. For… a while. I didn’t want to tell you about it so you wouldn’t worry. Or tell me I was insane, I guess. Mikey, I fucked up.”
Mikey whistled under his breath. “So it wasn’t over.”
Gerard shook his head, the dropped it into his hands. He felt like he’d been put through a wringer, overwhelmed and hollow and so fucking confused.
“And now it… is?”
“I don’t know. Can we not talk about it right now?” Gerard looked at Mikey through his hair. “I’ll tell you all about it if you want, just… Later, okay? You should tell me about last night instead.”
Mikey nodded and didn’t push, for which Gerard was grateful. He knew there was some Mikey scolding in his near future, probably, but he could deal with that. It would probably help him get his head sorted out, even. He just couldn’t take any more emotions today.
Which is why he was particularly weary when Mikey cleared his throat and hesitated for a while instead of launching into some kind of crazy tale about Gabe getting arrested.
“So this might be bad timing, but. I proposed to Alicia last night.”
“Mikey!” There were no more words at Gerard’s disposal at that moment. “Mikey! What?”
“She said yes. So, you know. We’re getting married.”
“Oh my motherfucking god.” Gerard reached across the table and grabbed Mikey’s sleeve, squeezing hard. “Mikey!” he repeated dumbly. “You’re getting married?”
“Yep, got her a ring and got down on one knee and everything.”
“Wow. Fuck, I haven't even said congratulations, I’m such an asshole. Congrats, Mikey,” Gerard said, infusing as much feeling as he could into the sentence. “We should go out to dinner,” he added. “The three of us, to celebrate. Fuck, have you told Mom yet?”
“Fuck no, are you crazy? I want Alicia to have time to get used to it before Mom unleashes the whole family on her. No one else knows yet.”
“I can’t believe you’re actually getting married. My little brother!”
Emotional rollercoasters were not very good for Gerard’s vocabulary, but whatever. Mikey wasn’t much better right now.
“I know, right?” He smiled a small, happy smile.
Fuck, Gerard had been so busy fucking up his own life lately, he couldn’t actually remember the last time he’d had a conversation with Mikey about something important, something serious about their lives. That would change now, he vowed.
“I know it hasn’t been very long,” Mikey started, “and people are going to say we’re crazy for doing it so fast. But being with her, it’s so clear in my head. I know that I can face anything with her. Which sounds really fucking corny, but that’s how it is. You know?”
The morning had come full circle, Gerard realized. He thought of Jamia, sitting in Mikey’s chair not half an hour before, talking about Frank. Talking about Frank and her and Gerard, and needing to be sure.
“Not really,” Gerard said. “But I think I want to find out.”
Lindsey had either forgiven Gerard for being an insensitive prick, or she had gotten much better at disguising her emotions.
Gerard met her in the city the day before the show she was featured in opened. She was bent over an elaborate paper construction when he arrived, frowning as she fiddled with something with a pair of tweezers in hand.
“Transport damage?” Gerard asked, and she nodded, eyes glued to her work, her tongue peeking out slightly. She really was adorable, and so fucking talented.
Gerard felt a swell of pride as he looked at each of her creations in turn, and – as often happened where Lindsey was concerned -- felt the familiar pinch of envy at the back of his mind.
“Mikey says hi,” he said, instead of dwelling on his petty feelings. He was trying to be less self-centered now. “And Alicia says she can’t wait to meet you.”
“Oh, that’s right,” she said, taking a step back to look at the paper sculpture. “I hope I get to congratulate them in person before I have to leave again!”
“They said they might come to the opening, so you might see them there. Hey, Lindsey, listen,” Gerard started, when she was capping the glue bottle and putting down her tweezers. “I want to apologize for the other day. I was an asshole.”
“Yep,” she confirmed. She picked up her bag and dug out a small parcel. “And, yet, I’ve still got a present for you. How much do you love me right now?”
“What is it?” Gerard took the package and started tearing the paper. It was a used book, and some of the pages were dog-eared. “The Ethical Slut?”
“Your new bible,” Lindsey replied, taking the book from Gerard’s hands and leafing through it quickly.
She handed it back to him, open at one of the marked pages. More than two, it read at the top of the page, with sentences highlighted in yellow and notes in the margins.
Triads allow three partners of one or both genders to form a family unit was one of the highlighted sentences.
So there were books about this, Gerard thought, then mentally slapped himself. Of course there were books. But this looked like a serious book, a textbook, almost. That meant there were many people out there who were in the same situation.
It was… reassuring, in a way.
“Take it home and read it,” Lindsey said. “Read the parts about couples, too, they’ll help you see things from their perspective.”
“Thank you,” Gerard said, and slid the book in his messenger bag.
“You’re welcome. Now just let me warn Jess I’m leaving and you can buy me lunch. And then dessert. If I’m going to be giving you Poly 101, I’m going to require chocolate.”
Lindsey’s work was really amazing. Not that Gerard had ever doubted that, but being able to see it, displayed and lit properly, really drove home how talented she was.
Gerard took his time examining each display case again, delighting in the comments he overheard from other visitors. He took a look at the rest of the works in the show, a series of black and white photographs he didn't really connect with, then went looking for Lindsey.
It was late already, Mikey and Alicia come and gone, and Lindsey was in high spirits, her laugh echoing all the way from the other end of the gallery.
She was surrounded by a small group of people whose crazy haircuts and outfits were designed to indicate that they belonged to the artistic milieu, too.
Gerard rolled his eyes inwardly, remembering the time he’d tried to fit in with that crowd, too. He couldn’t honestly say he wasn’t a little jealous of Lindsey right now, of the recognition she was getting, but fuck if he wasn’t glad he didn’t have to deal with all the pretentious artist wannabes anymore.
He was just coming to this conclusion when Lindsey grabbed his hand and drew him inside the little group, pressing her bright red lips to his cheek and slinging her arm around his shoulders before introducing him.
“This is my good friend Gerard Way,” she said. “He’s an artist, too!”
“I’m not,” Gerard protested half-heartedly, trying to escape. Lindsey tightened her arm around him, though, and soon he was involved in a conversation with the editor of a local arts magazine who hinted that she might have work for him.
People came and went in their little group, and Lindsey started hanging off Gerard more and more heavily as people plied her with champagne as well as congratulations.
“This is a really really good night,” she slurred when her groupies had finally left, turning in Gerard’s arms to plant a big kiss on his lips. “Oh shit, champagne kiss, sorry,” she giggled, reaching towards his mouth like she was going to be able to wipe the taste of alcohol off his lips.
“Okay, time to take you home, I think.” Gerard laughed, tightening his arms around her waist as she stumbled. Her hair tickled his neck when she nodded fervently.
The voice came from behind, and it took Gerard a second to place it in this context, but when he did, it sent a shiver up his spine.
“Frank?” Gerard said as he tried to assess whether Lindsey was actually too drunk to stand on her feet unsupported. She appeared to be, by the way she reattached to Gerard immediately after he turned to face Frank, plastering herself against his back. “I, um, I didn’t know you were coming.”
Fuck, could he be any more awkward?
“Obviously,” Frank replied, crossing his arms.
“You’re the Frank?” Lindsey asked, pointing a finger towards Frank. “Gee didn’t tell me you were so short,” she said, giggling.
Gerard felt himself blush and wished he could get her to shut up with the power of his mind. He grabbed her hand and stuck it under his own arm to keep her from actually poking Frank, or whatever embarrassing thing she would think of next.
“Sorry. This is Lindsey, she’s showing here tonight.”
Frank’s eyebrows knotted even further. “Right,” he said.
“Listen, I’ve wanted to call you, actually,” Gerard told Frank, taking a step forward as Frank took a step back. “But then I thought, you know, maybe I would come by this weekend instead. Do it in person. We, uh. We need to talk.”
Gerard’s breath was coming short now, and he wanted nothing more than to grab Frank and draw him close, talking be damned. But Lindsey was still leaning her head against Gerard’s shoulder, arm around his waist, and Frank looked… He didn’t look like he would appreciate Gerard touching him right then.
A warning went off in Gerard’s brain, getting louder and louder as Frank’s face closed more and more.
“Yeah, that’s not necessary,” Frank gritted out. “Listen, you’re obviously busy here. I guess I should have figured it out, I can’t believe… I’m just. I’m going to leave now.”
“What? Frank!” Gerard exclaimed, but Frank was already in motion.
“See you around, Gerard,” he hissed, dodging the hand Gerard put out to try and stop him.
Gerard felt rooted to the spot and it had nothing to do with the dead weight of Lindsey hanging off his back. Fuck. Fuck, what had just happened? Frank couldn’t possibly have thought…
“Uh-oh,” Lindsey said, close to Gerard’s ear. “I don’t think that went very well.”
Gerard closed his eyes, just for a second, wishing he could ask for the music to be turned off. This was a misunderstanding, he thought. Just a misunderstanding. It was fixable, if he left Lindsey here and ran after Frank and explained that it wasn’t like that. They could still work it out.
Or maybe it was actually better this way. Maybe now Frank would be able to move on, forget this crazy idea and get on with his perfect life with his perfect girlfriend.
Gerard had no doubt that when Frank told Jamia what he thought he’d seen, Jamia would push Gerard out of her mind and never give him another thought. Then they would be free to marry and have their perfect kids, and Gerard would be free to find a less complicated relationship.
A wave of exhaustion washed over him. He opened his eyes again, blinking against the lights of the gallery.
“Come on,” he told Lindsey, and guided her towards the exit.
“Sorry, Gee,” she muttered against his shoulder.
Gerard couldn’t answer. There was a tightness in his throat that wouldn’t go away, no matter how many times he tried to clear it.
Gerard’s usual preferred medium was pencil and markers and an 81/2x11 sketchpad, but after a day trying to get his frustration out in thick black lines on fragile paper, it still didn’t feel like enough.
He drove to the art store and bought a couple of 48x60 canvases, some oils and brushes, and an easel, because he’d never gotten around to bringing his old one over from his mom’s basement, and now was not the time to go over for a visit.
He set it up in the apartment in front of the window and, for once, didn’t think about the concept or the story or the structure. There was no pitch, no client to satisfy; he wouldn’t even be showing this to Mikey. This was just for him.
He just grabbed a brush and his deepest blue - this was not about being subtle - and started spreading it on the blank canvas, relishing in the freedom to take up all the space, the broad strokes and angry slashes and violent movements.
Once all the white was covered in blue, thick and swirling, he stopped to grab a Coke from his fridge. His eye was caught by the headline of a magazine he’d done some illustration work for, still on top of a pile next to his desk. “FLOOD WARNING,” it stated in bold black letters. Gerard grabbed the issue, tore off the words and stuck them to the canvas, gluing them on with more paint.
He hadn’t done mixed media since art school, but it felt right to put these words on the piece. He looked for more words in the magazine, then in the flyers and ads that kept coming in the mail and the free papers he grabbed on the street and never read. He tore the words off and added them to the canvas, some obvious and some hidden under a fine layer of color.
When he was sweaty and out of breath and exhausted and felt like he was done, he was looking at a big cloud, blue and grey and almost black in places, roiling with angry words.
He tried to imagine what his critique would be. “Obvious,” certainly, which was pretty much a capital offense back in school. “Derivative” would be next, probably.
Gerard found that he didn’t care in the least. In fact, he set it off the easel, grabbed his keys and drove right back to the art store.
“Back so soon, huh,” the dude behind the counter said as he rung up Gerard’s purchases, but his tone was knowing rather than mocking. “Good luck!” he called as Gerard exited the store, arms full of supplies.
The next few days blurred into one another. There were a lot of cups of coffee and cigarettes and food deliveries; a few hours of sleep, curled up on the couch fully dressed; one shower where the water swirled blue and black and pieces of paper clogged the drain.
It had been a long, long time since Gerard had felt like this, the need to create, to get his feelings out on the canvas, stronger than anything else. It had been a long time since he’d let himself give into it, let the art take over his life instead of trying to fit it into the remaining spaces between all his adult obligations.
It felt good, and pure, and new. By the time Gerard sat down on the floor, surrounded by his five finished canvases and a lot of random scraps and rubble, he was both frantic and exhausted, his face wet with perhaps more than sweat.
The second canvas was an ocean storm, huge waves and dark skies, with words Gerard had written himself, engraved them with the tip of a knife in the thick paint as it dried.
In the third, clouds were raining whole sentences, oblique and rough, into the stormy ocean.
There was a boat in the fourth one, with a figure in it, and words were filling up the boat slowly.
The figure drowned in the fifth painting that Gerard had created, exhausted and frantic.
It was 5 am on Friday when he put them all up on the available surfaces of his apartment and finally went to sleep in his bed, tracking pieces of paper and flakes of blue paint all around him, like the ashes of his feelings.
He woke up to someone knocking on the door.
For a second, he was utterly unable to remember where he was or what day this was. He stumbled to the door, dragging a hand through his hair, probably just tangling it up even more.
It was Lindsey, standing there with two giant Starbucks cups.
“Mikey said you were wallowing and that we should give you a week,” she said instead of hello. “Week's up!” She stepped past Gerard into the apartment, pushing the cup at him on her way.
Gerard couldn’t actually remember if he’d talked to Mikey that week. Maybe he had. It was all kind of fuzzy in his head. He took a gulp of the coffee and hoped it would help clear his mind.
There was a whistle from the living room, and when Gerard joined Lindsey she was bent over the last piece, the one he’d called “Drowning Lessons” in his head, her cup perched precariously on top of a pile of half-torn magazines.
“I'd ask where these came from, but considering the state of this place... Did you do all of them this week?” Lindsey asked.
“Yeah,” Gerard replied. “I couldn’t sleep. I don’t know.”
“They’re so different from your usual stuff,” she said, moving on. “I didn’t know you did mixed media.”
“I don’t, really,” Gerard answers. “But, I don't know, it felt right, you know? I mean, it's not much, obviously, but I felt like I had to do something. Been feeling like that a lot, recently.”
“Not much? Are you kidding?” Lindsey looked up from the canvas with the sinking boat and turned towards him, serious. “Gerard, you should think about showing these to Jess. They’re good. Fuck, they're really good, so personal and vulnerable.”
Gerard thought about it. He hadn't shown in a gallery since graduation, hadn't even tried or wanted to since he'd moved back to Jersey. Part of him was thrilled at the idea; the rest balked at the thought of showing this.
“I don't know,” he said. “You don't think it's too raw? I mean, it's basically my guts on a platter. Who wants to see that?”
“Lots of people, Gerard. Trust me. And some people really should see this.”
Gerard shrugged, unconvinced.
“Have you talked to them since the opening?” Lindsey asked.
He shrugged again, but didn’t pretend he didn’t know who she was talking about. “Nah. I just think... I think maybe it's better this way.”
Lindsey actually growled, startling and incongruous. “Oh my god!” she exclaimed. “You need to stop letting things happen to you and start making them happen! Be an adult about this. Pick up your phone and fucking call them, Gerard. Better yet, pick up your keys and go see them.”
“I am being an adult!” Gerard protested. “This is me, making a decision, Lindsey. And my decision is to let it go, okay? It's just too complicated. None of us knew what the hell we were doing.”
“Yeah, and whose fault is that?” she exclaimed. Then she seemed to deflate, shaking her head. “Gerard,” she started, but he cut her off.
“No, listen, okay? I know what I'm doing. For the first time since I met them, I actually know where I'm standing. I appreciate the advice, and the concern, but you're not going to change my mind.”
“Alright,” she conceded. “Just, I love you, you know? I don’t want you to regret this. I want you to be happy for real. Not just okay.”
“I know you do,” Gerard said, and went to embrace her in a hug, mindful not to spill coffee on her. She rubbed his back and made a clucking sound that reminded him of his Mom.
“Let me go get your book back,” he rasped, trying to duck out of the embrace.
She didn't let him, pulling him in tight and holding on. “Keep it,” she whispered into his neck. “You might need it again.”
He chuckled, kind of sad. “I don't know if I'm cut out for it,” he said.
“Keep it,” she repeated. “You never know.”
Gerard stopped trying to argue, stopped trying to escape, just concentrated on keeping his breathing regular and filling his lungs with the familiar smell of Lindsey's shampoo.
“Oh, honey, you're going to be okay,” she whispered when he started shaking.
Gerard wasn't so sure. It felt good to hear it anyway.
The new place for post-night-out Sunday morning coffee had better chairs, and a better selection of food, but the coffee was inferior, Gerard thought. He never brought it up, though, and neither did Mikey, but that might be because the new place was Alicia's favorite.
It was also within walking distance of the apartment Mikey and Alicia had moved into, and the sight of them strolling in hand in hand, looking insufferably smug and in love, was enough to make up for the inferior coffee quality. It had been today, anyway.
The new place also had the combined major advantages of not giving Gerard flashbacks of Jamia walking out on him, and of not making his stomach twist every time he caught sight of a short, tattooed guy walking through the door.
Alicia was waving her hand in front of Gerard's face when he came back to reality.
“Sorry,” he said, sheepish.
“No problem, dude. You're an artist now, I've been told you people get to blow off social conventions like that.”
“He's always been an artist,” Mikey countered, then winced when Alicia punched him in the shoulder.
“I know, Mikey, oh my god, don't even start,” she said. “I didn't mean to disrespect the great Gerard Way.”
“Ugh, stop it,” Gerard interrupted, feeling his cheeks start to heat up. “It's only a spot in a small showcase for young artists. It's not that big a deal.”
That was what he'd been telling himself for the past two weeks. Truth was, it felt like a pretty big deal, but other people saying it made him too nervous.
“It's a showcase for promising artists,” Mikey corrected.
“Yeah, sorry, Gerard, you're really not that young anymore,” Alicia added, then stuck her tongue out at Gerard when he glared at her. If they were tag-teaming him, there was no way he could win.
“So, did you guys tell Mom you're engaged yet?” he asked. His turn to make them squirm.
Unfortunately, his respite was brief, because talk of the engagement tended to circle back to his own love life pretty quickly, and Gerard was usually too late to notice the shift.
He sighed. “I'm not ready yet,” he said, same as every other time Alicia had brought it up. Mikey mostly left it alone now, but she wouldn't give up.
“You haven't seen them around again, then.”
“No, and I'm not going to,” Gerard answered firmly.
He'd spent a couple of weeks trying to deal with being assaulted by memories every time he went out – and whenever he sat on his couch, or stepped inside his kitchen to make coffee. He wasn't about to move or buy new furniture, though, so he couldn't do anything about that part.
He could, however, find new places to hang out. He'd stopped visiting his regular coffee place completely, and he was still looking for suitable replacements for the comic book store and the art house theater. Last time he’d come back from the gallery he'd caught sight of one that looked promising, a little run-down cinema with black and white posters in the windows; he’d made a note to try and stop by next time.
He wondered, sometimes, if Frank and Jamia still visited them, if they'd taken over Gerard's old neighborhood, or if they were doing the same as he was and avoiding the places they'd been to together.
That was the problem with bringing people you liked – you loved, he corrected, because he was trying to look at his feelings honestly these days – to your favorite places. You ran the risk of tainting those places with memories when – if, he was also working on having a more optimistic outlook on things – things went wrong.
He hadn't had that particular problem after Bert, because he'd moved out of town, and when he went back now the memories were distant enough that they didn't hurt anymore. They were just faded, sepia-colored images of little moments.
Gerard was really fucking looking forward to the time when he would feel the same way about Frank and Jamia. He just wasn't there yet. But admitting he had a problem was the first step. He knew that from experience.
“I fell in love and it didn't work out,” he told Alicia. “But that's life, right?”
“I still think if you'd talked to them-” Mikey piped up.
“I know, Mikey, believe me. It’s not like you’ll let me forget about it. You or Lindsey.” From the sad look on Alicia's face right now, he thought he could probably have added her name, too. “But I'm fine with it, really. It made me realize I wanted to be in love again. That I could be in love again. And right now it hurts, but eventually it'll get better.”
Or maybe it never would. Maybe there would always be a sore place inside him where something could have been. Maybe it would just be balanced with something else, in time.
In the meantime, all Gerard could do was wait. And keep driving two more blocks to get his coffee.
Gerard was glad he’d come to the party at Gabe’s friend’s house, he really was. Mikey had looked happy that he didn’t have to insist too much to convince Gerard, and it was fun, hanging out with everyone again.
Gerard only felt a minimal amount of guilt when Gabe hugged him and said “I hear congratulations are in order, dude! A showcase, that’s awesome. Tell me something though, why did Mikeyway have to tell me about it? You too good to hang with us now?”
Ray gave him a similar speech, but being Ray he let Gerard off the hook pretty quickly and launched into an account of the latest gig he’d seen at the Loop Lounge that had a really amazing guitarist. Gerard had missed Ray. He added “not hanging out with Ray enough” to the long list of things he wanted to make up for, after months of sneaking around and then ignoring the world.
Try as he might, though, there was always a point when parties stopped being mindless fun and started being overwhelming to Gerard. There was something about being surrounded by loud music and drunk people, people making out and dancing and laughing, that made him retreat into his own brain, the music muting around him like he was underwater.
It was almost like time slowed down in those moments, started flowing thick and sluggish. If someone were shooting a movie of this scene, Gerard thought, it would contain sped-up, blurry people moving around him, the lone figure sitting immobile in the middle of the crowd while the bass thumped in the soundtrack.
The sound rushed back in when someone clapped on Gerard’s shoulder, the couch cushion drooping next to him. It was Gabe, sweaty and grinning, full cup in hand, eyebrows a-wagging.
“Don’t look now,” Gabe said, “but there’s a dude checking you out by the door. Pretty, too. Wanna make out and make him jealous?”
“And that would help how, exactly?” Gerard chuckled, but his breath caught in his throat when he glanced over in the direction in which Gabe was still staring.
Frank. It was Frank. He’d cut off his hair, but there was no doubt that it was him. The buzz cut made him look even younger than usual, and even more beautiful, no matter how impossible that should have been. And he was staring at Gerard, not looking as surprised as he probably would have if this were a random encounter.
“Hey, you all right?” Gabe asked, but the muted feeling was back and Gabe sounded very, very far away. Gerard didn’t feel rooted to the spot now, though. He was on his feet and walking towards Frank before he really thought about it.
“Hey,” Frank said when Gerard stopped in front of him. “I was hoping to find you here.”
“How?” Gerard asked, floundering for words. There were not a lot of reasons Gerard could think of Frank would be at this particular random Jersey house party tonight. He must have come for Gerard, specifically.
Frank must have understood what he meant because he answered, “I, um, I actually met Mikey? Through Eyeball, we’re working on a joint project. When he introduced himself as Mikey Way I couldn’t help asking if he knew you. It was kind of a long shot, but he told me you would be here tonight.”
Gerard looked around the room for Mikey, who was nowhere to be found. Gerard didn’t know what he would have done if he had seen him; shaken him or hugged him, he couldn’t really decide right now.
“So he said I should come by tonight, if I wanted to, um,” Frank continued. “He thought we should… That it would be worth talking to you. I hope that’s okay.”
“Fucking Mikey,” Gerard cursed under his breath, running a hand through his hair.
His head was a mess of conflicting thoughts right now, a jumble of recriminations at Mikey for meddling and anger at Frank for being here and reminding Gerard of his feelings for him.
Gerard had made his peace with this. Frank had no business showing up here and stirring everything up again.
There was also a tiny, fragile bubble of hope Gerard tried so, so hard to burst before it was too late.
Frank took a step closer, reaching for Gerard’s arm, then stopped before he made contact. “It’s not Mikey’s fault, okay? I’m the one who asked. Maybe I shouldn’t have come. I just thought maybe it wasn’t too late. Maybe we could have that in-person talk.”
“About… Gerard, can we do this somewhere else?” Frank pleaded, looking around uncomfortably.
“I don’t know, Frank.” Gerard was still smarting from the way Frank had looked at him at the gallery, the way he’d turned his back and just left, leaving no chance for Gerard to explain. He didn’t think it was unreasonable to be cautious this time around. “Just… Why are you here?”
The look Frank gave him was almost enough to make Gerard cave. Part of him was yelling to just follow Frank wherever he wanted and hear him out, work it out, maybe grab Frank and kiss him right there and then.
The other part was protesting Gerard even talking to Frank, insisting that he protect himself above all. And adding that maybe he should grab Frank and kiss him, in case it was the last time he had the chance.
Gerard held fast, leaning against the doorjamb and crossing his arms.
Frank sighed. “We made a mess, I know,” he said finally. “Jamia and me. Both of us, we fucked up. I know that, and she knows that. And then I got jealous, and it was stupid and I had no right, I know that. But, Gerard, I -- I just want to know if maybe, maybe there’s still a chance to try and make it right. Because the thing is… The thing is, I fucking fell in love with you, okay? And I never even actually told you -- well, I guess I just did, but that’s not… I just fell in love with you.”
He stopped, looking so scared and defiant at the same time, and Gerard could help but say, “I was falling in love with you too. Both of you. That’s why. Why I ran.”
“Then shouldn’t we talk? Because, fuck, that’s something, Gerard. We have something here. Just tell me you’ll come with me so we can talk about it?”
Frank was tugging at his sleeves now, only the barest hint of tattoos peeking out. His added “Please” was so soft Gerard barely heard it, and that’s what decided him, Frank saying “please” like he wasn’t actually talking to Gerard; like a last, desperate request he was sending up into the universe.
“Okay,” Gerard said, taking a deep, shuddering breath as he pushed away from the door frame. “Okay, let’s talk.”
Jamia was sitting in the driver’s seat of Frank’s car when they walked up to it, and her first words when Frank opened the passenger door for Gerard to get in were, “Thank fuck,” and then, “I’m sorry, okay? About the diner. I was a defensive asshole and I’m sorry.”
“Let’s just sit down somewhere,” Gerard replied. “Somewhere they serve coffee.”
No one spoke during the rest of the drive. Gerard was incredibly grateful for the dark and the quiet, the only noise that of the blinkers as Jamia navigated them to the nearest all-night diner.
“So,” he said once they were all sitting in the most private booth, clutching their cups. There were a few seconds of heavy silence.
“We took things from the wrong end,” Frank started, and Jamia nodded emphatically. “We should have started by talking, once we realized we wanted more. We just… We thought you’d bolt, that it wasn’t what you’d signed up for, that we would just show you how it could be instead.”
“We were scared if we actually asked, you’d say no,” Jamia added, and Frank slid his hand over hers on the table and squeezed.
Gerard nodded. It would have been unfair to resent them for making the same exact mistake he had, back then. “And now?”
“We’re talking about it, right?” she said.
“We still want you,” Frank said. “On your terms. If you want to.”
“And if you want to be seeing someone else, too, we can work with that,” Jamia said, although it seemed to Gerard like maybe it was costing her. “Like, the girl from the gallery, is she--“
“Lindsey? We’re not seeing each other.” Gerard paused. “Well, no, I guess we are, actually. In a casual way, more like friends, but I do love her.”
He thought about whether or not he wanted to keep having sex with Lindsey. It wasn’t really something he’d considered before; his default assumption about their relationship had always been that one day he would find a boyfriend, or a girlfriend, and he would stop sleeping with her. But now that it was on the table, he found that he didn’t actually want to give that up for good.
Then he realized that he was already thinking about the details of how they would make it all work, and dropped all pretense that he would be able to say no.
He felt hugely relieved, and really fucking scared at the same time. But when he looked across the table, he saw these same emotions echoed on Frank and Jamia’s faces, and felt a little better. At least they were floundering together, this time.
“Okay,” Frank whispered. “Okay.” He cleared his throat, and Gerard saw Jamia give him a nudge. “I might, um. I might get jealous again. Like that day. But I swear I’ll try and talk to you, if it happens.”
Wow, this was really a level of honesty and communication Gerard didn’t have experience with. It felt exceptionally awkward, but also really liberating to have everything out in the open like this.
Maybe he could actually get used to it.
“All right,” he replied. “Um, thanks. But I’m thinking maybe, if we decide to try this, the three of us, it could be just us for a while. While we get used to things.”
“That’s probably a good idea,” Jamia agreed, and Frank looked relieved, too. “Just let us know when that changes?”
“I will,” he promised. “And you. You’ll tell me about your wedding plans, right?”
“That’s not going to happen for a long time yet,” Jamia said, in an echo of what she’d said that day at the coffee shop.
“I know,” he replied, “but since we’re being honest, I want to get it out there.” It was time for him to make this effort, too, be as brave as they were being, no matter how scared he was. “I guess I get scared because I feel like when you get married, you’ll have this thing I can’t ever be a part of, you know? Like it’ll make me the official third wheel. And that you won’t need me anymore.”
“Gerard, no,” Jamia started, but Frank interrupted her with a hand on her arm.
“No, Jamia, wait. I think I get it,” he said. “I’ve been reading up on this, and I couldn’t really find anything relevant to our situation, something that would… fix this. There’s no recipe.” He took a deep breath. “All I can say is that… Jamia’s been the most important person in my life for the past eight years. She’s the constant in my life, and that’s something I want to show the world, one day. And the fact that I, that I fell in love with you… It doesn’t change that. And when I marry her it won’t change what I feel for you. They’re two different things.”
Gerard nodded slowly.
“I wish I had a better answer,” Frank continued, sounding apologetic. “But all I can promise is that I’m willing to do the work.”
“We both are,” Jamia added. “We want to make this work, Gerard.”
“Me too,” Gerard said.
Frank and Jamia slid their hands, still joined, across the table, and he added his on top of theirs. “Okay. Let’s go from here for now.”
Gerard opened his eyes. He was at his own place, and he was very hot under the covers, and his eyes hurt in the way they did when he hadn’t gotten enough sleep. He hadn’t closed the blinds, and the flickering light of the neon sign across the street was casting intermittent shadows on his bedroom ceiling.
He lay there, looking up and listening to the noises of the building, his neighbors waking up and starting to make noise.
Frank’s voice was raspy, but it sounded so good to Gerard, here in his own room.
“Garbage chute,” Gerard said, and turned onto his side.
He could make out Frank in the grey light of pre-dawn, one eye half-open. Jamia was still breathing deeply next to Frank. It looked like she’d pushed off the covers and she was naked, which probably shouldn’t be so surprising. The white of her breast was almost shocking, for some reason.
It wasn’t the first time he’d seen her bare breasts, of course, but… The nakedness made her look more vulnerable, pale and unguarded. She would probably hit him in the shoulder if he said that within her earshot, though.
Frank said, whispering, “She doesn’t like sleeping in her bra, and you didn’t offer her a shirt, so.”
“Oh,” Gerard said. “I didn’t, did I…” They’d never slept at Gerard’s before, he realized, always at their house, and he thought he remembered now that she would put on a shirt to sleep in. He just… hadn’t thought about it last night. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I forgot.”
The raised eyebrow told Gerard that Frank had probably figured that out on his own, and Gerard resolved, not for the first time that month, to pay attention. To make sure he would deserve it. Them.
And there was still a lot to talk about, he knew.
They’d gotten the basics down last night; their conversation continuing after Gerard had asked them to come back to his place. It had felt good to come clean, to bare himself to them, to express all his admiration and envy and longing to be part of what they had. And Gerard had been genuine in his desire to make it work.
He’d never really been “a make it work” person before; he’d believed in love as something that consumed you, not something that you had to put in effort for. It had always seemed so mundane to him, hearing couples talk about compromises and how much energy went into their relationships, when love should be something beautiful and tragic and unsullied by routine and everyday life.
And yet. Gerard wanted routine. He wanted to wash the dishes with them and sit down to schedule date nights. He was ready to compromise and negotiate and do all those things people had talked to him about. They’d always sounded condescending, though, like he needed to abandon his ideals and settle down for something imperfect, or risk being alone forever.
He didn’t. He knew that now. He could have his ideals and share the stupid minutiae of life with Frank and Jamia, and he would never feel like he’d sold out, because this wasn’t settling. This was fighting for what he wanted, in a way he’d never fought for a relationship before.
Maybe that was what his mom meant by “You’ll meet the right person and then you’ll want to.” Maybe he'd changed. He still felt like himself, though.
The only difference was that, for him, it was two people. And he didn’t know how it would work, exactly; if Gerard would move in with them in their house, and when; how he’d be introduced to their families and friends; how he was going to bring them home to his mother.
But he wasn’t worried. There was time to figure it out.
Frank was still awake, but he’d dropped his head back to the bed – not the pillow, because it seemed Jamia had managed to gather both pillows to herself in her sleep – and his eyes were half-closed again. He reached for Gerard and pulled on his shoulder to get Gerard to lie back down, too, and Gerard did.
He shuffled until he was pressed along Frank. Jamia seemed to feel it and turned over with a sigh, nudging her foot forward until it tangled with Frank and Gerard’s under the covers.
There was still a lot to deal with, and they would, Gerard knew. They would.
In the morning.
Post-night-out Sunday morning pancakes at the house was Gerard’s new favorite tradition.
It was a very recent tradition, having replaced the relatively short-lived post-night-out Sunday morning coffee with Mikey and Alicia and Frank and Jamia version, which somehow always ended up with Mikey, Frank and Gerard relegated to the role of onlookers as Jamia and Alicia talked about whatever they hadn’t managed to fit into their long phone conversations that week.
So after a couple of weeks, Sunday mornings had been relocated to the house, where at least the boys could retire to the living room and eat pancakes while playing video games once the girls started their conversation.
“Poor Jamia has to deal with two boys all week long, okay?” Alicia would say. “She deserves some girls-only time, come on. Shoo!” And then she’d run Frank and Gerard out of their own kitchen.
Gerard was really happy his brother had found an awesome chick to marry, but sometimes he wished she’d hit it off a little less well with his own girlfriend.
“Come on, come on,” Frank urged now from behind Gerard, voice impatient and hands tight on his hips. “We need time to shower before they get here.”
“Hold your horses, Jesus,” Gerard panted, and moved his hips, slowly and carefully, sinking further into Jamia as Frank’s cock slid just right inside him.
“Oh, oh fuck,” he moaned, gulping air. “If you say ‘fish on dry land’ right now, I will kill you,” he threatened Jamia, who gave him her best “who, me?” face when he looked down at her.
“I’m not saying anything; I just wish you would get on – oh, yeah, fuck, like that, ah!”
Gerard had found enough self-control and purchase on the messy sheets to start moving, finally, and it was excruciatingly good, Jamia tight and wet around him, Frank thick and hard inside him. They were letting him set the pace, rocking between them, Frank’s breath puffing hot against Gerard’s neck while Gerard buried his face in Jamia’s throat, mouthing blindly at the skin there.
She urged him along, smooth rolls of her hips as he thrust inside her again and again, and then Frank started moving too, adding to their rhythm, pushing Gerard into Jamia more forcefully.
Gerard was surprised at Frank’s control, actually. Jamia had come once already, under Frank’s tongue earlier, but Frank and Gerard hadn’t yet, and Frank was particularly riled up.
They were still working up to Gerard fucking Frank in the ass, because Frank was a little nervous, and it wasn't like there was a shortage of other amazing things they could do together.
But Gerard had gotten to rim him for a while earlier, sliding two fingers in Frank’s ass, kissing and licking around them while Frank went down on Jamia. Gerard didn’t know if it was giving head or getting rimmed, but Frank had been wild after that, shoving and rearranging limbs until they were all in place and he was sinking into Gerard with a groan of relief.
He was really fucking Gerard now, fucking him into Jamia, and Gerard could feel the droplets of sweat landing on his skin and sliding down his back. He wasn’t going to last any longer, it was too much, he was surrounded and enveloped and consumed, and when Jamia tightened at the same time as Frank gave a particularly well-angled thrust, Gerard collapsed on top of her and trembled through the blast of his orgasm.
He felt Frank slow down his thrusts, hands tightening on Gerard’s hips in opposition, waiting for Gerard to come back to himself.
Jamia was squirming under Gerard’s weight. “Back up,” she said, pushing at Gerard’s chest gently until he slid out of her, which in turn pushed Frank deeper inside.
“Ngh, fuck, come on, Frank, we need to hurry,” Gerard gasped. Frank took him at his word and shoved Gerard back onto the bed as soon as Jamia had slid out from under them, fucking Gerard in earnest now.
There was the sound of the lube bottle being opened, and then Frank stilled, crying out “Fuck, fucking -- Jamia, fuck” and plastering his front against Gerard’s back as he came.
“Oh god,” Frank moaned once more, shuddering.
Jamia flopped back next to Gerard. She dropped a kiss on Gerard’s lips, then, wiping her fingers on the sheet, said, “I’m going to take a shower and start the pancakes.”
“We’ll come help,” Frank mumbled against Gerard’s skin, where he was still sprawled on top of him. “Just give us a minute.”
“You have twenty till Alicia and Mikey get here. Don’t fall asleep.”
“We won’t,” Gerard assured her, although he wasn’t so sure himself right now. His eyelids were feeling heavy. He forced them open and dislodged Frank from his back, stopping for a kiss before he got up on shaky legs.
“Come on, dude,” he told Frank. “Maybe we can catch her in the shower.”
Frank gave a groan and dragged a pillow on top of his face, and Gerard laughed as he padded out of the room.
Most of Gerard’s days lately were interesting and complicated and challenging and inspiring.
Sunday mornings, though, were just plain fucking awesome.