There was a soft chime and the door to the cell slid open, waking Frank. "Wha?"
"Sorry, Frank. A drunk and disorderly," Ray said apologetically, as a shadow stumbled into the cell, humming a little. "Busy night at the Port. Some sort of Trader holiday."
"St. Bacchus' Day," the shadow mumbled.
Frank sat up in his bunk and blinked. "Lights, twenty percent."
"It's just until someone bails him out," Ray continued, holding a grinning man upright, "or until he sobers up."
"Hi!" the guy said brightly, waving. He had the most unnaturally red hair Frank had ever seen. When he turned his head, Frank could see how his hair was shaved close on the sides and kept long on top, in the typical Trader fashion. His clothing was dark and form-fitting, with straps and shiny buckles, and a pair of scuffed boots.
"Sorry," Ray said again.
Frank rolled his eyes. "Lights, off."
"Heyyyy," the guy complained. "It's dark!"
"Just shove him into the other bunk," Frank told Ray, fluffing his pillow and laying back down. "Let him sleep it off."
"Yeah, all right." Ray's silhouette backed out into the hallway. "Thanks, Frank."
"'M not sleepy," the guy muttered, shuffling toward the empty bunk. There was a crash, and— "Ow, motherfucker."
Frank stared at the ceiling. It was going to be a long night.
"You're cute, sweetheart. What's your name?"
A really long night.
What do you do with a drunken Trader,
What do you do with a drunken Trader,
What do you do with a drunken Trader,
Early in the evening?
Grudgingly, Frank had to admit that the guy had a good singing voice, but he needed to put his foot down now, because there were literally hundreds of verses to The Drunken Trader. He had no desire to hear them all.
"Do you mind?"
"Lights, ten. Mind what?" The guy was sitting cross-legged on the other bunk in the dimness, head tilted as he looked at Frank.
The guy pursed his lips. "I'll stop if you tell me your name, sweetheart."
Frank sighed. "It's Frank."
"What?" The guy was having problems talking.
"Gway," he said again, grinning and pointing to himself. "My name."
Frank stared at him. "I didn't ask."
"I was politely ignoring your lack of interest."
"How's that working out for you?" Frank asked.
"Pretty well, actually."
"Lights, out." Maybe the guy—Gway, what a ridiculous name, would get the hint.
Gway snickered. "Lights, ten." He rested his chin on his palm, elbow braced against his knee. "Whatcha in for, Frankie? You a desperate criminal? A 'net thief? A data robber? An ident crook?"
"Trying to sleep here," Frank said, pulling the thin, jail-issued blanket over his head. "Also, my name is Frank."
"If I were a dangerous criminal, maybe you should stop bothering me. I might kill you for being annoying. Lights, out."
"Bigger people have tried," Gway snorted. "Lights, ten."
Frank looked over at him just in time to get hit in the face with a pillow. "Fucker." His lips were trying to twitch upward into a smile and he fought against it. He didn't want to be charmed by a drunken Trader, no matter how attractive.
"C'mon, Frankie, tell me all about yourself." Gway staggered to his feet. "I wanna know about your tragic past, and how you were forced to become a criminal because of desperate circumstances. Maybe a star-crossed lover, or something. I wanna hear all about your tales of daring heists with your gang of cybercriminals." Gway dropped down onto Frank's bed, narrowly missing crushing Frank's legs. He waggled his eyebrows ridiculously at Frank. "Maybe I have a thing for bad boys."
Frank rolled his eyes. "You watch too much trivid."
Gway shrugged. "Probably." He brushed his hair away from his face and crossed his legs, inclining his head toward Frank. "Also, curious."
Frank sat up, leaning against the wall. The wall was cool, and he could feel the cold seeping in through his thin shirt. "I was a newly hired cargomaster on a mid-size freight-hauler, registered outta Wuhan, over in the Outer Arm." He wasn't surprised when Gway shrugged; there were millions of inhabited worlds scattered across the wide universe, and Wuhan was a little off the beaten track. "Nice enough crew, but their cultural liaison was an idiot. We hit dirt here, I showed my papers at the port and immediately got hauled into 'protective custody.'"
Gway's eyes grew round. "Because you're a dangerous criminal on the quadrant's 'most wanted list?"
Frank eyed him suspiciously. "You have a strange obsession with criminals."
"No, sweetheart, just a strange obsession with you."
"Uh-huh." Frank knew a bad pickup line when he heard one. "Anyway, it turns out that I'm still considered a minor here."
Gway's brow wrinkled. "Like. . .someone who digs in the dirt?"
A laugh slipped free before Frank could stop it. "No, a min-or, not a min-er. Someone under the age of majority, unable to enter into legal contracts, who's not allowed to travel freely without permission from a parent or a spouse." Frank couldn't help the note of bitterness that crept into his voice.
"How old are you?" Gway asked, leaning away a little.
"Twenty-seven," Frank answered. "Age of majority is thirty, here."
Gway frowned. "They're going to keep you locked up in jail for three more years? That's harsh, for someone whose only crime is being young."
Frank shrugged. "Unless I can convince someone to marry me." He waved a hand to indicate the cell. "S'not so bad, really. Roof over my head, three square meals a day, peace and quiet, and Ray's good company." He grinned at Gway. "Not a lot of real criminals on this world, present company excepted, of course."
"Indeed," Gway said distractedly. He scooted further up Frank's bunk, leaning against the wall next to Frank. "Tell me what you wanna do once you get out of jail," he said sleepily, resting his head on Frank's shoulder.
Frank froze. Gway was warm along his side, his hair brushing at Frank's jaw, tickling him. It was the first time someone had touched him in months and it surprised him how good it felt. How much he had missed it.
Frank woke with a painful crick in his neck, still sitting up against the wall. Gway was sound asleep, snoring softly, head cradled in Frank's lap. There was a damp spot on Frank's thigh, where Gway had drooled at some point. "Ugh," he mumbled.
He didn't even remember falling asleep. Gway had managed to coax Frank's life story out of him, listening like he was actually interested in what Frank had to say, his eyes bright.
Being the focus of Gway's attention made Frank feel uncomfortable. Traders tended to be flamboyant, bohemian wanderers, far beyond the understanding of regular working folk like Frank. They had their own close-knit culture, their own language, and lived for the art of the deal.
Frank was so out of his depth it wasn't even funny. He had no family, no home, no future.
"Stoppit," Gway murmured. "You're thinking too loud and my head hurts."
Hesitantly, Frank touched Gway's hair, petting him.
Gway hummed a little. "I run a ship," he said. "A modified SK Duo."
Frank arched an eyebrow. "Crew?" A regular SK Duo usually had four, a sleek little trader, fast lines and smaller holds.
Shaking his head, Gway looked at Frank upside down. "Modified," he said again. "Runs with two, all the extra space converted to cargo holds. She's not fast, but she's steady, the Ghost."
"Who's your partner, then?" Frank couldn't help but wonder if Gway crewed with a wife, husband, lover, friend. When you spent long stretches of time on a ship, travelling from port to port, you didn't stay strangers for long. Ship mates usually became more, friends, lovers, enemies.
"M'brother," Gway said, with a smile. "But he left to get married, and I've been running solo ever since."
"Ah." Frank really had no idea why Gway was telling him all of this, as fascinating as it was.
"The thing is, I could use some help. Soloing is harder than I thought it was. And the cargo holds are a mess; I need someone to organize them, establish an orderly system, keep my habit of stockpiling odds and ends under control." Gway leaned his head into Frank's hand, and Frank went back to running his fingers through the red strands of hair.
"Did you try an ad on the Port network? There's usually plenty of people looking for work—"
"Frank," Gway huffed. "You're being deliberately obtuse."
"What do you—"
"I mean you."
"Me?" Frank asked, voice rising. "I'm stuck here."
Gway rolled his eyes. "I'm a Trader of good reputation, mostly running in the black. I run my own ship. I'm legally an adult, by the laws of this planet." He poked at Frank's thigh. "Also, I'm able to enter into a marriage contract."
"Oh." A flash of heat washed over him, followed by a rush of cold. "Oh."
Snorting, Gway sat up. "Oh," he mocked, looking at Frank. "Oh."
Gway stood up and stretched, the hem of his shirt riding up. Frank couldn't look away from the strip of flesh that was revealed, lightly dusted with hair. He wondered what it would taste like.
"Why not?" Gway shook his head, making his hair go every which way. "I could use the help of a cargomaster, you could use a way to get the hell out of this gilded cage, and maybe we have some mad, passionate sex in between." He winked, and Frank couldn't keep from blushing.
"Short term or long term contract?" he asked before he could stop himself.
Gway dismissed his question with a wave of his hand. "I've got some errands to run in Port today. We can negotiate the exact details later, once you've had time to check into my background, make sure I'm an upstanding citizen, a Trader of good character. . ."
Frank couldn't help snorting at that, and Gway grinned at him. He pulled a silver chain out from under the collar of his shirt, and slipped it over his head. Dangling at the end of the chain was a datalink.
"Uh—" Frank said, because you had to pry most people's datalinks out of their cold, dead hands. Your datalink was your life, and here was Gway, just handing his over to Frank like it was no big deal.
"I trust you, Frankie," he said, all big eyes and earnestness.
While Frank was still trying to get past his shock, Gway leaned close and stole a kiss, a brief press of lips that made Frank's heart pound faster.
"I'll be back in a few hours, sweetheart. Pack your shit up; I'm getting you outta here," he said dramatically, going over to the door and pounding on it, calling Ray's name.
Frank rolled his eyes and tightened his fingers around the datalink.
Captain Gerard Way was a few years older than Frank, came from a long line of Traders, and was a member in good standing of the Guild. He ran his ship, the Ghost of You, but didn't own her, which was a little odd. Gway had little in the way of debt, had no outstanding complaints lodged against him, and was a ranked skuykl player. He had never entered a marriage or parenting contract, and his bank account was a little lean, but healthy.
Frank would be a fool not to take advantage of this opportunity. Escape from this damn jail, marriage to a gorgeous man, and maybe the start of a better life.
He wasn't an idiot, so he gathered up his few possessions and waited for Gway's return.
Frank should have known that hammering out the details of the marriage contract was going to be a pain in the ass.
"It's going to take more than six months to even make a dent in the cargo holds," Gway said hotly.
"That's not my fault," Frank retorted. "I'm not the one who's lazy."
"Fuck you," Gway muttered. "Two years," he offered.
"With the option to renew, if both parties agree," Gway countered.
"Okay." Frank blew his bangs out of his eyes. Negotiating with a Trader was nasty business; they drove the hardest bargains.
Frank shrugged. "I'm coming into this with barely anything. We keep separate what we had before the marriage, anything we get while we're married is jointly owned, and once the contract has expired we divvy it up evenly. No support for either of us once the marriage is over."
Gway looked like he wanted to argue, but he was quickly learning to pick and choose his battles. "Sex?"
Suddenly, Frank was pissed with Gway for creating such an elaborate farce, one that was surely going to result in Frank getting his heart broken. Because as much as he hated to admit it, he wanted this to be real. "Yes," he bit out.
"Open or closed?"
"Closed," he snapped, ignoring the way Gway was watching him. The idea of anyone else—
There was something soft in Gway's voice, but Frank ignored it, closing his eyes against the longing for family. "No," he said, the note of finality in his voice sending a shiver down his back. "No."
"Okay, sweetheart," Gway said, distantly. He slotted his datalink into the terminal and waited for Frank to do the same. "Last chance to change your mind."
Frank defiantly signed his name on the contract.
They settled into a routine, of sorts.
Frank spent his shifts in the cargo holds, trying to undo what had to be years of careless disregard for any sort of organization. He found stasis-packed boxes of exotic teas, strange objets de curiosité, a complete set of enamelled dinnerware, and a large glass bottle of what appeared to be eyeballs of some sort.
The eyeballs stared at him until he covered them with a pretty, hand-dyed scarf. They unnerved him.
Gway did. . .whatever it was that he did; Frank wasn't sure, and he was still feeling out of sorts enough to not ask too many questions. At the end of the shift, Frank made his way to the galley, sore and dusty and tired. Gway would set out dishes of food and they would sit and eat, cautiously sharing bits and pieces of their lives with each other.
It was a truce, of sorts.
The nights, though—the nights were his.
Frank took everything he could get his hands on; he was greedy, and eventually they would go their separate ways, but in the meantime—
Gway tried to be tender and careful, that first night, their wedding night, but Frank would have none of it, wrapping himself around Gway and digging in with his fingers, holding on, holding on—
In the morning, Frank watched with a dark satisfaction as Gway climbed out of bed, his pale back marred by scratches, bruises blooming on his skin.
"Frankie," Gway whispered, "easy, sweetheart, there's no rush, slow down—"
Frank wouldn't listen, just pushed at Gway until they were both panting and sweating, frantic for the feel of skin under their hands.
It wasn't until afterward, when Frank hovered on the edge of sleep, that he let Gway touch him softly, pressing gentle kisses to Frank's skin, murmuring words that faded away as Frank drifted.
Frank found out about the ship by accident.
They'd hit dirt at Santiago, a planet covered by huge expanses of exotic jungles, and Gway went to Port for a Trader meetup and Frank was bored. He accessed the dataweb and surfed for a while, and when he checked his datalink, he froze.
Inherited by Frank Iero, one half share in modified SK Duo ID 45685587 "Ghost of You" out of Port Belleville.
Inherited by Gerard Way upon his marriage, one half share in modified SK Duo ID 45685587 "Ghost of You" out of Port Belleville.
"Fucker," Frank breathed. Even though he'd been expecting the worst, it still gutted him to know that Gway had just used him to get his ship.
By the time Gway got back from the Port, Frank had packed his few possessions and was waiting to say goodbye.
"What the hell is going on?" Gway glanced at Frank's bag, and his eyes shuttered.
"You lied to me," Frank said, trying to keep the anger out of his voice.
"I've never lied to you, Frankie," Gway said.
"Don't call me that!"
Gway's lips tightened. "What did I lie to you about?"
"This," Frank said, waving his hand, trying to encompass everything they were supposed to be to each other. "You married me just so you could inherit your damn ship."
"I married you because I fell in love with you," Gway corrected softly. "The ship was irrelevant."
"Oh, come on!" Frank cried out. "You offered to marry me after a day. You couldn't have fallen in love that quickly." He wouldn't believe it.
"Frankie." Gway came close, cupped his hands around Frank's jaw, his cheek. "I fell in love with you when I first laid eyes on you. You were so annoyed at me, sleepy-eyed and gorgeous. . .talking to me all night long." Gway kissed him, slow and sweet, and Frank didn't want to believe him.
"Yes—" Gway said, punctuating the word with kisses. "Yes, and yes, and yes—"
Frank's hands gripped the sleeves of Gway's shirt. "Please—" he whispered, turning his face away to break the kiss.
"Always," Gway whispered back. "I'm yours, as long as you want me." He wrapped his arms around Frank and hugged him, so hard that Frank struggled to breathe. "Husband—"
It was so easy, to let himself believe. "Husband—" he repeated, with a kiss.