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Cupid's Chokehold

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Sometimes Frank wishes he had a different job.

Not every day, of course, because there’s a lot to be thankful for in what he does now, including his deal on immortality and endless wealth, but sometimes when he’s returning from another failed field mission he really, really wishes he had a different job.

~*~*~

“I’m so fucking bad at this.” Frank sighs, settling himself against the cushions of the couch. The corner of a throw pillow jabs him in the lower back and he pulls it out from under himself, tossing it at the side of Ray’s head.

“Bad at what?” Ray asks, even though he knows exactly what Frank means. He grabs the pillow thrown at him and puts it back where it belongs among the other cushions.

Frank thinks Ray is a douchebag for making him say it aloud. “You’re a douchebag.”

Ray hums in response, turning towards his friend and leaning back against the arm of the couch. The look he gives Frank as he laces his fingers together makes the other man expel a heavy, annoyed breath.

“Don’t make me say it.” He doesn’t want to say it to Ray. Just thinking about it in the presence of those who are omniscient is embarrassing enough; never mind saying it out loud. Besides, as cheesy as it sounds, he’s never been the kind of creature to settle for less than being the best that he can be.

Yet no matter what he does he cannot succeed at this.

Frank taps his foot on the tile and looks at anything other than Ray’s face for a long moment. Then he groans and says, "I suck at love, alright? I’m a fucking Cupid, a servant of Aphrodite for fuck’s sake, and I suck at making people fall in love.”

“Why do you think that is, Frank?”

“I don’t fucking know! If I knew, I’d fucking do something about it!” Frank yells, exasperated. His doves in the alcoves flutter nervously; they can sense when he’s upset and it worries them. One of the youngest additions to his flock swoops down, landing on his shoulder, gently pecking at his ear while it coos soothingly.

Frank touches a finger behind its head, petting it until he calms down. A moment passes and he says, “I don’t know. Maybe it’s… maybe it’s because I’ve never been in love? Not while I was still mortal and definitely not since I was scouted. I’m mostly just wondering why Aphrodite hasn’t sacked me yet.”

“She thinks you’re far too pretty to become mortal again,” Ray says, very seriously, and Frank knows it’s true. As a goddess who appreciates beauty almost as much as she does love itself, Aphrodite has standards and she makes sure her Cupids live up to them. “She thinks it’d be a terrible waste to fire you and allow you to be human once again, to grow older and die just because you’re terrible at your job. Such looks are meant to be preserved.”

Frank snorts. “Oh, so ruining people’s lives is okay, as long as you’re good-looking?”

“You’re not ruining people’s lives, Frank; you’re just...” He trails off, shifting uncomfortably.

“Look, Ray, I can’t do this anymore. Not—not love, anyway. Anything else, just not love.” Frank hurries to add, because he doesn’t want to go back to his human life. When he was mortal he was sad all the time, sad, tired, and lonely. Being human was exhausting. Being human was hard. “Seriously, I would not even be opposed to working with, like, Hephaestus and doing something manly like forging swords.”

Ray snorts. “I’ll see what I can do.”

Frank leans to the side, knocking his head on Ray’s shoulder. “Thanks, dude.”

Ray rolls his eyes, but he’s smiling and fondly mussing Frank’s hair.

~*~*~

Several weeks later, Frank returns from another failed assignment. His charge this time was a spirited young woman named Audrey, roundabouts twenty-six in age, and interested in botany. He’d kept trying for about three months Earth-time, going through numerous potentials before finally admitting defeat and texting Ray about his eventual return to Olympus.

He arrives at his room in the West Wing of Aphrodite’s palace, feeling more unaccomplished and disappointed in himself than ever, and he finds Ray lounging on his couch.

Frank is already busy feeling guilty for pseudo-breaking Audrey’s heart; he’s not really in the mood to look at Ray and pretend he isn’t being crushed by the weight of his failures. Before Frank can say as much, Ray announces, “So I’ve discussed the situation with Aphrodite and she, like I thought she would, said you are too pretty to let another god have you.”

Frank’s heart drops in his chest. Aphrodite is a jealous goddess; he knew he shouldn’t have gotten his hopes up.

“But,” Ray continues, unaware of the disappointment bouncing around in Frank’s chest and trickling out through his fingertips, “She said that if you can succeed at just one case, if you can truly find love and happiness for your charge in a way that actually sticks, then she’ll let you choose any other god with whom you wish to work. And don’t give me that look, Frank. You said it yourself that you’re terrible at love.”

“What’s the catch, though?” Frank asks, because the whole thing seems almost too good to be true and, as is the case with most deals made with the gods, it is.

“She gets to choose your case.”

“Shit. She’s giving me Gerard, isn’t she?” Frank asks, closing his eyes and pinching the bridge of nose between his forefinger and thumb in annoyance.

“She’s giving you Gerard,” Ray confirms with a sympathetic nod.

Frank curses under his breath; he should have known. Gerard is infamous on Mount Olympus, at least among Aphrodite’s servants’ social circles. The goddess of love herself has been trying to help him for years but nothing, or no one, ever seems to stick. Seven years of failure to find love for one specific person when most successes only take a month or two isn’t just practically unheard of; it’s downright horrifying. Gerard is hopeless and not even Aphrodite can fix him.

So of course she’d give Gerard to him. Of course.

But he really, really needs this and he’s going to take the offer while it stands, because he knows that after this, he won’t be given another chance. Besides, he has a reputation for being something of a stubborn little asshole, so he tells himself that he can do this, even though he is aware that he might not be able to, and asks, “When do I start?”

This is literally the biggest chance of his life thus far and he needs the time to prepare.

Ray only sends him another look of sympathy before saying, “Now,” and pushing him out of the clouds.

~*~*~

Even though Frank has gotten somewhat used to landing over the years, he's still fucking pissed at Ray for shoving him out of Olympus without warning. That shit is not fucking cool.

You've gotta give a dude some time to prepare, he fumes silently, slapping furiously at the dirt on the back of his jeans. Though, knowing Aphrodite, she probably put him up to it, so when he thinks about it, he's not really that pissed at Ray after all.

"Hey, you've got mail, fuckface," his cell phone chirps with a sniff and Frank is relieved to see that the little device still works despite having landed on it multiple times. He rolls his eyes upon hearing the sound, but opens the text because that's how the servants of the gods get their instructions these days. Visions and booming voices in the subconscious are so last millennium.

Ray has sent him Gerard's exact coordinates, but Frank has never been very good with that sort of thing, so he texts back, "fuck that shit gimme a time and place."

Within seconds, he receives another text, which this time lists the address of some random ass coffee shop he’s due in around noon today. Almost immediately after saving the text, in case he forgets the name of the coffee shop, one more pops up in his inbox—He knows Ray can text like as fast as he plays guitar; fingers moving at light speed—and reads, “don’t fuck this up. The gods don’t give second chances.

~*~*~

Gerard is a lot hotter in person than he was expecting. Word of Gerard gets around Olympus, not pictures, and Frank has been around for long enough, both as Cupid and human, to know that the game of Telephone isn’t exactly the most reliable source of information. Turns out that, no, contrary to popular opinion Gerard is not pockmarked, thin-lipped, or in possession of an obscenely large nose rivaling that of Cyrano de Bergerac.

He isn’t nearly as hunchbacked as the rumors say, either, but he is almost as pale. He looks like he’s spent too much time in a basement, leaning over a sketchbook and forgetting that the outdoor world exists. His hair still looks tacky from the red hair dye. Frank would totally be lying if he said he wouldn’t have let Gerard fuck him into next year.

Or fuck Gerard into the next year.

He isn’t picky.

But getting Gerard laid isn’t his job right now.

Or, well, I suppose it is, Frank muses as he walks up to the counter, ignoring the barista’s pointed once-over, and orders a caramel macchiato, just not by me.

The barista takes a long time to get his order done, but it’s delicious and once the Styrofoam cup has been handed over, he turns away and heads toward the table Gerard has been sitting at for the past twenty minutes. He doesn’t look up until Frank sits down across from him and says all in one breath, “His teeth are too perfect for a zombie. Mind if I sit down? Thanks.”

Gerard startles, whipping his pen back and nearly knocking over his own steaming beverage. His eyes are comically wide when he trains them on the man sitting across from him. “Who says zombies can’t have good oral hygiene?”

“Dude, they’re undead rotting carcasses rabidly searching for food,” Frank replies, taking another sip of his drink and burning the tip of his tongue. “You honestly think they have the mental capacity to think about brushing their teeth regularly?”

“Well, why not?” Gerard asks again, sitting up straighter in his seat. “Maybe these zombies are classier than your zombies. Maybe they attract zombie mates by showing how adept they are at ripping apart their prey with their perfect teeth.”

“Zombies are too selfish to have mates! They can’t provide for their zombie family! They’d want all the brains to themselves.”

“I don’t see why a zombie can’t be regular family man. You know, zombie wife and 2.5 kids. House in the abandoned suburbs with a picket fence and backyard for their rotting dog. Maybe around Christmas they’d hang intestines around the tree instead of tinsel.”

“That’s disgusting,” Frank exclaims, delighted. “But I still think zombies wouldn’t have nice teeth.”

“I bet if you were a zombie, you’d still have nice teeth,” Gerard replies, smiling. Gerard’s own teeth are small and sharp. Frank thinks they would be good at ripping through human flesh if he ever succumbed to the zombie apocalypse. His smile is sweet, shy, and contagious, and Frank finds himself returning it with a crooked grin of his own.

“I’m Frank,” he says, holding his hand out over the table.

“Gerard.” A few of Gerard’s fingertips have ink stains, but they feel no different, and leave no marks on Frank’s palm after they shake hands. Frank wonders how long it takes for the ink to wash off. He wonders how long it will take to find Gerard someone to love.

Gerard begins sketching on a new page. There’s a moment of silence where Frank picks up his macchiato and takes another sip before Gerard asks, “So if I were to draw you as a zombie…”

~*~*~

“Hmmm, I’m thinking... Episodes 4, 5, and 6?” Gerard asks, glancing back over his shoulder.

“Vetoed!” Frank responds from his position on the couch, stuffing a handful of buttered popcorn in his mouth and watching from beneath lowered lashes the way Gerard’s spine curves into his ass as he bends over.

“You can’t just veto Star Wars! It’s Star Wars,” Gerard repeats with emphasis, standing up straight and turning to look at Frank incredulously.

“Uh, yeah, actually I can, because we watched it last week and Star Wars is meant to be savored.”

“I’m savoring!” Gerard protests, but Frank just rolls his eyes and wiggles deeper into his spot on the sofa. The higher ups have provided him with an apartment nearby the target as usual, but more often than not Frank stays over at Gerard’s. Gerard has all his favorite comics and movies, and doesn’t care when Frank stuffs his face with food he didn’t buy, so he doesn’t really see the point in inviting the other man to his own, barely lived-in apartment.

“I vote Labyrinth,” Frank says, instead of arguing further. Gerard is nothing if not passionate about Star Wars and no matter how hot he looks while discussing the homoerotic subtext between Han and Luke, Frank would really rather go ahead and start their movie night.

Being sexually attracted to a target never ends well and this is not the time to go where his dick leads him.

“Oh, fuck yes.” Gerard bends down again and grabs the DVD from its place on the shelf. He pops open the case and says, “David Bowie’s junk—”

“—was fucking glorious,” Frank finishes for him and lets out a fake moan, to which Gerard responds with a laugh. He watches again as Gerard leans over to put the disc in the player, jeans pulling tight around his ass.

Gerard drops down next to him on the couch after turning out the lights, reaching his hand into the bowl in Frank’s lap to grab some popcorn.

The movie starts and Frank can’t pay attention. He wonders instead why Gerard is such a problem on Olympus. He’s fucking awesome. From the few weeks Frank has known him, Gerard has turned out to be smart and beautiful. He’s talented and creative. He’s kind and sincere. Except for his tendency to not shower very often, and his idea that Stephen King’s big reveals are boring and predictable, there’s absolutely nothing that Frank can see wrong with him.

For a few seconds in the darkness of the room, Frank wishes that maybe he was actually good at this whole love business, because Gerard’s a pretty rad dude and it sucks that he’s so unlucky in love.

It sucks even more that Frank is the one who has to find him someone to love.

He feels almost bad, like the real friendship that he’s forged with Gerard is just a show. Cupids aren’t technically supposed to become friends with the target since the likelihood of ever seeing them again after the assignment is finished is practically zero; it tends to hurt for both parties involved.

~*~*~

Frank sets Gerard up with a non-potential to see how he handles social outings with possible partners. He thinks he’s got a feel for Gerard’s personality, but on an assignment as important as this one, he figures it’s best to go through a trial run or two.

The dates end up failing miserably and Frank decides he needs to know Gerard a lot better than this in order to find a perfect match for him.

~*~*~

“Fuckin’ Legolas, man.” Frank moans around a handful of popcorn in his mouth the next time he and Gerard have a movie night.

“Nah, Aragorn all the fuckin’ way,” Gerard responds. Frank catches the way Gerard looks over at him, but he isn’t sure at what Gerard is staring.

“Bullshit!” Frank calls, sitting up straight and setting the popcorn aside. “I call bullshit! I bet you secretly love you some sexy elf ass like Legolas, but you just want to pretend you’re into the whole rugged, manly exterior of Aragorn. If you’re looking for rugged and manly, you might as well go with Gimli.”

“Why would I need a dwarf when I’ve got one sitting right fucking next to me?”

“Fuck you!” Frank yells indignantly, throwing a handful of popcorn at Gerard’s face.

“Oh, sorry, was that insensitive of me?” Gerard laughs and the sound is loud and contagious. He picks some of the fallen popcorn off his chest and lobs it back in Frank’s direction. “Sorry, sorry. If it helps, if you were Gimli, I would totally pick you over both Aragorn and Legolas.”

Frank laughs, high and bright and real.

Suddenly Gerard is leaning over and pressing his lips to Frank’s. It’s warm and soft and Frank finds himself responding before he even realizes what’s happening. He moves into the kiss, opening his mouth in invitation and reaching up with one hand to cup the side of Gerard’s neck. His lips moving against Frank’s feel perfect, necessary, so fucking right that Frank can barely breathe under the weight of it.

When he nips Gerard’s bottom lip, Gerard lets out a low, strangled moan, like it’s been ripped out of him. The sound startles Frank and he jumps, moving back into the kiss before reminding himself that this isn’t right. He shouldn’t be doing this, or even feeling like this. Realizing it, though, hurts more than he cares to admit.

He puts his hands on Gerard’s shoulders, pushing him away roughly and breaking their kiss. “I—Gerard—what?”

A blush rises quick and fierce on Gerard’s cheeks as he stammers, “I, um, I thought—you know—I wanted to kiss you, and I—it looked like, it felt like you wanted it, too?”

His lips are red and swollen from their kisses, Frank’s own spit on them shining under the light of the TV. They’re drawing Frank’s gaze but he tries to not look at them, instead focusing on the wall behind Gerard’s head. “Dude, I, no. I’m—I’m not like that. I don’t.”

“Oh, I—oh.” Gerard says, looking crushed and confused. “Okay.”

Frank figures that Gerard thinks he doesn’t combine his friends with his lovers, or something, but what he really means is that he’s not one those Cupids, the ones who take advantage of their target’s loneliness and use it to help themselves. He might be really bad at his job, but he knows the difference between right and wrong, and as much as he wants Aphrodite to send him to another god or goddess, he would never risk Gerard’s emotions just because he wanted to get laid.

“Okay,” he says finally, a few minutes later, for lack of anything better to say. It’s not exactly like he can tell Gerard the real reason behind Frank’s spurning of his advances.

“Okay,” he echoes, letting Gerard come to his own conclusions, wrong though they might be.

The air is thick with tension and Frank wonders if this will change things between them.

~*~*~

In fact, Gerard starts acting weird around Frank, inviting him over less often and having stilted, awkward conversations when he does. There is a lot of uncomfortable fidgeting on Gerard’s part and Frank really starts to worry that this assignment might be over before it’s even had a chance to start.

He heads over to Gerard’s expecting another awkward silence, but instead he arrives to the sound of the fire alarm going off and the smell of burning pastries. Frank walks into the kitchen, where Gerard stands with the oven open and smoking pastries sitting atop the stove.

“Are those cupcakes?” he asks, unnecessarily.

“Not anymore,” Gerard replies with a frown, spinning around to face Frank in the doorway. “Now they’re probably hard as a rock and able to used as ammunition in a war zone.”

Frank laughs, because it feels like it’s been forever since Gerard’s said something like that. Gerard smiles back and it’s a real smile, not forced like it has been for the past few days. Frank feels something tight loosen in chest. “Why were you baking cupcakes?”

Gerard rolls his eyes and tugs on a lock of hair self-consciously. “As an apology, sort of? I know I’ve been kind of weird the last few days. I’m just—I’m sorry about the kiss. Your friendship is important to me and I promise not to be weird if you promise to not think of me any differently?”

“Promise, Gee.” Frank grins, walking over to the burned cupcakes. He lobs one at Gerard, who dodges it with flailing limbs and a startled expression. “You were right. It’d make great ammunition.”

~*~*~

Choosing a partner for a target is a delicate business.

For the most part, it’s based on hunches. Cupids get feelings that indicate the direction in which they should steer their target. It’s not an exact science, but it works most of the time. Some Cupids do better than others, ones like Ray, the overachieving bastard, who can usually spot Mr. or Mrs. Right on the first try, but some, like Frank, tend to have some trouble.

As a Cupid whose hunches are usually the wrong kind, Frank knows that if he wants to get Aphrodite’s permission to go work elsewhere on Olympus, he needs the perfect hit. He needs to find the right one for Gerard, otherwise he’ll have to keep coming back and finding new partners for Gerard until he stops getting it wrong.

He finds a potential for Gerard one day about a month later while they’re sitting in the coffee shop. The dude is roundabouts the same age as Gerard, with scraggly brown-black hair and scruff, a hobo’s sense of style, and a smile that’s as wide as it is mischievous. The bell to the door of the shop rings quietly and, if not for the way Gerard’s eyes cling to the newcomer for several seconds, Frank probably wouldn’t have even noticed.

“All I’m saying is that you should watch some of the newer versions,” Gerard says, his eyes finally flickering back to Frank’s. “They’re not all that bad.”

“Horror movies are like a fine wine, Gerard. They can only get better with age.” Frank listens intently to the sound of shuffling footsteps and an order of some peppermint-y drink directed to the barista. “You telling me to watch Jason 13 or some shit is like telling a wine connoisseur to pick up a Pabst instead, because the quality is so much better.”

Gerard shifts uncomfortably in his seat. “You watch all of Romero’s movies, though.”

“That’s only out of loyalty!”

Gerard grins. “Loyalty, honesty, and respect?”

A laugh bursts out of Frank’s throat before he can hold it back and he knows he’s got the potential’s attention. “Yeah, exactly.”

Watching as Gerard takes a sip of his coffee, Frank makes his move. Each Cupid has their own way of getting their targets to acknowledge the potential. Some still go with the traditional bow and arrow, which is rather antiquated to Frank, so he prefers a more radical approach. He himself resorts to the fine art of persuasion. Persuasion, that is, in the form of dirty talking in his charge’s ears.

Sex is a powerful motivator and even a divine creature like Frank knows this.

Frank watches as the potential turns back to the counter and grabs a few napkins and a spoon. And… now.

This is the exciting part of playing Cupid. Frank leans closer to Gerard, so close that he can see the way the hair at the back of Gerard’s neck stands up, and takes a deep breath. Knowing the Gerard won’t remember that Frank is doing this, he whispers, “Fuck, Gee. Imagine your legs wrapped around his waist, pulling the hair at the back of his neck, sucking a necklace of bruises on his collarbones while he’s fucking you long, hard, and deep, fucking you so hard you don’t think you’ll walk right for days...”

Gerard’s breath hitches and Frank watches as his pulse jumps in his throat. He hisses in another breath through his teeth, the sound sharp and loud in the quiet air of the coffee shop. “Maybe he’ll grab you by the wrists, pin you down, so you can’t move as he fucks you into the mattress. Maybe he won’t stretch you beforehand; he’ll just push his way in and you’d fucking revel in the burn, wouldn’t you? Or maybe you’ll pin him, hmmm? Maybe you’ll just throw him down, and fuck yourself down onto his dick like it’s the only thing you could ever want or need and you’d fucking love it, wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you, Gerard?”

The artist blinks, wide-eyed and faraway like he’s coming out of a trance. “Oh, sorry,” he says, bringing one hand up to rub at the inner corner of his eye. “Kind of… got lost in my thoughts, or something, I guess. Yeah?”

Frank snickers, the sound low and under his breath. “Oh, yeah, ‘lost in your thoughts,’ huh? More like you were totally staring at that dude’s ass.”

“Well, it’s a pretty nice ass,” Gerard concedes, because it is a relatively nice ass. Frank is aware of Gerard’s crush on him, at least to some degree. He is also aware that it’s a hopeless cause. As a Cupid, falling in love with a target is so far off the menu that the ingredients shouldn’t even exist in the first place. He needs Gerard to move on.

Gerard’s eyes trail past Frank and onto the owner of the ass in question.

Gerard stares until the other man turns around after giving his order to the barista. They stare and smile briefly at each other and Frank dares to hope that this might actually work out, for them and for him.

~*~*~

The potential has a name and it turns out to be Bert and when he gets on the wrong side of tipsy, which he happens to get on fairly frequently, he likes to wax poetic about his and Gerard’s sex life. Most of his comments are slurred variations on, “Jesus Christ, his fucking moans, dude, like he’s fucking dying for it,” and “you should see the way his back arches, I swear to God,” or even “all that pale fucking skin, man, white and ready for my teeth. Fucking love marking him up.”

Frank refuses to acknowledge the rage curling up in the pit of his stomach when he hears Bert’s drunken thoughts and opinions on Gerard. He’s… not jealous, definitely not jealous. He just really wants to punch Bert in the face. It makes him feel weird, but not the good kind of weird, like butterflies in his stomach. He doesn’t want to know what it means, so he focuses on the only emotion he can recognize: anger.

Gerard isn’t there for just sex, he fumes, flopping onto his space in Gerard’s couch after another night of listening to Bert’s rambles. There are lots of other great things about him.

“So, um,” Gerard starts, snapping Frank out of his angry inner dialogue, “I’m an alcoholic?”

“I—what?” That’s not what Frank was expecting to hear.

“I’m a little over the one year mark?” Gerard says nervously. “Of being sober, I mean.”

And then he gets it. Bert is a heavy duty party kind of guy and he’s not what Gerard needs. He isn’t cruel and wouldn’t force Gerard into anything he doesn’t want to do, but he’s not what Gerard needs to be around right now.

Which means he’s already fucked up his assignment.

Congratulations, Fuck-Up Frank has struck again.

“I’m just—I’m scared.” Gerard whispers, squeezing his eyes shut. “Being around Bert… what if I go back?”

Frank has gotten somewhat attached to Gerard and his big puppy dog eyes. He really doesn’t want Gerard to ruin his sobriety because Frank wants a new job. Tapping Gerard gently on the cheek with his knuckle to get him to open his eyes, he says, “Gee, you’re strong. I haven’t known you for a long time, but I know you. You won’t go back.”

Gerard bites his bottom lip and suddenly he looks so, so young. “You think?”

“Nah,” Frank replies, leaning back and giving him a slow grin. “I know.”

They remain silent for a moment, but Gerard soon is taking a deep, audible breath and asking, “What do you think I should do?”

“I don’t think I’m in any position to tell you what to do.”

“No, but I’m asking your advice anyway.”

“I think…” Frank pauses, taking a moment to collect his thoughts, knowing that whatever he says next will be extremely important to Gerard. They’ve become close friends in the time he’s been here and he knows that Gerard will take his advice very seriously. “I think Bert… is a pretty rad dude. And maybe at a different time in your life he would have been good for you, but if you think he’s a threat to your sobriety, despite how much you like him, then I guess you should break up with him.”

Gerard says nothing in return, but he’s obviously listening. Frank licks his lips, resigning himself to another few months on Earth as a Cupid, and says, “Your sobriety, and your faith in yourself to keep that sobriety, is more important than anything, or anybody, else right now.”

Gerard catches Frank’s gaze with his own, holding it for what seems like forever until he whispers, “Thank you.”

“Okay?” Frank asks, but what he means is, Are you okay?

And Gerard gets it. He nods his head, mostly to himself but adds for Frank’s benefit, “I’m okay.”

~*~*~

I broke up with him. Gerard’s text to Frank reads the next afternoon. He didn’t seem too bothered.

he’s obviously not your han solo, Frank sends back immediately, not bothering to hold back his grin.

My heart is in pieces and youre making star wars references.

Before Frank can type a response another text comes through that says, I love you for that btw.

That my cue to order up some princess leia love slave strippers to help mend your broken heart?

No but i’ll take some dvd zombie ones instead.

Frank snorts out a laugh before he can stop himself. Of fucking course Gerard would rather watch Zombie Strippers than order real strippers. If he thinks about it, he doesn’t think Gerard would order strippers anyway.

Gerard proves his theory by sending, I wouldn’t order strippers anyway. Strippers are an objectified result of today’s sex industry, women and men shouldn’t be dehumanized like that,

Frank rolls his eyes. Come home gee. Ill make you coffee and we can have a romero marathon y/n?

The next three texts he receives come in tandem, two of which are obviously continuations of Gerard’s previous message.

to be seen as less than a person and shit, to be reduced to something that’s less than human for someone else’s personal pleasure

not that all strippers are always like that

Oh. Okay. Home soon.

~*~*~

After that, Frank waits patiently in the kitchen for Gerard to come home. The room is quiet and Frank can’t help but think that on Olympus his doves would be making noise, cooing and fluttering their wings in the silence, even while he wasn’t. He loves having them around and he misses them. They always kept him entertained in between his assignments by needing to be fed, pet, or cleaned.

He pauses at the thought of Gerard coming home.

Home, he thinks to himself, surprised. When did he come to think of Gerard’s apartment as home, rather than his true home on Olympus? He frowns, watching the bag of kernels popping in the microwave. When did he come to think of Gerard’s apartment as a home at all? He has his own apartment, though still barely used since his arrival on Earth several months ago.

Shaking the thought away from his mind, he glances over to the new pot of coffee still brewing in the machine. He already has Gerard’s favorite big red blanket thrown over the back of the couch and a pile of DVDs on the coffee table. The popcorn and coffee are almost done and Gerard texted him fifteen minutes ago to tell him he’d be home soon.

There it is again.

Home.

He hears the door unlock while he’s pouring the steaming hot coffee into a second mug. Seconds later, Gerard is stepping through the entryway, shrugging off his leather jacket and giving Frank a weak, but sincere smile.

Yeah, Frank says to himself, home.

~*~*~

Frank meets Gerard’s brother a few days later when Gerard invites him over for the day. Mikey is a tall, skinny guy who’s a lot more intimidating in person than he seemed in Gerard’s pictures. The first thing he says to Frank after Gerard leaves the room to retrieve coffee for the three of them is, “If you hurt him, I will rip off your testicles and put them in a meat grinder.”

“Dude, what the fuck?” Frank whimpers in response, resisting the urge to cup his balls. “That is fucking messed up, holy shit.”

“See, the thing is,” Mikey continues, ignoring Frank’s comment and instead pinning him with a hard glare. “Gerard? He doesn’t really know how to hold back his feelings. He tends to go all in, or not at all. So all I’m saying is that you’d better be prepared for that. This isn’t some casual thing for him. He’s been through a lot of shit, between getting sober and trying to get his life back together, and I’m not willing to see him go through more, because some douchebag isn’t going to treat him right.”

“I—dude, what?” Frank says again, before he realizes what this is. “I’m not dating your brother.”

Mikey gives him a startled look and he leans back in his seat. “You’re fucking with me.”

“No, believe me, I’m definitely not fucking with you. I’m not dating him.” Frank figures it’s better not to mention that part of his reason for being here is getting other people to date his brother.

“But—I thought…” Mikey trails off, glancing back to the kitchen where Gerard still is.

He doesn’t finish his thought, because Gerard comes through the doorway and says, “I made it the way you like it, Mikey. And I made tea with honey in it, Frank, because you were saying your throat was feeling kind of tickly?”

Frank smiles wide. He doesn’t get sick on Olympus, not like when he was human and getting sick at least once every month and a half. Coming back down to Earth hasn’t changed that, despite returning to a mostly human state for the length of an assignment, but he can still get echoes of his old immune system and it feels nice to drink hot tea and be coddled a bit. Gerard is a born coddler. “Thanks.”

“No problem,” Gerard responds with a smile of his own, taking his place on the couch next to Frank.

Frank studiously ignores the pointed glance Mikey slides his way.

~*~*~

When he was human, Frank’s birthday was on October 31st. Being immortal doesn’t change that, of course, but birthdays tend to lose significance after two or three hundred years. The gods aren’t really into that kind of celebration, so he’s definitely not expecting it when he goes to meet Gerard at his apartment and is met with Gerard jumping out from the behind the door and shouting, “Happy birthday, Frankie!”

“I—thanks,” Frank replies, stunned. No one’s said happy birthday to him in a very long time. Gerard ushers him into the kitchen, sitting him down at the table and placing a slice of cake and a fork in front of him.

“You baked me a cake?” Frank asks warily. Baking is not Gerard’s strong suit. He’s really more suited to breakfast foods.

“Nah,” Gerard sticks a candle in the cake and lights it with the lighter he takes out of his pocket. “I went to the bakery down the street. You know baking isn’t my thing. Now, go ahead. Blow the candle out.”

Frank laughs, doing as Gerard says before taking a bite of it. While chewing, he cuts off another piece and offers it to Gerard on the fork, who opens his mouth and lets Frank feed him. He grins widely as he chews, and Frank figures it should be disgusting, but instead it’s just cute.

“So, um, I made you something,” Gerard says once he’s swallowed the bite. “For your birthday.”

Before Frank has a chance to say anything, Gerard runs off into the other room to retrieve whatever it is that he made. He returns seconds later only to say, “Close your eyes. I have to set it up first.”

Frank closes his eyes diligently, fidgeting anxiously in his seat.

“All right. Open them.”

Gerard’s set up a medium-sized painting. It’s of him, Frank realizes, after a moment. He’s sitting down, cross-legged on a dark hill, with big, white, fluffy wings wrapping themselves around him, keeping him warm in the night sky. He’s cupping a small dove gently in his hands and Frank thinks that that is exactly how he holds his real doves whenever he gets the chance.

“Did you know doves are featured in a lot portraits of Aphrodite?” Frank asks, touching a finger to the canvas in front of him. The paint is dry, but bumpy and uneven. “Some people think that doves represent the highest kind of love, one that ignores all bad parts of mankind. The kind of love that sees past all the weaknesses of the human heart and just focuses on the true value of unconditional love. The kind of love that sees only the purity of one’s soul.”

He glances over to Gerard, who is staring at him, the expression on his face mostly unreadable, but content.

“I didn’t know that,” he admits, not moving his gaze from Frank’s. “I was thinking of the idea that doves are symbols of caring, devotion, and loyalty when I painted it. Doves make me think of you.”

“This is perfect, Gerard.” Frank pets the bird in the painting again and smiles, turning around and wrapping his arms tightly around Gerard’s neck. “Thank you.”

~*~*~

The next day Ray texts Frank to meet him at the IHOP, and when he arrives, Ray is already sitting at a booth in the corner, sipping on an iced tea and fiddling with his phone. Frank makes his way over, spying the half-eaten plate of pancakes sitting in front of Ray. Frank snags a bite of the leftovers.

He’s still chewing when Ray asks, “So how’s the assignment going? I haven’t gotten a text from you in a while.”

“The, uh, last potential,” Frank begins, swallowing the food, and attempting to ignore the somewhat humiliating fact that Ray has obviously been sent to check on his progress. “Turned out to be a… dead end of sorts. I’m working on finding another now.”

Ray narrows his eyes, shifting back in his seat. He sets the phone down hard on the countertop. Frank resists the urge to wince, because he knows from personal experience that their phones are much hardier than they appear. “I hope you know what you’re doing, Frank. Gerard’s a nice guy.”

“To be totally honest,” Frank replies, cutting off another section of the pancakes and looking up to catch Gerard’s gaze from across the room. “If I knew what I was doing, I probably wouldn’t be here in the first place.”

~*~*~

“Have you ever been in love?”

“What?” Frank looks up from his book, confused.

Gerard catches his gaze easily. He looks somber, frowning as he taps out a nervous rhythm on his knee with his fingers. “Have you ever, you know, been in love? Truly, honestly, without reservation?”

“I—no, I don’t—” Frank stammers, attempting to find his place again in his novel. “Never.”

“Never?” Gerard asks, looking a little sad, fingers still drumming on his knee. Frank focuses his gaze there, on the wall, on the swimming words on the pages of his book, anywhere he can to avoid meeting Gerard’s eyes. “Why—why do you think that is?”

“I—I don’t know.” Frank gulps back down the anxious feeling his throat. “I’ve just—I don’t think I know how to be in love.”

The look Gerard gives him is exactly what he didn’t want to see. “Frank, love isn’t something—it isn’t something you learn. It just happens. You just feel it and know.”

And isn’t that precious? A mortal preaching to a Cupid about the complexity, or the simplicity of love. Real fucking precious. Frank doesn’t want to learn from a mortal what love is; as a Cupid he should already know what it means to be in love, but he knows that, at the end of the day, he doesn’t. Ignoring the pull in his chest at the reminder, he responds, sharp and short. “Well, no. No, I haven’t. Have you?”

“Once,” Gerard replies, capturing his gaze like a mouse in a trap, almost impossible to escape and just as painful. “Or at least I thought I was.”

~*~*~

“No history of heavy drug use, abusive behavior, nothing,” Ray says, voice tinny through the speaker of his cell phone. Frank thinks he will never fully understand how radio waves work on Olympus, but the reception is great, so he probably shouldn’t complain. “He’s totally clean. On all counts, he seems like a good guy.”

Frank is still a little wary, because this needs to work out for Gerard. Yeah, it needs to work out for Frank, too, but that’s not the point anymore. Gerard’s happiness, as fucking cheesy as it sounds, is more important than his “promotion” and he’ll be damned if he fucks it up again. “Are you sure?”

“Frank, he’s fine. Yes, I’m fucking sure.”

Frank still isn’t sure, but whatever. If Ray says he’s fine, then he’s fine.

~*~*~

“Seriously, Gee. It’s a great new place. You’ll love it.”

“It’s called customer loyalty, Frank! Have you never heard of it?” Gerard gasps and flaps his hands.

“You’re not signing over your soul, or some Devil-Went-Down-to-Georgia shit,” Frank replies, smoothly helping Gerard slip his arms through the sleeves of his jacket. “You’re just checking out a new comic book store. You don’t even have to buy anything.”

“But of course I’ll buy something! I always buy something.”

Dragging Gerard out of the house is nearly fucking impossible, but Frank manages to get him into the car. He’s got a good hunch and Ray’s backing support that this one is a good one, too. The potential works at the new comic store in town and Frank’s determined to have Gerard meet him, customer loyalty be damned.

Gerard grumbles considerably on the way there.

“I don’t understand why I have to go. I like the old one and besides, it’s not like this new one has anything to offer that the other comic store doesn’t.” Gerard pouts, arms crossed over his chest. Frank really begs to differ.

The potential’s name is Brian and he’s working the cash register when they walk in.

When Gerard hesitantly slips past the front counter to inspect the merchandise, Brian’s eyes follow the redhead and Frank isn’t surprised. Mostly because his hair is the shade of a fucking fire truck, but also because he’s just… beautiful. Even Frank knows Gerard is eye catching.

Sometimes Frank can hardly look away.

Frank follows him into the back corner where he stands, flipping through a copy of Preludes and Nocturnes that he already has at home. The comic store isn’t too busy, so he slides up behind Gerard and gently lays a hand on his side, whispering in his ear.

“You see those fingers, Gerard?” he asks, running a thumb down the middle of Gerard’s back, from the nape of his neck to the small of his back. “You think they’d be soft, lube-slick and sinking into your ass, prepping you slow and sweet? Or rough, tweaking hard on your nipple with one hand, wrapping around your throat with the other?”

Gerard’s breathing is slowing down, deep and heavy, and he’s far away from the comic store.

“I saw you looking at his tattoos,” Frank continues, pressing harder with his thumb as Gerard’s back bows from the change. “I bet you wonder what they taste like. Do they taste like skin and sweat? If the lights were off, do you think you could tell which tattoo you were licking, or biting, or sucking?”

“Frank.” Gerard whimpers.

Frank jumps, thinking that Gerard has somehow managed to get out of his trance, but when he looks Gerard’s eyes are still unfocused and faraway. Suddenly he feels sick, insides twisting and squeezing.

He wasn’t talking about Brian.

He was talking about himself.

The whole point of a Cupid is to insert ideas about a potential into the charge’s thoughts. After the thoughts are there, things usually work themselves out with the occasional aid of a Cupid. The insertion of the thoughts themselves requires an incredible amount of focus and if something goes wrong, the results can be disastrous.

Frank backtracks quickly, stepping away so fast he runs into the wall of comics behind him. The sound of a book falling snaps Gerard out his trance and he spins around, bending down to pick up the fallen item before laying a hand on Frank’s elbow and asking, “Are you okay? Did you hurt yourself?”

“No, I’m fine.” Frank steps away, shaking off Gerard’s hand and ignoring his look of confusion. An awkward moment of silence follows Frank’s statement before he asks, “So did you see the cashier?”

Frank knows his attempt to change subject is pathetically obvious, but he’s immensely grateful when Gerard takes the bait. “Yeah, why?”

“He’s cute, don’t you think?” Frank says casually, sticking his hands in his jacket pockets and hunching his shoulders a bit.

Fixing a suspicious gaze on the other man, Gerard asks, “Are you trying to set me up again?”

A loud laugh slips out of Frank’s mouth in tandem with another lie. “Ha! No. We know happened last time I tried to set you up some random dude.”

Gerard gives Frank a measuring look before picking up a new volume of Batman and heading up to the front counter. Frank can’t bring himself to look. His guts are churning and he can hear the two men talking.

“I’ll call you!” he hears Gerard say before adding, “Frank? You coming?”

“Here! Yeah, I’m coming!” Frank calls, smoothing out his hair and rubbing a hand over his stomach. He exits the building behind Gerard, waving to Brian, and trying to ignore the receipt clutched in Gerard’s hand on which Brian’s name and number is written.

~*~*~

Like Mikey said, Gerard has a tendency to go all in or not at all. Right now Gerard is practically fawning over Brian, but it at least looks like it’s going to work out. Frank knows he should probably be more excited than he is, because it really seems like he’s done the impossible and found someone for Gerard Way to love and be loved by in return. Gerard is his best friend and he wants him to be happy, but he can’t seem to muster the same amount of enthusiasm as the other man.

Gerard seems pretty pleased with Brian; Brian is nice and makes him laugh. He doesn’t think it’s annoying when Gerard gets carried away with the stuff he’s working on for his job, which Frank knows is something Gerard has struggled with in the past. Frank honestly thinks that Gerard might really love him. Even if it isn’t love right at that moment, then Frank is positive that given enough time, Gerard could be in love with Brian in the future.)

After the couple has been happily dating for five months or so, Frank decides it’s time to text Ray. He doesn’t want to return to Olympus; he’s so much happier now, hanging out with Gerard all the time, watching him paint, and having movie marathons, than he ever was trying to get people to fall in love.

The thought of having to leave this place that has become his home, having to leave Gerard, is making his heart sink low in his chest, so he goes into the kitchen and eats a bowl of Gerard’s stupid red Frankenberry cereal to distract himself. He’s still stuffing his face and eating his sorrows, and thinking about how the shade of Gerard’s hair should actually be called Frankenberry Red, when Gerard and Brian get back from their date.

Brian looks really annoyed to see Frank in the kitchen, but Frank honestly couldn’t give a shit what Brian thinks. He really only cares about Gerard’s opinion anyway.

“Look, I told you I have to talk to you about something,” Brian says, low and in Gerard’s ear, but Frank can still hear him easily enough. “I don’t really want to talk about it with Frank around, okay?”

For the sake of his assignment, Frank figures it’ll be better if he just leaves. He’s about to say that he’ll leave, that it’s not a big deal, but Gerard cuts in, saying, “Brian, it’s just Frank! I’ll probably tell him about it later anyway.”

“Yeah, you’ll probably tell him later, because he’ll still be here by the time I leave. He never fucking leaves. Does he even have his own fucking place?” Brian asks snidely. Frank wants to rip that sneer off his stupid fucking face. “He’s around you more than I am and I’m your fucking boyfriend!”

“Bri, he’s my—he’s my best friend,” Gerard says, eyes wide and startled in response to Brian’s outburst. “I—what do you expect?”

“I expect him to go back to his own damn place once in a while!” Brian spits out and, while Frank is able to admit to himself that he probably should spend more time in his own apartment, he still thinks Brian is being a douchebag about it. Frank hates douchebags.

While Gerard is spluttering and trying to say something back, Brian takes a deep breath and pinches the bridge of his nose, trying to calm himself down. “Okay, look, here’s the thing; I might as well say it while he’s here, because ‘you’re going to tell him about it anyway.’ I just—I don’t want to be here.”

A shocked, heavy silence follows the statement. “You mean, like, you don’t want to be here… with me?”

“No! Baby, no.” Brian says it with such vehemence Frank almost believes him. “Of course I want to be with you. I just… don’t want to be here. There are—there are things I want to do with my life and I’m not able to do them here, in this city, in this state.” He throws his hands up. “I don’t even know what I want to do. I could be a fucking stuntman or some shit, but I have this feeling in my gut that I know here is not the place it’s going to happen.”

“So you’re… thinking about leaving?”

“I—yes. Yes.” Brian sighs, running his fingers through his short-cropped hair. “It’s not settled or anything, though. I’m not leaving any time soon, baby. I just—I thought you should know.”

“But I’m not en—” Gerard cuts off his sentence almost as soon as it exits his mouth. He doesn’t finish, but Frank can guess what he meant to say, what he’s thinking. By now, he knows Gerard almost as well as he knows himself. But I’m not enough. Not enough to make you want to stay, not enough to make you want to take me with you. “Thank you. For—for telling me.”

“You know I love you, right?” Brian steps closer, saying it quieter as if Frank shouldn’t hear the words. Gerard’s face is carefully expressionless and that worries Frank more than any other expression he could have made. Frank tamps down the desire to punch Brian in the face.

“Yeah.” Gerard says, summoning up a brittle smile and leaning into the kiss Brian plants on his cheek. “Yeah, I do.”

~*~*~

The next morning over breakfast, Frank blurts out, “You’re more than enough, Gee.”

Gerard stares down at his plate, poking the untouched egg. The rims of his eyes are puffy and red, and Frank knows that he’s been crying; he looks tired, broken down like he hasn’t slept for days rather than just the one night. It worries Frank, because Gerard shouldn’t look like that after only one night of crying. He sounds resigned and weary. “I’m not enough. I never have been. Everyone always leaves, eventually.”

“He’s not going to leave,” Frank says, but the words are caught in his throat and he has to work to push them out. “He’s not.”

“He is,” Gerard replies, setting his fork down, and Frank knows he’s telling the truth. “He will.”

~*~*~

Brian breaks up with him not too long after their conversation and he tries to make it quick and as painless as possible. It isn’t quick and painless though; it never is, at least for Gerard.

Gerard just… disappears. Frank doesn’t hear from him in a few days and he’s starting to get worried as fuck. He’s been around to all of their normal hangout spots with no results. He’s even gone back to Gerard’s apartment and knocked on the door for what seemed like hours.

He’s almost positive Gerard is home, though, and the fact that he isn’t opening the door, even for Frank, is freaking him out.

Finally, he decides that maybe he can’t handle this on his own and he calls Mikey for help, who says, “Gerard’s just sad, Frank. You know how he is. He doesn’t know what to do with himself right now, so he just… won’t do anything. He’ll be okay eventually.”

Frank doesn’t say anything in return, but he’s starting to hyperventilate. He wants Gerard to be okay now, he wants to help, to be there with him while he lets everything out all at once, while he screams, and sobs, and lets someone else besides Mikey see that part of him.

“Look, there’s an emergency key to his apartment, under the doorknocker if you slide it to the right,” Mikey says in the wake of Frank’s silence. “And he likes to eat cream of mushroom soup when he’s depressed, if you were interested.”

“Thanks, Mikey,” Frank says quietly, relaxing his grip on the cell phone in his hand.

“Yeah, dude, just... just take care of him, okay? He needs you.”

~*~*~

Frank picks up some cream of mushroom soup at the supermarket on his way to Gerard’s apartment. There are at least seven different brands on the shelves and he spends too long picking one, worrying that if he goes for the cheaper brand, Gerard will notice and think that Frank is saying Gerard is cheap. Then he worries that if he goes for the expensive brand, Gerard will think Frank is trying to get into his pants, or something, while his heart is still freshly shattered and he’s feeling vulnerable.

Frank ends up choosing one that seems good enough to state that he loves Gerard and he’s just trying to be a good friend.

The key is right where Mikey said it would be, hiding behind the doorknocker with its dull brass-colored skin. Frank lets himself in, putting the soup in a pot on the stove to cook on low simmer while he busies himself with finding Gerard.

For the most part, the house is dark except for the light coming in through the windows and, even though there aren’t any lamps on to send him in the right direction, Frank knows that Gerard will be in his bedroom.

He’s huddling under his blankets looking small and broken. Tissues are scattered in a few places around the room alongside pages and pages of sketches crumpled on the bed and floor. Gerard has obviously been crying and Frank’s heart twists hard in his chest, because this is his fault. All he really wants is for Gerard to be happy.

Even when he was more worried about proving himself to Aphrodite, he never wanted Gerard to be hurt. “Gee?”

Gerard lets out a startled whimper, but tries to cut it off immediately. Frank is silent in response, but he hates seeing him like this. Gerard is one of the best humans he’s ever known and it’s his fault he’s unhappy after all, so he gently eases himself down onto the bed, curling himself against the other man’s back over the covers. He reaches over to softly stroke his fingers through Gerard’s hair in the way he knows Gerard likes and finds soothing.

“It’s okay, Gee. It’s not the end of the world,” he says into the back of Gerard’s neck. “There’s someone out there for you. He’s there, waiting for you to find him. Just give it some time, yeah?”

Gerard lets out a watery sigh and presses back, relaxing into the warmth of Frank’s body.

Franks wants to make him feel safe and warm. He wants Gerard to be happy, even though he knows there might be a long way to go until then.

~*~*~

Now more than ever Frank is aware of his poor record in helping others find love. His goal of a new job has dropped even further on his list of priorities and he’s even more determined for Gerard to find love. Given his track record, though, he figures he should make use of resources to go about making sure that this time, the potential is really, truly the one.

He doesn’t think he could bear it if Gerard was hurt further because of him.

Aphrodite’s son, Eros was the first Cupid. Nowadays, he prefers to be called Pete, because of a human he once helped who made a big impression. He has no shame, no concept of personal boundaries, and a terrible taste in clothing choices, but he’s honest and is possibly the most knowledgeable person regarding love besides his mother. Frank scheduled an appointment with him to discuss Gerard’s case.

He’s telling Pete about his methods and his problems in the past with performing his job obligations, and adds, “I just—I really want to find Gerard someone he can be happy with forever. He deserves the forever kind of love, you know? I just can’t find that one perfect match, the person who will just fit with him.”

“You’re an idiot, Frank,” Pete says in a somewhat urgent tone of voice. Frank wants to interrupt, because he came here to help Gerard, not to get called an idiot, but Pete is faster than him and snaps his fingers in Frank’s face. Frank gives up trying to talk and listens. “See, the problem is that you’re focusing on sexual attraction alone, dude. You’re pairing Gerard up with people he’s mostly only compatible with sexually. You’re looking for sex to come before love, when in this case it should be love before sex.”

The blank look on Frank’s face must give him away, because Pete rolls his eyes.

“Gerard is looking for love in places he won’t be able to find it, in places you’ve led him,” Pete continues, and that makes Frank feel like shit. It’s one thing to admit to yourself you’ve done something wrong, but it’s quite another to have someone tell you. “I don’t know how else to tell you that you’re basing relationships on a mutual desire for two parties to get laid. Our part of the job is the love aspect, not the sex. Getting laid comes after we’ve established the whole love thing. Sex is great, Frank, but it isn’t everything. You’ve got to play on the other stuff, too.”

~*~*~

He’s sitting on Gerard’s couch three days later, slurping at some lukewarm beef ramen and watching some shitty ass gore’fest on the SyFy channel when he looks over at Gerard to say something about how they should just put a DVD in, because the special effects in this movie are for shit.

Gerard’s already watching him and Frank is a little intrigued at the force behind his gaze. His mind barely has time to register it before Gerard quickly looks away and pretends that he hasn’t just been caught staring.

Gerard tucks a lock hair behind his ear and misses his mouth when he tries to take a sip of his own soup. He’s still eating the cream of mushroom soup, but not as often, so Frank considers this progress. He splutters and grabs for something to wipe up the mess. Frank laughs out loud, almost choking on the ramen in his mouth as he reaches for one of the napkins on the coffee table. Their hands bump, and his heart jumps in his throat and then swoops low in his stomach, and he wonders if he’s getting sick or something.

~*~*~

No prospects have turned up in a while, but Frank is focusing hard on finding someone for Gerard. He needs to distract himself from thoughts of kissing Gerard, of touching Gerard, of what it would be like if they were together.

It takes a while, but soon the only thing left is the ache in his chest and the feeling that he’s lost something he might never get back.

~*~*~

Gerard returns from his meeting with the manager of an art gallery that was interested in showing his work with a big bag of take-out Chinese food and a smile in his eyes.

“Oh, what’s this?” Frank asks, peering into the brown paper bag and sniffing its contents.

“A celebratory meal!” Gerard yells, taking out and waving a container of wanton soup around, and slopping some of the broth onto the tile floor in the process. “A dinner for champions!”

“A dinner for champions, huh?” Frank takes out the container of fried rice. It’s Frank’s favorite and Gerard always remembers to order it without being asked. Chinese takeout isn’t the same on Olympus. It’s never greasy or cheap enough to satisfy his cravings, so he savors it on Earth whenever he can. As an immortal on Olympus, food isn’t required for survival, but for many of the younger immortals, eating is a force of habit. Becoming human again means that Frank does need to eat, so he might as well take advantage of it while he’s on Earth. “More like a dinner made by champions. This smells like it was cooked by the fucking gold medalist of Chinese takeout, I swear.”

Later, after they’ve eaten and Gerard has told Frank about the meeting, they perch themselves on the couch, Gerard with his sketchbook and Frank with his newest book. He’s curled up next to Gerard, eyes drooping drowsily.

Frank presses his nose into Gerard's neck, breathing in the scent of skin and that fruity shit Gerard uses to wash his hair. The smell of clove cigarettes and the Chinese takeout from earlier clings softly to Gerard's hair and clothing, and the combination is familiar and warm, like coming home after a long vacation. While he never thought about it before, Frank realizes he’s missed this smell, he’s missed Gerard, and he hasn't even been away for more than 24 hours.

He remembers having once heard somewhere that the human sense of smell has the longest lasting memory of the five senses. Human memory is fleeting at best and, even though he knows he's human for now and staying with Gerard indefinitely, he wants his body to remember Gerard in every way possible. He wants to remember Gerard after he's completed his assignment and returned to Olympus.

He wants to see Gerard when he closes his eyes. He wants to hear Gerard's soothing whisper in his ear when he's having trouble sleeping. He wants to feel him on his skin when he's not there. His lungs open and he greedily swallows Gerard's scent, memorizing and savoring it as he nuzzles along the other man's jaw.

Gerard huffs out a breath of laughter, petting at Frank's hair while using his free hand to write and sketch new ideas for The Umbrella Academy and Frank thinks, I'm in love with you.

It isn't a startling, sudden epiphany, but instead a quiet realization.

Oh, he stops and rests his head on the other man's man shoulder, watching as words and pictures form on the page beneath Gerard's fingers, is this how it feels?

Gerard is humming a vaguely familiar tune under his breath, probably some shit from a Disney movie like Sleeping Beauty, or Cinderella, and Frank lets out a soft laugh, because it would be just like Gerard to sing a cheesy love song while a shitty zombie movie plays on the television.

I'm in love with you, he thinks again, heart beating just a little bit faster as he tests out the alien phrase in his head. I love you, I love you, I love you.

~*~*~

Frank disappears for a couple of days without warning. He needs time alone to think about what he’s doing and what he wants to be doing, what he feels is right, with nothing to interfere. He is so purely and helplessly in love with Gerard and it’s not—It’s not wrong, like he thought. A feeling like this isn’t something that could ever be wrong, but it also means that there are decisions Frank has to make, whether he likes them or not.

In hindsight, disappearing like that was a poor choice with which to start, given the way Gerard freaks out. Frank’s kind of… always around, whether he’s lazing on Gee’s couch, eating his food, watching his movies, or just constantly exchanging texts and calls.

Please Frankie let me know youre okay, Gerard’s latest message reads and, as much as he wants to shut his cell phone off and ignore Gerard’s frantic texts until he’s got his mind straight, he replies.

Im okay promise, Frank sends and then, Dont worry ill be home soon. Just needed time to think.

When he finally does return, two Earth days later, he finds Gerard is his apartment, nails bitten down to the quick and hair unwashed and knotted. He looks like he’s been worrying as much as his texts made it sound.

“Frank?” he says, almost like he can’t quite believe it.

Frank almost can’t stop his smile, but he manages to catch it in time. “Yeah, Gee?”

“Fucking asshole!” Gerard yells, throwing a pillow at his head with a startling amount of vehemence. He waves his hands, looking more frazzled by the minute. “Where the fuck were you? You don’t just disappear like that!”

“Gee,” Frank sighs, letting a soft smile show, “I’m fine. I told you; I was thinking about some stuff. I just needed some time to work things out.”

“Things?” Gerard asks, as if he can’t understand what Frank is saying. “What kind of things?”

“Yeah, things like, uh, your gallery showing on Saturday.”

“I—okay.” Gerard gives him skeptical look. “Really?”

“Yeah, really.” Frank giggles, but he’s nervous. He had a lot to think about in the few days he was gone and he’s finally going to put his decisions to the test. “I’m—I’m coming, right?”

And Gerard looks downright baffled. “Of course you are, Frank. You’re my best friend; there’s no way I wouldn’t—I mean, you know, if you wanted to come anyway. I don’t want to make you feel like you have to be there just because it’s a big deal for me—”

“You don’t have a date, right?” Frank cuts in smoothly, hiding the tossing and turning in his stomach. “So it wouldn’t be weird if I came with you as your date?

The confusion on Gerard’s face only grows, but he says, “Sure, yeah, of course. I’d love for you to be my date, Frankie.”

~*~*~

“I’m pretty sure I’m in love with Gerard Way,” Frank says without preamble. Getting back to Olympus is hard enough on its own during the middle of an assignment, never mind going through the hassle of getting the approval to meet with Aphrodite herself. For a goddess who really doesn’t do much, she always appears to be busy and unavailable.

“Yes,” Aphrodite replies, fixing the draping over the shoulder of her dress.

“Excuse me?” A bird coos in his ear and he shushes it gently. He knows they’ve missed him since he went to Earth, and he’s definitely missed them too, but now is really not the time.

Aphrodite heaves a long-suffering sigh and rolls her eyes. “You say that like I didn’t already know. I am a goddess, Frank, and the Fates happen to be some of my best friends. If there was anyone who knew the future of Gerard’s pathetic excuse for a love life, it was them, and then by extension, me.”

“Excuse you,” Frank says, because Gerard’s love life wasn’t pathetic; it was just… unfortunate.

“If you choose to be with Gerard instead of seeing our bargain through,” Aphrodite says, the tone of her voice conveying the severity of the situation, “You know what that will mean, don’t you?”

“I—yes.” Frank knows. He’ll be fully human again, returned to Earth the same way he left. He’ll be human again, but this time he’ll have Gerard. “But it isn’t an option, you know? I’d—I’d pick Gerard over anything. Having another choice doesn’t even register when he’s there. But you knew that already, didn’t you?”

Aphrodite inspects her nail beds. “One must keep up appearances, Frank.”

She says nothing after that and Frank gets the feeling he’s been dismissed, but he says, “I’m… going to get back to Gerard now. He’s got this big showing going on and I should really be there—”

“Yes, Frank,” Aphrodite replies. He hears the unspoken, I know, before she continues with, “Have fun being mortal, little one. Take good care of your Gerard; the human heart is a fragile, delicate thing and he loves you with every bit of it.”

~*~*~

Frank finds Gerard after his big gallery showing, after he’s finished networking. He’d been watching Gerard all night as he moved around the room, chatting with admirers, news columnists, other artists, or the manager he’d met with not too long ago. He’d been biting nervously at the skin around his nails, because this is extremely important, it being his first big showing, and he had to stop himself from going over to hold Gerard’s hands in his own and tell him he had no need to worry.

They’re standing in Gerard’s kitchen now, waiting for the coffee to finish brewing, when he says, “So Gerard…”

“So Frank,” Gerard says, and he’s smiling really softly, like he feels good about himself for once. He’s fidgeting like he can’t bring himself to stand still and his cheeks are flushed pink. He’s going on about something that went on during the show and how it’s looking like he might not have to ration a box of cereal to last him a month and, before he realizes what he’s doing, Frank is leaning forward and pressing his lips to Gerard’s cheek.

Gerard’s sentence stutters to a halt, and he’s looking at Frank wide-eyed and startled like a deer. Frank doesn’t say anything, though, so Gerard swallows and keeps talking like nothing happened. He’s starting to get back into his spiel about food rationing when Frank cuts him off again, this time by cupping the back of his head and kissing him on the temple.

“What,” he starts nervously, tugging on a lock of red hair, but Frank leans forward to press a kiss to the corner of his mouth. He’s biting his lips, turning them red and swollen, and Frank can’t resist the urge to kiss him fully on the lips.

“Frank?” He asks, softly, sounding scared. Really, really scared.

“Remember how you asked me a long time ago,” Frank says, stepping in close, his pinky finger finding Gerard’s when their hands brush, “If I’d ever been in love? And I said that I hadn’t? That I didn’t know how to be in love?”

Gerard nods shakily, his eyes wider than ever. He looks like an owl chick, with his disheveled hair and big, dark eyes.

“I was thinking that maybe I do know what it’s like to be in love.” He leans up, kissing the underside of Gerard’s jaw, and Gerard whimpers, like he’s a dog that’s been kicked in the ribs one too many times. “And that maybe it’s a lot simpler than I thought it was, you know?”

“Really?”

“Yeah, really.” And then Frank kisses him again, harder this time.

“Mmm, Frankie,” Gerard moans against the other man’s lips. “Why--why now? I don’t understand--”

“I think I’ve loved you for a while.” Frank’s free hand finds its way to the waistband of Gerard’s jeans, dipping in past the black denim and pressing against the soft, white flesh underneath, “And mostly I’m sorry that it’s taken me so long to figure that out.”

“Frankie, I--yeah, I--me too. I love you, too.” Gerard’s eyes flutter shut when Frank slides his hand further down, gripping at his hip.

“Can I take you to bed, Gee?” Frank asks softly, his fingers rubbing gently against Gerard’s skin. “Can I show you how you make me feel?”

Gerard’s breath hitches in his throat and he leans forward, clutching at Frank’s shirt as he kisses him. Frank takes that as a yes.

~*~*~

Gerard is lying on his back on his bed, legs spread wide so Frank can kneel in between them. He runs his hands along Gerard’s sides, firm and heavy, needing to feel the pale, unblemished skin so delicately covering his ribcage. Frank wants to mark him up, to erase anything Bert, or Brian, or anyone else has ever left on Gerard even though they’re long gone. Frank wants to be the only one left.

Gerard whimpers and leans into the touch as Frank moves his hands down, gripping and massaging at the soft flesh of Gerard’s thighs. He wraps his palms around them and pulls them apart, so that he can see Gerard’s hole when he looks down. He pauses, not doing anything for so long that Gerard bucks his hips up. He seems nervous, with his labored breathing and shivering skin, and there’s no way Frank can ignore it.

He wants to love Gerard the way he deserves to be loved. He doesn’t want to fuck Gerard and leave him brokenhearted, especially not now that Frank actually knows what love feels like, what it means to be in love.

He feels whole, like he’s finally found the one thing he’d been searching for, but hadn’t known what.

Frank leans down, capturing Gerard’s mouth in a kiss and caressing his thighs. Gerard wraps his arms around Frank’s shoulders, holding him close. Frank’s breath hitches in his throat and he thinks he could cry, because he’s never felt anything like this before. He’s never felt so warm, or wanted. He’s never been so close to someone else.

Frank moves to kiss down his neck, his shoulders, his chest, and Gerard whimpers, squeezing Frank’s arms, like he’s begging for more.

He pulls away to reach into Gerard’s nightstand, coating his fingers in the lube he finds there before moving forward to prep Gerard. Frank is shaking all over, hands trembling because he’s so nervous, and he keeps looking at Gerard, looking for his approval, because he hasn’t done this before. When he was scouted, he was still young; he hadn’t yet had the chance to really explore his sexuality beyond a hearty imagination and a few exchanged handjobs and blowjobs in the alley behind the club his band always played in. After he was scouted, he’d just… never had the chance to act on it. He’d always been busy with assignments.

Gerard is smiling at him, and looking absolutely beautiful, and it’s just the encouragement Frank needs.

Gerard is utterly gorgeous, spread open and waiting for Frank. The smile from before is lost, replaced with needy little twitches of his hips and a face flushed with nervousness. Frank looks down and sees how hard Gerard is already, red and throbbing. Gerard starts to touch himself with quick, desperate little pulls of his hand, but Frank gently coaxes his hand away. “Not yet,” he says, running a finger up the side. “That’s my job.”

Gerard keens high in his throat, fingers clutching at the bedspread so tight that his fingers turn white. Frank shuffles closer on his knees, pressing a lube-slick finger against Gerard’s hole slow and easy. He slides his finger in past the second knuckle, crooking it against the give of Gerard’s body.

When he slides in another finger, Gerard gasps, bucking up like he can’t stay still. Frank pulls his eyes away from his fingers in Gerard’s ass and back to Gerard’s face. His mouth has dropped open and his chest is heaving. Frank leans over him, running the thumb of his free hand along Gerard’s jaw. Gerard’s eyes pop open at the touch and his pupils are dilated when he murmurs, “Frank.”

Frank’s chest swells with a strange sense of pride, because he’s the one doing this to Gerard, he’s the one making him feel like this, no one else. It’s just him and he’s only just begun.

Slipping his fingers free after stretching him for as long as he can stand, Frank ignores Gerard’s sounds of protest at the emptiness left in their wake. He covers Gerard’s mouth with his own, swallowing the noises. Frank pulls away, glancing back down to reach for the condom in the nightstand. He fumbles with it, nearly dropping it in his haste before slipping it on and slicking himself up with another squeeze from the bottle of lube.

He tries to tamp down his nervousness, because he wants to make this good for Gerard, to make Gerard feel his love physically as well as emotionally, but his hands still shake as he grabs the base of his dick and lines himself up. The drag is slow and hot and Gerard is really, really tight as Frank finally pushes in.

“Mine,” Frank bites out, thrusting faster and looking for Gerard’s prostate. He’s overwhelmed by the feeling of Gerard warm and willing beneath him and he’s so in love with Gerard, with the knowledge that he has Gerard to himself, that it almost doesn’t feel real. “You’re mine.”

“Yours,” Gerard whimpers, wrapping his legs around Frank’s hips and his arms around Frank’s neck, clinging with his whole body. “Only yours.”

Frank pushes himself harder and deeper, sucking on Gerard’s neck as he searches for his prostate. He needs to hit him there, to give Gerard something in return for Gerard having shown him what it feels like to love and be loved back.

Gerard moans, sharp and sudden, arching his back and rolling his hips when Frank finds that soft spot he’s looking for. Frank needs to feel him closer and he wraps his arms around Gerard’s ribs, bringing him closer until their chests touch.

“Love you,” Frank says breathlessly, needing to say it loud. Gerard’s face is right there and when he smiles at Frank, he’s so beautiful it almost hurts to look at him.

“Remember what I said, Gee?” Frank asks when Gerard wraps a hand around his own cock. Gerard whimpers when Frank replaces it with his, rippling his fingers at the base before jacking him fast and tight in time with his thrusts. In what seems like no time at all, Gerard is coming, clenching tight, so fucking tight, around him.

Frank knows he can’t last, but when Gerard whispers, his breath hot and damp against the shells of his ear, “Come on, Frankie. Wanna feel you come,” and tightens his muscles deliberately around Frank’s cock, Frank loses it. He thrusts once, twice, three times more before releasing into the condom.

He collapses onto Gerard’s chest, left trembling and weak. Frank stays there, his head on Gerard’s chest, listening to his breathing and the rhythm of his heart slowly returning to normal. He doesn’t want to move, to pull himself away from the drying, sticky sweat and come on their bodies. Weirdly, he starts thinking about his doves back on Olympus, and how they’d be all over him right now, if he was still a Cupid. They’d be cooing in his ear and pecking at his shoulders, giving him little kisses of their own, because they have no concept of personal space and would only understand one way to react to how perfectly happy he is right now, in this very moment.

He pulls away, leaning forward to press a kiss to Gerard’s lips before getting up and going to the bathroom. He disposes of the condom, washes up, and brings the washcloth with him to clean Gerard up. Gerard is spread out on his back, waiting for Frank’s return with closed eyes and a small, pleased smile on his face.

“Mine,” Frank whispers again, unsure, like it’s a question even after they’ve established what they mean to each other. He kisses Gerard softly on the temple as he swipes the washcloth over the come on Gerard’s stomach.

Gerard cups the back of his neck, dragging him down for a long, lingering kiss, before mumbling, “Always.”

Frank drops the cloth to the floor. He’ll take care of it in the morning.

Because he’ll be here in the morning.

And hopefully every morning after that he’ll still be here, with Gerard.

Gerard rolls back over onto his side and Frank slips underneath the covers behind him, spooning up behind him. They fit, he thinks, draping an arm over Gerard’s hips and finding his fingers in the dark. He snuggles into Gerard’s warmth, savoring the feeling of being so close together.

Gerard sighs, making a quiet, pleased noise low in his throat and gripping Frank’s hands tighter. He seems happy and that makes Frank happy, too.

For a moment before they drift off to sleep, Frank wonders if he’ll ever see Ray again, or any of his other friends from Olympus. He wonders what it will be like to be human again, knowing that he’s not going back. He has no fucking clue what to do with himself, but he has Gerard, and being Gerard’s is everything he’s looking forward to right now.