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Frank wakes up to the muted chirp of his cell phone alarm at one in the morning on the Tuesday of the last week of summer school. The night before, he made tired faces at his mother around nine thirty and went to bed, because he's not allowed out on school nights anymore and he can't sneak out until everyone's asleep. He could do it when his mother's alone, but fucking George has bat ears and he's staying over tonight.

His mother got fucking George to take the fire escape down at the beginning of the summer, but Frank scored a rope ladder off this guy Bob knows and the plus side of this setup--besides the fact that it's pretty cool to swing down the side of the house like a pirate on dry land--is that nobody knows about it. "Always assure plausible deniability," Gerard told him once when they were drunk-talking about politics. Frank pays attention when wisdom flies past.

He's awake but a little sleep drunk still when he pulls on jeans and a shirt and shoves his bare feet into sneakers. Focusing his eyes is not completely automatic like it should be. He hip-checks the wardrobe corner hard enough that it'll leave a mark, which is embarrassing. But by the time he's skimming down the ladder three rungs at a time he's feeling great.

The night is still and warm, but the ground is wet and the air has that basement feel to it that it gets after rain, like the temperature might be in the eighties but everything else is telling you it's actually freezing.

He lets himself drop the last few feet and lands quietly--he's practiced that part. The lawn behind the house is more like a meadow at this point because Frank's been in summer school and the rule is he doesn't have to mow when he's getting an education, and his mother doesn't have time either so she just does the front and sides to keep up appearances. The tallest grass stalks come up to his mid-thigh. He walks very carefully and tries not to bend the grass too much. If he takes care, all traces of his stealthy passage will have disappeared by morning. His jeans are getting soaked to the knee, though, but it can't be helped.

The light from the street doesn't make it past the big maple tree in the front yard, so getting his bike out of the garage is a little tricky since he doesn't dare turn on the porch light and his flashlight has been out of commission since he dropped it climbing out two weeks ago. He doesn't like the garage in the dark because of the potential spider hazard, so he gets a little jumpy and twitchy in there and turns over a stack of paint cans that was lurking just inside the door.

When he can breathe again, it's too late to do anything; the cans are all over, some of them rolled under the car.

"Aw, shit," he mutters, but that doesn't really sound quite enough so he adds, "Motherfucker."

He stands there for a moment, chewing on his bottom lip and weighing his options. In the end he just shrugs and gets his bike and heads out. He'll tidy up when he gets back--that late the risk of waking someone up is smaller and he can turn on the light. Much easier. And he can see if Gerard or Mikey has a flashlight.

He goes fast when it's downhills or straight road, but he has to take it a little easy in the rises because he still gets out of breath quickly after, like, three bouts of bronchitis just since the beginning of May. He doesn't light a cigarette until he's leaned his bike against the bottom of the stairs up to Gerard and Mikey's place.

He lets himself in. He has a key because the Ways are paranoid about burglars or monsters or whatever and refuse to leave a spare key under a rock in the flowerbed or something, like normal people do. Frank kind of misses the basement window. He's the only one who fits in through it comfortably, which is why Gerard was okay with leaving it open. "If somebody who's smaller than you wants to burgle this place, I say bring it," he said.

The hall is dark and the door to Mikey's room is open and no one's in there. Frank toes off his sneakers and pads barefoot down the hall past the dark living room. Gerard's room is at the end, their grandmother's old bedroom.

He doesn't knock, just pushes the door open. He's never yet caught Gerard doing anything more embarrassing than watching Passions in his underwear, but Frank lives in hope.

Tonight, Gerard is not in his underwear but wearing his worn blue pajamas with Snoopy on them, and he's not watching Passions but Lost Highway. He's sitting cross-legged on the bed, cigarette in hand, smoke curling around his face. There are two bottles left in the sixpack by the bed. The only light in the room comes from the TV.

He smiles when Frank comes in but he looks tired. Gerard always looks kind of tired but there are degrees and Frank can usually tell when it's stayed-up-all-night-drawing tired or stayed-up-all-night-drinking tired or this one, which is haven't-slept-for-a-week tired.

"Hey," Frank says and goes and sits next to him on the bed. On TV, Bill Pullman is driving. Frank says, "Guess he found the highway."

Gerard snorts and kind of chokes and spends some time coughing, and Frank slaps him hard on the back so he makes the snorty noise again.

"Fuck," Gerard gasps.

Frank pats his head. "How many times have you watched this?"

"A lot," Gerard says. His voice is a little rough, a little deeper at night than in the day. He sounds cooler like this. "Like maybe fifteen. Maybe more."

"So now do you know what it's about?"

There's a silence. Gerard's staring blankly at the screen. He's got really big eyes, sort of round, sort of not, and he can look pretty awesome when he just stares like that, all 'you're getting really really sleepy.' He doesn't even blink.

"It's about guilt," he says after a while rubbing the back of his neck, then scratching his scalp and twisting a strand of hair around his index finger. "And reincarnation. And, um, David Lynch is a really weird and deep dude. You know, they made it into an opera."

"No shit?" Frank leans over and snags one of the beers. It's lukewarm, but whatever. It's a school night and he's drinking beer. It tastes great.

"Yes, Frank, you can have a beer," Gerard says and smiles. Frank smiles back, shows all his teeth. Gerard smiles wider. Frank rolls his eyes. Gerard crosses his. They both start laughing at the same time. Frank really appreciates that Gerard hasn't used his long life to, like, learn how to keep a straight face.

"I just love you for your beer, baby," he says and leans his head on Gerard's shoulder. Gerard nods and pats him absentmindedly with the hand holding his cigarette.

"Oops," Gerard says. "Ashes."

"Whatever," Frank says. He slides down the bed and settles his head on Gerard's thigh. Drinking lying down is an adventure. "I'll spill beer in your bed and then we'll be even steven."

Gerard says, "Okay," and pats Frank's head again. Pets it, really, like Frank's a cat or a puppy. His elbow rests on Frank's shoulder. "You're gonna fall asleep."

"Nah," Frank says. "I'm good." Gerard's hand lies heavy and warm on his head.

"I had the werewolf dream again," Gerard says. His voice sounds weird, like, expressionless. Frank blinks himself out of sleep--he only realizes it was actually sleep when he sees the credits roll on the TV screen.

"What--" He yawns wide. Gerard's hand is stroking his hair restlessly. The ashtray on the bed is overflowing. "Uh, what dream?"

The hand stills. "Didn't I show you the drawings?"

"You show me drawings all the time, Gee. Werewolves? I don't know."

Gerard lifts Frank's head off his thigh gently and stands up. Frank twists around onto his back and lets his head hang off the edge of the bed, looking around at the upside-down room: the bed hanging off the ceiling, the light fixture standing on the floor. Gerard is a dark, shuffling Batman. A really ratty, unwashed, drunk Batman. Before he decided to become a Dark Knight, Frank decides. Batman Begins Batman, nerdy Christian Bale. Waiting to bust out the Kung-Fu and giant muscles.

The Not Yet Dark Knight returns with a pile of sketchbook paper.

"I guess I only told Mikey," he says. "Sometimes I forget which one of you I tell. Sometimes I, like, think about telling you something, like... a lot. And then I think I did it already."

Frank stays upside down. Gerard looks really funny like this, all chin and nostrils and dirty black hair. Then he bends down and it's the usual Gerard face, only the wrong way. Frank feels a smile stretch across his own face, like gravity is pulling it out of him. He sticks out his tongue and crosses his eyes.

Gerard sort of smiles, sort of doesn't. "I started having these in June, I guess. After my birthday sometime."

"Like nightmares? With werewolves?" Gerard always has seriously entertaining dreams. Sometimes they aren't even nightmares, just fucked up stories that just happen to him inside his head. It's great that he can draw them.

"Yeah, nightmares."

Frank arches his back and flips himself off the bed. He almost makes it, but fucks up the landing, overcorrects and lands on his ass. He needs to give that a little more practice.

Gerard's spreading out the drawings on the bed, shoving the ashtray out of the way and spilling butts and ashes everywhere on the way. Probably not his first sixpack, Frank thinks. He wonders where his beer went. He only remembers drinking like a couple of mouthfuls before conking out like a toddler.

He opens his mouth to ask Gerard, but before he can do that he looks down at the bed and what comes out is, "Whoa."

"Sometimes it starts like that--" Gerard points at a fiddly pencil sketch of a hand twisting into claws. "Sometimes I'm already the monster."

"Wow, fuck." Frank reaches out and touches the big color one with the blood spatter everywhere. Nothing bloody has even happened, but Gerard has put the blood there anyway. "Nice picture of me fucking shitting myself."

Gerard's mouth twists in a crooked grin. "You were brave," he says. He pokes the big drawing away a little and under it is a smaller one, just in pencil. "Didn't help."

Frank feels his eyes go round, 'cause Gerard has really gone into detail there.

"It's this fucking... anxiety," Gerard says. "I mean, my subconscious isn't being real subtle here, you know?"

"You're ripping Mikey and me to tiny bits," Frank says. Really tiny bits. Gerard's got one hell of a morbid imagination. He pictures his mother's face if she ever saw any of these. She would drag him to the other side of the country in a heartbeat. "I guess there's dream interpretation bullshit and then there's... tiny bits."

Gerard rubs his eyes and tries to sweep the hair out of his face. It slips right back. "Sometimes I wake up but I don't wake up, so the dream starts over when I think I'm awake. Sometimes it's just you, or just Mikey."

His voice is getting scratchier, like it hurts to talk. "Sometimes I follow you around first, like, stalking you."

"You should write horror movies," Frank says. Gerard's staring at the pictures, shoulders hunched, his head bowed. "Look, you have your splatter scenes all storyboarded and shit."

"Mikey wants to leave," Gerard says.

"What? No, he doesn't."

"He should." He shuffles the drawings into a pile again and goes to put them back in the drawer from whence they came.

"Can I have one? The color one. It's pretty awesome."

Gerard looks down at the bundle like he's never seen these pictures before.

"Seriously, man. I wish I could draw my dreams." Frank shuffles through the pile and snags the big one with all the imaginary blood. "And look at me and Mikey being brave little toasters about to go down hard. It's so cool, man."

Gerard obediently looks at Mikey and Frank being brave little toasters.

Frank says, "Of course Mikey wants to fucking leave, man. This town is fucking hicksville. If you don't wanna work at a gas station for the rest of your natural life you have to get out of here." He goes over what he just said and adds, "Not that there's anything wrong with that. Working at a gas station, I mean. But it's not for Mikey. Or you. Or me."

"Exactly!" Gerard says, waving his hands around all DUH. The drawings flap wildly and a couple come loose and flutter to the floor. Frank picks them up. "But here I am," Gerard adds.

Frank rolls his eyes. Sometimes Gerard is so fucking stubborn, and sometimes he makes Frank feel like the grownup. "You sound like you're, like, thirty. Your life isn't over. Plus you're gonna draw a bloody as hell werewolf comic and get rich as all fuck, and then you can just take me and Mikey with you somewhere cool. You're our meal ticket, man."

"Some meal ticket," Gerard says, but he's so gonna crack up soon, Frank can tell.

"Yeah, we'll just lie around smoking pot and watching TV and being all, 'yo, draw shit about your dorky buddy and your geeky kid brother smoking pot and watching TV and getting slaughtered by the werewolves!' and you have to do all the work. Cause you're the only one with any fucking talent. We'll be your entourage. It'll be great."

Gerard gets a smoke out and starts looking for light. He can never remember where he puts his lighters. "So you're gonna be, like, surf babe Bridget Fonda in Jackie Brown?"

Frank rolls his eyes again and digs his own lighter out of his front pocket. "Fuck no," he says. He lights the smoke for Gerard like dudes do in old movies, all suave, and Gerard leans in and puts his hand gently on Frank's to hold the flame steady. His fingertips are smudged gray with graphite. Frank watches them rest against his own summer brown skin. "I don't want to get shot by Robert DeNiro. I'm stoner Brad Pitt in True Romance."

"Floyd," Gerard says.

"Fuckin' Floyd."

"You forgot to buy toilet paper, Floyd!"


Frank pretty much loves Mikey and Gerard for their weird obsession with the eighties and nineties. There's no way he would have been watching all this shit on his own, but they have DVDs and videotapes piled floor to ceiling; TV show box sets, anime imports, a bunch of awesome blaxploitation and B-horror flicks from the seventies just so they could 'understand the context' of Tarantino and Rodriguez movies, the collected Cohen brothers and a total metric shitload of Asian extreme horror and old school American and Italian splatter. Frank's mother has Opinions on horror movies and she also thinks buying DVDs is a waste of money that could go to jeans that don't have holes in the knees and new shoes that aren't drawn all over with sharpie and other things that don't really move Frank a whole lot. He can usually buy comics himself, issue by issue with money he makes mowing lawns, but this summer he had school, and anyway he can't do a lot of physical work what with getting sick from looking at his own face wrong in the mirror or whatever.

"So yeah," he says airily. "It's gonna be awesome. You'll be a fucking star." He nudges Gerard with his elbow and grins up at him.

Gerard nudges back. He's grinning back kind of dorkily, showing all his small even teeth. "Nice pep talk, kid," he says.

"Don't call me kid, fucker."

"Don't call me fucker, kid." He hands Frank the drawing with the red blots. "Put this over your bed and see how you sleep then."

"I sleep like an angel," Frank says. He spots the last beer under the bed and dives in to get it. Gerard must have just finished his and Frank's and sat there and watched the movie with Frank probably drooling all over his lap.

"Yeah," Gerard says. "A snoring angel."

"I can't believe I dragged my ass all the way over here just to fall asleep. Seriously, I wasn't even feeling tired for once. You're just way too comfy as a pillow."

Gerard ducks his head and smiles in that way that makes him look like a little kid. Always cracks Frank's shit up and then Gerard makes the other face that makes him look like a little kid, the confused one. It's a viciously hilarious circle of fun times at Gerard's expense.

Frank's laughter dries up real quick when he spots the time on Gerard's Spider-Man alarm clock. "Tell me that thing is at least two hours ahead," he says.

"Fuck no," Gerard says. "Spidey knows the fucking time."

"That's great, that's awesome, also I'm so busted," Frank bitches and grabs Gerard's arm and bangs his head against it a few times. Hurts less than the wall but makes the point. Gerard just looks at him with a baffled grin. "Fucking George wakes up at six! I'm so grounded!"

"You can make it," Gerard says and starts shooing Frank out of the room. "Just go. Fly like the wind, Frank. Don't you have a coat? Cause it's raining."


Gerard picks his old army coat out of one of the piles on the floor and shoves it at him. "Go, go, go, put it on first, and go!"

Frank goes, and makes it, out of breath and dizzy, but not too cold and he's got his ladder in its place and himself in bed by the time he hears fucking George start poking around downstairs.



The next day it's raining even more so he wears Gerard's coat over his jacket to school--his mother doesn't even ask where it came from, which shows how much she's paying attention when fucking George is around.

He hits up Travie first break for some weed, and talks to Pete Wentz at lunch, and then during PE he sits in the hall outside the gym reading Preacher and listening to Rollins Band loud enough to drown out the hollering of the coach and the grunts and shouts of the boys.

He contemplates sneaking out and getting high, but decides against it because he doesn't want to waste his stash on sitting by himself and moping when he could bring it over to the Ways later and basically die laughing. There are no funnier people in the universe than Gerard and Mikey stoned out of their minds. Frank doesn't even need to smoke anything--although he will--'cause just watching them fall all over each other, laughing their bizarre, demented cartoon bird laughs would be enough entertainment.

He takes the long way home, via the station. Mikey's slouching behind the counter looking bored. No one can look as bored as Mikey. Actually he doesn't even have to be bored to look bored.

"'Sup?" Frank says.

"Not a thing," says Mikey.

"Pete's coming over later, I guess," Frank says.

"Yeah," Mikey says. He's got that deliberately neutral look on his face now, the Pete look. Mikey's a cagey one about some things.

"Can I ask you something?" Frank says. Mikey just raises an eyebrow. "Just out of general curiosity. Don't go all... Mikey on me or whatever. You guys fuck, right?"

"Oh my God," Mikey says, scrunching his eyes shut. "I am not talking about this with you."

There he is, going all Mikey. "Why not? I'm not your mother! Or, you know, your brother."

"Oh my GOD," Mikey says again. "Go ask Gerard embarrassing questions!"

"I will, Mikeyway," Frank says, grinning. "About you. Also, I have weed. See if you get any."

Mikey stands up straight. "Really?"

"It's green and sweeeeet."

"You still don't get to ask me who tops," Mikey says. "And Gerard's writing up orders, and you absolutely cannot get him wasted until he's done."

"Don't worry, I gotta go home. I'll be around tonight around midnight maybe."

Mikey shakes his head. "This summer school thing is insane, man."

"Your mama is insane, Mikey."

"I guess that's true," Mikey says and slouches down on the counter again. "Are you wearing Gerard's coat?"

When he leaves, Frank sees Pete Wentz jogging quickly across the road.

"Hey, Pete!" he yells. "Who tops?"

"We switch off, duh," Pete yells back. "Don't you know anything, Iero?"


He doesn't fall asleep until after eleven, and it hurts getting up just an hour later but he also can't just go back to sleep once he's up, so he gets his ladder and climbs out. And gets soaked immediately by the rain pelting the house, drops the size of fists.

"Motherfucker," he mutters. Gerard's coat is like made of dragonhide, so he feels relatively snug under the circumstances, but his jeans are sticking uncomfortably to his skin and his sneakers are squelching. He's got his hood up but it's not really doing that much good.

It hasn't stopped pouring down when he gets to the station, and he's so wet by then he might as well have worn a bathing suit and called it nightswimming.

The door is wide open and Gerard sits in the doorway, smoking and watching the rain.

A flash of lightning paints everything bright for a second and leaves Frank with pink stripy afterimages dancing in front of his eyes. The sound of thunder comes almost ten seconds later.

"Come on down!" he yells at Gerard. "Get some fresh air!"

Gerard huddles into his hoodie and shakes his head. Frank shakes his own back at him. His wet hair slaps him in the face. He wriggles out of the heavy coat and throws it over a rose bush.

"You'll get struck by lightning, asshole!" Gerard says, his voice high-pitched and nervous.

"What a way to go!" Frank skips over the flowerbed, maybe decapitating some sad, wet begonias or whatever they are on the way. The grass is slippery and springy and he toes off his sneakers and socks and runs barefoot. He's so wet it doesn't matter one way or the other. If he's gonna get sick he's getting sick. Gerard will make him coffee and give him a towel, it'll be okay. The tiredness has washed away with all the rain and he feels like running in circles and laughing. So he does.

"What the fuck is wrong with you?" Gerard asks, stepping gingerly over the flowerbed. He sounds like he's whispering in a barrel, the rain is so loud on the tin roof and the leaves. "Are you trying to kill yourself?"

Frank just laughs and runs right at him, leading with a shoulder like a football tackle, and Gerard goes down like a sack of unathletic nerd. He gets Frank right in the nose with a flailing elbow, and Frank gets him back in the gut with a knee and they roll around swearing and wheezing for a while.

Frank puts his head on Gerard's shoulder and whisper-shouts, "See, doesn't that feel great?"

"No," Gerard mumbles against his forehead. "It kinda hurts, actually."

"At least you know you're alive, man. Come on." He staggers to his feet and offers Gerard a hand up. Gerard doesn't let go of it and tries to drag him towards the house, but Frank digs his heels in. Gerard isn't looking pissed off, he's trying to hide a grin, so Frank doubles his efforts and tugs harder in the opposite direction. "Thunderstorms are pretty awesome."

"Yeah," Gerard says, nodding. "Right until they fucking kill you with fire."

"Whatever," Frank says, squeezing Gerard's warm hand. "Fuck, it's raining, it's like being under the sea!"

"Under the lake," Gerard says, tilting his head back and opening his mouth. "Sweet water."

"We should go swimming," Frank says. Water is running down his face and his back and his legs. His toes are going numb. "Like, for real."

"I'm not going to the fucking beach," Gerard says. "Ew."

"At night, man. It's the coolest time anyway. Heh, in both ways. Let's go on the weekend."

Gerard's rolling his eyes and blinking because he's getting water in them. Frank reaches up with his free hand and rubs it over Gerard's face, but obviously that doesn't do much good since Frank is as wet as the rain.

"I think you're turning blue," Gerard says. "Jesus, Frankie, you have no common sense, you're like Mikey."

"Jesus, Gee," Frank says, "you have no common sense, you're like Frank."

"That's it," Gerard says and wraps his arms around Frank and half-carries, half-drags him back towards the house. Frank lets himself go limp and makes Gerard work for it. Gerard has him under the arms, trying to get him propped up a little, and everywhere their bodies touch it's a little warmer, and everywhere they don't it's freezing and stinging and nasty.

"Shit, you suck at this, let me," he says and twists himself loose and jumps onto Gerard's back, squeezing his knees around Gerard's sides and clinging to his shoulders. "Go on, please."

"Fuck," Gerard pants. "Wait, your shoes." He staggers around, bending over and trying to pick up the shoes and socks.

"If you drop me on my head, my mom's gonna kill you."

"She's gonna kill me anyway if she hears about this bullshit."

"Then your mom's gonna kill me for getting you killed."

Gerard laughs and leans back and forth, making Frank cling and whoop. "Nah, no way," he says. "Ma fucking loves you. She'll keep you as her backup kid while your mom's doing hard time for homicide."

"That'd make us, like, brothers," Frank says, digging his chin into Gerard's neck. "Posthumously."

"Weird," Gerard says.

"Yeah, weird."

Gerard hauls him all the way up the stairs and into the hall. Mikey's door is open, the room empty. Frank slides to the floor and stands dripping and shivering on the dirty lino.

"Mikey's not back?" he says. "Pete must be a really good lay."

"I try not to ponder that too deeply," Gerard says primly. "But I think they're at some house party or whatever, Bob and Ray called earlier."

"Huh," Frank says. "I guess that means more for us." He gets the baggie out of a coat pocket. It's held off the water and the weed is totally fine. "Let's smoke up and watch something bloody."

"Fuck, Frankie, you didn't even say anything!" Gerard makes grabby hands and Frank dodges, but he's shivering so hard and his feet feel like they're made of spongy ice cream and he almost goes headfirst into the wall.

"Whoooh," he mumbles, biting his teeth together to stop them from chattering. "'m fkn cld."

"Fuck, me too," Gerard says. "We gotta get the wet shit off. We can hang it up in the bathroom. Do you wanna take a shower?"

Frank starts wrestling his sodden hoodie. "Nah, a blanket'll be fine, man. And some weed. And coffee? And heating. And weed. And coffee." He yanks it off hard enough to rub his arms red, and drops it on the floor with a shudder.

"Yeah, I guess the hall floor is just as good as the bathroom," Gerard says. He drops his own sweater there too.

"They'll smell like gym locker in like two hours," Frank says. His t-shirt feels like saran wrap out of the freezer. He rolls it up and over his head and arms. It's like crawling through a rotten snake skin or something, except cold. "It feels like rotten snakeskin," he says. "Only cold."

"I wonder if you could make t-shirts out of snakeskin," Gerard says. "Dude, your lips are blue."

"I can feel it, thanks," Frank says, skimming out of his jeans. "You're not as cold, you can hang this shit up. I'll be over here, looking for heat."

Gerard busies himself picking up wet clothes, even Frank's underwear and socks, which is nice of him, and shuffles into the bathroom without communicating further, leaving a wet trail behind him. He's still wearing all his wet clothes. He's weirdly shy about that kind of thing. Mikey too, actually, which makes it extra weird that Mikey is now sexing it up with someone like Pete Wentz who'll get naked at the drop of a hat, or even without any hats involved. It's actually weird that Mikey is sexing it up at all. It makes Frank bummed that he's not sexing anyone. He's not shy. He has lots of sexy dreams, and he's not even all that embarrassed about his mother washing his sheets. That stuff is totally natural.

"Gerard?" he calls on his way down the hall, butt-naked and clutching his baggie. "When you were like my age and had wet dreams, did you get all embarrassed and wash the sheets yourself?"

There's a quiet moment. Then Gerard's voice, quiet and somewhat muffled, says, "Well, yeah. Ma never comes into our room anyway. But Mikey totally didn't bother with his, so I washed his too."

"What a bitch!" Frank says, and tries to, like, imagine Gerard voluntarily using the washing machine. He must have been really embarrassed.

"He just doesn't care, you know? Sometimes it's like he's not even there."

Frank scoffs. "He totally gets embarrassed, though. I know, I've seen him. Today I made him blush when I asked him about Pete!" He grabs a blanket off Gerard's bed and wraps it around himself. He's really fucking cold. It's ridiculous. It's the middle of summer. He sits down on the bed. Then he scoots back and curls up inside the blanket.

"Yeah," Gerard says, coming in wearing some really funny old pajamas, striped flannel ones like something Frank's grandfather might wear on a cold night. Gerard is such a fucking dork. "Sometimes he just doesn't pay attention."

"Huh," Frank says. It comes out like a chopped-up hiss, though, because his stupid teeth are still clattering around like castanets. He laughs a little and it's like "huhuhuhuh" and sounds totally insane. "Jeez, I'm getting like hypothermia. Next time remind me that I'm crazy."

"I reminded you this time," Gerard says. "Are you okay?"

He's futzing around the room, turning on the coffee machine and weighing an ornate glass bong thoughtfully in his hand before putting it back down again, poking at a pile of DVDs on his desk.

"Cold," Frank says. "Feeling like an idiot."

"It was fun, though," Gerard says kind of quietly. He sits down on the edge of the bed. He looks red-cheeked and warm, the fucker, like he doesn't even feel the cold. Frank scoots forward and leans against Gerard's back. Oh fuck, yes, he is a man-sized water bottle.

"Ahhhh, you're warm," Frank murmurs into the flannel. "I'm just gonna, yeah. Fuck, you roll the joint, I'm trying not to die."

Gerard fumbles a whole lot with the pot, so maybe he's still feeling cold too. Frank just clings to his back and tries not to leave bruises on his shoulders. They couldn't pry me off with a crowbar, he thinks and giggles to himself. He tries to tuck his feet under Gerard's thighs but it turns out to be physically impossible. Also Gerard squirms and drops fucking weed everywhere.

"Are you gonna smoke that or just, like, sprinkle it over the bed?" Frank says. He's starting to feel a lot better already, even being this stupidly un-high. Parts of him are totally thawing up. He closes his eyes and relaxes a little. "Is this some kind of arcane Way voodoo type thing? Cause I would really like to enjoy that fine homegrown I paid my mom's hard-earned money for, just sayin'."

"Fuck, Frank," Gerard mutters. "Keep your pants on--Aw, fuck."

"Too late!" Frank crows, 'cause that one was just wide open.

"Sigh," Gerard says melodramatically, and sighs, melodramatically. Frank, his ear pressed against Gerard's back, hears the air hissing in his lungs. Cool.

Finally Gerard finishes. He hands the joint to Frank over his shoulder. "Okay, okay. Here. "

It looks pretty deformed and Frank remembers why Mikey usually does the honors. How Gerard can be so good at drawing but such an unspeakable loser at rolling joints is a mystery. "What the fuck, man?" Frank says. "I can't believe you, it looks like a fucking carrot."

"A Camberwell Carrot," Gerard mumbles in a funny slurred voice and giggles. He sounds like he's high already. Frank goes to dig his lighter out but oops, right, no pants.

Gerard hands him a lighter.

"All right!" The first hit is sweet and burning and spicy and almost makes him choke. Sometimes his dumb, weak lungs just play him like that. But he keeps it together. "Lean back, nutcocker, we have to chill."

"What the fuck is a nutcocker?" Gerard asks, but he straightens up and pushes himself back and up against the wall. He's wearing thick thermal socks, the dweeb. But it's a good idea.

"Not a clue." Frank passes him the joint. "Look in the mirror, whatever."

"Nutcocker," Gerard says. "What the fuck."

Frank inches closer again, tucks himself against Gerard's side. "I'm gonna leech some more heat off you, man," he says. Gerard's hitting the joint like it's the last one on Earth. "It's your function today, human radiator, lameo jointroller, and fuck, you're gonna finish that in one go, fucking nutcocker. That's, like, bogarting. Why's it called bogarting? What did Bogart ever do?"

Gerard hands it over obediently. "I mean," he says, watching Frank smoke with slightly teary eyes. "It doesn't even make sense. Nutcocker? It means nothing."

"Jeez, Gee, it has the word 'nut' and the word 'cock', I think whatever comes to mind is probably right."


Frank does choke on his hit then, and he laughs and folds up with pain and unfolds again to fucking breathe, and knocks his head against Gerard's forehead with a smack. "Ow, fuck, how are you so random?"

Gerard rubs his forehead, and then he rubs the side of Frank's head a little too. "You know, chickens. Cocks. Um, nuts... that they eat."

He's smiling now, relaxing already. He's at the point of his pot-smoking career that he only needs a few good tokes to get a mellow buzz going. Frank's working hard at overtaking him.

"You're deep, Gerard, really. Don't they eat, uh, chicken feed? What's that, seeds and stuff?"

"And nuts. Chickens, Frank. Chicken. Mmh, chicken."

"Shit, don't harsh my buzz with that meat-eater talk."

"Sorry," Gerard says. He doesn't even giggle or anything, just smiles that dazed smile, a little crooked, like, lopsided, and his eyes crinkling up at the corners.

Frank leans closer to look. Gerard has long eyelashes. And he's really warm. And sort of solid and a good size for use as heating pillow. "You're really warm, man," Frank says. "And nice, yeah."

"Thanks," Gerard says, all bashful. "You're nice too. But not very warm."

"I'm getting there, come on," Frank says and tries to nudge himself closer. "Seriously, come on, move your arm. Don't let me die of exposure." He butts Gerard's arm with his head and Gerard lifts it and hooks it around his shoulders.

Maybe he spaces a little for a while, because next, Gerard is jostling his head with his shoulder and giggling squeakily. "Come on, Frank, I gotta, like, I gotta roll another."

"No, no!" Frank grabs his hands that are reaching for the baggie. "You're not rolling any more carrots. Fuck."

They struggle kind of limply for a second, and the baggie and the lighter and the paper all fall right off the bed. "Shit," Gerard says.

"No problem," Frank says and crawls forward and flops his upper body over the edge. His arms feel really heavy, but he rallies and pushes forward a few more inches. The blanket is slipping off him and his back is getting kind of cold. "Ugh," he says. He gathers up the stuff and tries to shove backwards. "Um."

"Uh, Frank?" Gerard's saying. He's moving around back there in a twitchy Gerard-y way.

"Shit, I can so not get back up." He pushes feebly at the floor. "Pull me up, bitch! My head's gonna fill with blood and pop like a balloon!"

Gerard mutters something kind of incoherent and then he grabs Frank around the middle and yanks him back up, none too gently. Frank tries to sit up, but whoa, headrush. He falls sideways and just rolls onto his back and blinks at the ceiling and rides it out. Gerard is shuffling around, trying to find a comfortable spot or something.

"Jesus, lie down before you elbow me in the nuts or something," Frank says. "Heh, Jesus. Jesus, Gerard. Jesus-Gerard. Jeeesus. Where's your pillow?"

Gerard is looking around wildly, his hair flopping this way and that. Fuck, his eyes are giant. "The other end." He grabs it and throws it at Frank. Then he tugs up the blanket, too.

"Thanks," Frank says and settles down comfortably. Rolling a joint lying down is fascinating. He drops flakes on his face, which makes him giggle, which makes him drop more.

Gerard finally picks the stuff out of his hands and finishes the job. He's looking pretty toasted, kind of pink and glazed-eyed. His hands aren't too steady, but the joint gets rolled and he hands it to Frank.

"Lie down, man," Frank mumbles around the joint. "You're twitchy as fuck."

Gerard rolls his eyes. Frank smiles, and the smile kind of grows into a big old grin. He can feel it stretching his face. Kind of like in the Black Hole Sun video. That was some trippy shit, too. He makes his eyes go big. Gerard is cracking up and turning bright red, his hands clapped over his mouth.

"Seriously," Frank says, although he's forgotten what he's supposed to be serious about. He waves the joint at Gerard. "Mmh, what happened to the coffee? Are you getting the munchies yet?"

"Uh, not yet," Gerard says. "Soon." He gives up and lies down--flops down like a ragdoll to lie next to Frank on top of the blanket.

"I'm the little spoon!" Frank says quickly and rolls onto his side. Gerard reaches over him and takes the joint, tokes, puts it back in his hand. He leaves his arm kind of hanging over Frank's side. Frank moves around, fitting himself into the curve of Gerard's body. He's starting to feel really good everywhere. Pretty much warm through and through, and maybe he won't get pneumonia if he can keep all his limbs heated at all times. He reaches back and aims the joint at Gerard, and Gerard doesn't take it this time but just takes a drag directly, his mouth against Frank's fingers, his hand light on Frank's wrist. Frank giggles lazily. The lack of sleep is kind of catching up with him and he feels heavy and limp, kind of snackish but not enough yet to do something about it, heavy and limp and warm. His eyes are slipping shut. "You finish it," he mumbles. "I'm pretty baked."

Gerard takes a few more tokes right out of Frank's hand, and they both giggle, but it's slower and slower, like clockwork winding down. Gerard puts out the joint against the wall and tucks it away in the baggie. His arm gets heavier around Frank's waist and his breaths wash slow and rhythmic against Frank's neck.

"Mmh," Frank says. "I feel so fucking good right now."

Gerard sighs against his neck, bringing up gooseflesh down his spine, a really delicious, sneaking chilly thrill. His hair has dried completely and a strand of it is lying wispy and tickly against Frank's cheek.

Frank thinks--literally, so he almost has to facepalm for real--he thinks, what's this warm tingly feeling? He thinks this for like five seconds while he moves his hips a little and leans his head back against Gerard's forehead. Once the five seconds are over, the pot-blurry pieces fall together and of course he's fucking horny. Pot does that to him almost every time, plus he was kind of feeling it even before, maybe. What? he thinks.

He makes himself stop moving and lies still for a while, contemplating what's going on and where he is. Yup, getting himself ridiculously stoned. Yup, naked under a blanket in his best friend's bed. It reminds him of this really vivid dream he had the other night, maybe last week, maybe before that, he can't remember, but the dream is still standing out in detail. In it he was dead, maybe, or if he wasn't dead--

He should be telling Gerard this, of course.

"In this dream I had," he starts, and Gerard kind of jerks as if he was startled from sleep. "Right, I was dreaming that I was maybe dead? Or something, anyway, I was laid out in a church like fucking Juliet in the movie, you know, candles everywhere. Anyway, maybe I was dead, and I was lying there all still and my eyes were closed but I could still see stuff like you do in a dream."

"Mmhmm," Gerard breathes against his neck, sending a new wave of tingles downwards.

"Shit, yeah, uh... so you were there wearing a pretty natty suit, your Sunday finest. I guess it was my funeral, only with way more goth type dripping candles and black roses and stuff than normal. And you were kind of looking at me, not sad, but, like... fucking serene. Serene. And you kissed my eyelids."

"Huh," Gerard says, a huff of breath and his chest kind of vibrating against Frank's back.

"Yeah, I don't know. It was deep and symbolic, man. Beautiful. And, uh, that was the dream, the end."

The part he doesn't think he can bust out with right at this moment is that he woke up and had to jerk off, like, twice in a row. He didn't think much of it at the time, 'cause jerking off, not such a singular occurrence in his life. But in retrospect, yeah, maybe there was something there.

"Cool," Gerard whispers. "How did it make you feel?"

"Um. Pretty good?" Now he's really tired but also turned on and the blanket feels too heavy and rough against his skin, and his shoulders aren't covered so they're kind of chilly, but the rest of him is starting to sweat and he's really having to stop himself from just rubbing himself against Gerard right now.


But not uncool.

Pot and near-death by hypothermia, he thinks, it can all lead to weirdness. But that's kind of a stupid cop-out and Frank is not a stupid copper-outer. This is what it is. Gerard's breaths against his neck and the hot blanket and Gerard's arm on his waist.

"Yeah," he says. "Pretty good." He wriggles around, determinedly, and Gerard goes completely, perfectly still.

Seriously, he isn't even breathing.

Frank giggles, a little breathless himself really. He wriggles a little more because he's really starting to feel hot, not just on the inside. The blanket shifts and he flails his arms around until they're free. He can't help but giggle again because he's being pretty dorky about this. He's pretty sure Gerard has been the target of smoother come-ons.

Then he considers the evidence (Gerard "Just Moved Out Of The Basement" Way) and, like, he doesn't actually know if Gerard has ever had sex, or with what kind of person, gender- or age-wise, he's done it if he's done it. They don't sit around talking about sex. It doesn't come up with Gerard. Frank talks about sex more with Mikey.

Asking about that right now would probably take the last of the mystery out of this seduction.

That thought makes him crack up for real, and he spends some time curling up around Gerard's arm and clutching it against his stomach and laughing until everything hurts.

Gerard comes out of his paralysis and says, "You're just not gonna share, are you?"

"No way," Frank gasps. "Just, like, pot logic."

"Uhuh." Usually it only takes Frank cracking up to make Gerard laugh, but he's not laughing right now. His hand twitches a little in Frank's grip and Frank laughs more and kisses the back of it.

Gerard did go to college for a while, he thinks and stretches out his legs along Gerard's legs. Everyone knows what going to college is all about.

Gerard's arm tightens around his middle, and he feels breath against the back of his neck again, sort of irregular, more like sighs. Frank wants to turn around but he's suddenly nervous and jittery and has to stop himself from twitching so he folds his fingers around Gerard's hand and squeezes. Gerard squeezes back and kisses his neck quickly.

Frank moves his legs a little and pushes his ass back against Gerard's belly, and yeah, okay, that's not subtle, but what he can feel against his thigh right now is not that subtle either, not subtle at all through the blanket and those fucking flannel pajamas. He thinks, oh, thank God, and also, holy fuck, this is going down. His eyes are basically crossing he's so turned on, but his stomach is a twisty mess and he's totally shaking even though he's sweaty hot.

"Frank?" Gerard says very very softly and Frank turns his head around to push his cheek against Gerard's face, and Gerard's mouth slides over the side of his neck and jaw.

"Fuck yeah," he whispers and tries to kick the blanket away subtly. "Yeah."

Gerard lets go of Frank's hand so he can slide his palm over Frank's chest and belly. It's really slow and hesitant but Frank is going to throw up from nerves or just explode if something doesn't happen, like, right now, so he puts his hand on top of Gerard's and pushes down like Frank's the skeevy old guy trying to get the innocent little girl to touch his dick and not, well, the other way around, right? So he's giggling stupidly at that thought when Gerard touches him, the first person not him to put a hand on his dick, not counting the school nurse, oh horror and humiliation, and the giggle just kind of dissolves into something breathless and incoherent.

Gerard's not fucking around, he's just, like, going for it, like it makes no difference whose dick he's got his hand on. It makes a difference to Frank, though, holy fuck, it makes a fucking difference. Gerard's hand is a little sweaty and his fingertips are rough, and Frank bites his lips and screws his eyes shut and tries to not come until he's at least enjoyed the situation for a little while. Itt's a losing struggle. Gerard is pretty much humping his leg at the same time and it's weird and probably not super great for Gerard, but Frank just can't do anything about that, he's got fifty different thoughts flying in every crazy direction in his head but his body is doing absolutely nothing but pushing helplessly into Gerard's hand and then coming like a motherfucker.

He thinks he makes a squeaky sound, but he'll deny it if it ever comes up. And his thoughts shut down one by one until there's nothing left but warm lassitude and a baseline hum of contentment. Gerard's gone still again, his breaths coming very short and shallow, chilling Frank's sweaty neck.

Oh, wow, Frank thinks. Holy fucking fuck, we just-- Then he thinks, Oh, yeah, I should-- and when he wakes up, he's still warm, he's tucked in under a mountain of blankets that smell like Gerard, but Gerard's sitting curled up in the computer chair, reading the Sinfest archives and drinking coffee.

Gerard turns around when he sits up. His hair is a rat's nest and he looks completely bombed--not stoned bombed, but fucking exhausted, pasty white in the face with purple smudges around the eyes and feverish red in patches on top of his cheekbones.

"How long was I out?" Frank asks. His voice is a sleepy croak, so he sounds like Gerard looks.

"Couple hours," Gerard says, studying his coffee cup with a concentrated frown. "It's three thirty. Uh, a.m."

"Aw, shit."

"Yeah, I was gonna wake you up soon."


"Will you be able to sleep?"

Frank makes a face. "Hello, I can sleep hanging upside down from a tree. Tweaking on speed."

Gerard waves his cup at the coffee maker. "It's been on there for... a while."

Frank slips off the bed and wanders over to the desk, and honestly, he doesn't even remember the bit about being totally naked until he sees Gerard ducking his head really fast.

Frank isn't totally sure about post-handjob protocol, but he thinks the time to be weirded out by nudity is past. But Gerard is a weird dude about some things. Also sometimes the protocol about certain things that happen between dudes--or so Frank has heard--is to pretend it didn't happen. He was kind of hoping this wouldn't be that kind of situation, but he'll play along. He's the late bloomer here, almost sixteen and never been kissed. He knows for a fact that Mikey got totally lucky with Tracy whatserface when he was even younger, and Mikey's kind of cute but he's got bad skin and glasses and starts stuttering or trailing off when he gets nervous, so Frank's pretty sure Mikey fits inside the generally accepted standard for people who won't get laid without luck.

Frank says, "So maybe I have to borrow some clothes again."

Gerard meets his eyes quickly. "Yeah, um... You can see if Mikey's got any clean jeans. Lemme look for a shirt..." He starts wandering around the room with his mug, poking at various piles with his toe. Frank shrugs and goes in search of pants.

Just about three seconds too late, Gerard calls after him, "Oh yeah, maybe you should, like, not walk around naked--" because it turns out Mikey is back.

He's in front of his own computer, still in these ridiculously tight jeans and a tiny blue t-shirt, and he's got black smeared eyeliner on and his hair is a big messy blond swirl hanging over his face. His mouth looks suspiciously red and puffy.

He blinks owlishly at Frank behind his glasses. "Frank, you're... naked..." he says, slowly.

"Didn't know you were here," Frank says.

"I forgot to tell him!" Gerard yells. "Sorry!"

"Yes, but..." Mikey says, waving his hand at Frank. "Tell me there's an explanation that isn't gross."

"Um. Define 'gross'," Frank says, but he feels his face go quickly and completely hot, and he just knows he's blushing all the way down his chest, too. He takes a deep breath. "My clothes got wet in the rain."

"Okay, okay," Mikey says, looking relieved. "It's not raining anymore. And don't wear my jeans without underwear, okay? Seriously. And don't use my underwear, Frank. Seriously."

"Mine are too big!" Gerard calls.

"Fuck," Mikey says. "Gross."

Frank gets jeans and underwear out of Mikey's closet and a sort of cleanish Batman & Robin t-shirt that Gerard digs out of his floor archive. They laugh at it a little, and things are pretty relaxed despite the it-didn't-happen protocol. When he's biking home it's four in the morning and he realizes that yes, he's still almost sixteen and has never been kissed, but he also had a really awesome orgasm, and then he has to stop and jump around in the middle of the road a little, because sex, holy fuck!

He tries to catalogue every moment so he'll remember it in detail later--but everything's kind of floating together into a mess, but he does remember what it felt like, in a word, fucking awesome. Two words. It's easier to remember how Gerard's body was pressed against his back than what Gerard's hand felt like on his dick, which is weird.

Even if it didn't officially happen, it can probably not-officially-happen again with a little effort, Frank thinks. There's no way Gerard is going to be an asshole about it, because Gerard is not that kind of dude.



At breakfast, while Frank is drinking coffee and trying not to throw up from sheer exhaustion, his mother says, "Come home directly after class today, Frank."

"What?" he says.

"No swinging by the Ways', no little excursions downtown to look at records."


She's kind of fussing with her hair and throwing dishes in the dishwasher at the same time. Frank waits for something to break, but it never does. "Father Leary wants to talk to you."


"So I said we'd be over at four thirty. Try not to get your jacket or pants stained."


She puts her hands on her waist, her this-is-final pose. Gerard stands like that too, but it means he's forgot what he was doing because he's zoned out thinking deep thoughts.

"Frank, you're hardly awake."

"It's morning," he says, maybe with a little whine.

"That's the problem. You obviously don't sleep enough, so I can't even imagine what it is you do all night." Her expression suggests she can imagine very well. He tries really really hard not to think about Gerard while she's staring at him like that. "There are things I can't talk to you about, Frankie. You need a man in your life."

He can feel his eyes bugging out, he swears. He's going to bust out laughing in just a second and that will end in a complete shitstorm, so he surreptitiously stabs himself in the hand with a fork and stares fixedly at the tablecloth.

She says, "I don't think you would appreciate advice from George. I can understand that much even though you think I don't know a thing."


"Your father is just... not an option." Her nose wrinkles briefly. He doesn't think she even knows she does it, but she does it every time she mentions Dad. "Father Leary has a lot of experience."

Pain stops working as a deterrent and his mouth busts out with, "Except with, you know, that one thing--"

"Frank Anthony," she says, her voice measured and chilly. Now, that--that always works. "I will see you here at four fifteen, then. At the latest. Okay?"

"Okay," he says.


For once it's kind of sunny, and at lunch he sees Pete Wentz lying on the grass outside the dorm, his shirt off, tattoos everywhere. Frank is so fucking hot for those tattoos it's not even funny, but Pete is eighteen and Frank will have to wait forever before he can get so much as a squiggle inked anywhere. But his dad has totally promised to cough up the dough to get one done, as a present. Frank likes his dad a lot more since he moved away and married a bimbo.

Pete has hickeys all along his collarbones like ugly new tattoos.

"Hi, Pete," Frank says. "Have a good time last night?"

"You know it, Iero," Pete says without opening his eyes. "This is me bragging. You know you're jealous."

Frank is, although not necessary the way Pete thinks. "I'm green and melting," he says.

"You're green and mixing your metaphors."

Frank looks again at the garland of barbed wire and the weird bat thing and sighs a little inwardly. "Being a teenager is not a punishment for past sins even if it feels that way," his mother told him a few months ago in a rare moment of sympathy. That just makes it worse, Frank thinks, though. Then it's just completely unprovoked.

"Say hi to Mikeyway," he tells Pete and walks on.

"I will! With my tongue!" Pete yells after him.


Frank has never spoken to Father Leary beyond hello and goodbye at the church door, so he's not totally sure of what to expect. He promises his mother to keep his smart mouth in check, but he crosses his fingers in his pockets. Those kinds of promises are no good to make because sometimes--a lot of the time--he just can't keep it in check.

He doesn't call the sacristy 'backstage' and he doesn't say, "So this is where the magic happens!" when he comes in, which is already a small victory for self-control.

Father Leary is tall and broad and lushly white-haired and really fucking Irish. "He's done really well for a mick," Frank once heard his aunt Francesca tell his mother. After she left, Mom sat him down and told him carefully that it wasn't okay to call people 'mick' and he should never listen to a single word Aunt Francesca says.

"Hello, Frank," Father Leary says, looking down at him from somewhere up in the rafters. He's probably like a foot and a half taller than Frank. It's like being interrogated by an Irish, snow-white Chewbacca. "How are you?"

"'m okay, Father," Frank says. Neutral is how it's done. "How are you?"

"Excellent, Frank. Excellent. I always like to talk to my young parishioners." He sits down at the heavy oak table and gestures at Frank to sit opposite. Then he honest to God steeples his hands and makes a little wrinkle between his bushy white eyebrows. His eyes have that Irish blue twinkle to them. Dumbledore, Frank thinks and wishes he'd thought to bring a fork, or maybe some thumbscrews. "Your mother tells me you've been troubled?"

"Nah," Frank says.

"I know when I'm being dismissed," Father Leary snaps, and Frank leans back and starts paying attention. Okay, hardball. "Now, Frank, I know you're growing up without a father present in your life, and that can be very difficult and confusing, especially at your age. Sometimes it will make you want to... act out."

"I know, yeah," Frank says.

"You're almost a man now," Father Leary says and meets Frank's eyes with a hard look that clearly means 'double dare you to roll your eyes, punk.' Frank keeps his eyes front and center. "Don't worry, I'm not going to make you tell me about your urges. I know all about young men and their urges. Let me just suggest that moderation in all things pleases God."

"Okay," Frank says.

"You've probably already experimented with girls--always in such a hurry to grow up, the young. Then you'll spend the rest of your life wanting to be young again."

"No, not really," Frank says. "I'm not real interested in girls."

"Hmm," Father Leary says. "Does this bother you?"

Frank shakes his head. Father Leary's twinkly fucking eyes are creeping him out a little. Also, this place is not at all creepy with the bare tile walls arcing into the ceiling, and the weird church paraphernalia cluttering the tops of the cupboards and the heavy dark furniture. Probably spiders crawling around everywhere. And crypts with skeletons under the stone floor. Oh yeah, and more spiders. "Spiders bother me," he says. "Girls are okay."

"Your mother told me you have a problem with authority. I can see it."

"Yeah, I do," Frank says.

"Do you want to be more specific?"

"Okay," Frank says. "It's like, okay... everyone tells you to tell the truth. But if you actually tell the truth, you have a problem with authority. How about that?"

More twinkling. Father Leary can stare like a motherfucker. "Well, Frank, honesty can be cruel if you don't choose your words carefully. It can be used as a weapon."

"That's good," Frank says. "I like that one."

"You can be bluntly honest with me, Frank. You just need to learn to guard your tongue with those of more delicate sensibilities. Do you understand?"

"You mean lie."

"Just follow the rules. There's a reason we have them."

"Look, Father. How about this one?--Wait, this is confidential, right? I don't need my mother to hear the truth, if you know what I'm saying."

"Just between you and me, Frank."

"Good. So the truth is that I like guys. I mean, I want guys to put their hands down my pants. How do I squeeze that into the rules?"

Father Leary sighs.

"I don't have a problem with this," Frank says. "I mean, really. I think it's pretty cool. I like guys. Guys are awesome."

"This is a situation where the Church is--"

"Yeah, exactly," Frank says. "So you can't even tell me anything but, like, 'don't.' Right? So, you know. You can't help me. And I don't need help."

Father Leary says, "But you do, Frank."

"Not from you," Frank says.

"That's probably true," Father Leary says, and then he smiles. Even white teeth. And he twinkles. "I was young during the sixties, boy. I wasn't raised by nuns. However, I can't encourage you."

"Hey, whatever. I didn't expect anything else."

"So many things in the world to be disappointed by, aren't there?"

"Hey, man, don't project," Frank says. "I'm good. It was nice to talk to you, Father."

"Don't start lying now, Frank."

"I'm trying to guard my tongue here." He gets up and offers the priest his hand. "Thanks for the chat, Father."

"Talk to your mother," Father Leary says and shakes it. "You're fearless, but you're also very young. You don't know everything."


He falls asleep in the car on the way back home, and once he gets home he barely makes it through his homework--last of the summer!--and he goes to bed at six thirty and doesn't wake up until his mother shakes him out of a dream about churches in the morning.



After school, his mother finally makes him mow the back lawn, and then do a bunch of other chores around the yard. Fucking George is lurking around again, doing stuff in the garage, probably setting up new booby traps of paint cans and shit all over the place.

"Frank, you could try to be a little nice to George," Mom says when George is out of earshot. "For me?"

"I am being nice to him for you, Mom."

"I wish..." she says and trails off. Infuriating. "I wish you had some friends with fathers."

He can't stop himself from making a sort of Gerard-like gesture of frustration. "Mom, what is your issue?"

She should be grateful he stopped himself from adding a Gerard-like 'motherfucker' to that sentence. "Didn't you make any friends at Hill?"

"Sure," he says. Travis is a really great dealer, never stiffs you and his product is excellent. Pete Wentz is one hilarious motherfucker. Almost like friends.

"I don't think I've seen Donna Way at Mass since the separation," she says, making a lemon face. "I've never seen either of her sons there."

"They're not religious," Frank says, shrugging. Gerard might actually burn his hand on the church door, he thinks. Mikey would fall asleep inside five minutes. It would probably be hilarious. The only time he's seen either of them anywhere near a church or church-related place was their grandmother's funeral, and that was all kind of a blur of black and gray and staring at Gerard and Mikey holding hands so tight their knuckles were white, and at their tired faces and red eyes and realizing that he had no idea what they were going through, like, for real, and hoping fucking fervently that it'd be a long time before he had to learn. That was kind of a revelation for him, he thinks. He was really such a kid last fall, it was amazing.

Last fall, Gerard was already an adult, though. And pretty much the year before that, too, when Frank was just thirteen. Weird.

He decides against bringing this up with Gerard. He thinks this might be what Father Leary meant about guarding his tongue around sensitive people.

"Why are there paint cans all over the floor in here?" George yells from the garage.



Mikey calls on Saturday morning, around eleven.

"Dude," he says. Then he doesn't say anything for a while.

Frank feels a spider of worry slither down his spine on eight icy legs. "What?"

"I'm just gonna say this once," Mikey says. His voice is sort of even and quiet, not goofy at all. "Do not be fucking around with my brother."

Frank has no idea what to say to that.

"Yeah, so, that's all I wanted to say," Mikey says, sounding kind of relieved.

"Wait, Mikey," Frank says quickly. "Define 'fucking around'."

"Fucking emotionally, Frank! I don't care if you get into fucking... BDSM scenes with, oh my GOD, I have scarred my own brain, thanks a fucking lot. You know what I mean!" Mikey's voice goes from relieved to exasperated to squeaky and weird in a completely natural, smooth progression. Frank is fascinated.

"Seriously, Mikey, you're not the scariest thug around, but it's pretty cute how you want to protect Gerard," he says. "No, actually, it really is. I love you guys. Really." He draws out the last 'really' just a little bit, sleazy and suggestive, and Mikey squeaks again.

"Let's never talk about this again, okay?" he says.

"Nothing much has even happened," Frank says, grinning. He sort of likes how Gerard can't keep a secret from Mikey for two seconds. It's sweet. "Give my love to Gerard, though."

"Shut up! I'm hanging up now."

"Okay! I'll be around when I can shake my tail, okay?"

Mikey hangs up without another word. He's way easy to freak out.

Now Frank is a little freaked out, too, though. If Gerard talked to Mikey, obviously the it-didn't-happen protocol is no longer valid.

Freaked out isn't the right word, though. Thrilled? Maybe thrilled. Maybe a little freaked. Thrilled and freaked.

He certainly feels more cheerful about painting the picket fence with Mom and fucking George all afternoon. Cheerful and really annoyed because it's almost like Mom has some kind of agenda this weekend, with all the family togetherness and shit.

When he figures it's safe to make for the exit around six, she's on his case in a red hot second, fucking George looming like a big blond tree behind her.

"I'm going to Mikey's," he says, very duh because there are, like, basically two places he could be going and Bob's record store isn't open on Saturdays after six.

Her lips thin.

"Mikey Way did not teach me to disrespect authority," he says, enunciating carefully. That was Gerard, he thinks, though, gleefully. His mother does not know the truth about Gerard. In fact his mother barely knows Gerard exists beyond whatever crazy rumors are going around town. To the ladies of St Mary's, Gerard Way is a tragic, upsetting example of what happens when parents, church and school fail to catch the warning signs. They all think Mikey is cute and innocent, though, and probably all have secret plans to adopt him when the inevitable happens.

"Back by eleven, Frank," fucking George says. Mom puts a hand on his beefy, freckled arm, all 'I've got this'. At least she isn't giving up the wheel to fucking George yet.

"Back by eleven," she says.

"Yes, ma'am," he says. He'll be back by a quarter to eleven, in bed by eleven sharp, and sneaking out again by half past midnight. The rest of the summer is his bitch. He's wearing Mikey's uncomfortably tight jeans and Gerard's stupid Batman & Robin t-shirt, and Mom kind of makes a face but looks confused as if she is trying to remember when she bought those things for him.


Neither Mikey nor Gerard is in their apartment, so Frank goes back around the house to the station. Mrs Way is sitting behind the counter, dressed in her typical all black, platinum hair climbing cotton candy heights on her head. Frank likes Mrs Way, but she weirds him out a whole lot, too. Mikey and Gerard aren't freaks out of the blue. The soap opera addiction is one thing, but really, no one should have that many animal heads in the living room. "No one ever even hunted in our family," Mikey told Frank once. "Grandpa collected roadkill to, like, practice taxidermy on, no lie. And Ma sometimes buys stuffed animals at auctions. I guess she's honoring his memory. You know, he was her dad."

"Hi, Frank!" she says, cheerfully. She always looks happy to see him. He thinks she's probably glad he's keeping Gerard company. "Do you want a soda?"

"Thanks, Mrs Way," he says politely. His mother would be proud. He's always polite to Mrs Way. He can respect authority. Especially when authority looks like she could put a curse on him. And she never treats him like a nuisance, which is nice. "Where are, you know, your kids?"

"The kids are in the basement, sweetie. That boy from the Hill with the tattoo he likes to show everybody is there too. Pants tight like it's 1973 again. Oh, I see, you too."

"These are Mikey's," Frank says and grins at her. She smiles back. It's just a little gruesome.

She pushes a can of Coke across the counter. "Well, that makes sense, then. I don't think he'll ever be anything but skin and bone, what do you think?"

"It just wouldn't be right with a fat Mikey," Frank says. "Um, in the basement basement, ma'am? Or in, like, their old room?"

"They're finally going through that mess, honey." She tugs at her hair, fluffs it a little. Her tics remind him of Gerard, although Gerard looks absolutely nothing like her otherwise. But he's definitely her son, no doubt. "It's about time. I just didn't want to push him. Gerard, I mean. He took Mama's death so hard."

Frank nods.

"Just moving into her room was a big step for him," Mrs Way says, tapping a sharp, black fingernail on the counter. She's the oldest person Frank knows who wears black nail polish. Mrs Way is such a goth. "Sometimes... sometimes I wonder what I could have done differently. So he wouldn't have turned out so fucked up."

"He's good, though," Frank says. "Fucked up, yeah, but he's a good person."

She smiles at him, a really sad smile. "You're such a sweet fucking kid, Frankie," she says. "Don't tell your Ma I'm such a potty-mouth around you. She might not let you come around anymore."

"I would never tell, Mrs Way," Frank says and grabs the Coke off the counter. "I'll go look in the basement, then."

He jogs around the house and makes the usual run-and-slide at the basement window. They've sneakily moved the dresser, though, so the drop is a little bigger than he was expecting. His palms and knees take some abuse and the Coke can rolls away across the floor. Pretty rad, though, the way the surprise drop felt. Frank likes surprises.

He's picking himself up off the floor and studying his burning palms when Mikey and Gerard both stick their heads into the room.

"Frank, Jesus Christ," Mikey says.

"You changed it up," Frank says. "Keeping me on my toes, huh?"

"Hi, Frank," Gerard says and waves. Mikey elbows him in the side and retreats into the basement.

"Hi, Gerard," Frank says. There's a moment that could possibly be described as an uncomfortable silence.

"We're, we're cleaning the basement," Gerard says. "Pete's helping. For certain values of 'help'."

"I've been painting the fence and listening to fucking George talk about fucking gardening and his new car and fuck knows what all day." He grins at Gerard when he pushes his way past him--Gerard doesn't move away fast enough so Frank gives him a little friendly shove, just a hi, we're still okay. Gerard will either get it or he won't. Sometimes Gerard doesn't totally pick up on simple clues like that. "Oh yeah, except when he tried to talk to me about baseball."

After a beat, Gerard smiles back. "Seriously?"

"Seriously. Baseball."

"No one's ever tried to talk to me about baseball," Gerard says. Frank thinks he sounds a little wistful. Gerard is probably the only person in the universe who cares less about sports than Frank does. Well, Mikey, but Mikey can somehow fake his way through a conversation about anything, mostly by looking disaffected and so over it.

"You can come over and paint the fence and see how you like it. Get yourself some sun."

"Like Tom Sawyer," Gerard says. Frank imagines Gerard in a little cap, which is easy. Then he tries to imagine Gerard convincing a group of his friends to do his work for him, and that's not so easy. Like, there isn't even that much of a group of friends unless you count Bob and Ray who Gerard seems to like okay, but doesn't really hang out with a whole lot. Sometimes when Frank runs into him in the record store and they talk, Ray asks about Gerard. He's probably bummed that his old best buddy from middle school turned into a crazy hermit and stopped calling. Frank would too, if he had a best buddy from middle school.

"You'd scare the fuck out of fucking George, man," he says. "He thinks I'm a delinquent already 'cause I've got dyed hair. You showed up all long-haired and, like, pallid, man, man. He would freak."

"I'd freak out your mom, too, though," Gerard says. "And then she'd get a restraining order."

"She doesn't even know the worst of it," Frank says and then he wants to bite his fucking tongue so fucking hard because Gerard kind of blanches and steps back, and Frank fucking meant the weed and the booze and not, like, the other thing. Shit. "Hey, man--"

"Dudes!" Pete Wentz crows just then, popping out from the bowels of the basement, holding up two identical glass spheres. "Someone's got witches in the family tree! Iero! Hi!"

Frank nods at him. Gerard's pushed his hands into the pockets of his hoodie and is twisting the fabric almost violently.

"This place is trippy," Pete says. Then he stops, frowns, and says, "What?"

Gerard rubs his eyebrow. Then he scratches his ear. Then he drags his knuckles over his jaw. A spot on Frank's neck starts itching.

Pete rolls his eyes. "Like I said, trippy."

"Fuck," Gerard says. He turns around in a circle, looking this way and that like he's forgotten where he is. "Mikey? Did you put the beer in the fridge or what?"

"'Course," Mikey says from somewhere behind a massive, battered display case full of bird skulls and eggs and feathers mounted on dusty cardboard. "I can't believe they kept all this stuff."

Frank stares at a pretty gray and white mottled feather and asks, "What are you gonna do with it?"

There's a little pause and Frank thinks somehow Mikey and Gerard just managed to exchange glances without actually seeing each other. Then Gerard says, "Save the personally valuable, sell the actually valuable, dump the in no way valuable." He sounds like a kid reluctantly reciting a poem in third grade English class.

"Wow," Frank says. "You're really going whole hog here. It'll take, like, days."

"We're just doing reconnaissance right now," Mikey says. There are small sounds as he moves around, the scraping of boxes sliding over lino, his shuffling footsteps, the whisper of something sliding over something else. "We're not actually gonna empty it out today."

"I really need to be so much more drunk for this," Gerard says. When Frank turns to look at him, he looks down.

"I kind of have to book?" Pete says suddenly. He's bouncing a little on the balls of his feet, his eyes flicking between Frank and Gerard. "You guys are so weird I'm feeling sickeningly normal right now. But I also have to book for real. Mikey!"

Mikey emerges from wherever. His hair is messy and kind of dirty. Frank thinks he sees a clump of spiderweb clinging to his glasses. Gross. Gross and disturbing.

"Walk me out?" Pete says. This is where Frank wants to meet Gerard's eyes and they'll make the 'your brother and his boyfriend are dorkasses and they're gonna make out now, ha ha' faces at each other. Except, yeah. He leans against the wall and watches Mikey and Pete exchange their 'we're dorkasses and we're gonna make out now' faces. Pete slides his hand into Mikey's back pocket when they walk up the stairs.

Frank lets exactly three seconds of silence pass after they're gone before he says, "Okay, Gerard." Then he kind of stops dead, because he doesn't actually know what he's going to say. Please put your hand down my pants now. Please give me my first kiss so I can run home and write in my diary about it. Please stop thinking bad thoughts! He opens his mouth and says, "Happy thoughts."

Gerard frowns thoughtfully. He's actually looking directly at Frank. And thinking. All other activity has stopped. His hand has stopped with the nervous tugging at his hair, but mid-twist, so his fingers are actually caught in there. He looks like one of those paintings of half-naked chicks doing their hair in front of ornate gold-plated mirrors. Except with less gold and more uneven black hair dye.

"Yeah, I mean," Frank says. "Stop beating yourself up, asshole." He waves his hands at the horrible basement maze of spidery death. "You're working shit out! It's cool. Don't worry. Happy thoughts."

Gerard looks absolutely baffled for a second. Non-plussed. Flabbergasted? Flabbergasted.

"Happy thoughts," he says, tentatively.

"Yeah! Hell yeah!" Frank says with lots of enthusiasm. "Wanna go up to your room and play Battlefield? This place still creeps me out like all fuck."

That tugs a tiny smile onto Gerard's frowny face. It's a little reluctant and lopsided, but Frank'll take it. Crisis managed.


It's hot and sunny the whole day and even at midnight, it's still pretty warm. The air even smells warm, that summer smell of grass and the dirt the grass grows in. Frank stands on the short, springy lawn with his hand still on the last rung of the rope ladder and just breathes for a while. He's not tired at all right now because he never actually went to bed. Well, he went to bed in the way where he sat on it and played Tetris on this original GameBoy that fucking George gave him when he was in the hospital the last time. It's from like the nineties or something, from back when even Gerard was just a kid and Frank was, like, an embryo. It's pretty awesome. Frank is forced to recognize that fucking George takes good care of his vintage electronics, and that fucking George is pretty determined to make Frank love him and hug him and call him Daddy. Too bad he's such a tool and Frank already has a dad.

He takes his time biking the two miles to the Way joint, because he's thinking. It takes a while for him to get the thinking ball rolling, because he keeps snagging on things like, like, Gerard's hand on his dick! and that feeling right before the Gerard's hand on his dick part, that free-fall of certainty. The whole night feels half like a bizarre pot-induced dream he dreamed a really long time ago, hazy and fragmented; half like something that's still happening. The free-falling feeling is back, although the certainty is not.

He bumps into Mikey coming around the house--literally bumps into him, almost knocking him over. Frank himself actually does fall over, landing on hands and knees in the lumpy grass.

"Fuck!" Mikey says, flailing his hands like a girl at a mouse.

Frank's hands and knees were actually still kind of sore after this afternoon so there's a little pain to ride out. Now his pants have grass stains and there's a cut on his left palm. He stays on the ground for while, licking blood off his hand and catching his breath.

"Good thing I left my bike in the bike stand," he says.

"Dude. Why don't you ever, like, walk?"

He squints up at Mikey. "It's two miles, man, it's just more convenient on a bike. What kind of question is that?"

Mikey flails some more. "I mean instead of running like a fucking maniac!"

"I am a fucking maniac, Mikeyway," Frank says and flashes all his teeth at Mikey.

"I'm surrounded by maniacs," Mikey says.

Frank scrambles to his feet and quickly throws his hands around Mikey's chest and squeezes. "Isn't your life awesome?"

Mikey pats his back gingerly, but he doesn't try to shake him off or anything. Mikey's not really a hugger, although he does hang on Gerard a lot, but Frank figures that's just because Gerard somehow invites it just by being such a... Gerard. That thought makes Frank feel a little like flailing too, but he just squeezes Mikey's scrawny frame again and lets him go. Mikey's smiling a little, a tiny, happy smile. Frank's pretty sure Mikey's life is awesome in some ways right now.

"I'm going to make Gerard come with me to the beach," he announces. "What are you gonna do?"

That smile again. Mikey says, "Pete's borrowed Gabe's car. He's picking me up."

"Gabe's car?" Frank says. He's probably making a really stupid face right now. "Gabe Saporta's car?"

"Yeah," Mikey says. And he shrugs, like it's no big deal. Fucking coy bastard. "Pete kind of made friends with Gabe. I don't fucking know, man. I guess Gabe was impressed with his right uppercut or whatever. Pete's got some kind of superpower, I think."

Frank remembers to close his mouth. "Mind control. Jeez."

"Yeah, pretty much. I gotta go, okay. Good luck getting Gerard anywhere near water." He shrugs again and looks around, starts walking back towards the house, stops, turns around, starts again in the opposite direction.

Frank cracks up, and Mikey flips him off over his shoulder without looking back.


The way to get Gerard near the water--Frank figured this one out on the way, and it's actually the best plan ever--is to walk in and say something like, "I'm going to the beach! I'm going to take off my clothes and swim in the dark! Awesome!" and make a whooping noise, and then just run out again.

Gerard will have to follow because he has the kind of imagination that will show him all the horrible ways to die when you go swimming alone at night. He's seen all those movies, he's read all those books. He's had all those nightmares. It's probably not fair to play him like that but it's also really funny to watch his expression.

The beach beach is a couple more miles up the road, but there's a quiet strip of rough sand between thickets of trees and bushes and other foliage just a short walk away--it's a pretty great spot except for the mosquito issue, and no one's ever here. It's so weird that the Ways grew up right next to the lake but never turned into tanned beach rats the way every other kid on this side of the river does. Frank so would be one except for how he was sick so much when he was younger that his mother never let him put his foot in the lake. He learned to swim in heated pools.

"Isn't swimming kind of a bad idea for you?" Gerard is muttering behind him in the patchy, treacherous moonlight between the trees, sounding like he's trying and failing to do an impression of Frank's mother.

"Yup," Frank says. "So's a lot of shit."

"Just checking. I'm not going to swim. I'm going to make sure you don't drown yourself, that's it."

"Sure," Frank says.

"It's cold."

"It'll put hair on your chest," Frank says.

"No thanks," Gerard says. "You know, there are these nocturnal spiders that like to hang out by water..."

Frank stops. His legs want to turn him around, really a lot. He tries really hard to not think about big (of course they'd be big) hairy (and hairy, of course) spiders just sitting in the trees waiting.

He looks at Gerard who is looking back, his pale round face placid, his dark round eyes wide and guileless...

"You are so fucking with me."

Gerard's got a poker face with a half life of about two seconds, so he cracks up immediately and Frank is forced to rush him and tackle him. It doesn't work quite as anticipated, though, because Gerard has somehow seen him coming and braces himself and catches Frank in a clinch. He gets an arm around Frank's neck in preparation for noogie mayhem, but it kind of peters out and he ends up just ruffling Frank's hair almost gently, and his hand on Frank's shoulder clutches at Frank's shirt. Frank's heart speeds up like an engine revving and it's almost hard to breathe. His knees feel watery. But Gerard lets him go almost immediately, without warning, and he almost can't un-water his knees in time to stay upright.

He says, "I see your spider bullshit and I raise you this: sometimes the junkies leave their needles behind, you know, on the beach. Like little presents. Buried in the sand."

"You want to swim alone?"

"There are never any fucking junkies on this beach," Frank says. That's probably true, too. He touches Gerard's sleeve, just a brief little tug. "It's just us, honest."

"I know," Gerard says. "I'm just..."

He trails off. Frank waits for him to pick it up again but he doesn't. It must be like the first time ever he hasn't done his utmost to finish a thought he started.


"Nothing," Gerard says. He's also not the kind of guy who says 'nothing.'

The moon is half and actually really bright, but moonlight is pretty deceiving; things aren't exactly where you expect them to be, and the lack of colors really fucks with the general sense of space and perspective somehow. Frank has to concentrate way too hard on not breaking his toes on rocks or roots.

"The middle of the night is really beautiful," Gerard says in a dreamy voice when the hard-stamped dirt of the path turns into gritty dry sand. "Like, the real middle of the night, in the real world. When I dream it's always in the city, I don't know why. Maybe I read too much urban fantasy, it infects my subconscious with, like, fucking rusty pipes and rats and subway vents. I never dream about forests. Not even in the werewolf dreams. Never forests."

"You read too much Sin City," Frank says. The middle of the night is really beautiful. So's Gerard, white face and black hair and his eyes sort of glittering. He looks like he's ready to suck some blood in a sexy way. "You should swim now, dude. You only live once!"

"I've been kind of thinking about reincarnation," Gerard says, frowning as if he's Thinking About Reincarnation right now. "It seems a more likely theory than, you know, Heaven. A struggle over and over and over until you get it right and then just oblivion. Sounds more true than that whole eternal hellfire or eternal bliss."

"Sure," Frank says. "Maybe you'll be reborn a fish. Or a seal. Or an otter. Otters are really cute, Gerard."

"Yeah, otters are cool." He smiles. "The little hands, right?"


Frank kicks off his shoes. The sand is cool but not cold.

"You're really going in?" Gerard says dubiously. "Seriously."

"Fuck yeah," Frank says and takes off his hoodie and folds it and lays it on a patch of grass. He reminds himself to shake his clothes really really well before putting them on again.

"Freak," Gerard says and crosses his arms.

Frank grins at him and pulls his t-shirt over his head. "Just get naked and take a fucking swim, man," he says. "You're the freak with this, like, hiding everything thing."

"We can't all be crazed exhibitionists."

"It's dark," Frank says and puts his t-shirt on top of the hoodie. "You can't, like, exhibit if no one can see you."

"I can see you just fine," Gerard says, but he's not exactly looking at Frank, he's looking at Frank's little pile of clothes.

Frank doesn't let himself hesitate before unbuckling his belt and unbuttoning his jeans and shoving them down along with the underwear. Apart from how he really wants Gerard to get naked with him, like, right now and no waiting, he also really wants to swim. He hasn't done a lot of that this summer, what with school and being sick and... school and fucking being sick, and then lots of crappy weather after the heatwave in June. Living two miles from a relatively clean lake with a relatively clean beach and not swimming every day is such a fucking crime.

"You're such a dumbass, not swimming here all the time," he tells Gerard. "You don't even have an excuse, you're just, I don't even know. It's great out here."

"I'm a dumbass," Gerard agrees. Frank knows that it's impossible to dare Gerard into doing something by calling him names. He'll just agree that he's whatever insult and then go on not doing whatever you want him to do. Like fighting a fucking cloud.

Gerard is looking right at him now, though, his eyes intense and unblinking, and his expression is, like... Frank can't tell what it is, but gooseflesh breaks out all over his arms and chest and back and, like, everywhere, and it's not because it's cold because it's not. The light breeze is the mildest, gentlest kind of wind, almost warm.

He stares back at Gerard, tensing, thinking, now, right now. But then Gerard blinks and looks down and says, "I'm getting cold just fucking looking at you, weirdo."

Oh, what a fucking lie, and Frank is torn between kicking him in the shin for being a dirty liar and shaking him to try to snap him out of this whatever it is. But the lake is right there, dark and glittering with moonlight, and he might as well go play in it instead if Gerard's going to be this difficult. A little lakewater reboot of the system.

He raises his chin and marches down to the water's edge. He has to try with a toe first because he has no idea what the temperature's like after all the rain they've had this month.

It's not horribly cold. It stings a little wherever the water touches dry skin but feels great once he gets used to it. The lake has this thing where it's about ten paces of knee-deep water and then a sharp drop to about seven feet, and he kind of forgets about it for a crucial moment and basically sinks like a rock, swallowing water in surprise.

The water is silky cool awesomeness even as he kicks his way back to the surface to cough and sputter for a while. He's so perfectly, completely awake and his eyes sting and his lungs are trying to shrink into little raisins but he really just wants to dive into the black and be totally surrounded.

"Frank!" Gerard's voice calls. He sounds anxious. "Frank?"

Frank opens his eyes--he never even noticed he'd screwed them shut--and there's Gerard, standing right at the edge of the drop-off, water almost to his knees, with his fucking clothes still fucking on because he's a total freak, looking totally freaked out like the total freak he is.

Frank shakes his hair out of his face and dives, swimming fast under the surface towards the beach. He resurfaces just a few feet from Gerard.

"Did you at least take your shoes off, Gee?" he asks.

"Um," Gerard says sheepishly.

"I can swim, you know," Frank says.

"Not everyone can swim!" Gerard says, making a helpless little gesture. "Ray Toro can't swim, for example."

"I know," Frank says. "He tells me, like, every time I mention water. I'm fucking drinking water from a bottle and Toro will be like, 'I never learned to swim!'"

He finds the bottom with the tips of his toes and walks up the brink, letting his body stay buoyed by the water, not straightening up until he's up on the shallow.

Gerard's eyes go really round, and it's the fucking last straw--Gerard's standing there like the biggest, prettiest fucking dweeb in the world, with his jeans getting soaked and his fucking shoes on, and Frank's every breath hurts. Being in love is kind of crazy, he thinks. And then he looks at Gerard and sort of nods to himself--it's really that easy--yeah, I'm totally in love with you, you fucking dork. Holy shit.

He opens his mouth to tell Gerard, wow, he's so absolutely about to go there right out the gate, but Gerard interrupts everything by reaching out kind of, like, twitchily--like he's about to fall over and is just flailing for support--and grabbing Frank's shoulder almost hard enough to hurt.

"Fuck, Frank," he mumbles, almost unintelligible, and Gerard is a freak but he's a really articulate freak unless he's completely beyond-redemption wasted. Right now he's almost sober as far as Frank knows.

"Yes," Frank says, really really enunciating and Gerard yanks him close and folds him into a really tight and kind of desperate hug, his hands moving all over Frank's wet back and shoulders, his breath rapid and chilly on Frank's neck.

"Oh, motherfucker," Gerard says and runs his hands up through Frank's hair and cups both sides of his face and kisses him.

It's not all smooth and slow like in the movies. Gerard forgets to tilt his head to the side so their noses mash up together, and Frank isn't sure what to do and also can't move, and it's too hard so his lips grind against his teeth. It's not exactly what he imagined--but then Gerard makes a short, frustrated sound and moves Frank's head and relaxes a fraction, and then it's not just all teeth and noses anymore. Frank still doesn't quite know what to do, so he stays still, standing on slightly unsteady tiptoe, stretched up to meet Gerard, his hands clenched in Gerard's damp hoodie. When Gerard opens his mouth, he does too, and when Gerard touches his lips with his tongue, Frank pushes his own to meet it.

For a second it's just weird. French kissing is the kind of thing that makes no sense in theory--why would you want to stick your tongue in someone's mouth? But Gerard moves his mouth again and nudges at Frank's tongue and Frank feels Gerard's eyelashes flutter against his cheek, and the confusion gets drowned out by all the whoa. It's not any less weird but it's also dirty and hot and, like, obscene and Frank could really just go on doing this until he turns blue. He's getting turned on but for just this moment he doesn't even care, he just wants to push closer and suck on Gerard's tongue forever.

When Gerard pulls away, Frank even tries to follow, craning his neck and maybe making some sort of embarrassing noise.

"Shit," Gerard says, kind of thickly.

Frank tugs at his hoodie. Gerard stares at him, his eyes black and shiny in the cold white moonlight. Frank shoves his hands into Gerard's greasy tangle of hair and yanks at it and Gerard closes his eyes and comes back, tongue and lips, and his hands on Frank's head tighten again.

Frank just has to push his hips against Gerard's body, too, and his wet, naked skin against Gerard's jeans is almost painful and, like, completely fucking necessary and he can't stop, he lets go of Gerard's hair and grabs his arms, and then his waist and then his ass, fingers snagging in the back pocket and the belt loops and he keeps trying to breathe through his mouth and it feels like he could choke, but he can't just stop to breathe. It takes ridiculously long to remember that he can breathe through his nose. His eyes are seriously rolling up in their sockets.

Gerard pulls away again, going, "Frank. Frank. Frank. Frank," even while their mouths are still sort of connected.

"What?" Frank says. He doesn't stop pushing his dick against the rough fabric of Gerard's jeans even though it's going to be too painful in, like, a second. He doesn't even fucking care. "What?"

"You're so cold," Gerard says.

"Fuck, no, I'm not."

"You-- We-- Uh." Gerard scrunches his eyes shut and, like, literally shakes his head to clear it--Gerard totally does things like that. He sometimes treats the weird shit in his head as if it's actually there and he can dig it out with his fingers or shake it out or rearrange it by slapping the side of his face. "We should get inside."

Frank doesn't want to leave. He loves this lake like he loves Gerard right now. They're, like, one and the same. The water feels warm and inviting against his calves. It's just the air that's cold, the wind now no longer gentle, turning the droplets on his body into tiny ice pricks.

Frank says, "Just, just kiss me again. Okay?"

Gerard looks up, and then to the side, and chews on his bottom lip. His hands are still on Frank's head, though, gentle now, fingertips stroking the short hair on his temples.

He wants to tell Gerard to stop worrying, but he doesn't want to remind Gerard of how Frank's a shitty little almost-junior in high school in case that's not actually what Gerard is worrying about right now, and nothing is as obviously glaringly immature as being all, "I'm not a kid, dammit!"

So he just waits, which is at war with his very nature, and lets Gerard make up his own befuddled mind.

Gerard touches Frank's mouth with his thumb, which is a weird thing because it's, like... such a tiny touch but Frank's lips tingle and his chest aches and there's a shiver of total crazymaking, focused want that he doesn't even know what to do with. Fuck this waiting. He grabs Gerard's hair again and makes it happen, and Gerard bows his head to Frank and kisses back.

I love you, Frank thinks again, feverishly. He sort of wants to say it and get everything absolutely out in the open, but Gerard's hard grip on his shoulders and and the way he's screwed his eyes shut and seems so completely laser-sight focused makes Frank suspect any declarations would just either fly right past him or throw him completely off balance. Also Frank has got the impression that I love you is something you have to work up to in a relationship.

When Gerard runs his hands down Frank's back they feel startlingly hot, and he has to admit that he is cold. He pushes at the hem of Gerard's hoodie and slips his fingers under it and Gerard gasps right into his mouth, but Frank isn't sure if it's, like, a turned on gasp or a muffled giggle.

"I think I need to put my clothes back on," he says, sliding his mouth just a few inches to the side, speaking against Gerard's cheek. There's a tiny bit of stubble--really tiny because Gerard's beard grows at a glacial pace and sort of not in every place you'd expect it to--and it feels really funny against his lips. He keeps his mouth there and adds, to make absolutely sure, "I mean, so we can go back, and then we can take off our clothes again. So you can warm me, um, with your body. Like we're trapped in a snowstorm. Naked."

He rubs the soft warm skin on Gerard's flank with his fingertips and thinks about being allowed to just pull the shirt off him and touch everything. He wants to put his mouth everywhere.

"I want to," he whispers. "I want to kiss you everywhere."

Gerard leans his forehead against Frank's, eyes still closed, and strokes Frank's hair again, and his cheek. His sighs sound tortured. Frank feels a tiny spark of fear--getting this far and then having the opportunity snatched away at the last second would be a pretty fucking giant suckfest, and then there'd be the added suck bonus of weirdness with Gerard.

"Don't freak out," Frank says. He kind of wants to beg. Please please please don't freak out and make it weird.

Gerard sighs again, but maybe that's relief and not inner torment? He slumps and hugs Frank again with his face pressed against Frank's neck. Frank hugs back and kisses the top of his collarbone--his shirts have pulled a little to the side and Frank can push his face right on that bit of shoulder, and smell his warm skin, not just sweat and smoke and the faint lingering echo of soap or shampoo, but whatever it is that human skin actually smells like, if there's a word for that smell.

He could ask Gerard. Maybe later, when it's warm. When the worrying is done.

He twists out of the hug and almost overbalances right off the drop into the deep water again except Gerard's still got his hands on his shoulders and saves him, and hauls him back into another bear hug.

"Don't drown yourself now," he says, really quietly.

"I wouldn't," Frank says. "That's not me."

Gerard says, "No, not on purpose. But you're really accident-prone, Frank."

"Or just kind of stupid like that." He takes Gerard's hand and squeezes it. He's not going to let go unless he absolutely has to. Gerard squeezes back.

The moon goes behind a cloud and the black water is suddenly even blacker. Gerard is just a faint shape of even blacker black than the generic night black around them.

"Maybe we should have brought a flashlight," he says and stumbles in the water. Frank's walking very gingerly on his numb feet. Even though he didn't see that much even with the moonlight, this kind of dark makes all the things he thought he saw then grow and change in his mind. He can't remember if there were rocks in the water.

"Yeah, uh, I hope you're not afraid of the dark or anything."

"I am," Gerard says matter-of-factly. "But I like it too."

"Huh," Frank says. "Makes sense, I guess? Scary things are fun sometimes."

"Not in a fun way, though." Gerard's shoes squelch hilariously once they're out of the water. The rough sand makes Frank's feet burn and tingle with waking nerves. "It's like... this real darkness, full of real things. Solid, you know? It's the same in the dark as it was in the light."

"Yeah," Frank says. He's forced to let go of Gerard in order to find his clothes and pull them on, but thankfully Gerard keeps talking and making his presence known.

"Metaphorical dark things are so unreliable," Gerard says. Frank can hear the soft rustle of him scratching his head and messing with his hair. "They change when you're not looking at them. Sometimes I just have to look at real things and remember that they are what they are and nothing else. Unless you get really technical and go to, like, the quantum level and they're actually... mostly emptiness? So actually they're totally not what they are. Maybe reality was more real before they told you about quantum mechanics. Now reality is a metaphor too, I guess."

"It's still real. I mean, even if there's mysterious quantum shit going on that you can't see, it's still, like... it's still a beach and a tree and, and, a Frank right here."

"Not just a metaphorical Frank," Gerard says, his voice a little soft around the edges and Frank knows he's ducking his head and smiling even though he can't see it. That's enough for him. "My shoes are so full of water. My toes are gonna be like raisins."

Frank's trying to get his sneakers on in the dark, which is actually really difficult with wet, dirty, freezing feet. He says, "Fuck, man, don't even talk about toes here. Mine are gonna fall right off."

A drop falls on his nose. Another on his hand.

"Aw, crap," Gerard says. He's moving around, his shuffling steps going squelch-crunch, squelch-crunch on the sand. Frank can see him out of the corner of his eyes--there's another weird thing about darkness, how things stand out when you're not looking directly at them. It's got something to do with how eyes work and not so much with the darkness, but he can't remember what the deal was and basically it's just weird, end of story.

Gerard bumps into him, his hands fumbling over Frank's arm before grabbing his hand. "Come on, Frankie, before we get totally-- Aw, fuck."

The rain goes from single drops to solid wall of wet in, like, four seconds and change.

"Well, I was already wet," Frank says. Then he has to repeat it, shouting, because the sound of drops on leaves is ridiculously loud.

They run, or they try to, anyway, but it's really fucking dark and really fucking wet and really fucking slippery on the path, so what they do is they stumble and stagger and say 'fuck' a lot. Frank's hand aches from Gerard's death grip, and from gripping back just as hard.

The worst is over by the time they climb the grass bank to the highway, the hard, whipping rain relenting into something more natural and less natural disaster. Frank whoops when he scrambles into the soft yellow circle of a streetlight, and Gerard grins wide. The way the light hollows out his face and turns his eye sockets into fuzzy black pits and the way strands of wet black hair slither over his brow ridges and cheekbones turns him unexpectedly ghoulish, and Frank's startled into a laugh.

"What?" Gerard says, still grinning, and fuck yeah, he looks creepy right now, all sallow skin and no eyes and snakes for hair and lots of tiny sharp teeth.

"You look, like, totally undead, man!" Frank yells and runs his hand over Gerard's zombie face, pushing away the freaky snake hair. Gerard leans his head back and the light hits his eyes and the shadows fall away. "And now you don't. Wacky!"

"I just put the glamor back on," Gerard says, pompously. "My true visage is upsetting to some, unfortunately."

"I like it," Frank says, poking Gerard's non-undead face again. "So I Married A Zombie."

"I now pronounce you Frank and Zombie," Gerard says, and his mouth twitches and Frank leans in and kisses it because he can, and Gerard's arms come up around him. They're both wet and shivering now, and wherever they press together it feels cold at first but then quickly warmer.

Headlights cut through the rain and Frank remembers that they're, like, right in the middle of the road making out like the last scene of some chick flick. They drag each other to the side, the least co-ordinated escape ever, and almost fall into the ditch. The car honks as it passes and Frank flips it off.

"Uh, I think that was, like, Todd Sorensen from up the road," Gerard says.

"Nutcocker," Frank says.


It's déjà vu all over again in the hall, dripping water on the carpet and looking into Mikey's empty dark room.

"So, uh," Gerard says awkwardly. "Mikey isn't back."

Frank snorts. "He's making out with Pete in Gabe Saporta's car."

"He's making fucking what in what the fuck?"

Mikey is a sneaky bastard. It's amazing how many times Frank can forget that. Gerard is frowning and twisting his hands, and there's an actual pool of water forming under them.

"I'll tell you all about it," Frank says. "When we're all warm and snug and shit."

Gerard's frown deepens like he's just not sure what 'warm and snug' means anymore. Frank puts his hands over his, making the twisting stop, at least. He keeps tripping up on things in his mind, like, oh, now I can just do this, and then he can't even think of what to do. Like, holding hands? Cool, if you're dating a freshman chick or something, so why is he standing here holding Gerard's hands and it's making him feel all fluttery and tense? And when Gerard turns his hands and folds his fingers over Frank's it makes him feel even more fluttery, which suggests that maybe he's the freshman chick.

"This is not how you get warm and snug and shit," he says, straightening his back and letting go so he can unzip his useless wet rag of a hoodie.

Gerard's now fussing with his own zipper like now he's not only not sure about what 'warm and snug' means but also how zippers work and where he is and maybe some other things like the fucking Earth is round and revolves around the sun. Frank slaps his hands away and unzips the fucking thing himself. Underneath, Gerard is wearing the Batman & Robin t-shirt. Arnold Schwarzenegger's block-of-oak face in Mr Freeze drag stares evilly at Frank.

"Fuck, even Mr Freeze is fucking cold," he says and pokes Mr Freeze, which means he pokes Gerard's chest, and then he pats the same spot, and the way the old, worn t-shirt clings when it's wet is really kind of fascinating, and he can feel the heat of Gerard's skin through it, and that's fascinating too. He leans even closer and wonders if Gerard has washed the shirt since Frank wore it for days last week. Probably not. He remembers wearing it and that it smelled like Gerard, not real strong because it had probably been lying on the floor for a while before he got it, but these faint little nudges that tickled somewhere in his brain. Maybe now Gerard's been getting his brain tickled by little Frank nudges.

Frank gives him a little Frank nudge right in the chest with his nose, and smells wet cotton and Gerard. He lifts his head a few inches and puts his mouth on the place right between the collarbones, just above the stretched collar of the shirt. The skin there just tastes like rainwater and a bit of salt, so it's probably a little weird that he kind of doesn't want to move away, but whatever, weird is not that weird in this house.

Gerard's gone all still again, but when Frank moves his mouth a little along his collarbone, he can actually feel Gerard's pulse jumping crazily under his tongue. Gerard doesn't move when Frank pushes his hands under the hem of the shirt, but when he tugs it up he lets Frank pull it over his head.

Instead of staring--which is what he wants to do because Gerard is one pale motherfucker and it's not like Frank didn't already know that but it's different when there's, like, a lot of the white white skin just going on in every direction--Frank quickly yanks off his own gross wet t-shirt and throws it on the floor.

He puts his hands on his belt and looks up, and Gerard is staring at him with a really intense expression, almost a creepy one because Gerard concentrating is... really concentrated, and he, like, forgets to blink. Frank's arms and chest are totally all over gooseflesh that might be caused by the cold, but then there's also this wash of heat underneath that's a blush, half oh no, half fuck yeah. He feels like giggling, but he also feels like closing his eyes and just letting himself fall forward until Gerard catches him.

Getting his pants off is kind of a hassle, though, because even though he's cold as fuck and nervous and sort of confused--Gerard's really stopped giving him any clues here when he's the one who's supposed to know about these things--even despite all this, he's still turned on and negotiating wet denim and a zipper and an unhelpful hardon is like some kind of test. He does giggle when he actually manages to pinch his own fucking short and curlies and yank at them along with the jeans, and that makes it easier. He's totally okay with being a dork, and when you're, like, getting naked right in front of someone you intend to, like--he doesn't even know what he intends to do but he knows what he wants to do sort of--but anyway, he thinks it's better to be a little dorky than be just scared.

He looks up again and shit, there really is nothing to be scared of here, it's fucking Gerard, no bigger dork alive.

Frank smiles at Gerard and says, "I'm totally nervous. I don't even know."

Gerard doesn't smile back although his expression softens a little. He holds out a hand and Frank sees it's shaking.

Before he can stop himself, he blurts, "You have done this before, right? I mean, um, had sex?"

Gerard's eyes widen so much that he looks like a Final Fantasy character for a second, and Frank cracks up again even though he thinks that maybe that was not the smartest thing to say right at this moment.

"Yes," Gerard says after a while. His hands twitch a little like he doesn't know what to do with them, but they're also still totally shaking. "I have."

"Um, good," Frank says. "Cause, like, yeah. It's good that someone has. With dudes, too, right?"

Gerard says, "Yeah." He's quiet for a second, but then, as if he's finally reached the end of his tolerance for being cagey and weirdly quiet, he adds, "More dudes, I guess. Although I'm not totally sure. 60-40-ish. There are a few months there that I'm not, like... I don't remember that much."

"Oh," Frank says, and then, "Wait, what?"

Gerard waves a hand in the air. "You know. Um. Well, I guess maybe you don't. College was... I was a little into experimenting. I hadn't been away from home a lot before and it was just, you know, new. And people didn't know me, and I don't know, I just felt it was my chance to be someone else just for a little while, or become someone else who would be, I guess, be better, or just different and fascinating. They always say 'college try' so I tried." He pushes his hand through his hair, with some effort because it's wet and tangled and snarls around his hand. He tugs distractedly and says--looking at the wall, looking at the carpet, not at all at Frank, "I wanted to experience people, too. I mean, be in their lives or, like, look into them? It felt like there were so many and, I mean, if they were taking the same courses or going to the same places to hang out voluntarily, not shoved into it by, like, the law like in high school, that maybe... I wanted to see if they would be the same as the people here, or if there were, like... if I could find some people who were like me."

"So did you?"

"I guess. In a way. But I didn't really connect, and I didn't even know it, I was just going through it all really fast and you can fuck a dozen people in a week and never really talk to anyone, you know? It was shallow and it was the wrong way of looking for, uh, for connections. I was pretty wasted a lot, too, on the weekends. Maybe I would have given it up, I think I was about to, because I wasn't getting... what I wanted. But then... you know. Then I had to come home and it kind of just ended right there."

He takes a deep breath and tugs at his hair again, and looks directly at Frank. It occurs to Frank that Gerard really talks a lot, but he's never talked that much about his life. He's always really talking about more, like, about ideas and not stuff that happened to him, or stuff that he's done. It's almost kind of horrible how much you can listen to someone or talk to him or whatever and just not know, especially with Gerard who always seems to say exactly what he's thinking as he's thinking it.

He gets it now, though. Like, he gets that this isn't something you just tell your kid brother's obnoxious little friend. And now he's... something else, so now if he asks, Gerard will probably tell him everything.

"Are you weirded out, Frankie?" Gerard says. He looks really freaked out now, chewing on his lip and twisting his hands together again. "I guess I kinda dumped that on you. It's... I mean, I shouldn't--"

"No, it's cool," Frank says to stop him from falling into some kind of regret downward spiral, which is totally something he does sometimes and it usually ends with brooding and drinking and nightmares. "I just... yeah, here I was, like, hoping this wasn't gonna be some kind of 40 Year Old Virgin deal, and instead--It's... I guess you... I don't even know what I'm saying."

"I'm twenty!" Gerard says, and Frank makes a talk-to-the-hand gesture and they both crack up, with totally nervous, stupid laughter.

Frank is still cold but with hot patches of, like, residual blush and he's unbelievably still totally hard and standing here naked and almost more embarrassed than turned on but not quite, and he's really ready to stop talking now and move on to somewhere warm and still he has to ask, "What were you looking for, then?"

Gerard rubs his mouth and rolls his eyes in the way that means he's thinking, not that he's exasperated. "Love, I guess," he says, dragging out the words like he doesn't really want to let them out. "Isn't that what everyone looks for?"

"I didn't, like, look," Frank says. He meets Gerard's eyes and that's totally a moment. It's got weight, he can hear Gerard's brain ticking.

"Yeah," Gerard says, almost smiling. "I'm pretty much done looking."

Oh yeah, Frank thinks. Moment.

"Wait," he says, because he has a thought-- "Am I like you?"

Gerard makes the deep thoughts face again and scratches his arms, first one, then the other. "Yeah... no... Like, yes, but only in the ways that won't turn you into a... well, you're not... You're not a coward, and you're not such a fucking mess. But you're into the same kinds of things, I guess, and if you're not you don't get all weirded out. You get it. So I guess you're like me in the ways I want, and not like me in the ways that would suck. Pretty cool. I'm really glad I know you."

"I'm really glad I know you too," Frank says, because that's maybe the best way of saying it. He tries to imagine the last eleven months if Gerard hadn't come back from college. He could fucking cry at the thought. "Seriously, Gee. My life would suck so much without you."

Gerard does the head-duck and smile that he always does if he gets a compliment, and then he says, "Wow, we're, like... still cold and wet."

"Cause we're idiots, maybe," Frank says. "Maybe we should have had this talk someplace else, but I guess it had to be this way, huh?"

"Confessing sins is something best done with some, uh, mortification of the flesh," Gerard says. "Or so I heard. It's like for penance and shit."

"But why am I cold? I don't have anything to confess." He taps his mouth and makes a thinky face and adds, "Except maybe that I totally, like, get hall passes if I'm bored in class and go and jerk off in the bathroom. But I think everybody does that, like, even the girls. I think some of the girls might do it in class."

"Yeah, I've heard about that," Gerard says. "This one chick told me she and her friends had, like, fucking masturbation challenges. I'm not sure how they got into college because it sounded like they weren't exactly paying attention in class a lot. Talent, I guess. I had to pay attention, man. I knew I had to get into college and get funding or I would just... High school just felt like prison."

"I'm still doing that fucking time," Frank says.

"Yeah," Gerard says and then he doesn't say anything more. There's another moment, not quite as delightful.

Frank decides to stop that shit right now, because he's pretty sure what needed to be said has been said, and he's as sure as he thinks he's ever going to be that Gerard isn't just going along for the fuck of it and that he's also actually going along--Frank has never fallen for a bait and switch but he knows it happens because Gerard once told him about a chick in high school who strung him along as a joke and then dissed him in front of everybody, and stories like that stick like hooks--and that the only reason they're still standing here freezing their balls off and waiting is that no one's said "go" yet.

"Go," he mutters to himself and reaches for Gerard, touches his arm, and his side, and Gerard looks serious when he leans down towards him.


"Yeah, you know," Frank says. Gerard's not super tall, which is good because Frank doesn't have to crane his neck or stand on his toes, it's enough if he looks up and Gerard looks down. "Go."

He puts his hands carefully on Gerard's belt buckle. "I'm just gonna take these off you now, if that's okay."

Kissing makes it hard to concentrate, though, and Gerard runs his hands over Frank's back and pulls him closer although not so close that Frank gets squished against the gross wet pants. Gerard's considerate like that.

The buttonholes on Gerard's black jeans are worn and loose but it's still a struggle to get the buttons open. The stiff wet denim is like tent canvas, and Gerard is licking at Frank's mouth and slipping his tongue inside all slow and careful and slick while he, like, touches Frank's throat with just his fingertips. Frank thinks that getting down with someone who Tried In College is a great idea because these things would totally not occur to Frank, that a light touch along his jaw and over his Adam's apple would do anything. It does, though, and his whole body shudders. Actually everything sort of hurts, all over, good and bad at the same time because he's been hard for, like, hours but he's been cold and wet for hours, too.

He gives a frustrated and slightly vicious yank at the stupid stubborn fly and the buttons finally give it up. Fanfare, and a brief moment of hesitation because he's about to go where no Frank Iero has gone before. Gerard's hand on his throat stills, too.

Frank turns his hand palm against the damp skin of Gerard's belly and slides it down under the elastic of his boxers and over rough pubic hair. Gerard's pants are always kind of tight and even with the fly open there isn't a lot of room. He pushes down with moderate violence and Gerard makes a sound that's right between a whimper and a groan.

"Oh, fuck," he says, a little choked, and his hands tighten briefly on Frank's shoulder and neck before he lets go to push at the jeans himself.

Frank shifts his hand and suddenly, and somehow surprisingly even though it's what he was aiming for, he's got his fingers around Gerard's dick. His brain just goes Jesus fucking fuck and his heart's slamming like crazy in his chest and he bites Gerard's lip. Gerard just makes another whimpery noise and snaps his hips forward, just once, like it got away from him.

If he'd know it would be such a fucking battle to actually get Gerard naked, he would probably have thought of some other clever plan instead of swimming or running around in rainstorms, but okay, he'll take this, even though Gerard's face twists against his when the stupid fucking evil pants stick to his hips and thighs and also catch on Frank's wrist before finally relenting.

"Motherfucker, buy some pants that fit," Frank pants, and Gerard huffs out scratchy, wheezing laughter and kicks the jeans and boxers into the pile of soggy clothes. Frank looks down, past his own hand still clutching Gerard's dick awkwardly, and past Gerard's dick, hi, fucking hell, and sees that the fucking boxers are bright blue and have the fucking Superman logo on them. "No way," he says.

Gerard looks down too. "Um," he says. "Way?"

And they both laugh again, shaky and almost hysterical, and Frank leans against Gerard, his whole body against Gerard's, his really fucking confused dick against Gerard's thigh. Gerard puts his arm around Frank's shoulders, pulls him in tight.

"Frank," he whispers, soft like he wants to say something really sappy right now but he loses track or something because there's nothing audible, just his mouth gently moving against Frank's neck, just below his ear. Then he pulls back and shakes his head again, presumably dislodging some brain-clogging debris, and says, "Come on."

It really doesn't compute at first--Come on? Come on what?--but Gerard nudges his shoulder and nods in the general direction of last-door-down-the-hall, making kind of a hilarious face at the same time. But he's got a point because, fuck, mattress, pillows, a pile of fleece blankets because Gerard likes to bundle up like a little old lady sometimes, and being horizontal while naked, all in that direction.

Walking down the dim hallway half a step behind Gerard, his sandy feet shuffling on the skanky carpet--is he or the carpet getting skankier? He can't tell. Maybe it's an equal skank exchange--he gets a soundtrack of Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon in his head, which makes him think about John Travolta and that's not exactly an inspirational image even if it's über-cool Pulp Fiction Travolta, not post-Battlefield Earth Travolta. He's snickering to himself and Gerard turns to look, with that little smile he has when he has no idea what's going on but he's not feeling too bad about it.

Gerard's bed is not just covered in half a dozen ratty blankets in various colors but also a whole bunch of various random junk that in no way belong in a bed, like fucking pencils and lighters and an issue of New X-Men that Frank thinks is actually his, and a bird skull from that creepy cabinet in the basement, perched on top of an open sketchpad with lots of little drawings of the skull from different angles.

Gerard looks at the bed and makes a face, then just gathers up the topmost blanket with all the shit on it and pitches it on the floor.

"Alexandrian solution," he tells Frank, grinning quickly before looking down and Frank's pretty sure he blushes, too. Because that suddenly put him over the embarrassment threshold. Frank has no idea what an Alexandrian solution is, but if it means the bed is good for lying in, he's cool with it.

He's also fucking cold, so he sits down on the bed, pulling his legs up and sticking his feet under a blanket, and tries to not look like a virgin about to be, like, ravished. He wants a cigarette, but he can ignore the craving. His cigarettes are a soggy mess in his jeanspocket anyway, probably a dead loss. Maybe later he can fucking chew on the flakes or something. Or Gerard will have a carton in his desk because he always has a carton in his desk.

Gerard pulls the green blanket up over Frank, all the way to his shoulders. Then he sits down next to him, back to the wall, and extracts an ancient, faded yellow blanket with little red Ferraris on it from the pile and huddles under it.

"Gerard," Frank says. "I don't think this is how you got laid so many times you forgot how many."

Gerard shrugs awkwardly, biting on his lower lip. Frank sees that his mouth is pretty red, and his cheeks are kind of pink, too. "I was drunk. Or high. Or, you know, both at the same time."

Frank leans in closer, tucking his feet under himself. "So you're, like, totally sober now?"

"Pretty much," Gerard says. "I guess I had a couple beers... um, I don't know, before you came over in the afternoon. And I guess a couple Xanax before we went down in the basement. That was even earlier."

"I'm so sober my brain's fucking transparent, man," Frank says. He worms his hands out from under his green blanket and in under the yellow one, grabbing the first body part he can find, which is Gerard's ankle. He says, "Just tell me if I'm doing something weird."

He pushes the fucking Ferrari blanket out of the way and climbs quickly, if not all that gracefully, into Gerard's lap, still hanging onto the green one. There's a second where he doesn't know where he hell to sit down without making things really uncomfortable or advancing the plot too much, but Gerard gets with the program--his mouth has fallen open and he's staring right at Frank, unblinking and looking like he's caught halfway through an expression before forgetting what he was going for--and catches him around the waist and puts him down carefully before pulling him forward, closer.

"Oh, good," Frank says, the insides of his thighs tingling and his chest tightening again, and then, "Oh, fuck."

He falls forward against Gerard's chest, catching himself with his palms flat against his shoulders. He leans his forehead against Gerard's and says, "Just... tell me what to do, something. I want to make you come." He shifts a little, and Gerard sucks in a breath. "I think I owe you one, like, a handjob at least. And I want to try stuff. I don't know what you like."

Gerard's hands on his waist grab a little harder and he slides another inch forward, which puts him flush against Gerard, his dick pushed against Gerard's soft belly and Gerard's dick keeping it company, which feels weird and excellent and makes him want to move. He's getting warm and his feet are stinging with pins and needles and neither of those things really matter.

Gerard cups his jaw with one hand and kisses him really slowly and deliberately, all wet and deep, and the other arm is wrapping around Frank's waist with the hand settling on the small of his back, pulling him forward even more, and that brings the kind of friction that makes his eyes fucking roll up and his toes curl. He gets his hand down between them, and he intends to just go for Gerard's dick which is drawing slick wet spirals on Frank's stomach, but his own dick is like right there and he ends up kind of wrapping his hand around them both. It seems really obvious once he's there, like, hi, this is totally how it's done, isn't it? Maybe with some more slick stuff, it might be even better but he's so beyond working that shit out, someone just needs to fucking come or things will start exploding. Just getting into this position has ratcheted up that about-to-come tension from I-could-come-with-some-work to T minus two proper strokes or some fucking dirty talk, and Gerard's tongue is doing the dirty talk on the sly, without the actual talk.

Frank tears his mouth away to gasp on the next little push from Gerard's hand on his back, and he can feel every finger there like a separate spot of heat, and a couple are, like, right on the top part of his ass and there's another new thing, how he kind of wants more of that. He wonders if that means he's a catcher, but that is totally not something he's got the brain power to consider right now. He just slides his loose fist down along their dicks, letting most of the friction come from the way they're squished together because there's really no need to rush, or maybe there is because the feeling right on top of everything is more, more, more. His mouth makes a grin of some kind because even seconds away from coming he's, like, thinking about Billy Idol or whatever, and Gerard leans his head back, banging the back of it on the wall and clearly not even feeling it, and Frank says, pulling his hand up and pushing down again, "Like, like Rebel Yell," sounding weird and breathless in his own ears.

Gerard blinks and nods and moves his hand down a couple inches and is now totally grabbing Frank's ass, kind of hard and deliberate in a way that makes Frank want to push back, although he can't because he can only push forward for the foreseeable future, forward into his own hand and into Gerard's stomach that seemed soft a while ago but doesn't give a whole lot right now that he's tightening up every muscle he's got.

When Frank starts to come, he has to lean back, though, to give himself a little space to really stroke himself through it, and his head just falls back and he stares at the ceiling where Gerard has pinned a pull-out poster of Famke Janssen as Dark Phoenix, shitty movie full of moronic retcons but fuck, she was hot when she went evil, and he's never noticed the poster before. Gerard's a fucking weirdo, but he's got taste--

"Frank, Frank," Gerard says, thickly, almost slurring it, and lets go of Frank's neck and just shoves his hand down to wrap around Frank's, smearing come between them, his ragged bitten nails rough on Frank's skin, and he leans forward and presses his face against Frank's chest, and his breath comes in hot-cool gusts, short and sharp like their strokes. Frank's out swimming somewhere in orgasmland, connected to what his body is doing in the most fuzzy, blissful way and everything feels one hundred percent fucking awesome right now.

Gerard is a lot noisier when he comes, which probably comes from how he's had orgasms that weren't happening like ten feet from his mother's bedroom door. It's almost, like, a shout, and Frank's pretty sure there are words in there but he can't make them out. He regains control over his neck muscles enough to look down again to see Gerard's wide-eyed, slack-mouthed expression, like his stoned expression combined with his this-close-to-beating-a-level-in-Doom one. The two would never combine naturally because Gerard can't beat a level in fucking Pacman when he's stoned. Right now, though, all that weirdly unfocused focus is directed at Frank and not the great beyond or the monitor. Frank sits where he is, his hand still tangled with Gerard's in the slick mess of come between them, pretty much not in a state to do anything else, and stares back.

He can sort of look at things he was too jacked up to notice before, even though he was looking, like how Gerard's skin is really really white--okay, he's pretty sure he noticed that, but yeah, Frank's hand own hand looks almost brown next to him, and Frank just isn't that fucking tan this summer, what with all the being sick and sitting inside studying. And Gerard's also not got a lot of hair on him, unlike some other dudes Frank has seen, like his dad who is, like, one of those really hairy Italian dudes with thick, curly, black hair on his chest and back and on the fucking backs of his hands. Frank hopes pretty fervently that it's not in his own future. He's been trying to study his maternal grandfather for signs of gorilla fur but it's inconclusive so far. Gerard doesn't look super manly anyway, with his round soft face and big eyes and small hands. Maybe that means Frank isn't completely one hundred percent gay, then, since he likes such a girly dude? And Famke Janssen. Not that any of that really means much when he's sitting here with his hand still on the dude's dick, pretty much covered in come and wishing to make more of it.

"Yeah, wow," he says, half to himself, and Gerard blinks slowly. He's got really long eyelashes too, curved and pretty. Frank's breath has calmed down but his voice still feels kind of raspy. He can't stop himself from just blurting out, "Let's do it again."

"Oh, fucking crazy," Gerard mumbles indistinctly, because he's still kind of panting. Every time he takes a breath, they shift against each other a little and Frank feels a little insistent zing in his dick.

"It's not crazy, right?" he says. "I mean, I can go again, like, give me five minutes." He leans back and lets himself fall, Gerard's hand still on the small of his back, until he's arched backwards in a really satisfying stretch, his shoulders on the edge of the bed, his knees kind of clutching at Gerard's thighs. He must look really fucking porny from up there, it occurs to him, but that's only good at this point. Gerard's fingers dig hard into the muscle on the sides of his spine.

He lifts his hips so he can get his legs out from under himself, and Gerard's other hand, sort of forgotten there on his dick, slides sweetly, slickly over him, and he's still half-hard and going back to hard pretty much right now.

Being horizontal is fucking sweet, too, and he thinks something slow might do it now, just burrowing up against Gerard, if Gerard would just lie down--"Hey, hey, come here," he says and reaches up. "Lie down."

Gerard obeys, like, immediately, which is awesome, but then again, Frank knows he's probably going to be in charge for a while, he's not fucking stupid, he knows how this might look from Gerard's point of view--gotta be careful with the kid, although Gerard probably thinks about it in more poetic terms.

Gerard shuffles them both around a little, shifts pillows and blankets around, actually wipes the mess off with the precious Ferrari blanket and floors it, bye Ferrari. Then he settles against Frank, not on top of him or anything, and kisses his shoulder, and his jaw and his temple, all concentrated with his eyes closed, like Frank's mother kissing a saint or something. But his hand is on Frank's chest, drawing little circles, skimming over his nipples, which is another funny thing because it doesn't really feel like anything but there are, like, more zings, like fucking telepathy with his dick. He wants to laugh out loud at that, but he still surprises himself when he does.

"What," Gerard mumbles with his face pressed against Frank's neck, hand still moving on Frank's chest, slow strokes, tracing his ribs with a finger, running his palm down the middle of his ribcage and over his belly, up again along his side.

"I just felt like laughing," Frank says. He looks up at the poster in the ceiling, now upside-down. "The Phoenix watches," he intones.

"She's always with us," Gerard whispers, his mouth right over Frank's ear, his breath fanning over his sweaty neck and making the short hairs stand up. He slides his hand down over Frank's belly again and bumps into Frank's happy dick. "Jesus, you're a fucking Energizer bunny."

"Mmh," Frank says, feeling totally calm and un-Energizery, but yeah, turned on, too, however that works. "You don't have to, like... I can..." He's not sure what he's saying, but he puts his hand on his dick, under Gerard's. Hi, dick, never done until it's done twice.

He feels Gerard's mouth move into a smile and just a hissed, "Shh." Then Gerard shoves himself up, kisses him briefly but not at all casually on the mouth, and slides down the bed, a pretty smooth move. Practiced, somehow, and Frank tries to imagine other people Gerard might have done that with, but he doesn't actually want to think about that now or maybe ever. That might just be a conservative upbringing--thanks, Mom. He came to Gerard right out of the box, so maybe he wants to think of Gerard as right out of the box for him too.

That's a downright stupid and uncharitable thought so he makes himself think about pretty college girls with their long legs wrapped around Gerard's head, stuff he's seen in porn on Mikey's computer--Gerard probably has porn too but he never fucking shares, either he's embarrassed or he's just stingy like porn might wear out if you watch it too much, and really, one guess which it is. Mikey's weirdly matter-of-fact about porn, he'll just be like, "If you jack off in my room I will stomp you," like he could fucking take Frank.

All thoughts of college girls, Mikey and porn vanish in a puff of smoke when Gerard slides his mouth down the arc of his hipbone and then up the length of his cock, the tip of his tongue moving, like, in little...Jesus, Frank doesn't even know what he's doing but it's like a whole new universe of sex right there. Fucking punch-in-the-face hot. He's got no idea what to do so he just tries not to move, digs his fingers into the mattress until his fingertips hurt when Gerard just lifts his head and goes down totally smoothly, and Frank can see his eyelids flutter closed like he needs to shut out the visual or something, and Frank gets it because he can't watch for long either, he has to look up at fucking Dark Phoenix again and she's watching him with her evil pretty face.

He remembers thinking thoughts like 'slow' and such just about thirty seconds ago, but that's out the window. Not that Gerard's pushing it or anything, he's moving without hurry, like he could keep it up for a while, but Frank's fucking dissolving here, his knees are, like, shaking even though he's flat on his back, and it almost hurts to breathe like he's wrapped in something that only lets a little air through, like an egg or something, huh, if you can say you're wrapped in an egg. He doesn't crack up even though the egg line of thought is totally weird enough and, like, Gerard-y enough to be worth a good belly laugh. He just gasps in little stutters and chews viciously on the corner of his lip and stays so so still because he doesn't want to make Gerard stop. It's making his fucking abs hurt from the effort.

He looks down again, just a glance, and catches Gerard looking up, dark-eyed and so fucking intense, and that's just it, he can't stop his hips from twitching, and he can feel the buildup trembling through his body and making everything go tense with the last few seconds of waiting. He wants to say, like, "Watch out," or "Timber!" or something but it basically comes out "Aaa," totally unverbalized and Gerard just tightens his lips around Frank's dick and doesn't even try to move away.

Frank has no idea what Gerard does with the spunk, spits or swallows or just lets it spill, and he's not sure it's really significant. In porn they always shoot it all over the girls' faces, which seems not super enjoyable and basically a silly thing to do, like getting slimed on Nickelodeon.

He remembers to open his eyes again, not that he knows when or why he closed them, and Gerard's just curling up and laying his head on Frank's hip, his hand on Frank's belly, fingers moving slowly. He's smiling, a sweet, happy kind of smile. Either he really likes sucking cock or he really likes the taste of semen. Or both, maybe they go together.

"Cool," Frank says, feeling pretty uncool and goofy but okay with it.

"Yeah," Gerard says and presses his lips against Frank's flank, just a quick hi or something before sliding right up the bed again to lie next to him, still fucking smiling. Frank turns his head and kisses the corner of his mouth. It's kind of a familiar smell and taste there, just mixed up in an unfamiliar way, which is interesting. He opens his mouth a little and Gerard sighs and meets him and it's weird and nice. Like a lot of things tonight.

He thinks he might be fading, his eyes stinging, all his limbs just growing so heavy he can hardly move. It would be really rude to fall asleep on Gerard a second time, though, so he struggles out of the sleep quicksand and keeps his eyes open.

"Just sleep a little," Gerard says, because of how cocksucking leads to reading minds or something. "I'm pretty beat too."

"Aw, but I wanted to try it," Frank mumbles, and he's not just saying that--he wasn't even sure until he said it, though. But he is. He's totally pro-oral. It's something he wants to learn.

Gerard reaches out and grabs a couple pillows and yet another blanket, because the green one has slipped right off the bed what with all the sex going on. This one's bright yellow and apparently pretty new since it doesn't yet have any suspicious stains on it. Snuggled up together like this they fit just fine under it, and Frank puts his head on Gerard's shoulder and a foot over his calf and his arm over his chest. The lights are on but nobody is going to fucking get out of bed to deal with it.

It's another moment that could maybe contain some kind of speech or communication type thing, but Frank doesn't want to babble all over it, and Gerard seems happy to shut up for once, just leaning his head against the top of Frank's head and his hand against Frank's side.


Frank wakes up earwormed with just one line from a Rihanna song (I don't wanna beeee... a murdererrrr...). He's hot on one side and cold on the other, thirsty and logy-headed--he might be getting something again, maybe--and the bed he's in seems wrong yet familiar, definitely smells wrong yet familiar. Which means he's passed out in Gerard's bed again.

"He's more than a man," he hums, and chuckles because his voice sounds so fucking blown. "This is more than love..."

He opens his eyes and looks up, and Famke Janssen looks back. He stops humming.

The hot side and the cold side crash in the middle and he's got shivers and gooseflesh all over. He stretches out his legs and arms and feels every aching muscle. Fuck yeah he passed out in Gerard's bed again. Fuck yeah.

Gerard's not in the bed, or even in the room at all. There's a lingering smell of relatively fresh cigarette smoke, though, so he's been here recently. Frank wants a cigarette. He swings his legs over the edge of the bed and puts his feet right on a pile of blankets, the green one and the one with Ferraris. Oh, yum. He wants a cigarette and then he wants to mess up some more bedclothes. He's got a little morning wood going, and now that he's thinking about it, it's developing into give-me-sex wood.

There's still sand between his toes, and probably, like, seaweed in his hair and he's definitely kind of crusty in the general crotch area, which, yeah, just falling asleep after nutting all over the place leads to that. The bed is probably, like, covered in it. If the CSI dudes came and shone on it with their blue lamp it would fucking glow. Then they would run DNA and be like, "Two donors, the resident and unknown male." Then someone would make a pun about all the hot gay sex that happened. Frank can't think of a pun, it's way too early. Not even a really crappy one.

Why would Grissom and his merry geeks be here, though? They'd have to have a crime. Werewolf slaughter? Then they'd match his blood to the come on the bed and figure shit out. Then they'd find Mikey and Pete's come in Mikey's room--

There are hushed voices coming from the hall, almost whispering. Mikey must be back.

Spider-Man says it's twenty-two minutes past four although Frank feels like he's slept for far longer. He grabs the yellow blanket and wraps himself in it like a tasty yellow Frank burrito. For a second he considers trying to find something to wear but he's just not man enough to look through Gerard's closets. He pads into the hall, tossing the end of the blanket over his shoulder like he's Julius Caesar.

Mikey's door is almost closed, like, just a few inches ajar. Inside, Gerard is speaking softly, steadily. Frank's not sure if this is a family emergency or them being goofy or what, but he won't know until he asks, right? So he nudges the door open with his shoulder and sticks his head inside.

Mikey's sitting cross-legged on the floor by his bed, his glasses cradled in his hands, his hair a freaky, matted mess as if he got caught in the rain too except with way more product in it than Frank and Gerard. Gerard is sitting next to him wearing a white t-shirt with the Bryar record store logo on it and also a giant rip in the armpit, and white tighty-whities, so he looks like a mental patient. He's leaning his head on Mikey's shoulder, eyes closed.

Mikey looks up, and Frank spots his swollen eyes and disgruntled expression. Family crisis, then.

"Um, sorry," he says and starts to back out, but Mikey rolls his eyes immediately.

"Just-- Whatever, Frank," he says. It makes sense if he's really upset, Frank knows what that shit feels like. You just want people to fucking guess what you want and not make you fucking explain every stupid thing. He takes a tiny step into the room and Mikey just looks down again and leans his head against Gerard's.

"Hey, Frank," Gerard says, opening his eyes for a second, but not smiling at all. But there's, like, kind of a warm vibe there, like, come on, welcome, this is us. Something like that. Gerard takes Mikey's hand and says, "Okay?" and Mikey nods. "Yeah, Pete's going back to Chicago, I guess."

"Oh," Frank says. He'd sort of thought that was common knowledge. "But--"

"He got his fucking diploma," Mikey mumbles. Oh. Not coming back.


"I'm okay," Mikey says, straightening up and shrugging hard enough to momentarily dislodge Gerard. "Kind of pissed off, I guess." He rubs his hands over his face--Gerard catches his glasses before they drop off his legs to the floor.

"I can punch him if you want," Frank says.

"Yeah, me too," Gerard says. They've offered that before, Frank thinks, vaguely remembering a lot of beer and some gross liqueur shit and vomiting. Gerard's probably made that offer sober, too. He really seems to think that a) Pete's face would look better around his fist and b) he could actually take Pete. Fucking Pete who is a fucking legend in town by now for the Gabe Saporta KO.

"Fuck, if someone's gonna punch him, you guys," Mikey says, twisting his mouth in a little pout of distaste, "it's gonna be me. Plus, whatever, it's not his fault. Not like he can just hang around this shithole for no reason."

"Well, he could treat you right while he is here," Gerard says. Mikey smacks him in the face, maybe harder than intended, 'cause Gerard winces and rubs his mouth delicately.

"Oh my God, Gee, I am not Meg Ryan."

"Yeah," Frank says, still standing in the door in his blanket toga, but feeling pretty okay about it. "We're dudes. We should get drunk and kill a hobo now."

"Well, or watch Apt Pupil, I guess," Gerard says, nodding. "Wait here, I have some fucking Smirnoff somewhere, I swear." Before he gets up, he puts Mikey's glasses back on him, somehow without poking him in the eyes.

Frank goes to sit down on the bed behind Mikey. When he and Gerard pass in the middle of the room, Gerard's hand touches his real quick, a little nudge that makes Frank feel kind of Meg Ryanish himself.

"Fucking bummer," he says to Mikey.

"Uhuh," Mikey says. He's bending the fingers of his left hand back one by one, making gross cracking sounds. "Also, he fucked me first and then told me."

"That's classy right there."

"I think he wanted to, like, soften the blow."

Frank giggles and clamps it down and then they're both quiet for two seconds before he can't hold it in anymore and laughter fucking explodes out of him in weird choked gusts, and thankfully it pulls Mikey along too into the chorus of weird hysterical laughter.

After they calm down, Mikey says, totally matter of fact, "You guys are fucking for real now, right."

"Uh," Frank says.

"You're fucking naked in my room again, you freak. And you were here in my house fucking my brother while I was getting broken up with." There aren't even any outraged squeaks in that sentence, just Mikey's weird monotone. Frank can't tell how he's feeling. Seriously, he might be joking or he might be about to have a nervous breakdown.

"I'm not naked, I'm wearing a blanket."

"You are so naked," Mikey says.

"And we didn't so much fuck as--"

"Fuck you, it's enough if it's just blowjobs, I don't even want to know."

"President Clinton does not agree with you! And fuck you, too, Mikeyway, you totally started with the gay stuff."

"Obviously you've just been waiting for the opportunity."

Frank grins and nudges Mikey in the shoulder with his toe. "Damn right," he says.

"Well," Mikey says, leaning against the bed and glancing back at Frank. "Congratulations, I guess? Don't-hurt-him-or-I'll-cut-you."

Frank leans forward and kisses him on the corner of the mouth and dodges back before Mikey can get him.

He's trying to figure out a way to ask Mikey if he knows about the whole Gerard the College Slut thing when Gerard comes back with an unopened bottle of vodka and thank God a pack of smokes.

"Were you guys talking about me just now?" he asks, squinting at them. "I heard you laughing."

That cracks them up again, of course. Frank manages to get out, "No, we were fucking laughing at Pete."

"But now we're laughing at you," Mikey adds.

Gerard smiles. "Okay. Here, have some." He hands Mikey the vodka and Frank the smokes and sits down next to Frank.

Mikey crawls up into the bed, too. "So we're having a fucking drunken pajama party in my bed, I guess. 'Cause we're not Meg Ryan."

Frank leans across Gerard and cards his fingers through Mikey's gross hair. "I think I can figure out how to make French braids." Mikey grabs his wrist and twists and Gerard grabs Frank around the middle and pulls him away, and then leaves his arm there, his hand warm on Frank's thigh.

"I'm not even looking at you two, it's unspeakable," Mikey says and knocks back a stupendous amount of booze in one big gulp. Mikey's such a quiet, unassuming little weirdo that it's really easy to forget that he can put back that shit just as fast and hard as Gerard, almost. If Frank didn't have as much sense as he does, which is a lot more than either one of these two, he'd be constantly stuck under the table. When Gerard passes him the bottle he takes a couple small sips and passes it back, basically tries to pace himself.

It still makes him feel pretty warm and sweet on the inside, and sitting almost in Gerard's lap isn't doing him any bad things either. He leans his head against Gerard's shoulder and puts his hand on his back just because he can. He could do that before, too, he realizes, because the Ways have always been pretty okay with him jumping all over them, but now if he puts his hands on Gerard, Gerard will know what it means. Or something.

Gerard starts on a long and confusing story about some chick he met in college (Frank tries to guess from the way he talks about her if he slept with her or not, but who the fuck knows) who went on some kind of insane roaring rampage of revenge against her ex.

"Jesus, I'm not even angry enough to pee on his bed," Mikey says, his tongue already lazy with booze.

"I'm just saying," Gerard says. "That's where some people take it. A little extreme, I guess. I don't know, though, it might be really satisfying."

"I'm not going along with any pet-killing," Frank says.

"Yeah, no," Gerard says, waving his hands no no no and catching both Mikey and Frank across the face. "It's pretty gross to take it out on, like, innocent people... uh, things. Beings."

"I wouldn't want to kill anything," Frank says. Somehow the bottle is his again and he drinks and says, "Except spiders."

"You mean you make Gerard kill the spiders for you," Mikey says with a snort. The fact that Frank is totally legitimately fucking phobic about spiders is really amusing to Mikey who, like, thinks they're cute or something. Fucking cute. If he gets a pet spider, Frank will hire an assassin.

"I think it's like his job now," Frank says. "Also, being afraid of spiders is not irrational. They can be deadly. So stop fucking with me about that."

"I don't fuck with you about it, Frankie," Gerard says sweetly. He doesn't, that's true. Frank rubs his head against Gerard's face.

"You guys, fucking boyfriends," Mikey says, sounding disgusted.

Gerard giggles a little and leans against Frank, and strokes Frank's face with his fingers, skidding clumsily over his mouth and nose and cheekbone. When Frank kisses him, the kiss is eighty-proof and smoky, and he gets fucking turned on like that. He's been told that a teenage hair-trigger evens out when you grow up, but what kind of help is that when you're looking at, like, four more years of this shit?

"Ew," Mikey says, and Frank aims a middle finger vaguely in his direction but doesn't let Gerard pull back. "Seriously! You're in my bed. Oh my God, Gee, you're not wearing pants, can I just remind you? Wasn't this party supposed to be about cheering me up?"

Frank squeezes Gerard's fingers and lets him go. "Sorry, Mikes," he says. He is kind of sorry, really. Mikey is a good kid, he doesn't need to have his heart broken by the likes of Pete Wentz even if Pete can beat up Gabe Saporta with his arms tied behind his back. Frank could maybe unwrap his revenge-fu and, like, send Pete's picture to an x-rated dating site or something, CockHungry69 Looking For Leather. If he could find a naked picture of Pete. Photoshop! Totally. He lets himself fall back on the bed, comfortably slow and messy thoughts and comfortably slow and warm body, and Gerard mimics him and of course forgets he's taller and bangs his head on the wall. Mikey's bending over with laughter.

"Smoke?" Gerard says, lighting up.

"Mmh," Frank says, snatching it out of his hand.

"Okay." Gerard lights another. "Hey."


Mikey lies down too and they all kind of move around until all body parts are in the bed, and Gerard gives Mikey a couple drags on his cigarette because although Mikey doesn't really smoke, he likes to just a little when he's drunk, and Frank puts his head on Gerard's chest and watches the cherries light up whenever someone takes a drag.


The thing about getting kind of wasted at, like, four-thirty in the morning is that you're still wasted at five-thirty, obviously, and at six-thirty, which is when Frank snaps awake again and says, "FUCK" loud enough to wake up both Gerard and Mikey too.

"Ugh," Mikey says.

"What, what, mmph?" Gerard says. Frank's squished up under his arm, the one where the t-shirt is ripped. It's really warm and kind of smelly, but not smelly enough that he's grossed out. He can also smell Mikey a little, and a lot of vodka and cigarettes. And he can see pale light outside the curtains.

"Fucking morning," Frank squeaks. "How is this my life?"

"Oh, fuck," Gerard says, flailing around trying to get up and sounding genuinely freaked out. He's probably thinking up horror stories about being caught by Frank's mother. Which, Jesus Christ, does not even bear thinking about. Frank slides out of the bed, leaving his yellow blanket behind, and stumbles out of the room.

His clothes are still in that pile on the hall floor, still fucking wet and starting to smell like something died. He turns right around and heads for Mikey's closet because no, he is still not prepared to open Gerard's.

"Fuck, Frankie, not again," Mikey mumbles.

"Emergency, fucking emergency! I'll fucking wash them, okay?" Which is more than either of these filthy bastards do anyway. Mikey's method is to wear everything just one day at a time and put it back in the closet and pretend it's clean, while Gerard is more straightforward and just embraces the skank as a lifestyle. It's something you get used to or you can't be around them.

"Yeah, okay," Mikey says, mollified. He can recognize a good deal when he sees it.

Frank dresses in Mikey's mercifully plain and non-themed underwear and Mikey's stupid skinny, low-cut jeans and ridiculously tight t-shirt, and Gerard's college hoodie that Mikey has appropriated to the point of hiding it in his closet. He has to roll up the jeanslegs like five layers and Mikey's chortling sleepily from the bed the whole time.

Gerard wraps his arms around Frank and kisses him and squeezes him hard enough to make it uncomfortable, but Frank squeezes back.

"I'll text you," Frank says. "During Mass."



It's a close thing again--Gerard offers to drive him but obviously that would be an adventure bound to end in death or mutilation, so Frank bikes and swears and sweats. He has to stop halfway and throw up in the ditch, but he kind of feels better after that and totally makes it up the ladder and into his room and out of Mikey's clothes and into the bathroom before his mother comes to wake him up.

"Oh, you're already up," she says. "Good! Don't do anything strange with your hair, please!"

"Okay, Mom," he says, adjusting the shower from hot to second degree burn. He needs to scorch the booze from his system and fast.

"You wouldn't let me cut it?"

"No, Mom."

He showers for a long time, even though he's so tired he only has the energy to jerk off once, and after the water runs cold he sits cross-legged on the fluffy carpet in the bathroom, wrapped in a towel, with another twisted into a turban on his head, and thinks about Gerard like a total girl. He almost falls asleep, too, before his mom knocks on the door.

"Frankie, honey, I wish you wouldn't, um..." She totally hesitates, which is always a sure sign that she's about to say something horribly embarrassing. "I wish you wouldn't be so obvious about, um, touching yourself in the bathroom."

It's actually less embarrassing than he anticipated. He's still kind of buzzed, though, so that might be why. "I wasn't obvious!" he yells.

A pause. "You've been in there over forty minutes."

"Mom, please, it really doesn't take that long." He could come like three times in forty minutes. Maybe he should give her some details on that point while they're sharing. He decides that no, this is enough, and there'll be payback somehow, he just knows it. "I was just enjoying a shower, totally innocent. And I even cut my toenails. I'm so clean I'm squeaking." He makes a squeaky sound to prove this.

"Okay," she says, obviously not convinced, but dropping it anyway. "Just get yourself ready. And don't do anything strange with your hair! I mean it! People already think I let you run absolutely wild."


He thinks about gelling his 'hawk spiky and stealing his mother's eyeliner but this is probably... okay, definitely not the time to piss her off. It was enough that he took way too long in the bathroom and she gives him the I-know-what-you-were-doing-in-there-pervert look she's been perfecting for the last year or so. Frank's been a pervert in the bathroom for way longer than that, so he should probably be happy she didn't start it up earlier.

He ends up pissing her off anyway because he falls asleep twice during Mass, his head lolling against her shoulder. After the second time she pinches the back of his hand hard enough to leave a red mark.

He holds his phone between his legs while pretending to be deep in prayer and texts Gerard, "* ***** *** *** ** [this msg censrd by GOD] xxxF"

In the car on the way back--fucking George is driving even though they're in Mom's car, bopping his big blond head to some sickening top 40 bullshit on the radio--Mom twists around and holds a hand out to Frank who's almost asleep again. He blinks at her.

"Your phone," she says.

"No!" he says, but he ends up handing it over, of course, and is fantastically happy that he's fucking paranoid about never keeping messages in the inbox or the sent folder. She'll be so disappointed when she goes through it.

"I really thought we had an understanding," she says.

He says, "I'm really sorry," because sometimes an immediate and solemn apology works. And he is pretty sorry he couldn't stay awake. That was just not cool.

"I don't think you are, Frank," she says. Ouch. She's got a really pained expression, too. Fucking George is pretending not to listen, but his big red fucking ears are basically twitching. "I just... I don't understand you. You don't seem angry, but you keep acting out, you're irresponsible and rude... You know better, I know you do."

Frank's gritting his teeth to stop himself from saying anything because whatever he says will make it worse right now. It would be better if he really was angry, but now he's just feeling fucking guilty for being a shit and also in no way about to stop. And she looks tired under her discreet makeup. He hopes she won't end up looking a wreck like Mrs Way. Gerard and Mikey were never even the kind of sneaky bastards Frank is, and it doesn't seem like Mrs Way has to put up with a lot of drama at home, so Frank can't imagine what caused it. Frank's dad once called her face 'twenty miles of bad road.' He was kind of laughing and shaking his head fondly. They knew each other when they were younger, Frank thinks. Frank's dad is a townie born and bred like Mrs Way.

"I'm going to hang on to this for a while," Mom says, her mouth tight. The way she does her hair for church, the tight bun, makes her look old-fashioned and stern, like the mistress of an orphanage in one of those orphan musicals. "You're not grounded, but I think cutting some privileges is appropriate."

He hangs his head and says, "Okay," and thinks phew. And then it occurs to him that Gerard will wake up, read his message and possibly, in fact probably, reply to it.

Frank stops breathing. He has to clench his hands into fists to stop himself from facepalming.

How is this his fucking life? He's pretty sure he saw shit like this in some crappy office comedy but in those it always leads to pratfalls and people getting locked up in their boss's office wearing only red polka-dotted silk boxers. In real life it leads to military school or deprogramming camp.

He sweats through the car ride and doesn't even think of the totally obvious solution until after they get home. As soon as he gets a second unsupervised, he grabs the house phone and locks himself in the bathroom and calls Gerard.

Gerard answers on the tenth ring, his voice groggy and rough.

"I can't really talk," Frank says. "Just saying don't reply to my message, okay, my fucking mother has my phone."

"Whuh? Shit. Were you late?"

"Oh, fuck no. We would not be having this conversation if that happened. I'd be fucking behind bars. Chained up in the basement until I turn eighteen or something. Okay, fuck, I have to go. Just had to warn you. Don't try to call me! I'm not grounded, okay."

"Okay." There's a little pause and some shuffling, probably Gerard scratching his head. "Yeah. Um. Okay, bye? Love you, Frankie."

And that's it. Frank stares at the phone for a little while. That was casual. It sounded casual, but Gerard always overthinks things... Frank chews on a nail and thinks. Fucking boyfriends, huh.

He calls back.

"Um," Gerard says.

"Just, you know," Frank says quickly. "I love you too, okay? You know? Yeah, okay. Bye."

He hangs up. That was that, they might as well exchange rings now. Fucking Meg Ryan.


He's not grounded, but he's not exactly free to go, either.

"I think you can live without Mikey Way for a day or two," his mother says. Obviously he can. He can even live without Gerard for a day but he doesn't fucking want to.

"But Mikey's kind of bummed right now, Mom," he tries, although he knows it's not going to go through. "His, um, girlfriend, like, broke up with him. It was pretty harsh."

"Mikey can come here and be bummed, then," she says, although she doesn't look real happy about that either. "Look, Frankie, I just need you to settle down a little, okay? Just spend some time with George and me. We can play Scrabble. Mikey can come here and play Scrabble with us, how about that?"

"Yeah, uh," he says. "That'll stop the tears for sure."

She just looks kind of sad when he says that, though, so he feels bad too, even though he's ready to punch a wall with frustration after just a few hours stuck in his room.

After two more hours he fucking well gives up and calls Mikey.

"Please," he says, pathetically. "Just hang out for a few hours and try not to... Um. I mean, like, wash your hair and don't do anything weird with it! And no obscene t-shirts. And shake George's hand."

"Stop it, Frank," Mikey says, his voice too hungover-scratchy to sound annoyed, but he totally could be annoyed. "Somehow you're getting me confused with Gee and at this point it's a little disturbing."

"Okay, just wash your hair, then," Frank says and laughs. "It was pretty scary this morning, I'm just saying."

"I got rained on," Mikey says. "Gee is looking at me like a crazy person. I think he wants to say something."

"Shit, no," Frank says. "The heat is around the corner. I repeat, the heat is around the corner. Just tell him, um. You know. Um. I'm bummed I can't introduce him to my mother?"

"Oh my God, this is too much," Mikey says. Away from the receiver he says, "He's being sappy as fuck so you're probably okay, Gee."


Mikey shows up in an almost clean, almost neat blue button-down shirt and a pair of jeans Frank remembers from two years ago, before Mikey discovered the girl cut. He hasn't put any shit in his hair at all, so it's both stringy and flyaway, and he looks like the greatest nerd the world has ever seen. It's amazing. Frank sees Mom blink and, like, readjust her worldview 90 degrees. Last time she saw Mikey was in the spring when Mikey had been in one of his brief goth phases. "I just like the aesthetic, like, sometimes," he told Frank. Unfortunately the goth aesthetic really worked as advertised on Mikey in the way where he actually looked like the walking dead, his already pale face only needing a bit of white foundation to lose the last glimmer of life, his eyes surrounded by black eyeshadow and disappearing into their deep sockets.

Today he looks wholesome enough, but really cranky.

"I look like an idiot," he says as soon as Frank's mother looks away.

"Yup," Frank says. "Thanks for coming and shit. I'm going seriously fucking insane here."

"Language, Frank," Mom says because she has ears like a bat. "Michael, would you like a soda? I hope you've boned up on your vocabulary!"

"Um," Mikey says, smiling his closed-lipped smile of I've-lost-track-of-this-conversation. "Sure."

"Great," she says. "Are you feeling all right? Frank told me you've had some bad luck in love. It's always sad, but perhaps for the best. When you're young those long-distance relationships are really hard to keep up."

Mikey throws Frank a completely blank glance. "I'm okay," he says after a while. With the pause and the blankness and the slight scratchiness still in his voice he sounds like he's trying to hold back tears or something, and Frank's mother nods solemnly and shakes her head just a little. That poor boy, she's thinking. Frank can see her worldview shifting another couple degrees.

"Hi!" fucking George booms, his big blond presence filling up the hall. He elbows past Frank and presents Mikey with a hand. "I'm George Szobotka. You and Frank are friends from school, right?"

"Mikey," Mikey says and barely touches fucking George's hand. "Way."

"Don't like being called Michael, huh?"

Mikey shrugs. "Everyone just calls me Mikey."

"Ha! When I was thirteen I made my family stop calling me Georgie! I had a jar and if someone slipped, I charged a quarter!"

"Wow," Mikey says.


Mikey is stupendously shitty at Scrabble, not because he can't spell (although he sort of can't) or because his vocabulary is small (it isn't smaller than Frank's, anyway) but because he has absolutely no vision. After a while, fucking George just moves over next to him and partners up without Mikey's consent. Frank's in pain from not laughing by then. Mikey just looks neutral. If he's laughing on the inside, it's deep inside. He just frowns at the board and frowns at his letters and spells things like NO or DOOR or TOE despite fucking George nudging him with his elbow and making crazy faces.

"How is your mother, Michael?" Frank's mother asks while it's Frank's turn and he can't pay enough attention to Mikey's expressions. "I never see her anymore."

"She's busy," Mikey says. "The station. And her salon."

"You tell her hi from us, okay? I hope Frank behaves when he's over. That he's not a big hassle for her."

"Oh no," Mikey says, his lips twitching. "She loves Frank."

"Yeah," Frank says. He could get CLITORIS, but he's pretty sure he's not in a place where he can get away with that today. If he had a V and a Y he could get VICTORY. But he has no such things. "She thinks I'm charming."

"Well, you are charming," Mom says, looking between them as if she thinks they're full of shit but can't quite see where the catch is. "Well, as long as he's no trouble. What do you do all day long?"

"Hang out," Mikey says.

"Play computer games," Frank says. SLIT. Still sounds a little dirty, but not overtly so.

"Not into anything more outdoorsy, then?" fucking George asks. "Football, baseball, swimming... I was on the lacrosse team in high school. Now there's a sport that will get your heart beating."

"Violent," Mom sniffs.

"Sometimes I go to the beach," Mikey volunteers. He doesn't volunteer that he never swims unless it's in beer.

Frank settles for SLIT. He says, "His Warcraft characters are very outdoorsy."


Mikey drinks so much Coke Zero Frank thinks bubbles should be showing up in his eyes. He smiles at Frank's mother enough times that she's clearly sort of getting fond of him and filing him under 'good boy'. Frank can tell because she makes the good coffee, which Mikey sucks down even faster than the Coke. He's finishing his second mug when she suddenly makes a little 'oh, right' face and says, "Your brother Gerard... when is he going back to college? He's still living with you and your mother, isn't he?"

Mikey's blank expression freezes on his face, and Frank's pretty impressed with himself for spotting that.

The pause before Mikey answers is far too long, and Frank sees his mother already opening her mouth to say something else that will also be totally awkward when Mikey finally says, "He's still thinking about his options."

"It was very, um," she says, leaning forward hesitantly. "Very nice and thoughtful of him to take a sabbatical to help your mother?"

Frank gulps down his own coffee to stop himself from telling her to stop prying, but Mikey just says, "Yeah."

"A man who respects his mother is a good man," fucking George says, pretty loudly, and if Frank didn't know better he'd almost think fucking George is trying to change the subject because he goes on, "That's what my mother always said, at least. Ha. Ha."

"Ha," Frank says. "I totally respect you, Mom."

Mikey just keeps his eyes on his coffee.


Frank doesn't get a single minute alone with Mikey, so he can only send him apologetic glances every once in a while, but Mikey just stays pretty much non-committal, nods and says yeah in the right places and manages to drink four cups of coffee without arousing suspicion or getting a single comment out of Mom. He also doesn't go to the bathroom once, so he must have a bladder the size of Manhattan. Frank's only had two glasses of Coke and one cup of coffee and he's already gone once and has to again. Freaky.

After Mikey's said goodbye and solemnly promised to pass on greetings, love and fluffy bunnies to his godless mother and insane brother, and shuffled out the door, fucking George says, "A man of few words," and Frank's mother says, "I just don't remember him being so sweet."

"He needs a good athletic hobby," fucking George says. "But I like him. I'm surprised we haven't seen more of him, Frank. He's your best friend, isn't he? You never want to just 'hang out' here?"

"Frank's the age when his own mother is an embarrassment to him," Mom says. She's saying it all lightly but Frank feels a pinch of guilt anyway because she's totally close to nearly not so wrong. He's the age when his mother is a serious spanner in the wheels of his alcohol, drugs and sex habits. She probably knows, somehow.



In the morning, he rides downtown with Mom and fucking George, and they drop him off at Bob's store while they go shopping for new wallpaper for the den or something super interesting like that.

It's just nine-thirty so the place isn't even open yet, but Frank knows Bob always comes in at like eight or whatever because he's a workaholic freak and also he loves the store like it's a person. Bob's just a summer out of high school, and it's not really his store, but he will take over one day and he basically treats it like it's his by now.

He opens the back door after only five minutes of kicking.

"Fuck, Frank," he says. He doesn't let Frank in immediately; instead he comes out in the alley and lights a cigarette. Frank makes big cow eyes at him and he shrugs and holds out the pack. "Mooching little shit."

"Hey, man, I'll pay you back, you know, when I can buy cigarettes."

"Keep laughing, keep laughing." Bob cuffs him on the head. Bob's not a man of a lot of words either, but he can be fucking funny, and he knows a lot about music. "What's up? You and Mikeyway both have been kind of absent this summer."

"Yeah, uh... You know."

"Right," Bob says, blowing a couple smoke rings. "So, Toro and me were thinking, right?"

"Oh no."

"Just thought we could try to drag him out for some fun on his sweet seventeen. We figured maybe you could convince his asshole hermit brother to join the festivities."

Frank concentrates on trying to duplicate the smoke rings. He really sucks at it. "What makes you think I can do it? I mean, yeah, hermit. Gee's not gonna be, like, the life and heart of the fucking party."

"Come on," Bob says mildly. "You got him wrapped around your tiny annoying finger, Iero. That's pretty common knowledge."

"Common knowledge where? In the 'hood?"

"Common knowledge with me 'n Ray and fuckin' Mikeyway. The involved parties." He chucks his butt in the overflowing can by the doorstep and lets Frank inside and makes him help put records back in their places after the kinds of dickhead customer who'll pick a CD off a shelf and then put it back somewhere else.

"I wasn't thinking anything major, just some buddies, a little beer, a little ganja, a little decent music unlike that shit they play down on the playa." Bob holds up something that looks like Benny Goodman, but surely that part is a joke. "Stuff our very own Mikeyway likes. Maybe paintball."


"That was just me and my wishful thinking."

"Oh man, we can do that for my birthday," Frank says, filling up with glee immediately. Bob pretty much rocks with the ideas. Fucking paintball. That's one of those things he forgets he wants to do unless he's reminded. Shooting at things without killing them. Total consequence-free mayhem. Best invention ever. He has to run up to Bob and, like, hug him and try to climb up to kiss the top of his head at the same time. "We'll just kill the fucking Ways inside five seconds and then it'll be fucking WAR, Bryar. I'm taking you to fucking Omaha beach."

Bob doesn't even try to shake him off. "See, now you're already talking like you've got Gerard Way signed and delivered on my doorstop. I knew it."

"Yeah, man, it's just, like... persuasion," Frank says, sliding down Bob's back. "Charm, you know. Grooming. Shit you wouldn't know anything about." He makes an expansive gesture that suggests everything except blowjobs.

"Sure," Bob says and straightens his clothes fastidiously.


When Mom and fucking George come to pick him up again Frank is full of cheer and goodwill and hope, and decides to chance it and asks, "So, uh, any chance you could drop me off at the station?"

They exchange an obnoxious parental look which makes Frank want to yell "I WAS TALKING TO MOM," but he wants something and that's never a good time to aggravate the decision-makers.

"Two hours, Frankie," Mom says. "And that means you're at home in two hours. Get it?"

"Got it but good, ma'am," he says and nods and tries to look innocent.


He waits until the car's disappeared over the hill before he jumps up and down like fifteen times and yells, "Freeeeeeeedom!" at the gray, chilly and totally indifferent sky. Some old dude getting into a muddy SUV gives him a really nasty look. He waves happily back. "Hi, man! Beautiful day!"

He thinks he hears, "Goddamn punk" as the dude slams the car door, but he's not really listening and he totally is a goddamn punk.

"And proud of it," he says to nothing and no one in particular. He swings by the front of the station to look in through the display window.

Gerard is sitting slouched and scowling behind the counter, looking like Death after working a battlefield all night.

"Holy fuck," Frank says and fucking slams through the door. He stops right inside. Gerard looks up. "Hi," Frank says. He knows his eyes have gone, like, huge and he's looking like a total nerd right now.

Gerard's making weird goggling eyes too, though, which is totally encouraging.

Frank looks out over the lot. There's not a car in sight now that the old cranky dude has taken his mud monster away. There's also no one in the store.

"Hi," Gerard says.

Frank shrugs at himself--whatever, man, do your thing, don't just stand there--and does his thing, which is something he's done a couple of times to freak out Mikey, a really nice flying leap onto the counter without actually bringing down everything on it, or killing himself.

He gets his legs around, even, and just knocks this one little stand of Fantastic Four tie-in gum onto the floor. Gerard's backed up like three steps and looks freaked out for a second, but he comes right back, stepping in between Frank's dangling legs like they do this shit all the time.

"Fuck, man," Frank says.

"We kind of gotta be more careful," Gerard says, really quietly, leaning close. "Your mom's kind of a bruiser."

"No shit." He thinks he should wait for Gerard or something, but about half a second after thinking that he's already got his mouth on Gerard's and his hands in his hair. He's been way patient for, like, days.

Oh, fuck, he can't even get close enough, it's like trying to scrape off skin or something. He wraps his legs around Gerard's waist and Gerard's hands are tugging at his shoulders. It's kind of crazy and manic for a while, sloppy as fuck and just brain switched off while he tries to climb into Gerard's shirt and rub his whole body against his at the same time.

When they both break off for air at sort of the same time, Gerard manages to actually say, "Dude, goddamn, Frankie, motherfucker."

"Whatwhatwhat?" Frank says. He's fucking panting like a dog at this point. He's still sitting on the counter if for 'sitting on' you accept any value where his ass has any kind of contact with it, however minimal. He's got most of his weight on Gerard and he's clinging like a monkey. Gerard has gone from pallor of Death to kind of rosy-cheeked, which is a good sign, Frank thinks.

"Just, fuck, considering the giant fucking plate glass window behind you." He doesn't let go or anything, though, like his body and his brain aren't really connected. Frank is so right there with him.

"Yeah, shit."

They kiss again because, like, what are they gonna do? But the blind soft fingers of nagging worry have started tickling the back of his head, so eventually Frank relaxes his legs and slides down to the floor, feeling just a little shaky and let down.

"I have like, I don't know, ninety minutes?" he says, wiping an arm across his mouth because his entire face is spit-wet. "But I can sneak out tonight, I think."

Gerard's just touching his own mouth, rubbing his fingers over it. "Mmh," he says. "Uh. Yeah. Fuck, I wasn't worrying this fucking much about where you were before."

"Well, I was. I mean, when we weren't-- I'd kind of be thinking about you, or like, you guys I guess. Maybe mainly you. Cause you're always here, right, so I knew if I could just get over here you'd be there to hang out with."

Gerard laughs, kind of low. "I guess I'm predictable as fuck."

"You're the bedrock of predict." He has to slink out from behind the counter and walk a couple laps around the store or he's going to molest Gerard again and yeah, giant plate glass window. "Oh yeah," he says, pacing back by the counter. "I didn't see this coming, though. The fuck are you doing serving the customers all of a sudden? This is a really shit place for making out."

"Ma took Mikey to buy clothes for school," Gerard says sullenly.

Frank has to stop and, like, savor that image for a second.

"Yeah," Gerard says. "Picture that if you will."


They go outside to smoke. The air is cool, and the sky seems even grayer than it was like ten minutes ago.

"I'm gonna get wet again tonight," Frank says. He leans against the wall all casual and slips his hand into Gerard's back pocket. Gerard gives him a look with an eyebrow in it. "What?"

"Maybe you could, I don't know, wear a raincoat?"

"Oh!" Frank says. "You're so smart, baby, you're like all forethoughtful and awesome."


When there are customers Frank sneaks into the back room, or hides under the counter and tries not to crack up, or skulks around the shelves doing his best Juvenile Delinquent. Gerard looks pretty animated and actually smiles at people, but he's somehow making people uncomfortable, it seems, because everyone keeps giving him second looks, like his pretty smiling face really is a glamor and they're sure they saw Something out of the corners of their eyes.

After a couple late summer visitor chicks in white shirts and flowery skirts finally leave--how long does it take to buy bottled water, seriously--Frank sidles up to Gerard and nudges his side and says, "We should fuck."

"Um," Gerard says. "I mean, is that, what?"

"Okay, no, for real," Frank says. "Bill Clinton says I'm still a fucking virgin. That's no good. I can't wait to be, like, good at it. I want it to be just awesome and not awesome but fucking nerve-wracking. Know what I'm saying?"

Gerard says, "Yes."

"And awesome for you and not just, like, watching out for the newbie." He waves a hand at Gerard's face of I'm-about-to-attack-your-arguments-until-you-can't-remember-what-they-were. "I'm up for it, you know I am. I'm not like those chicks on those shows, you know, where they're all worried their asshole boyfriends are gonna dump them if they don't put out so they're all wah wah wah I have to have sex! And it's a huge deal and then they never go through with it unless it's a plotline about teen pregnancy. I hate that shit. That's not me, okay?"

"Okay," Gerard says, apparently, amazingly stunned into silent introspection by Frank's speech.

"Uh... I don't just want you for the sex."

"That's what the asshole boyfriends always tell the chicks," Gerard says, but he's smiling, a kind of dazed smile.


Frank gets home on time and his mother looks really grateful. For a second he feels torn about his sneaky plans to sneak out--he's not that fond of feeling guilty--but he only has to think about Gerard for like a second--not even any dirty thoughts, just Gerard in general, the way he smiled today or what he looks like when he's drinking coffee or his hair hanging in his face or anything--and there is no fucking contest.

He helps out in the kitchen without being asked and after lunch he tidies his room and vacuums everywhere, even under the bed and inside the closet.

When he comes down the stairs with the vacuum, she's standing in the hall with her arms crossed, looking like she can't decide whether to look pissed off or just let go and laugh.

"You don't have to suck up," she says. "I will give you your phone back in a couple days."

"I'm not sucking up!" He isn't paying attention to the last few steps and narrowly avoids tripping on the hose and breaking his neck. It actually kind of hurts his feelings that she's so suspicious. "Come on, Mom. I just feel bad for being such a shit."

She looks a little sad, actually, and she rubs his cheek sort of fondly but she doesn't hug him or anything, and she says, "I know, baby. I just wish--" and cuts off and, like, never finishes the sentence. "If you still feel bad you could take that vacuum outside and help George with the car."

It occurs to him while he's crawling around in the backseat, vacuuming every seam and seatbelt hole, that fucking George has been around a lot this summer, and here he is cleaning Frank's mother's car, and earlier there was the painting of the fence and he may be working up to mowing the lawn. They haven't talked to Frank about any of this, it's just been happening. And he's been too busy planning his next illicit getaway to notice the pattern even though it's now clear to see it is a pattern that will end up in fucked up things like fucking George moving in and trying to become his dad for real.

"Are you going to move in?" he asks when he's crawled out of the car again and turned off the vacuum.

Fucking George is wiping the window with a soft cloth, leaning real close to catch every last stain. He kind of flinches when Frank asks.

"Why do you ask?" he says, clearly trying to dodge.

"Are you going to move in?" Frank asks again, because he can play that fucking game.

Fucking George shakes out the cloth and then just shrugs and pats at his big sweaty blond face with it. "We haven't made any concrete plans," he says.

"Okay," Frank says, but he keeps staring at George. Fucking George is like seven feet tall and totally goes to the gym, but Frank can't stop himself from thinking about Pete Wentz and Gabe Saporta, and thinking headbutt, motherfucker. It's just crazy fantasy land, of course. Frank hasn't won a fight in his life, although he's lost a whole bunch. Usually lost in the way where he ended up stuffed in a locker or dipped in a toilet or thrown under a shower with his clothes on.

That line of thought reminds him that he still has to go back to school even though summer school ending has made him feel like he's, like, done for the year already. Going to Hill was kind of better than going to the public school, despite the stupid uniform and the strict teachers. The kids weren't as bad, actually. No one tried to beat him up, and they would have got their asses expelled anyway because even though kids like Travie totally got away with peddling dope right on campus, there was serious attitude about fighting, and at the beginning of the summer the faculty totally called the cops on a dude who beat up a smaller kid, shit that was totally everyday at the high school in town.

"I'm very fond of your mother, though," fucking George is saying.

"Yeah, wow, that's not something I wanna know about, man," Frank says quickly because hell no. If he has to think about fucking George and his mother fucking, like, ever, it'll be too often. "No offense," he lies.

"I understand," fucking George says and smiles his I-totally-understand smile. Frank looks right back at him without smiling and thinks about going down on Gerard. He's going to do it. Tonight. Fuck you, fucking George.

Then he wants to hit himself in the face because it's not cool to use Gerard as some kind of fucked up revenge on George method. Gerard's so fucking above that shit. Frank almost feels like he should email him and be like, "I don't just want to suck your dick because I'm not supposed to."

"I'm pretty bummed that you have decided not to like me," fucking George says. "Really. I think you're a good kid, Frank, but you work really hard on that attitude."

I'm working really hard on not attacking you with the vacuum cleaner, Frank thinks.

"I know it's not easy to think about the future when you're fifteen and things like college and work and starting a family all seem so far away."

Fucking George is totally gearing up for a massive campaign of fatherly advice and Frank just will not deal with that today. Or any day. He says, "Look, George, seriously, don't f-- don't try to do the Dad thing."

George says, "Frank, I'm not--"

"You are not," Frank says, feeling perfectly calm, like eye-of-the-storm calm, "my fucking father."

Whoa, Luke Skywalker moment. For a horrible second he can imagine George revealing that in fact, he IS Frank's father because Frank's father went Dark Side and got shoved into a volcano by his best friend and the evil emperor then turned him into a blond seven feet tall Polack.

Yeah, maybe not. And Frank really looks like his Dad, short and dark and a little stocky, and he knows he reminds Mom of Dad all the time, so he's probably safe from that whole horror scenario. Fuck, an imagination is a fucked up thing to have. Gerard must be such a mess on the inside. A lot of the mess is showing, but it's gotta be just like the top of the iceberg. Frank has two sudden, insistent urges: to call his Dad and just talk and make sure he still fucking remembers he has a kid, and to just blow this fucking pop stand right now and, like, run back to the station and just do anything with Gerard, fuck, drink, watch him draw or talk about comics or whatever, anything.

He drops the vacuum hose that he's been holding hard enough to make his hand ache and just walks out of the garage before the eye of the storm blows past and the real shit starts. He marches right into the house, up the stairs, into his room, closes the door carefully and punches the wall next to it. He pulls the punch just a little, though, because he's not angry enough to actually break bones.

It still fucking hurts, and he staggers around the room for a while, sucking on his knuckles and basically feeling like an asshole. He kind of hates losing his temper. He likes doing stupid shit for fun, not because he's so pissed off he can't think straight.

To chill, he gets his covertly procured DVD of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre out of the secret compartment behind the desk it shares with the rope ladder and his small stash of porn mags and emergency weed and maybe-one-day condoms that he will totally get to use before they fucking expire, and watches it on his computer with his headphones, curtains drawn in his room and the lights off so he'll notice immediately if someone opens the door. By the time the credits roll he really is feeling better. Chainsaw therapy, totally the best.

When he goes downstairs for dinner fucking George keeps giving him long, kind of thoughtful looks but Frank's mother isn't in hysterics or calling the military school, so apparently he's biding his time for now. Frank eats his vegetarian lasagna (fucking George is like a compulsive meat-eater or something and since he's been around, Mom has started making two versions of every meal, no-meat-no-dairy for Frank and everything-but-the-fur for fucking George, even though when it was just the two of them she'd basically stopped eating meat too) and keeps quiet.

He goes back to his room after dinner and sits on his bed, bored as fuck but too twitchy to really do anything. He ends up making a playlist of songs about sex, which is really not hard because there are a lot of songs about sex. Most of them seem to be about sex with girls, though. He googles 'songs about sex with boys' but that just turns up a lot of articles about how listening to songs with explicit lyrics makes teenagers have sex earlier. His only question is how come that didn't work on him?

He kills half an hour looking for all songs with explicit lyrics on his playlist, but it's like all of them, basically, so he gets bored of it. By now it's eight-thirty. Mom and fucking George are watching TV downstairs, he can hear them laughing along with the laugh track. Frank's singing along to Nine Inch Nails. He really wants a cigarette. He's ready to crawl out of his own skin. He can't even think about Gerard or the itch to just fuck off right now now now gets, like, unbearable.

He goes downstairs again and watches the end of an old episode of Friends with Mom and fucking George even though he'd kind of rather spork out his own eyes. Fucking George gives him a look that's hilariously surprised, though.

After Friends, Mom zaps around until she gets roped in by more comedy reruns, fucking Seinfeld.

"I'm gonna take a shower," Frank says, because he can't take any more of this shit. Mom gives him a Look, but she doesn't actually say anything.

Fucking George also gives him a Look, but Frank doesn't know what that one means. It's kind of thoughtful, kind of curious. Sometimes fucking George seems like he might be close to figuring something out.

In the shower he gets the washing part over real quick and then stands there, like, thinking for a second with his hand on his dick, because right now there are sides to this coin to, like, measure. If he takes the edge off now he'll be totally chill for a while and maybe he'll even fall asleep. But on the other hand, it seems wrong to waste orgasms now.

He can't quite stop himself, though, because here he is, holding his dick. He takes his hand off it but he's pretty much primed and ready to go just from being naked, wet, and thinking about sex. Any two of those would be enough. Any one, probably. He puts his hand back on his dick, rubs his thumb over the head and gives in and thinks about that first time when they were so fucking stoned and Frank somehow got naked in Gerard's bed. He tries to remember what it felt like to look at Gerard and not know. He might as well be trying to remember a previous life or something. He's been completely retconned.

He does remember the moment he realized, and how stunning and breathtaking it was to suddenly get it. And Gerard's hand on his dick, the first time, that'll stay with him, Gerard's breath on the back of his neck and Gerard's body kind of curled around his back and how hot it was, sweaty hot and hard to get enough air through all the hotness.

He leans against the tile wall, his head back. The shower's now mostly on his chest, still warm but maybe starting to cool a little, and he strokes his dick the way he usually does it, hard and methodical, because he doesn't want to get experimental and shit now, this has to be strictly functional. He does touch his chest a little because he's kind of curious about that, the whole nipples on guys question, and a soft rub doesn't do anything much but pinching a nipple between thumb and forefinger and twisting has this weird effect where it definitely hurts but there's this quick, focused blast of whoa right into his dick, so he wants to stop and he doesn't want to stop at the same time, the same amount. He squeezes his dick and thinks he needs to ask Gerard about his nipples, and that thought leads to a thought about Gerard maybe biting his nipples and he pumps viciously hard once, twice and comes.

When he comes out of the bathroom wearing just the towel wrapped around his waist, he walks right into fucking George who's coming out of Mom's bedroom carrying a towel, too. One of Mom's towels, in fact.

"I hope you left some warm water," fucking George says, kind of airily.

"Not a lot," Frank says. He's knocked the air out of his hate-on for fucking George, at least for tonight, so he adds, "Sorry, didn't know you were going too."

Fucking George tucks the towel--which is a really old one Mom's had forever and never uses because it sheds pink fuzz--under his arm and leans against the doorjamb and looks at Frank like he wants to say something but can't decide where to start. Frank is still a little wet and his skin feels thin and sensitive and the leftover buzz from jacking off is still zapping around his body, sending tingles and sparks here and there. He puts his hands on his hips all casual but mostly to check his fucking towel stays up, and he looks at George's t-shirt because he's not going to stand here looking up at the bastard. Fucking George is wearing a plain gray shirt so there isn't even anything to look at.

"Frank..." fucking George says.

"George?" Frank says, lifting an eyebrow at fucking George's manboobs.

"I'm sincerely sorry I've given you the impression that I'm trying to take your father's place," George says, and Frank has to look up quickly to see his face. He's wrinkled his big blond brow. He looks pretty sincere, really. "That wasn't my intention."

Frank is sincerely fucking surprised because he's kind of been expecting to hear something about being such an asshole. Now he doesn't know what the fuck to say because he still doesn't like the dude but if fucking George is gonna bend over backwards to be nice it might be smart to throw him a bone.

He looks George steadily in the eye even though he has to tilt his head back and it feels like looking up at a building. "It's cool," he says. Never let it be said that Frank Iero can't be gracious. "I was in a bad mood. Don't worry, man."

That was a huge bone, he feels. Should keep fucking George happy for days.

"Thank you, Frank," fucking George says. "Is there anything I can do for you?"

Wow, seriously, at this point he's just fishing for extra credit. "No, I'm good," Frank says. "You might wanna pick another towel, though."

He leaves fucking George standing there looking at the pink towel with his big blond eyebrows still pulled together in a frown, and goes back to his room. He hangs the towel over the back of his computer chair and lies down on his bed, naked and warm and feeling pretty comfortable. Jerking off did make him feel a little sleepy, but there's still kind of a tension, something building. He rolls his head to the side and looks out the window, and maybe that's what's building, a fucking thunder storm. He can see clouds moving across the small square of sky visible, blue-gray and opaque. The window is open but there's no breeze.

A couple of crows fly past the window, their wings casting dissolved, misshaped shadows on the bedspread. A while later they fly past again, but this time there are three of them. Guess they had to invite a buddy to make a murder, Frank thinks, and now his eyes feel heavy and a little sore. He makes himself sit up and dig through his desk for his old alarm clock, check that it works and set it for midnight.


He wakes up before the alarm clock, curled up in a ball in the bed, clutching his pillow. He's kicked the blankets to the floor and he's cold because the window is still open but now the wind is whipping through the room and rain is pelting the curtains and leaving a puddle on the floor. As Frank unfolds his limbs from their cramped positions, lightning flashes so several times so rapidly it's like a strobe light. The crash of thunder follows almost directly, a titan's Pop-Rocks-and-Coke belch that just goes on and on until Frank's ears are ringing.

"Cool," he says, sitting up in the bed and blinking at the darkness outside, turned almost green by some weird thunderstorm optical illusion. He's completely awake now, thrumming with the storm and the tatters of whatever weirdo dream he was having--he can't even remember anything except something about underwater deer, but he remembers how it made him feel, anxious and elated at the same time, like waiting for news that could determine the course of the rest of his life. Fate and shit like that. Just the kind of thing you dream about on dark and stormy nights, now with 100% more diving deer. "Cool," he says again.

It's eleven-thirty so he turns off the alarm and gets out of bed to stand by the window for a while, looking at the mayhem outside and wishing he had a car and a driver's license. Or a chauffeur, maybe a tall and quiet dude named Jack or Vince who'd double as a body guard and carry a handgun. He could follow Frank around in school and show it to the assholes looking for someone small to hassle. It occurs to him that Gerard's got kind of a rep these days because he's so crazy and a total recluse, it might work to just have Gerard follow him around scowling and looking dark and tormented and like he's two wrong looks away from pulling a Columbine. It'd be pretty handy to have him around anyway, 'cause they could make out in the bathrooms if they wanted.

It'd be pretty evil to make Gerard go back to high school, though.

He gets clean clothes, unembarrassing underwear--not that it would matter one way or the other since he's seen Gerard's collection and there's no way to out-embarrass that shit--and digs out his raincoat that's too small by now and bright yellow. It's almost pointless to wear it since he's pretty much going to get soaked anyway. It might keep him a little warmer, though, and it's not like he really needs to cold-compress his chest every other day to be sick all the time, it totally happens on its own.

After grabbing the rope ladder of freedom out of the stash he also picks up those just-in-case condoms and tucks them in his pocket. He's not sure they'll be needed, like, tonight, but there'll be a time and the time will be soon. So, Just In Case. That thought makes his stomach feel fluttery and squirmy in a way that isn't actually unpleasant. Kind of warm, but also cold. He tries to imagine what Gerard is doing right now--there's no way he's sleeping because Gerard doesn't really believe in sleeping when it's dark outside. He could be lurking around the Neil Gaiman forums or playing Warcraft with Mikey, or watching something suitable for a dark and stormy night, like Eraserhead or Freaks or Halloween. Or he could be all jazzed up like Frank and hiding just-in-case rubbers under every pile of dirty clothes and lighting scented candles all over the place.

Frank cracks up at that thought and has to chew a little on the fold of his elbow to muffle the sound. If Gerard has scented candles they're probably black and smell like tar.

When he climbs out the window, the wind tries to yank him loose immediately. He clings to the window frame and closes his eyes and acknowledges that he is majorly defective for doing this but he's getting laid, for fuck's sake, and there are some things he's absolutely willing to fall out of a window for and this might be one of them.

Biking is also interesting in the wind. He gets out of breath immediately; the storm steals it with sudden gusts right in his face. He has to walk up the hills, and by the time he's coming around the last curve he's pretty much miserable and in pain and cursing the fucking weather with every wheezing breath.

Then the streetlights go out, leaving nothing but their floating afterimages behind, and he almost goes head first into the ditch before he gets his feet down. He has to wait for a minute right where he is until he gets used to the darkness and can see the road again, sort of. Getting thrown into pitch black without warning was maybe a little above and fucking beyond, he thinks. What is this, some kind of challenge? Frank isn't about to get intimidated by a little storm and a fucking blackout. What's next, struck by lightning, hit by truck and drowned in a puddle of his own blood, maybe. It would be pretty fucking sucky to die a hundred and fifty yards from Gerard's door, still clutching his just-in-case condoms.

He flips off the clouds with both hands and crosses the road quickly, feeling exposed even though the blackout obviously wouldn't cause car headlights to go out. It's this random fear he has--of being hit by an invisible car--and right now, in the dark, it seems at least a thousand per cent more likely to actually occur. He just wants to see what kills him, is that too much to ask?

Stumbling up the stairs, finally, soaked and half-blind and cranky and breathless, he notices the flickering light of a candle in Gerard's window.

Of course he's dug out a candle, there's a fucking blackout, but Frank's heart makes a weird, dizzying lurch and he has to stop for a second and take deep breaths and walk up slower. Too fucking slow for his peace of mind, because somehow he's stored up all his excitement while battling the elements and now it's all crashing down on his head and spreading everywhere until even his toes feel it. His pants are wet from mid-thigh to hems and damp everywhere else, and he has to kind of adjust himself because some switch has been flipped and discomfort or pain or cold don't work to distract him anymore.

The way this is all working out, he'll end up with some weird fetish for bad weather, popping wood every time there's a fucking raincloud in the sky. Just the littlest tug at the crotch of his jeans has his dick going yes yes yes, and he has make an effort to make himself take his hand away. Digging for the key in the front pocket is another exercise in frustration since now anything that occurs in any area near or nearish to his dick seems to make it harder and more insistent. He hasn't even consciously thought about Gerard, it was just the fucking candle and some subconscious chain of associations, candles and condoms and Gerard's room, and boom, horny as all fuck. He's not even stoned.

The hall is dark as a fucking crypt, and he stumbles over a bunch of sneakily placed shoes, and almost brains himself on a corner. "Fuck," he whispers. The dark kind of makes him whisper. Both Mikey and Gerard's doors are closed. For a second it kind of feel like he is breaking into a crypt. If anyone's making any noise, it's drowned out by the booming thunderclaps and the angry smacks of hard, fast rain on the roof and windows and everything. He could call out but he can't quite make it happen, so he staggers down the hall in the dark, leaving his shoes and probably a puddle of rainwater behind on the carpet.

Gerard's door isn't actually closed closed, just pushed shut, and it swings open with just a little nudge. Frank goes inside and stubs his toe a little on the doorstep when he does, but fuck that. Gerard's sitting cross-legged on the bed, wearing his Snoopy pajamas, and he's looking right at Frank, his eyes glittering black in the candle light. He isn't doing anything but chewing on his nails. He also doesn't look startled at all so he must have heard Frank coming in and then just not come out in the hall to meet him. The freak.

Frank shuts the door carefully behind him. The latch clicks. Gerard doesn't move. Frank thinks maybe he should say something. Like 'hi' or whatever. But he just pushes back his raincoat hood and his hoodie hood and his wet bangs out of his face. His fingertips are pruning up. His dick is pretty much throbbing by now, like having a choir of sex crazed maniacs yelling do me do me do me in his pants. He takes off the wet raincoat and leaves it on the floor, and the hoodie, same. Gerard's still just sitting there, like maybe he isn't sure Frank is actually there, because even though a normal person probably wouldn't think a soaking wet kid in a yellow raincoat is a hallucination or ghost or whatever, this is Gerard.

Frank is about to tell him not to worry because this is real--he knows it's true because he can feel the water dripping down his back, and there's no hallucination that can replicate that special disgusting feeling of wet denim clinging to skin--but he gets distracted by his dick again for the hundredth time and he has to, seriously has to put his hand on it, squeezing a little through the jeans, and it's like a punch how his heart just races and his breath catches and Gerard is still just looking.

Frank makes himself move, and he takes the five steps from the door to the bed on shaky legs, pulling his t-shirt over his head on one and two and letting it just drop on the floor on three, unzipping his fly on four and pushing his pants down impatiently on five. It's pretty fucking smooth if he can say that himself, and Gerard's mouth totally drops open and he finally moves, sliding forward on the bed and unfolding his legs and reaching for Frank.

"Hi," Frank says. "It's raining."

He stamps the jeans off, probably not looking as smooth there, swaying around on one foot, but Gerard's hands are scrabbling at his waist the second he's free of them so it really doesn't matter much.

He thinks he could come just by willing it, but he clenches his teeth and wills against it firmly and lets Gerard pull him onto the bed and onto his lap.

"Hi," Gerard says, his face against Frank's chest. His hair seems a little damp and Frank leans down suspiciously, burying his nose in it, and he smells something cheerfully girly and fruity like apple shampoo or something.

Oh, tonight is a special night for sure.

"Sorry," he whispers, pushing his hips forward just a nudge, his dick catching deliciously on the fabric of those amazingly dorky pajama pants, and he pushes his hands up under the shirt to get skin. "I can't even--"

Gerard lifts his head and pulls Frank's down and kisses him, leading with tongue right out the gate, and Frank slaps a hand over his own dick and comes with like two strokes, and bites Gerard's lip when he does.

Gerard just grabs him around the waist and neck and pulls him in so tight he can hardly breathe, and Frank thinks he can, like, make out Gerard saying his name right into his mouth.

When he has to struggle loose for breath, he says, "Sorry about Snoopy," cause he feels a little sheepish about that, honestly, he'd maybe planned to get the fucking pajamas off first.

Gerard kind of laughs, kind of just pants, and shrugs against Frank, and then he does another one of his weirdly practiced sex moves--he just rolls and flips Frank sideways so he's suddenly flat on his back on the bed and Gerard's looking down at him.

"Jesus, Frank," Gerard says gently. He looks totally dazed and he also looks kind of mysterious and darkly beautiful in this light, his skin glowing and his hair highlighted in gold-orange.

"Yeah, Jesus, Gerard," Frank says. "Really, I just, like. I couldn't concentrate. Sorry about just, you know." He's still got that excitement bubbling in his stomach even though he just came, it just barely knocked the edge off. Maybe thunderstorms turn the sex drive up to eleven or something because he feels like he could go and go, as long as Gerard keeps looking at him with that dazed look, or the other look that's focused and hungry, or some other that means he's going to stick around and keep his hands on Frank's body.

Gerard is touching him pretty deliberately, slowly, like mapping him out or something, starting at his throat, just running fingertips down to the notch between his collarbones, and back up, and then rubbing his thumb over a nipple slowly, like four or five times and on like the third touch Frank starts feeling it like he just needed his fucking nipples to be programmed to receive, like his preferences weren't set right before.

"You can, uh, you can totally bite them or whatever," he says, and it feels a little weird to say, because that's maybe getting to a slightly more advanced stage than this, whatever stage this is. "I'm not super sensitive."

"I am, kind of," Gerard says and bends down. His breath fans over Frank's chest and Frank thinks about taking back the part about not being sensitive. "I don't need a lot. Sometimes too much is just right, though."

Frank can't even think of what the fuck that actually means in, like, terms of sexual acts that are physically possible for him to perform, but he intends to find out. And Gerard drags his mouth over his chest and scrapes his teeth over a nipple, and then he bites, not hard because he's clearly testing Frank. He runs one of his hands down Frank's arm at the same time, and folds his fingers around Frank's.

Frank squeezes his hand and says, "If you take your fucking Snoopy fucking pajama off I'll suck your dick, okay. Oh-- kay." The last bit comes out breathy because Gerard kind of bit down right there and there was that pain that gets mistranslated on the way to Frank's dick somehow because he can't help pushing his hips up against Gerard's thigh. "That's so fucking weird how that works. It's like, ow fuck, and then whoa, the hell?"

Gerard runs his tongue gently over the sore spot and that's another thing that works. Then he pushes himself up and sits back, unbuttoning his shirt with his head bowed, his hair hanging in his face. Frank wants to kiss him or help him get naked but he also just wants to watch, because Gerard is still somehow all bashful about it, fumbling with the buttons and getting confused about the sleeves like taking off a shirt has suddenly become some kind of complex operation that can only be performed by trained professionals.

"I never really settled for, like, a position," Gerard mumbles once he's defeated the shirt and shoved it off the bed. "I mean, the whole top versus bottom thing is kind of restrictive and it really depends on whoever you're with. I usually just went with whatever happened, I guess it worked okay. I missed out on a lot by doing everything so fucking fast. It was just about getting off before I came down."

"Huh," Frank says because he doesn't know what else to say. Gerard's kind of just sitting there, his hand resting lightly on Frank's belly, his fingers moving slowly, but his eyes are unfocused and he looks sad or maybe confused. Trying to remember some lover who wasn't Frank and probably knew more about sex but clearly meant less in the big scheme of things. Frank's pretty sure Gerard will remember him in two years. "Didn't you ever, people?"

Gerard blinks his eyes into focus. "In high school," he says. His hand slides casually over Frank's hipbone, down the crease between hip and thigh, and Frank spreads his legs a little, mostly automatically. There's still something slow and syrupy and post-orgasmic about the way he feels like he's sinking into the bed and floating above it at the same time--his mouth pulls into a smile at that thought because what the fuck?--but his fingers are digging into the sheets and he's hot all over, breaking into sweat even though his hair is still wet from the rain.

Gerard's attention is focused on him again--he's staring down at Frank's dick or at Frank's hips or whatever, at his own hand moving over Frank's damp skin--or maybe he's thinking about something else and just happens to be looking that way, but he keeps stroking his fingers over that tendon, like, the one right next to Frank's balls and it's pretty much cutting Frank's thoughts into shreds with how not-enough it is. He can't help moving, flexing his thighs and back and kind of chasing the touch but Gerard's really good at anticipating the stealthiest thrust.

"Oh fucker," Frank mutters and digs himself out of the quicksand of, like, braincrashing lust--Jesus, the quicksand of lust? "I just thought "the quicksand of lust", dude, what the fuck?" He has to unclench his fingers from the sheets to make the air quotes.

Gerard cracks up the way he does when he's surprised, first a choked kind of gurgle and then the big honking BWHA HA HA that cuts off immediately when he realizes he just made a noise loud enough to wake, like, his mother downstairs. "Shiiiit, Frankie," he mumbles with his hand over his mouth.

The quicksand of lust lets Frank go finally with that and he pushes himself up so he can actually reach Gerard and slide an arm around him and kiss him hard and put a stop to that teasing thing. Gerard opens his mouth and lets Frank take charge, he just yields like, like, whatever, just this lack of resistance that's actually just as teasing, and Frank pushes harder just to find the fucking edge, almost biting Gerard's mouth and, totally on a whim, scraping his nails hard over Gerard's chest.

Gerard's hands, that have been lying light and still on Frank's shoulders, tighten for just a second and dig into the muscle. Frank shifts and slides closer to Gerard, and they're sitting in a really stupid position because his knees are in the way, pushed between Gerard's thighs somehow and keeping them apart. He can feel Gerard's dick, though, through the fabric of the fucking Snoopy pants, the really messed-up Snoopy pants because Frank came all over them like five minutes ago.

"Dude, dude," he says, just barely moving away enough to free his tongue for talking. "Snoopy has got to fucking go." His hands are already on it, pushing at the waistband. Obviously that doesn't really do much since Gerard is sitting on the fucking pants, so Frank ends up just shoving his hands under them, scratching his fingers through wiry hair and over hot, silky skin. Gerard sucks in a sharp breath and Frank twists out of his grip and pushes him down on his back, like a tackle but slowly, and Gerard yields again and lies still under him.

Frank holds himself up on his arms and says, "So, okay, seriously, tell me if I'm not doing it right, okay?"

Gerard nods, but Frank wonders if he's really actually listening because he's gone all unfocused again and there's a whole new nuance to the stillness--less like he's just letting Frank do his thing and more like he's trying really hard to stay this way.

Frank has thought about this, obviously, and mostly he thought things like take it easy and work up to it and shit like that, and he was still thinking that somewhere in the back of his head just two seconds ago but somehow what happens is that his brain just pretty much stops telling him sane things and instead hits all systems go. So he just tugs those fucking pajama pants down enough to get access and, like, goes down.

Well, he stops for one second to consider the situation from a closeup type position, maybe going a little cross-eyed staring at Gee's dick, like, right there, living color, big as life and twice as hard. There's a bit of a lingering smell of soap under the more there and really familiar bitter-nutty smell of come. He sticks out his tongue and licks and tastes just skin and a little salt and then a sharper, saltier, slicker taste that's also really familiar. But different. It's not bad, not that he thought it would be, and Gerard's groin muscles twitch under his hands so he opens his mouth and bends down, just a little bit at a time, sucking lightly and getting used to the size of it, and the thought, too, because hi, holy shit. Dick is definitely a new thing for his mouth, sort of bigger than he thought--not bigger like monster big, just kind of there's more of it than there is of his mouth, and he has to open up really wide and it's difficult to remember to breathe through his nose.

The salt-sharp taste is covering his tongue and he's kind of drooling and it makes it easier to move, pull slickly back up and then push down again, and he does that a couple times. It's a really fucking strange thing to do, he thinks, and a really fucking strange position to be in, leaning over a dude's crotch, kind of disconnected from him but at the same time really really close in a big way.

He really can't take very much of it down, but he's not going to risk choking or gagging because he doesn't want to get any bad associations with this, he wants it to be just a fun thing and he wants to always be into it. Gerard's still not moving in the way where he's gone totally rigid, which Frank decides to interpret as positive. He wraps his hand around the part of the dick that is not in his mouth, which is actually really ideal and obvious, and now he totally remembers that Gerard did that to him. The memory is pretty hazy, though, because he has to dig it out from under a lot of debris what with how his mind had been like exploding all over the place at the time.

He works on setting a rhythm, not just slop around all randomly, and it gets kind of hypnotic after a while, the zen of sucking cock, and the texture of the skin starts to imprint itself on his brain so he's got a big 3D visual model floating before him, only not quite as ridiculous as that. He moves his tongue, pushes it against the notch just under the head, and against the underside as he slides down, and on the upstroke flicks quickly over the slit at the tip. The taste kind of, he doesn't even know, billows in his mouth making him drool even more. His lips feel rubbed a little raw, tingling and sensitive, and the same goes for the rest of him even though no rubbing has been going on anywhere else, really. He shifts, and realizes that he'll probably be into this for always because it's totally turning him on, like, more than he was already turned on in a more general way. It must be the association, like, sucking dick, his brain is making it about his own dick and suggesting that it should also be sucked. Right now, maybe. He moves again, trying to find something to rub against. Finally he has to just use his own hand because it's crazymaking how much he needs to be touched, he could probably come if Gerard just, like, put his hands in his hair, oh fuck, if he pulled at his hair or pushed up his hips or something rude and selfish and demanding like that.

He squeezes his dick and pushes down really deep on Gerard's because he's basically blacking out from all those random impulses attacking his brain, and he doesn't even gag, it's just a smooth slide, not deep like deep-throating deep, of course, but kind of more than he thought he could deal with, probably more than he could deal with if he wasn't half braindead.

Then he does feel Gerard's hands on his head and that just shuts down the last bit of active thinking and he shoves his fist over his dick and his other fist on Gerard's dick and tightens his mouth and sucks hard, and he comes and it's like being kicked in the stomach but good, like so much good that it's almost horrible, but he can't even make a sound because his mouth is so full, and he has to pull back to gasp for breath and Gerard's hands are so tight in his hair and won't let him back down again.

"Whaaaa--?" he says, his tongue not exactly all about articulation right now.

"Just, just, with your hand," Gerard says tightly and Frank has no idea what he's saying, but Gerard's hands twisting in his hair are insistent and Gerard's also pushing up against his hand with his hips, and Frank just stares down and kind of struggles dumbly and when Gerard comes he gets the whole load right in his face.

Gerard lets him go immediately. Frank's brain goes what? what? orgasm!

"Fuck," Gerard says faintly. "Sorry, shit."

"Wha--?" Frank says. He wipes a little at his face. Wow, he got slimed after all. It's a huge mess, and his hands aren't much better so he ends up grabbing a corner of the sheet and using that. He doesn't know how he even keeps his head up, though, because he feels like he's been stretched out and let go and should be a limp puddle and not still having thoughts with words in them and coordination in his limbs.

Gerard's kind of scrambling up now, touching his face and lifting him a little, and kissing his sore mouth softly and carefully.

"Hey," Frank mumbles, "like, wow."

"Fucking crazy," Gerard says. "Pulling up is really the universally accepted signal for I'm gonna come, duck now."

"Oh," Frank says. "But you totally stayed, like, so I came in your mouth that time. So I was kinda going for that I think."

Gerard kisses him again, licking the corners of his mouth and pushing it open with his tongue. Frank can feel some distant, feeble twitches of getting turned on again. He thinks he might have to give it a little more than five minutes before he can get any proper action, though. Which is okay since Gerard's kind of negotiating them both into a snuggling type formation now, pulling Frank close and wrapping his arms around him. Frank just closes his eyes and kisses him back lazily, slowly, and knows he's sinking into sleep. He doesn't fight it very hard.

In fact he's almost asleep, just on that edge where everything's slow and unreal, when, completely without warning, his mother's face pops into his mind.

"Shit!" he says, and he jerks completely awake hard enough to shake Gerard's hand off his waist.

"Mmh!" Gerard might have been all the way asleep, in fact, because he's blinking and flailing a little, stuck with his arm under Frank.

"Sorry, fuck, I just--I can't just come here and pass out again, I so almost got caught last time." He sits up and takes a few deep breaths. Gerard flops onto his back and spreads his arms out, looking at him with heavy-lidded eyes. "Also your candle's about to fall over and light the desk on fire."


Frank clambers out of bed and stumbles across piles of shit to the desk to the rescue. The candle is listing like the tower in Pisa, a little too small for the candlestick or something. It's not black or scented, it's just a plain white standard candle, but it's got a good drip going like this, so it passes goth inspection, Frank thinks. It's also standing on top of a pile of paper, which, holy fuck. There are wax stains all over some random sketches and stuff. "Fuck, Gee," he says. "I thought Mikey was the one who does fucked up shit like this. I can't believe either of you survived, like, past kindergarten."

"I think the same about you sometimes, Frankie," Gerard says, totally not upset that they almost just died in a fire. "You're a little, like... reckless. And fearless, like you're just not afraid of anything at all."

"Except spiders."

"Except spiders, okay." Gerard has rolled onto his side and is just watching Frank now, looking awake enough and smiling a faint, distant smile as if he doesn't know it's even there himself.

"And small spaces. And old ladies with varicose veins. And dying in a fucking fire, asshole. And pitbulls, and spiders, and spiders and motherfucking millipedes, scorpions, and big flocks of birds. And spiders, did I mention the fucking spiders?"

Now Gerard is laughing, soft tired giggling, and shaking his head. "Okay, okay, okay. You're just a big chickenshit, sorry."

"Damn right," Frank says, leaning on the desk and striking a gangsta pose. "Don't fucking call me fearless, I will fight you."

The candlelight flickers and makes the air seem full of, like, texture, kind of grainy like underexposed photographs, and Gerard looks all gold-skinned and black-eyed and smooth like a statue. He stops laughing like the fadeout at the end of a song, and his eyes are locked on Frank, almost too intense suddenly. It makes Frank want to either hide or stand taller, so he slouches a little more instead and gives Gee a look that might be seductive or just retarded, he's not sure because he hasn't had time to examine his come-sex-me looks in the mirror yet.

Gerard closes his eyes, like seriously scrunches them shut for several seconds. When he looks up at Frank again he's got this look, sort of sad, sort of not, like he's not even sure himself. He's chewing on his lip.

"What?" Frank says.

"Fuck," Gerard says, holding out his hand. "Frankie. Just come here."

Frank unslouches. "Yeah," he says. Like, just the sound of that, Gerard's voice sounding all low and a little hoarse, and he's half-hard again. Because he's total Plug-and-Play, clearly. Just hit that big button that says SEX. "Yeah... okay."

Gerard grabs his hand as soon as he's within range, and tugs himself to the edge of the bed and up. He kisses Frank's knuckles and then turns his hand over and kisses the palm, like they're in a period movie and their love dares not speak its name. And his wrist, the inside where the veins are blue and close under the skin; and the fold of his elbow. Frank feels Gerard's eyelashes flutter against his upper arm, tickling but not enough to make him jerk away. He stands really still and lets Gee just do what he wants, feeling warm and dazed and maybe like he's still actually asleep. With the candlelight not really lighting up that much, and the sound of rain still slapping on the windowpanes, and Gerard's serious, solemn face, it does feel pretty unreal. The most real part is how Frank is standing on the Snoopy pajama pants. He grins when he realizes that, and Gerard looks up at him and smiles shyly and then turns back to kiss Frank's bellybutton and run his hand slowly down his hip.

"It doesn't feel real," Frank says because he wants to explain, like... whatever he wants to explain. He isn't even doing anything.

"No, it doesn't," Gerard says with his eyes closed. His lips are moving against Frank's skin. "We're inside a bubble. Everything else is gone, or it's us. We're gone."

That's pretty much it, for real. Trust Gerard to have words for what he's feeling and what Frank is feeling too.

"Maybe the storm opened a rift in time and space," he says. He touches Gerard's hair, which feels strange because it's, like, totally clean and runs all silky through his fingers.

Gerard sighs and looks up, meeting Frank's eyes. "We're adrift out there, lost," he whispers. "We can't get back because I don't think this room has faster-than-light drive and even if it did we don't know how to pilot it."

"Well, Earth is overrated anyway," Frank says. "We'll just live on, uh..."

"Love," Gerard says, completely fucking serious.

"I think they say you can't actually live on that," Frank says but he can't help grinning again like a total fool.

"But if reality isn't real anymore, love is like the most real thing we have," Gerard says, frowning, and Frank has to bend down and kiss his upturned face, and his mouth and it's totally unreal that he can do this, that he's here and feeling like this. It's kind of upsetting somehow, that he can't make it seem solid in his mind. He's a pretty solid guy, he thinks. He's not all caught up in weirdness like Gerard. In fact Gerard once told him that he's good to have around because he'll always keep shit on planet Earth. But that's apparently right down the toilet now, so much for being grounded and, like, sane.

They just kiss for ages, and Frank's back starts to feel kind of strained but he doesn't even want to break off to move, it's too fucking perfect. Kissing is one of those things people never really talk up enough, it's always about something else. Maybe it's just hard to describe what's so great about it. He sure can't, it's just great and he wants to do more of it. Fortunately Gerard is okay with that. And Frank's mouth still feels... delicate or something, like it's been used hard, which it has, so ha. And it makes kissing even more interesting.

Then there's a hard bump on the door, like someone kicking it or maybe falling against it, and they both jump so high it would be fucking hilarious if it wasn't so heart-attack-inducing.

"Gee?" says Mikey's voice outside the door, kind of high-pitched with a strange edge to it. "Gee? What?"

Gerard's hand tightens on Frank's waist. "Mikey?"

There's like a scratching on the door, which makes Frank think for a second that Mikey's been fucking turned into a zombie and is here for their brains and they'll have to beat him out of undeath with the candlestick, which is just a really nasty thought on so many levels.

Then Mikey finally finds the doorknob and the door opens. He's wearing just his Calvins and that awesome old school Transformers t-shirt that Frank has been making plans of stealing, and not his glasses which kinda explains the fumbling. His face looks fuzzy and naked without them, and even more so because he's got tears in his eyes and his eyelids are swollen.

Gerard's up, dragging the sheet with him, and Frank too because he hasn't let go of him. He's looking scared and worried.

"Mikey, Mikey, hey. What's wrong?"

"Nothing, I don't know. The lights don't work," Mikey says, looking down and wiping furtively at his eyes. He's always been way more embarrassed about crying than Gee, kind of determined to cling to his dignity. "I guess I freaked out a little. Can't find my glasses."

"Blackout," Gerard says. "There's a thunderstorm."

"Hi, Frank," Mikey says, still looking down at his feet. "At least I guess it's Frank. Fuck."

"It's Frank," Frank says. "Um. I'm naked again, sorry."

"Fucking horndogs," Mikey says completely without inflection. He's apparently too upset about waking up in the dark to get upset about random attacks of nudity.

"Sorry, Mikey," Gerard is saying, touching Mikey's arm, stroking it gently. "I didn't think, uh, you know. Fuck, I just forgot about you."

"Yeah," Mikey says, quirking a little wry smile, although his eyes are still glittering with tears. It looks pretty in the soft light. Mikey has those big soulful eyes like Gerard's, although set really differently in his face. "I guess I can see why. It's not on you, man. I mean, I fell asleep in my chair and had some stupid fucking dream, and I just, I guess...I lost it a little. Didn't know where I was and stuff. I'm okay. Should I go or are you gonna put some clothes on?"

"I think you're standing on my clothes," Frank says.

"Do you have candles?" Gerard asks. "Fuck, I almost lit the house on fire already, this might end up a disaster."

"Just give me my pants or something," Frank says. "They're, uh... actually they're wet. Maybe just my boxers."

"And your clothes are always wet, too," Mikey says, kind of resigned. He crouches down and pokes through the sad little pile of clothes. "Ew, Christ. Nothing gross better have happened in these things that I'm touching right now."

"No, no," Gerard says. "Just rain, I'm pretty sure."

"Also, why are they spread out all over the floor?"

"All the gross things happened on the bed," Frank says, grinning.

"Hope these are yours," Mikey says, waving Frank's underwear around. He's holding them gingerly between his thumb and forefinger. "Cause I'm not looking anymore, okay."

Frank leans quickly forward and snatches the boxers out of Mikey's hand and puts them on so fast he almost falls over. Half his head is still in the sex place and won't stop, and the rest is just really confused and going, wait, what, why did the naked kissing end? But he doesn't hold it against Mikey. Waking up in the dark is creepy, especially if the weather's all dramatic. And Mikey's a good kid, really awesome. Still, just a little frustrating.

"Look," he says. "Mikey, I'll go find your glasses, okay? I guess you can't find them yourself if it's dark and they're on the floor or whatever."

"I'm not totally blind," Mikey says, but he looks kind of relieved, like he really didn't want to go back to his room. "Thanks, though."

Frank goes, and quickly realizes he sort of spaced on how maybe it would have been a good idea to bring some kind of light source with him because without light he's obviously just as fucking blind as Mikey. But he thinks maybe Gee and Mikey want a couple minutes to, like, hug it out or whatever, so he fumbles his way down the hall anyway. First he goes to the bathroom and sits down to pee because he doesn't want to end up getting it all on his feet. Then he crawls around on the floor in Mikey's room for a while which is not quite as dangerous and disgusting as doing the same in Gerard's room but close. He doesn't find the glasses there, but he does find a lighter. Score. It even has gas left.

Mikey's desk is covered with CDs mostly, and some comics--it's hard to read by the light of a crappy Bic lighter, though, so Frank has to give up on trying to read the new Wolverine, but he'll remember to get it once they have electricity--and his cell phone which, duh, the dork could have used for light. He must have been really freaked out. Frank flips it open. Dude has like five unread messages. Must have slept right through them beeping.

The cell phone display is much brighter than the lighter and it's not hard to find the glasses now, even though Mikey has poked them way under his computer monitor so they're on the verge of falling off the back of the desk.

Frank puts them on and blinks and squints. Whoa. He has reading glasses that he never uses, but Mikey's massively myopic and wearing his glasses feels like having your eyeballs squeezed or something. Also these things are kind of covered in fingerprint smudges and dust. Frank grabs a shirt off the chair and tries wiping them a little. Probably doesn't help a lot, though.

He walks back to Gee's room in the bluish light of the cell phone. Mikey and Gerard are sitting on the bed together, Gerard's arm around Mikey's shoulders, which gives Frank a little jolt of déjà vu. Gerard's possibly still not wearing clothes because he's wrapped himself in a sheet and Frank can see Snoopy on the floor where they left him. Mikey's skinny feet hang over the edge of the bed, toes pointing inward sadly.

Here's Frank standing in the door again like he's waiting for permission. He's, like, entitled to come in here now because he just blew the owner of the room, it's gotta be a rule. He marches up to the bed and sits down next to Gerard.

He stretches out his legs and notes that when they're sitting in the same position, his toes are about level with Mikey's ankles. It reminds him randomly of this time when some old guy saw him in Bob's store talking to Ray who's like six feet tall plus another foot of hair, and the oldtimer was like, "How old is your son?" Which, seriously, that was the fucking straw that fucked the camel. Ray cracked up so hard he couldn't even answer, he just pointed at Frank and brayed like a sick donkey. Ray's usually really polite to people, too. The old dude pretty much backed away slowly and got the hell out of the store. And then Bob was making horrified faces and banging his head on the desk all, "He was going for the fucking box sets, you idiots! The box sets!"

"What's so funny?" asks Mikey in a weird, soft voice like he's not sure he even wants to speak. He's maybe still crying, which is also déjà fucking vu. How does Frank always end up in this place, honestly? Gerard's also looking a little crushed or something.

"Uh, just... thought of something," Frank says, awkwardly. Gerard pats his leg and smiles at him, a brave-little-toaster smile. "Are you guys okay? Um, here are your glasses, sorry. And your phone. You have messages."

Gerard hands the stuff to Mikey and Mikey puts on his glasses and looks at the phone for a while and then puts it down next to his leg. After a couple seconds he jerks his hand out and shoves it away hard. It lands on the floor with the brittle crash of expensive shit breaking.

"Oh," Frank says. He suspects he sees where this is going. He's just going to shut up now. Gerard leans against Mikey and kisses his ear. His hand is still on Frank's leg, though, reassuring. And Frank thinks he might be a little jealous, not like in a don't touch my boyfriend omg kinda way, but in a way he thinks he's always been around Gee and Mikey, the wishing he had a brother kind of jealous. He feels that just a little with his dad and his uncle, even, because they're close and have lots in common, down to the marrying of bimbos. Why couldn't his dad wait, like, two years before infuriating Mom to the point of divorce? Then maybe there would have been another kid. Not a lot of use whining about it, though. Frank will just have to borrow Mikey or something. Mikey can be his little brother even though he's older. Mikey could never be anybody's big brother, it would go against all laws of God and man.

"Yeah," Mikey says morosely. "So... yeah."

"Yeah," Gerard says and strokes his hair.

"Um. Yeah," Frank says, although he's not sure what they're actually talking about. There's a silence.

"Does anybody have any weed?" Mikey asks.

"No," Frank says. Fuck, he could use a toke or two himself at this point. Just drop out and lie with his head on Gerard's lap and think about nothing in particular. Maybe give him another blowjob at some point if the urge takes him, which is totally would if he was high. It will even if he isn't, he's pretty sure. In fact just thinking about it makes him want to. Fucking Mikey. Sorry, Mikey.

"No," Gerard says. Not that he ever has weed. Mikey's the one who buys it, or Frank. You can't get weed online.

"So," Mikey says, pulling up his legs and wrapping his arms around his knees. "If I hadn't tripped on Frankie's fucking shoes and made enough noise to warn you I would have walked in on you two getting it on, right?"

"Oh yeah," Frank says immediately before Gerard can even think about denying it.

"We have to figure out some system with, like, socks on the door or something."

"What!" Gerard says, looking kind of outraged. "Like I haven't spent all summer sneaking around trying not to see too much of you and-- uh." He falters and looks at Mikey and then up and then at his hands, and then he scratches his eyebrow thoroughly.

Mikey is rolling his eyes so hard Frank thinks he might hurt himself. "Dude, you can fucking say his name," he says with a curl of his lip. "I'm not gonna run out and, like, stick my head in the oven."

"Okay," Gerard says gently. "You and Pete."

Mikey is grumpily pinching the fold of skin between the thumb and forefinger of his left hand. Frank has seen his mother doing that too when she's got a headache. It's one of those nerve points or whatever. "I'm not like you, Gee."

"What do you mean?" Gerard's voice is still really soft. He's trying not to piss off Mikey more, or upset him more, or maybe he's aiming for something else, like he knows if he talks a certain way Mikey will spill something important. Sometimes Gerard has instincts about shit like that, like he'll almost accidentally ask the exact right question. Then other times Frank kind of thinks he has no idea what he's even talking about himself. It's really hard to tell with Gerard.

"I mean I'm not crushed. I got dumped, it sucks. But I'm not... You're just more emotional." Mikey looks up and right at Frank, his eyes suddenly sharp behind his glasses. "You should treat Frank good cause he can crush your heart like it's glass."

"I wouldn't!" Frank says, because what the fuck?

"But you could," Mikey says. "You have that fucking power."

"But I wouldn't," Frank says again.

Gerard's quiet, though. It gets obvious after a while.

"Not you too!" Frank says.

"No, it's not--" Gerard starts. He thinks for a second, looking up and down and moving his mouth like he's trying out words silently. "I worry about you. Not that you'll fuck off and crush my heart, but that you'll... I don't know, be stuck with me? Or that I'm fucking you up with this whole thing, not just the, um, sex thing but... just being around you because I'm such a fucking mess--"

"Hey, dude, seriously," Frank says, turning around and grabbing Gerard's knee and shaking it. "What the fuck? You know you can't stick me anywhere unless you nail me to the floor."

"Okay, um, I'll just..." Mikey mumbles, but Frank isn't going to let Gerard get distracted again, and he doesn't look away. Mikey's shuffling around, maybe looking for his cell phone. "...go, okay. I'm taking a candle from your drawer."

"I know, Frank," Gerard is saying, also ignoring Mikey. "I just mean--"

"No, fucking listen: stop thinking ahead."

"I can't turn off my brain!" Gerard says in a DUH! voice.

Frank leans in close enough that his eyes want to cross and he has to pick an eye to look into. "Fuck you, Gerard, then I'll do it for you," he says, and wow, he did not even know he was going to say that until he said it. But obviously it's a good idea because Gerard's eyes widen and he sort of draws in a breath and holds it.

Frank doesn't even notice that he's holding his own until his lungs start to burn. He lets it out slowly and leans in the last inch or so to kiss Gerard, just all soft and no tongue, just waiting to see what he'll do.

He seems to be debating with himself. He keeps doing that for about two seconds more than what's fucking comfortable for Frank, but finally he sighs and just fucking melts against Frank. It almost feels like he's giving in--or giving up something, somehow, but giving up what? Fucking Mikey, what a thing to bust out with. Now Frank's feeling almost... like, afraid that he'll accidentally somehow crush Gerard if he doesn't look where he puts his feet.

He tastes salt and when he pulls back, Gerard totally has tears in his fucking eyes. Frank must have made some kind of face because Gerard winces and smiles that sort of rueful smile he has when he's been caught doing something weird that he actually knows is weird. It's a rare occasion, but it happens. "Um," he says. "I'm not being crazy, I just... You know how sometimes there are these articles in the paper... like, about a dog that's saved its owners by waking them up when there's a fire? And then the fucking dog dies in the fire. Or even if it doesn't."

"Yeah, man, I hate those stories," Frank says, kind of puzzled. "Total tearjerkers--oh. Okay?"

"I just get all touched. Like Ma at weddings. Even weddings on TV, actually. Or in books. Or in the gossip rags."

Frank smiles and not even kissing can quite get the smile off his face. Fucking weirdos, the whole family, it's pretty awesome. Even Mikey with his unexpectedly pointed remarks. "I love you guys," he says, bumping his nose against Gerard's. "Seriously, you're the weirdest fuckers I know."

"Thanks, I guess," Gerard says.

"You're not gonna cry if we make out a little more, okay?"

Gerard laughs and squirms out of his sheet and just--whoa--pushes Frank onto his back and yanks him close just like someone did in some movie one time, Frank totally remembers it, one of those sex scenes that start like a fight, in a movie with a hunky hero and a feisty heroine, and lots of action in between the fucking. He thought it was pretty hot at the time, but he also kind of worried about the chick's back. Carpet burn is nasty, and he knows this from all the times he's tripped and faceplanted, not from all the time he's had slam-bam sex on the floor.

The bed doesn't give him carpet burn, though, and that move is pretty hot in real life, not just in the movies. Especially when Gerard's still sort of smiling like he's forgotten to stop, and his eyelashes are clumped together with tears, which makes him look a little disturbed and super intense. And he's kind of sitting in between Frank's legs--although Frank's not sure when he spread them and how that happened exactly--and he's running his hands over Frank's thighs and hips, sort of like he's petting a dog and sort of like he's just enjoying it while he's thinking about something else.

The smile fades slowly and turns into something thoughtful. He leans forward, stretching out on top of Frank carefully, all of his body pressed against Frank's although not all his weight, and kisses the underside of his jaw and his throat and then his mouth, and Frank doesn't even know what to do because it's like every part of him has something to tell him now. He ends up kind of squirming and trying to rub himself against Gerard without dislodging him or breaking his, like, concentration or anything, and pulling up his legs and pushing his hips up with his feet planted. He thinks he's digging his fingers into Gerard's ribs too hard, but he can't stop either, so as long as there are no cries of pain he won't worry.

"Just... what--" he sort of pants, and it doesn't even come out as a question because he's not sure what he's trying to ask. Should he point out the condoms of Just In Case? Is this a Case? Even if it isn't, he wants his stupid underwear off before he comes in them and has to bother Mikey about borrowing some again for like the fifty-seventh time.

Gerard hums softly under his breath and mouths along Frank's jaw and back again to his throat, and also puts his thumb over the Adam's apple and rubs gently because clearly he pays attention and noticed that it flipped Frank right out that one time. Frank snaps for air even though there should be enough, but he's forgetting how to breathe and the air feels thick and heavy and saturated and he has to work to get it into his lungs and out again, and Gerard moves slowly... Frank has to scrabble for the word: sinuous, if that's what it means, then Gerard is moving sinuously and his dick slides wetly along Frank's inner thigh. He makes a sound, muffled against Frank's throat, a breathy mmph that sort of breaks at the end.

Frank arches his back almost violently--or it's more like Frank's back arches because he's not really deciding anything right now on the conscious level--the back of his head digging into the mattress so hard he can feel the springs on his scalp, and he crushes his hips against Gerard's, grinding his poor trapped dick against whatever it will reach, and just when he's at the point of just wrapping his legs around Gerard's waist, Gerard backs off--so quickly Frank, like, drops and bounces, a one-inch drop but still--and slaps a hand on his hip to hold him down.

"Agh," Frank says. He's hanging right on the edge by, like, one fucking thread, just one touch will do it, and his whole head is buzzing with the need and what the fuck? "Whaaaaaa--"

"Wait," Gerard says, sounding at least halfway together, which is kind of unfair, but only halfway, which is good. "Just... wait."

He holds Frank still for a couple more breaths, just enough to let him sink back from the fucking precipice a little, and then he very carefully pulls down his underwear, making sure nothing rubs too much against his dick, and flings them off the bed.

"Jesus, what," Frank mumbles. He's got his hands fisted in the sheets and has no idea what to do or if he even wants to do anything. What, what, what, his brain goes. Also, touch me, fucking touch me. His brain has become one with his dick. How long can he stay like this?

Gerard does touch him, then, but cruelly, fucking teasingly, just a hand sliding up the inside of Frank's thigh from knee to groin and not so much as nudging his desperate, aching dick with a knuckle. In fact there's another hand on his other thigh and what Gerard is doing is pushing his legs apart, and Frank feels his stomach swoop and roll, a dizzy feeling but not a sick one. He thinks he might fucking pass out if he moves, and he might explode if he doesn't. Gerard is stroking his thigh, maddening light touches, and then he bends to put his mouth against the knee. Frank feels sweat gathering on his chest and prickling his scalp and he's seriously going to go insane here, he doesn't even know what's going on and he's fucking spreading his legs wider on his own volition just hoping for something.

Gerard bends down further and Frank can feel his tongue right by the base of his dick, still fucking teasing, and then down on his balls which is weird and unexpected and makes him shiver all over. He has to throw his arms over his face to stop himself from, he doesn't even know what, he just has to push his forearms over his mouth and eyes and stop breathing a little because Gerard's definitely going places with his fucking tongue and Frank just doesn't even know how to react. His lungs are burning again and his thighs are trembling like he's run a mile.

He remembers seeing stuff like this in porn like, once or twice, and it just seemed so fucking unlikely and outlandish and bizarre, like why would you stick your tongue anywhere near a person's asshole, seriously, but clearly there's a point to it, and the point is that Frank's barreling right back to the place where he's going to fucking come no matter what, pretty fucking soon. Then Gerard moves away, up again and oh fuck, finally, gets his mouth on Frank's cock and Frank barely even notices that Gerard's also pushing a finger, like, inside, except he does, he notices and he thinks he screams, but he's forgotten to breathe and also his arm is still over his mouth so it's not very loud. He's heard guys in school talking about screamers and the talk was always kind of scornful, or just disrespecting.

The actual bit where he comes seems almost tame in comparison to that fucking rocket launch of buildup, but it seems to go on for a while, filling his head with white noise and sparks. Gerard keeps his mouth where it is and his finger where it is, too, until Frank's limp and wrung out but returning to the world where there's up and down and sideways and things like that.

"Are you okay?" Gerard asks, his voice rough. "Frank?"

Frank realizes he's still got his arms thrown over his face. He lets them drop, stretches them up over his head. "'mgood," he says. He's not sure it's ever been as true as it is right now. He's still buzzing all over like he's plugged into a low-grade current, and he feels sort of wide open and floaty. He blinks at Gerard, who is looking at him from between his legs, face flushed and eyes intense, sweaty hair hanging in his face. Frank finds his voice again. "I am so good. Like, wow. Oh wow."

Gerard actually, seriously turns a shade redder and ducks his head. Then he takes his hands off Frank, and out of Frank, and wipes them both on the sheet, which, man, Frank is going to make some laundry happen in this house if it kills him, but right now he feels weirdly abandoned in the middle of all this blissed-out floaty cloud of sex.

So he says, "So, like... if you wanted to, like... whatever you want to..." Okay, so obviously he's not going to be able to put it delicately without sounding like a retard. So he says, "You should fuck me, okay?"

He waits and watches the expressions flit over Gerard's face. First he just looks shocked, mouth hanging open and all; then for just a second, suspicious, the suspicious you are when something awesome happens and you think it might be the lead-in to some extra humiliating prank; that goes away and what's left is just plain heat, like the kind that makes Frank feel almost chilly all over because Gerard is like sucking up all the heat around him. Frank shivers and thinks, yeah, he wants to. He doesn't know why it feels like such a triumph because honestly if you think about it there wasn't much doubt. But Gerard has these weird tripwires in him and nothing's actually ever a sure thing. So it feels like a score and like jumping off a cliff into a river, something really awesome that's going to keep getting awesomer but also scarier and maybe painful.

Gerard leans forward, over Frank, and he's pushing one of Frank's legs up at the same time, his hand in the fold of the knee. "Don't say that if you don't mean it, Frank," he says, all quiet and gentle on the surface, but everywhere he touches Frank feels tense.

Frank can't even deal with that, he's in the strange no man's land between post-orgasm spaciness and ready-to-go, kind of an awkward place that he wants to leave. He flings up his hand and gets his fingers in Gerard's damp hair and yanks, and Gerard almost falls right on top of him, does in fact fall, but he catches himself and Frank lifts his head to meet him, opens his mouth to him.

Gerard is still tense but he kisses back, and Frank feels the moment when he really gets into it, or when he stops thinking, probably. He'll probably get really used to that moment, he thinks. Gerard forgetting himself.

They're getting really messy here, he thinks, turning the bed into a battle field of sex. CSI comes to mind again and he almost cracks up, but Gerard moves just then and his dick kind of slides along Frank's dick. Frank's going to be ready to go really fucking soon. He doesn't know if he can come yet, not like a fourth time in... he doesn't know how long he's been here, but whatever, maybe not long enough. It doesn't seem to matter a whole lot right now.

He lifts his other leg too and hooks it across the small of Gerard's back, and Gerard twitches forward immediately, pushing hard into the kiss, putting more weight on Frank's leg trapped between them and on Frank's dick. Frank's folded up like a pretzel and for a second it's too much, he can't breathe but then Gerard shifts and moves back a fraction and they slot into each other somehow, and Frank thinks, slot into and oh, fuck because like this he can totally imagine how it's going to be, like this it'll be deep, and what he can't quite imagine is what it'll feel like.

He snarls both his hands in Gerard's hair and tries to project it's cool at him with everything he has. Even though it's like the opposite of cool, he's fucking surprised they're not causing electrical storms inside the room, that's how opposite of cool it is. There's salt in the kiss from the sweat, and Gerard's chest slides against his all slick, but there's just enough friction left to make it feel shivery and intense.

"Fuck," Gerard pants, pushing himself away, although Frank's still clinging to his hair and digging his heel into his back, and ends up sort of following, locking them in an awkward halfway position until he lets go. "Fuck, I need to find... uh..."

"I brought condoms," Frank says, thinking this is the Case, for real.

"Jesus," Gerard says. "You're--"

He never tells Frank what he is, but he leans back in and kisses him, strokes his face sort of fiercely-gently, thumbs over his cheekbones and palms over his eyes, forehead, pushing his hair back.

"Okay. Okay. Just... hang on a second."

He scrambles off the bed a little stiffly and Frank just lies flat on his back, listening to his own quick breaths rushing in his throat and chest, and feeling his heart lurching along fast and loud. Above him, the Dark Phoenix looks down, mostly just a dark smudge on the ceiling in the flickering candlelight, but she feels comfortable and familiar nevertheless.

"Frank," Gerard says and Frank turns his head a little and sees him standing by the bed, and he's so familiar, too, his round face and stringy hair, and his white skin and his soft hands with the nails bitten down to the quick. He's standing with his shoulders hunched like he does almost all the time, both him and Mikey are hunched up like that, as if they're afraid to seem too big despite the fact that they're pretty small guys anyway. He's frowning at Frank, thinking again, so hard Frank thinks if he listens hard enough he can hear the thoughts buzzing in Gerard's overactive brain. He's still hard, though, and it makes Frank feel calmer, and it makes Frank feel just a little nervous too. "You have to think--"

"Is it a really big deal?" Frank asks. "I mean, not... Don't you like it? You have, right?"

Gerard sits down next to him, as casual as a cocked gun, pretty much, but he touches Frank's thigh a little distractedly and says, "It's kind of overwhelming, okay? It's, um, it can be the best thing ever or the worst thing ever, fucking degrading and painful and just, shit."

"But, wait--" He grabs Gerard's hand and shakes it a little. He's trying to find that kind of possibility here and he just can't, and Gerard's obviously thinking about something that happened, but... "That's not even possible, I mean, you'd have to want it to be like that. I mean, you."

Gerard manages to nod and shake his head at the same time. "It's just a big deal to feel," he says, rubbing his temple.

Frank squeezes his hand and says, "Are you afraid?"

Gerard laughs a little, really nothing more than a huff of breath and a twitch at the sides of his mouth. "Just, yeah. I just don't want to fuck you up."

Frank doesn't roll his eyes but it takes an effort. They keep ending up in these in-between places, in these places that should just slide past but they snag on something and it's usually something Gerard thinks of. The snags always happen when they're not touching enough, so Frank pulls himself up and wraps his arms around Gerard, leaning against his back, chin on his shoulder. "You could just fuck me, okay?" he says, making sure he's not actually whining. "Seriously, you want to, right? I'll fucking tell you if I feel fucked up, you know I will."

"Fuck," Gerard says, slapping one hand over his eyes all dramatically, but he grabs Frank's hand with the other one, linking his fingers with Frank's and squeezing. Frank pushes his face into the sweaty crook of his neck, not saying anything because he's not sure he knows exactly where Gerard is coming from--there are a whole bunch of things going on, clearly. Fuck Gerard for never talking about his past. Frank's pretty sure he's told Gerard absolutely everything worth mentioning about his own. Then again, there really isn't that much worth mentioning, and Gerard's got all this history of sex, and some of it apparently bad--which, actually, Frank wasn't sure existed outside abstinence-only sex ed--and what, degrading and humiliating?

He hugs Gerard tighter and kisses the side of his neck, and the way the pulse jumps and flutters under the skin is kind of fascinating, especially if he feels it with his tongue--he follows it up to the curve of Gerard's jaw. What's that vein called, the jugular? But, wait, the ones with pulse are the arteries, right? So actually he has no idea. This is so totally something Gerard would know, he draws enough shit with arterial fucking spray all over the place, he must have the anatomical structure of the neck memorized by now.

"Fuck," Gerard says again and twists in his grip and grabs Frank's head and kisses him, kind of hard and fast, like he couldn't wait long enough to actually find a position that doesn't break his back. Frank thinks oh thank fucking Christ yeah, and doesn't feel bad about influencing the vote. Lobbying with his tongue, it's democracy in action.

Frank says "Yes, yes, yes," with his lips and tongue on Gerard's lips and tongue, although Gerard probably doesn't understand it. They could totally develop a kissing language with enough time. Secret tongue sign language. Like code, in case they are ever held hostage by supervillains or aliens. "For when aliens attack," he tells Gerard's mouth. Maybe Gerard says something back but it gets a little lost in the fucking rush when Gerard pushes him backwards again and follows him down.

He does hear it when Gerard rears back, kind of wild-eyed, and says, "Shit, uh, I mean--I think I have lube--"

"What?" Frank says, blinking. Gerard's pushing himself off the bed, leaving Frank flat on his back and cold and abandoned and totally hard again for the fifty-seventh time today, possibly.

Gerard's digging through his desk drawers, bent over so the stretch of his back kind of glows orange-gold with the candlelight and the brown roots of his hair have warm auburn highlights. From the top drawer he produces some slightly foxed Superman figurines (not displayed on the parade shelf with the mint condition ones), a Tupperware container with some weird goop that Frank really really hopes isn't the lube--maybe it's some kind of paint stuff?--three half-full packs of Marlboro lights and one of Lucky Strikes which is Mrs Way's brand, and a My Little Pony painted black with its round pony ass decorated with skulls and crossbones and its mane chopped short and spiky and dyed bright aniline pink.

Frank snickers, and Gerard turns around, still holding the pony. He looks puzzled and sort of half-amused, like he knows there's a joke and it's maybe on him but he's going to be a good sport about it. Then he looks down at the pony.

"Oh yeah," he says. For a second he frowns. "I was working on this, um. It's for Mikey's birthday."

"Awesome," Frank says. Again he feels that little pinch of brother envy. His whole life he's only gotten presents from grownups. The coolest present to date is probably that fucking antique GameBoy from fucking George, and that really takes something out of him to admit.

Then he feels kind of petty and also ridiculous for getting all wound up over a custom My Little Pony that no one but Mikeyway could love. And also really amused because it really is something only Mikey could love and he will love it.

"He'll fucking shit himself, man," he says, and Gerard nods gravely and turns the pony around to show Frank the stumpy little horn on its forehead.

"The unicorn ones are actually kind of hard to find," he says. "Or, like, always out of stock. People collect these things like they're action figures, man. I had to overpay like hell on eBay for this one. I think it's vintage from like... whenever. It was almost sad to paint on it. You know, defacing a mint condition vintage figure."

"Anything for Mikey," Frank says.

"Yeah," Gerard says softly and puts the pony back in the drawer. He rummages around for a second more and then holds up a little crumpled tube of K-Y. "You know," he says thoughtfully, turning it around in his hand. "They used this stuff on the Alien movies to make the acid slime."

"Yes, please stick that up my ass immediately," Frank says, and Gerard flicks his eyes to meet his and stay too long, just staring with wide eyes, and Frank stares back. It's a weird, intense moment where he's not sure if they're thinking about aliens or dick, but there's a hot, liquid feeling spreading in the bottom of his chest, and he thinks the hairs on the back of his neck are standing up.

"I was using it as thinner for my acrylics, I think," Gerard mumbles. "Mikey probably has more."

"That he's not using for painting, Jesus," Frank says, still feeling kind of hot and shivery.

"Right." Gerard's back to staring at the lube, now with a confused, worried expression, eyebrows drawn together and mouth pressed into a thin line. "Uh."

"There are condoms in my pants," Frank says in a bid to get the conversation back on topic. "I mean... in my pockets. On the floor."

"Oh, yeah! Good!" Gerard says, looking hugely relieved. "Fuck, I totally realized I don't even have any, seriously, I haven't had sex in so long it's like, I don't know, I think I haven't even wanted to, you know?"

Frank really, really does not know, but he nods anyway because Gerard is looking at him kind of anxiously.

"They have, like, sentimental value by now," Frank says while Gerard is looking for his pants. "I mean, I was pretty much set on not getting to use them before the, you know, use-by date. But better safe than sorry is my motto."

"It's so not," Gerard says. "You're a fucking menace to yourself and society."

"With sex!" Frank says. "And food. And insects. And, uh... whatever spiders are... archaic, whatever."

Gerard drops the jeans on the floor carelessly and is back on the bed in, like, one long step, pulling Frank up and hugging him tight. Naked hugs, Frank thinks, are not really comforting the way the usual kind of hug is, but they make up for that by being naked, all that skin sliding against skin and feeling the muscles and bones under the skin, and the sweat immediately getting trapped between their bodies. And Frank's dick skidding happily against Gerard's belly and Gerard's dick pressed against Frank's thighs. All that. He hooks his arms around Gerard's neck and moves against him, and just doing that after the whole mood-breaking supply-foraging interlude brings it all back again. Oh yeah, this is what we're here for.

"Frank," Gerard whispers against his shoulder. "Frank."

Frank whispers back, "Yeah." He doesn't want to say 'It's okay' or anything like that in case Gerard wasn't actually having second thoughts or worrying and being told it's okay reminds him to have the thoughts.

Gerard strokes his back and says, no longer whispering, "You have to be really relaxed, okay?"

"I am practically in a coma," Frank says quickly, even though it's a pretty blatant lie. "I'm a rag."

"Fucking menace," Gerard says and kisses him, and the second thoughts seem forgotten. Frank imagines a control panel with a dial sliding into the green. All systems ready. "I mean, it. It's... It'll be uncomfortable and weird at first. I don't know, some people never like it."

Frank thinks about Gerard's fingers and tongue and goes hot, like, everywhere. Seriously, flash-flood of hot. And he says, "I think you could pretty much do whatever you want and I'd be fucking into it. You haven't done anything, like... anything that I wasn't into. Just tell me what to do. I don't know, how should I...?"

Gerard kisses him again, stroking his hair and cupping the back of his head, and the heat everywhere stays and makes Frank sweaty and both limp and frantic, and he still doesn't know what he's supposed to do so he just clings to Gerard and tries to think relaxing thoughts because he's not actually relaxed right now. He's also getting to that point where he could come again, although it'll probably be almost dry by now. He's done some experimenting with marathon jerkoff sessions, and he thinks he's probably pushing the edge of how fast he can reload.

Gerard runs his hand down Frank's neck, and down his back, and over his ass and down, hooking his fingers around to stroke the inner side of his thighs, the crease between his ass and thigh. Frank tenses because he's surprised and then surprises himself by arching into the touch, like, automatically and eagerly. It's basically built-in already and he hasn't even done it yet.

It makes Gerard's breath hitch and his hands tighten, pulling Frank closer, digging his fingertips into Frank's thigh and the spot between his balls and asshole that makes his knees tremble.

Fuck, I totally want it, he thinks, not that he didn't know that before, but hell yeah, he wants to have things stuck up his ass. He can almost feel it. Just the thought makes him want to-- but he still doesn't know which way they'll go. Should he be on his back or his front? Or maybe on top? He tries to picture the angles, but he's not sure he knows enough about whatever's on the inside to make a call. He kind of wants to be able to kiss but maybe that's just for straight people and porn stars, he can't tell.

"I just," Gerard says, sounding unsteady and breathy. "Your face, Frankie."

"What?" If he has something weird on his face and Gerard's waited this long to tell him he's going to elbow him right in the nose. After the sex.

But Gerard just smiles, really briefly, hardly more than a twitch, and says, "I just like it. Do you think you can make it on your back? It's a little more work."

"Sure," Frank says, because he can do work, no fucking problem, holy fuck. "I like yours."

Gerard smiles, and Frank smiles back because he does like Gerard's face, and he likes his smile a lot too.

"So, okay," he says and pulls backwards a little, and Gerard lets him go and watches, the smile sliding off his face. Frank lies down on his back. First he lies down right on top of the lube, which, yeah, really smooth. He digs it out and tries not to crack up, and fails. He's kind of over the first times, really. He wants to do this again, so he'd already know what's going on and there'd be less nervous laughter and more straight up sex without awkward breaks to negotiate.

Gerard picks the tube out of his hand and puts it down somewhere. He looks kind of worried again, and really concentrated like he's about to perform some complicated trick he's not totally sure he's mastered. Then he puts his hand on Frank's knee and lets it rest for a second, staring at it, staring at the hand or the knee, whatever. Frank lies still and waits. Maybe this is some kind of zen thing. Finding your inner whatevers and opening them. Gerard slides his hand up a little and around, and lifts Frank's leg up and pushing it to the side, very carefully. He bends and kisses the inside of the knee, sliding his hand up Frank's thigh, firmly so it doesn't tickle, and Frank's dick twitches and his hips kind of move on their own accord before he can settle down again.

Gerard does the same with Frank's other leg, and it's weirdly solemn and slow and Frank's reminded of that dream he had that time, where he was dead and Gerard kissed his eyelids.

It was weird how he could see Gerard in the dream even though his eyes were closed. Dream double vision. Omniscient point-of-view? That would be a handy superpower. Well, omniscience in general would be, in fact.

Gerard's just touching his legs, thighs, knees, calves, and it is kind of weird but the whole concentration and stubborn slow pace of it is somehow totally working on Frank, like maybe he's thinking bizarre necro thoughts but he's moving his hips in tiny little hitches that he really can't stop, and his back is arching and his head's falling back and he has to snap for breath a couple times 'cause he can't fit enough air in his lungs.

He sort of spaces on the slow touches because when Gerard leans down over him he has to open his eyes to see him, and he doesn't remember closing them. Gerard kisses him, still slow, and wet and messy, licking deep into Frank's mouth and over his lips and teeth, and sucking on his tongue, and at the same time his hands are sliding over Frank's hips and belly and just barely nudging his dick, tiny crazymaking touches.

"Okay," Gerard says softly against his mouth. "Relax."

"I am relaxed," Frank says. He thinks he might be slurring his words at this point. "But you know, telling me to relax is not really relaxing."

"Shit, yeah, I totally know," Gerard says, in a d'oh! voice. His hand slips between Frank's legs and cups his balls. "This is so weird."

Frank finds it in himself to grin a little and say, "My nuts? I think they're standard issue. Are they weird? You're gonna give me a complex."

Gerard giggles, sharp huffs of breath against Frank's face, and pulls his hand up his dick in a loose fist, fucking excruciatingly slowly and Frank finds himself trying to, like, follow, looking for some friction or something.

"No," Gerard says. "Your nuts are fine. I mean, I'm kind of more used to bottoming, I guess. I kind of ended up picking up a lot of butch guys, and, like, rough trade. I don't know why."

"'Cause you're pretty, duh," Frank pants. Gerard runs his fingers down his dick, ridiculously slowly and ridiculously lightly, and kisses his throat and then his breastbone and licks a nipple very carefully. Frank squirms and it's a serious effort to keep his hands to himself and not just grab Gerard's hair and, he doesn't even know what he'd do but something. He's not sure why he doesn't just do it, but it feels like Gerard is working through a protocol and it seems wrong to interrupt even though it makes Frank feel like a dog on a choke chain.

"Okay," Gerard says again, and he backs off just a bit and pushes Frank's legs wider and futzes around for like a second and then, yeah, fuck, pushes a finger inside, still fucking slowly, so slowly, but it's slick and easy and Frank doesn't think he tenses a whole lot. It's weird but okay. It doesn't really feel like anything much, but he finds himself fisting the sheets until his fingers ache and totally pushing against the finger, trying to find some kind of resistance there, looking for more. He thinks that's probably a good sign.

"it's good," he says, trying to figure out how to say that. "Good... uh. You can, just... like, go for it, man."

"Yeah, just... give it a little time," Gerard says, looking focused and almost stern. "You can touch yourself if you want."

Oh. Oh. That would, like, so not have occurred to Frank. It really gives him a nice feeling that Gerard's actually on top of this thing, he's been here and knows what feels good and what goes where and shit. Like being at a spa or something like they're always doing on The OC, just lying around and getting pampered by quiet professionals. Frank isn't sure spas cater to teenage boys, but if they do maybe he should think about saving up. He could probably use a cocoa wrap or, whatever, a manicure. Gerard probably needs a manicure the way he chews on his nails. Although it's good that they're all worn down right now. Frank tries not to think about long nails and what they could do to his tender insides. That's always a thing that weirds him out about chicks in porn, those fucking long nails.

He ends up fisting his dick kind of hard and fast because his left hand is still digging grooves in the mattress and it's hard to be all coy with one hand and put all the energy in the other. He has to stop after just a couple strokes or he's going to come before any other dicks are involved at all.

Gerard's sticking more fingers into him now, kind of stretching, and it still doesn't hurt and it still doesn't feel like anything other than what it is, but there's that urge to push against it and a longing, maybe, that need for more. Frank grits his teeth and turns his face away, pushing his burning cheek against the sheet. "Just, just," he says, but that's really all he's got right now.

He flails his arms around a little, patting the bed and finds the condom of Just In Case lying innocently next to him, just waiting for its big day, not knowing that it's arrived. He grabs it and waves it at Gerard. Should be a signal clear enough for Gerard to pick up even in the heat of the moment even when he's so totally concentrated on whatever he's concentrating on. He's actually looking kind of spaced out, his eyelids heavy and his mouth a little open, and his free hand is holding Frank's hip pretty hard, almost enough to dig bruises into the flesh.

He blinks at Frank's hand for what feels like minutes before he accepts the condom of Just In Case. Solemnly, as the occasion warrants.

There's a part where Frank's just kind of lying there, maybe shivering a little because everywhere Gerard was touching him and isn't anymore are feeling cold and abandoned, and he just has time to get nervous even though it's kind of layered on top of that deep grinding need to be touched. That confusing clash of things to feel makes his stomach twist and he has to keep his face turned away until Gerard touches him again, just slides in on top of him, pushing his legs up until his knees almost touch his chest.

"Frank," Gerard says in a voice that's really calm in that way that means he's about to flip out in two seconds or something. Frank turns his head back and looks. Gerard's face is flushed and his eyes gleam in the candlelight and he's pushed back his hair but strands are hanging in his face, limp, sweaty strings of flat black. Right now he looks eerie and dangerous, with the serious expression and the barely contained fucking mania underneath. "Okay?"

"Go, fucking go," Frank snaps out before he can even think about it, because really, thinking is not what's required. He's folded up like a piece of origami here, feeling like a big hole waiting to be filled and like something tiny and fragile and like he can't breathe and like he really needs to put his hands on something right now because he can't stop opening and closing his fists.

And Gerard fucking goes, slow as fuck but now Frank totally gets the whole finger testing deal because whoa, he feels this, does he ever feel it. His mouth falls open and he thinks he's rolling his eyes up because he totally can't see anything for a second. "Oh, fuck," he says, and it comes out with a strangled little moan and Gerard stops immediately, which was so not what Frank was going for. "Fuck no, go, man," he grits out. It feels like way too much but there's this point he can feel where the too much will be just what he needs, and he just needs to ride it out, just go through it and then. Then. He doesn't know what then will be like, but it's there. His abs burn and he realizes he's tense as a bowstring and he tries to just let go, and he unrolls his eyes with some difficulty and looks at Gerard again. Gerard's looking back, that intense concentration still there, and if Frank's a bowstring, Gerard is, like, something that's fucking tighter than a fucking bowstring. Godzilla's bowstring made of titanium or something. When it snaps, it'll take out half of downtown Tokyo.

Frank tries to roll his hips a little, and something about that shifts something else and there's a second where the going is suddenly easier, with just a sweet, sweet burn that he could ride all night, and he moves again and Gerard makes this dragged out, high-pitched sound and kind of falls forward, pinning Frank like a bug. Oh god, skewered, Frank thinks and then Gerard pulls back a fraction and lifts Frank up a little and things start to slot together, like click click click, like hell yeah, like fucking right on.

"Okay?" Gerard gasps, and Frank can tell it's costing him to wait right now.

Frank says "Jesus fuck," and then he says "Now now now." He reaches out with his hands, like he's blind because he can't tell where anything is somehow, and he kind of knocks the back of his hand against Gerard's nose before getting directions and distances worked out and getting his fingers into Gerard's hair.

Gerard closes his eyes really slowly. And pushes his hips forward, really slowly but kind of mercilessly, just going like there's no resistance even though Frank's burning and shivering and his legs ache and his stomach aches and his hand twists viciously in Gerard's hair but his entire face feels slack and his head just lolls on his neck, rolls back and forth with every movement.

Gerard pulls back, not very far, and pushes in again, faster and kind of at a different angle, and Frank feels the then and the just right fucking billow out from whatever it is that's being pushed right there and he makes a sound that's pretty much a yell at this point, no more quiet because quiet can't contain it. He thinks he gets it now, how to hold himself and not fight the intrusion, it's getting clearer and he can move with it when Gerard stops holding back and just gets to the fucking part. Frank can barely feel anything else, like, he's just made out of ass and dick right now, with some minor, faint whispers of input from other things like his overtaxed muscles being all what is this yoga shit? and the sting in his fingers where Gerard's fucking hair is cutting into them, they're twisting it so hard. Gerard doesn't look like he even notices he's being like scalped.

Frank tries to find his other hand, he doesn't even know what the fuck he's doing with it, beating the shit out of the mattress or something, and then he fumbles in the direction of his dick, trying to figure out how to coordinate, like, anything. Gerard is really fucking him now, keeping a steady pace and the whole thing is just like rolling Frank up on every in and unfurling him on every out and his dick's, like, connected to Gerard's dick like they're somehow touching via a special ass nerve that no one's told Frank about before. And even though Gerard is totally concentrated on the rhythm and he's got his eyes closed and he's probably about to blow up if he's feeling anything like what Frank's feeling, even despite this, Gerard finds Frank's dick before Frank does, Jesus Christ. It's like the jokes about finding your ass with a map and compass, only worse, he can't find his own dick even though it feels like a red hot poker about to go totally nuclear.

Gerard's hand is slick and hot and follows the rhythm of his hips and Frank can basically do nothing but fold his fingers over Gerard's and suck in a massive, dizzying breath and lie there like a helpless, sweat-slick pretzel and ride the wave right into the crash.

He does not bother to muffle his shout. He probably wouldn't find his fucking mouth anyway.

He briefly loses all contact with his body and floats around in the whirlpool for two seconds that stretch like years, and when he slams back to his senses, Gerard has dropped more weight on him, pushing him into the mattress and his knees into his chest on every thrust. He's totally found Frank's mouth too, and Frank has unconsciously been kissing back, apparently, because he has his tongue in Gerard's mouth. The rhythm is kind of deteriorating and he can feel Gerard's arms trembling violently as if he can barely keep them from buckling.

Gerard says his name when he comes, on a long groan, all cut up because it's actually not really a name you can just moan easily, the hard sound breaks it up. It would probably sound funny if you weren't in the middle of having sex.

Everything kind of stops. Frank pretty much stops breathing for a little while, too, because he's just so squished up that it seems to take an unreasonable amount of effort to pull in a breath right now and he's gone completely limp everywhere. His hand has even untangled itself from Gerard's hair. He thinks he ripped some out on the way. He'll work on those violent impulses later. Maybe.

Eventually he has to breathe again and he thinks he's going to start coughing or something, but Gerard snaps out of his own whirlpool and rolls off and pulls out, and it makes Frank sort of forget about breathing for another couple seconds while he adjusts his entire universe to not being filled up and weighed down. Like being dropped into vacuum.

Gerard's still panting next to him, stroking Frank's hip kind of distractedly, his breaths fanning cool over Frank's sweaty shoulder. He's not touching Frank anywhere else, like maybe he needs a while to readjust too, and get used to being alone in his skin.

"Yeah," Frank says, faintly. He doesn't know what he means. But yeah.

"Yeah?" Gerard mumbles.

"Yeah," Frank says, firmly.


Frank wakes up when the lights come back on. He has that logy, doped feeling that tells him he's either slept way too little or way too much and his stomach flips in panic and he sits up so fast his head spins.

It's still dark outside, though. The candle's even still burning. He closes his eyes and waits for his pulse to stop racing.

Huh, he thinks.

He looks around and sees Gerard asleep next to him, face smushed into the pillow, his hair tangled and matted.

Frank's stomach flips again, but not so much in panic this time. He rubs his face and winces because his mouth feels tender and raw. Then he shifts a little and winces again because, yeah, wow, his mouth is not the only place. And he needs to pee a whole lot. And he feels like he's been pummeled by a gorilla all night, or maybe several smaller monkeys. And it feels kind of great. The good kind of pummeled, where every muscle complains but it, like, means you've done something for real.

Gerard twitches and mutters in his sleep and Frank leans over and pets his hair a little until he settles again. Gerard's looking a little pummeled himself.

Walking is kind of a challenge, and so is bending over to pick up his jeans. His back feels like maybe he overtaxed it in the bad way a little, and his legs tremble so hard he has to lean on the bed like an old man when he puts his pants on. He stretches slowly and carefully, trying to find the places that smart and work them out enough that he won't fall over if he makes a sudden move.

He shuffles down the hall and into the bathroom, which is traditionally the grossest place on Earth but Gerard seems to have had a snap of the crazy last night waiting for Frank to show up, and some cleaner may or may not have been spilled on things in here. There's kind of a hint of lemon scent in the air.

He pees for about twenty minutes or so and lets his brain spin in lazy circles. He's not making an effort to remember everything, he's just letting the remembering happen the way it wants to. His body certainly reminds him every time he moves, and he looks down to see if he's standing bow-legged and it cracks him up for a second. He does his best to choke it down, though, because he doesn't want to wake up Mikey who looked really bummed last night--well, it's still this night, technically--or Gerard who just looks really fucking cute when he's asleep.

He looks at himself in the mirror and cracks up again. He looks like he's rubbed himself against a porcupine. Beard burn, he realizes. Holy fuck. He totally didn't notice anything, and it's not like Gerard can actually grow a fucking beard, but obviously just enough to make Frank look exactly like he spent all night kissing a dude.

He doesn't know what time it is, but his guess is there aren't that many hours between now and the first time he has to face his mother and not look like he--holy fuck again!--spent all night kissing a dude and having actual sex, holy fuck. He looks around wildly and wonders if he could just lock himself in here and not come out until he's presentable.

He has a little hickey on his chest, too, but nothing crazy. Gerard's clearly not as determined to leave his signature as Mikey is.

He'll have to stop standing here, laughing at his own reflection. Any old time now.

He thinks for a second and then he shrugs at himself and shucks his jeans and gets in the shower. He totally smells, and maybe the worst thing that could happen would be bumping into his mother on his way to the bathroom at home, looking like he spent all night kissing a dude and smelling like he spent all night having actual sex holy fuck. This must be what cathouses smell like.

Hot water is fucking heaven on his back and shoulders and he puts his head under and just stands there, weaving a little and thinking about Gerard's sleep face and then Gerard's sex face, the way he looks almost shocked when he comes, first surprised and then kind of like he's in pain and then just blank. Like a movie death scene where you don't know the dude's been shot until he keels over.

He sniffs out Gerard's shampoo which is apple-scented and especially for dyed hair with vitamin E and jojoba and other things girls put in their hair, and Gerard's shower gel which is even girlier. Frank sometimes wonders what goes on in Gerard's head when he picks out products. Maybe he thinks the enticing fruity smells will remind him to take showers more often? So far it's not working.

He cleans himself really carefully everywhere. His dick is not quite itself yet; even a gentle touch feels like too much, although only halfway in a bad way. The other half is kind of sexy, like all the nerves are just sending too much info but a lot of the info is SEX STOP SEX STOP MORE SEX STOP. He pokes his ass a little and yeah, hopes really hard that he doesn't have to take a crap in a while because ouch. This is maybe something you get used to with time, like developing a callus.

When he's clean and smelling like roses and apples it kind of sucks to put on the fucking jeans again but it can't be helped. At least they're dry by now. Dryish, anyway. He'll get home and change into something nice and soft.

That makes him think about the going home part, and it makes him think about climbing onto his bike and pedaling two miles. He thinks he could do it. If rabid giant zombie spiders were chasing him.

He goes back to Gerard's room--stopping in the door because whoa, no, that is what cathouses smell like--and starts looking for his clothes, but he gets distracted because Gerard is still asleep but he's frowning hard in his sleep, scrunching his face up and making these short, clipped sounds like whimpers with words in them, although Frank can't make out what he's saying.

He crawls onto the bed and leans down and says, "Gerard." Gerard just keeps on dreaming whatever he's dreaming. It can't be good, so Frank pokes his shoulder and says his name again, and again a little harder and louder.

It's not until he actually shakes Gerard for real that it works. Gerard starts awake with his arms flailing, smacking Frank right in the throat and himself in the eye in one fell flail, and twists away so fast he collides with the wall.

When Frank can take a breath again without his eyes tearing up, Gerard has turned back and is staring at him with his eyes wide and horrified and confused.

"Hey, hey," Frank says, hand still over his throat. Ouch. "Are you okay?"

"What!" Gerard says. He's not blinking. "What?"

Frank reaches out gingerly, kind of watching out for a new smack, but Gerard doesn't flinch when he strokes his cheek.

"You were having a nightmare, I guess," Frank says and Gerard relaxes suddenly and completely, pushing his face toward Frank's hand and closing his eyes.

"Fuck," he mumbles. "Yeah, same old."

"Werewolves, huh?"

"Yeah." He puts his hand over Frank's. "It's usually Mikey waking me up."

"This is Frank, though," Frank says. "FYI."

"FYI I totally knew that. Even though you smell like my shampoo."

Frank smiles and Gerard smiles too even though he can't even see Frank. "You really really really fucking don't, man. And this room is like...What's the word I'm looking for?"

Gerard blinks and yawns and scrambles up, looking exactly like Frank felt when he woke up. "Uh, kind of looks the same to me."

It's a losing battle, obviously. Frank says, "Look, I have to get back before my shoes turn into pumpkins or whatever. Um."

"Fuck," Gerard says. "Fuck. Frankie. Are you, uh...okay? Everything okay?"

Frank holds up a hand with the thumb and forefinger making the circle of all good.

"Okay," Gerard says.

"Really, I'm kind of great," Frank says. "All... okay, I won't lie, I feel like I got fucking poked by Moby Dick but in, like, the good way, totally. Um. Moby's... dick. Shit." He cracks up for like the fifty-seventh time since he woke up. If everything's this fucking funny, he has to be pretty sure he's honestly okay.

Gerard seems too tired to actually laugh but his mouth twitches and then he just grabs Frank and hauls him in and kisses his face, like cheeks and nose and forehead and cheeks again and mouth, and Frank laughs the whole time.

"I'll drive you home," Gerard says. "It would suck big time to bike, wouldn't it?"

"I guess you know, huh."

"I spent a lot of time lying down," Gerard says. "Trying not to move at all. I tried to be careful with you but I don't know, it's like... hard. I haven't done that before. I mean, with someone who hasn't. Or with someone smaller. Well, except girls, I guess. I didn't sleep with that many girls, though. It's different with you, Frank."

"Than with a girl, I really hope so."

Gerard kisses him again, and it ends up going on for a while, all slow and careful like a movie kiss. Frank leans against him and wishes he could just lie down and go back to sleep here.

"I wish I could sleep here," he says. "It sucks to have to go back and pretend that I didn't spend the the night getting massively laid."

"I'm dangerous to sleep with, though," Gerard says quietly and puts his hand over Frank's throat. "Did I hit you hard?"

"Don't think it'll bruise or anything," Frank says, shrugging. He hardly notices the throat; it's just another little reminder of the crazy good times.

"I know, though," Gerard says. He's still got his hand on Frank's throat, rubbing it a little. "I don't want you to go. But I guess, right. I'll get dressed now."

"I love you," Frank says when Gerard lets him go to stand up. It just kind of slips out, all oh by the way. Oh by the way, fucking hell. His stomach makes a tiny little flip.

Gerard smiles a happy little smile that makes his cheeks dimple. "I love you too, Frankie," he says, totally earnest and straight-faced and doesn't look nervous or anything. There's no weirdness. It's pretty awesome. Frank almost wants to say it again just because he can, but there's a limit to how fucking goofy he wants to be about this, maybe.

Gerard gets his smokes out and lights one, and gives one to Frank and lights it, and then he starts getting dressed. Frank sits on the bed and smokes and watches Gee try to smoke while he's pulling on a hoodie, ready to jump in and put out the fire if he needs to. Gerard's totally practiced this, though, and comes through in a triumphant puff of smoke.

"Nice moves," Frank says. He's feeling kind of really reluctant to even put on his t-shirt. Fuck, he doesn't want to get off the bed. Eventually he has to, though, so might as well get it over with. The pain of going home to his own stupid room and then have to wait forever and sneak around like a jerk just to see Gerard and then do the whole thing all over again is definitely less than the pain of his mother busting him. "What's the time?"

It takes Gerard like five minutes to find the clock because it's fallen off the desk and is shoved under the bed in a mess of dirty blankets and pages of random sketches. "Four-ish. Maybe."

Turns out it's actually five-ish and Spider-Man really needs to be retired--the dashboard clock in the truck is more trustworthy and depressing. It's stopped raining but the wind still slapped stray drops in their faces when they trudged down the stairs, and the clouds look stony and troublesome.

The lights are still out in Frank's neighborhood, not totally unexpectedly since it's a kind of cheapo neighborhood right next to a really shitty one. His mother wants to move but she keeps running up against the part where they'd have to get something a lot smaller and she tells him often and with heart that she does not ever want to be stuck in a tiny place with a hyperactive teenager. Frank thinks the real reason for all the waiting is that she thinks fucking George is going to pop the question soon and then they can get a big house in a good neighborhood.

Gerard pulls over two houses away from Frank's because the truck's muffler is for shit and it sounds like a cranky T-Rex when it rolls up. They sit there in silence for a minute, Gerard nervously clutching the wheel and Frank balling his hands into fists in the pockets of his hoodie.

"Shit," Frank says.

"Yeah," Gerard says and tugs at his hair. He glances at Frank. "I guess... Fuck, come here."

Frank crawls over immediately, cursing bucket seats, and ends up climbing into Gerard's lap, getting the gearshift stuck in his pocket for a weird three seconds of struggling, and maybe kneeing Gerard in the nuts a tiny bit. It doesn't stop Gerard from kissing him fast and wet and sloppy, palming his ass and fucking rubbing the inseam of his jeans like he wants to make something of this when they're right on Frank's street.

"If someone walks by we're so fucking dead," Frank pants, but it's not like he's going to stop until Gerard does. He just repeats, "So dead," and sticks his tongue in Gerard's mouth and rolls his hips.

Gerard pushes him away with an expression like he's about to get a flu shot and mumbles, "Yeah, uh, fuck. I know. Okay." His face has gone a little pink high on the cheeks. "Are you gonna get your phone back soon?"

Frank picks himself off his lap and slides back into the passenger seat, but he lets his hand linger in Gerard's. "Maybe. If I really suck up and no one asks me why I look so happy and bow-legged today. 'Cause I don't know what I'd say to that, you know, and when I improvise is when I really piss her off."

Gerard goes a little pinker still and smiles a lopsided smile. "Try not to."

Frank takes back his hand and opens the door and climbs out and it really fucking sucks. "Yeah. So. Bye," he says. "Thanks for the ride."

"I'll get your bike," Gerard says, getting out. Oh yeah. Wow. Frank's brain is not really on top of this situation, obviously.

Gerard lifts the bike out of the back of the truck and there's another moment where Frank thinks they're gonna end up making out again, but fortunately the bike is, like, between them because next thing he sees the flicker of candlelight in the Sanders' kitchen and Mrs Sanders is the biggest gossip on the block.

"You gotta get out of here before she gets your fucking plates down," he tells Gerard. "I'm not even kidding."

Because there's no way he can kiss Gerard now, he wants to so fucking bad, it's ridiculous. He ends up kind of just touching his sleeve and nodding before he turns really fast and drags the bike up the street, half-running. It's not really comfortable, to say the least, but whatever. He hears the truck start up but it doesn't drive away until he's ducked into the garage to put the bike away.



Mom doesn't try to wake him up until after nine, which is a boon and a blessing, but she does it by tugging at his comforter, which is something she should have learned to avoid by now. It's only Frank's lightning reflexes that save them from serious, no good very bad embarrassment.

At least he fucking wakes up for real, if just to sit up and yell, "Jesus, Mom! I'm naked!"

She drops the comforter like it's red hot and backs off, comically wide-eyed. Frank yanks it up--that was fucking close, and has she never heard of morning wood, anyway? God--and huddles down. They stare at each other for a couple beats.

"I'm sorry, honey," she says eventually. "Good morning?"

He thinks she probably didn't have time to process, say, the fucking hickey on his chest. Jesus Christ. "It's okay. Just, like. Give a guy some warning before you start-- uh. Before you barge in. What happened to knocking?"

She raises an eyebrow. "I did knock, young man. Maybe you're going deaf already?"

"I'm up now, though," he says, trying for bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. "Receiving five by five."

"There's pancakes, so get downstairs before everything's cold." She stops in the door and turns back. "Oh, and Francesca finally called. She'll be here before noon. Fair warning."

He almost jumps out of bed butt naked anyway at that. "What! Since when?"

"Frank, what is wrong with you? Do you ever listen to anything we tell you?" She rubs her face all tiredly like she does when he's being Too Much. "I'm giving your phone back, okay, but on probation. Your aunt will not leave this house to tell mother all about what a delinquent you are, you hear me?"

He nods humbly.

She fishes the phone out of her pocket and drops it on the bed. "You have some missed calls."

He does, mostly from Bob and Toro, but there's an out-of-state number on there that called twice, two days ago and last night.

When he calls it back, some tired-sounding dude answers.

"Uh, who is this?" Frank says.

"Who are you," the dude says. "You called me."

"I called you back, okay. This better not be some stalking weirdness."

There's a brief pause and some shuffling sounds like maybe the dude is getting out of bed. "Frank?"

"Hey, guy, state your purpose!"

"It's Andy, Andy Hurley." A sigh. "Pete Wentz's friend? And you're friends with Mikey Way."


"Okay, Frank, listen up. This is obviously none of our business officially, yours or mine? But the situation is getting ridiculous. Do you think you could ask your friend Mikey to please, fucking please answer just one call from Pete before he does something stupid?"

"You-- what?" Frank closes his own mouth by pushing at his chin with a finger. Then he fucking cracks up for a good long while.

"Frank? You can fucking stop laughing any time," Andy says. "Pete probably deserves whatever he's going through but he's not the stablest guy, you know? He can get a little obsessed."

"Oh, trust me," Frank wheezes. "I am calling Mikeyway the second we hang up because this is too fucking good."

"When I say obsessed I mean, uh..." There's a significant pause. "Morbidly obsessed. Psychotically obsessed. Suicidally obsessed."

Jesus fucking Christ. "I'm sure hearing that will make Mikey like a thousand times more likely to pick up the phone, Hurley. Is he gonna get, like, single white femaled?"

"Nah," Andy says dismissively. "I'm trying to look out for Pete here. He's my idiot friend, not Mikey. Although I'll be sure to warn you guys if Jennifer Jason Leigh is coming that way."

"This is seriously soap opera, man," Frank says, because it has to be put out there. "I think Ridge wants to talk to you about Brooke's pregnancy later."

"Ha fucking ha," Andy says. "You're not the one getting all the fucking emo poetry emails and the long phone calls in the middle of the night and the darkly suggestive yet cryptic texts."

"Okay, okay, shit. You think he really will, like, I don't know... do something?"

Andy thinks for a while. Frank wishes he could smoke. Then Andy says, slowly, "Pete's a drama queen, yeah, but he's stone cold for real, too. It can be scary. Just talk to Mikey? Pretty please, cherry on top. It's all I ask."

"I can't believe you're calling me and like begging, man."

"Seriously. Okay. Later, Frank."

He hangs up and Frank stares at his phone for a while. Then he laughs again, good and long, until his mom calls up and asks what's so funny that he doesn't even want pancakes.

But on his way downstairs he thinks about Pete who pretty much seemed like a happy go lucky kind of guy even though the rumors about him were fucked up. He remembers telling Mikey Pete was allegedly insane but it's not like he actually really believed it at the time. And that reminds him of how Gerard flipped out when Mikey and Pete screwed in the upstairs apartment, and all that fucking drama.

So, shit.

Mikey's number goes straight to voicemail, and Frank has a vague memory from the part of last night that didn't feature fucking, and it's Mikey kind of throwing his cell on the floor and maybe smashing it? So then Frank has to call Gerard's phone instead, which he had planned on not doing until later when he can lock himself in the bathroom for some privacy. He shrugs and dials up while he's walking down the stairs.

It takes Gerard like ten rings to pick up, but that's kind of standard for Gerard because his phone is always in his other pants or buried under his crap or in the fucking fridge or whatever. Fucking flake. Just thinking about him running around looking for his phone like an idiot makes Frank long fucking viciously to be there to find it for him and then laugh at his baffled face and then, like, make out with him until they can't even breathe. Oh, Jesus fuck, this was actually not a cool idea to do this now. His mother is looking up from the pancakes with a question on her face, and Frank backs out of the kitchen like whoa. And Gerard says, "Frankie?" in his ear.

"Frank?" Mom says, too.

"Okay, um, Gerard..." Frank says to Gee. "This is actually about Mikey--I seriously cannot talk to you or there'll be hell to pay if you know what I mean and I think you fucking do. Get me Mikey. Uh, please. Thank you."

"Okay?" Gerard says, and maybe he's sounding a teensy bit hurt.

"Seriously, Gee. This is, you know--" He lowers his voice and fuck, that'll sound even more suspicious, but it'll have to be suspicious. Fuck. "It's hard enough, okay? Mom's ears are flapping."

"They're really not big enough to flap," fucking George says right behind him and Frank jumps five fucking feet in the air and drops the phone. He also screams like a girl. Fucking George is holding up his hands and being all whoa whoa like he's trying to calm a freaked out dog or something. "Sorry, Frankie, I didn't mean to scare you. Here."

He picks up the phone and holds it out to Frank. Gerard's tinny distant voice is saying, "Frank? Frank? What happened? Frank?" Frank stares at it in horror, actually feeling like a fucking freaked out dog now. A freaked out dog about to get the fucking rolled-up newspaper.

"I think your friend is worried you're being eaten by wild animals, Frank," fucking George says mildly. "You better reassure him."

Frank makes his limbs obey with pure fucking force of will and takes the phone. "I'll call you back," he says quickly and hangs up. He looks at fucking George. "Okay. Um. I'm gonna go, like, have a heart attack or something now. Excuse me."

"Sorry again!" George calls after him. He hears his mother ask something and George answer, "Nothing, I just surprised him. I think he's still a little asleep."

Up in his room he texts Gerard SRY FKN G FKN W/ ME, PLS AX M TO CALL HOUSE PHN. LOVE F. Then he smacks himself a good one in the face for being such a freak and goes down to eat some fucking pancakes. His mother and fucking George just kind of snicker at him and no one even asks him anything. Another close call he got away with. Time to stop taking stupid chances, he vows. No more stupid, period.

"No more coffee," Mom says when Frank reaches for the pot to get his second. "You're twitchy enough as it is. I suppose it would be a waste of time to ask you what's going on?"

"I'm sorry," Frank says quickly. "I just, like, um. He kinda snuck up on me? I didn't mean to spazz out like that. I'm okay. Sorry, f-- uh, sorry, George."

"It's completely my fault, Linda," fucking George says. "I was being clever. It's the first thing they tell you, too, never sneak up on anything unless you want to take a kick in the knee."

Frank looks at the coffee. So close, yet so far away. His head hurts a little, and it's actually really uncomfortable to sit on the hard kitchen chair right now. "Well, I didn't kick or anything," he says and tries not to squirm.

The whole sore ass thing is a bitch for more than just the obvious reason, too. It's a constant reminder. He can't move without feeling it and that means he can't move without thinking about it and that means he can't move without Gerard fucking popping up in his head all intense and leaning in with his fucking eyes and his mouth and yeah, every move. And Frank loves pancakes, and Mom has even started making them vegan just for him, but it is a struggle to get anything down today. He makes an effort, though, because there has been enough weirdness already.


Mikey doesn't call until eleven-thirty, and he sounds kind of grumpy or maybe sad, because they sound the same in Mikey's voice.

"Um," Frank says. He's suddenly not really happy about having this conversation. It's kind of fucking sad, actually. Mikey's always so low-key it's hard to tell if he's, like, crying on the inside or something, but it seems like he's having a hard time. "So."

"Gerard was babbling something about, I don't even know what he was saying--Gerard, what the fuck was that about Frank screaming?--Were you screaming about me, because that would be kinda weird, Frank."

"No, shit, that was just kind of an accident. What I wanted to, uh, tell you was that, um." He looks around quickly to check for lurking Georges or other potential ambush situations and lowers his voice a little, but not in a suspicious way. "Andy called to say Pete's a mess and you should answer your phone but I guess you broke it so maybe just call him okay."

Mikey goes quiet for a long time, until it starts getting fucking freaky. Frank says, "Mikey? Did you get that? Andy, Pete, heartbreak and woe, call him on the phone."

"Yeah, I got it," Mikey says quietly. "Okay. Thanks, Frank."

"Okay?" Frank says. "Okay."

"Frank?" his mother calls. "You can't go over to Mikey's today, remember Francesca! She'll want to spend time with you, God help us."

"No, it's okay!" Frank yells back, putting the phone down. "He just wanted to, um, talk about some stuff. I'm good."

He goes back up to his room and lies down on his back and tries to stay still. That reminds him of Gerard, too, though, of Gerard's fucking college fuckfests and all that shit, so not helpful at all. He turns over and lies on his front instead, and thinks about Leatherface and chainsaws, and then about the remake which was, like, fucking sacrilege and a criminal waste of money, fucking hell, and about the Psycho remake which was just a joke, and the Dawn Of the Dead remake which shamefully was kind of good, but obviously not scary at all, and no, that does not help either because he watched that thing with Gerard and they got high after and to think they could have been making out, like, all those times they just hung out watching movies and getting wasted and reading comics and playing Tekken and Battlefield and Doom. All those times. Months.

He's, like, too fucking young to be thinking about wasted time, for fucking serious. And also, maybe Pete and Mikey are what you get when you don't take your time. Gerard is probably more fucked in the head than Pete, Frank can't, like, kid himself there. Sometimes Mikey kind of lets slip things, like about nightmares that Gerard doesn't even wake up from until he's throwing up, or fucked up shit like that. Gerard kind of glosses over them a little, Frank thinks. He shares, but he doesn't really get that detailed about how messed up it is.

Frank is also too fucking young to be lying around contemplating and brooding and getting emo, so he rolls out of bed and fires up his recently acquired hack of the Tombraider 10th anniversary remake to spend some quality time in the jungles of Peru.

Even Lara fucking Croft brings him around to Gerard, of course, because they once had a conversation that went something like... Gerard saying her tits were unnatural and the game has stopped being a game and just gone into the porn business and Frank saying what the fuck is the issue there, you watch porn, you hypocritical perv? and Gerard sighing the sigh of you just don't understand and Frank eventually admitting that the tits might be kind of stupid but he's a guy, what's he gonna do? It's hot. And Gerard sighing again and finally nodding because yeah. It is hot.

He concentrates really furiously on killing some dinosaurs and not on his sore ass and why it's sore, and not on his boyfriend--boyfriend!--who is just two miles down the road but might as well be on Mars.

Then Aunt Francesca calls up, "Frankie! Darling! Come give your auntie a big kiss!"

He hasn't seen her in a couple years, not since she moved to Florida, and he thinks she might have missed the part where he's not a toddler anymore. At least she'll be kind of distracting.


Somehow Frank has completely forgotten that Aunt Francesca and fucking George never actually met before. They're already giving each other the stink-eye when he gets downstairs and it continues through dinner. Francesca really likes Frank's dad. She's also loud and smokes and dresses maybe a little slutty, totally unlike Frank's mom who is the younger sister but looks like she's the one five years older.

She likes Frank, too, though. She doesn't let him so much as say hi before she's already giving him a couple of those big kisses, and then she laughs this hoarse laugh that's a total pot laugh, and says, "Oh my God, baby, you grew up!"

"Yes, Fran, it happens," Mom says behind her, kind of dryly. She's next to George, and he's got an arm around her shoulders, a pretty tight arm. She looks like she wants to pinch the bridge of her nose. "You do know when he was born. I think you were there at the Christening almost sixteen years ago."

"Oh, get off it, Linda," Francesca says, waving her hand. "Let me say hi to the kid before we start."

"Hi, Aunt Francesca," Frank says. It's actually pretty interesting to watch this happy reunion. There were so many things he didn't get when he was a little kid. He thinks he might understand some of them now. "How's it going?"

She smiles at him, a big smile that scrunches up her face. She's got eyebrows that are waxed to pencil-thin arcs and her eyelashes are pitch black with mascara. "It's going good, Frankie," she says. "Good to be back up here and even better to know I don't have to stay, you know what I mean?"

"Francesca," Mom says tiredly.

"Yeah, I get it," Frank says.

"What do you do in Florida, Francesca?" George asks. Francesca snaps her head around in a way that seems studied and practiced to set her carefully arranged curls fly out like she's in a hairspray commercial.

"I cater, George," she says. "Wedding anniversaries for the pensioners mostly. It's very giving work."

"Would you like something to drink, Fran?" Mom asks.


For dinner there's this stinking giant steak and Frank gets stewed mushrooms. The smell of meat grosses him out more and more the longer he stays vegetarian, and this is just fucking overkill. He can't stop staring at it, either. It's, like, obscene.

"Vegetarian!" Francesca exclaims, like it's totally thrilling. "Are you one of those straightedge kids or something, Frankie?"

"Nah," Frank says, tearing his eyes off the pink uncooked bit in the middle of the thing. "I just don't want meat."

"He stays healthier like this," Mom says. "The doctors recommended it."

"Also, I don't want to eat dead animals," Frank says stubbornly.

"It is getting popular with the kids today," fucking George says. "They serve vegetarian lunch at school."

"Not vegan, though," Frank says. "It's always covered in frickin cheese."

"Frank," Mom says.

"You wanna walk me around the old neighborhood after dinner, kid?" Francesca says. "Show me the sights, what's changed in three years."

Mom looks like she's about to hop in with something like oh, let's all go, which would be pretty fucking agonizing the way everyone's all tense and glaring like they're in one of those movies about estranged families getting together at Thanksgiving or whatever and there's always at least one cousin or adopted son or whatever who brings up child abuse or secret alcoholism and someone's died and it was someone else's fault and no one talks about it but everyone thinks about it. Frank hates those movies not just because they're boring but because they make him fucking cringe the whole boring time.

Frank says, "Yeah, cool. It'll be cool." He smiles what he hopes is an enthusiastic smile, and Mom looks kind of pleased and doesn't make any suggestions.

Francesca's shoes have stiletto heels and they make her taller than Frank by about fifteen feet or so, or maybe just four inches, but basically she's hovering above him like some Valkyrie in a miniskirt, and it's kind of weird but impressive.

"You're never gonna be tall, kid," she says when they're walking down the drive. "Your daddy's one stumpy little bastard, too."

"Thanks," Frank says. "I kinda figured."

She lights a cigarette and offers Frank the pack. He squints at her suspiciously but she just kind of shrugs and her eyebrow twitches. He shrugs, too, and takes a cigarette. He's pretty sure she'll get the blame if Mom busts them.

"Really not edge, huh?" she says and actually winks.

"No, really not."

"How are things here?" she asks, blowing smoke rings and tapping ash onto the Sanders' hedge. "Is Linda going to marry that big blond jock?"

"I guess," Frank says.

"Yeah, it's looking imminent. What about you?"

"What about me?"

"Girlfriends, lady friends, that kind of thing." She nudges him with her shoulder. "You've got that really pretty face, they must love you."

"Not really," he says. "I'm kinda... I don't know, they just don't."

She ruffles his hair. "Fucking high school. Don't know what they're missing."

She tells him a long story about her Cuban boyfriend who is a shark fisher, and it all sounds completely made up but Frank's almost sure it's actually true. If he told her about his boyfriend it would sound made up, too, he thinks. He doesn't, but she asks him about friends and he gives up Mikeyway and what she says is, "Mikey Way? Like, the Ways Mikey Way?"

Her tone of voice is funny, so Frank doesn't really want to commit even though he kind of understands saying the Ways like that. "Well, I don't know," he says. "His name is Mikey Way and... his family is also named Way?"

"You know what I'm saying. The Ways with the gas station near the West beach."


"Wow, the Ways," she says, lighting, like, her third cigarette. "I remember them. Not Mikey, so much because he's so young, but the older one. The really fucking weird one."

"Gerard," Frank says, and it comes out kind of angry.

"Yeah, Gerard. I went to school with Donna, you know. She's a couple years older." She slows down and turns around, walking backwards and looking at him, which makes him super tense because she's going to fall over and break her hip or something. He tries to walk around her so she'd have to turn back, but she just laughs and backs up faster. "She was wild. Crazy wild. I pretty much worshiped her, you know? She was one of those chicks that just don't give a shit about what anybody thinks. Of course her Mama was an artist, it explains a lot."

Frank tries to imagine Mrs Way young and wild, and he gets her into young and wild outfits but her face just won't change.

"She was really pretty, too," Francesca says, looking up at the sky almost dreamily. "Pretty hair. Everyone was so surprised when she married Donny. He was such a, what should I say... He was a plain, quiet nerd, you know? Really liked wood shop and building model airplanes. And as expected they got some funny-looking kids."

"They look okay," Frank says.

"Don't worry, I'm not disrespecting your friends--you must have met Gerard? Although maybe he's in college, he must be, what, twenty-one by now."

"He came back home when Mrs Way's mother died."

Her mouth falls open. "She's dead? Elena?"

He nods and her face crumples for a second before she smooths it out and smiles at him.

She says, "She was a really cool old lady, Elena."

"Yeah," Frank says, although he only met her a few times. But Gerard talks about her like she's Mary, Mother of God and Wonder Woman wrapped into one. He holds out a hand. "Can I have another smoke?"

She hands him the pack without even blinking. "Shit," she says. "I can't believe it. I have to go see Donna. What do you think, can I borrow your lovely mother's car?"

"Sure," he says, and adds really casually, "Can I come?"


"You know," Francesca says just as she swerves into the station lot, cigarette clamped in her mouth. Frank's mom is going to flip out over the smell of smoke. "I kinda remember you were this bright, talky kinda kid, Frankie. You're being really quiet now. You got trouble? You in trouble?"

He shrugs. She laughs her hoarse laugh and flicks the cigarette out the window, which makes Frank's heart skip a beat because they're right next to the pumps. Nothing blows up, though. His heart keeps making those little flips anyway, because now he can see Mikey and Gerard in the store, both slouching with their elbows on the counter.

Francesca gets out of the car and waves at them. "Oh my," she says. "Haven't they grown up, too."

They go inside and both Mikey and Gerard straighten up and turn, the exact same movement, and for just a flash of time they look weirdly the same, Gerard a dark shadow version behind Mikey. Then it passes and they're themselves, and of course they look nothing alike.

"Oh my," Francesca says again. Mikey's kind of squinting at her, puzzled, but Gerard is looking her in the eyes, almost staring. Then his eyes slide off her to Frank and his face goes completely, and completely obviously, blank.

Frank waves a little and Mikey waves back. Gerard stays blank.

"Gerard," Francesca says. "Mikey. I'm so sorry about Elena, I'm so sorry. I never even heard." She sounds almost devastated now even though she was, like, ogling them five seconds ago. Gerard comes around the counter, his eyebrows drawing together.

"I'm--" he starts but he doesn't get to finish because she pretty much launches herself at him, wrapping her arms around him hard. Frank can hear him go 'oof.' She's taller than Gerard, too, especially with the fluffy hair.

"I can't believe it," she mumbles. "Poor Donna. Is she holding up?"

Frank and Mikey exchange glances. Mikey raises his eyebrows. Frank shrugs. Gerard is patting Francesca's back gingerly.

Finally she lets him go and he looks around a little frantically. "Uh," he says. "Yeah, she's... I think she's okay. Are you okay, Francesca?"

"Yeah, yeah, I just get, you know. It's been a long time since I saw her and I was kind of looking forward to... Anyway. Great to see you again. You too, Mikey."

She pats Frank on the head when she walks out, her heels making sharp clicks on the floor.

"Who was that?" Mikey asks as soon as the door closes behind her.

"My aunt," Frank says at the same time as Gerard says, "Francesca."

"She's your aunt?" Gerard says at the same time as Frank says, "You know her?"

"You guys," Mikey says. "Stop that."

"Okay, okay," they both say and everyone pretty much starts laughing then.

"I don't remember her," Mikey says. "I mean, not... really."

"Francesca," Gerard says. "Francesca the model!"

Mikey's eyes go round behind his glasses. "The model!"

"No, seriously," Frank says, sidling towards Gerard. "Aunt Francesca. My mother's sister."

Gerard looks sideways at him, all eyelashes and tiny smile. Mikey snorts. "Gerard's got tons of naked pictures of your mom's sister, dude."

"Well, yeah," Gerard says, rolling his eyes. "Model. She used to sit for Helena, man. Sometimes I'd do some sketches too."

He leans down and kisses Frank really quickly before backing off again.

"You guys," Mikey says again.

"How much time do you think we have?" Gerard says, quietly but probably not quietly enough because Mikey sighs deeply behind him.

Frank turns to him and makes big eyes. "Call when she comes back?"

Mikey sighs again but he waves his hand fine fine.


They kind of speedwalk around the house and end up racing each other up the stairs, Frank winning because Gerard trips halfway and almost knocks his teeth out on the railing. Then they crash through the door and Frank grabs Gerard's shoulders and jumps up to wrap his legs around his waist. He used to do this to Toro a bunch, and Bob--okay, sometimes Gerard, too, but obviously, at the time, without the part where he clutches the sides of his head and sticks his tongue in his mouth. That part's the new part, and the best part, too. Gerard laughs against his mouth, breathless and clutching Frank right back, his fingers digging into Frank's hips.

"Fuck," Gerard pants, "you're heavier than you look."

"I think you've said that every time this far," Frank says, but he lets himself slide down along Gerard's legs, pushing his hips forward when he does. Gerard runs his hands up his back and into his hair. Frank looks up at him and says, "Hi."

"Hi, Frank," Gerard says.

"Hi, Gerard," Frank says and laughs and pulls him in again. The whole thing degenerates into frantic humping inside like five seconds, and Frank starts thinking through options--there's been so little time to do stuff that everything's like the best ever, and it's hard to decide where to go next.

They disengage long enough to stumble to Gerard's room, but then they end up standing in the door, staring at the bed. "Oh yeah," Gerard says. "I was gonna wash, uh, the sheets... And then when I was looking for clean ones I found this box of those old Phantom issues... They're fucking hilarious, too, you should take some."

"Mikey's bed?" Frank says.

They almost go for it, but then Gerard says, "He and Pete have totally fucked here, and I know he hasn't changed the sheets."

"How does that suddenly bother you!"

"It bothers you," he says, tugging at Frank's hand. "Come on."

Nobody ever uses the livingroom and it's still the same as it was when Helena lived here, her old TV and easy chair and the easel in the corner. And an ugly, brown sofa the size of a small yacht. They shove the embroidered cushions aside and sink into it, and it's like drowning in brown plush waves, it's so soft. Frank can hardly get enough purchase to get his hands between them and start digging around for buckles and buttons and zippers. Gerard also hinders him by trying to take off his shirt at the same time, and their arms are, like, tangled like that's even physically possible. They're smushed together so tight anyway that every move makes everything else move, maddening and almost enough.

"Jesus!" Frank says, bucking up and yanking fiercely at Gerard's stupid belt buckle.

"Wait, wait, you first--" Gerard manages to prop himself up on his arms, precariously but enough that Frank can get them both out of their jeans, sort of, well, unzipped and stuff anyway. "Oh, fuck it."

"Yeah," Frank agrees, and Gerard slides against him in a slow, deliberate roll of the hips and Frank gasps against his mouth and twists his hand to get his fingers around Gerard's dick. And that's how they do it, just Frank's hand kind of stuck between them and Gerard moving against him, rucking up his t-shirt and running his mouth over Frank's chest, teeth scraping his nipples. It's fucking great, and crazy fast and it feels like they haven't touched in weeks even though obviously they fucked like twelve hours ago and Frank's still aching and sore.

They also make a complete mess but Frank doesn't even consider that until his breathing's evened out a little and his brain lets his thoughts out of battle stations.

He opens his eyes and finds himself staring at one of the pictures on the wall.

"Dude," he says. "Tell me that is not my aunt Francesca on the wall."

Gerard shifts a little against him but doesn't look up. "I'm afraid I can't tell you that, Frankie," he says, his voice muffled against Frank's neck.

Frank looks away and is forced to think about something else quickly. Which brings him to-- "Oh, shit. We didn't, uh, happen to come all over my pants, did we?"

They roll apart and survey the damage.

"Um," Gerard says, and then he giggles all high-pitched and nervous. "I think Francesca will probably know what that is."

Frank's still feeling sort of spinny and floaty (although he's also completely ready to do it again) and he's probably not as freaked out at the prospect as he would be without the whole, like, orgasm thing bringing the mellow. "I think... You know, we can just wipe it off and if she asks I'll just lie like a rug."

Gerard relaxes and slumps down next to him, nuzzling the side of his neck. "Point blank denial or crazy excuse kinda rug?"

"Point blank, I think," Frank says, turning his face towards Gerard to be kissed. "You know, I have no knowledge of these events, sir, whatever."

After a while he says, "I did promise myself no more stupid chances."

"Too late," Gerard says. His phone rings somewhere down by their knees. "Showtime," he says and giggles again, they both do.

They don't let go of each other's hands until the last step around the corner because that whole thing about stupid chances is obviously for pussies. Frank's already stopped them to make out like twice on the way down the stairs. He thinks he's probably gone completely insane, like maybe this is what abstinence only was invented for, the fact that having sex makes you crazy and stupid. Gerard's supposed to be all used to it, though, but he's just as stupid, keeps slipping his hand under Frank's shirt and stroking his skin and pushing his face against the crook of his shoulder.

"Oh God," Frank says when they're two almost safe feet apart and walking down the gravel walk towards the station. "We're so those people. Those annoying people who giggle and can't stop making out in public."

"I know," Gerard says. He doesn't sound like it's a big surprise to him. Shit, he probably knew what he was already, the sneaky fuck.

"I always hated those people."

Gerard fishes around in his pocket and gets out his cigarettes. "Well, yeah, it's a pain in the ass to watch that shit. Like, get a room."

"For real."

They light up and smoke in silence. Francesca is leaning against the car, her long legs crossed at the ankle. Gerard waves, all innocent and smiling. Frank almost feels guilty but he won't waste the actual guilt on anyone but Mom.

"Hey, kids," Francesca says. Her mascara is a little smeared like she's cried and then tried to fix it. "You left Mikey all by himself."

"Yeah, um," Frank says.

"His day," Gerard says, cool as a cucumber which has to be, like, a first.

Francesca nods and smiles at him, her face really lighting up. She really remembers him, Frank thinks. And she liked him. "You two sure grew up fine while I was away," she says. "Where is that chubby awkward kid with the baggy sweaters?"

"I don't think he'll ever go away," Gerard says.

Mikey's leaning in the doorway, his mouth turned down, his arms crossed. Francesca waves at him and he waves back without lifting his arm, or smiling. "Your brother isn't looking too happy," she says.

Gerard says, "I know." His hand lingers for a second on the small of Frank's back before he goes, shuffling across the tarmac toward Mikey.

In the car, when they're back on the highway going way too fast again, Francesca cocks an eyebrow at Frank and says, "So it's like that, then."

"No, it's not," Frank says immediately, but for some reason he doesn't feel super freaked out. She's obviously been around the block a few times, around the block, the city and the whole county, probably. Gerard has drawn naked pictures of her--Frank can't quite help imagining a sort of Titanic scene with lounging and suggestive looks, even though having your grandmother in the room probably would dampen the mood just a little--and she is looking at Frank right now with that eyebrow raised but no outrage in her face at all.

"Uhuh," she says and smiles wide. "Okay, Frankie." She makes a zipping gesture in front of her mouth, even turning the key and throwing it out the window.

"Okay," he says, still a little caught in the Titanic scene there, thinking about high school Gerard all serious and concentrated and Aunt Francesca lounging on that giant, too-soft couch. He's trying to not think about her breasts or whatever but it's not easy because a--they were right there in his face on the wall and b--they're in fact right there in his face right now, busting out of her low-cut top.

Aunt! he reminds himself and she grins at him again because obviously he's been fucking staring right down her cleavage. Probably looking completely dazed, too, because he feels dazed.

"Reel that thought in, kid," she says and he claps his hand over his eyes and tries really hard, and she laughs her pot laugh and accelerates even more.


Around ten o'clock that night Mikey calls his cell and asks, without any lead-in, "What exactly did Andy say?"

Frank has been out cruising entirely different oceans of thought and it takes him embarrassingly long to remember who the fuck Andy is and what the fuck he said. Oh, Andy. Oh, that. "He begged, Mikey. The words 'cherry on top' were used."

"Fuck, whatever," Mikey says with unusual heat. "I mean about Pete."

"That he's a scary obsessive motherfucker who writes bad poetry and cries about you all night?"

"Huh," Mikey says. He seems to be thinking. It's taking a while.

"I guess he kind of misses you, or something," Frank supplies. "I mean, maybe he, like, fell in love with you?"

"Whatever," Mikey says. "No."

"Are you doing okay, Mikes?" Frank asks, not really expecting an answer.

"I'd be better if people stopped asking me that," Mikey says. He sounds tired. "Gerard won't get off my case either."

"Well, I mean, he cares. Obviously. And I guess because, you know, we kinda had... you know, bad timing? You know."

Mikey snorts. "That's not even-- Frank, you know you weren't fucking fooling anyone, like, ever? Even your aunt pegged you guys in like two seconds, Jesus Christ. I saw it coming from Texas, okay. You guys are so fucking lame."

"Okay," Frank says, leaning his forehead against the desk. Wow. Mikey's such a space cadet but sometimes he fucking turns on the deep space radar, for serious, and then anything's up for grabs. "Fair."

Mikey says, "So I'll just call Pete and see what he has to say, I guess." It sounds like that's what he wanted to say all along, although Frank's not sure why he's the one getting this and not Gerard. Maybe Mikey's worried about disrupting Gerard's happy sex vibes with his emo or something. Sometimes Mikey gets like that, keeping shit down because he doesn't want to disrupt. And then sometimes he just lets it all fly, spikes out.

"Yeah," Frank says. He's never been into avoidance anyway, so Mikey's decision to hunker down and wait it out pretty much weirded him out from the start. But Mikey's different, maybe he just needed to lay low for a while first. Even Gerard with all his hermiting and hiding in his room is, like, more impulsive. "Like, whatever else happens, it'll be interesting?"

Mikey laughs for like two seconds at that before he just says, "Yeah, catch you later, Frankie," and hangs up.

There's no way for Frank to sneak out that night because at two thirty, Francesca and Mom are still drinking wine and giggling downstairs, and maybe he's tempted fate enough for one day anyway. But he can't even make himself go to bed until he's so tired he just falls over; he doesn't want to make the decision to not go and he keeps waiting for them to fucking go to bed and they never do.

He wakes up at, like, six am still in his clothes, curled up the wrong way on his bed and fucking freezing. Because he's an idiot and the window is open and it's raining again. But when he goes downstairs to make some tea because seriously, freezing, he finds two empty wine bottles on the livingroom coffee table, his mother on the loveseat under an afghan, with her legs tucked up and her shoes on the floor, and Francesca sprawled on the big couch with her long bare legs just everywhere. She looks like she could be pretty cold, too, so Frank gets the soft wool blanket off the chair by the window and throws it over her. She doesn't even stir.



The next time he wakes up someone's shaking him by the shoulder and his head hurts and he's been flying.

He turns his face into the pillow, away from the annoyance, still clinging to the dizzy, swooping feeling of flying.

In his dream he's a bird, which is cool. It's not precisely a cool bird, though, but some kind of little sparrow or whatever, something tiny and fluffy that bounces when it flies. He's been lost in a hedge the whole time, fluttering from twisted branch to twisted branch--it's a giant hedge, though, or he's the tiniest bird in the world because it's like jumping between buildings--dodging wicked thorns and giant gaping caves in the trunks of the bushes where he just knows spiders lurk, ready to snack. But he's pretty fast, he'll make it. Or he would if he weren't awake now, the dream shred into tatters and dissolving.

He turns onto his back, a little bummed. He kind of wanted to know if the Frankbird was gonna make it out of the maze.

The dizzy, swooping feeling doesn't actually go away with the dream, though. Then he notices that his sinuses are tickling, his throat is sore and there's a familiar dull ache in his chest. He wants to, seriously, he could punch himself in the face. He settles for slapping the wall really hard.

Then he opens his eyes and it's not his mother, it's Francesca.

She says, "Your mother is a little embarrassed that she got wasted on a bottle of wine and crashed on the couch. She's more sure than ever that I'm a bad influence."

"Mmh," he says. His voice vibrates unpleasantly somewhere in the phlegmy bottom of his chest. What the fuck, he goes swimming at night, he's soaked to the skin three times in a row and then he sleeps one night on top of the covers and it's plague time? "Fuck."

"You look a little flushed, kid," she says, putting her cool hand on his forehead. He doesn't think she's ever done that before. Francesca isn't exactly the motherly type. "You might have a fever."

He does have a fever, but it doesn't feel too bad and he has fevers all the time without other symptoms, it doesn't mean anything until he starts hallucinating. He might get out of this one with a minimum of hassle if he can make himself stay in bed.

Just the thought of that makes him tense up, though. He's so unbelievably sick of being sick.

"Yeah, uh." He has to cough, but just to clear his throat. He doesn't think it's the fucking bronchitis again. Yet. "I guess."

"You still get sick all the time?" She's stroking his hair back from his face gently, pretty much the same way his mother does it.

"Just call me Typhoid Frank."

"Typhoid Mary was the one who gave everyone else the fever, she wasn't actually sick herself," she says, and that's kind of how Gerard does it. Sometimes he can't resist correcting people.

That sends him into a really pathetic fantasy about curling up in Gerard's bed and just sleeping there while Gerard comes and goes, computer, TV, coffeemaker, bed, computer, TV, coffeemaker, bed, until Frank is better and they can get on with the having of lots of sex.

He puts his hands over his eyes and groans.

"I'll make you some tea," Francesca says. "And... whatever else is it Linda always makes you take?"

Of course she doesn't get as far as making any tea before Mom is up in his room, dragging in the electric blanket and his flannel pajamas and extra pillows and plugging in the heater and taking his temperature and calling Dr Gupta to ask questions she already knows the answer to. Francesca stands in the doorway with her eyebrows raised, just stepping quietly out of the way when Mom swoops by.

When they're alone upstairs for a second--Mom's in the kitchen digging out her first line of defense emergency stash of herbal infusions, ginger, honey, garlic and god knows what--she says, "She's got this down to a science by now." She sounds kind of impressed.

"Do it enough times," Frank says.


After sleeping a few more hours, eating some vegetable soup and drinking about five gallons of herbal tea and running to the bathroom every five minutes for half a day, he is so bored he's starting to ponder self-harm as a way out, like a trapped monkey in a cage. If he had a tail he would start chewing on it. He's not really sick, it's obviously just a fucking cold that is not going to kill him, but Mom has learned from past mistakes and she's watching him like a a hawk, a hawk carrying soup and tea. Francesca comes up to watch A Nightmare Before Christmas with him around two pm and she knows the songs and hums along, which is also something Gerard does.

Eventually he notices that she's not really watching the movie, though, she's watching him.

"What?" he says.

She stops singing and says, "You just remind me of me. Makes me wonder if my kids would have been like Linda if I'd had any."

He snickers. "They'd be so embarrassed!" She raises an eyebrow and he flips through what he said and, okay: "Uh, I mean, you know... Mom's always giving me shit 'cause I'm rude and, like, inappropriate and stuff."

"Don't worry, kid," she says and pats his head. "She's always been a little embarrassed by me, too."


He does start feeling crappier toward the evening, that fucking cough he always gets creeping up slowly and chewing at his lungs. He turns his face into the pillow as if that will choke the cough out of him, he punches the wall like The Bride punched her way through the coffin in Kill Bill Volume 2, but all he gets are sore knuckles and the wall remains undented, what a fucking letdown. He's probably not a natural born killer.


About two and a half seconds later, Gerard replies: "No. You would put them on the internt Please dont die of plague. I LOVE YOU. did you watch Nightmare already."

The cough makes his head hurt, which is another barrel of fun. His mother comes upstairs again and watches him cough for a while and then she sits down on the bed and hugs him really tight and whispers, "Dammit, Frank," into his hair.

He thinks forward at long days of coughing and headaches and not being able to smoke and not seeing Gerard and generally being bored and fucking lousy and giving his mother a fucking nervous breakdown. "Yeah, dammit," he says.

"I'm taking Francesca over to Mom and Dad's now, okay? If you feel any worse call me, or call Dr Gupta, she'll be available until nine, I talked to her. I'll try to get back as soon as I can, honey. Drink your tea. I'll leave the thermos up here with water, just make more."

"Yes, Mom," he mumbles, really close to tired and miserable enough to forsake sarcasm even though she's being over the top. He's not going to develop, like, Ebola in the two hours it'll take her to drive there and back.


He wakes up and sees spiders all over the walls and he screams.

Then he wakes up for real and there aren't any spiders, just his dark room and the blue light of the DVD player standby screen on the TV. He can't even remember what he was watching. He reaches out blindly and almost turns over the thermos before he finds the light switch. He turns off the TV and that's as much as he wants to do right now. He still doesn't think it's worse than a cold but it's one bitch of a cold, of course.

Mom's in the doorway in her long, white nightgown and wild hair, looking like a ghost for a second. She looks kind of cool, actually. He likes her sharp, bony face and wide mouth, even though she's not as pretty as Francesca.

"Frank?" she's saying anxiously, pushing tangles of hair away from her face. "Baby, are you all right?"

He tries to answer but his throat isn't having any of that, and when he clears it he just ends up coughing and coughing. He'd punch the wall again in frustration but it would just make her more anxious. He just waves at her, making the OK sign and turning his thumb up to emphasize. Finally it ends and he croaks out, "Nightmare."

She gets his temp and frowns , and she hugs him again and sits there for a long time with her arms around him.

"It's not that bad, Mom," he says. His voice doesn't sound too bad once he's woken up a little.

"If your temperature rises another fraction of a degree I'm taking you to County," she says.



In the morning the cough is still there, and he kind of feels like he's been kicked in the side over and over. There's a text from Gerard that just says, "Better?" and then another one that says, ":(?"

He replies, ":/" and feels a little bit giddy even though he's kind of too tired to hold up the phone. He also feels a lot fucking goofy.

"George will be here around eight," Mom says as she sort of half-runs in, wearing her uniform under a coat. It must be raining again. "He'll work from here today."

Fucking George is some kind of consultant. It might have to do with vacuum cleaners but Frank never really paid attention long enough to find out for sure.

Instead of groaning out loud he just says, "Okay." She's put her hair in a French braid, erasing all of that crazy Woman in White look. She just looks a little stern. Her nose seems bigger when her hair is pulled back.

"Stay in bed, Frank," she says. "I mean it. I don't want to hear from George at work."

"Okay," he says, maybe with some attitude, but he doesn't think he could actually whip up the energy to escape right now. That's fucking depressing. It's one thing to lose days of fucking summer school, but he's really so completely over being sick when he finally has some time off. He keeps thinking he'll get through a vacation without an attack of the plague, but he keeps getting disappointed. Like fucking clockworks.

He texts Gerard, "FUKN SAVE ME."


"Frank? Frank? Are you awake, Frank?"

He can't quite make himself speak but he mmhs and cracks open one eye. Fucking George is standing over him, which is just a great way to wake up when you're sick.

"I am now," he tries to say, but it comes out mostly air and the occasional wheeze.

"Your friend Mike is here," fucking George says. He sounds kind of cranky. "And his... I didn't get his name. Another friend of yours, maybe? Long black hair, dressed all in black, too. They wouldn't take no for an answer so I came up to ask you. What do you think your mother would say?"

Frank closes the eye again and thinks. It's harder than it should be.

He clears his throat. It hurts, but he doesn't explode with coughing which is basically total victory.

"I feel better," he whispers. "Throat just sore, nothing worse. Let them in."

Fucking George frowns at him all serious and maybe suspicious too. "Okay, but just for a while. Well, Linda will be back in an hour. Maybe they could clear out before that."

Fucking George is afraid of Mom's mother bear mode. It's almost cute.


Mikey shuffles in, huddled in a stripey hoodie with the hood up, his shoulders hunched and raindrops still on his glasses. Behind him, Gerard skulks like his short, round shadow. He doesn't have his hood up, and his hair is lank and dripping on his shoulders.

"Hey, Frank," Mikey says.

"Hey, Frank," Gerard says, kind of peering over Mikey's shoulder as if Frank might, he doesn't even know what, turn into a bat and fly right at him? Croak of the plague right now? Then Gerard looks back towards the door and there's fucking George, of course, hovering like a giant blond gargoyle or something, totally freaking Gerard out with his gigantic blondness, no doubt.

"Hi," Frank says with a little effort. It even comes out as proper voice type sounds. "Uh, thanks, George?" What the fuck is he supposed to do, tip him? Go away, George. Fucking George.

George and Gerard are locked in some kind of staredown, fucking George frowning all confused, Gerard hunching down and maybe giving George that glare he so totally practices in the mirror. It's, like, as scary as watching two kittens fight, but Frank's seen people actually shy back when Gerard's glared at them. That's what fucking happens when you listen to fucking rumors, you end up scared of Gerard Way which is so fucking hilarious.

Fucking George just looks confused, though, so he probably doesn't know about Gerard's rep as a Satanist or potential serial killer or member of Al-Quaeda or whatever it is they think now.

Gerard pulls his shoulders up even higher and looks down, and George gives Frank a kind of helpless look. Frank waves at him. Go, go, go, go away.

"Okay, boys," fucking George says, probably trying to sound, like, fatherly. "I'll be downstairs. Frank, uh...Linda left some soup to heat. Just tell me when you want it, okay? Take it easy."

Mikey is kind of rolling his eyes. Gerard has turned back to look at Frank again, still behind Mikey, still peering over his shoulder.

"Okay, George," Frank croaks. "Have fun consulting."

"I'm just compiling some data for a presentation, I'm not actually-- Okay, yes. I get it, I get it. How about I bring you up that soup around three, and then you guys can clear out?"

He is so whipped, Frank thinks. He's fighting a grin pretty hard even though he still feels kicked and bruised on the inside from coughing and his head spins from sitting up. "Sure," he says just to get rid of fucking George.

As soon as George is gone, Gerard pushes the door shut and says, "How shitty are you feeling, Frankie?"

"Don't even fucking ask," Frank says and falls back onto the pillows. Gerard kind of sidles up to the bed as if he's afraid to make too much sound. He sits down on the very edge. Frank says, "Don't act so freaked out. I don't think I have anything you can catch. You're like never fucking sick."

Gerard looks down at him, all, "That's not--" Then he stops and narrows his eyes. "You're fucking with me."

"Fuck yeah," Frank says. He extracts one of his hand from under the three layers of blankets and touches Gerard's thigh. Gerard puts his hand over it. Frank grabs it and tugs a little.

"You guys are so fucking... I don't even... Fucking pink hearts and roses," Mikey kind of splutters. "I'm gonna look through your music folder, okay? Tell me when you stop making googly eyes."

Gerard folds himself sideways and leans his forehead carefully on Frank's shoulder. His damp hair makes a cold spot right under Frank's jaw.

"Did you guys seriously walk here? Is this crazy world or what?"

"What, fuck no," Mikey says, and Gerard kind of shakes his head against Frank's chin and mumbles, "Truck."

"You're like totally wet."

Mikey blinks at him behind his glasses. "Dude, have you looked out the window today?"

Frank raises an eyebrow in the general direction of the window, and the curtains that have been drawn since... probably since he closed the window the other morning, whichever morning that was. Now that he's paying attention, he can sort of hear the white noise of rain outside.

Gerard raises his head enough to look him in the face. "It's like the end of the world out there. We were like waiting for fucking Moses to show up in the fucking Ark."

"Huh," Frank says. "Cool."

"Yeah, fucking cool," Mikey says. "I'm gonna take off my shoes, they're so fucking soaked."

He takes off his socks, too. They're both black but Frank thinks they're not actually the same pair because one is like twice as long as the other.

Gerard sits up and kicks off his sneakers too, and bends down to get his sock. He hasn't even tried to match them, Frank sees--he has to kind of lean over the edge of the bed to see, but it's totally worth it--one is black and may be the brother of one of Mikey's, and the other one is some kind of pale green, with a dark green fucking frog on it. And the heel is worn out and holey.

"You guys are so special," he says, but he's reaching for Gerard again. Gerard might not be able to match his fucking socks but that's not, like, that high up on the list of requirements. "Fuck, I can't believe I get sick again now."

"It sucks," Gerard agrees. "I didn't know what 'save me' meant exactly but we brought, uh, what did we bring, Mikey? Nightbreed and House of 1000 Corpses and Halloween and Halloween II?"

"And The Lion King," Mikey says.

They do know what he likes, although he will have to hide all those movies from his mother because one look at Rob Zombie or whatever and she'd freak the fuck out. Some people have mothers who buy Roger Corman collections to sit next to their videotaped Days of our Lives episodes and think hanging Giger prints in the john is hilarious, other people have mothers who still watch Love Story once a year and think CW shows are too sexy and violent. "Fuck, the last thing I need is you two blubbering all over my fucking sickbed when Mufasa bites it."

"Fuck you, Frank," Mikey says distractedly. "You cry too."

Gerard's digging DVDs out of Mikey's bag one-handed because he won't let go of Frank to get it done, and he's humming Circle of Life under his breath. He doesn't even contest the crying accusation. He's the bigger man, really.

Mikey makes a sound that's kind of a whoop of excitement, Mikeyway-style, basically a squeak that peters out before it reaches actual whoop levels. "You have a shitload of fucking Smiths bootlegs, Frankie," he says, jabbing a finger at the screen. "You think Morrissey is whiny. What's going on here?"

"I was saving those for you two assholes," Frank says. That was going to be a surprise. Well, Mikey is probably surprised right now. "I was talking to this dude in some comm someplace and he hooked me up. I was pretending to be you, Mikeyway. I was all, 'oh, I would be emo but I'm too disaffected, Morrissey helps me reach myself.' You know he bought that shit."

"Fuck you, Frank," Mikey says mildly. Gerard has switched to singing about how he just can't wait to be king. He's folded Frank's fingers into his palm and is rubbing his knuckles gently with his thumb. His face looks placid and he's smiling a tiny smile. Frank's pretty sure most of him has left the building.

Frank battles the mountain of pillows and his own heavy head and gets himself kind of upright so he can turn Gerard's face and kiss him.

"Ew," Mikey says, "you're totally giving him the death plague now."

Gerard smells like rain and smoke and Frank wants a cigarette like he wants to make out with Gerard, which is a lot--okay, if he had to choose, like, for forever, cigarettes or Gerard? he'd obviously pick Gerard. However, as a rule Gerard comes with cigarettes, so it's like a trick question or something.

Mikey puts on The Smiths and surfs MySpace with way too much intense concentration--maybe he's found Pete Wentz's profile--and Frank gets Gerard's undivided attention with his hands and his mouth even though he has to break off to cough and it's probably kind of gross to suck face while suffering from a contagious disease, at least on the theoretical level, and his chest really hurts, both the deep and constant ache and the shallow, sharp pinches when he moves.

Gerard strokes his hair and face restlessly, tracing the curve of his ear and jaw and eyebrow, stuff like that, and Frank thinks he's probably holding himself back all nobly. Frank's kind of trapped in his pillow and blanket mountain and can't scrape together the energy to fight himself loose, but he doesn't really need to. Gerard's got him held up with a steady hand on his back, and he's not making any moves to, like, accelerate, he just explores Frank's mouth slowly and thoroughly, keeping it light so Frank can break off to breathe easily if he needs to.

It doesn't matter how easy it is, though, because after a while there are, like, black sheets fluttering around the edges of Frank's vision and his breaths are starting to sound like death rattles.

"You sound fucking horrible," Gerard says, breaking off but still holding Frank close.

"I think I got the black lung," Frank Zoolanders, and it's both more and less funny when he doesn't have to fake the croak.

Gerard lies him back down again, gently like he's something priceless and fragile, like a mint condition 1977 Obi-Wan in original packaging.

"Uh, Frank," Mikey says. He's lifted his head like an antelope listening for lions. "I think your mom's home."

Gerard lets go of Frank and backs away so fast the bed squeals, and Frank's heart kind of stops for a second and then he can't even think through all the coughing. In between having his lungs ripped out through his spine he sees Gerard hovering nervously, kind of halfway between the bed and the computer chair as if he can't decide what would be an appropriate distance.

They all freeze when Mom's voice reaches them, high-pitched with worry: "--not a good time, George! I know he's a handful but you could try to be the adult!"

Gerard looks freaked out to the point where Frank's worried he'll just try to escape through the window, and even Mikey's getting up and preparing for battle.

Mom slams into the room and stops dead right inside the door. She's opened her mouth to say something but loses track and closes it again.

"Hi Mom," Frank wheezes, almost in control over his body again, almost. "You're back early."

"Um, hi, Mrs Iero," Mikey mumbles. Gerard shuffles half a step backwards, closer to Mikey.

Her eyes flicker between the Ways and Frank, and she squares her shoulders. "This is really-- I'm sorry, boys, but it's really too-- Frank needs to rest even though he chooses to believe he's Superman."

"We just came to say hi," Mikey says. "We really have to go anyway." Frank sees him move surreptitiously to nudge Gerard in the side.

Mom is giving Gerard brief, covert glances. Gerard isn't even looking his freakiest today, Frank thinks, his clothes are pretty clean and, like, there aren't too many holes or anything and nothing weird on his shirt.

"They haven't been here that long," Frank says. He knows he sounds kind of bitchy but fuck it, he hates being interrupted, even mid-cough.

She looks at him all exasperated and tired, she looks really tired and worn, it's even more obvious now that he's freshly reminded of Aunt Francesca and her nice skin and big laugh. So there, now he's feeling bitchy and guilty, and sick of it. If she could just take it easier, stop with the worrying and overworking. He doesn't think he demands a lot. He knows, like, so many kids who are constantly on their parents' case about new shit, games and computers and cars and fuck knows what, but Frank just wants some fucking freedom.

Now she looks directly at Gerard and says, "Hello, Gerard." She manages to sound completely neutral. It occurs to Frank that the last time she saw Gerard was when Gerard had to drive him to County after Frank had snuck out when he was sick. He doesn't remember that much of it but Mikey told him later that Gerard was out for hours and probably spent most of that time hovering somewhere near Frank's room and trying to hear what the doctors were saying. That time Mom called Mrs Way and thanked her for sending Gerard, like it wasn't totally Gerard's idea and he had fucking carried Frank from the truck into the reception.

Which, in retrospect, wow--he would so appreciate that shit more now. At the time he'd been nursing this utter rage at, like, God or whoever for making him so fucking deficient and a smaller kind of rage at Gerard for being stubborn and melodramatic and embarrassing, and he'd also been trying to stay conscious and tasting blood in his mouth. What a shitty day. But as a memory, yeah. Pretty sweet.

He has no idea what Mom and Gerard talked about then. Probably nothing at all.

"Hi," Gerard says and ducks his head. His hair falls into his face. It's still not quite dry so it's like Brandon Lee's goth hair in The Crow. At least he's not wearing leather or, like, anything with buckles. He's also not wearing shoes or socks, of course.

Maybe now his mother is going to start associating Gerard with Frank being sick, like he is the Crow for real, in a more bad luck omen kinda way than a vengeful ghoul kinda way, but still. Of course, then she'd have to associate, like... blankets, tea, soup, the sky and the sun with Frank being sick. He's not sure she doesn't, actually.

"All right," she says, composing herself and turning on the chill Mother In Charge mode. "I'll go heat you that soup, Frank. You boys see yourselves out, okay? Give my love to your mother."

They chorus a, "Yes, Mrs Iero" with all the enthusiasm of starving orphans who couldn't have some more.

Once she's left the room they put on their socks and shoes in silence, and Frank lies on his back also in silence and feels abandoned already.

Gerard pats Frank's leg through the blanket before he leaves, and he is making kind of a Scarlett O'Hara face that would be funny if it didn't make Frank feel so bummed.

Mikey hisses, "Would you stop acting like you're fucking Romeo and Juliet?" and tugs Gerard out the door.

And Frank wants to yell something after them but he can't find enough air.

He looks around his empty room. This kind of sucks. And then he has to crawl out of bed and stagger over and get those fucking horror DVDs out of the way so things don't have to suck even more. He can hear fucking George talking downstairs, probably trying to be nice to Mikey and Gerard and staying on Mom's good side at the same time. Good luck with that, fucking George, Frank thinks. He feels something that might be sympathy for a second there.

He leaves The Lion King out because Mom will think it's sweet that they'd bring him cartoons to watch.

When she comes up, she does mention that it's sweet, and then she watches him eat his fucking broth and says, "Just let your body get better, Frank." And then she says, "It's nice of Gerard to drive Mikey here, though."

And then she says, "Do you spend a lot of time with him?"

And Frank says, "Who?" because he is not going to go anywhere near that voluntarily.

"Gerard. Does he... I always got the impression he doesn't socialize a lot, but he and Mikey seem close."

"I guess," Frank says.

She nods thoughtfully as if that was actually an answer. "He doesn't look quite healthy. He should probably get out in the sun a little more."



It always gets worse before it gets better, so on Friday evening he gets shipped to County to get prodded with needles and stared at and poked hard in sore places by Dr Gupta. At least she's pretty and pretty nice, too. She's really young, though, and Frank's mother always looks at her with a little frown of suspicion even though she'd never switch doctors because Dr Gupta is like a miracle of patience and understanding. Frank's old doctor once yelled at Mom, seriously, told her to back the fuck off. Frank almost punched him in the face, except he was hooked up to an IV at the time.

He also overhears Mom and fucking George have a Serious Talk about insurance payments and 'getting through the month' and 'I don't need charity' and 'working yourself to death isn't going to make him healthier!' He doesn't think they realize they're that loud, because they're doing the angry whisper thing that totally is like 'listen up, we're having a secret argument!'

That drives him back to Pai Mei exercises for real, and he doesn't stop until he notices he's about to draw blood and he's being, like, so fucking teenage loser that he'll have to do something drastic to balance his world again. He doesn't know what, but it'll be awesome. As soon as he can fucking get out of bed. He watches all the movies Gee and Mikey brought that night, even the fucking Lion King, but he falls asleep halfway through Nightbreed and when he wakes up, his mother has confiscated it.

"I don't even know how you get a hold of these things," she says in a tone of voice that suggests she knows exactly how he does it. She holds the case gingerly, as if she can hardly bear to touch these ungodly images through a cover of plastic. "You can have it back when you're seventeen."

Frank's pretty sure Gerard will understand. At least it wasn't the Halloweens.



By Sunday he's feeling halfway decent and probably well enough to make it through Mass, but he doesn't precisely let Mom know that. Catholic guilt is such a bitch and he's determined to burn through his as quickly and cleanly as possible, so he spends the time wisely: he downloads some fucked up old German punk on Bob Bryar's recommendation (email subject line: Things To Do On The Internet When You're Dead), he calls Gerard and opens with "I've been thinking about fucking" and after they hang up he jerks off for the first time in a week. Just once, though, because afterwards he feels like he just ran a marathon up a mountain, just flat on his back wheezing like a dog on a choke chain.

He calls Gerard back and says, "I was serious about the fucking. I'm dying of all this, like, pent-up sexual frustration."

"Are you sure you're feeling better?" Gerard asks. "You sound kind of fucked up right now."

Frank tells him why he sounds fucked up. Gerard's silent for a while.

Frank says, "Fuck, I can't believe I, like, hung up to do it. It's like I've never even heard of phone sex."

"I never did that," Gerard says. "I mean, um, not... officially."

"What does that mean?" Frank asks, but when he thinks about it it's kind of obvious. "You are such a dog, man, I can't believe it. That's totally creepy!"

"I guess it is," Gerard says quietly.

Frank shifts a little. He can't even sit up, and if he tries to come again he will seriously stroke out from exhaustion. "You're totally doing it now, too," he says, feeling pretty confident about that part. "If you're not, you should. Don't even tell me."

"I miss you," Gerard says.

"I don't even have to talk dirty, I don't know, man, but dirty talk makes me flash back to those fucking, remember that gross movie Mikey had, with the, uh... fuck, I don't even remember, with that fucking ugly ass dude and... Anyway." He runs out of breath and ends up just kind of panting in Gerard's ear, which has to work on some level. "I miss you too," he adds, all breathy.

"Frank," Gerard says, kind of shakily.

Frank shifts a little again because he's got fucking cold shivers and he meant it when he said he misses Gerard, it's like, like, this huge melodramatic fucking production in his head all the time, it's like an opera by one of those dead German dudes, the fat lady is fucking singing her fat little heart out. He says, "Do you ever, like, have dreams about me where you don't end up killing me?"

"...yes," Gerard says. "But I don't have that many good dreams. It's mostly, like, all fucked up. I end up trying not to sleep, but then I start, like, nodding off and I don't even know if I'm asleep or awake." There are little hitches in his breath when he speaks, but his voice doesn't change from this slightly distant, thoughtful tone. "The worst is when a dream starts out deceptively nice and then it takes a turn just when you're feeling safe."

"Jesus fuck, Gerard," Frank says. "Don't make me come over there. I have never met a dude so desperately in need of a fucking hug."

"It's blowjob, 'in need of a blowjob.'"

"You probably don't even need the blowjobs, but you'll get them anyway, okay? Go hug Mikey or something."

There's a a longer pause and Frank just hears short breaths and a muttered curse. Then Gerard says, "He'd probably appreciate it if I washed my hands first."

Frank lies back and wishes for new lungs and the ability to fucking teleport.



By Tuesday he's feeling pretty okay but last time he thought he was okay to bike a couple miles he really, like, wasn't, so he forces himself to follow orders and stay put. It's fucking eating him that he's stuck but fuck if he's gonna spend any more time in bed than he absolutely has to this summer. Unless, obviously, the bed also contains Gerard. He calls Gerard a lot, and they watch episodes of the original Batman cartoon while on the phone, and sometimes they have more of the kind of phone sex where you don't tell each other that's what it is, but it totally is.

"This is absolutely fucking perfect nerd sex, seriously," Frank says. He's still got his face pushed into the pillow and his hand down his shorts. Gerard's gone quiet on the other end because Frank broke the rule about how you can't talk about Fight Club or whatever. "No, really, it's perfect. You don't actually have to touch anyone, or talk about it, but you get off. Did you get off yet?"

"We're talking about it now," Gerard says. "Not yet, cause I'm not the fucking fastest gun in the East."

"Hey, man, sorry I'm easy and all." He waits and listens to Gerard's breaths. "Speaking of, Mom and fucking George, like, accidentally started talking about sex while I was in the room today."

"Uh, what?" Gerard gasps, although the gasp is probably not one of horrified shock.

"Yeah, I kind of spaced on the sofa while we were watching something boring. Something boring with Kevin Costner."

"I liked Waterworld," Gerard says, his voice sinking deep, like this is the sex talk. Kevin fucking Costner.

"Of course you fucking did. Anyway--well, I thought the whole Kevin Costner drinking his own piss thing was funny, but it made no fucking sense, you know? Why bother with the piss when he's in a fucking boat on the fucking ocean, ya know? Asshole--anyway--"

"Yeah, the gills were in the wrong place, too."

"Exactly! Anyway, they must have forgotten I was there, I was like nine tenths asleep, so fucking George is like, I just don't think that's romantic. I don't know what it was that wasn't romantic. Kevin Costner, I guess. And Mom's like, didn't you ever feel that way? That crazy need? And I'm lying there trying not to think about my fucking mother's crazy need, and George is like, Oh, I have felt the crazy need, Linda, ha ha, you know it."

"Awkward," Gerard breathes.

"I'm trying to like decide if my brain can handle any more of that or if I should wake up really loudly, and Mom's like, it just reminds me of my first kiss... it's how I ended up married to Frank in the first place. And she says, You know what they say, better marry than burn?

"Yeah, that's when I decided it was time to fucking shut that down before I got to know things I couldn't un-know. There were some red fucking faces, I shit you not."

Gerard doesn't say anything at all. In fact there's kind of a thump as if the phone took a tumble.

Frank says, "Gee?"

After about half a minute, Gerard's voice comes back, even more breathless. "Frank?"

"What the fuck?" Frank says.

Gerard sounds slightly sheepish. "Sorry, dropped it. I kind of had to because I have nothing but respect for your mother, okay, and, yeah. Jesus. You're a little evil, Frankie."

"I know," Frank says, and he's, like, struck with this fucking... this fucking crazy need, basically, crazy aching need to just get out of this house and go grab Gerard and just not let go. For a long time. Or until they're both so sexed out they can't move, except that doesn't mean they'd have to let go... He wants back on the Federation Starship Gerard's Room. "Okay, if I don't get out of here inside, like... twenty-four hours, I'm going to lose it, seriously."

"What can I do?" Gerard asks immediately, like he's firing up his teleporter and just needs Frank to say make it so.

"Click your heels together three times, I don't fucking know," Frank says. He thinks he's probably whining. He wants a cigarette so bad.

Gerard says, "Think you can make it out of the house?"

Frank has to think. George is here, and they were talking about crazy need, so they're probably having sex right now, something he needs to so very not think about ever again. "Not before, like, one am. But yeah, sure."

"I'll come pick you up."

Frank's fucking surprised, not that Gerard wants to come get him, but that he's in shape to drive at this hour. "I love you, like, so much right now," he says. Then he adds, "Not just right now, of course. But kind of especially right now."

"You too, Frankie," Gerard says, sweetly. "I'll park up by the intersection."


The crazy need doesn't settle at all in the endless fucking hours that he has to wait. He hasn't even been outside in, like, too long to contemplate and he's had that rat in a cage feeling since day one and it's been building to a constant roar. He doesn't jerk off again, though. He's saving that. He paces his room, leashed to the stereo by the headphone cord--he gets it tangled around his legs, like, twice, and almost pulls his entire set-up onto the floor but saves the day with his Spider-Man fast reflexes, but he bangs his knees and the side of his hip on the computer table so hard he has to sit on the floor and gasp for a while. Spidey reflexes, not Spidey grace so much. At least he's not a whiny bitch, so he thinks he still wins. He's just kind of fucking frustrated.

At ten minutes to one he cracks open his door and sticks his head out, listening hard. No creaking bed, no muted whispers, no horrible parental sex noises.

He almost falls over again, he races to the window so fast. And then he almost falls off the fucking ladder, too, because he puts his foot down wrong and the sole of his sneaker slips and his correcting move causes a swing that bangs his fingers against the wall painfully. He clings through the pain, though, and gets down in one piece. Jesus, he's so het up he's a danger to himself at this point.

It's stopped raining but there's a fog lying like a wet blanket over everything, turning the world a sickly grayish yellow and kind of swallowing sound so everything's muted and dull. It's like walking through a raincloud, and Frank can't see more than two houses up the street, the first a blurred outline, the second just a gray shadow and after that nothing but a whole lot of nothing. It's a pretty cool sight, like something out of an old spy movie. A great night for secret rendez-vous and that kind of shit. He speedwalks into the street, not quite daring to run because he doesn't want to start coughing. The night of spies is all lurking and waiting and watching.

The intersection is four houses up, four streetlights. He can see three lights making fuzzy glowy hovering spheres, and at first he thinks the fourth one is eaten by the fog, but it turns out it's just plain busted.

He doesn't even see the truck until he's almost next to it.

Then he smells cigarette smoke and his heart fucking lurches and his chest tightens, and he pretty much throws himself at the driver's side window. The window is, of course, not there because Gerard's rolled it down and is leaning on the frame, and Frank kind of crashes right into him. Not too violently, although Gerard startles and chokes out, "Aaah, fuck!"

"Just me, chill," Frank says although he's like the opposite of chilling. He reaches out with both hands and one goes around Gerard's neck, to pull him closer and the other plucks the cigarette right out of his hand.

He starts with a kiss because he has fucking priorities. Gerard's hand comes up to touch his shoulder, fingers digging into the flesh, and Frank presses against the dirty wet side of the truck and closes his eyes. He kind of forgets the cigarette and shoves the hand holding it into Gerard's hair and doesn't even notice until he feels the sting of hot ash on his fingers. He jumps back, flicks the cigarette into the street and pats Gerard's head to make sure it's not on fire.

"Hey," Gerard says, licking his lips. "Maybe you should get in the truck or something. You know?"

"Yeah, okay," Frank says and makes a face like might as well, don't have nothing better to do, but he yanks open the door so fucking fast.

Gerard says, "Whoa, how about the passenger si--" but Frank's taking the shortcut right across him, and if that means stopping for a grope or two on the way, that's just the extra topping.

"I was going fucking crazy," he says, squeezed between Gerard and the wheel, trying really hard to circumnavigate the fucking horn or there'll be hell to pay. "Apeshit, man. Totally apeshit."

Gerard runs his hands up Frank's sides, bunching up his hoodie a little and touching the skin on his waist with his fingertips. "Let's get out of here, okay," he says.


"Is Mikey home?" Frank asks when they're walking up the stairs, slowly because he keeps getting out of breath and smoking obviously doesn't make that any easier. Gerard's got his arm hooked around Frank's waist and is kind of dragging him along, though. That's not really helpful either, actually.

"Yeah," Gerard says. His fingers twist around the hem of Frank's hoodie. "He's been real bitchy for a while. He's still trying to decide, you know, about Pete."

Frank doesn't get what there is to decide. Call the guy, hear what he has to say, it should be obvious. He says, "Fuck, if he doesn't call the dude soon I'm gonna do it for him."

Gerard chuckles, which makes the smoke he's exhaling come out in puffs like smoke signals. Smoke signals that say 'ha ha ha' obviously. Then the smile drops off his face again--at this point, Mikey and Pete aren't really a joke anymore, Frank figures. "He won't talk to me. I mean, he talks but he doesn't let on how he's actually feeling. I get--seriously, Mikey is always, like... he doesn't like to show shit that's in progress. Like, I'll tell him everything right when I'm thinking it or feeling it cause it makes me feel better to share right then, you know, the moment. And the progress and how everything I feel kind of, like, happens. You know?"

"Yeah, yeah," Frank says, nodding. He wants Gerard to show him those thoughts in progress. He'll show him his. "Totally, like, it's not even about where you end up, it's how you get there."

They've stopped on the landing where the stairs turn. The railing is damp with condensed fog, but they lean on it anyway, and Frank tucks himself against Gerard's side and leans his head against his shoulder. Gerard slumps down helpfully so it's not awkward.

Gerard says, "Mikey isn't like that." He pauses for like two drags off his cigarette, frowning like it's hard to think about the ways Mikey isn't like him. Maybe it's just that it's hard for him to think he might not quite get Mikey. "He just wants to think about things first. Not out loud. I guess sometimes I do that too."

Frank tilts his face up to nuzzle the soft underside of Gerard's jaw, and Gerard hmms and turns to face him, his arm tightening around Frank's shoulders. The kiss is full of smoke and Frank has to close his eyes against the sting. He slips his fingers under the collar of Gerard's shirt to warm them. The raw wet air hangs around them like a cold shower in slow motion, and Frank feels like the fog has crept inside his skin. The only warm parts of him are wherever he's pressed against Gerard.

Cold shower or not, it's not putting much of a damper on this. It's like, like... it's like a hairdryer in the cold shower, just a touch and the power's back on. It'll never get old, Frank thinks. It can't. He doesn't even know what he's doing, just fucking burrowing into Gerard, fingers and mouth and body, keeping his eyes squeezed shut so it's just the smell of smoke and the wet cold night and Gerard's skin and the heat between them.

Gerard tears loose with a gasp and says, his voice hoarse with smoke and the chill and forgetting to breathe, "I get scared."

He doesn't go on for a while and Frank starts to think it was just a random brainspark. Gerard has them a lot, and they get shared because of his thoughts-in-progress philosophy. Frank doesn't mind. If it was going somewhere, it'll come out, and right now he's on tiptoes, his back wedged kind of uncomfortably against the railing, and Gerard is coming back, his mouth slick and wet and knowing.

"I mean," Gerard says, barely backing off now, and his hands keep pulling Frank close and his body keeps pushing Frank against the railing. "There's--it's all over literature. There's never any happy endings."

"What the fuck?" Frank says, ending up crossing his eyes to see Gerard's face. "There's fucktons of happy endings."

"Not when they're crazy like this, like obsessed and just... like this." His hands around Frank's upper arms tighten like a demonstration, fingers digging in hard.

"But it's good," Frank says. Even the hard grip feels good, fucking hell. Even the cold and the railing grinding against his spine feel good.

Gerard relaxes against him and stops squeezing his arms, but he mumbles against Frank's neck, his breath hot against the skin, "Yeah, it feels good. It feels so fucking good, Frank. And I'm better when I'm with you. I'm not so wrapped up in myself." And the words are yeah okay but the tone is tense and still all strung around with nerves like the voice version of wringing your hands.

"So where's the bad, man?" Frank says, pushing his face against Gerard's hair and poking Gerard hard in the ribs with his knuckles because this shit is making his stomach twist and he totally is not going to spend tonight fucking worrying. "You're wrapping right now so cut it the fuck out, dude. Maybe worry about... I mean, what are you actually worried about? That you'll flip out and eat my brain or, I don't even know? I'll tell you when it gets too crazy, okay. Do I gotta say that every five minutes or what?"

"Okay," Gerard whispers, and Frank thinks he can hear a smile now.

"So now we can go in and fuck, right," he says.

"Okay," Gerard says again, with a huff of breath that could be a chuckle.

The lamp in the hall isn't turned on but there's a sliver of light creeping out under Mikey's closed door. There's also the sound of Nine Inch Nails, which would be total happy fucking day music for Gerard, but when Mikey's cranking up The Downward Spiral it probably means he's wallowing.

"Earlier it was Joy Division," Gerard says under his breath. Not that he has to whisper cause Mikey's playing that shit pretty loud.

Gerard looks kind of torn for a second, staring at Mikey's door but holding Frank's hand tight. Frank can basically hear the brief but intense battle going on inside his head, and he worries for a moment that they'll have to abort because Mikey is fucking Mikey, he'll always be first for Gerard. Frank's not even jealous of that now, that would just be stupid. And yeah, he really doesn't want to be Gerard's brother.

But Gerard sighs and turns back to look at Frank, all black-eyed in the gloom, and Frank can see the worry sink into the background.

"Yeah," Frank says. 'Cause yeah. "Come on, come on, time's a-fuckin-wasting."

"Before the truck turns into a pumpkin," Gerard says and he's walking backwards down the hall while kicking off his shoes, and Frank's wrapping his arms around Gerard's neck and when he tries to get rid of his own shoes he stumbles and ends up kind of hanging, and Gerard yanks him up until his feet dangle.

Gerard's room seems less of an unbridled dump than last time Frank was here.

"Wait, wait," he says, craning his neck over Gerard's shoulder. Gerard stops tugging at his shirts to twist around, trying to figure out what Frank is looking at. "Did you clean in here?"

"No," Gerard says too quickly. "Yes. No. I did laundry. I mean... we did laundry. The other day. We just took, like, everything we own downstairs. Ma seemed really happy, like, she helped out."

The bed isn't made, but the sheets have that crisp, stiff quality to them that hang-dried sheets have for a few days after you change them. Wow, wow, Frank wants to be naked and lying on them right now. He hasn't seen these sheets before either, mostly because Gerard changes sheets so rarely and because he's seemed to just alternate between two sets that aren't even sets but just random mismatched things. These are matching and look new, not faded or worn soft and threadbare. They're deep blue with clouds drawn as just white outlines. They look like something Frank's mom might think is nice. It looks like a kid's bedroom got spliced into Gerard's general geeky-artsy mayhem of bloody comic book art and Iron Maiden posters that all feature Eddie in all his rotting glory and, like, cubic-or-whatever art by Gerard's grandmother--maybe of Aunt Francesca's rack, who knows. Frank can't see the car blanket anywhere, but it would go with the bed, kinda. Maybe it's still in the wash. The sheets, though... clean, new sheets. Frank loves clean, new sheets.

"Shit, man," he says, backing out of Gerard's reach and unzipping the hoodie and slipping it off. "I was gonna say maybe I could, like, be on top this time? But I've changed my mind."

"What?" Gerard says.

Frank runs a finger over the edge of the mattress. The sheets are pretty cheap ones, a little rough to the touch, and cool. He thinks about lying on his front on them, pushed into them by Gerard's weight. Yes. "Yeah," he says. "I don't know, I mean, would you be okay with me fucking you sometime? I just want to try it that way, to get the full experience. But not right now."

He peels off his t-shirt and unbuckles his jeans and then Gerard kind of shoves him down on the bed and pushes his hands away so he can do it instead.

Frank lifts his hips up towards Gerard's hands and just like that, he's ready, teetering on the edge, toes curling, sweat breaking out all over, pulse racing. He keeps forgetting exactly how that feels, the sudden rush--it's not the same when he's by himself, it's slower and he has to kind of make it happen. This is like a dream, like waking from a dream just as he's coming.

Gerard slides his hand into Frank's shorts without even unzipping his jeans, and Frank tries to find purchase for his feet and fails because he can't actually reach the floor in this position and just ends up banging his heels on the sharp edge under the bed and eventually sliding forward against Gerard. He pushes up frantically, arching his back so hard his spine creaks with the strain, and then he comes.

"Oh man," he says when he can breathe again.

"Fuck, you're fast," Gerard says, pulling his hand out of Frank's pants, looking around a little dazedly and then wiping it on the sheet. "Hmm, I guess after you'll want me to change these again or something."

"Oh, man," Frank says again. "Not yet. Fuck, we gotta mess them up for real first."

He shoves at Gerard until he shifts away to sit on the edge of the bed, and quickly pushes down his pants and the underwear. Oh, gross. He kicks them away and scoots back so he can lie down comfortably. "I guess with age I'll learn to stop coming in my pants."

"I haven't yet," Gerard says kind of airily and stretches out next to Frank to lean over him and kiss him, and Frank lies there and just lets it happen for a while, lets his brain come back from, like, nirvana and his body wake up and notice again. It's a gradual thing but there's like a click at some place, where the switch between post-orgasm and pre-the-next-orgasm happens.

Kind of, he thinks, elbowing himself up and shoving Gerard backwards, like when you think the Terminator is dead and then the light in the eye comes back on. Kind of like that only not. He wedges a knee between Gerard's knees and Gerard just yields, rolling onto his back, spreading his legs so Frank's thigh slides up between his legs. Frank follows the movement and ends up straddling one of Gerard's legs, shoving against him. His jeans are scratchy against the insides of Frank's thighs and the buckle on his belt digs into Frank's hipbone.

Frank leans back for a second to look because Gerard's hair has fanned out in a kind of black, tangled halo and his eyes are wide and glittering and it makes him look, like, innocent but...Frank doesn't even know the word for what he looks like, but it's fucking great.

"What word am I thinking of?" he says, falling forward and catching himself with his hands on both sides of Gerard's shoulders. He slides forward a little, settling himself right across Gerard's hips.

"I don't know. Uh, should I guess? Triptych." Gerard says and grabs Frank around the neck and kisses him again, throwing off his train of thought with his tongue.

"Cryptic?" he says. He does like that word. Not that it was the one he was thinking of, if the one he was thinking of even exists.

Gerard is stroking the back of his neck, fingertips on the upstroke, nails on the downstroke and it's sending tentacles of shivers down his whole back. He moves against Gerard, rubbing all his naked skin against Gerard's clothes, zippers and buckles and buttons and worn fabric, and Gerard whispers, "No, triptych" on a gasp.

"Don't know what the fuck that is," Frank whispers back. "So that wasn't it. I mean a, um, whatsit, adjective. For how you look when you're all, like, with the hair and your face."

"Not even cryptic?" Still whispering. "I mean, I wouldn't mind being cryptic. Sometimes I try to be on purpose. It's probably annoying, though."

Okay, they're whispering, it's kind of sexy how it's mostly just breaths between them with the words, like, felt rather than heard, although Frank supposes he must be hearing it because he can't actually read lips with his lips.

"Nah," he breathes against Gerard's cheekbone. "I like listening to your weird shit. But my word! Like you look all young and innocent but it's like... not innocent but just after it's not innocent anymore."

"Debauched," Gerard says out loud.

"That's it! If it means what I think it means!" He kisses the cheekbone, and he kisses the bridge of Gerard's nose and his forehead and messes up his hair so it looks more debauched. "You're awesome."

"You look pretty debauched yourself," Gerard says and touches Frank's face, palm on his cheek. He strokes a thumb over Frank's mouth and Frank catches it with his teeth. Gerard says, "Yeah" and pushes against the grip and Frank runs his tongue over the raspy fingerprint grooves and sucks, and Gerard puts his other hand on his hip and moves slowly, this slow-motion arch and back down and again. Frank's dick, hard again, skates over Gerard's belly, rubbing against his hoodie. The teeth of the zipper are tiny slivers of cold silvery pain where they catch on his skin.

He bites Gerard's thumb again and says, words kind of slurred around it, "I'm ready, come on. Take your clothes off."

"Oh," Gerard says, his eyes heavy-lidded. He draws a deep, hissing breath. "Ahh. Yeah, I should... yeah."

"Or I could do it," Frank says and pushes himself down, over the belt buckle again--cold against his ass and then his balls and his dick--and further to straddle Gerard's knees so he can unbuckle and unbutton and unzip. He starts pulling the jeans down and Gerard lifts his hips obligingly but Frank gets immediately distracted because shit, the red line of imprints where the waistband has bitten into Gerard's skin is weirdly tempting, like he just has to lean down and put his mouth there and drag his tongue over it and feel the texture of the shallow dents. And then it's a really short trip down to nose at the springy curls of pubic hair poking out of the 'v' of the open fly, and after that he might as well fucking stay for a while. He yanks down at the jeans a little more.

He just wants a taste, really, and the burn in his jaw from holding his mouth open and the weight and size of Gerard's dick against his tongue. It doesn't make any fucking sense that sucking dick should be as fucking cool to do as it is, but whatever, just one of those things that really, like, appeal to him. He can't believe he's only done this once before because it feels familiar and comfortable. Like, he knows what he can do, and what's pushing the limits of his mad skills. Of course he pushes it, though. Of course. He goes down too far, like, immediately, just to see if he can figure out how to not make it feel like he'll choke, and just before his gag reflex kicks in and stops the party it's really fucking hot, like a naked extreme sport with adrenaline kicking through every limb. He barely hears Gerard's muffled cry, and when he slides back up, he notices that he's dug his fingers into the sharpest place on his hip and left red fingermarks that take a while to fade.

For a second there he could feel how he might be able to relax his throat and just open up, and that must be how those dudes swallowing swords do it, although it seems kind of like the sword would be a lot more uncomfortable. A dick really kind of fits in his mouth, like, it's round and blunt and also not made of sharp steel.

He lets his teeth scrape just the tiniest bit on the underside and Gerard makes that cry again. Frank listens carefully now. He lifts his head and says, "Swallowing a sword would be a lot more uncomfortable."

"Mmph, yeah... yeah," Gerard says, all breathy. "Those swords aren't sharp, though, or those dudes would like cut their own throats doing it."

Frank kisses Gerard's thigh and sits up and says, "Good thing you can't cut my throat with your dick, then, cause that would be a huge mess."

Gerard blinks at him for a second and Frank can fucking tell that he's watching that hypothetical situation with his fucked up mind's eye.

Frank says, "Stop thinking about cutting my throat with your penis, weirdo."

"You're the one who brought it up!" But Gerard pushes himself up to grab Frank's shoulders and tilt his head back and kiss his throat and suck really lightly at the skin, not hard enough to leave any horrible revealing mom-alerting hickeys--he thinks. Hopes, really--but just hard enough to make him shiver and go kind of limp for a second, like he just wants to hang in Gerard's grip like one of those naked paintings of Greek gods stealing human boys to sex them up on Mount Olympus.

That'd make Gerard a Greek god, though, and Gerard is fucking pretty and pretty fucking hot, too, but he really isn't the Greek god type. Like, his nose is totally too small and cute.

Then Gerard does that thing again where he just flips Frank like it ain't no thang, Jesus Christ, that will never get old. Frank ends up on his back with his legs spread, panting and trying to reconstruct, like, the sequence of movements--not really complicated but all fast and decisive when everything else about Gerard is usually a little... not wimpy or anything but he's not exactly macho. Except in bed and that's something Frank wants to fucking tell everybody and it pisses him off that he can't.

"I wanna tell everybody about you," he gasps, breathless because Gerard's nipping at his chest, not carefully--and there it goes, he sees how it all will just get better with every time because they'll know each other more and know where to touch and how hard. It's gonna be fucking, fucking... geometric. "I want everybody to know you can, like, fucking do this and then I want them to know they can't have you."

Gerard stops and stares at him for a second. He probably doesn't want Frank to tell everybody that he's a total stud even though he is.

"I know, I know," Frank says. "Fucking shit, it sucks though."

"It would suck more if you told anyone, trust me," Gerard says softly.

Fuck, that was almost a moodbreaking thought. Like, almost. "Yeah," he says. "Yeah, I get it. Fuck."

"Frank," Gerard says.

Frank says, "Yeah, you should just... what word am I looking for now?"

Gerard says, "Fuck."

"Fuck yeah. That's what you should do, okay. I'm just gonna, like, be over here." He shoves at Gerard. "Take off your fucking pants!"

"Oh yeah," Gerard says and looks down. His jeans are where Frank left them, just with the fly open and shoved down like a couple inches. When he moves, his dick slides across Frank's thigh and Frank wants to just spread wide and pull him back in, but he really wants some more nudity too so he rolls away, makes a full roll towards the edge of the bed to lie flat on his stomach. He crosses his arms in front and leans his head on them.

"Whenever you feel like it," he says and smiles at Gerard, or smirks, really. But he's feeling that tightening in his chest again, like a spring's being slowly coiled tighter and tighter. He stretches out his arms and pushes his face against the mattress and waits without looking.

It's a whole different vibe to the other time where he was looking at Gerard the whole time. This has kind of a kinky flavor to it, maybe. Not that there's any kink here but, like, not looking and just lying face down and waiting for a touch, it's got its own tension. Gerard's completely quiet so maybe he gets the same vibe. Frank can hear him shuffling around, the clink of the belt and the sound of fabric sliding over skin, and every time he moves the bed moves, of course. The sheet is hot and rough against Frank's body.

He wants to say something about what this is like, but at the same time he wants to stay really quiet and see what happens, not break the tension. Gerard is totally getting it, too, because there's the thump of the pants hitting the floor, and the bed dips and rises when he stands up, and there are the sounds of him wandering around--looking for lube, Frank thinks and shivers, but he doesn't look--and the squeak of the drawer and then the bed dips again. Frank squeezes his eyes shut and just breathes. It's kind of an effort to breathe, actually, because he's got his nose mashed into the sheet and every lungful is thick and damp and used. The skin on his back is prickling so hard he wants to squirm.

Gerard's hand on his shoulder is almost startling and Frank thinks he makes a sound but he can't be sure, he can't hear himself over the beating of blood in his ears. He can hear everything Gerard is doing, though, his breaths and every move and, like, almost the beats of his heart too. It's probably a hallucination brought on by being too turned on, but Frank will take it even if it's makebelieve magic.

Gerard slides his hand down to Frank's throat and around his jaw and turns his head maybe just to look at him, because he doesn't say anything, just stares with his eyebrows scrunched and his eyes dark and intense.

Frank thinks his own face must look pretty dumb right now because he feels slack-jawed and hypnotized. It doesn't seem to bother Gerard, though, because he leans down and kisses Frank and then he pushes his face into his neck and maybe he mumbles something but it's too soft to hear.

Then Gerard slides his hand down the length of his back and he arches like a cat, and Gerard says, still softly but loud enough to hear, "Do you want it this way, Frank?"

He nods and hopes it looks like a nod from this angle, and Gerard moves downwards, his teeth scraping the nape of Frank's neck bringing delicious, shivery sparks and tingles. Frank pushes his face against the sheet again and holds his breath.

That's the end of the crazy slow foreplay right there, because Gerard just goes right for it, sitting back and pushing one of Frank's knees to the side, spreading him open in a way that feels different and strange and dirty, dirtier than when he was on his back looking up at Gerard. He bites his lip and grabs his wrist with his other hand, squeezing hard, like he's trying to stop himself from struggling even though he's not struggling--he thinks he might be wishing Gerard would grab his wrists like that, but he also thinks he might be getting kind of ahead of himself. But maybe when they've done this every which way and they can fuck as easily as they talk.

Gerard kisses the small of his back quickly and then he's right down to business, slick fingers pushing in while he strokes the back of Frank's thigh with his free hand. Frank's entire body goes stiff at first but he takes a deep breath and relaxes, one limb at a time, shifting against the weirdness of it, because he knows there's a point where it goes from weird to Jesus pogo-jumping Christ and it's so close, it's right there.

Gerard must know that because he doesn't stop, he just makes a kind of soothing hmm noise and moves his fingers and Frank bites a little at his own arm, just enough to focus and he spreads his legs wider and arches his back and there it is, there, victory over his own body when he just relaxes on the inside and accepts the intrusion.

"Okay," he says, or tries to but it comes out just a breathless little gasp, not even a whole word. And he stays breathless and somehow both relaxed and accepting, and fucking tense and trembling with anticipation at the same time.

Gerard doesn't say anything, which makes Frank think, gleefully, he already knows me, which is kind of an obvious thought because hello, they've known each other for like a year, but what Gerard knows is that Frank will tell him if something's wrong, that he doesn't have to keep asking for the okay. He's not careful when he gets ready or when he gets Frank ready, he just settles in between Frank's legs, grabs his hips and lifts them a little and slides right home. Slowly, not all wham bam, but there's no hesitation.

For two or three freakishly suspended seconds it feels weird again, and there's pain, kind of a burning, scraping pain even though he's slick and not fighting it at all, but when the pain fades just a little it becomes this welcome stretch that makes it hard to breathe and hard to move, hard to do anything but lie there with his arms locked together over his head and his face getting rubbed kind of raw against the sheet and his dick just barely touching the bed because Gerard is still kind of lifting his ass up. Doggy-style, Frank thinks and that makes him think about Snoop Dogg, actually. And he huffs a laugh in the middle of it all, because fucking Snoop Dogg, right? Jesus. But then Gerard pulls back and then snaps his hips forward again and Frank stops laughing and stops thinking about perma-baked rappers, too.

Gerard is sliding his hand down, though, and now Frank has to speak up because they haven't covered this before--he says, "No, no, don't touch me, don't jack me off," and Gerard doesn't even break his rhythm, just moves his hand away, up to wedge under Frank's chest where it's pressed into the bed and he scrapes his nails over a nipple right on a thrust, which is a funny kind of one-two punch that just goes right into Frank's spine and his dick.

Coming is slower like this, it's this long balance on, like, the crest of the wave, orgasm-surfing or whatever, where every thrust shoves him forward into the mattress and nudges him an inch closer and then he loses the friction again until the next one, so maybe it's more like being hammered into something springy that yields only a little with each blow. By the time he's there he's snapping for breath, his throat raw, and digging his fingers into his own wrist so hard he can feel the bones grind.

When he comes, he comes less like a punch and more like a bungee cord snapping back, this long moment of dizzying freefall where he's completely fucking unaware of anything except his own body.

Gerard fucks him hard and steady through the aftershocks and when he comes he gasps something that sounds like a mashup of fuck and Frank. Which is a nice sentiment, really. There's the problem with this position, though: he can't see Gerard's face now and he really wants to, but he also doesn't want to shake him off so he can turn around.

Gerard solves that by kissing his neck gently and pulling out carefully. Frank lies still for a second and adjusts to having his body to himself again, and then he rolls over onto his back.

Gerard's just tossed the condom towards the trash bin and failed to score, and he's scrunched up his face all oops but he's still flushed and kind of glassy-eyed, his mouth red like he's been biting his lips. Frank's sure his own mouth must look the same, and that thought makes him smile and his mouth stings when he does.

"Hey," Gerard says, smiling back kind of goofily. "Frank, Frank, Frank."

Frank says, "What?" but Gerard's crawling back into bed and kissing him, first softly but quickly getting more into it, and Frank gets into it too because of the tingle in his bitten lips, how they feel hot and swollen and extra sensitive. Gerard's hands are cupping his jaw, fingers rubbing along the bone and digging a little into the soft part, and Frank tilts his head back and lifts his tired arms and wraps them around Gerard's neck.

He almost doesn't hear the door open, like, maybe he hears it but he reacts to it on a delay so the first thing he really understands is Mikey saying, "Shit, Gerard, you should-- oh FUCK, oh my GOD."

"Shit," Gerard says, but he stays where he is, covering Frank with his body. "Mikey, what the hell?"

Frank lets his head kind of loll to the side. He's too fucking blissed-out to really get upset. Not like Mikey should be surprised that they're in here steaming up the windows.

Mikey's standing in the doorway with his hands clapped over his eyes. "I'm okay, I'm okay, just... not the kind of image I need to have in my brain, Gerard."

"Duh," Gerard says, and he and Frank reach out at the same time and grab the cover, and it makes them both crack up as they clumsily pull it over themselves, getting their limbs tangled and elbowing each other all over the place.

Mikey's peeping between his fingers. He says, "What I came to tell you is that there's something going down outside."

Frank says, "Going down?"

When Mikey uncovers his eyes finally, he actually looks kind of worried. "I heard yelling, I don't know. I think there's a car."

Gerard's mouth tightens. "If it's those fucking vandal toe rags with the hillbilly truck again I'm telling Ma to buy a shotgun." He scrambles to his feet and Mikey puts his hands over his eyes again like a little kid.

Frank's still lying on the bed, kind of blinking stupidly when Gerard get his pants on and walks out the door while trying to untangle his t-shirt.

Mikey lingers in the door for a second, and what he says is, "You better get dressed, too, Frank. And, like... open a window? Make it look like you didn't just have totally illegal underage sex in here in case someone calls the cops."

Then he fucks off after Gerard and Frank is still lying on the bed, stunned and still blinking, and feeling something cold and sick spreading through his insides.

He gets up slowly and looks for his clothes, and for just a second he's embarrassed and awkward and sort of ashamed even though he's alone. Then he, like, realizes that he's basically letting Mikey's stupid freakout get to him and he straightens his back because whatever happens he just got fucking spectacularly laid, and fuck it, he's young and proud and whatever.

He straightens out the bed and opens a window--the outside air is a cold wet shock, and he can hear a car engine and someone doing that quiet yelling thing you do when you're bitching someone out in the middle of the night. Actually it doesn't sound like the kind of vandal toe rag that comes in a hillbilly truck. It sounds like a really pissed off chick in a totally ordinary car.

He gets dressed, even puts on his hoodie because okay, it's fucking cold out there, and he gingerly picks up the condom and carries it to the bathroom and flushes it down the can. Then he washes his face and hands and pats down his hair.

When he opens the door he can hear Mikey speaking, too, kind of loudly for Mikey, too high-pitched, stumbling over words. What the fuck. Frank hears, "It's not her fault," and then he says, "Please just listen."

Frank steps onto the landing and looks down toward the yard. Behind him, the door falls shut with a bang that cuts through everything. There's a really movie-like pause where it's like every other sound fades while the bang echoes and echoes and echoes, but Frank thinks it's just in his head.

It's just in my head, he thinks again because the car is his mom's car, in park with the high beams on and aimed right at Mrs Way's door, and in the light from the beams and the light from the open door are Frank's mother and Mrs Way and Mikey and fucking George, and fucking George is holding Mom back with arms around her shoulders, and Mikey is standing between them and his own mother and they're all staring up at Frank now.

He can't even fucking move, it's like they've pinned him down with a searchlight even though he's high above them and in darkness but their stares are so shocked and hard. Even Mikey looks shocked.

Then Mom fucking shrieks his name and Frank sees George plant his feet to keep her from tearing loose. She's as hysterical as Frank's ever seen her, and her hair is loose and wild and she's really the fucking woman in white right now, yelling at him to get down here right now, but he doesn't even start walking before she's snapped around to yell at Mrs Way again--yell at Mrs Way, Frank's mind is boggled, fucking whammied--and she yells, "Why would you lie, how can you LIE, bitch! Coward!"

"Stop it!" Mikey says, but he's pretty ineffective here, it's not like he can take Frank's mother on the best of days and this isn't one of those.

Frank's mother spits in his face and George pulls her back another step. Frank feels like that wakes him up, unfreezes him, and he starts down the stairs and halfway down he's running, and at the bottom he crashes into Gerard who clearly hasn't unfrozen yet. They grab each other and for a second their eyes meet, and Gerard is as fucking death's head pale as Frank has ever seen him.

Frank stops for just one breath, enough to squeeze Gerard's hand because this shit is so fucking on Frank it's gonna haunt him forever, and if his mother calls the cops-- That's not even a thought he can finish.

"Mom!" he shouts. "Stop yelling at her!"

Mom's doing no such thing, of course, because her rage burns pretty long and hot when it burns, if she's in the place where she's yelling at strangers she's had some time to work herself up real good.

Gerard's following him down the path, following him when he cuts right through the fucking bushes, getting soggy limp pink petals stuck everywhere on his pants, following him all the way to the fucking arena. And when they're there, Gerard goes to stand beside Mikey, next to their mother, and Frank goes to stand next to his.

Mom grabs him by the scruff of the neck and kind of shakes him, but not really hard enough to hurt much--still, he sees Gerard's hands curl into fists, and that's a new thing to worry about, a really fucked up thing would be if Mom smacked Frank one, nothing that happens a lot but sometimes he gets a cuff on the ear if he's a real turd about something and he doesn't think Gerard's in a mood to think clearly right now and who the fuck knows what might go down.

Mrs Way is crying, Frank notices, and she's wearing a dressing gown and rolls in her hair and no makeup. He hardly recognizes her like this, with her eyes puffy and red-rimmed and naked. She looks really small and fragile, only her hands look the same, strong and black-nailed like hands that could give somebody a good slap or maybe scratch out your eyes. Right now she's got one hand clapped over her mouth and she doesn't look like she's about to slap anybody.

Mikey puts a hand around her shoulders.

"I will press charges," Frank's mother hisses.

"Linda..." fucking George says.

"Come on, Mom," Frank says, turning to her. She isn't looking at him at all. "I snuck out! She doesn't even know about this!"

She says, "You've let your boys run completely wild, Donna, and it's no secret, well, now it's gone too far."

"It was me!" Frank says louder.

"Frank isn't even sixteen! He's doing well in school, he's not this kind of boy."

Frank grabs her hand and yanks at it. "Mom!"

"Be quiet, Frank, so help me God," she says, pretty much between gritted teeth.

"Stop fucking yelling, Mom," he snaps. "You're gonna get a fucking restraining order put on you for being insane."

At least that works in getting her attention, he thinks, dazed, when she gasps so hard he thinks she's gonna choke. George gives him a look that's not so much shocked as... Frank can't really tell but maybe George is actually impressed, impressed that Frank has the fucking balls to say that to his mother's face. Frank's impressed with himself, too. He also thinks he just fucked himself so fucking completely he may not see the light of day before his eighteenth birthday. That cold sick feeling makes itself known again, like he's sinking into a pool of something sticky and freezing. So fucked, so completely fucked. He can't even look at the Ways right now.

"Let's go," George says quietly. "Let's talk about this at home."

Maybe because she's still, like, stupefied or something, Mom lets herself be dragged to the car and hustled into the passenger seat. Frank doesn't look back until he's in the backseat and buckled up and George has closed the driver's side door and is putting the car into Drive. Then he does look and they're still standing in the light like statues of a family, Mikey still with his arm around Mrs Way, Gerard blank-faced and not looking at either of them. But when the car starts to back away, he twitches awake and digs a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket and holds it out to his mother. Mikey leans in and kisses her cheek.

Then George turns into the station parking lot and Frank leans back and closes his eyes. Nobody speaks on the way home.


Mom does slap him when they get inside the door, without saying anything. Just a fast, hard one that really stings, and then she marches off and leaves Frank standing in the hall next to fucking George.

"She's really scared," George says. Frank just rubs his cheek and thinks he probably never deserved a smack in the face as much before in his life. George adds, "You should probably show me your hideyhole before she starts tearing up your room with a chainsaw."

There's not much to say to that because he's, like, beyond right. Frank goes up to his room and just opens his compartment and takes out everything, skin mags, horror movies, a baggie with about half a spliff's worth of pot crumbling on the bottom, a full pack of Marlboro Lights.

Nothing incriminating with regards to illegal gay sex, which is the one pretty huge mercy in all of this. George holds up the baggie and Frank just shrugs. His mother isn't going to drag him downtown to the police for some pot. She's probably going to put him in the Church's program for troubled kids, though, but he can deal with that.

"Try to see her point of view, Frank," George says. He's sounding pretty ragged himself at this point, Frank thinks. "Cell phone?"

The window is closed and the rope ladder is gone. He turns off the phone before he gives it to George. At least they're not going to read his messages.

George is being pretty decent here, but a nice prison guard is still a fucking prison guard, right? Frank's not about to show him any weakness because once he goes there he's going to just fold and collapse.

"I'm gonna come back and get the TV and computer, too," George says kind of morosely.

"Whatever," Frank says and goes to his bed and lies down on top of the bedspread.

After George has come back and left with Frank's last possible links to the outside world, Frank stares at the closed door for a long time. George locked it from the outside, but it's more of a symbolic gesture than anything that'll physically keep him locked in--Frank could put his hand through the balsa wood without even getting a splinter.

He thinks, they couldn't actually stop me from leaving.

But of course they can. It's weird, the power parents have.

Then he realizes he just included fucking George in 'parents' and that somehow is just the last fucking straw, the very last. He can't even call his real dad and reassure himself that he still has one, that he hasn't suddenly turned into Frank Szobotka.

He punches the wall by the headboard as hard as he can so he doesn't feel like a total pussy when he cries. He still does, though.