Frank didn’t have an office; he didn’t even have a desk near the wall or a window. Windows were fought over fiercely and Frank liked to keep his head down. He didn’t need a wall; he'd never had any photos to hang, until now. He couldn’t very well put this one in a frame, so he just propped it up against some books stacked on his desk. It put the picture disconcertingly at eye level; if Frank looked up and a little to his left, if was almost like Gerard Way was staring across the desk at him.
It wasn’t a very good picture, because the Division of Investigation didn’t have a good picture of Gerard Way. That was just one of their problems. This picture was a blow up of a small cropped family photo. Frank wasn’t important enough to have a real photo.
Even though Way’s face was grainy and blurry, his eyes were still penetrating. Frank sometimes found it hard to look away.
Gerard Way was rapidly moving up the Most Wanted list. He’d exploded onto the scene, no priors. Just showed up one day at a bank in Hoboken and left with $10,000 that didn’t belong to him. A couple weeks later, he’d knocked over another bank in Hoboken, then one in Camden. The local police almost had him that time, but bystanders had gotten in the way and allowed Way to escape. Apparently the bank had been involved in a bad eviction that week and the locals had liked the idea of the bank getting punished for it.
Technically, the case wasn’t federal yet, but Hoover had ordered an eye kept on all serial bank robbers. It was becoming a national epidemic, though it wasn’t as bad here as in the Midwest, and the Division was taking a position of waiting and watching so they could get involved as soon as possible. Director Hoover had had it with these celebrity bank robbers; he wanted the trend stopped.
It was Frank’s job to wait and watch and monitor cases. He was making Gerard Way his specialty. He had a feeling about this one.
Frank wasn't a field agent; he was short, too short really to be in the Division of Investigation with its strict guidelines. But the DOI was getting too big for everyone to be hand-picked by Hoover. They needed analysts and consultants and office workers, and there was no reason they had to fit Hoover's standards. The Division's higher-ups had been told to listen to experts and give them time and space and money.
Frank wasn't really an expert in anything, not really, not yet, but he was good at finding patterns and he was relentless and he didn't have much of an outside life to interfere with his work. Frank had been to college, like a field agent, but not to training in DC. He had kept his hair in the regulation field agent cut until a couple of real field agents had made fun of him for it, making sure to remind Frank he was too small and sickly to be a real DOI agent. After that, he let it get a little longer.
He'd ended up as part of a provisional department of analysts working to track bank robbings. They might be more useful in Chicago, where all the exciting bank robbings happened, with all the big stars, but there were copycats springing up all over, Jersey included. These bank robbers were different from the criminal families that had kept such a tight rein on Jersey criminals for so long. Way, for example, didn't seem to be connected to any mob families, but that might be only a matter of time.
Analysts were definitely lower on the pecking order than field agents, but Frank didn't mind. He kept his head down, stayed in the back of the room. Better if the only thing visible was his work. It was Frank's job to ask questions; he didn't want any asked about him.
Frank had lived in New Jersey all his life but had never been to Atlantic City. His mother wouldn’t allow it; she didn’t like bootleggers or gambling. Even after Frank turned 21, he’d stayed away from anything illegal like drinking or dangerous like gambling. Loose morals in one area led to loose morals in another. He had his job; that was all he wanted or needed.
He was in Atlantic City today, though, on work. Way had stepped up his game, knocking over not a bank but a casino. Frank had talked his way onto the field team by saying he needed to view the site in person to collect data. He'd been issued a weapon to go with his badge, and he was almost a real field agent.
“We can’t figure it out,” the casino's head of security said. “We’ve got someone here all the time. But he was in so fast and quiet... We never knew he was here ‘til the explosion when he blew the safe. And by the time my boys got there, it was just to see him wave goodbye.” The man looked pale and sweaty; Frank wondered if he’d be fired.
The night shift was all black men, and they’d already been fired. They weren’t happy about hanging around to talk to the feds, and they weren’t very helpful.
They weren’t able to clear up the lingering issues of Way’s gang: not only who they were, but even how many of them there were was unknown. It was absurd. But apparently everyone— hostages in banks, security guards, whoever— only paid attention to Way. The others covered their faces but Way didn’t bother.
The other agents thought Way was reckless and doing it to mock the law for not being able to catch him. Frank thought he was doing it to protect his gang. They went ignored, safe out of the limelight. It was almost...noble. Not that he’d ever say that out loud, of course.
Frank had studied the casino blueprints while the other agents argued with the fired security guards. Now he wandered through the casino, trying out possible routes Way and his gang had used. The main entrance was obviously out; it was too public and well-guarded. Frank looked at the staff entrance and the kitchen entrance and the delivery bay. The doorknob on the kitchen had scratches; it had been picked.
Starting in the kitchen, Frank walked the route to the safe. It turned out there was a shortcut through a storage room that would not only get you there faster but hide you from the guards. They’d done a good job casing the place, that was for sure.
Frank thought about that as he looked around the casino, which was open for business today. Then he went over to the casino manager, who was still worrying at the feds, like a terrier. “Did you hire any new men recently?”
“We hire people all the time,” he said. “High turnover.”
“Let me know if any new guys suddenly quit coming to work today,” Frank said. He gave the manager his card. He’d hardly ever done that before.
Frank wandered off and looked around a little more; this might be his only chance to take a look. His gaze was wandering at random, around the balcony that overlooked the main gaming room from the second floor.
That jolt that went through Frank when their eyes connected was almost physical. Frank would know that face— those eyes— anywhere.
“Jesus fucking Christ,” he muttered.
Way winked at him.
For a long moment, Frank was frozen in place. Then he pulled out his gun. “Stay right there!” he shouted. “Don’t move!”
There was some confusion, as people around him screamed or ducked or ran away. Other agents and police came running over, there was nothing like a clear shot, and in a blink Way was gone.
Frank pushed through the crowds and ran up the stairs, but of course Way was long gone by the time Frank got to where he’d been standing. “Did you see him?” he shouted at the people standing around, cowering from him. “Which way did he go?” They had no answers.
Way had even had the temerity to carve a little something into the railing where he’d been standing, although he must have done it before Frank sighted him. “XOXO G Way.”
He'd thought Way might lie low for a while after that. Instead, Way and his gang did a big, showy robbery in downtown Manhattan. This was the first time the Way gang had struck outside New Jersey. Still wasn't a federal crime though, and Frank was forced to sit on his hands in Trenton while the NYPD refused to send them anything about their investigation. The New York branch of the DoI was full of guys with chips on their shoulders who snubbed the Trenton office and thought they could take care of some scum from Jersey on their own. Of course they never got near Way.
After that Way did keep quiet for a month. Frank didn't feel any more relaxed, though. Instead he got wound up tighter and tighter, always on edge as he waited for word on Way's activities.
He didn't just spend all his time sitting at his desk, staring at Way's picture. Frank wanted to track Way down. Way was a pretty common name, but Gerard wasn’t, and Frank finally figured out Way was from Belleville, not too far from where Frank grew up. Strange coincidence, that. Frank was sure they’d never met, though. He'd remember.
It took a long time to get an answer to his knock. “Mrs. Way?” Frank said, when a lady finally opened the door. She squinted at him suspiciously. Frank told himself he was a federal agent and he wasn’t afraid of a housewife.
“What do you want?” She blew smoke when she spoke, like a dragon.
“I’m Agent Iero from the Division of Investigation—”
Immediately her back went up and her glare got fiercer. “What are you doing here?”
“Is your son Gerard Way?”
They spent a long moment staring at each other.
“He’s not here,” she said.
And you wouldn't tell me if he was. “When did you last see him?” Frank asked instead.
“I don’t recall,” she said. “What’s this about?”
“He’s been robbing banks,” Frank said. It came out more gentle than he’d intended, although she must know. Gerard Way was in all the papers. “He robbed a casino, too, in Atlantic City.” There wasn’t any visible reaction. “Have you noticed if he’s had a sudden windfall? Has he offered you any money?”
“I haven’t seen him in a long time,” she said. She shut the door. Frank would have stuck his foot in it, except the screen door was still closed between them.
Frank slipped his card through the mail slot.
When Frank had to deliver an update on his cases, the only one he talked about was Way. His bosses were pleased he’d traced Way’s point of origin, and told Frank to check in there from time to time. They weren’t pleased he hadn’t looked into anything else. They thought Way had left the area. Frank knew he hadn’t, but couldn’t explain how he knew. Way was going to strike again, he could feel it.
They stopped bothering Frank about other cases when Way struck a bank in Elizabeth. It had turned ugly, with the local PD opening fire on the bank. Their revolvers weren’t any match for Way’s tommy guns, and a cop had been injured and died in the hospital after the Way gang escaped. They probably hadn’t meant to kill anyone— they hadn’t before— but it had happened, and it had been a cop, and Way’s priority moved up.
Frank wandered around the branch that had been chosen, hands in pockets, looking at the layout. He stood at the teller window Way had stood at, to see what he’d seen.
He wanted— just once— to see Way in action for himself. He didn’t hurt the civilians, he didn’t even rob the civilians. Some of the younger girls were a bit starry-eyed over being held up by Gerard Way. At the Camden holdup, he’d even helped an old lady back to her feet before fleeing the scene.
Frank knew all the details inside and out, but he still couldn’t quite form the whole picture in his mind. What Way sounded like, how he moved. Frank needed to know.
They finally had a sort of headcount on Way’s gang. There seemed to be three men besides Way, which seemed small, but obviously got the job done. At least three, Frank always corrected inside his head. At least.
The call came through at 2pm on a Tuesday: Way was at First National in Trenton. In Trenton, the cocky bastard. Frank broke several traffic laws on his way there. The alarm was still ringing when he pulled up down the street. He cut down an alley a block over from the bank and headed for the back. He didn’t know the layout of the bank, but there was always a back entrance. Way didn’t hit places that only had one in and out.
There was a tiny alley along one side of the bank building that only connected with this back street, not the front one. Frank could see how inviting that would look to robbers. There were a couple cars on the street; any of them could belong to Way. He pulled out his notebook, intending to quickly write down all the plates. Something heavy came down on his head with a thunk, and everything went black.
The back of Frank’s head ached like hell, next thing he knew. He went to put a hand up there to check for blood, and that was when he discovered he couldn’t move his arms.
“Aw, you’re awake. Just in time. I didn’t want to leave without saying goodbye.”
Frank looked around, even though his head screamed when he moved it. He discovered a few things very quickly: he was sitting on the ground, propped up against a wall; he was tied up and gagged; Gerard Way was standing next to him. Frank forgot to look for anything else.
Way’s hair was long, definitely black and not just dark brown. The artist's sketch they'd been using on the wanted posters made him look rougher than he really was. His features were so delicate he could have passed as a girl, Frank thought, with a pointed nose and a smirking mouth. His face was round and pale and his eyes were...his eyes were unmistakable. He was wearing a dark suit that was nicer than Frank’s, and he wore it very well.
"Definitely not the long arm of the law, are you?" Way giggled. Frank glared at him. He would have spit if he wasn't gagged. Way took his time looking at him, and Frank shifted, uncomfortable and impatient and with no idea where this was going.
“Frank Iero,” Way said. “The clever G-man with the pretty mouth.” He smirked and flashed something white in his fingers. Frank struggled to bring his mind around to focus on it. It was a business card. Frank’s business card. Way crouched down, still to the side so not directly in Frank’s face, but close enough. Definitely close. Adrenaline was rushing through Frank, making him buzz, making him feel sharp, on edge. The edge of the business card scraped along his cheek, for a moment, catching on his stubble.
“I heard you visited my mother,” Way said. Frank didn’t look away.
“Gerard!” Someone, a man, shouted. Frank couldn’t see who; Way was blocking everything.
Way pouted a little. “I gotta go. See you around, Frankie.” He slapped Frank’s cheek— it wasn’t even hard, not really. He stood up and was gone, around the corner and out of sight. Frank heard a car drive off, but couldn’t see which one it had been.
He didn’t feel embarrassed until the Trenton PD found him, all wrapped up in the alley like a gift.
Frank insisted on examining the bank, rather than letting a doctor look at him. He wasn’t that badly hurt; he argued that he’d had worse in school. Not that there was anything for Frank to find inside the bank.
Frank didn’t even get in much trouble for going in on his own without backup, because Frank getting conked on the head and tied up meant that Way— or someone in his gang, at least— had finally committed a federal crime.
His bosses weren’t mad, but they were disappointed that Frank hadn’t gotten a good look at anyone else. They made Frank go over what he had seen again and again, until it started to feel like something that had happened to someone else, that Frank was describing a scene from a movie. He always left off the part about his pretty mouth, though. He wasn’t sure why. He didn’t tell anyone about the dream he had, either, where he was a bank hostage in a Way gang hold-up. He definitely didn’t tell anyone that when he woke up from that dream, he’d come in his shorts.
They'd just started to leave him alone about it when a large manila envelope showed up at the offices. Inside the envelope was a nuanced, highly accurate drawing of Gerard Way’s head. Something for the Wanted posters, the note said. The envelope had been addressed to Frank.
Frank was allowed to keep the original of the sketch, and they even moved him to a desk by the wall so he could put it up. Now Way was looking down at him, smug and mysterious. Drawn by Way's own hand, according to the signature, and Frank believed it. A picture of the message from the casino was also up on Frank's new wall, and when no one was looking, or Frank was working particularly late, he'd sometimes trace his fingers over it, XOXO G Way.
Frank went to see Way’s mother again, or tried to. No one answered his knocking, and though he sat out front in his car for two hours, no one came or went. Way had a younger brother, Michael, that Frank had been unable to track down. He talked to some of the neighbors, who didn't tell him much, but one of them did mention the Way brothers had always been close. Frank mentally marked down Michael as a member of Way's gang.
Workers at a soup kitchen in Newark came in a week later to find $5,000 in bills in their mailbox. The bills were easily traced to banks Way had hit. Some of the more sensational newspapers started talking about Robin Hood. Frank’s bosses were furious, stomping around the bullpen chewing on the same kind of cigars J. Edgar smoked, muttering about vagaries of the press and upstart criminals trying to curry favor with them.
The soup kitchen couldn’t keep the money, of course, although Frank felt bad about that when he got there and took a look around. It was crowded, a lot of families, a lot of old people.
The workers had already turned the money over to the local police, but Frank took notes on how the money had been delivered (paper bag, folded closed, no note).
“And does anyone here have any connection to Gerard Way that you’re aware of?” Frank asked.
“No,” the woman in charge looked around the room. “I don’t know why we were chosen.”
She seemed nervous, uneasy, and Frank wondered how much money had been in the bag originally.
“Well, thank you, Mrs. Toro,” he said. “Let me know if you hear anything.” He handed out another card.
He had to order a new box of business cards, for the first time since he'd joined the Division four years ago. Frank was proud of himself.
He was present at a press conference the Trenton office held, since he was both a lead investigator and a principal witness. Not that he spoke about the second part— that wasn't general knowledge outside law enforcement circles.
Way had hit a string of banks along the Jersey shore. The DOI was looking ineffective in the face of a bank robber again and Hoover wasn't happy about it.
Frank wasn't important enough to speak at the press conference, but it got his picture in the paper, even if he was just in the background. His mother cut it out and put it on the refrigerator, which was embarrassing, and then she sighed at him and said "Couldn't you check your tie was straight before they took your picture, Frank?"
Frank peered at the picture and sure enough, his tie was crooked. "Ma," he sighed. "I wasn't up there to get my picture taken or look good."
"But everyone will see it," she straightened the picture, smoothing the corners. "Everyone's already seen it. And your grandmother said the same thing."
"No one else noticed, Ma," he said.
On Monday afternoon there was a package for him in the office mail. It was a small box, and when Frank opened it he found a tie tack, shaped like New Jersey. It was heavy, gold, expensive. Frank felt like something heavy had been swung into the backs of his knees. There wasn't a note, but there didn't have to be. He checked the postage but it had been posted in Newark on Saturday morning. Way would be long gone.
He rolled the tack in his fingers, wondering. After a moment, he straightened his tie and pinned on the tack.
He was wearing the tie tack the next time his picture got in the paper, outside a bank in New Brunswick.
The ringing phone got him out of bed at 4 am one December morning. Someone had just gotten word that the Way gang was going after a bank in Elizabeth. They wanted him there. That was fine with Frank.
The sun was just coming up when he got there. The police and federal agents took up places all around the bank, hiding in buildings and cars. They waited. They waited for hours. Way liked to hit banks at slow times, so there weren't a lot of civilians.
As the day ticked by, Frank became more and more convinced the tip was useless, or else Way had got wind of the cops and called off the stick up.
By four o'clock, as the bank got crowded again, Frank knew it was a bust. He went over to the senior field agent, got yelled at for leaving his post— even though Frank was the expert on Way— and Frank stomped off in a strop, heading for a greasy spoon down the street.
He sat in a dark booth in the back and ordered pie and coffee. Frank was occupied in glaring at the table and the pie and the coffee when Gerard Way slid into the booth across from him.
"Hi, Frankie. Can I call you Frankie?"
"I—" Frank stared at him, too surprised to move.
"Does anyone else call you Frankie?" Way asked, unperturbed.
"No." Not since Frank was ten.
"Good," Way's smile was sharp enough to cut. "I'll be the only one. I like that."
Frank didn't know what to do. He didn't know what to do with his hands.
Way grabbed Frank's coffee and took a sip. "Christ, that's awful."
"I know," Frank said. He didn't feel in control of his mouth. "The pie's good, though."
Way— or was it Gerard, now?— took this as an invitation to try the pie. "You're right," he said, mouth still full. "Not bad. Mind if I smoke?"
He wasn't waiting for an answer, pulling out his cigarettes. Frank hadn't had anything to do all day but smoke, and he'd run out around 2 pm.
"Let me have one?"
Gerard paused, just for a second, then pulled out a smoke for Frank. He lit Frank's before his own.
"Come here often?" Gerard asked.
Frank snorted. "What do you think? We thought you were hitting that little bank down the street."
"Me?" Gerard almost looked innocent. "I've never done anything wrong in my life, Frankie."
Frank smirked and took his coffee back. It was a little better after the cigarette. The burned taste wasn't as offensive.
Gerard leaned across the table, whispering, and Frank leaned forward too, without thinking. "Maybe I just wanted to have a little chat."
"What do you think?" Gerard stole his coffee again, mugging at Frank over the rim before drinking. "Still shitty," he said. He dumped a load of sugar in it. Frank glared.
"You killed it."
"It was already dead. I'm just burying it."
Frank couldn't quite smother his laugh. Gerard seemed pleased, if his smile was anything to go by. Gerard's smile seemed like something to go by.
"Nice tie pin," he said, nodding. Smug bastard.
"I guess you should know."
Gerard's smile got even wider. "It looks good on you. I'm glad you kept it."
Frank flushed. It was evidence and he should have turned it over, which he'd been ignoring since it arrived. Gerard knew that. What was he thinking about Frank's reasons?
Frank glanced at Gerard, who was observing him and smoking like the tobacco was something exotic to be savored. Frank ruthlessly crushed a shiver trying to run down his spine.
"We could be friends, Frankie," Gerard said. "Help each other out." His voice was a low, rolling purr. Frank got his back up immediately. He crushed his smoke in the ashtray.
"You have got the wrong fucking agent if you think I care more about money than—"
"Frankie, shit, hey," Gerard's cigarette joined Frank's in the ashtray and he leaned so far across the table the edge had to be cutting into his stomach. Frank didn't think about that. "You got me wrong, boy-o. I'm not trying to get you to turn snitch—"
Frank couldn't listen to him. Whatever else Gerard Way was, he was dangerous. Frank sat stiff and straight and looked around the diner. His gun. It had been tucked in his shoulder holster the whole time. He should pull it.
"Fuck." Gerard sounded mad, but he was swearing to himself. At himself. "Frankie, we'll continue this another time."
Frank didn't pull his weapon. Gerard didn't leave by the front door. Frank sat in the booth for a few more minutes without moving. Then he took off the tie tack and put it in his pocket.
Gerard Way had drunk his coffee and eaten his pie and shared his smokes. Frank was furious at himself. His hands were throttling the steering wheel the entire drive back to Trenton.
He didn't think about the way Gerard had smiled or looked at him or smoked, and he didn't think about Gerard bent over the table, the edge cutting into his stomach, probably leaving a red mark. Frank didn't think about that so much he took a cold shower when he got home, still so furious he was wordless.
"Frank. Frankie." Frank jumped, his hand tightening on the receiver.
"How did you get my home number, Way?"
"It's my business to know things I have to know. Like yours."
"What do you want?"
Gerard's voice was low and coaxing. "I just wanted to clear up a few things from our last visit, Frankie. You got the wrong end of the stick—"
"The only thing I wanna talk about is you turning yourself in."
"Oh, Frankie," Gerard sighed. "We could be—"
"No we can't." Frank was almost frantic not to have Gerard finish that sentence. There was nothing they could be. "Would you like to turn yourself in?"
Gerard laughed, but he didn't sound as warm as he had earlier. Good.
"I'm not turning myself in."
"Who are your accomplices?" Frank asked, as if he was reading off a script. "What are their names? How many of them are there?"
"Frankie, come on." Gerard sounded like he was losing patience.
"I should have arrested you," Frank snapped. "And if I ever see you again, I will."
Gerard was silent for a moment. "I'm sorry you feel that way, Frank." He actually sounded sad. He was a really good actor, Frank thought. A con man. "I'll see you around, Frankie."
He hung up.
Frank did not feel sick, and the dial tone did not feel like a slap in the face. He didn't hang up until the operator came on to ask if she could help.
It wasn't Frank's favorite Christmas, even though Way wasn't active and it was calm. Crime usually went up during the holidays, but there was no sign of Way.
His mother thought he must be coming down with something, and then asked if they were working him too hard.
Frank said he was working as hard as he needed to.
January was dark and wet and cold, and Way went on a sort of rampage, hitting five different banks in a week. He'd never done that before, and it almost seemed greedy.
"He's getting a taste for it now," Frank's supervisor said. "He wants money."
What Gerard Way wanted, Frank thought, was attention.
The Way gang hit a bank in Philadelphia, their first outside Jersey since that New York lark. Frank drove to Philly and then Baltimore, when the Ways hit another bank there. This was outright tweaking the Director's nose, practically in his backyard. Frank dreaded Way hitting a bank in DC. Then the DC feds would get involved, and they'd take this case from him.
The good thing, from Frank's point of view, was that the Ways weren't on their home territory any more, and everyone around wasn't inclined to protect them.
Frank got a tip that a group had been spotted at an abandoned farmhouse in Prince George's County. Frank drove out himself. He was just going to check to see if someone was there.
The farm was run down, probably abandoned a couple years ago. The fields were empty, which seemed like a waste when so many people were hungry. A bank sign stood at the head of the driveway. Frank thought that Gerard would like that, stealing a house from a bank.
He left his car on the main road and walked in through the fields, hoping to come in by a roundabout way. He had field glasses with him, and didn't mean to get any closer than he could help.
He just...couldn't help it.
There were two cars in the barn, but the door was open. Frank crept closer until he got a good angle and could see the Jersey plates on the cars. He knew he couldn't take them in on his own. He wasn't trying to do that. He was just trying to get a look.
A window in the house, on the upper story, opened. Frank froze. He was behind the fence, and the ground wasn't totally flat, so he hoped he was out of sight.
A spray of bullets shot out from the window, and Frank ran. The bullets cut off and Frank dropped to the ground. Oh, he'd fucked up. He'd fucked up so badly.
When no more shots came, Frank wondered if maybe they were just trying to scare him away. Moving at the pace of an alarmed snail, Frank lifted his head and raised his torso a little. No one fired.
Frank wasn't fool enough to get to his feet. He crawled along the ground a little, glad there wasn't snow just now. At least he could blend in with the dirt a little.
What now, G-man?
Frank looked around but his options were precious few. Maybe it wasn't even Way in there. Maybe he hated Frank now.
"That you, Frankie?"
Gerard was standing on the front porch, tommy gun in hand. He wasn't aiming at Frank. The upstairs window was still open, and Frank could just see a gun barrel in it.
"It's me," Frank called.
"Come out with your hands up." Gerard sounded in good humor.
Frank raised his hands high in the air and got, not very gracefully, to his feet.
Gerard rested the barrel on the porch and crooked a finger.
"Can I put my hands down to climb the fence?" Frank asked.
"Guess you better." Gerard still sounded amused more than anything. Frank wasn't sure he trusted that.
Gerard was smiling at him as Frank came up the steps, hands back in the air. He looked happy to see Frank, and there was a corresponding lurch in Frank's stomach.
"You seem awfully lonely, Frankie," Gerard said.
"I guess we're all here together now."
"Why don't you come on in?" That pleased, purring tone was back in Gerard's voice. Frank trembled.
"I'm so pleased you finally get to meet my family," Gerard was almost cooing. "Oh!" Gerard suddenly shoved Frank chest-first against the wall, hard, and Frank's breath caught, the wood paneling rough on his cheek.
Gerard took his gun and patted him down, thorough and professional. "Just the one?" Gerard said. "I'm almost insulted, Frankie."
"I was just gonna...case the joint."
Gerard laughed, and patted Frank's shoulder. "Come on," he whispered.
Frank didn't know what he was doing. Right now, he'd just do as Gerard said. He was a prisoner, and for all Gerard's apparent warmth, he was still holding his machine gun. And now Frank's revolver as well.
Gerard tucked Frank's gun away somewhere and maneuvered Frank in front of him, guiding him with a hand on the small of his back.
They ended up in the kitchen, which must have once been a big, warm room. Now it was mostly empty and somehow grey.
There were two men and a woman in there. Frank hadn't expected a woman, although that had been stupid. Dillinger always had a woman with him, didn't he? Was she Gerard's girlfriend? If Gerard had a girl then what was the point of...any of it?
The girl was tall with long dark hair, and she looked at Frank like he was an insect. Frank had no doubt she could squash him if she wanted.
Gerard pulled out a chair and pushed Frank down into it. Not hard, though, just a friendly shove.
"Gee," one of the men sighed. He looked muscular and competent with a cloud of red hair. Taller than Frank. Everyone was taller than Frank.
The girl went and stood next to the thin man with glasses, linking their arms, which seemed to solve the issue of who she was with. Frank knew who that kid was; he'd visited every school in Belleville looking for a picture of Gerard's younger brother.
"Everyone," Gerard said. "This is Frank."
"Hey," Michael Way said.
"That's Mikey," Gerard said. "And Alicia and Ray."
Frank nodded politely. There were heavy footsteps on the stairs, and another man came in. "And this is Dewees," Gerard continued, still cheerful, like this was a tea party. "Dewees, Frank."
Dewees nodded. "Sorry for shooting at you."
"Thanks for not hitting me."
"Frank will be staying for dinner," Gerard said.
Frank helped cook, because he felt bad that Alicia was doing it herself. She said the Ways and Dewees were hopeless, and Ray had cooked last night. It wasn't anything fancy, just soup and slightly stale bread, but Frank found he was starving. They lit oil lamps because the electricity was off. They'd got the gas on somehow, which ran the stove.
It was very strange, sitting around the table with the Way gang, but Frank had shared a meal of sorts with Gerard before. Gerard talked enough for everyone, anyway.
"I thought we all might like a little trip out of Jersey, you know?" Gerard said. Frank wasn't sure how he felt about being included in that. Rather, he felt a whole lot of things at once, most of which he didn't want to think about.
"What's next?" Frank asked. "You guys gonna knock off the bank across the street from the DOJ?"
"Is there one?" Gerard asked with a great deal of interest. Everyone laughed at the expression on Frank's face.
"That man who died in Philly," Ray said later, when the conversation turned more sober, "that wasn't us."
Frank almost said "I know." The civilian had actually been killed by a stray bullet from the local PD's guns, but his death was being charged to the Way gang's account anyway. "You guys can't look better than us all the time," he said. He meant it as a joke, but it fell hard.
After dinner Gerard gave Frank a cigarette, and they smoked at the table as everyone else got up. "You sure, Gee?" Mikey (not Michael) asked.
"Yeah, Mikey," Gerard said, smiling at little at his brother. "We're good."
Everyone else left, and a little later a car started.
"They're leaving tonight," Gerard said. "I'm leaving a little later."
Frank took a deep breath. "What about me?"
"Well," Gerard said, taking a long drag and watching the smoke swirl out of his mouth, "that's up to you, when you want to leave."
"You could leave now if you want. But I was kind of hoping you'd come upstairs with me."
The adrenaline rush made Frank's heart pound, his hands tremble. Fight or flight.
"And what?" Frank asked. He cleared his throat, tried to speak slower and deeper. "Go upstairs and what?"
"Well," Gerard took a last drag. "Fuck."
It took Frank a moment to understand that was actually what Gerard was suggesting they do. Then he had trouble breathing.
Frank had never been so clumsy as he was getting up the stairs. Gerard kept a hand curled in the front of Frank's shirt, half dragging him along, half keeping him upright. Gerard had at least left the machine gun downstairs, but Frank was pretty sure he still had Frank's handgun on him.
Gerard kicked open the first door at the top of the stairs, hauled Frank inside after him, and shoved Frank up against the wall, his back to the wall this time. Gerard crowded in all close for a moment, and Frank's eyes crossed trying to look at him. Gerard huffed a laugh under his breath, then crushed his mouth against Frank's.
Frank hadn't exactly expected kissing, hadn't realized it was implied in the fucking. But there Gerard's tongue was, in his mouth, and Frank sagged a little heavier against the wall. Something was wrong with his legs. It was all he could do to swallow down the moans. That wasn't something he wanted to give up yet.
Frank had to hold on to something, so he wrapped an arm around Gerard's waist. He brushed the gun by accident. Gerard grabbed his wrists and pinned them to the wall. Frank was trapped, a wall at his back and a notorious criminal keeping him there. Gerard was biting down on his neck. All Frank could do was writhe against him, roll his hips. Gerard was just as hard as Frank was. Frank felt overheated, like he couldn't get enough air, like he was dying, like he didn't care.
Gerard let go of Frank enough to shove the jacket down Frank's arms and off. "Jesus, are you wearing everything you own?" Frank had a cardigan on hidden under his suit jacket.
Gerard stripped Frank of his holster and then the cardigan. "Nice sweater vest."
"Shut up," Frank said. "We can't all be filthy rich criminals in tailored suits."
Gerard laughed and pushed up the sweater vest, working it over Frank's head. He didn't waste any time, or voice any more smart remarks, getting rid of Frank's shirt and trousers. He didn't pull off Frank's underwear, not yet, although he clearly thought about it. Not that they were hiding much of anything at this point, but this was already much more naked than Frank had been in front of anyone in years.
Frank brushed his fingers along the buttons on Gerard's vest. He undid a couple before Gerard pushed his hands away. He wrapped a hand around Frank's upper arm, pulling him away from the wall and pushing him toward the bed.
"Holy shit, Frankie. What is that?" His grip on Frank's arm had tightened until Frank thought he might be bruising. Gerard sounded delighted.
Frank took a deep breath and said "Oh. That."
Gerard moved him a little more and Frank gasped when Gerard's tongue traced the lines of ink on his back. "Does J. Edgar know about this?" Gerard murmured.
"Oh yeah," Frank said. "He gave it to me."
Gerard's laugh was a couple of warm puffs of air on his back. "I knew I had you right," he said, mostly to himself. "I knew I did."
That tattoo on Frank's back was a heart with "N.J." inside. Gerard must be referring to the tie pin. Fucking Gerard Way. "You did," Frank agreed, half hoping he was speaking too quietly for Gerard to hear.
Either way, Gerard shoved him toward the bed. Frank half-fell, half-collapsed on it. He quickly pulled off his socks and swung his legs up on the bed. He watched as Gerard undressed. Gerard took Frank's revolver, twirled it around his finger like a madman, and then put it on top of the wardrobe.
"Very funny," Frank said.
Gerard laughed like he was giddy. Frank wondered again what the hell he was doing. But Gerard was pulling off his clothes, and he didn't stop at underwear, and Frank couldn't look away.
"Have you done this before?" Gerard cocked an eyebrow, not joining Frank on the bed just yet.
"Not since then?"
Frank didn't dignify that with a response. He worked for the federal government.
Which really, really didn't explain why he was here, pulling his underwear off so New Jersey's Most Wanted could fuck him.
Gerard pushed Frank down, climbed on top of him, pinned his hands to the bed. "You're mine now," he whispered. He bit down Frank's neck, chest, hips. When he sucked Frank's cock into his mouth, Frank gave up on not making any noise.
Gerard had some kind of lubricant, but he pushed two fingers into Frank without warning. Frank choked off his cry. It was rough but not too painful; the drag, the pressure, was exactly what he needed. In no time Frank was thrusting down onto Gerard's hand. He'd forgotten how good this felt. It had been a long time since he'd thought about needing this, since he'd allowed himself to think about it.
Gerard didn't bother to spend much time loosening Frank up. Frank groaned when Gerard pulled his fingers out, but it was only to slick himself up, and Frank hardly caught his breath before Gerard was lining up, pushing in in a relentless drive.
"Fuck, fuck," Frank groaned. It was just the good side of too much. His hands were grabbing at the blanket wildly.
"Gonna fuck you so hard you'll never forget me," Gerard crooned in his ear.
"Wouldn't, I wouldn't," Frank gasped. When Gerard started to move he groaned, so loudly he was glad they were alone. The drag was just right. "Drive me crazy," Frank said.
"Glad to hear it."
They couldn't talk anymore after that, not really, not things that made sense. Gerard was driving into him, over and over, and Frank didn't remember ever feeling like this before. He didn't feel in control, at all, and if he wasn't so aroused, so close to coming, he would have been afraid.
As it was he just wrapped a hand around his own dick and moved it as fast as he could. It was hot and wet between them and Gerard was fucking him like he didn't ever think about anything else.
"Fuck, fuck, fuck," Frank chanted, Gerard's thrusts forcing the words out of him, and he came, stars behind his eyes, and loud bellow and everything. Gerard was right behind him, coming inside him in sharp thrusts.
Frank felt a little crushed when Gerard collapsed bonelessly on top of him but didn't mind it. They were sweaty and filthy and Gerard was still inside him.
"Been wanting to do that since the first time I saw you," Gerard said, sounding blown out.
"Yeah," Frank could hear the lazy smile. "Since then."
Frank turned his head to lick at Gerard's neck, because he hadn't got to do that very much. He tasted salt mostly, but there was another flavor, too. Now he knew what Gerard tasted like, and he wouldn't forget.
He couldn't help the whimper when Gerard pulled out. Gerard fell heavily onto the bed next to him. His face was red and flushed now instead of pale. Frank wanted to lick him again.
Instead, Frank looked around for something to clean himself off with. There wasn't much, besides their clothes. "The water works, right?"
Gerard opened one eye. "You're very concerned about hygiene, aren't you?"
Frank looked at their torsos. "The normal amount."
Gerard waved a hand. If it was supposed to be directions, it utterly failed. "The hot water works."
Frank recovered his handkerchief and went down the hall to the bathroom. He got himself clean and carried the wet handkerchief back to the bedroom, where he threw it at Gerard.
"Such good service," Gerard said. "I'll leave a tip."
Frank ended up lying on the bed again, because he didn't know what else to do. Gerard dug up his smokes and a lighter.
"You're wound up awfully tight most of the time, aren't you?" Gerard said. It sounded like a rhetorical question, so Frank didn't answer right away. This was more relaxed than he'd felt in a long time, it was true. Even his fingers felt relaxed.
"I'm busy," he said instead. "Someone keeps me running up and down the mid-Atlantic. I don't get any sleep."
"You're not getting any sleep tonight, either," Gerard said.
Frank raised an eyebrow of his own, which was something he'd practiced in the mirror. "Put your money where your mouth is, Way."
Frank woke up in the morning and thought I shouldn't have done that. He shouldn't have let Gerard fuck him. He definitely shouldn't have fucked Gerard later, and all the stuff in between and after that shouldn't have happened, either.
He was quite alone. Gerard's clothes were gone and the house sounded silent and felt empty. Frank walked— more like hobbled— down the hall to the bathroom and ran himself a real bath. There wasn't a shower, anyway.
It was strange to take a bath in someone else's tub, although he supposed it didn't really belong to anyone right now. He wished he had soap. He wasn't sure if he wanted Gerard there or not. Frank probably needed to not see him for a while.
It didn't help that every time he moved he was reminded of last night. How full he'd felt with Gerard inside him. How tight and hot Gerard was squeezing around him. How it had felt to push Gerard down on the bed, hissing "I've got you now," in his ear. The bruise he'd left on Gerard's shoulder with his teeth.
Frank opened his eyes, wondering when he'd shut them. He looked down at himself and cursed. How did that even happen again, after last night? Frank wrapped a hand around his dick, remembering Gerard's hand, Gerard's mouth, and came with the memory of how Gerard tasted in his mouth.
Gerard and the second car were long gone by the time Frank was dressed. He checked on top of the wardrobe (after dragging up a chair to stand on), and Gerard had taken his gun, too. He'd left a note up there:
Wanted something to remember you by.
Frank burned it before he left.
Frank went back home and it was a couple of weeks before anyone heard from the Ways. Going back to work was nerve-wracking. He'd made himself sick with worry before he'd even gotten back to New Jersey. Frank had thoroughly considered calling in sick, but he was due for a debriefing and it would just have made them suspicious, at least in Frank's mind. He didn't have any clear standard in his own mind for normal behavior, now.
He repeated No one can tell by looking at you to himself over and over, every time he thought someone was looking too long, if a typist's smile seemed more like a smirk, during every whispered conversation that caught his eye.
He was a mess during the debriefing; even the bored Assistant Director asked him if he was feeling well. Frank said something about the cold, or a stomach bug, or both. He couldn't remember, even thirty seconds after the words left his mouth.
As far as they knew, by the time Frank had reached the foreclosed farmhouse, the Way gang was already long gone. Frank's evidence that they had ever been there was recently used dishes, the working gas line, and a handful of machine gun shells.
"And you think they're coming back to Jersey?" Frank was asked.
"I do," he answered. "Because..." He just knew. "If they were going to hit somewhere else down south, they would have already hit it," was what he finally came up with.
Frank could have told them he knew who all the gang members were, how they traveled, and what he'd observed of their group dynamics. He knew Gerard and Mikey were still in frequent contact with their mother. He knew how Gerard liked his coffee and that he was a... That he had Frank's gun. But Frank told them none of that, because he couldn't explain how he knew it. Not without ending up in prison himself. Or at best (maybe), a sanitarium.
There was also a part that just didn't want to tell them. Frank was used to hoarding information, and now he had the most valuable cache he'd ever had. It might be able to save him if anything...personal...about Frank ever got out, but it would more likely just get him in deeper trouble. Frank just liked knowing he knew and they didn't. It gave him some power, some control.
He had no idea if Gerard had expected Frank to tell, but probably not. Frank would be compromising himself too much. And Gerard knew him awfully well for not knowing him that much.
Frank wrenched his thoughts away from that; the last thing he should be thinking about at work was how well Gerard knew him. His hands shook a little; he hoped everyone else chalked it up to public speaking nerves.
"I'm concerned," Frank's supervisor said, and Frank stopped breathing. "...that you were out in the field like this without backup. You're not a field agent, Mr. Iero, and you haven't had field agent training."
"Well," said the Assistant Director, "should we give it to him?"
Frank kept himself still, like prey frozen under a predator's eye, and let the conversation swirl over his head. He'd wanted to be a field agent, way back when, and he wasn't afraid of it now. But it would pull him off Gerard duty— off Way duty— and that might be for months. And as a field agent, he'd be sent out with a partner. Not that there was any reason he wanted to go out alone. Not any good reason.
"Well, what do you think, Iero?"
Frank forced his hands to uncurl, forced himself to speak slow, and thoughtful, and like it didn't matter that much. "Maybe once Way's caught, sir, I can put in for change of status."
The men across the table from him all nodded and looked pleased. "Good man."
They can't tell from looking at you, he told himself over and over, and after a couple of weeks he even came to believe it. They probably weren't waiting weeks and weeks to say "We know you slept with the man you're supposed to be bringing to justice." That seemed like the kind of thing the DOI would say right away. The federal government wasn't big on subtlety.
The Way gang hit a bank in Jersey City, in and out so fast there was some doubt it was even them. Frank wished he'd remembered to ask Gerard why he robbed banks. There were a lot of things he'd meant to ask Gerard that he hadn't gotten to. Next time, he thought before he caught himself. The next time he saw Gerard, he should be arresting him. There would be plenty of time to interrogate Gerard once he'd been arrested.
Somehow, that was never what Frank pictured when he thought of next time. No matter how attractive the idea was of Gerard in one place, some place Frank knew he could find him. Somehow, when Frank imagined catching Gerard, he never got all the way to turning him over to the police.
It wouldn't ever happen again, Frank resolved. They'd done it, gotten it out of their systems. He tried to convince himself it had been a mistake, but he couldn't quite regret that he'd done it. It had been a long time since Frank had been with anyone like that— and he'd never had sex that had been like that anyway. The whole thing had cleared Frank's head, refocused him, so it was okay that it had happened. It wasn't like it was going to happen again. From now on, their relationship could go back to pure hunter and hunted, lawman and criminal. The way it always should have been.
Towards the end of February Frank was up late, working at home. Even the radio was off the air for the night. Frank was alone with his files and the yellow light above his kitchen table.
At first he thought the knock on the door was another storm blowing in. But it persisted, working its way into his brain. Once he realized what it was, Frank jumped up and opened the door.
His porch light was off, and the hall light was off, but Frank still knew at a glance who it was. Maybe he had since he'd realized there was someone at the door. Who else would it have been?
"What are you doing here?" he hissed, white-knuckled grip on the door.
"You gonna let me in? 'S fuckin' freezing out here."
Frank wasn't sure why or how he stepped back, never remembered deciding to do that, only that Gerard was in his hallway, taking the door out of his hand and shutting it firmly behind him. Locking it.
"I saw your light on," he said.
"You— do you come by my house often?"
"Mmm," was all Gerard would say. His hands were cold through the thin material of Frank's shirt. "You got coffee? I know you got coffee, Frankie."
Frank backed away from Gerard's hands and led him into the kitchen. He focused on making coffee so he wouldn't have to turn around. "What are you doing here?" he asked again. "You can't be here!"
"You gonna throw me out?" He heard the snick of Gerard's lighter and the bitter smell of smoke. "Didn't think so." Sing-song smug.
"I should arrest you," Frank finally turned around. "Right now."
"Is that what you want, Frankie?" Gerard didn't look worried, just blew smoke at him.
"Yes," Frank said. After a moment, he said "What is that coat you're wearing?"
Gerard, still wearing his coat indoors, looked at it with a pleased expression. "Like it? I'll buy you one."
"God no." It was some huge black fur thing. "Did you kill a bear?"
Gerard giggled. "The coffee's done. You know how I like it."
Frank did know how he liked it, which was even more obnoxious than the way Gerard took his coffee.
Frank sat down across the table with his own cup. Not that he needed coffee; his hands were already shaking.
Gerard sipped his coffee and perused Frank's files. "Those are property of the US government," Frank objected.
"But they're all about me, right?" Gerard looked up at Frank through his eyelashes, batted them, and went back to chuckling over the files.
"If you're going to mock our mistakes," Frank snapped, "at least correct them."
"Bossy tonight, aren't you?"
Frank rubbed his face. "If anyone finds you here we'll both go to prison."
"It's almost two am," Gerard pointed out. "On a Wednesday. Are you expecting company?"
"And yet here some is. Why are you here?"
Gerard closed all the files and stacked them neatly, like Frank would have. Gerard took off his coat, every movement deliberate. "I wanted to see you."
Frank moved as little as possible. "Well, you've seen me, so—"
"Naked. I want to see you naked."
Frank missed his next breath, or forgot to take it. "Um. Oh." Gerard, unhurried, lit another cigarette. Frank took a couple deep breaths. "We can't do that again. It was a mistake."
Gerard didn't react. "That's not what you want."
"It is," Frank fisted his hands on the table top and glared down at them. "It's wrong."
"It's not, Frank."
"You rob banks for a living!" Frank forced his voice lower, into a normal register. "Don't you talk to me about right and wrong."
Gerard put out his smoke and leaned across the table, face intent. "I do what I have to do, Frank. You don't know why I do what I do. You think you know everything about me, but you don't know that. Why do you think I'm here?"
"Because you...you think I'm a sure bet, I guess. You think—"
"You don't know anything about that either. If I was doing what you think I'm doing, just looking to get off or whatever you think, then I could find a prostitute and get off and not put up with an interrogation or risk getting hauled in. So why am I here?"
"I don't know."
"Fuck you you don't know." Gerard wrapped his hands around Frank's, pulled them towards him so Frank was pulled over the table too. "I'm here because you're here, because I think maybe we got something for each other. I'm here 'cause I can't stay away from you. Know I should, but I don't want to. And I do what I want, when I want. Can you even imagine that?"
Frank couldn't possibly answer all that. "I don't— just—" he tugged, but Gerard didn't let go. Frank kept looking back at him, his face, his eyes. "You can't just do what you want," he said. "You think you can—"
"That's what everyone does, Frank! Everyone does what they want—"
"No they don't!" Frank kicked out, hitting an empty chair, anything to make noise. "Regular people don't rob banks."
"Because they don't want to enough."
"What's bullshit, Frankie, is that you never do what you want. Except when you're with me."
Frank couldn't move, like some small animal in the headlights of an oncoming car. He could say nothing.
When the silence had stretched on for a good long time, Gerard finally loosened his grip on Frank's wrists, leaning back. Frank sat up a little more, but left his arms stretched out on the table. They didn't feel like they belonged to him anymore.
Gerard sat back in his chair and rubbed his face, sighing heavily. "I was drunk when I came here. Probably shouldn't have. 'M not any more, though. Fuck."
Alcohol wasn't even illegal any more. "I've never been drunk," Frank said.
"You shoulda told me. I'll bring something next time, we'll get shit-faced together."
Loose morals, Frank thought. He finally drew his arms in, folded on the table, so he could rest his head on them. Did he want to get drunk with Gerard? Probably.
"I don't know what I want," he said, without lifting his head.
"Sure you do," Gerard said, his voice quiet and easy and almost soothing. "You're scared to admit it. Or not scared, more like... Maybe you don't even know how."
Gerard's hand landed on his hair, brushing so lightly Frank wasn't even sure it was there at first. "What do you want, Frankie?"
All Frank wanted was for everyone to shut up for a minute. He pushed himself upright, then out of the chair. "My bedroom's this way."
He felt cold, until Gerard pushed him against the wall, stepping in close, and kissed him, a hand on his jaw. Nothing about it was violent. Frank could have borne it if there was anything like violence in it.
Instead, he crumpled into Gerard, like he wasn't his own man any more. Gerard kissed him, until Frank didn't care anymore, about any of it. Gerard, arms around Frank's waist, walked them into Frank's bedroom and guided him down to the bed. "I'll take care of you," Gerard whispered. "I won't let anything hurt you."
Frank felt cold, but he pulled at his clothes, hurrying them off.
"Tell me what you want," Gerard said, as he undressed.
"I can show you?"
Frank pulled Gerard next to him and kissed him, another series of the long, slow kisses that did such damage to Frank's peace of mind. He touched Gerard everywhere first, because this time was different. Then he lined them up, wrapping his hand around both their cocks and working them together.
Gerard's hands swept over him, stroking his sides, his face, his arms, his back. One of Gerard's hands joined Frank on their cocks, pushing them harder and faster. Frank concentrated on the little cries Gerard made, trying to ignore his own desperate sobs.
Gerard came first and Frank hung on to the edge, watching Gerard instead of finishing himself. He didn't think it was something he would get tired of seeing, Gerard with his mouth open, eyes closed, head thrown back to expose the taut column of his throat.
Frank was still staring at him, with his hand absently on the base of his cock, when Gerard opened his eyes and leaned over Frank, pushing Frank to his back and moving his hand away. Gerard jacked Frank off, adding a twist of his hand here, a swipe of his thumb there.
It felt like Frank came for a long time. When his eyes fluttered open again, Gerard was stroking Frank's hair. Frank's hand was clamped around Gerard's arm and his fingers felt stiff as he uncurled them. "That's gonna bruise."
"I don't mind," Gerard said.
Frank took a deep breath and turned his face into the pillow. He wanted to keep this feeling as long as possible.
"Frankie," Gerard whispered, coaxing. Frank looked up and Gerard kissed him.
They crawled under the covers. Frank was starting to doze when Gerard touched him. "Wake up a minute, Frankie."
Gerard retrieved his cigarettes, giving one to Frank. Gerard rubbed at his face, and Frank did his best to wait patiently.
"Okay," Gerard said. "Here's the thing. I've got to go, because I can't be here in the morning. You know that."
Frank took a drag, held it, expelled it loudly. Then he nodded, once.
"You could come with me," Gerard said, which was not what Frank had expected to hear at all.
"Maybe not today." Gerard was fidgeting so much anyone might think he was nervous. "But you could. Leave with me."
"Leave with you? Like—leave with you?"
"And do what?"
Gerard's answer was an exasperated look.
"You want me to quit the Division of Investigation to go rob banks with you?"
Gerard shrugged, but he looked like he was closing off. "I bet you're a great shot, Frankie. And no one would tell you what you to do—"
Gerard's grin was one of those sharp things Frank had seen early on and not much since. "But I'll take care of you, Frankie. I won't let anything bad happen to you. I'll see you right."
"I'm not Claudette Colbert," Frank said, shaking off Gerard's hand. "I don't need promises of happily ever after or whatever you think you're offering here."
"You think I can't keep them?"
"For fuck's sake, Gerard. I'm not just going to abandon my whole life to run away and join the circus. Not even your circus. I'm twenty-five, not twelve."
Gerard's jaw was set now, and his mouth pinched. Frank sighed and let his head thunk against the headboard. If Gerard had thought he was going to come here and carry Frank off that was his problem, not Frank's.
Gerard got up and began to get dressed.
"What is this supposed to be?" Frank asked, once Gerard had got his pants on. "I mean, what, you're gonna take me out to see a movie next?"
Gerard sniffed, pulling on his shirt without an undershirt. "They're playing Murder in the Rue Morgue with The Wax Museum at that Columbia Theater in Chambersburg."
Frank stared at him. "Are you kidding?"
Gerard shrugged and focused on buttoning his shirt. "I don't know," he said when he was done. He ran a hand through his hair, making it more of a wreck. "I wasn't serious, originally. Friends can go to the movies."
"We can't be friends," Frank said.
"Yeah," Gerard said. He put on his vest without buttoning it, and wadded up his tie in his pocket. He pulled on his suit jacket.
"Come here," Frank said. Gerard shuffled over to the side of the bed, and Frank grabbed his shirt front and pulled him down into a kiss. Something in Gerard's face had eased when Frank let him go. This was ridiculous.
"Get outta here," Frank said. "Before I call the cops."
Gerard laughed, slipped on his shoes, and left the room. Frank listened to him collect his coat and leave by the front door.
Frank got up and put on his robe. He cleaned off and then went to check the front door. Gerard had locked it behind him, and turned off the kitchen light as well.
"What the fuck have I done?" Frank wondered, but there was no answer.
Frank realized he hadn't gone to scope out the Way home in some time. This time, when he knocked on the door, Mrs. Way looked him up and down and invited him in. She gave him strong coffee and good cookies with lots of chocolate, so Gerard must be in fairly regular contact with her. Those were refreshments provided for a Special Guest, not a nosy detective. He wondered how much she knew, and what exactly, and how awkward he should feel.
There was a large display case of creepy dolls. Frank felt this explained a lot about Gerard and Mikey.
Mrs. Way showed him pictures of her boys growing up, especially of Gerard in various costumes. She must know something, then. Frank was uncomfortable, even though Mrs. Way talked at him like she'd known him for years. He didn't know what he was supposed to do, and he hated that.
Mrs. Way had a lot in common with Gerard though, namely being able to carry on long conversations on her own. Frank just sat and nodded and made polite replies. He didn't ask any questions about where her sons were or what they were doing. She had on a nice pair of gold earrings, new and expensive looking, but he didn't ask about them either. She didn't ask him any questions about Gerard, or what Frank did at work, so it seemed a fair trade.
"They're good boys," she said, meaning her sons. Frank raised an eyebrow, and Mrs. Way laughed, a throaty smoker's laugh.
"Poor Gerard," she sighed, suddenly wistful. Gerard took after her in mood swings, too. "He tried so hard, you know? He really did. But it never worked out for him. Not for long enough, you know?"
Frank did know. He'd managed to track down a couple of former employers. Gerard had been fired from one place for "refusing to conform", which seemed a shitty thing to be fired for when you were supposed to be an artist. He'd been let go from another place for not being "the kind of employee" the company wanted. Frank assumed that meant "homosexual," which wasn't a word he ever said, and barely ever thought. It was hard not to flinch now.
"You're a good boy, too, aren't you Frank?" Mrs. Way said.
Frank didn't think he could hide from her even if he tried. "I guess, ma'am."
To Frank's horror, she sent him home with a casserole. "Bring the dish back whenever you get a chance, sweetie," she called as she waved him out the door.
Frank's day had been shitty. Some other agent had talked to Gerard's former boss and figured out he'd been fired for being a queer. Not only were they mocking Gerard for that, they were jeering at Frank for supposedly not figuring it out. He'd grit his teeth and kept his head down, trying not to seethe so anyone else could see.
There had been a meeting where everyone had talked a lot of trash about Gerard Way and his "kind" and everyone who knew him. And then Frank had screwed up something in a report, an honest mistake after not getting a lot of sleep, and easily fixable, but he'd gotten yelled at by his superiors and mocked by his co-workers, all over again. And the typing pool had glared when he'd brought it back to be redone.
Then he got home and found Gerard Way sitting in his living room, phonograph playing.
"The fuck," Frank said. "If you broke a window, you're paying for it."
"I stole your spare keys last time I was here, dollface," Gerard said. "I made copies so I'm bringing 'em back. You've got a great record collection, by the way. All that jazz. Unexpected. I'm impressed." He'd spread a fair number of Frank's father's records all over the floor.
"Oh, that's great." Frank dropped his briefcase and shucked off his jacket, hat, tie, and shoes. "I need a drink."
Gerard raised one of Frank's mugs. He'd made himself a cup of coffee. At least one. "I keep forgetting to bring something," Gerard said. "Come here, I'll make it up to you."
He stood up and pushed Frank into the chair he'd been sitting in. "Bad day at work? Still haven't caught me yet?"
"Shut up," Frank said, but it didn't sting like it should have, because Gerard was already dropping to his knees between Frank's legs, and Frank's voice had gone stuttery and breathy.
Gerard hummed along with the record as he undid Frank's pants. Frank had developed an unfortunate habit of getting hard as soon as he saw Gerard, and now when Gerard pulled out Frank's erection, he made some smarmy remark Frank didn't fully process.
"Shut up," he said again, pushing his hand into Gerard's hair. Gerard stared at him a moment, eyes sparking, but he must have liked it because he went straight down on Frank.
He really did like it, Frank marveled, watching Gerard's long eyelashes flutter on his cheeks. Gerard sucked around Frank's cock, hollowing his cheeks, turning his head slightly so that Frank could see the end of his own dick pressing against Gerard's cheek. Then Frank had to close his eyes, because he could not see that and last any kind of time.
It still didn't take long, and when Frank came Gerard swallowed it down, then resumed humming to himself as he wiped his mouth. Frank made a sort of croaking noise, then pushed Gerard onto his back down on the floor, half falling out of the chair to land on Gerard.
"Fuck," Gerard oofed. "Hey, Frankie."
Frank wasn't as good at blow jobs as Gerard, but he tried to make up for lack of skill with enthusiasm. He didn't hear any complaints, anyway. He couldn't swallow everything like Gerard had, and he ended up with come all over his chin. Gerard took his own handkerchief and carefully wiped Frank's face clean for him.
They lay on the floor for a while, not even smoking, just lying there. The record finished playing and the empty hiss filled the air. Frank was feeling too many things to know what to do with himself for a while. So he kept his face pressed against Gerard's shoulder; he was still wearing his jacket and it smelled like wool and smoke.
When Frank had himself under control, he said "We shouldn't just lie on the floor. We're going to get stiff."
"Hmm?" Gerard put his hand in Frank's pants, as if to check. Frank laughed.
"Nice try. But I'm not fifteen, sorry."
"Too bad," Gerard said. "I might give up a life of crime for that."
Frank giggled a bit. Then he said, without any thought at all, because he was loose-limbed and unwound: "Would you give up a life of crime if I asked you to?"
"How do you mean?" Gerard said. "Any life with you would, by default, be a life of crime."
Frank flinched and rolled away a little, onto his back. He kept forgetting that. Gerard made him forget it.
Gerard swore under his breath and fumbled in his pockets until he pulled out his cigarettes. He placed one in Frank's mouth and lit it with care.
Frank took a few puffs and said "You make bad things seem not so bad."
"That's the nicest thing you've ever said to me. Maybe that anyone's ever said to me." Gerard actually sounded surprised. Frank savored the sound for a moment, pressing it into his memory.
"I'm not sure it's a compliment," Frank said. Gerard didn't seem offended by that. He rolled onto his side, looked at Frank for a while, then leaned in and kissed his eyebrow.
"You're a lot of work, Frank Iero," Gerard said.
"But you like it," Frank pointed out. "I wonder if you'd like me so much if I wasn't so much work."
"You'll always be a lot of work."
Frank was feeling sleepy and hungry. He didn't yet know which would win out.
Gerard continued on his tangent. "We'll be fucking sixty years old and you'll still be all 'Stop drinking all my coffee, Gerard. You should have turned yourself in, Gerard.'"
"Sixty?" Frank snorted, raising an eyebrow. "You think we'll still be doing this when we're sixty?"
"Probably not fucking on the floor. Sixty's kind of old for that. Motherfucker—" Gerard rolled on top of him, caging him in. Frank spent a few seconds worrying about where Gerard's cigarette was. "You're asking me to give up my lucrative career and you don't think we'll still be together when we're sixty? Fuck you."
Frank closed his eyes, because looking at Gerard tended to confuse him. "You're crazy. You'll be dead," he said. "And I'll be—" alone, he thought, because no one was going to stay around that long for him. No one ever had.
"Shut the fuck up, Frankie." Gerard moved, stretched without getting off, and Frank felt his cigarette pulled from his fingers and Gerard leaned over him again. Frank just hoped there was an ashtray.
"See?" Gerard said. "A lot of fucking work." Then he kissed Frank, all tongue in his mouth, taking whatever he wanted; that was Gerard. Frank kissed him back, hands coming up to Gerard's shoulders, his hair, because fuck it, what did any of it matter anyway? Fucking Gerard. Sixty.
Frank wouldn't say that Gerard made him happy but he did make him feel alive. Moreso than anything else ever had. Frank had been sickly as a boy and never had many friends; this was the most intense relationship he'd ever had. He wasn't sure that happy could come into it, or that it had to.
He was sabotaging his job, which still kept him too busy to get a puppy, for the sake of his boyfriend, with whom he was committing light treason. Frank tried not to think about it, because when he did he felt sick with anxiety and a rush of adrenaline, some of which may have been on the thrilled side. It was confusing, and exhausting, and Frank was not going to give it up.
All his life, Frank's attraction to other men— to the wrong sex— had been confusing and embarrassing and something he had to be so, so careful to hide every minute of every day. There had been a few men in college, but that had been convenience more than yearning. Nothing had prepared Frank for the compulsion he felt around Gerard. Obsession, temptation...now it was addiction, and like any other junkie, Frank was too addicted to care about the things he still knew, in the back of his mind, he should.
He didn't know how to get out of this anyway, even if that had been something he still wanted. Gerard showed up, sometimes with terrible timing but usually with great timing, they fucked, they didn't ask each other any questions about leaving. Frank did ask about Mikey and Alicia and Ray and Dewees, and Gerard would answer sometimes.
Frank finally found out how they'd done the casino (Alicia had been the inside "man", and boy had Frank felt like an idiot then. Gerard had laughed at him and then lectured him about underestimating women). Frank told himself that he was gathering information, that that made it okay. But he had a lingering suspicion that he was giving up more to Gerard than Gerard was giving up to him.
But he thought about Gerard all day at work anyway; did it really matter if he was doing it because he was collating data about Gerard's heists or because every time he moved he could still feel Gerard inside him?
Frank suspected that objectively it did matter, quite a lot, and the fact that it no longer mattered to him was a bad sign.
When he thought about those months later, the only thing that stood out were the nights he spent with Gerard. Everything else was an unmemorable blur. The few hours he spent with Gerard tended to run together too, but at least they replayed in his head over and over, one memory sliding into another. The relief he felt when he gave up control, or the rush he got from holding Gerard down and making him beg.
Gerard pushed it, too, spending more time at Frank's house, waiting longer and longer to leave. Frank didn't get much sleep those nights, if any. Gerard liked to make sure he stayed awake, telling him stories or talking about how Frank felt under his hands or debating where to leave the next bruise, or other tattoos Frank should get, or just making fun of him until Frank had to come up with something to make Gerard laugh just to hold his own.
Gerard got him drunk one night on what he claimed was a shamefully small amount of alcohol and fucked him, and when Frank woke up in the morning with the worst headache he'd ever had Gerard was still there, in broad daylight.
Frank poked him awake. "You tried to kill me," he croaked. "I wish you'd finished me off."
Gerard smiled but looked to be in no small amount of pain himself. "Can't leave now," he said. "I'm stuck here all day."
Frank called in sick and spent the day in bed, even after his headache went away. Especially after his headache went away. Hiding in his bedroom with sunlight pushing around the curtains felt different to the middle of the night; this really felt like they had to be careful of the neighbors, like they were pulling one over on the world instead of just hiding from it.
None of this meant the Ways had stopped robbing banks. Gerard would disappear for a couple days, a bank would get hit, and Frank would roll his eyes, hide his smile, and chase after them.
It was a fine spring day, sunny and warm but not humid, trees freshly green and flowers spilling everywhere, when one of the robberies went bad.
Frank was in Trenton at the time, and the stories became muddled immediately, so he was never clear on what happened. But the local police in Millville had managed to surround the place, blocking off even the back exit, forcing the Ways to shoot their way out.
It was messy and got a lot of press coverage. Frank didn't want to go and see the scene, but he knew that was cowardly and out of character as far as the DOI was concerned, so he sucked it up and went.
In the papers the local PD made it sound like the Ways had gunned down half their force. Frank found that in reality, two cops had ended up dead and four were injured to varying degrees. Two dead cops too many, of course, but Frank had to bite his tongue several times to keep from defending the Ways.
Bad, that was bad.
Frank expected to find Gerard waiting for him when he got home but his house was as empty as he'd left it. Frank made dinner and smoked and had a drink from the bottle of awful whiskey Gerard had left there, and tried to listen to the radio and not wonder every fucking second where Gerard was and what he was doing, and almost managed it.
Frank woke up at what turned out to be two thirty in the morning. Gerard was sitting on his bed, smoking, and Frank had a strange delayed reaction— the situation only got stranger the more he woke up.
"Gee?" he croaked out, trying to struggle out of the blankets he was somehow pinned into.
"Hey, Frankie," Gerard said, low volume but otherwise like this was normal instead of being anything but.
Frank finally got himself free enough to sit up, and now he didn't know what to say. Gerard's pose was casual but now Frank could feel he was wound up so tight he was almost vibrating.
Frank took a deep breath, let it out, and touched Gerard's shoulder lightly. "You...okay? Everyone make it out okay on your side?"
"Yeah, yeah," Gerard said. "Everyone's fine." His throat closed off around the last word, cutting something off.
Frank rubbed his face, trying to think. He wanted to ask "What happened?" but he had no idea how Gerard might react to that, other than badly.
"Are you okay?" he asked instead.
"I just said so, didn't I?" Gerard snapped. He leaned past Frank to dump the butt of his cigarette in the water glass on Frank's bedside table.
Fine. Frank huffed, ran a hand over his hair. "What do you want?"
Gerard folded his arms across his chest, sulking, and Frank was about three seconds away from literally kicking him off the bed.
But before Frank could decide about that, Gerard turned to face him and pushed on his chest, pushing him down on to his back. Gerard moved to straddle him, then leaned down, face next to Frank's neck. "Just fuck me," he mumbled. "Don't want to talk, just...fuck me."
"Okay," Frank said, as best he could with all the air out of his lungs, and started tugging at Gerard's shirt, pulling it free from his trousers. "I can do that."
He was always covered in marks now, bruises from Gerard's teeth or fingers, or ink from Gerard drawing on him. He always covered up or washed them off, and Gerard was careful never to leave them too high on Frank's neck or too low past his wrists. Frank never forgot they were there, liked carrying them around under his clothes, and for the first time he wondered who else carried things like this around on them, what kind of lives they all really led.
The idea of anyone finding out, seeing, still gave Frank panic attacks. He'd lose everything— his job, his freedom, any independence and respect he'd earned through hours and years of hard work. His coworkers didn't think much of him now, and he burned at the thought of their smugness and satisfaction if they found out they were right.
Frank also hated the idea of anyone else getting involved in his case. Gerard was his, no one else understood, and they were all wrong, all the time, and Frank had to sit there and keep his mouth shut. He was walking a fine line reporting enough information to keep his bosses happy, making it look like he was hot on the hunt and not inviting Gerard in a few times a week. He sat in meetings where they discussed Way's whereabouts and told himself that strictly speaking, he didn't know where Gerard was right now. And since no one ever asked him where Gerard had been last night, it wasn't technically lying.
Summer settled in, and then he didn't see Gerard for three weeks, which was a longer time than he was used to. But the Way gang hadn't hit any banks in that time either. Frank thought maybe they were sick. He thought it was more likely they were planning something big. He had to talk the Assistant Director out of sending him to Chicago to help with the effort to get Dillinger, who was the DOI's number one priority. Frank argued it would take him so long to get caught up on the case he'd be useless. He did wonder if the Ways might show up in Chicago if he went there, but he didn't want to test that theory. He wanted Gerard to be able to find him when he finally showed his face again, if only so Frank got to punch it.
Frank had also gotten trapped in a cycle of going to see Mrs. Way. Every time he did, she gave him a casserole or lasagna or a pie to take home, and then in a couple weeks Frank felt guilty enough to take the dish back. He was getting quite well-fed, between her and his own mother. Sometimes, Gerard had helped him eat it.
This week, she seemed a little more twitchy than normal. When Frank asked if everything was all right, she looked around, as if to make sure no one could overhear, and asked him if he'd heard from Gerard lately.
She'd never asked him that before, and Frank spent a moment in something like blank terror before stammering that he hadn't. She sighed and lit a cigarette. "It's not like them not to call for this long," she said.
Don't tell me, Frank thought, I don't want to know.
She sent him home with dinner.
After another week with no contact, Frank couldn't ignore the uneasy feeling in his stomach any longer. He remembered how to do his job and hit the streets, trying to track the Ways down.
He was over in Lakewood tracking down a bust of a lead when the call came to the local PD for him: a big holdup of federal reserves in Newark, a lot of gangs involved, everyone come at once.
Frank had a police escort but it still took for-fucking-ever to get up there. He couldn't know that the Ways were there, of course, and they'd never worked with anyone before, but a big group project would explain why Gerard had been gone so long.
Frank was given a rifle with a sight and told to go wait on a rooftop and watch a door. The robbery had gone bad, someone had been where they shouldn't be, an alarm had gone off, and now a lot of people were trapped inside, some civilians, some private security, and no one knew how many gangsters. It was a huge fucking mess, and Frank was driving himself crazy, wondering where Gerard was.
Frank had no idea where the other snipers were; more were added as they arrived. Word was, Hoover didn't want any escapees. Frank's view was of the back, which suited him, and he kept careful watch through the rifle sight until a door opened. His stomach turned inside out when he recognized Ray and Dewees. Shit.
Frank took a deep breath to still his shaking hands. He took his time, taking careful aim in the sight, and fired a single bullet. Ray and Dewees jumped, looking up at the new hole in the wall three feet above their heads, and scarpered back inside.
There were other shots from other sides of the building, down the block. None nearby that Frank could see. He was glad he hadn't had anything to eat since this morning; he didn't think he could keep it down.
He wondered if Ray and Dewees knew it was him, or if they just thought they'd gotten lucky with a bad shot. He hoped they knew. He wanted Gerard to know he was out here.
What happened, Frank eventually found out, was that they'd been digging tunnels into the federal building from all the neighboring buildings. Including, as it happened, the one Frank was on.
"The fuck is this?"
Frank didn't recognize the voice, and he was lying on his stomach, so he just wasn't very fast when he went to turn around. He at least had the sense, or the training, to aim the rifle as he moved.
It didn't do him a lot of good. The sun was in his eyes, and he didn't get a good look at the guy in front of him before the other man fired.
Frank didn't know where he was when he woke up. That wasn't a situation he was familiar with, and he panicked a little and tried to sit up. The white-hot sear of pain in his side put a stop to that, and that was when Frank realized he was in a hospital.
He lay still and took deep breaths, willing the pain to ebb to manageable levels. It wasn't long before a nurse came in on rounds. "Oh, you're awake!" she said cheerfully.
Frank tried to ask her who else had been brought in. She told him not to worry about that and focus on himself. Frank managed not to shout at her, just.
The doctor she fetched told Frank he'd been shot in the stomach, which was dangerous, but it had been clean and they had every hope he'd make a full recovery. It didn't do much to relieve Frank's mind.
Finally, Frank got the doctor to tell him several other agents and suspects had ended up in the hospital. The doctor read him a list of the agents— the names meant nothing to Frank— but he refused to read the suspects. "No work for now, Agent Iero," he said with the sort of jocular paternalism Frank had never reacted well to. "You just rest and get better. I'm sure some of your friends will be by soon."
But Frank didn't have any friends, certainly not at work. Security was high at the hospital, with so many suspects in it, and civilian visitors weren't allowed because so many reporters were trying to get in. Frank was too hurt to get up and investigate for himself. He was trapped in his bed, wondering, morphine his only company.
Frank wasn't even sure how many days he'd spent there when he woke up one morning to a candy striper in his room. She seemed to be taking her time tidying, and her presence irritated him. He coughed, hoping that if she knew he was awake she'd leave.
She turned around, and under the blonde wig was Alicia. Frank gasped, and she held a finger to her mouth. She slipped to the door and looked in the hallway, then eased the door shut, before standing next to the side of Frank's bed.
"What are you doing here?" he whispered.
Her face was unreadable for a moment, then she said "We're going to get you out."
"Uh," Frank said. "What?"
"Gerard doesn't want you here anymore."
"So...no one's in the hospital?"
Something changed in Alicia's eyes, softened, but Frank still couldn't read her. "Just you," she said.
"Where's Gerard?" Frank didn't know what else to ask.
"Taking care of things," Alicia said. She leaned a little closer, and Frank could smell her perfume. "Will you come with us? Not throw up a fuss?"
"What does he think he's doing?" Frank hissed. "They'll look for me. I can't just disappear—"
"You have to," she hissed back, much fiercer. "The feds won't be the only ones looking for you now, okay?"
She tried to leave but Frank grabbed her arm. "What does that mean?"
She shook him off easily. "Your boys couldn't catch the slimy wart who shot you. Gee took care of him." She tilted her head a little, watching him keenly. "You're one of us now, kiddo. You're marked."
"What do you—"
"I gotta go," she said. "I've been in here too long already, waiting for you to open those peepers. See you soon, Frankie. Don't be too much of a wet blanket."
She vanished out the door, and Frank was left alone to try and sort it all out. Gerard was free, not hurt, and he was coming to get Frank. He'd "taken care of" whoever had shot Frank. Frank was marked. Which meant...known to be Gerard's man, presumably. So the criminal element knew they were on some kind of friendly terms. How long before the feds knew that?
Frank lay on his back in his hospital bed and tried not to hyperventilate.
If he'd thought the previous days of enforced boredom were bad, it was nothing to the next two days of near-panic. Every time the door opened, Frank expected a team of agents coming to arrest him, or a gun barrel in his face.
The dreams the morphine gave him weren't any good either. He went through an entire escape attempt involving a protracted gun battle, and when they finally got away, Frank woke up. He asked the nurse to stop giving him morphine.
It was early in the morning when Alicia came back. She was with an orderly Frank didn't recognize, pushing a wheelchair. "Transfer, Agent Iero," she said with a smirk.
The orderly picked up him, rather carefully, and set him in the wheelchair. Frank would have preferred to move himself, but God knew what would happen if he was anything that might be taken as "difficult." He was more afraid of Alicia than he was of Gerard.
No one stopped them or even glanced at them more than twice on their way to the exit. Frank recognized the ambulance driver, his curly red hair barely contained under a cap. He saw Ray slip the orderly a fat envelope, and then Frank was lying down in the back of the ambulance.
"You all right?" Ray asked. "How's the pain?"
"Fine," Frank said.
Alicia got in the front with Ray. Frank couldn't really see where they were going, but it wasn't too long before they stopped. Just long enough for his wound to start giving him trouble in the form of shooting pains.
When he was pulled out of the ambulance, he found they were in a garage somewhere, and it was cool and dark. There was another car, big and black, and there was Gerard.
Frank got to his feet but it cost him, and he spent a few minutes with his head spinning too much for him to see anything, waiting for the pain to release him. He didn't even realize Gerard had caught him and was holding him up.
"You got the morphine?" Gerard's voice was sharp, Alicia's reassuring. Frank let Alicia take his arm, felt the pinch of the needle. The drug worked fast, and when Frank could breathe again, he found his cheek smushed against Gerard's shoulder.
With Gerard on one side and Ray on the other, they laid him down in the back seat of the car. Frank stayed still, listening to Gerard issuing orders.
"Ray dump the ambulance. Location...two. I'm feeling that one. Alicia, ride in the front with Mikey. Dewees called with the all-clear five minutes before you got here, so we're good."
Frank felt the door by his head open, and his head was gently lifted. It wasn't set down again— it took Frank opening his bleary eyes to realize his head was in Gerard's lap.
"Hey there," Gerard whispered, as the car rumbled to life beneath them. "Hey, Frankie." His fingertips traced the lines of Frank's face. The familiarity was comforting. "Been a minute, hasn't it?" Gerard was still whispering, crooning to him. "Don't you worry, Frankie, I'll take care of you."
Frank squeezed his eyes shut as the light hit them. He didn't know where they were going; he didn't particularly care.
Frank woke up without knowing where he was, again.
The last thing he remembered was the car; he was now in a house. It was quiet and sunny, and he could hear the ocean through the open window.
He propped himself up a little, and when it didn't hurt too bad, he eased himself up until he was sitting on the side of the bed. Frank eventually gained his feet and walked, slow and hunched over but still walked, to a bathroom he found down the hall.
In the mirror, he looked pale and drawn. He very carefully lifted his shirt, but the site of the gun shot was all bandaged up. The bandages looked clean, so he didn't disturb them.
Frank was starting to regret venturing out on his own, but when he opened the door Gerard was leaning on the wall opposite. "You're up," Gerard said. "Walking and everything."
"So it seems."
Gerard put a careful arm around him and helped him back to bed.
"Where are we?"
"Does it matter? We're here for your health."
Frank sighed and leaned back into the pillows. The place was nice, he'd give Gerard that.
Gerard sat on the bed, carefully, and crossed his legs. "Crossing state lines would be kind of tricky at the moment. Cops seem to be searching a lot of cars."
"I wonder why that is," Frank said. He coughed, and Gerard went to the kitchen to get him a glass of water.
"What the hell happened?" Frank asked.
Gerard started picking at the bed spread. "Wasn't my idea," he said.
"No shit," Frank said.
"The family wanted everyone in on it. Couldn't say no unless we wanted to beat it and not come home. Wasn't ready to do that yet."
"Since when do they tell you what to do?" Gerard had never taken orders from anyone before, as far as Frank knew.
Gerard scowled, glaring at the quilt like it had personally offended him. "Since they showed up with a lot of guns."
Frank had spent so long thinking about Gerard he'd forgotten Gerard wasn't the biggest man in Jersey. Not even close. Gerard didn't kill people very often, which made him vulnerable to the people who did.
"It was badly planned and badly executed," Gerard said. "And it took forever. Didn't want to see you while it was going on," he mumbled. "Would've been risky, all sorts of extra eyes."
"Oh," Frank said. "Your mother was worried," he said, when he didn't know what else to say.
"Fuck," Gerard said. Frank agreed.
Frank drank the rest of his water, then asked "So what happens now? Is it up to me again?"
But Gerard didn't smile. "Nope," he said. "Not this time, Frankie. We've all gotta go."
It was a long time before Frank pieced together what had happened while he was in the hospital, and he worked most of it out of Mikey. Gerard never wanted to talk about it.
Frank had been surprised on the roof and shot by some minor member of the conspiracy who worked for a guy named Vigglioni, himself a minor mobster who'd fought his way into this; someone with aspirations but not ability. He'd gotten lucky, stumbling onto a fed on the roof.
After the botched escape, when Gerard heard that Frank had been shot, he'd gone to the bar Vigglioni's crew hung out at. He stood in the corner, saying nothing, until pretty much everyone forgot he was there. He waited hours, until Frank's shooter wasn't the only one who was good and drunk. The shooter started boasting about plugging a fed. He'd left him for dead and had no idea Frank was still alive.
Gerard had walked across the room, without saying a word, and put two bullets in the guy's head. He'd walked right out, too, in all the confusion.
Everyone knew Gerard had done it, which meant they knew Gerard had taken revenge for that fed for some reason. They most likely assumed he was Gerard's plant or snitch, but Vigglioni was going to take revenge for his man, and Frank had been laying in a hospital with a big fat "Property of Gerard Way" stamp on him.
Frank spent a lot of time sleeping, dozing in the warm summer sun and salty breeze coming in the open window. Gerard wasn't there very often when Frank opened his eyes, but he could usually smell smoke or hear music playing or Gerard talking to someone, and Gerard was never hard to find when Frank wandered out.
Once Frank woke in the middle of the night to find Gerard sleeping in a chair by his bed. Frank watched him for a while before falling back into sleep, and didn't mention it to him in the morning.
Frank knew that the rest of the gang was around. Gerard called them frequently and sometimes they'd show up, though never all at once. Mikey and Alicia were the most frequent visitors. They'd rented another beach cottage somewhere nearby.
They came over sometimes for dinner, sometimes just to bring groceries. Sometimes for hushed meetings in the living room that Frank wasn't invited to.
Frank didn't have enough energy to be pissed off, but he was going to get there eventually. When he felt like he could stay awake and could walk down the hall without too much pain or exhausted panting or trembling, he pulled on a pair of pants and a shirt he found in the closet, and went down to the kitchen.
Gerard was drinking coffee at the table when Frank walked in. He raised his eyebrows in surprise but didn't set down the mug until he'd finished chugging it.
"You're up," he said.
"I am," Frank said.
"Sit down." Gerard kicked out a chair and stood up, going back over to the coffee pot.
Frank sat, not because of Gerard but because he was going to have to sooner or later, and there was no point in wearing himself out right away.
Gerard returned and set a mug full of coffee in front of Frank. He let himself enjoy a few sips. He knew Gerard was watching, but Frank took his time meeting his eyes.
"So what's the plan?" Frank asked. "We're hiding out here, I guess. And then what?"
"When you can move without dying," Gerard said, "we leave the state. Disappear. Stay gone." He spread his hands wide like a magician showing there was nothing up his sleeves.
The clink of Frank's mug hitting the table was loud. "No."
"I haven't done anything wrong," Frank said. "I'm not leaving the fucking state, my home just because—"
"You haven't done anything wrong?" Gerard snapped. "So we haven't been fucking for months? You haven't let me go, haven't kept your mouth shut about my gang? Protected me? For months?"
Frank took a deep breath, and even that hurt. "Okay," he said. "So I have done something wrong. Repeatedly. But no one knows, there's no reason we can't— I can't— just go home."
Frank refused to think about what that might mean.
"Fuck you," Gerard looked furious, was furious, and Frank added the voice whispering he had good reason to the things he was trying to ignore. "And everyone knows."
"Just because you fucked up—"
"I fucked up? I'm not the one who got shot!" Gerard was on his feet, all barely contained movement. Frank wanted to be pacing too, to make noise and slam doors and push. "I had to clean up this mess. There's nothing I haven't done for you, and you run hot and cold like...like the worst plumbing in the world. Like a malaria fever."
"You're right," Frank snapped. "I did fuck up. When I let you stay around."
"I offered you everything and you threw it back in my face when you weren't begging for it." Gerard was almost white. "Don't you fucking dare act like you didn't want it now, Frank Iero. You can go to fucking hell."
"I didn't ask you to kill anyone for me!" Frank shouted, ignoring the twinge in his side, all the other twinges besides.
"He left you for dead!" Gerard shouted back. "I would have killed a hundred men." He slammed his mug down, breaking it, and left the kitchen, left the house.
Frank tried to clean up the mug but only picked up a few pieces before he had to rush to the sink to throw up.
Strange, how until Gerard had broken that mug, Frank had completely forgotten that Gerard had killed men for less than Frank had already done to him, and that if Gerard killed him now no one would know.
Frank cleaned up his sick in the sink, and finally Gerard's shattered cup as well. He threw out the rest of his coffee, now long since cold, and went back to bed.
He couldn't sleep, though. He still felt sick, and feverish. His throat burned and his wounds felt like they were on fire— throwing up with a stomach injury was a whole fresh level of hell.
A level of hell Frank totally deserved. He'd neglected his job, his duty to the United States of America, for an...illicit liaison. Just as bad—worse, really— he'd treated Gerard badly, after he'd taken good care of Frank.
The problem, Frank came to realize as he lay alone in his waves of pain, was that he had been refusing to commit himself to either side. He could choose his job, choose a life as an upstanding citizen and a federal agent, a lawman who made a difference. Or he could choose Gerard.
When Frank was finally giving in to exhaustion, even out of tears, he realized he'd already chosen, and he'd made the choice a long time ago.
Frank woke up at the sound of the front door. He lay still, listening hard. There was nothing to indicate it was Gerard. Footsteps came down the hall. There was no guarantee Gerard hadn't just come back to kill him, having decided Frank was more trouble than he was worth. Frank wouldn't blame him.
He lay still on his back. His mouth was dry, but his water glass was empty; he'd gotten used to Gerard keeping it full.
It wasn't Gerard who walked in, but Mikey. Frank's first thought was that Gerard had sent Mikey to kill him, that he didn't even want to take the time to do it himself.
"What did you say to him?" Mikey asked, when he saw Frank was awake.
Frank was too hoarse to speak. Mikey figured it out and brought him more water.
"I said I wanted to go back home," Frank said.
Mikey narrowed his eyes, and Frank spilled more out of nervousness. "I said there was no reason I couldn't go back— and he said—look, it was shitty of me, I know, and I'm fucking sorry I said it. But I didn't sign up for this."
Mikey sighed and sat down in the chair, fiddling with his glasses. "What is it you think you signed up for?"
"I don't know," Frank said, rolling his head in frustration. "Not this, with the sickbed and the killing people and the beach house. I just didn't expect this." He looked at Mikey, knowing he was pleading, not able to do anything about it. "I don't know what I'm doing."
"Well," said Mikey, "neither does anyone else."
Frank groaned. "He's the criminal and somehow I'm the asshole here."
Mikey's mouth twitched. "In my experience, most cops are assholes."
"Sure, sure," Frank sighed. "Make fun of the cripple."
"Are you coming with us or not?" Mikey asked.
"I think we all know I don't really have a choice," Frank said.
"Do we?" Mikey asked. "All know that?"
"How mad is he?" Frank asked. "Like, gonna kill me mad?"
Mikey didn't look amused. "You think he'd kill you?"
"Not really? But I guess I've been enough of an asshole to deserve it."
"You think so, do you?"
"Tell him—" Frank took another drink, his mouth dry again— "Tell him I was always gonna go with him, and he should have known that. I just wasn't... prepared. And— he's spent too much time saving my life to dump me now. Tell him to come home."
"Are you bleeding?" was all Mikey said.
"Probably," Frank sighed. Mikey helped him change his bandage and left. Frank slept the rest of the day. He was still alone when he woke up in the evening, so he hobbled to the kitchen and heated some soup he found in the fridge.
The following day Frank was sick of staring at the bedroom so he settled on the couch. He was listening to one of the records he'd found there when the front door opened and Gerard walked in. Frank's heartbeat instantly doubled, so strong and insistent he thought it must show somehow.
"I should have known?" Gerard asked.
"When have you ever been wrong about me?"
That must have mollified Gerard, because he finally came around and squeezed himself into a space on the edge of the sofa.
"Are you still mad at me?" Frank asked.
"How much pain have you been in?"
"Hmm. Mikey said you were bleeding again."
"Yeah," Frank said. "Threw up. It was stupid."
Gerard rested a hand very lightly on Frank's chest. "Guess I'm not that mad anymore then."
"'Kay," Frank said. "Good."
"Yeah." He touched Gerard's hand, stroked it, feeling the bones and tendons underneath, tracing his index finger. His trigger finger. "When I said I didn't have a choice," Frank said, "I didn't mean that you didn't give me a choice. I meant that I didn't give myself one. Because of you."
"Well," Gerard said. "As long as it's because of me."
"Why me?" It burst out, unsaid for months and months. "You said I was pretty and smart but— why me?"
"Why not you? 'Pretty and smart' isn't enough?"
"So it could have been anyone, as long as they were pretty and smart?"
"No," Gerard said, more patient than Frank had ever seen him, "it had to be you."
"That doesn't make any sense."
"These things usually don't." Gerard leaned down, lips soft and slightly chapped on Frank's. It had been a lifetime since their last kiss and they took it slowly, enough that Frank wondered where Gerard had found all this patience. This thing between them was fragile, but familiarity was overwhelming the fragility.
"What really is happening next?" Frank asked, when he got the chance. "That's actually what I was going to ask you yesterday morning."
"Just yesterday?" Gerard mumbled. "Feels like a year."
"Tell me about it," Frank sighed.
"When you're well enough to travel far, we'll all go together. We'll burn this place down—"
"Hush. We'll leave some clues we were in here. Burn it down. They'll think we died in the fire. All clear, baby."
Frank opened his mouth, letting the multitude of objections swirl around his tongue. Then he shut his mouth. Gerard probably could guess all his objections, and Frank had said quite enough lately.
"Where do we go?"
"I was thinking California." Frank must have made a face, a little, because Gerard laughed softly and stroked a thumb over Frank's face. The sound and touch were so familiar Frank's heart was pained. "You'll like it when we get there. Besides, so many people are heading out there, we'll blend right in."
"What will we do?" Not that it mattered, really.
"Doesn't matter," Gerard said, as if he knew what Frank was thinking. Of course he did.
Frank had nothing to say— chose to say nothing, more accurately. He let Gerard move him, tuck him into bed, and for the first time Gerard settled next to him.
Kissing was better like this, even with Gerard carefully on the side away from Frank's injuries. Frank only regretted that there was life outside of this, that it couldn't all be trying to keep still as Gerard sucked on his tongue.
The next meeting that took place in the living room Frank attended, along with the full gang, for the first time, as far as Frank was aware, since getting him out of the hospital.
He sat on the couch with Gerard, though at the other end. Mikey was eyeing him, and it made Frank wary. He kept quiet and let them make their plans around him. His conscience pinged him but he kept his mouth shut. After a while, Gerard stretched his arm along the back of the sofa and rested his fingers on Frank's shoulder, praise and reassurance. Frank tried not to press into the touch too obviously, although it unsettled him, how badly he needed it.
After everyone left and they had the house to themselves again, Gerard took Frank to bed. He left the light on, so he could be sure to avoid Frank's injury. Gerard licked his hand with a few broad strokes and proceeded to jack Frank at a glacial pace. He touched Frank slowly, or lightly, only ever enough to tease, not enough to give any satisfaction.
Hands fisted in the sheets, Frank stood it as long as he could, then pleaded, then begged, sobbing and unable to catch his breath, and still Gerard touched him lightly, trailing his fingers over Frank's dick without letting him come.
It felt like it went on for hours, Frank always about to come, losing his mind to fingertips. Finally, finally, Gerard stopped sucking a bruise onto Frank's chest and whispered "You're mine, aren't you Frankie?"
Frank groaned, and it took considerable effort to scrape himself together enough to answer "Yes."
"Good boy," Gerard whispered, before opening his mouth around Frank's nipple, breathing hot air on it but not otherwise touching it. "You've been very good. Don't hurt yourself, now."
He shifted, straddling Frank, inching around until their cocks were aligned. Gerard licked his hand again and wrapped it around both their cocks— unnecessarily, as Frank's had been leaking so much that everything was slick. Frank had been on the edge for so long that it took his body a while to remember how to come.
When he finally did, it felt huge and violent and black, overcoming him all at once, carrying him away. When Frank managed to get his eyes open again, Gerard had already come and was lying half-slumped over Frank, on his uninjured side.
Frank couldn't speak, so he petted clumsily at whatever part of Gerard he could reach. If Frank's side was sore, he couldn't feel it. He didn't think he could feel anything bad right now, no matter what happened.
"I have one thing to say," Frank said, at the next meeting, "and I'm gonna say it, and you're gonna listen, okay?" He took a deep breath, and no one interrupted him. "The bank robbing has got to stop." He held up his hands to forestall the protestations. "No, listen. Not because it's wrong, or people get hurt, even though that's true. You have to stop because people who don't stop get caught. People who rob one bank and disappear, we don't find them again. You've robbed considerably more than one bank, but if you disappear— if we disappear now— and don't call any more of the law's attention down on yourselves, maybe you actually stay disappeared. If you go back to robbing banks you will get caught. It's only a matter of time. That's how they got Bonnie and Clyde, and how they got Dillinger.
"If this crazy plan to fake our deaths works, then you can make a clean start. But if you start holding up banks or anywhere again, it's gonna take the Department no time to put it together and they'll be after you again. And eventually you'll slip up, you'll get more of the government's resources, J. Edgar will come after you himself— and sooner or later, and probably sooner, you will get caught or shot dead. Either way, you'll be done."
Frank leaned back and breathed heavily when he was done. Talking used a lot more of the side muscles than he'd noticed before.
Gerard was giving him the creepy stare again, but it was Ray who spoke. "Is that your professional opinion?"
"Speaking as a fed—"
"A former fed," Gerard interrupted.
"A former fed," Frank tried not to roll his eyes too obviously, "it is observable fact. As an interested party, I am expressing concern." That was all the fight he got about it, and that shocked him. He wondered if it was because he was so obviously winded and they were all waiting for him to get better, if the real fight would come later.
"No, really," Frank said, over dinner. "What about my mother? I can't just let her think I'm dead. What about your mother? I still have her casserole dish!"
Mikey stopped eating and stared at him. "You have my mother's casserole dish?"
"It's a long story!"
Gerard was just sniggering like an asshole, even though he knew all about Frank's irresistible-to-mothers problem. Frank kicked him under the table, but the angle and his injury didn't let him put a lot of force behind it.
"Don't worry, Frankie," Gerard said when he finally calmed down. "Once we get settled we'll make contact again. They can't be too mad that we're not dead."
"You don't think so?" Frank said, pushing food around on his plate. "You haven't met my mother."
"Well," Gerard shrugged, "at least we'll be on the other side of the country?"
"I don't want to know anything about any bodies," Frank said.
"We didn't kill them," Mikey said.
"I don't wanna know," Frank said. "I don't want to know anything about where they came from or how they got here or where or why or who or anything. I didn't see anything, I don't know anything—"
"And you're never gonna testify about it in court," Gerard said, coming up behind Frank and kissing his neck, even though they were right in front of Mikey, let alone out in the open. "Now get in the car, princess."
Frank grumbled a little because if anyone was a princess it was Gerard, but he climbed in the spacious backseat of the Olds and stretched out, making himself as comfortable as possible. His wound was all closed up with a livid scar but the tissue was still sore, and this was going to be a long drive.
Alicia joined him in the car next, in the front seat. Ray and Dewees would be driving in a truck, so they could split up if they had to. Only if they had to, though. Gerard and Mikey joined them, stone-faced.
Frank pushed himself up to look out the window. The house was pretty from the outside, and far enough from its neighbors it probably wouldn't catch anything else on fire.
Mikey started the car but they didn't move until they saw Ray and Dewees get out of the house and into their truck. "Okay," Gerard said quietly. "Let's go."
Mikey stepped on the gas as the first hint of smoke reached Frank's nose. He lay down again and left like he'd arrived, in the backseat with his head in Gerard's lap.
There was fuck-all in Oklahoma. Unless you wanted dust.
It was hot, sticky hot like a blanket over everything. So hot, and the air was wet. So hot they were both covered in sweat, and Frank's hands kept slipping off Gerard. Unable to get a firm grip, Frank resorted to little rocking motions, and underneath him Gerard gasped and groaned and cursed and begged for more, hands slipping off Frank.
Gerard arched his neck, pushing his head back against the bed as he tried to get Frank deeper inside him. All Frank could see was the column of his neck, straining.
It was wet everywhere, so much sweat coming off them that the air between them felt extra-humid; Frank felt like he could barely breathe.
"Frank, fuck, come on," Gerard groaned, probably too loud for these thin hotel walls. "Harder, come on, please."
Frank didn't respond, didn't change the way he was rocking into Gerard. It was like he wasn't there— or his brain wasn't. His body was there, tireless, and knew what it wanted, knew what it needed. Gerard around his cock, hot and tight, and he would have never given this up, never.
Gerard was cursing at him, rolling underneath him and clawing at his arms, but Frank would not be persuaded to do anything other than rock into Gerard, over and over, until he came, catching himself by surprise, and it was blinding and hard and long.
When Frank could breathe again he pulled out, making Gerard curse him all over again, and sunk his mouth on Gerard's cock. Gerard choked on whatever curse he was spitting out and wrapped his hands around Frank's head, fucking his mouth a few times until he keened high and loud and spilled into Frank's mouth.
Frank pulled off, spit, and wiped his mouth on his arm. He collapsed on the bed, across Gerard's legs for several minutes, then shifted around so he was laying next to Gerard, but his head by his hip. Moving any more seemed like too much effort. Frank picked up Gerard's arm and put it over his face. Gerard patted Frank's jaw, and a little later pushed two fingers into Frank's mouth. Frank sucked on them for awhile, before Gerard pulled them out and wiped them in Frank's hair.
"At least there's running water," Frank said.
"Who wants hot water anyway?" Gerard said.
They'd gone through more empty towns than Frank could count, all crooked, hollow buildings of silvered wood. They'd been lucky to find this place, with a restaurant that still had electricity and a motel that was still open.
They ate breakfast crammed in a circular booth at the diner, barely enough elbow room to raise a fork, but no one seemed to mind. It was already hot and blinding bright outside, as they stood around, Ray and Gerard and Alicia trying to look at the maps and plan their route and back up routes.
Dewees was talking to Frank and Mikey about how much he was looking forward to having a house again because hotels were just not cut out for midnight snacking.
"You folks need some help?"
It was a cop, and he had snuck up on them. "What was that, officer?" Frank asked, trying to wipe his hands on his pants without it being clear that was what he was doing.
"You folks need some help?" he nodded at the group with the map, who had stopped talking and looked up. "We don't get too many visitors here."
He was bored, Frank thought. Just bored.
"Might be you could help us decide which road to take," Gerard's voice twanged a little, and he squinted and smiled and looked harmless and friendly and confused.
The officer went over to them and touched his hat at Alicia, then they all bent over the map. Frank exhaled, exchanging looks with Mikey and James.
The officer asked where they were heading and accepted their answer of California. It was an answer he'd heard a lot, Frank supposed, here in the heart of the Dustbowl.
"If you folks don't mind me asking," the officer said, in the patented cop tone of voice that said he really didn't care what they thought about it, "but is one of you gentlemen lucky enough to be this lady's husband?"
Frank bit the inside of his cheek so he wouldn't smile, and Mikey answered that he had that honor. Well, they were as a good as; it was only just a lie. The cop seemed satisfied, anyway.
They folded up their maps, set with their route. "Say," said the officer, who must be using whatever backwoods version of a copper's sense he had, "what is it you folks do?"
There was a long, silent, terrible moment. Everyone was darting looks at Gerard, whose mouth was firmly shut for once. Frank took a step toward the cop, to draw his attention.
"We're a band," he said, the word coming out of nowhere to fill his mouth. "We're a band," Frank said, "so we're going to Hollywood."
The officer smiled. "Is that right? Well heck," he said. "Wish I'd known that before, we coulda used some entertainment 'round here. I'll wish all y'all luck and let you get on your way."
Gerard thanked the cop for his help, all smooth and shiny again, and the cop finally went back across the street, and they got to pile in their cars. Frank sighed when he slammed his door shut, but he wouldn't really relax until this town had vanished from the mirrors.
"A band," Gerard said, as he coaxed the car into life. "Nice move there, Frankie. Where'd that come from?"
Frank shrugged. "Divine inspiration? I dunno. Dimly remembered childhood, maybe. My dad played in bands, disappeared every Saturday night."
"Huh, go figure," Gerard said. "Hey Mikey, you remember that time..." There had a band at a county fair they'd seen, and clubs in New York and New Jersey. Frank turned in his seat so he could talk over the back to Mikey and Alicia.
"Have you ever heard Ray play guitar?" Gerard asked, as Frank lit a cigarette for him. "Plays like a motherfucker."
"Really?" Frank said.
Gerard nodded, so violently he almost lost the cigarette. "We'll have to make sure he gets his guitar back once we get settled, so he can play for you. He's a genius."
Frank kicked his feet up on the seat, pressing them into Gerard's leg. "Well well. Aren't people a surprise a sometimes?"
Gerard blew smoke out the window and side-eyed Frank, a smile tugging at his mouth. "Sometimes," he agreed.