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Frank is cold. He's tired. Every muscle in his body aches. His bones feel like they're about to pierce through his skin. The pain is unbearable and yet, Frank knows he can't do anything about it. He won't pass out. He never passes out.

The room smells horrible. It's too hot, too cold, too filthy. Frank looks up at the tiny window, high up on the opposite wall. The sun is setting behind the clouds. It looks like it's going to be a starless night.

Something inside Frank stirs and his blood boils. It's burning inside his veins. He can hear the roaring. It's caught in his throat, ready to break out.

Any minute now. This will be all over in just a minute.


***


Frank picks up the kid around closing time. A couple of shots of Jäger on the house is all it takes.

He's taller than Frank, which is not an accomplishment in itself since Frank is about the size of a bar stool. He's good looking but not too good looking, short black hair and a nice smile. The kid is pretty drunk, but not too drunk to know what he's doing.

Frank leans over the empty shot glasses in front of him and grabs the kid by the collar of his t-shirt. He presses his lips against the shell of his ear and whispers, "Where do you live?"

The kid doesn't say but he pulls away and grins.

Frank scans the bar to make sure he's not needed anymore. There's a guy sitting at a booth in the back, finishing up his beer but he's the only miserable fuck left in this place.

Bob is closing tonight. He doesn't necessarily look happy about it but it's not like he has a choice. Thursday happens to be Frank's pick-up night. Bob is also on puke duty tonight since Frank is too busy rubbing all over their last non-paying customer to care about cleaning. Bob gives Frank one of his you, fucker looks as he starts picking up empty glasses on the tables and tells the guy in the booth to "Get the fuck out."

Frank giggles and flips Bob off. He pulls the kid after him and slips a hand around the back of his neck. He's got a tattoo there, a detail Frank hadn't noticed before. Frank can't really make out the design in the orange glow of the street lights but it looks like words, maybe a name.

If he actually gave a fuck about the kid, Frank would ask him where and when he got the tattoo and what's the story behind it.

He doesn't really care, though. Frank squeezes the kid's neck and stops the first cab he sees, almost walking in front of it in his haste to get laid.

They hop in the car and the kid mumbles an address to the driver in a high pitched voice.

Frank never takes anyone up to his apartment even though it's less than a block away from the bar. It's not because it's messy or because he has a nosy landlady. Frank likes keeping things neat and ordered. He likes keeping his one night stands uncomplicated and separate from the rest of his life. He doesn't need surprise visits to his apartment from all the college kids he picked up at the bar and fucked senseless.

The kid plants a kiss on Frank's cheek and laughs, his breath hot, reeking of alcohol and caramel brushing against Frank's neck.

Jeremy. That's the kid's name or at least it's what Frank decides to call him. Frank doesn't really give a fuck if his name is John or Paul or blowjob-man; he always ends up forgetting their names pretty quickly anyway.

Frank explores the inside of Jeremy's mouth with his tongue for about ten minutes, the whole ten minutes it takes for the cab to stop next to a tall apartment building in a pretty shitty neighborhood.

Jeremy is palming at Frank's dick through his jeans and humming around Frank's tongue when the cab driver clears his throat.

Frank pushes Jeremy away, a little harder than he intended to and wipes off his spit slick mouth with the hem of his t-shirt. He opens the door and slides at the edge of his seat.

The building standing in from of him looks strangely familiar. Maybe Frank's been there before. Maybe he's already fucked someone who lives there.

Jeremy pays for the fare while Frank stumbles out of the cab and stares up at the facade.

Everything looks familiar, even the Food Mart in the corner with its flickering, broken neon sign and the Dunkin Donuts across the street. Frank remembers walking down the street looking for condoms and for Boston Cream donuts at three in the morning. Maybe he did fuck someone here.

A hand snakes around Frank's hip and tugs at his t-shirt, fingers twisting in the fabric and skin rubbing against skin. Frank looks over his shoulder and grins as Jeremy wraps himself around Frank's back. He pushes Frank towards the building, their steps clumsy.

Frank can feel the kid's erection pressing against the small of Frank's back, just as obvious as the way Jeremy groans as he nibbles on Frank's ear.

After a struggle with the front door and some dry humping against the intercom, Frank pulls Jeremy inside. He doesn't really mind public displays of affection even though there are only a handful of people at this late hour, potheads on a late munchie run and crackheads in search of a fix. What Frank minds is that he forgot his jacket at the bar and it gets pretty cold at five in the morning in the middle of November.

The building is old and creaky. There's no elevator; just a dimly lit flight of concrete stairs. Their footsteps echo as they make their way up to the second floor. Jeremy stops in front of a door, 3C.

Frank taps his foot on the thick carpet and leans against the doorframe, watching as Jeremy searches for his keys, his fingers shaking as he digs up a pack of smokes and a condom out of the back pocket of his jeans.

When the slow motherfucker finally finds his keys, Frank is about to steal a couple of cigarettes from the battered pack of Camel clutched in Jeremy's hand.

The door opens with a creak and Frank pushes Jeremy inside, impatient and horny as fuck.

It's almost pitch-black inside, only a few weak rays of light coming from the blinds. Frank doesn't really care what the inside of the apartment looks like. He lets Jeremy guide him to the bedroom, kicks off his shoes, yanks off Jeremy's and his t-shirt and unzips his fly.

Jeremy mutters something as he sinks down to his knees and takes Frank inside his mouth. The kid knows what he's doing. He uses his fingers and his tongue and his throat and his lips; he uses everything to get Frank hard and gasping for breath in no time.

They somehow make it to the bed a few minutes later where Frank fucks Jeremy, hard, fast and steady. He fucks him into the mattress until he's too tired to move a muscle, until he's covered in sweat and his hair is stuck to his face.

Frank comes first. The kid makes a whiny little sound that's mostly muffled by the pillow pressed against his face and squirms as Frank pushes inside him. Frank growls and comes with a shudder. He doesn't pull out right away. He flips Jeremy over effortlessly, lies him on his back, pushes in a few more times and strokes Jeremy's dick, just a couple of fast strokes.

Jeremy cries out as he comes into Frank's hand, his eyes rolling back, his teeth chewing on his bottom lip and his nails scraping Frank's sides.

The kid falls asleep pretty quickly after that. Thank fuck for alcohol.

Frank stays there for a few minutes, staring at the shadows dancing on the ceiling. He's considering grabbing a quick shower or something from Jeremy's kitchen before he takes off when Jeremy stirs and rolls over to his side. He wraps an arm around Frank and presses against him.

As comfortable as Frank might be feeling right now, he doesn't really want to stick around to cuddle. He carefully pulls Jeremy's arm away from his chest and rolls out of bed. He slips back inside his pants, grabs the rest of his clothes scattered on the floor by the side of the bed and walks out of the bedroom.

He's putting on his t-shirt when he notices the picture on the kid's fridge. It's a picture of Jeremy in his graduation cap, looking not that much younger than he looks now, standing next to another guy. They're both beaming as they hold their diplomas. Frank grimaces and squints as he examines the picture. The guy next to Jeremy looks oddly familiar. Maybe he fucked him too. It's a very small world and Frank might have fucked his way around it already.

Frank shrugs and rearranges the fridge magnets so they spell out cunt. He steals a can of Coke, a lighter and a pack of cigarettes that's sitting on the kitchen table, nearly empty.

The kid is snoring when Frank unlocks the front door and slips out of the apartment.


*


Gerard has had rough mornings before, but this one might be the worst he's ever had in his twenty eight years of existence.

Opening his eyes hurt. Everything is too bright. Moving a finger hurts. Breathing hurts. There's something stirring deep inside his guts. There's also something wet and cold under his cheek, something that smells like booze and rancid. He can taste bile in his mouth, bitter on his tongue.

Gerard presses a hand on his stomach, sore. His t-shirt is damp under his fingers. He rolls onto his back, wiping off whatever is stuck to his cheek with the back of his hand.

It's not the first time Gerard wakes up with puke smeared all over his face but it might be the first time he actually slept in a pile of his own barf. This is a new low.

Gerard's stomach flips and tenses. Just a warning. Gerard sits up and slides towards the toilet seat, squeezing the cold porcelain with one hand and grabbing a roll of toilet paper on the sink next to him with the other.

When the mess is mostly cleaned up, Gerard scrambles up to his feet. His head is pounding, his vision is blurry and his knees bend all wrong. He almost clips the corner of the sink as he walks out of the bathroom, dragging his feet on the linoleum.

He dives in his bed head first, without even taking his clothes off. He manages to kick off his shoes though and looks up at his alarm clock. The red digits are too bright. They drill holes inside Gerard's skull. Gerard buries his face in his sheets, throws a pillow over his head and moans. His phone buzzes on his nightstand but Gerard ignores it.

When he wakes up for the second time this morning, Gerard is still sore all over and his clothes smell like piss and puke and stale cigarette.

He crawls over the edge of his bed and grabs his phone. Eighteen messages. All from Mikey.

Gerard tosses his phone to the side and stumbles to the bathroom, doing his best impression of a zombie.

The face staring back at him in the mirror is pale, bruised and swollen. Gerard pokes at the purple circle under his left eye and winces away.

He doesn't remember fighting. Actually, he doesn't remember much from last night. Just bits and pieces of conversations and the taste of whisky on his tongue, burning his throat. He remembers yelling at someone for saying Batman was a wimp. Then he remembers hands grabbing him and – Joe. Joe grabbed him and pulled him off his stool. He kicked Gerard out into the street, yelled some threats at him, telling him he's banned from his bar or something just as dramatic. He also threw Gerard's keys directly in Gerard's face and tossed his denim jacket onto the sidewalk.

Gerard has never been kicked out of a bar before. Not that he remembers anyway. He rubs carefully at the bruise under his eye and stares at the faucet, water pouring down into his hand and into the drain.

The icy water dribbles down his throat and under his t-shirt. He splashes some more on his face and on his sticky hair and takes another glance at his reflection. It still feels alien, sickly.

Gerard stares at the shower curtain for a minute or two before giving up on showing up at work. It's not like they're going to miss him over there.

The springs squeak as Gerard flops back onto his bed. He gives up on reading Mikey's messages. Too many of them anyway. He finally calls in sick when he's already about an hour late, curled up in a ball.

He coughs, shivers and tells Sarah he'll be back on Monday. Just a cold.

"Take plenty of fluids and rest," she says, earnest and Gerard feels like an asshole. He likes Sarah. She's the only one at work who Gerard doesn't want to spork. She's always smiling at him when he comes in.

Gerard shuts off his phone, thinking that plenty of fluids is what got him into this shitty situation in the first place. He also thinks that plenty of fluids might be the only way to cure his hangover.

Gerard finally slips out of his dirty, stinky clothes from the night before and goes back to bed, crawling under the sheets, his naked skin hot against the cold but soft sheets.


*


When Frank wakes up, his dog curled up onto Frank's back, her snout buried in his neck, cold and wet, the light outside is bright, seeping through the curtains.

Frank tries not to stir too much as he reaches for his watch at the foot of the bed. He doesn't want to shrug off the four pounds of stinky Chihuahua nested between his shoulder blades.

His t-shirt is sticking to his skin, damp and uncomfortable as Frank stretches between the sheets. He yawns, slips a hand inside his boxer short to scratch at his balls.

Peppers whimpers and licks at his neck, her tongue hot and sticky.

"Morning," Frank mumbles as he rolls onto his side, careful.

Peppers jumps down onto the mattress and licks at Frank's face, thoroughly. She wags her tail, bounces all over the place and barks, urging Frank to give her morning tummy rub.

Frank giggles and spends a few minutes petting her and kissing her, enjoying the quiet minutes before he has to leave the comfort of his bed and get a start on his day.

Peppers follows him into the bathroom and lies down on the rug while Frank is showering. He takes care of his morning wood, shaves, gets dressed and trots down to the kitchen.

The pantry is looking a little pathetic this morning. There's nothing there but a box of Pop-Tarts, a jar of pickles and a large bag of dog food. The fridge isn't looking too good either.

"Looks like we need to go grocery shopping today, Stinky," Frank says as fills up Peppers bowl and watches her wolf down her breakfast/lunch in ten seconds flat.

She's noisy and messy when she eats, spraying tiny pieces of kibbles around her bowl. When she's done licking the floor thoroughly, Peppers looks up at Frank and at her bowl again with big wet eyes.

Frank drops a handful of treats into her bowl because he's a sucker for her and her eyes. He goes to pick up her leash on the coffee table, puts on his warmest hoodie, eats his last Pop-Tart and grabs the pack of cigarettes before heading out the door, holding Peppers tight in his arms.


*


It's maybe four or five in the afternoon when Mikey shows up on his door step.

Gerard is still in his pajamas, watching some stupid movie about a girl who gets bitten by a werewolf and slowly turns into one. The girl also seems to be a major slut because werewolf and sluttiness go together. He tries to draw an army of werewolves that don't look too ridiculous but so far he's failing. Werewolves always look pretty ridiculous in movies and the ones he manages to draw all look like bobbleheads with fur.

He drops his pencil and his sketchpad on the couch and walks over to the door, dragging his feet all the way there. He combs his permanent bedhead with the tip of his fingers and stares into the peephole.

His brother is standing in the hallway, looking back at him through the hole, his nose pressed against the door.

"I know you're in there," Mikey calls, pounding on the door. "I can smell you."

Gerard sighs. He takes a step back and unlocks the three bolts, taking his time.

"What the fuck was that?" Mikey asks as he pushes past Gerard to get in. He doesn't sound mad. Maybe a little worried if anything. He shrugs off his coat and walks off to the living room. "Did you lose your phone? I left you fifty messages."

"Nah. I turned it off. Needed sleep."

Mikey throws his coat onto the back of Gerard's couch, takes a quick glance at the werewolf sketches, failed experiments aborted mid-execution, grotesque faces with too many teeth. Then Mikey looks up at Gerard and his eyes widen.

"Have you seen your face, dude? What did you do last night?" Mikey asks, pressing as he, stares at Gerard's black eye and reaches out to touch it with his bony fingers.

"Bar brawl," Gerard replies, taking a step back, out of Mikey's reach. "You should see the other guy."

Mikey flops down onto the couch and flips through Gerard's sketches. "You skipped work?" he asks, shifting and pulling out Gerard's pencil from under his butt.

"Wasn't feeling too hot."

The slutty werewolf girl is tearing a guy to pieces. She doesn't look very sexy now with all the fur sprouting on her back, her weird scrunched up nose and her fingernails digging into gore and guts. The blood smeared on her face is pretty hot, though, as are her razor sharp teeth. Maybe Gerard could draw this instead of the more traditional, sort of cartoony werewolves. Blood makes everything better.

"Mom asked me if you were doing drugs," Mikey says after a few minutes, looking up at Gerard, intent. "I told her you didn't."

"Good. 'Cause I don't do drugs."

Nothing that wasn't prescribed to him by a doctor in any case. Although Gerard is pretty sure that all the pills he pops daily qualify as doing drugs. Red, blue, white, a color for each mood.

Gerard doesn't really feel like expending on the subject. Instead, he goes into the kitchen and stands there, staring at the dirty dishes piling up in the sink. Maybe he should do something about it before it starts attracting bugs like the last time.

"Are you sure?" Mikey shouts and Gerard takes a couple of mugs out of the cupboard, blows off the thin coat of dust that's covering them and pours two cups of lukewarm coffee, all that's left in the pot.

"Why are you here, Mikes?" Gerard asks as he hands Mikey his cup; two sugars, no milk, no cream. He sits down at the other end of the couch and takes a sip.

Mikey shrugs and puts his untouched coffee on the table. "You left pretty early last night. I was just checking up on you."

Last night was just another family dinner. Nothing important. Just something they did once or twice a week at their parents. Sometimes, Gerard stayed over for the night, sleeping in his old bed in the basement.

Gerard skipped out early last night. He told his mom he was tired, kissed them good night and went straight to his usual dive, the one that's just a block away from his apartment. The one he's been kicked out of for standing up for Batman.

"I was tired. I still am," Gerard says as he digs through a pile of magazines and crumpled sketches on the floor, searching for his cigarettes and for his elusive lighter. "That's why I took a day off work."

He finds his smokes half hidden under the couch. He opens the pack and pokes at its content. Three cigarettes left. He lights himself one, taking a long drag and blowing the smoke upwards.

"So, does that mean you're not coming to see Ray's band play tonight?" Mikey asks as he plucks the pack of Malboros from Gerard's hand and pulls out a cigarette. He sticks it between his lips and stares at Gerard.

"I don't know. I should stay in tonight," Gerard says, ducking his head.

Mikey tosses the pack on the coffee table and looks up at Gerard. "Or you could come, maybe for an hour and I'll drive you home," he offers, snatching the lighter from Gerard.

Gerard looks up and stares at the screen. Werewolf girl is now a full on beast. This looks like a very badly made latex suit, hair, slime, yellow eyes. Gerard searches for the remote. He's seen enough. He presses the mute button.

"Why should I go?"

"Ray is your friend. He misses you."

The movie is better without the sound. Gerard makes up his own dialogue in his head. Don't eat me. I'm you friend. When Gerard turns to Mikey, he's staring at him, expecting something from him.

Gerard sighs. "OK."

"Cool."

They sit in silence for a minute, smoking and watching the end credits of the movie roll.

"Alicia's gonna be there, you know," Mikey says, shifting on the couch and reaching over Gerard for the bottle of Mountain Dew turned ashtray that's sitting on the armrest.

"You're still seeing her?" Gerard asks, blowing the smoke out of the corner of his mouth and flicking the ashes of his cigarette in the bottle as it passes near him.

"Yeah. I really like her."

Gerard nods. Of course Mikey really likes her. Alicia is a nice girl. Mikey had been crushing on her for weeks, if not months, when he finally asked her out. It took him guts. When she said yes, Mikey showed up on Gerard's doorstep and talked about how amazing she was for three hours straight.

"Dude, you need a shower," Mikey declares as he shifts back to the end of the couch, waving his hand in front of his face. "You look and smell like shit."

Gerard glares at him and mumbles, "Fuck you."

"Or like puke. You smell like puke. When was the last time you washed your hair?"

"I don't know." Gerard grumbles. Maybe a week, maybe two. "Who fucking cares?"

"Yeah. I care. It's not a good sign if you don't remember. I think something's nesting in your hair."

Mikey reaches out and grabs a handful of Gerard's hair, tugging on it.

"Are you trying for dread locks? Because I'm pretty sure that's not the way to do it."

"Idiot." Gerard swats at Mikey's hand.

"Asshole," Mikey replies, putting his feet up on the coffee table and dropping his cigarette in the bottle.

There's a mummy movie on TV. It's one of these classics in black and white with actors who are all long dead.

"Wanna watch something else?" Gerard asks, pushing the bottle of Mountain Dew with his foot and picking up his cold coffee. He takes a sip, grimaces and puts it back on the table.

"I'm cool with the mummy," Mikey says with a shrug.


*


The band isn't half bad. Actually, Frank is pretty sure they're the best thing he's heard play here in a long time. They're way better than the crappy pop punk band that played here a week ago.

The tall guy on lead guitar is a fucking machine. He shreds his way through the set and make Frank's fingers itch for his old guitar.

Too bad he had to pawn it two months ago to make rent, along with his amp and his acoustic guitar. He misses it sometimes. Maybe he could ask Brian for a raise.

Frank watches the guy play, half envious, half mesmerized.

The place is packed tonight, probably because the band is kind of popular in this part of Jersey and also because they told every single person they know to come. Frank already made twice what he usually makes in tips. The only downside is that Frank didn't have a minute to breathe or grab a smoke.

The band is wrapping up the first half of their set when Frank decides to take a much deserved break. He's counting on Bob to pick up the slack since he's been sitting behind the bar for the past hour, not doing much besides combing the crowd and tapping his foot in rhythm.

Frank is searching for his pack of Camels in his jacket when a guy sits on the last available stool. He looks over his shoulder at the stage for a few seconds before turning back to Frank.

"Jim Beam. On the rocks," he says, his voice monotone, like it's something he's used to saying.

Frank pours the guy his drink and sets it on the bar. The guy's fingers are twitching as they reach for the glass.

"They're pretty good," Frank says and the guy mumbles something. He doesn't look up at Frank while he downs his glass in two or three quick gulps.

"'Nother one."

Frank obliges. He watches the guy's face and the clumps of hair standing on the back of his head. He looks pale, sick and vulnerable. There's a shiner under his left eye, a dark purple halo with a speck of dry blood on his cheekbone.

He downs another Jim Beam while Frank stands there, watching him.

"'Nother one,' he mumbles and Frank barely manages to make out his voice, drowned in a sea of noises, other voices, glasses clinking, drum beats and loud guitar riffs.

The guy bites his bottom lip and looks over his shoulder.

"I've never seen you before," Frank shouts over the music, pouring another Jim Beam over the slowly melting ice cubes.

"No." The guy picks up his glass and slides off his stool. He walks away and a pretty brunette takes his place.

"What can I do you for?" Frank asks with a huge grin.

The girl grins back, wide and drunk. "Your number." She laughs and Frank pours her a shot of Tequila on the house.


*


Gerard stands at the edge of the crowd, his fingers clutched around his glass. He feels dizzy, too hot, ready to make a run for the exit. He downs his drink and notices Mikey watching him. Gerard raises his empty glass, the ice cubes clinking together and forces himself to smile, big and creepy.

On stage, Ray is doing pretty well. Gerard recognizes the tiny guy on bass and the drummer. He knows they're both called Matt. The hot tattooed dude on rhythm guitar is also called Matt. Matt Cortez, if Gerard's memory serves right. They met through Ray a few years ago when Gerard was going to SVA.

If Gerard wasn't feeling so restless, so out of place with all his friends and his friends' friends surrounding him and silently judging him, he would probably stay and watch the whole set. He would go congratulate Ray and the Matts at the end and help them carry their gear back to their van.

When Gerard turns away from the stage and goes back to the bar to order another Jim Beam or something stronger, the cute bartender is too busy flirting with a peppy and obviously drunken brunette to notice him. The girl has a butterfly tramp stamp peeking out of her tank top and is wearing a mini skirt, so short that Gerard can see a flash of white from her underwear as she bounces up on her stool. She flips her hair, giggles and puts her hands everywhere on the bartender, petting his tattooed wrists and his knuckles.

Cute bartender doesn't seem to mind the drunk flirting. He grins and lets the girl run a finger on his cheeks. She pushes a lock of his hair away from his face, leans over the bar and whispers something in his ear.

After a while, Gerard realizes he's been standing at the same spot for too long, watching the mating rituals of the cute bartender in its natural habitat. He shakes his head and forces himself to look away, feeling stupid. He fends the crowd and makes his way to the other end of the bar where a man is sitting, looking pretty pissed.

Gerard clears his throat and the man looks up at him, his forehead creased. He scratches at his beard and glares at Gerard with his blue eyes. He's chewing on his bottom lip, his tongue rolling along the silver ring piercing his skin.

"Shot of Absolut?" Gerard asks and the man turns to look at the cute bartender.

"Frank," he shouts, standing up and dragging his chair against the wall. "Stop flirting and take care of your fucking customers, asswipe."

The cute bartender untangles himself off his drunken play mate and mouths out a very clear "Fuck you."

The man with the lip ring lets out a heavy sigh. He scans the bottles lined up on the wall for a second, grabs a bottle and pours Gerard his vodka without a word. He pushes the shot glass under Gerard's nose, spilling some of its content on the bar and walks off to the cute bartender. Frank.

Gerard doesn't hear what they're saying. He knows they're probably arguing.

Frank waves his hands around a lot as he shouts. He points at the crowd, at the drunken brunette, at the door. It's kind of hilarious after a while.

Gerard laughs in spite of himself and quickly ducks his head when Frank looks at him. He takes a sip of vodka and watches the rest of the fight from the corner of his eyes.

Frank is pretty. He's also very short. Definitely shorter than the man with the lip ring. He doesn't seem really impressed at all, though. He stands in front of lip ring man, looks up at him and – Frank wraps his arms around the man, his hands on his hips and pulls him closer. He cups the man's ass, squeezes and giggles.

The man with the lip ring shrugs the tiny bartender off and shoves at him playfully. Maybe they're a couple. There's definitely something going on between them. An obvious complicity and tenderness. Something that looks like what Gerard and Mikey have, but different. Gerard doesn't grab Mikey's ass or anything like that.

Gerard orders a couple more vodkas from angry lip ring man and watches as the bar fills up. The drunken girl is replaced by a couple of college students sharing the stool. Then, they're replaced by a tall guy with thick glasses.

"Are you gonna spend the night drinking or are you coming to Ray and Christa's with us?" Mikey asks. His voice is too clear, too close. It startles Gerard.

It takes Gerard a few seconds to realize that the music stopped. The crowd is loud, cheering, clapping.

Gerard turns around and Mikey is right behind him. He watches as the band walks off the stage. He picks out Ray from the crowd pretty easily because of his hair, a large, frizzy ginger mop that looks like a fro.

"You rocked pretty hard," Gerard says when Ray gives him a brief hug.

"Thanks for coming, Gee," he says, politely, patting Gerard's back. He orders a can of Red Bull and disappears back into the crowd.

Alicia sneaks up on Mikey and grabs his hand. She smiles at Gerard, big and warm, and tugs on Mikey's hand. She whispers something in his ear and plants a kiss on his cheek.

"You coming or what?" Mikey asks, putting a hand on Gerard's shoulder and squeezing. "After party. Plenty of booze and loud music."

Gerard shakes his head no and empties his shot glass. "Maybe some other time."

Mikey leans closer and whispers, "I want you to get to know her."

"Some other time, Mikes," Gerard repeats, slapping his hand over Mikey's. "I promise."


*


The Jim Beam on the rocks guy is their very last customer that night. He sits in a corner by the counter, staring pensively at the row of empty shot glasses lined up before him.

Frank is cleaning up the tables when Bob walks over to the guy and stands there next to him, not saying anything. He's just glaring at him in his menacing Get out of my bar, asshole look.

"Nother one?" the guy asks, looking up at Bob with his bloodshot eyes and his lopsided mouth. He raises his empty glass and adds, "Please?"

"Get the fuck out," Bob mutters, picking up the empty glasses sitting under the man's nose.

The guy looks a little surprised. He opens his mouth, tucks his dirty hair behind his ears and searches his pockets. He digs out a couple of five dollar bills and pushes them onto the bar, towards Frank. He jumps out of his stool, his legs shaking and walks a crooked line towards the door, forgetting his jacket on the bar.

"He's too drunk to drive," Frank says, grabbing the denim jacket and trailing after the drunken mess of a man. "I'm gonna call him a cab."

"You do that," Bob says and Frank walks out into the night.

They have customers like this one all the time. They have about four or five guys every week. Some of them stay until closing time, drink themselves silly and end up in a ditch somewhere, passed out in their own puke. It's not uncommon but there's something about this guy that Frank wants to protect. He looks lost, aimless, defeated.

"Are you ok?" Frank asks and the guy looks up at him, his eyes droopy and his hair stuck to his face.

"'M fine," he mumbles, swaying in the middle of the sidewalk.

Frank hands him his jacket and puts it on his shoulders since it looks like the guy is too drunk to do it by himself. Frank pushes him against the wall and gives him a gentle pat on the cheek. "Don't move, dude. I'll be right back."

The guy moves though. As soon as Frank turns his back to call him a cab, he hears the guy mumble curses under his breath. He almost face-plants into the nearest lamppost in his attempt to flee.

Frank rushes to help him and wraps an arm around his back. "You need help getting home?" he asks, the guy's foul breath making him a bit dizzy.

"I can walk." The guy tries to push Frank away. "I can walk on my own."

Frank holds on to him tighter.

"I don't think so."

"Let go of me, asshole."

A cab stops around the curb and Frank waves at the driver. He lets go of drunken dude and opens the door. The music is loud inside the car. It's some kind of electronic music, if this kind of crap deserves to be called music.

The driver gives Frank a tired smile, as if he's used to taking drunken idiots home at this time of night and turns the volume of his radio down a notch.

The drunken guy stumbles, trips on his own feet but manages to stay upright. He climbs into the back of the cab and slams the door shut.

Frank waits next to the car, just to make sure the dude isn't going to walk right back out.

Drunken dude talks to the driver for a few seconds and sits back. He gives Frank a strange glance.

Frank watches as the cab drives away and turns at the next corner. He lights himself a cigarette and sits down on the side walk for a while. It's not like Bob can't manage without Frank.

He takes a deep breath, the polluted air filling up his lungs and stares at the starless sky. The moon is only a crescent, glowing behind the clouds.

"Some guy left you a surprise in the bathroom," Bob says when he sits down next to Frank and bumps his shoulder against Frank's. "Last stall. You're gonna love it."

"Motherfucker."

Frank finishes up his cigarette, crushes it with the sole of his shoe and goes back to work.


*


Gerard doesn't wake up in a pile of his own puke. He wakes up in his own bed, fully clothed, and tangled up in the sheets with the worst case of morning breath in history. Definitely an improvement.

He remembers parts of the night too. The bar, the band, seeing Ray again, the cute and helpful bartender called Frank. He remembers being pushed against a wall, getting into a taxi, some kind of electronic music, loud in his ears and he remembers collapsing in his bed.

As everything he did and said slowly falls back into place, Gerard tries to sit up. He takes one quick glance at the alarm clock and sighs. It's still early. It's also Saturday which means he doesn't have to rush in to work this morning. It's probably for the best given the headache that's creeping up on him.

As soon as he slides his legs over the edge of the bed and takes a step, the room starts spinning.

Gerard grabs his head with both hands and stumbles into the bathroom, his stomach twisting and his head pounding.

He spends half an hour puking his guts out, slumped next to the toilet seat, staring at the clock in the kitchen wall, just across from the bathroom. He watches the seconds roll, turning into minutes, the minutes turning into hours.

When his stomach finally settles, it's already the middle of the afternoon. Gerard takes some aspirin and a couple of Xanax and washes everything down with a bottle of beer he finds, stashed under the sink behind a pile of wash cloths and a tube of lube.

Another day well spent, Gerard thinks as he drags his feet across the hall and lies down on his couch.


*


The drunken guy is back the next night and then pretty much every night after that.

He always sits at the end of the bar, by himself, orders the same thing, starting off with a couple of glasses of Jim Beam before moving on to vodka. He never talks much and barely says thank you. He pounds his drinks, leaves Frank a decent tip and walks out the door when it's closing time.

Most nights, Frank follows him out into the street and calls him a cab. The guy doesn't struggle anymore when Frank wraps an arm around his back to help him stay upright.

It's a pretty dead Sunday night, about two weeks after the gig, when Frank finally asks him his name. It's five in the morning and Bob is long gone. Frank is locking the place up, rushing to get home before Peppers pees everywhere on the carpet or gnaws on the furniture.

When Frank turns around, shoving the keys in his jeans and pulling the hood of his sweat shirt over his head, the guy is standing on the edge of the sidewalk, staring at his feet, his hands buried in the pockets of his jacket.

Frank joins him, clearing his throat to make his presence known because the guy looks pretty engrossed in whatever he's staring at, maybe his untied shoelaces.

"Is it ok if I call you Jim?"

The guy looks up from his shoes and stares at Frank for a few seconds. Maybe he's trying to decide whether he really wants to give some asshole bartender his real name or if should make one up on the spot.

"Not Jim. Gerard," the guy says, his heavily alcoholic breath reaching Frank's nose. It doesn't sound like a made up name. It's too weird to be made up. It sounds vaguely French.

"I meant after the whiskey. Like Jim Beam?"

Gerard is probably too drunk to get it because he looks even more confused after Frank's explanation.

"Nevermind," Frank says, shaking his head. "I'm Frank." He grins and clenches his hands into fists, resisting the urge to grab Gerard's hand and shake it.

Gerard ducks his head and stares at his shoes again. He shrugs and mumbles, "I know."

"Do you live around here, Gerard?"

Frank searches the pockets of his hoodie for his cigarettes. He pulls it out, tears off the plastic wrapper, crumples it in a ball and scans the sidewalk for a trashcan. Frank sighs because he really doesn't feel like walking two miles for a stupid trashcan. He shoves the wrapper in his pocket and holds his pack of smokes under Gerard's nose.

"Not really," Gerard replies, taking a couple of steps back until he's leaning against the lamppost. He stares at Frank's hand for a few seconds and at his pack of Camels before grabbing one. He nods as a thank you and sticks the cigarette between his lips.

Frank scratches a match and holds it a few inches away from Gerard. Gerard leans in and cups his hands around the flame, his cool skin brushing against Frank's wrist.

Their eyes meet for a short moment, maybe only a few seconds. It feels longer. Frank licks at his chapped lips and stares into Gerard's hazel eyes. There's so much sadness in those eyes that Frank wants to take Gerard home and fuck all the bad out of him. He wants to fuck Gerard until the only thing left is a quiet bliss.

Gerard is the first to look away. He grabs Frank's wrist and pushes it away.

"It's cold, isn't it?" Frank asks, his voice raspy. He shakes the match to put it out, the flame singing the tip of his fingers. He drops it down in the gutter and watches it float amongst the dead leaves and the trash.

"Don't," Gerard says as he exhales. "Don't do that."

"Do what?"

"Make small talk," Gerard replies before taking a drag. He coughs up a lung before taking another drag. "You don't have to talk to me. We're not friends."

Frank snatches the cigarette from Gerard's fingers and uses it to light his. He hands it back to him with a smile and says, "I like talking to you. You look interesting."

Gerard shakes his head and gives Frank a small smile. "I'm not. I'm really not."

"I see," Frank mutters to himself.

"What do you see?"

Frank shrugs. He doesn't see anything besides the obvious. Gerard drinks to forget something, to make his life more bearable or just because he doesn't have anything else to do. It's not Frank's place to ask and he doesn't really give a shit anyway.

"What's that thing on your fingers?" Frank asks when he notices the red smudges on the pad of Gerard's fingers and under his nails. It looks like dried up blood.

"Paint," Gerard replies, rubbing at his fingers mechanically. "I paint. That's part of my job."

"Really?" Frank asks, intrigued.

Gerard nods. "Don't change the subject. What do you see?"

"Nothing." Frank smiles. "I don't know what I'm saying. It's late. I should already be in bed."

Once again, Gerard nods. He opens his mouth like he's about to say something but closes it back a few seconds later.

In the distance, Frank can hear a dog bark. He thinks about Peppers, probably curled up in Frank's bed, comfortable, her tiny snout buried in Frank's pillow. She's waiting for him to come home and Frank is making small talk with one of his customers, a customer he doesn't really intend to bone. And yet, this doesn't feel like a waste of time.

Frank takes one last drag and drops his cherry onto the sidewalk. "You need to go home, Gerard," he says, crushing it with the sole of his shoe. "I could walk you there if you can't find a ride?" Frank offers.

"It's almost morning," Gerard comments, staring up at the night sky.

It's not. The sun is a still a couple of hours away and it's a pretty cold night. Frank shivers inside his hoodie and puts his hand on Gerard's shoulder. "I can't leave you here, wandering all alone."

"Don't worry about me. I can take care of myself," Gerard says, shrugging Frank's hand off.

"You sure?"

"I think I'm sobering up already," Gerard says with a weird smile. His teeth look really sharp.

"Ok. See you later, then." Frank tucks his hands inside the sleeves of his hoodie and walks away, looking over his shoulder to catch one last glimpse of Gerard, a lonely silhouette standing under the orange glow of the street light.


*


"We're not very happy about your performances as of late, Gerard."

Gerard shuffles his feet. He wants to get out of the room before he suffocates. Before he pukes his guts out on his boss' shiny new shoes.

The meeting is not really official. It's just Mr Capelli and Gerard. Ted from human resources is not even here which can only mean Gerard is not fired.

Gerard isn't sure this is a good thing.

"I'm sorry," he says anyway, staring at a tiny hole in the carpet. It looks like a cigarette burn although, he's pretty sure his boss doesn't smoke.

"I know you are," Capelli says before getting up. He circles his desk and leans against it. "I want you to take a few days off," he adds as he cracks his knuckles. Gerard hates that sound more than anything.

"Just so you can figure things out."

"I. I can't. I need the money." Gerard pokes at the hole with the toe of his shoe and looks up at his boss. "I need this job, sir."

"Gerard." There's something strange in Mr Capelli's voice. Something that sounds fake. "I know this must be a difficult time for you."

Obviously, Mr Capelli knows shit about squat.

"You've been with us for," Capelli pauses, as if he needed a second to remember the exact number. He clears his throat and says, "Three years. I think it's time you get more responsibilities. We want to move you to penciling. But we need you to focus first. We need you a hundred percent here, Gerard."

"I'm here," Gerard mumbles, scraping at the black paint under his nails. There's something ridiculous in the way Capelli calls himself we. Gerard grins, picturing his boss with three heads, like Cerberus, foamy mouths and crazy yellow eyes, barking at his employees.

Capelli says, "We know very well you're not," and Gerard couldn't agree more.

When Gerard walks out of the office, dragging his feet back to his desk, Sarah is there, waiting for him. She's leaning over Gerard's sketches, flipping through them, precautious.

"So?" she asks, her mouth crooked in a worried smile.

"I'm not fired," Gerard says, sitting down on his squeaky chair.

"That's good."

Gerard looks at his sketches for a second and starts putting them together before tucking them in his messenger bag. He might as well bring home some work.

"He wants me to get out of his face for a few days. My emo is ruining his day," he says when he notices Sarah is not moving away from his desk.

"Oh, honey."

Sarah is probably the only person on this planet to call Gerard honey. Even his mom doesn't call him honey. Gerard doesn't mind. It's better than being called sport or champ which is what Gerard goes by during meetings with the merchandising team. Assholes.

"T's fine."


*


Gerard is sitting on the sidewalk; smoking and watching the cars go by when Frank gets to the bar.

"You're here early," Frank greets him as he joins him on the sidewalk. He can spare a minute or two before the crazy begins. The sidewalk is cold and kind of dirty. Frank shifts closer to Gerard and crosses his feet.

Gerard looks up at him and smiles. "Yeah. Didn't have anything better to do."

Frank smiles back, and grabs the pack of Marlboros sitting at Gerard's side. "Can I?"

"Sure."

They stay outside for a few minutes, smoking and not saying much. Then, Frank stubs out his cigarette because he has customers to tend to and Bob is already on his ass for being late.

Gerard shows up a couple of minutes later and sits on his usual stool, at the end of the bar.

"It's quiet tonight. I like it when it's quiet," he says as Frank pours him his first Jim Beam.

"Yeah. Me too."

It's Thursday night and the place looks pretty deserted. Frank keeps himself busy though, harassing Bob, slapping his ass every time he walks near and winking suggestively at him. He almost bites some guy's head off (not literally) at some point during the night because the asshole is looking at Bob funny and calls him a motherfucker. Bob throws the guy out before things escalate and Frank spends the rest of his shift all over Bob, nuzzling at him and glaring at the customers. Sometimes, Frank just gets really protective of his Bob.

Gerard orders more drinks than usual. When Frank finally cuts him off, he's very drunk, barely coherent and slips down from his stool when he tries to get up. He falls on his ass and Frank rushes over to help him up.

"Frank." He breathes right in Frank's face.

"Get up, Gerard."

Frank waves at Bob for some help.

"Frank," Gerard repeats, smiling a stupid smile.

Bob pulls him back up on his feet and pushes him against the bar. "I think you should take him home," he says, scanning the bar. "It's pretty dead around here. I'll cover for you."

Frank pats Bob's back in lieu of a thank you and grabs Gerard by the waist.

"Where do you live?"

"We leaving?" Gerard asks, putting his head on Frank's shoulder and letting himself go completely.

Frank cringes but manages to drag Gerard out the door. Even though his apartment is only a block away, Frank doesn't want to take Gerard there. He calls a cab, shoves Gerard in the backseat and climbs after him.

The driver waits patiently as Frank searches Gerard's pocket for a wallet. There's no driver's license in there but Frank finds an ID that says Gerard's working for Cartoon Network. There's an address in the back. Frank tells the driver to take them there and lets Gerard put his head on his lap, hoping Gerard won't throw up on his jeans.

The building where Gerard lives has an elevator in working condition which is a blessing. Frank digs out the keys to Gerard's apartment from his jeans, ignoring the raging hard-on his fingers brush up against as they latch around the cold metal loop of a keychain.

As soon as Frank manages to push the door open, Gerard bends over and barfs all over his doormat. He wipes off his mouth with the back of his hand and grins at Frank.

"Home," he mumbles, stepping over the puddle of his own vomit and stumbling forward.

Frank follows him inside, leaving the door open so he can come back and clean up the mess.

Gerard trips over something, Frank can't really see that well and doesn't know where the light switch are. Gerard falls face first on the floor with a loud thud and Frank picks him up.

There's blood on his bottom lip. Frank runs his thumb over it and hooks Gerard's arm around his neck.

Gerard is definitely heavier than he looks, but Frank is also a lot stronger than he looks.

Frank finds the bedroom. He drops Gerard on the bed and sits down by his side. Frank takes off Gerard's shoes and puts them at the foot of the bed. He doesn't really want to take Gerard's clothes off, even if they smell like barf. They're not that intimate.

The bed is unmade, a pile of blankets pushed to the side, halfway on the floor. Frank picks them up and tucks Gerard in. He brushes the hair away from his eyes and gets up.

As much as Frank wants to stick around and make sure Gerard doesn't choke on his vomit, he has a pet waiting for him at home and a probably angry Bob to check in on.

He cleans up the pile of sick on the doormat, leaves the key in the lock and takes off.


*


Frank looks pretty busy tonight. Probably because it's a band night. He grins at Gerard when he sees him, standing in a corner, waiting for his stool to become available again. Some loud and obnoxious college kid is sitting at Gerard's favorite spot.

"Thanks for taking me home last night," Gerard shouts over the music and Frank's smile widens. He leans closer, pushing empty beer bottles and glasses aside.

"I'm surprised you remember," he says in Gerard's ear.

Gerard never noticed before but fuck, Frank smells really good. He smells like spring and tobacco.

"I do," Gerard says, breathing in a lungful of Frank. "That was nice of you."

Frank moves back behind his bar and pours Gerard a Jim Beam. On the rocks. Gerard watches his fingers latch around the bottle, his tattooed knuckles spelling out H-A-LL-O.

"No problem," Frank says, his voice barely audible. "How's the lip?" he shouts, pushing Gerard's glass on the bar.

Gerard puts a finger on the scab, his lip slightly swollen. "Hurts."

"Try not to fall on your face so much."

Frank laughs and Gerard ducks his head, feeling his face flush.

The place is too loud, too packed. Gerard gets bored pretty quickly of standing against the wall, sipping on his Jim Beam and watching the band. They're not terrible but the singer has this whiny annoying voice that's starting to give Gerard a headache.

The only thing left for him to do is watch Frank. He watches him work, pouring drinks, smiling, making small talk with everyone. Gerard is kind of stupidly jealous that he's not Frank's only customer. He could use his company tonight.

The thing is, Frank is too busy to hang out with him. There's this cute boy sitting by himself at the bar. He looks barely in his early twenties, short black hair, a pretty face and a mouth clearly made for blowjobs. He's staring at Frank like he's a piece of meat, licking his lips and smiling. Frank seems to be receptive as he grabs the boy's wrist and runs his thumb over it, tracing circles over his skin.

Frank leaves before closing. He leaves with the cute boy all wrapped up around him, touching Frank everywhere.

The man with the lip ring – Bob, if Gerard heard right – looks pretty pissed off when he pushes the last customers out the door, telling them to "Get the fuck out before he kicks their asses."

Gerard steps onto the sidewalk before he gets his ass kicked, and grabs a cigarette. He leans against the lamppost and looks up. There's light coming from a window, on the fourth floor of the building across the street. Gerard watches as a shadow passes in front of it and stops. Gerard can't really make out a face but he's pretty sure whoever is up there is staring at him.

Gerard quickly looks down and at his cigarette, slowly consuming between his cold fingers. He's not sure how long he stays like this, doing absolutely nothing. The next thing he knows, Bob is locking the door after him and walking up to Gerard.

"Can I bum one?" Bob's voice is soft. It's different than what Gerard is used to. Maybe the whole tough guy act is just an act. Something he uses on drunken assholes to get them to do whatever he wants them to.

"Sure." Gerard digs out his battered pack of Marlboro from his pocket and hands it Bob.

Bob grabs one and sits down onto the sidewalk, the set of keys hanging from his belt loop clinking loudly.

"He's not an asshole, you know," he says, lighting his cigarette. He takes a deep drag, closes his eyes and blows the smoke upwards. "Not really," he adds, looking up at Gerard. "He's just playing one on TV."

"What?"

"Frank. That's his thing," Bob mutters. He spits into the gutter and takes another drag.

"Are you guys together?" Gerard asks, his voice shaking a little. He sits by Bob sides on the sidewalk and starts scraping the paint under his fingernails. "Cause you look very close."

"Me and Frank?" Bob's eyes widen and his lips curve into a grin. "No. We just tease each other a lot. I love the little shit, don't get me wrong, but I already have a girlfriend."

"Oh." Gerard is not really surprised, actually. The way Frank flirts with everyone is probably just a thing. Like a sales pitch. Something to put customers at ease and get them to drink more. He probably doesn't give a rats' ass about Gerard.

Bob clears his throat and gets up. He pops his collar up and crosses his arms over his chest and looks down at Gerard. "You need a ride home?" he mumbles, his cigarette dangling from a corner of his mouth.

"No. I'm good. Thanks."

"No problem."

Bob hops into his car, a Jeep with a license plate from Illinois and Gerard sits there, waiting for the sun to rise and for his buzz to wear off.


*


Frank dubs the kid Jeff. He just looks like a Jeff to him.

Frank gets on his knees and sucks Jeff's dick for a little while before they switch. Jeff isn't too good with this blowjob business. Frank gets bored after a minute and pulls out of the kid's mouth. He grabs his shoulders and pulls him back on his feet.

Jeff wipes off his mouth and chews on his bottom lip. He looks really pretty and dumb and Frank can't wait to fuck him. Jeff wraps his arms around Frank and kisses him.

Frank groans and pushes Jeff into the kitchen.

He fucks him on a table, the only hard surface he finds in the dark. He fucks Jeff on his back, gazing into Frank's eyes like a love sick puppy and Frank can't bear it much longer. He flips Jeff over on his stomach and fucks him some more.

The kid squirms and pants, his face pressed against the table, his fingers clasping at the edge. He's a fucking mess of sweat, lube and heat.

Frank fucks him faster and harder until the kid is crying out, helpless, begging Frank to touch him.

Usually, Frank doesn't think about anything when he comes. He just shoots his load and makes sure the kid does too. He's not a complete asshole. Frank doesn't need to think about Angelina Jolie's mouth or Brad Pitt's abs to get off.

He's fucking Jeff senseless, his hands firmly clasped around his hips, pounding him into the table and fuck. For a split second, Frank sees Gerard's face. It's not any split second though. It's the split second right before he spills into the condom, growling and shaking all over.

It's stupid, really. It's not like he thought about one of his late grandmas. But it feels weird.

Frank flips Jeff over onto his back and sucks him off.

There's a perfectly logical explanation. Frank sees Gerard every day. That's probably why he thought about him. It's not a big deal. He could have thought about Bob too. Actually, Frank is pretty sure that's happened before. He was fucking some young thing with pierced nipples and he thought about Bob. He heard his voice telling him to get it over with so he could come back to work to clean the bathroom stalls.

Frank still has Jeff's dick in his mouth when he giggles. The kid moans and arches his back and comes, his spunk bitter and hot in the back of Frank's throat.

Frank stands up, walks over to the kitchen sink and spits a wad of spunk down the drain.

He goes back to Jeff and kisses him, pulling his hair and exploring the inside of his mouth thoroughly.

The kid whispers something against Frank's mouth and sits up. He nibbles on Frank's lips and strokes up and down Frank's spine.

Jeff says, "Stay," and that's Frank's cue to leave. He gets dressed and walks out the door without a word. The kid is still sitting on his kitchen table, his pupils blown and a stupid grin on his flushed face.


*


"Did you do something different with your hair?"

Frank is staring at him, grinning. He reaches out and pushes a lock of Gerard's hair out of his face.

Gerard shifts on his stool, batting Frank's smooth fingers away and huffs. "I washed it. Assfuck."

"Oh. Are we allowed pet names, now?" Frank laughs, spilling some of Gerard's drink on the bar.

Tonight, Frank is drinking with him. It's probably not something he does often but they are the only two idiots left in the joint.

Bob left early. Gerard isn't sure why. Probably because it doesn't require two people to run a bar that only has one drunkass customer.

They're pounding their third or fourth shot of whatever Frank decided to drink when Gerard falls off his stool. He's trying to get up to go to the bathroom but his foot gets caught in something and he falls gracelessly, flailing his arms around. He doesn't fall on his face this time, though. He manages to put his hands first to break his fall.

He rolls over, whimpering and Frank kneels at his side.

"You ok, Faceplant?" he giggles, petting Gerard's hands and helping him to sit up.

"Faceplant?" Gerard asks incredulous. "That's the worst nickname ever. I bet your childhood pets had funky names like Professor McJibberson or Ginger Ale."

Frank makes a face and tucks his hair behind his ears. He's so fucking pretty, his cheeks red and his eyelids drooping. If he's not at least tipsy, it looks like he's quickly getting there.

"I am awesome at giving names. I should quit this gig and start a naming business full time."

Gerard crawls back up on his hands and knees and Frank wraps an arm around his waist, just like he always does.

"I have a Peppers," he says, his tone earnest and Gerard isn't sure what he's talking about.

"A pepper?"

"No. A dog. Peppers," he explains, brushing Gerard's jeans and walking him to the bathroom.

They stumble forward together in the brightly lit bathroom, the neon hanging off the ceiling buzzing, loud.

"You're bleeding," Frank mumbles, grabbing Gerard's hands. He looks up at Gerard, his eyes big, his teeth worrying his bottom lip.

Gerard stares down at his hands. They're covered in red. He rubs them together. Maybe it's paint. It could be paint. Gerard spent the better part of his day drawing monsters and guts.

When he looks at them again, the red is still there. There's a deep cut on his palm he hadn't noticed before.

Gerard is probably too drunk to feel any pain but he knows it's there. He knows it's going to be there when he wakes up, hungover and wishing he was dead.

"Ok. You're coming with me," Frank says as he wraps some toilet paper around Gerard's hand.


*


Frank doesn't sweep off the floor, doesn't clean up the tables. He can always come back later or leave everything as it is. Bob can deal. He will probably get mad for a while but Frank knows how to get him to forgive him. Bob is easy.

Frank turns off the lights, locks the door and grabs Gerard by the waist. He smells better than usual. He was probably not lying when he said he washed his hair.

It takes a lot more than a few shots of Jägermeister and vodka to get Frank drunk. He's tipsy when he leaves the bar but mostly sobered up when he reaches the door of his apartment.

Gerard mumbles something Frank doesn't quite catch and slips out of Frank's hold. He leans against the wall, staring at his bandaged hand and picking at the toilet paper.

When Frank opens the door, Peppers lets out a loud bark and lunges at Gerard. She circles him, barks once more and sniffs at the bottom of his pants.

"Hey, you," Gerard squeaks, picking up Peppers off the floor.

It seems like love at first sight. Peppers licks Gerard's face and Gerard doesn't seem to mind. Maybe dog drool doesn't bother him so much because he's drunk off his ass.

Frank hits the light switch on the wall and grabs Peppers, tearing her away from her new best friend. "Come on, Stinky."

He carries her to the kitchen and makes a quick assessment of the damage. It looks like she didn't pee anywhere, didn't munch on the remote or on the furniture and didn't make a mess of the couch cushions.

"Good girl," he says, patting her head and grabbing her leash on the kitchen counter.

When he turns around, Gerard is standing in the doorway, like a fucking vampire waiting for an invitation to come in.

"I have disinfectant in the bathroom," Frank says, planting a kiss of Peppers' tiny head. "Make yourself at home. I'll be back in a minute."

Gerard stares into his eyes for a few seconds before stepping inside and letting Frank out.

It's probably not a good idea to leave a stranger in his apartment but Frank has priorities and taking Peppers out for a walk is one of them.

Frank takes her to the tiny park around the corner and waits patiently for her to finish her business.

He looks up at his window and wonders what Gerard is doing right now. He might be still standing in the doorway, passed out on Frank's couch or raiding his fridge.

Peppers growls, probably at a squirrel, and Frank picks her up in his arms. He buries his nose in her fur and tells her she's a good girl about three times as Frank climbs up the stairs to his apartment.

Gerard is not blocking the doorway anymore.

Frank shuts his door, locks it and heads to the living room, Peppers snuggled up against his chest.

Gerard is sitting on the couch, pulling off his makeshift bandage. "It looks ok," Gerard comments, waving his hand at Frank.

Peppers wiggles in Frank's arms and Frank puts her down on the floor. He sits next to Gerard, takes Gerard's hand in his and examines it.

The cut is not bleeding anymore. The edges are a little rough, the skin bruised and scraped. Gerard's hand is warm, his fingers soft.

"Does it hurt?" Frank asks, giving Gerard his hand back.

Gerard shakes his head no.

"I'm gonna go grab some crap in the bathroom. This shit could get infected," Frank says, grave as he picks up the bloody toilet paper on the coffee table and gets up.

He flushes down the paper in the toilet, grabs whatever he can find in the medicine cabinet above the sink, Band-Aids, some disinfectant spray shit he hasn't used in forever and a pair of scissors.

Peppers follows him around, wagging her tail and rubbing herself against Frank's legs, almost tripping him as he walks back to the living room.

When he gets there, Gerard's eyes are closed. His head is tilted on the side, resting on his shoulder in the most uncomfortable way possible.

Frank drops the first aid kit on top of the TV set and leans over Gerard. He grabs his shoulders and lies him down on the couch, his head on the arm rest. He grabs his legs too, takes Gerard's shoes off and lays a fleece blanket over him.

Frank picks up Peppers, turns the lights off and goes to bed.


*


When Gerard opens his eyes, a headache pounding behind his eyes, he doesn't know where he is. It's not uncommon. He woke up in strange places before; toilet seats, tables, rooftops, balconies.

Waking up on someone's couch is actually a pretty sweet deal. He's wrapped up in a blanket, warm and cozy. Gerard buries his nose in the blanket and hums. It smells good and feels really soft.

He doesn't really feel like moving. Not yet. He looks around the room, trying to find something familiar. Maybe a picture.

Whoever lives here owns one of the most impressive collections of horror movie DVDs Gerard has ever seen. Gerard isn't even sure he's watched them all.

Gerard sits up, carefully, and wraps the blanket around his shoulders. His left hand feels weird, sore and hot. Gerard doesn't remember participating in a knife fight but apparently, that's what he did last night.

Gerard cringes as he scrambles up on his feet, dizzy and sick to his stomach. He walks up to the window and peeks outside through the blinds. He doesn't recognize the buildings or the street down below.

There are bandages sitting on top of the TV. Gerard stares at his hand for a few seconds and shrugs. It's probably useless now. The cut doesn't look too deep. It's not bleeding or anything. He'll live.

A dog barks somewhere, really close, maybe even inside the apartment. Gerard likes dogs but he's not sure this particular dog likes him.

Gerard looks at his distorted reflection in the TV, combs his bed head as best as he can and looks for his shoes. He finds them under the coffee table, laces undone.

He quickly slips them on, tip toes through the quiet apartment and walks out the door. He hears the dog barking again and a familiar voice, muffled. Maybe Gerard should have left a thank you note. Maybe he should have waited for the occupant to wake up and make him some coffee.

There's probably a Starbucks close by, though. It beats having to apologize for making a fool out of himself in public.


*


Frank is a little surprised when he doesn't find Gerard sleeping on his couch. He checks the bathroom just in case, but Gerard is gone.

It's better this way. Frank doesn't feel really comfortable having people over. Good thing Frank didn't fuck him.

Frank scratches at his balls through his boxer shorts and heads to the kitchen. He makes himself some coffee, eats a Pop Tart and checks the calendar on the fridge.

Five days circled in red. No wonder Frank was getting all territorial with Bob the other night. Frank doesn't have to go to work for the next five days.

Peppers doesn't look very happy when Frank packs her stuff in a duffle bag. He grabs her bowl, her food, her brush, her treats, a couple of her favorite sweaters, and looks down at Peppers, feeling pretty miserable.

"I'm sorry, Stinky."

Peppers sneezes or huffs; Frank isn't sure. She climbs on the couch and lies down. She buries her nose between her paws and looks up at Frank, her eyes big and pleading.

Frank crouches down and scratches behind her ears. "You know it's not my fault, right?" he asks and Peppers whimpers.

Frank hates leaving her. He hates having to do this every time he has to go away for a few days. He doesn't really have a choice. Besides, Bob and Jamia love Peppers. They always take great care of her. They spoil her, too, and Frank always picks her up fat and happy.

"Come on, baby," Frank says as he stands up and puts Peppers' cage on the floor.

Peppers climbs inside her cage without making too much of a fuss. Frank pets her snout through the bars and blows kisses at her.

"That's my girl." He forces himself to smile even though he hates this. Some days, Frank really hates his life.


*


Gerard looks over his shoulder every five seconds. He cranes his neck, scans the bar. He turns around and stares at the door, waiting for Frank to show up to work.

It's half past twelve already when Gerard finally manages to grabs Bob's attention.

"Where's Frank?" he asks, shouting over the noise, loud voices and laughs. It's not a band night tonight but it looks like every frat boy in town decided to show. Every table is full and Bob is rushing all over the place. There's also a short tattooed man Gerard has seen a few times before. Gerard doesn't remember his name but apparently, he's the owner of the joint.

He's waiting tables tonight though, helping Bob who looks more than swamped behind the bar.

"Frank?" Gerard asks again. "Where is Frank?"

Bob stares at him, his eyebrow furrowed, looking really fucking tired and confused.

"Frank?" Gerard shouts just a little louder and Bob nods.

"He's not coming in." Bob says something else after this but Gerard can't hear it.

"Why?"

Bob sighs. Gerard doesn't hear it but he sees how Bob's shoulders rise and fall and how his face drops. Bob pours Gerard a Jim Beam on the house, for no reason and leans over the bar.

"He's taking a few days off."

It's not the first time Frank disappears for a few days. Gerard just didn't care as much last month or the month before that. He gets why Frank needs some time off from work but he can't help thinking this is just time off from Gerard.

Gerard downs his drink in three gulps and spends a few minutes staring at the ice cubes melting.

Gerard remembers drinking with Frank last night. He remembers talking about his job and about his asshole boss. He whined and Frank listened. He remembers Frank's fingers on his face, in his hair. He remembers how Frank smelled and how his voice sounded, low, raspy. He remembers wanting to kiss him about ten times but not going through with it because Frank is nice and doesn't deserve any complication in his life.

He doesn't remember flirting with Frank and making a pass at him. He doesn't remember how he got the cut in his hand, either, but he's pretty sure now that he woke up on Frank's couch. Maybe Frank is mad at him for leaving without a thank you.

"Is he alright?" Gerard asks when Bob comes over to top off his Jim Beam.

Bob doesn't look up at Gerard. He doesn't look him in the eyes and Gerard doesn't like it. Something stirs inside him, making his stomach leap. Maybe Gerard did something really stupid. Something so stupid that Frank needs a few days away from drunken assholes like him.

"Don't worry about him," Bob shouts. "He'll be back in a few days. He just needs some rest."

"Is he sick?" Gerard asks, worried. He shifts on his stool and picks at the scabs in his palm.

"Sort of," Bob replies before walking away.

Gerard calls it a night after his third drink. He goes home, calls Mikey and spends half an hour telling him about Frank.

Gerard misses Frank. It doesn't make any sense because they are nothing. Gerard isn't sure they're even friends. They talk and laugh together. They make fun of the stupid music some kids pick on the jukebox. They talk about superpowers and how they would use them if they were ever bitten by a radioactive spider or hit by gamma rays.

They have a routine. Gerard drinks his life away until Frank cuts him off. He's there to make sure Gerard gets home in one piece.

Frank's been gone for three days. Three days and Gerard just can't take it anymore.

Bob is nice. Bob makes stupid jokes once in a while. He doesn't make small talk, doesn't ask Gerard about his boring day spent on his couch watching cartoons. Bob is amazing on so many levels but he's not Frank.

Brian-the-owner doesn't really talk much either. He just does his job and leaves a few hours before closing.

It's a Thursday night when Gerard decides to do something really stupid. He finishes up his drink, grabs his jacket on the bar, waves Bob goodbye and heads off.

He's not as drunk as usual. He sets off into the night, curled up in his jacket and his scarf, shivering.

Frank's apartment building is only a block away. The name on the intercom says F. Iero. Four D. That's him.

A quick glance at his watch and Gerard presses his finger on the intercom. He waits patiently for a sound, a voice, anything.

Nothing happens. Gerard hears nothing. He's pacing around, biting his nails and mumbling to himself when the door opens.

A young couple walks out, staring at Gerard like he's about to eat their brains out. They stare at him as they climb down the stairs and Gerard looks down at his shoelaces, waiting for them to go away.

When they finally look away, Gerard manages to sneak inside before the door closes. He climbs up the stairs and stands in front of Frank's door for a few minutes. He feels stupid and a little bit creepy.

It's late and Frank is probably in bed now. Gerard takes a deep breath and knocks on the door. Three brief but heavy knocks.

He listens closely for any sign of life before knocking again. He doesn't hear anything. No TV and no footsteps.

"Frank?" he calls, loud and a little bit too desperate. "Are you in there?"

No answer.

"Frank? Are you ok?"

A dog barks down the hall and someone coughs. Either Frank is not home or he just doesn't want to deal with Gerard.

Gerard waits for another minute, shuffling his feet and poking at the doormat before giving up.


*


When Frank opens his eyes, Bob is standing by the window, looking outside into the street, the crowd just passing by, never stopping; their footsteps loud onto the pavement.

"Morning," Frank mumbles, slowly sitting up.

Bob threw a blanket over Frank, probably when Bob came in this morning to untie him and unlock the door. Frank wraps it tighter around his back and shivers.

Bob turns around and smiles. "Morning."

He walks over to Frank and sits down next to him on the cold and hard concrete.

"I got you donuts," he says, handing Frank a huge box from Krispy Kreme.

"Thanks." Frank smiles. He stares down at his wrists and rubs at them. They're sore, raw and bruised.

"There's coffee upstairs," Bob says, shifting a little and cringing. "We should put a mattress down here."

"That's probably not a great idea."

Frank is ok with having only a sheet to lie down on. It's torn and old and stinks pretty bad but Frank doesn't mind. The only time Brian tried to make the place more comfortable, throwing some pillows in a corner, Frank torn them to pieces, making an absolute mess, feathers flying around everywhere. Cleaning that shit up was the least fun Frank ever had; well besides the puke and other crap he cleans up on a daily basis.

Frank is picking up the pile of clean clothes, neatly folded and sitting next to him when he catches Bob staring at the bruises and the cuts on Frank's ankles and on his wrists.

Frank hides them under the blanket and sighs. "How's Jamia?"

"She's great," Bob replies with a small smile. His face always lights up when he talks about her. "She bought Peppers a new toy."

Frank gets up, dropping the blanket on the floor, the soft fabric brushing over his skin.

Bob stares at the window again even though he's seen Frank's junk more than anyone else in the world. He's polite like that.

Frank slips inside his jeans, puts on a pair of socks, a t-shirt and a hoodie, and feels a little bit more human.

"I think we lost her squeaky behind the couch, so Jamia got her this really stupid lobster type thing at Petsmart," Bob explains just as Frank puts on his shoes. "I'll look for her mouse before you come pick her up."

"Don't worry about it."

"You feelin' ok, Frank?" he asks, poking at the jelly donuts mechanically and staring at Frank, his forehead creased. "You look like shit."

Frank chooses to ignore the question. He always looks like shit the morning after and he doesn't really feel like telling Bob about his woes.

"How's everything else?" Frank asks instead, grabbing a donut from the box sitting in Bob's lap.

Bob scratches at his beard and chews on his lip ring.

"Not much. Gerard asked about you again last night," Bob replies after a minute.

Frank sprays tiny donut crumbs everywhere when he asks, "He did?"

Bob nods and shoves the donut box in Frank's hands. "I think he has a crush on you," he says as he picks up the blanket off the ground and climbs up the stairs.

"He's a nice guy," Frank says as he trails after him, his stomach growling and his guts twisting. Frank will never get used to the morning after. It always feels like he's been run over by a steamroller repeatedly.

Bob pushes the cellar door open and walks over to the bar. The sun is bright outside. It feels warm on Frank's skin, weak rays filtering through the tainted windows.

"He wanted to know if you were sick."

Everything looks squeaky clean. Bob probably took care of everything while Frank was out cold.

Frank sits down at a table and finishes his donut in silence.

"What are you going to do today?" Bob asks as he sets a cup of coffee in front of Frank. Frank closes his eyes and breathes in its delicious aroma.

When he finally opens his eyes, chewing on the last bite of his donut, Bob is standing behind the bar, putting on his coat.

"Gonna hang out around here until it's time for you lock me up, I guess."

He's going to catch up on some reading and watch TV in Brian's office. Maybe he's going to play solitaire on Brian's laptop and take a power nap. It's going to be a fucking long and boring day.

He could walk out the door and go to the movies. He could hang out with Bob and Jamia and pet Peppers too. He could drop by his mom and hold her in his arms. He could do all these things but Frank doesn't want to leave the bar. Frank feels vulnerable. He feels like a train wreck. He feels like he could fall asleep anywhere and miss the sunset.

Bob steals a couple of donuts from the box and wraps them up in a paper towel. They're probably for Jamia.

"Jamia wants to bring you some lunch later," he says, stopping by the door and turning to look at Frank. "Maybe I could swing by and make sure you don't die of extreme boredom," he offers, shoving the donuts in his coat pocket.

Most days, Frank is really glad he told Bob. He's glad he told Brian and Jamia too. He doesn't want to think about what his life would be without them.

"If you don't man up and pop the question to her soon," Frank mumbles through a mouthful of donut. "I might have to steal her from you."

"I'm leaving now," Bob grumbles, unlocking the door and pushing it open.

Frank gets up, carefully, his muscles sore. "Sure. Fucker," he mumbles, circling the bar to grab a glass of ice cubes.

Bob flips him off and holds the door open, letting the sunshine in along with the cold and polluted air. "You owe me," he says as he steps outside.

"Night," Frank says, leaning against the bar and rubbing an ice cube over his wrists.

Frank hears Bob's keys twisting in the lock. He always owes Bob in some way or another. He knows he won't ever be able to repay him.

The coffee is still hot when Frank takes a sip from it, using it to wash down a couple of pain killers. He sits back down in front of his box of donuts and stares at the clock on the wall.

Frank can't wait for this cycle to be over.


*


Frank is back the following night. He's back after five days, looking more tired than before he left. He looks small, pale and sickly. He gives customers small smiles as he pours their drinks but doesn't talk to them.

"Are you feelin' better?" Gerard asks when Frank finally stops by his corner of the bar.

Frank's smile widens. "Yeah. Much better. Thanks."

"I was worried," Gerard mutters into his glass of Jim Beam.

"I'm sorry," Frank says, looking earnest. "I was taking a break from work. Need that sometimes to stay sane. You know?"

Gerard nods. Frank works almost every night, hanging around drunks and fuck ups, just like Gerard. Of course he deserves a fucking break once in a while.

"Where did you go?" Gerard asks, his fingers drumming against the edge of the counter.

Frank ducks his head and tucks his hands inside his sleeves. "I stayed home. Didn't do much."

"I thought you were maybe," Gerard says, not really sure he wants to finish his sentence. Maybe he's being an idiot and should shut the fuck up while he still can.

"What?" Frank asks, leaning closer, his hands splayed on the counter. He grins and pokes at Gerard's glass. "You thought I was what?"

"I don't know. Mad or something."

Frank's fingers are right there, inches away from Gerard's. Gerard could reach out and touch them.

Frank frowns and takes a step back, away from Gerard. He doesn't say anything. He goes to take care of a customer, leaving Gerard to his empty glass.

Gerard watches Frank work for a while.

"How's work?" Frank asks, pouring a couple of shots of vodka. One for Gerard, one for him. He drinks his quickly and pushes the other shot glass under Gerard's nose. "Did they let you come back?"

Gerard is a little surprised that Frank remembers about this.

"I'm supposed to go in tomorrow," he replies before drinking up his vodka. "Bossman wants to see my werewolves," Gerard adds, as Frank pours them another round.

"Your what?" Frank spills some vodka on the bar. He puts down the bottle and wipes off the pool of alcohol with a towel.

"Werewolves," Gerard replies with a smile. "That's for this series I might be working on."

"Oh." Frank looks impressed. He's cool so there's a chance he likes werewolves.

They drink a few more shots together while Gerard rambles on and on about his werewolves. Gerard doesn't really know what he's talking anymore when Frank grabs Gerard's wrists and pulls him close.

"Wanna get out of here?" he asks, whispering in his ear. The words sound like sex. His voice is rough and low. He pulls away and smirks, his fingers squeezing around Gerard's wrists.

Gerard stares at Frank's mouth for the longest time before nodding vehemently, unable to say anything coherent.


*


Frank knows it's a bad idea from the moment he takes Gerard's hand but he's horny as hell and kind of tipsy. He knows it's going to ruin everything, whatever he has with Gerard but Frank hasn't had sex for a week.

Gerard is right there. He's nice and funny and also very pretty with his lopsided smile and his eyelashes fluttering. He looks like he really wants Frank too, something in his eyes and the way he licks his lips every time Frank touches him. Frank can almost hear Gerard's heart skipping a beat.

Of course, Bob disapproves. He gives Frank a death glare and pulls him aside when Frank goes to pick up his jacket. He doesn't say anything but Frank can hear his voice, very clearly in his head. The voice is pissed off and it's yelling, "What the fuck are you doing, Frank? You don't want to do this. Not with him."

"I'll come in early tomorrow to clean up," Frank says as he shrugs him off.

"Frank," Bob calls after him. "Don't you fucking dare."

Frank grins as he walks up to Gerard. He takes his hand and holds it tight, dragging him out the door.

Gerard is very drunk. He doesn't seem too drunk to know what he's doing though. When he follows Frank to his apartment, he doesn't need any help to walk. He doesn't say a word. He doesn't even open his mouth until they're inside Frank's apartment.

Frank shrugs off his jacket and puts it down onto the kitchen counter along with his keys.

Peppers is fast asleep on the couch, snoring softly.

Frank doesn't want to wake her up. She would need to go out for a walk and Frank would start thinking about what he's about to do and he would probably end up changing his mind and spending hours on his couch, talking to Gerard about nothing and everything instead of getting laid.

Frank takes off his shoes and puts them by the door.

"You want some coffee?" he offers, whispering and keeping an eye on his dog.

"Sure." Gerard's voice is low, barely audible. He kicks off his shoes and puts them next to Frank's.

When he walks back into the kitchen, Gerard looks really nervous as he rubs his hands together and bites on his bottom lip. He takes off his jacket.

Frank grabs two clean mugs by the sink and sets them on the counter. He's about to switch on the coffee maker when Gerard sneaks up on him and start fondling him, a fist in Frank's hair and his mouth pressed against the back of Frank's neck.

"Frank," he whispers and Frank can feel how hard Gerard is as he presses against Frank's back. "I think I changed my mind about the coffee."

It doesn't take more than two seconds for Frank to be all over Gerard. He kisses him hard, cornering him against the fridge and yanking off his t-shirt, urgent and needy. He pulls down Gerard's pants and palms at his dick through his boxer briefs.

Gerard moans and blinks at him like he doesn't know what he's supposed to do. He tugs on Frank's t-shirt, his fingers trailing up and down his sides, a stupid smile on his stupidly pretty face.

One more kiss, rushed and noisy and Frank drops Gerard's clothes on the kitchen counter. He steers Gerard towards the bedroom, shoving him onto the bed and closing the door behind them.

Gerard sits up, takes off his socks and his underwear and watches Frank undress.

If taking off his clothes was a sport, Frank would be its undisputed champion. He's pretty damn gifted at putting them back on too, without making a single noise.

When Frank crawls onto the bed, kneeling between Gerard's spread legs, Gerard shudders and laughs. He looks so wound up, so fucking ready to come his brains out that Frank groans. He worms on top of Gerard, rubbing their dicks together and licking Gerard's neck. He kisses the underside of Gerard's jaw and slides down, slowly.

Gerard's taste is sharp and salty. He tastes like he hasn't showered in a while but Frank doesn't care. He takes him in his mouth and watches as Gerard comes undone. A flick of Frank's tongue and Gerard arches his back, pushing into Frank's mouth.

Frank doesn't really expect this to be over so soon but Gerard comes inside Frank's mouth in less than a minute, his hands twisting in the sheets. He moans, garbles incoherently and grabs at Frank's hair, pulling on it.

When Frank pulls away and wipes off the come on his lips and chin, Gerard is still coming down, panting, his arm over his eyes.

"I'm so fucking sorry," he says in a tiny voice.

Frank grins as he shifts and sits on his heels, petting Gerard's knees gently. "It's ok."

It's really not ok though. Frank wants to fuck Gerard. He wants to fuck the shit out of him for hours and knowing Gerard won't come from it is a little disappointing. It's frustrating.

"You're so pretty," Gerard mumbles as he sits up and slides an arm around Frank's waist. "I. I just. I couldn't," he stutters, his fingers clenching onto Frank's hips.

Frank plants a kiss on Gerard's mouth to shut him up. He grabs his dick and strokes himself, fast. He can feel Gerard's eyes on him, staring.

It's too hot inside the room and Frank is starting to get a little impatient. His wrist is still sore from the night before and he has a hard time building up the pace.

Gerard makes a small sound and Frank looks up at him. Gerard licks his lips and runs his fingers on the small of Frank's back.

"I want you so fucking much," Frank gasps as he pushes into his hand, Gerard's fingers drawing circles and curves on his back.

Gerard smiles a weirdo smile and his hand slides away from Frank's skin. He lies back down and pulls Frank on top of him.

Frank lets go of his dick and pushes against Gerard. His dick is squeezed tight between them, rubbing over Gerard's stomach. He kisses him, deep and sloppy before rolling over onto his side, his back to Gerard.

Gerard plants a kiss on Frank's neck and his fingers latch onto Frank's dick. He tugs on it, strokes it slowly for a while. His fingers are smooth and hot. He hooks a leg over Frank's and kisses Frank behind the ear, just above Frank's scorpion tattoo.

Usually, Frank comes and waits until the other guy falls asleep to take off.

This time, though Frank doesn't come. He doesn't spill into Gerard's hand and doesn't growl like a fucking animal. His stomach doesn't tense and his toes don't curl.

Gerard's strokes are too lazy, too gentle. His grasp is too loose around Frank's dick. Frank thrusts into Gerard's hand though, desperate. He thrusts and arches into it and fuck, it's not nearly enough.

Then Frank yawns. He just can't help it. It's probably because he hasn't slept too well in five days, taking a few naps here and there on the armchair in Brian's office. Or maybe it's because Frank has been pushing into Gerard's hand for the past ten minutes without any result.

When Frank looks over his shoulder, Gerard's eyes are closed. His hand isn't moving anymore. The fucker fell asleep while giving Frank a handjob.

Frank can't go anywhere. He can't walk out the door. He's in his fucking apartment, in his fucking bed and there's a naked dude pressed against his back, all sweaty and smelly. This might be the worst one night stand Frank ever had. He's had a few really lousy lays before but nothing that can even compare to this.

For a little while, Frank considers sleeping on the couch with Peppers. Gerard's breath is brushing against his neck, full of vodka and his body is too hot and too damp.

Gerard rolls away after a few minutes though, letting go of Frank's dick and curling up on the other side of the bed.

The sun is starting to rise behind the curtains, bright and warm when Frank finally closes his eyes, pulling the sheets over himself.


*


Frank snores. It's not too loud but Gerard hears it anyway. Maybe because he's a light sleeper.

Gerard doesn't really know how long he's been lying there in Frank's bed. Minutes, hours, maybe days. He gets up, the bed creaking a little under him and grabs his underwear and his socks as he makes his way to the door.

Frank hums in his sleep and curls up in a ball. Gerard watches him from the doorstep for a few seconds. He walks into the hallway and closes the door after him, carefully.

Gerard tries to be stealthy as possible as he walks over to the kitchen to pick up the rest of his clothes.

When Gerard remembers that Frank has a dog and that this dog is sleeping on the couch, just a few feet behind him, it's too late.

The tiny ball of fur barks and Gerard hits his head over the edge of the kitchen counter as he looks up from his untied shoelaces.

Peppers is sitting in the middle of the living room, staring at Gerard and waging her tail.

"Shhh." A wave of pure panic washes over Gerard.

Peppers barks again and runs over to Gerard. She jumps and climbs Gerard's legs. She runs in circles and skids across the rugs.

Gerard doesn't own a dog. It's not that he doesn't like them. He just can't take care of one. Maybe Peppers is hungry or maybe she needs to pee.

The door to Frank's bedroom flies open. Frank stands in the frame in his underwear, scratching his head and yawning loudly.

"Hey," he says when he sees Gerard.

"Hi."

Peppers rushes over to Frank and tries to climb up his leg, her tiny paws scratching his pale skin.

"Want some coffee?" he offers, disappearing into his bedroom for a few seconds. When he reappears, he's wearing a t-shirt that's way too large for him. He's jumping into a pair of sweatpants while Peppers is bouncing around him.

"I'm good," Gerard replies. He can always get his coffee fix somewhere else. He's already too fucking embarrassed to be standing in Frank's kitchen as it is.

"Are you sure?" Frank asks, sliding an arm behind Gerard to grab something on the kitchen counter.

"I. Huh. I guess I could use a coffee," Gerard replies.

Frank squats down and puts Peppers on a leash. It looks more like a harness though. It's pink with tiny skulls and crossbones all over and Gerard thinks it's the tackiest thing he has ever seen. And yet, it suits Peppers pretty good.

Frank switches on his coffee maker and gives Gerard a weird smile. It looks fake and cold, the kind of smiles he gives to annoying customers he wants out of his sight.

"I'll be back in two minutes," he says before picking Peppers up and walking out the door.

Gerard stares at the coffee maker for a minute, his stomach clenching. He doesn't want to talk to Frank today. It would just be weird now.

He was drunk last night, nothing new there. He was also stupidly excited to get laid. It had been a while. Maybe a few months. Maybe a year. Gerard doesn't really remember. He was probably smashed at the time.

Frank comes back a minute later, carrying Peppers in his arms. He kisses her head and puts her down on the kitchen floor.

"I have food," he says, opening a cupboard and grabbing a handful of dog food from a bag. He drops it into a bowl and sets it in front of Peppers. "Pop tarts and Lucky Charms."

"I'm not hungry," Gerard replies, back to staring at the coffee maker. He should have left already. He should have said no to the coffee.

Frank offers him a cigarette and Gerard takes it gladly. They lean against the kitchen counter, smoking, drinking coffee and staring at the floor, awkwardly.

"Hm. See you later, I guess," Gerard says when he's done with his coffee.

"Yeah. I guess," Frank replies, sounding cold and detached.

Gerard puts his mug into the sink, grabs his jacket and walks out the door as fast as he possibly can.


*


"So?" Bob asks as he sits down next to Frank on the couch and wraps an arm around Jamia's shoulders.

They're watching some stupid movie about a cat with superpowers. Peppers is curled up in Frank's lap, taking a nap after eating her own weight in dog treats. Frank didn't feel like leaving her at home while he was stuffing his face with a home cooked meal at Bob and Jamia's.

"It was bad." Frank doesn't want to go into the details. He doesn't want to tell his friends how shitty he feels and how he wishes it had never happened.

"You slept with Gerard?" Jamia asks, craning her neck to look at Frank. She doesn't seem surprised. Maybe she's disappointed because she knows Frank too well.

"Last night," Bob tells her, grabbing her hand and petting it gently. He turns to Frank and shakes his head. "I knew you would screw him eventually. It was just a matter of time and alcohol."

"I didn't screw him," Frank sighs and Peppers shifts on his thighs.

Jamia reaches across Bob's lap and puts a soothing hand on Frank's arm. "How bad?"

"Horrible," Frank replies, staring at the TV. The cat is now wearing goggles and a cape. Maybe Frank could buy something like that for Peppers.

Jamia pats his arm and Frank confesses, "He fell asleep mid-handjob and tried to sneak out while I was asleep."

Bob snorts and Frank elbows him in the ribs.

The thing with Bob is that he always hits back. He punches Frank in the shoulder, hard, and bawls his fucking eyes out with laughter. "Man. That's fucking hilarious."

"That bad, huh?" Jamia says, giving Bob a reproachful look. She smiles at Frank, obviously holding back a laugh and shakes her head. Frank deserves it. He really deserves this shit. "Did you talk to him? Did you tell him how you felt?"

"No. Was I supposed to tell him: hi, you suck in bed but I really like you? Would it be ok if we tried again on my kitchen counter?"

"How did that even happen? I thought you didn't like him like that," Bob says when he's done laughing. He grabs the last slice of pizza in the box and puts it on Jamia's paper place.

"He likes Gerard. He always liked him. Do you even pay attention when he talks, baby?" Jamia asks as Bob hands her the plate.

Frank pets Peppers, rubbing her stomach in circles and pretends he doesn't hear Jamia, whispering in Bob's ear. Frank doesn't mind them being this obvious. He doesn't mind them kissing or holding hands in front of him. Some days, he even wishes he could have the same thing.

"Frank?" Jamia says through a mouthful of pizza. "We have something to tell you."

"You're pregnant?" Frank asks with a grin. Maybe Bob finally grew a pair and showed Jamia the ring he had stashed at the bar for weeks.

Frank doesn't expect the look of surprise on Bob's face. His jaw just drops. Jamia smiles as she stutters, "How did you-? How-Did you tell him?"

"I swear I didn't," Bob says, his hands on Jamia's belly.

"Holy shit." Frank watches as Jamia's smile widens into a full on blissful grin. "Really?"

"Really."

"But that's not the only thing," Bob says, squeezing Jamia's hand and turning to look at her. "I proposed."

Frank should have noticed the ring around Jamia's finger. It's small but it's there, right where her old ring used to be, the one Bob got her for her birthday a couple of years ago.

Frank wraps his arms around Bob and Jamia and squeezes them as best as he can. The hug is awkward and short. The thought that Frank's pack is going to get a little bigger soon makes him feel so much better, like all his personal problems are not that big after all.

Peppers jumps down off Frank's lap. She circles around the carpet, trying to find a more comfortable place to lie down.

"Up?" Jamia suggests and everyone seems to agree.

Bob helps Jamia up even though she doesn't really need help. That's his knight in shinning armor showing.

"I proposed before she told me about the baby. The proposing didn't have anything to do with the baby. I would have asked her even if she wasn't knocked up," Bob slurs, his face turning bright red.

Jamia giggles and shoves at him. She gives Frank a hug, tight and warm and Frank feels a thousand times better than he did a minute ago. He hugs back, breathing in her scent and pats her back. She smells like flowers and chocolate and a little like Christmas.

When Jamia lets him go, Frank wraps himself around Bob, squishing him until Bob can't breathe. "Did you get down on one knee? You big sap."

Bob pushes him away and puts his hands on Jamia's shoulders. "Shut up, tiny motherfucker. At least I got properly laid last night."

Jamia rolls her eyes and whispers, "He got down on one knee and read me a poem."

Frank giggles because he cannot for the life of him picture Bob reading a poem without sounding completely ridiculous.

"I'm happy for you, guys," he manages to say when Bob gives him a dark look, almost homicidal. "My mom will be delighted to hear you're not living in sin anymore."

Jamia laughs as she sinks to her knees in the middle of the room to pet Peppers.

"Asshole," Bob mutters before slumping down on the couch.

"We would like you to be Bob's best man if you're ok with it." Jamia says, looking up from a wriggling Peppers.

"Since me and Brian are his only friends?"

Jamia nods and scratches Peppers' belly. "Something like that."

"Fuck you both. I have friends," Bob says without much anger as he cranks up the volume on the TV.

"I'm sure you do, baby but Frank is my friend too and I'd like him to be part of the wedding." Jamia puts her head down between Bob's knees and looks up at him with her big eyes.

Bob leans down and kisses her forehead before going back to his supercat movie, a hand stroking lazily through Jamia's hair.

"I'd look good in a bridesmaid dress," Frank shrugs, joining Jamia on the floor and sitting cross legged by Peppers.

"We haven't set a date yet," Jamia says, her voice soft and low. "We're going to make sure it doesn't fall during one of your cycles."

Frank smiles and puts his hand on top of Jamia's on Peppers' tiny head. "I appreciate it."

"Don't worry about Gerard. If he deserves to be with you, he'll come around," she says before planting a kiss on Peppers' snout.

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

Jamia sounds really sure about this; so sure that Frank knows she can only be right. But Gerard is only part of the problem. Frank can't be with someone. He can't let someone new into his life and expect them to accept him for what he is.


*


It's already the middle of the night when Gerard walks out of his apartment. He's not sure he should even go out tonight but something inside him is making him.

He can't sleep and can't concentrate long enough to draw, can't watch TV because it's all shit and reruns of old game shows. He could take one or two sleeping pills and wash them down with what's left of his last bottle of whisky but doesn't. He needs to get out of his apartment before he goes insane.

He gets to the bar an hour or so before closing and sits at a table in a corner since his stool is busy. He hasn't been here for a few days, not since the whole handjob debacle.

Gerard doesn't see Frank right away. The bar is a little crowded tonight. It's not really ideal for what Gerard had in mind. He needs to talk to Frank. He needs to apologize to him for everything. He needs to make sure they're ok.

Bob sees Gerard first. He walks up to his table and sits next to him, pushing Gerard into the corner.

"You're real busy tonight," Gerard mumbles as he searches his pockets for his wallet.

"It's a private party. Kind of," Bob shrugs. "You want the usual?"

"Oh. You need me to go?" Gerard scans the bar, looks at the people sitting at the other tables and at the counter. He shouldn't have come.

"No, you're fine," Bob says before getting up. "Jim Beam?"

Gerard nods and digs for his change. His fingers close around a couple of ten dollar bills. It should be quite enough for a few drinks.

"On the house," Bob says with a smile and Gerard shoves his wallet back in the pocket of his jacket. Bob seems more cheerful than usual. Maybe the party is for him. Birthday, maybe.

"Thanks."

Bob comes back a few minutes later with a glass of Jim Beam on the rocks and a tiny shot of- Gerard isn't sure what is inside the glass.

"From Frank," Bob declares before disappearing behind the bar again.

Gerard is sitting in his corner, sipping on his second, maybe third drink when Frank comes to sit across from him.

"How's everything?" he asks with his usual polite smile.

"Good. You?"

Frank snatches Gerard's glass from his fingers and takes a quick sip. He pushes it back towards Gerard and grins. "I'm great. Listen, Gerard," he starts but Gerard interrupts him.

"I'm sorry about last night," he says quickly.

"Don't worry about it." Frank grabs Gerard's hand and pets it. "Seriously."

"Sure?"

"We are ok, Gerard," Frank replies, his tattooed fingers rubbing over Gerard's wrists. "I'm good at pretending stuff never happened. You wanna do that and start over?"

"Yeah." Pretending Gerard didn't ruin everything by falling asleep, his hand around Frank's cock, is definitely a good idea.

There's a short silence, kind of awkward while Gerard wishes he could shrink down until he disappears completely. Frank isn't looking at him anyway. He's looking at the bar, at a group of college kids.

"Is it Bob's birthday?" Gerard asks when Frank scoots over to the edge of his seat.

He turns around quickly and leans across the table, closer to Gerard. "Sorry?"

Gerard shakes his head and sighs. "Nevermind." It's none of his business.

"I gotta go back to work," Frank says as he gets up and grabs the empty shot glass sitting in front of Gerard. "You gonna be here later?" he asks, tucking his hands inside his sleeves.

"I think I should go after this one, actually."

Frank walks over to the bar and pushes the empty glass on top of it. He comes back to Gerard's table and gives him a crooked smile. "Hmm. Ok, then."

"Work," Gerard says, even though it's not the whole truth.

"That's cool. Glad they let you back."

"Me too."

Gerard is supposed to go see a shrink tomorrow. That's the condition his boss gave him if he wants to come back to work. Gerard is thinking about blowing everything off.

"I'll see you around?" Frank asks with a small smile.

Gerard nods and downs his Jim Beam. He leaves a couple of minutes later when he sees Frank become very friendly with one of the college kids.


*


Frank is not lying when he says he's good at pretending. He's become something of a master of the discipline. He watches Gerard finishes his fourth drink and put on his jacket. Gerard takes off without even saying good bye, not even a wave or a glance back at Frank.

The kid is not anyone Bob knows. He's not someone Bob invited over and he's not one of Jamia's relatives. Frank isn't that big of an asshole. He tells Frank is name right away which is kind of weird and sweet. His name is Todd and he goes to college around here. He's a psychology major, twenty two and a pretty face. He's got a tongue ring which makes Frank want to try him, just for the night.

Bob doesn't say anything when Frank kisses Todd at the bar and doesn't say anything when Frank drags his boy toy outside, right into the back alley behind the bar.

What Frank needs is a quick fuck. He needs something dirty and fast, something mind numbing with a complete stranger he will never see again.

Todd obediently follows him behind the dumpster, all smiles and kisses, his hands under Frank's shirt before Frank even has time to close the door behind them.

Frank groans as he kisses the kid, his tongue slipping down Todd's throat and his fingers working on popping off the button of his jeans.

Todd laughs into Frank's mouth and palms at Frank's crotch, his warm hand pushing against Frank's erection.

Frank's fingers find Todd's dick, tucked inside his underwear and latch onto it. He tugs on the kid's dick and strokes it hard and fast, his tongue still exploring Todd's mouth.

Frank jumps a little when the kid's fingers wrap around his dick. They're colder than Frank expected. They're colder than Gerard's fingers.

Frank tries to shake the thought. He doesn't need to think about Gerard now. He needs to think about his dick getting jacked off. That's all he needs to focus on.

The kid moans and curses before spilling into Frank's hand. Frank strokes him for a little while longer, waiting for the kid to finish coming his fucking brains out before taking his hand off his pants and wiping it on the kid's jeans.

The fingers on Frank's dick slip down and are replaced by Todd's tongue. Frank tilts his head back and lets the kid suck him off, a hand squeezing the base and the other cupping Frank's ass.

Frank runs his fingers through the kid's hair. It's long and soft. It's a little longer than Gerard's but it's the same color, the same style, it feels the same between his fingers.

The kid swallows around Frank's dick and hums.

Frank taps on the kid's shoulder and pulls out just in time. He comes with a shudder, his spunk dribbling from the kid's chin and down his neck.

When he's done, Frank stands in front of Todd and tastes himself on his lips.

"Frank," the kid says, kissing Frank's mouth and his chin.

"I need to go back, now." Todd smiles as he runs his fingers along Frank's sides.

Frank pushes him back against the wall. He tucks his dick back inside his jeans and sits down by the door.

Todd zips up and goes back inside.

Frank doesn't go after him. He stays outside for a little longer and smokes a couple of cigarettes, thinking about Gerard and his fingers and his hair.


*


Gerard doesn't even have a hangover the next morning when he gets out of bed and goes to open the door.

Mikey is standing on his doorstep with a plastic bag from Wawa and a couple of tall Styrofoam cups from Starbucks. He walks past Gerard and drops the bag on Gerard's couch.

"Pumpkin spice latte," Mikey says as he hands Gerard his cup.

Gerard mumbles a quick "thanks" and sits down on his couch, poking at the plastic bag.

"What happened to your hand?" Mikey asks as he sits down next to Gerard, almost squashing the bag with his tiny, almost non-existent butt.

Gerard scratches at his palm, mechanically and shakes his head. It's just a tiny scar now. "I fell and cut it on something."

Mikey picks up the bag and empties its content on the coffee table. A couple of DVDs, a huge bottle of Mountain Dew, a box of Frankenberry and a handful of snacks; Hostess cupcakes, Twinkies and those coconut balls Mikey likes.

"Are you planning to blow off the shrink today?" Mikey asks as he tosses a Twinkie into Gerard's lap.

"Haven't decided yet," Gerard lies.

"Well, in case you do blow him off, I brought you a survival kit," Mikey says, getting up off the couch to put on a DVD. He doesn't ask Gerard what he wants to watch. Gerard doesn't really what he picks anyway.

"You're my favorite brother." Gerard smiles and bites down on the Twinkie. He shoves it into his mouth and washes it down with a sip of latte. His stomach protests, churning and growling and Gerard pats it gently.

"How are things progressing with the tiny bundle of hotness?" Mikey asks, searching for the remote under the couch cushions and in the mess at the foot of the couch. When he finds it, Mikey gives Gerard a victorious grin and sits back down next to him.

"I blew it," Gerard replies, scratching at his palm and staring at his cup.

"You blew him?" Mikey deadpans as the movie starts.

Gerard isn't sure he's ever seen this one. "I wish," he replies after a few seconds, watching the opening credits. "I didn't even get to that."

Mikey sighs and turns to his failure of a brother. "How did you fuck it up this time?"

Gerard puts his cup onto the table and shifts, a little uneasy. "Let's say I fell asleep at some point. I don't want to go into the details."

Mikey doesn't laugh. Gerard was expecting at least a giggle or a snort. Mikey gives him a sympathizing look instead and tosses him a cupcake.

Gerard smiles, weak and unconvincing and tears down the wrapper of the cupcake.

"Alicia said I love you last night."

"She did?" Gerard is really thankful for the change of subject.

"You know what I said to her?"

Gerard shakes his head no. He really hopes Mikey didn't screw it up.

Mikey takes a deep breath and shuts his eyes. "I said, I love this pie." He opens his eyes again and turns to Gerard. "I fucking said I loved pie. Who doesn't love pie?"

Gerard doesn't really feel like laughing, either. He wraps an arm around Mikey's shoulder and squeezes him tight. "Have a Snowball."

"I'm a moron, Gee. I'm a complete and utter moron."

"No, you're not," Gerard says turning to look at the screen where a meteor shower is causing massive destruction in a small rural town, fuck knows where. It looks like the movie wants to be an Armageddon rip off, even though Armageddon sucks enough as it, save for the part when Bruce Willis dies. Mikey sniffled for hours the last time they watched it and Gerard had to pretend he didn't shed a single tear. "You're an evil genius and a blood elf and lots of other awesome things."

"I think we're cursed or something," Mikey says, sounding very serious.

"Or we're just really lame."

"Or we're cursed," Mikey insists.

One of the meteor cracks and a giant bug comes out of it. Twenty minutes in and a character bursts into song for no apparent reason. Gerard stares, helpless at what may be the most confusing mix of genres he's ever seen.

"What is this fucking movie about anyway?" he asks when a swarm of giant wasps attacks a cheerleader camp.

"I have no idea but anything that has giant bugs in it has to be awesome."

"And songs. Don't forget the songs."

Mikey's hand closes around Gerard's thigh and squeezes. For a second there, Gerard feels like they're back being kids, when they would sneak out of their room to watch horror movies that scared the shit out of them for weeks. Mikey squeezed him just like that.

"How can I ever forget?" Mikey asks, not letting go of Gerard.

Gerard agrees wholeheartedly. He puts his legs up on the table and takes a giant bite off his Snowball. It feels like a perfect day to hide from the rest of the world and watch things that don't make sense.


*


George or Gordon. That's what Frank wants to call the tiny fucker who is trying to choke him with his tongue. He's not a bad kisser, just a very sloppy one. Frank growls and pushes on the kid's shoulders, trying to get him to break the kiss.

"Listen, kid," Frank says when he can finally breathe. He wipes off his mouth with his sleeve and shifts back behind his bar, looking over his shoulder at Bob.

The kid grabs Frank's wrist and squeezes. "Brent."

"Listen, Brent," Frank says as the kid's fingers twist inside the collar of Frank's shirt, pulling him closer. "I like you and all but I need to go back to work and you're distracting me."

"Really?" The kid smirks and licks at his lips, playful but Frank isn't really in the mood anymore.

He manages to untangle Brent's skinny fingers off his shirt and takes a step back. "Another beer?" he asks, not even looking at the kid.

"I thought you wanted this." Brent sounds a little pissed off, like he's about to head butt Frank or kick his ass. "I thought you wanted me."

Frank can deal with this. He can deal with angry assholes. "No, I don't. Now, get off my face."

The kid pushes his stool against the bar, hard and angry. Then, out of nowhere, he throws his empty bottle of Bud at Frank.

It's Frank's fault. He really needs to stop flirting with the customers so blatantly when he doesn't intend to go through with it. Frank is usually pretty good at ducking or catching things before they hit him but this time, he doesn't move out of the way fast enough and the bottle crashes on his face.

The bottle falls at his feet, breaking in tiny pieces and Frank can feel something warm running on his cheek. He really hopes it's beer.

A woman leans over the bar, her eyes wild and wide and puts a hand on Frank's arm. "Are you ok?" she asks and Frank nods, shrugging her hand off. He doesn't want to bleed all over her.

Nodding was a bad idea though. Frank feels a little dizzy. He leans against the wall of bottles and stares at the mess on the floor.

Bob kicks the kid's ass into the street while Frank picks up the broken glass off the floor and wipes off his face with a towel. It's blood. It's a lot of blood.

"That kid knows how to throw," Frank tells Bob when he comes back behind the bar and helps Frank up.

"You think you might need stitches?" Bob asks, lifting the towel for a second before pressing it back against the cut. He frowns and looks pretty pissed off.

"I'll be fine," Frank replies with a smile he hopes reassuring. "I deserved it."

"You are an asshole, Frank," Bob says as he pushes him towards the bathroom.

They don't have Band-Aids or disinfectant back there. There's a first aid kit in Brian's office but it's locked tonight and Brian is at home, with the flu or maybe just blowing work off for the night.

Bob cleans up the wound with water and leaves Frank to bandage his forehead as best as he can with whatever he can find. Frank presses a square of toilet paper over the cut and listens as someone pukes inside one of the stalls behind him.

When Frank comes back from the bathroom, his head wrapped in toilet paper, Gerard is sat on his stool. Frank hasn't seen him in a few days. It's nice to see he hasn't moved to a new bar.

"Hey. Jim Beam?" Frank asks as he walks back behind the bar and grabs the bottle of Jim Beam.

Gerard's eyes widen. His jaw drops and he reaches over the bar to put a hand on Frank's face. His fingers are cold as they trail up Frank's cheek and over his eyebrows.

"What happened to you?" Gerard asks, his hand dropping back onto the bar.

"My forehead came in contact with a flying bottle of Bud." Frank giggles and pours Gerard a drink. "Don't worry. I've seen worse."

He's had ribs popping out, cuts pretty much everywhere on his body, bruises and broken bones. He almost bit off part of his bicep and he got run over by a car on one of his first cycles. Frank is not really impressed by his new battle wound.

"You're bleeding," Gerard observes, his eyes fixed on Frank's forehead and his fingers latching on Frank's hand around the bottle of Jim Beam. "You shouldn't stay like this."

"Just a flesh wound," Frank laughs. He's always wanted to quote the Monty Pythons.

Gerard doesn't laugh though, maybe because he doesn't get it. He pushes Frank's hair away from his face and lifts up the toilet paper a little. "It looks deep."

"I should probably go home," Frank says, shrugging. It's not like the place is crowded tonight. Besides, Bob left early three nights in a row, probably to be with his soon-to-be-wife who barely ever gets to sleep with him. It would only be fair if Frank went home to nurse his head.

"I'll walk you there." Gerard jumps down his stool, not even touching his drink. He puts his jacket on and waits for Frank by the door.

Bob takes the news pretty well. He grumbles and shouts, "If some asshole pees everywhere in the bathroom, I won't touch it."

Frank waves his middle finger at him and walks out the door, Gerard's arm snaking around his waist.


*


Peppers sniffs at Gerard's pants for a while before sitting at his feet. She stares at him like he's the most fascinating thing in the universe and starts wagging her tail when Gerard takes a step towards the living room.

"Do you want something to drink?" Frank asks when he comes out of the bathroom, a couple of pink Band-Aids stuck to his forehead.

Frank pulls off his t-shirt and throws it over his shoulder. He goes into the bedroom and Gerard follows him there.

Gerard stands in the doorway, peering inside. He watches Frank change into more comfortable, non-bloody clothes. He watches him slip inside a pair of sweat pants, thinking about how easy it would be to just yank them off of him.

Frank comes out a minute later, looking adorable in his Black Flag t-shirt and his worn out pants.

"Anything to drink?" he asks again as Gerard steps out of his way.

"Some water?"

Frank goes to the kitchen and grabs a couple of bottles of water from the fridge. He hands Gerard one before picking up Peppers and flopping down on his couch.

The living room is a mess. Gerard doesn't remember it being so messy. There are tiny pieces of white stuff everywhere on the floor and the remnants of a magazine, torn to shreds and crumpled.

"Did a bomb just go off in your living room?" he jokes, sitting down next to Frank and wiping the tiny pieces of paper off the couch.

Frank giggles and scratches at Peppers' head. "My girl got mad at the couch last night and took it out on a poor innocent cushion."

Peppers sits on her hind legs and gives Frank her paw, looking like she's trying to apologize to him.

Frank shakes her paw, plants a kiss on the top of her head and pushes her off his lap.

"How's work?" he asks after a few seconds, unscrewing the cap of his bottle of water and taking a sip.

"Better. I got promoted." Gerard still isn't sure how that happened but Capelli decided to give him his own creative team to work on his werewolf project. "Apparently, werewolves are in again," he explains, shifting on the cushion, the springs sticking out, prickling through his jeans.

"That's awesome." Frank moves back a little and sits down on the armrest, probably noticing Gerard's discomfort. "Here," he says, picking something up behind him on the side table and handing it to Gerard. "Have a melted peanut butter cup."

Gerard takes it with a grin, his fingers brushing over Frank's as he grabs the candy. "Thanks."

Gerard tucks it in his jacket and tells Frank, "For later." He taps on his pocket and shifts closer to Frank, abandoning his mutilated cushion for Frank's.

"I was serious when I said I wanted to start over."

"I know."

"No." Frank gets off the armrest and sits down on the coffee table. "I want to start over. Properly."

Behind Frank, Peppers starts running from room to room, her tiny nails scratching against the kitchen tiles and getting caught in the fluffy carpet in the living room.

"I'd like us to be friends."

"I think we're already friends." Gerard shuffles his feet and accidentally pushes them against Frank. He's too old to play footsies.

"I'd like you to come by the bar tomorrow," Frank says, playing with the cap of his bottle, unscrewing it and screwing it back on. "Bob," he sighs. "Bob is getting hitched in a few weeks and it would be cool if you were there for his engagement party."

It sounds like Frank has been rehearsing this for a while. His tone is flat, the words flow flawlessly. When he's done, he looks up at Gerard and bites at the corner of his bottom lip.

"I. I'm not sure I should be there."

Bob probably doesn't want Gerard around. He sees enough of him every night.

Frank takes Gerard's hands in his and strokes him with his thumbs. It feels really nice and his fingers are smooth and warm. "You're my friend, Gerard. I'd like to see you."

"I'll think about it," Gerard mumbles, slowly pulling his hands away from Frank's.

Frank grins and Gerard kisses him. It's quick and a little awkward but it's a kiss. When Gerard pulls away, Frank is still grinning, his eyes blinking open.

"I should go now," Gerard says, getting up off the couch and almost tripping over Peppers who is lying there, curled up at Gerard's feet.

Frank follows him to the door and plants a kiss on the corner of Gerard's lips.

"Good night," he whispers against Gerard's skin. He unlocks the door and takes a step back.

"Night," Gerard replies, feeling his face flush. He turns on his heels and leaves before he can do something really embarrassing like falling asleep with Frank's dick in his hand.


*


As kisses go, this one wasn't the hottest. It wasn't even the best Frank ever had. Yet, Frank can't stop thinking about it. He replays it in his head, sometimes changing the outcome. Sometimes, he even keeps Gerard for the night.

When he tells Jamia about it the two days later, the grin she gives him is so huge that it splits her face in two.

Bob mumbles something about inviting Gerard to his party only because Frank wants to fuck him but Jamia shushes him.

Bob and Jamia's party is pretty low key. It's mostly Jamia's friends, her colleagues, her uncle and her mom. Bob's parents made the trip all the way from Chicago and Frank spends a little while asking them about baby Bob and his love for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that followed him all the way through high school.

Gerard is not alone when he comes in. He's there with some lanky kid with glasses and a Joy Division t-shirt. He doesn't look a lot like Gerard but Frank assumes he's the infamous Mikey Way he's heard so much about; the scene kid who interns for a record company and Gerard's brother.

Jamia makes a squeaky noise into Frank's ear and giggles like a school girl. She's way too excited about this.

Gerard goes to sit at a booth, a few feet away from where Frank is sitting. He looks at Frank and waves at him, discretely before ducking his head and staring at his empty table.

Frank slides off to the end of his seat, grinning like an idiot, probably because he's been drinking a little more than usual. He gets up, pulls down his shirt, tucks his hands inside his pocket so he doesn't start biting his nails off and gives one last glance at Jamia. She's talking to one of her friends, Ricky or Becky, whatever her name is, but gives Frank a thumb up and a smile.

When Frank sits down next to Gerard, his brother or maybe his friend gets up and walks off to the bar.

"Hi," Frank says, sliding closer to Gerard. "Did I scare him off?"

"He's not shy or anything. He just thinks we're gonna make out any second now and that it's better if he's not here to see it," Gerard says with a giant goofy smile, matching Frank's.

"Mikey?" Frank asks, taking his hands off his pocket to set them in front of him on the table.

"Yeah."

Mikey pours himself a drink and starts making conversation with one of Jamia's colleagues. He's definitely not shy.

"You having fun?" Frank asks, turning back to Gerard.

"We just got here."

Frank laughs at his own stupidity and brushes his pinkie against Gerard's. He's about to take his hand and give him a kiss, this time with tongue and lots of groping, when Bob stops by their table and kicks at their bench.

"Hey."

"Hey, Bob."

"Congratulations," Gerard says, reaching out to shake Bob's hand.

Bob scratches at his head and smiles. "Thanks." He turns to Frank and gives him one of his something-terrible-just-happened look. "Frank, can you come here for minute?" he asks, his voice shaking a little and high pitched.

"I'll be right back." Frank pets Gerard's hand, presses his lips against Gerard's jaw and slides out of his seat.

"What?" he asks when Bob grabs his arm and pulls him into a corner. Frank can still see Gerard from where he is standing, his fingers drumming on the table.

"I can't find Jamia's uncle," Bob replies, letting go of Frank's arm and looking over his shoulder at Jamia.

"You can't find him? What do you mean you can't find him?"

They're in a bar, not inside a damn supermarket. If he's not in this room, he has to be either in the bathroom or in Brian's office. It's not like he disappeared into thin air. "Did you look outside?" Frank asks before adding, "He might be having a smoke."

"I lost him, Frank. I looked outside and in every damn stall in the bathroom. I think he might be either passed out somewhere around here or in his way to Canada by now."

Frank has rarely seen Bob this freaked out. The only time it happened was because he had forgotten to lock the cellar door and thought Frank was loose in the city, wrecking havoc and munching on hobos and their dogs which, of course was stupid because locked door or not, Frank's restraints are pretty much unbreakable.

Frank doesn't like seeing Bob like this. It makes Frank's natural over-protectiveness flare up. Frank puts a hand on Bob's arm and whispers, "I'll look in the back alley and you take Brian's office."


*


After three hours, five Jello shots, a pint of beer and half a bottle of white cheap champagne (not that Gerard was monitoring Frank's drinking or anything that creepy), Frank is back at Gerard's table. He slumps down next to him, nuzzling at his neck, his hands stroking Gerard's thighs.

"You havin' fun?" he asks, shifting closer until he's sitting in Gerard's lap.

"I think we're gonna go," Gerard replies, petting Frank's hair and looking up at Mikey who is sitting across from him.

"But you barely got here," Frank mumbles, sitting back on the bench and taking a sip from Gerard's whisky.

"I got to work tomorrow," Gerard says. "Mikey too."

Frank's shoulders drop. "I like you, Gerard," he says, way too loud and Mikey starts laughing. "I really like you. Like, fucking. Fucking a lot."

Gerard is about to change his mind and stay for a while longer when Bob's fiancée grabs Frank's shoulders and squeezes them. "We'll take care of him. Don't worry."

Frank whines and takes Gerard's hand, pulling him off the bench. He wraps his arms around Gerard and hugs him tight.

"I'll drop by tomorrow, ok?" Gerard says as he pats Frank's back.

Frank smells nice and he looks very pretty and Gerard wants to kiss him.

Gerard looks at Mikey, at Frank and then back at Mikey. He's not sure what he wants to do anymore. He could stick around and make sure Frank gets home safely but Bob and his fiancée seem to be up for the task. It's almost as if they were his family, so close knit and so protective of one another.

"Go," Bob urges him, wrapping his hands around Frank's waist.

"Stay with me," Frank mumbles against Gerard's neck, clinging onto him.

Gerard pulls away, plants a kiss on Frank's lips and lets Bob drag Frank away from him.

"Bye, Frank," he says, a little sad to see him go and to lose his warmth.

Gerard is a little less sad when he sees Frank climbing onto Bob's back, visibly already over Gerard's departure.

"So that was Frank," Mikey says as they stand on the sidewalk. It's getting really cold now. They even had snow last night.

"Sort of," Gerard replies as he shivers inside his leather jacket. "A much drunker Frank than what I'm used to, but yeah. That was him."

"He's cute and cuddly. I like him."

Gerard likes him too. He likes him so much that he wants to go back inside and take Frank home with him. They don't even have to do anything. Gerard would be just fine with just a kiss and some heavy petting.

"I'm usually the one who's drunk off my ass," he says when a cab pulls over the curb.

"He said he likes you. I think he doesn't really care that you're a drunken mess eighty five percent of the time."

"I'm not always drunk," Gerard says even though Mikey is right. Maybe it's time Gerard got his shit together for a change.


*


Frank wakes up with a slight headache and a craving for orange juice. He's guzzling an entire bottle of the stuff when his intercom buzzes. It's Friday and he's pretty sure it's dinner time by the way Peppers glares at Frank before staring at her empty bowl.

Frank takes his bottle of juice with him and presses the button of the intercom. "Yeah?"

"Hi. It's Gerard?" Gerard's introduction sounds more like a question. Frank finds it kind of funny.

Frank presses the button to open the door.

Then he realizes he's still in his underwear and that he's not wearing anything else. He drops the empty bottle of juice on the recycle bin and rushes over to his room. He picks up a clean shirt off his laundry basket at random and jumps in the first pair of pants he finds. When he opens his door, Frank is wearing a wrinkled white t-shirt that shows off his stomach and jeans with huge holes in his knees.

Gerard looks really nice. So nice that Frank suddenly feels under-dressed. He pulls on his t-shirt, trying to stretch it out over his belly and lets Gerard inside.

"I brought you something," Gerard says, holding a plastic bag from Wawa under Frank's nose.

Frank takes it and looks inside. There's a couple of DVDs in there along with a few packets of candy, cupcakes and two bottles of Mountain Dew. Frank looks up at Gerard and smiles. "Thanks."

"I thought you might need something to cure your hangover." Gerard smiles back, lopsided. He kneels down and pets Peppers while Frank closes the door behind him. "Always works when I'm having a shitty day."

Frank slaps Peppers' side, gently and sets the plastic bag on his couch. Frank can't sit on it yet since he still hasn't found a cushion to replace the one Peppers torn to shreds. He sits on his coffee table instead and leaves the good cushion to Gerard.

"I'm sorry you couldn't stay last night," Frank says, looking at the DVDs Gerard brought with him. He's only seen one of them with Bob and Jamia, maybe a month ago. "You missed something truly spectacular."

Gerard sits down next to him on the coffee table while Peppers claims the couch. It's amazing how much space she takes for such a compact dog.

Frank watches her circle around the remaining cushion and lie down on her back, exposing her tummy, waiting for Frank to rub it. Frank does before he turns to Gerard and says, "Bob sung."

Frank has heard Gerard laughs plenty of times before but it never sounded like this. It's honest and happy and Gerard isn't drunk tonight.

Frank kisses him. He presses his lips against Gerard's because it feels like the right moment. He cups Gerard's cheeks between his hands and kisses him, slow and for a really long time.

Gerard wraps his arms around Frank's waist and his hands stroke up and down Frank's spine.

When Frank breaks the kiss, Gerard lets go of him, his hands trailing over the worn out fabric of Frank's stupidly short t-shirt.

It takes Frank a few seconds to recover. He shows Gerard the DVD he's never heard of and Gerard grins.

"What's this one about?" Frank asks, getting up and tearing off a couple of cushions from the back of the couch. Peppers gives Frank a sleepy look and worms her way to the edge of he couch.

"It's about giant bugs-"

"Sold." Frank doesn't even need to hear the rest. As long as it's not about killer clowns or giant spiders, Frank is pretty sure he's going to enjoy this. He pops the DVD into the player and switches on the TV.

"But, wait. There's more," Gerard says as he gets up. "It's a monster movie and a musical."

Frank rearranges the cushions on the floor and pushes the coffee table out of the way. He sits down and grabs the plastic bag behind him.

"You hungry?" Frank pours the snacks into his lap and looks up at Gerard.

Gerard sits down next to him, cross legged and shrugs. "Sure."

"I have leftovers in the fridge. Baked ziti?"

"I'm good with snacks for now. Thanks."

The movie starts off with a very Deep Impact vibe scene, meteorites raining down and killing a bunch or morons who probably deserved it in the first place.

Gerard bumps his shoulder against Frank's and asks, "You cook?"

"Jamia does. My mom does too. I'm lucky if I don't burn down the house every time I make scrambled eggs."

Gerard laughs once more and Frank feels like he should be making out with him already.

Frank is about to turn to Gerard and jump on him when Gerard brushes Frank's hair back and his fingers gently poke at his forehead. "How's your head?"

"It's ok. Thought my hangover would be much worse."

"No, I mean your cut," Gerard says, his fingers running over the tiny bump above Frank's eyebrow.

"It's almost healed. It was just a scratch." Frank doesn't want to tell Gerard he heals much faster than anyone because of what he is.

Gerard's eyes are clear and his breath smells like coffee. He smells really nice and feels really warm next to him. His hand stops moving and Frank stops breathing.

This time, Gerard kisses him. He's tender and tastes just as good as he smells when his tongue slips inside Frank's mouth.

Frank doesn't know how it happens but he's suddenly on his back, laid onto the cushions, his head tilted back and Gerard on top of him, kissing him deep, his hands under Frank's shirt.

Frank's fingers latch onto Gerard's hair and tug on it until Gerard moans into Frank's mouth.

The last time Frank made out with someone for hours, he was still in high school and it was with a girl who had braces.

Gerard smacks a tiny kiss on Frank's lips and pulls away. He rolls off of Frank and onto his side, his back to the TV. He probably doesn't care about the movie. Frank doesn't even remember what they were watching. Whatever it was, it is now over. The menu of the DVD is looping for the umpteenth time, the same piece of music and the same images over and over again.

"Shouldn't you go to work?" Gerard asks, taking Frank's wrist and looking at his watch.

"I have the night off. The bar is closed tonight since we still have to clean up the mess from the party."

Gerard lets go of Frank's hand and looks over his shoulder. "You want to watch something else?"

"We could watch cartoons." Frank searches for the remote, patting around him on the cushions.

There's nothing good on TV. Frank flips through the channels for about five minutes before giving up and turning it off.

Frank squirms onto the cushions to try and make his makeshift bed more comfortable.

Gerard seems to be perfectly at ease though; so perfectly at ease that his eyes are closed.

Frank might be an asshole sometimes but he doesn't want to leave Gerard in the middle of his living room to sleep on a bunch of crummy cushions that smell like dog. Not by himself anyway.

He gets up quietly, picks up the fleece blanket on the back of the couch and turns off the light. He makes his way back to Gerard in the dark when his eyes are accustomed to the weak glow coming from the street-lamp.

He lays the blanket onto Gerard and crawls back next to him.

Peppers stirs in her sleep behind Frank but doesn't wake up.

Sleeping here is a bad idea and it's also very lame. If Frank wants Bob off his back, Frank might as well not tell anyone that he spent the night on his living room floor, just to be with the guy he kind of likes.

Frank wraps an arm across Gerard's chest and plants a noisy kiss on Gerard's shoulder before closing his eyes and pulling the blanket all the way up to his nose.


*


Frank disappears again a few weeks later, just when they're starting to get to know each other better (nothing more effective than having your tongue in someone's mouth to get to know them). He doesn't call, doesn't appear to be home when Gerard drops by after work. He's not at work either and Bob serves him the same excuse about Frank needing a few days off.

It's all too strange but Gerard doesn't investigate any further. He has the sneaking suspicion that Frank might have some kind of dark secret, maybe a sick relative he has to take care of, or maybe he's a werewolf.

Gerard laughs it off and spends his days off from Frank torturing Mikey about his girlfriend.


*


"You should have told him you were leaving," Bob says on the last morning of Frank's cycle.

"I wasn't sure what to tell him."

"I'm leaving for a few days might have been a good place to start."

Bob doesn't sound angry. He sounds like his usual grumpy self, the Bob who just had to pull an all nighter at work and had to come back there at the break of dawn to untie his werewolf asshole of a friend.

"I won't screw it up next time," Frank says as he jumps into his sweatpants and curls himself around Bob's back. Bob tries to shrug him off but Frank holds on tight and nuzzles at him. "I promise I'll tell him, Bobert."

Bob takes him to Gerard's after Frank promised to clean up the bathroom for the entire month. Frank is stupidly excited to see Gerard again, and being on puke duty feels like a bargain.

Gerard is barely awake when Frank jumps in his arms and pushes him against the wall to get reacquainted with his mouth and his tongue.

"Where were you?" Gerard asks where they're both out of breath, hair ruffled, lips swollen and clothes rumpled.

Frank is happy to see Gerard is not mad at him. He looks really worried though and clings to Frank as if he could disappear again.

"I was at my mom's." It's as good an excuse as any other. Next time. Frank will tell Gerard next time.


*


Gerard goes to work still feeling a little suspicious but also relieved. Frank looks really tired but he's also very pretty and there and Gerard wants to keep him forever. Gerard sleeps at Frank's the following night and the night after that. They end up making out for hours on Frank's living room floor and fall asleep there.

Frank has a bed but for some reason, they never seem to make it there by the time they fall asleep and the floor is surprisingly comfortable.

Then, Gerard starts spending the night at Frank's during the week, when he's too tired to go home after work. Frank's apartment is not really that far from where Gerard works anyway and Frank doesn't seem to mind having Gerard over. Gerard also spends most of his weekends there.

When Frank goes to work, Gerard goes with him. They have a well oiled routine, something reassuring and Gerard finally stops worrying that Frank might disappear again.

They've been doing this for weeks when Gerard realizes he never got breakfast in bed before Frank, although he's not technically in a real bed.

It hits him as he sits up, the soft and warm blanket wrapped around him and watches Frank sit down on the cushions splayed across the floor, carrying two cups of coffee.

It's still early in the morning. It's a Monday though which means Gerard will have to go to work eventually and leave the comfort of Frank's living room.

"One sugar, no cream," Frank says, handing Gerard his coffee. It smells delicious and tastes just as good.

"It's perfect," Gerard says with a smile. "Thanks."

Frank makes him burnt toasts and there's strawberry jelly and peanut butter on the coffee table. Gerard doesn't have the heart to tell Frank he's not hungry and that he never eats breakfast unless it's a bowl of Frankenberry. After all, Frank is making him breakfast when he should be in bed. Gerard is pretty amazed by Frank's ability to function with only four hours of sleep.

Gerard bites off the corner of a plain toast before coating the rest with a ton of jelly to make the thing edible.

Peppers lurks around for a while, whimpering and staring at the half eaten toast in Gerard's hand. She sits down between Frank and Gerard and waits, her pointy ears up and her head on her crossed paws.

"Can I give her something?" Gerard asks even though Frank's answer is always the same.

Frank grins, huge and pretty. "Sure."

Gerard lets Peppers have what's left of his toast. She makes a mess everywhere, spilling jam on one of the cushions and getting crumbs everywhere.

"We need to stop giving her people food. That's probably why she's getting a little fat," Frank says, licking the jelly off his lips and getting up.

Gerard laughs because he knows Frank loves his dog just as fat as she is. He finishes his coffee and wraps the blanket around his shoulders. It's not even cold in Frank's apartment but the blanket smells good and it feels good against Gerard's skin. Gerard wishes he could keep it with him forever, just to have something that smells like Frank.

"I meant to tell you last night," Frank starts as he comes back with a wet wipe to clean up the jelly off what's left of his couch.

He sits back down and starts picking at a corner of the blanket. Gerard can tell he's nervous about something and this is making Gerard nervous too.

"Everything ok?" Gerard asks when he realizes Frank might never finish his sentence.

"Yeah. I'm gonna have to leave," he announces, not even looking at Gerard.

"Where? Now?"

Gerard feels like he's been punched in the stomach. He was expecting something maybe a little more pleasant than that.

"No," Frank replies, finally letting go of the blanket and shifting closer to Gerard. "I'm leaving tonight. Just for a few days. Work stuff." Frank clears his throat.

"Work stuff?"

Gerard knows when Frank is lying. He always blinks and clears his throat just like this.

"You remember when I left for five days last month to see my mom?" he asks, taking Gerard's hand under the blanket and Gerard nods.

"Well, that's the same thing. I need a few days off. Gonna hang out with my mom for a while."

Gerard can't help but wonder if it's because of something he did or did not do. Maybe they should get to the fucking already.

When Gerard is about to ask, Frank kisses him. He tastes like strawberries and coffee. They end up on the floor again and kissing as if the world was ending tonight.

Frank's tongue dances inside Gerard's mouth, slow. His warmth seeps through their clothes and through the blanket stuck between them.

When they eventually pull apart, Gerard's coffee is lukewarm on the table and the clock on the kitchen wall tells him that he needs to get up and go to work if he doesn't want to get fired.

"I need to buy a new couch when I come back," Frank observes, throwing a cushion onto the couch.

Peppers jumps into Frank's lap and then on the couch, lying down on the warm cushion.

"Are you taking Peppers with you?" Gerard asks, getting up and combing his hair with his fingers, looking at his reflection in the TV set.

"Bob's taking her," Frank replies, wrapping himself around Gerard's back and planting a kiss in his neck.

Gerard closes his eyes and laces his fingers with Frank's. He wants to tell him how much he's going to miss him and how much he loves every single second spent with him but it sounds too lame, even in his head.

Frank kisses the shell of Gerard's ear and whispers, "Gonna miss you."

Gerard doesn't understand why Frank needs to go. He doesn't understand why he can't stay with Gerard. Five days seems like a very long time and Gerard wouldn't mind spending them in bed with Frank. He doesn't understand why Frank can't take Gerard with him. He doesn't understand but Gerard doesn't say anything. He doesn't want to fuck up what they have because right now, it's the best thing Gerard has ever had.


*


When Gerard leaves for work, Frank gives him a kiss goodbye that might be the longest ever. Frank presses Gerard against the doorframe and kisses the hell out of him, his fingers skidding underneath Gerard's jacket, underneath his hoodie and his t-shirt. His skin is hot and soft and Frank wants to kiss every inch of it.

Frank knows he's going to have to make it without Gerard for five days and five nights. He doesn't have a choice. If he did, he would make all this shit go away and be a normal dude with a hot and normal boyfriend who he is dying to see naked again some time soon without either of them being drunk.

He turns off his phone, sets up his alarm clock and jumps into his bed to get a few more hours of sleep.

Sometimes, when he's coming home from work at four or five in the morning, Frank misses sleeping in his bed. He misses sleeping more than three hours straight too. He doesn't mind waking up next to Gerard every other morning and making him a cup of coffee before Gerard has to leave for work, though. It's a pretty sweet deal because he gets to make out with Gerard as much as he wants.

When Frank wakes up, Peppers is barking at him, barking at the alarm clock and bouncing up and down onto Frank's back.

He's not sure how long his alarm clock has been ringing but Frank is late. Frank growls out of frustration before rolling out of bed. He cuddles with Peppers for a few minutes before shoving her stuff into a duffel bag. She gets into her cage without making too much fuss.

Frank doesn't have time to shower or shave. He doesn't even have time to eat something on his way out.

It's almost four thirty in the afternoon and sun is already starting to set behind the snow clouds. Frank rushes over to the bar and Bob is waiting for him on the sidewalk, smoking and looking a little impatient.

"Close one," he says, taking Peppers and cage and petting her through the bars.

"I overslept."

Frank ruffles his own messy hair and heads straight for the cellar. He can already feel his blood boil and his heart pounding, fast and loud, about to break out of his chest.

Bob puts Peppers' cage on a table and follows Frank down the stairs.

"Your boyfriend keeping you up all night?" he asks with a grin and looks at the tiny window while Frank strips naked.

"Shut up."

Frank lets Bob tie him up, his wrists and his ankles restrained, the chains on the wall rattling as Frank sits down on his old smelly sheets.

Bob shoves the key inside the pocket of his cargo pants and picks up the pile of clothes on the floor. He starts going up the stairs and stops before he gets to the top. He turns back to Frank and asks, "Did you tell him?

"Kinda. If he asks, I'm at my mom's."

Bob nods and climbs up the stairs. He stares down at Frank and Frank stares back at him for a few seconds.

"See you in the morning," Bob says as he switches the lights off and slowly closes the cellar door.

"Yeah." Frank grits his teeth as he feels his bones cracking, his skin too tight. He hears the key turning inside the lock upstairs and Bob's footsteps. He hears Peppers getting crazy in her cage, barking and growling. She probably knows what's going on. It was a really close one this time.


*


Two days without Frank and Gerard is going insane. He paces around his apartment, spends two hours on the phone with Mikey talking about how he can't ever do anything right. He watches an Ace Of Cakes marathon and drinks an entire bottle of wine cooler he was planning to save and bring over to his parents for Christmas.

Twenty minutes later, Gerard is puking his guts out in the bathroom, clenching to his stomach and hanging tight to the toilet seat. Wine cooler is evil.

Gerard goes to bed feeling like shit and wanting to call Frank. He misses his voice, his smell and the way he presses against Gerard when they're sleeping.

He falls asleep watching the moon outside his window, glowing, bright and full, thinking that maybe, wherever Frank is, he is also staring at the moon.

The third day is the worst. Gerard goes out for a few drinks with Mikey and finds Frank's bar closed. He ends up in some shithole in a shithole of a neighborhood and gets into a fight with some douchenozzle who almost breaks a few fingers on Gerard's right hand, the one he uses to draw stupid cartoons that people will never watch.

Gerard doesn't remember what the fight is about but he remembers Mikey dragging him outside, yelling at the douchenozzle to go fuck himself. Mikey can be really badass when he's in the mood.

Gerard wakes up on the fourth day, his hand sore and his fingers swollen. He goes to work anyway and cringes when he tries to hold a pencil. Capelli gives him the afternoon off and Gerard goes straight home to wallow in self pity and drinks a few beers to pass the time while he stares at his werewolves, unable to make even a simple doodle.

He tells Mikey through a text about his worthless hand and the little shit tells on him to their mom. She calls Gerard in a fury and doesn't stop talking for an hour or so, until Gerard promises her to go see a doctor.

He doesn't go though because he already feels much better the next morning. He's very excited when he wakes up. He stares at his phone for a minute before dialing Frank's number.

Frank's voice is weak. He sounds like he just woke up. He probably just woke up.

"I was thinking of stopping by your place later," Gerard says, trying to sound casual when every fiber in his body is agonizing, longing for Frank. "Tonight?"

"I just got home. You can come now," Frank suggests before yawning, loud; so loud that Gerard has to pull the phone away from his ear just for a second.

Gerard scrambles out of bed, puts on the first clothes he manages to grab, socks that don't match, a pair of pants that can almost walk out by itself and a t-shirt that smells like three day old sweat and rushes out the door.

 

*

 

The bruises around his wrists are not yet healed. Frank is bleeding from a scratch on his stomach and he barely managed to walk home by himself.

When Gerard comes over, Frank forces himself to smile, hiding the cuts and bruises inside the sleeves of his hoodie and hugs Gerard, careful and brief.

"You look exhausted," Gerard says, kissing the tip of Frank's nose. His lips are cold and so are his fingers, brushing up against Frank's throat.

Gerard is rolled up into a scarf, a leather jacket and two layers of hoodies. Frank takes them off one by one, feeling like he's unwrapping a present.

Frank kisses Gerard, quick and noisy before dragging him into bed. He crawls under his duvet and Gerard joins him, wrapping himself around Frank's back.

"Do you mind if we just sleep?" Frank asks, looking over his shoulder at Gerard.

"I don't mind." Gerard presses a kiss on Frank's cheek and his hand slides underneath Frank's hoodie and his t-shirt, briefly rubbing over the cuts. Frank sighs and puts his head down on his pillow, exhausted but happy.

After five days of sleeping on the cold floor of the cellar and in Brian's old and increasingly more uncomfortable armchair, it takes less than five minutes for Frank to fall asleep, Gerard's fingers on his hips, petting him and his lips pressed on Frank's shoulder.

Frank wakes up with Gerard pressed against his back, breathing down his neck, warm and squishy. Frank stirs and hums as he slips a hand down his sweatpants. He strokes himself lazily until he feels Gerard's lips on his skin.

"Hey," Gerard murmurs as his hand joins Frank's on his dick.

Frank pushes forward into Gerard's hand and twists his neck so he can steal a kiss from Gerard's lips.

He lets go of his dick and clings to the sheets under him, his nails digging into the mattress.

There's nothing wrong with making out and cuddling. Frank was fine with doing just that for the past few weeks. He really doesn't mind Gerard jacking him off though. It's the best thing to wake up to.

This is a millions times better than their last try. Gerard is really into it and awake and his fingers are fast and rough. He strokes, tugs and holds Frank in place, tightly pressed against Gerard's chest.

Frank slips his tongue inside Gerard's mouth and kisses him. He comes with a growl, deep, and Gerard doesn't let go of Frank's dick for a long time. He strokes until Frank is left a helpless babbling idiot, panting and wriggling all over the bed.

After a little while, Frank rolls over, Gerard's hand popping out of Frank's sweatpants, all wet and sticky.

Frank reaches for a tissue on the nightstand behind Gerard and wipes his spunk off Gerard's fingers.

"That was nice," Gerard says, smiling as he pulls Frank against his chest.

The only reason Frank pulls away from the embrace is because he is about to die from the heat. He sits up and takes off his hoodie. He can always tell Gerard the cuts on his arms are a little gift from his mom's dog. He can't really tell him he got these because he tried to break free of his restraints. That would probably make for an interesting conversation but Frank is not ready to share this side of his life with Gerard just yet. Maybe one day.

Frank lies back down next to Gerard and strokes at his sides, pulling up his smelly, damp t-shirt.

"I hurt my hand the other night and I wanted to call you to tell you all about it," Gerard says, his hand slipping from under the duvet. "That's really lame."

Frank kisses Gerard's fingers and examines them, one by one. They look just a little swollen, nothing too bad although giving handjobs to his boyfriend probably made things worse.

"I have to go in a little while," Frank announces, apologetically. He needs to go to work even though he'd rather stay in bed and fool around with Gerard.

Gerard lets out a heavy sigh and Frank kisses the underside of his jaw.

"You can stay here," he offers. "Spend the night."

Gerard lets go of Frank's hips and sits up. "You're tired. You probably want your place to yourself tonight."

Frank isn't sure how it happened but it seems like he turned into an even bigger sap than Bob. He crawls onto his knees and climbs into Gerard's lap.

"I like my place better when you're in it."

He stares into Gerard's eyes and then, starts laughing. That's probably the sappiest thing he's ever said. It's so sappy that he might get into a diabetic shock without even being diabetic. It's that sappy.

"I thought I was the lame one," Gerard laughs and Frank pushes him back onto the bed. He plants kisses everywhere on his face and down his neck, his tongue trailing down the collar of Gerard's t-shirt.

"I might be lamer than you but I'm not the one who falls asleep during a handjob," Frank says, tugging on Gerard's shirt.

"Bob is going to kill you," Gerard gasps when Frank kisses his lips.

"He'll manage," Frank replies with a giggle.

Apparently, Bob can't manage. He calls Frank five minutes later to tell him to get his ass to work just as Frank is about to go down on Gerard, his mouth smearing across Gerard's stomach.

"Don't you dare leave," Frank says as he stumbles out of bed. He gives Gerard one last kiss before heading out.

 

*

 

Gerard feels a little uncomfortable being here while Frank isn't. He paces around for a while, running a finger on the thin layer of dust on the DVD boxes. He watches TV for a few minutes, sat on the coffee table and looking around the apartment.

Going through Frank's cupboards or drawers isn't something Gerard had planned. He's not a creepy stalker or a rude asshole who violates someone privacy out of boredom.

He's about to go to bed when he notices something sticking out of a drawer in Frank's room. It's probably a sock or a shirt and Gerard should just leave it alone. Gerard sits on Frank's bed and stares at the tiny piece of fabric for at least ten minutes before his obsessive compulsive disorder kicks in.

He quickly gets up and opens the drawer. It's mostly socks and underwear but Gerard notices something shiny, stuck in the back. He knows he shouldn't look. Frank is nice to let him stay and he's probably not expecting Gerard to snoop around in his things.

The object looks like a pair of handcuffs; a very shiny pair of handcuffs, hidden under a pile of underwear, in the back of Frank's sock drawer.

Gerard pushes the sock that was sticking out down and closes the drawer. He jumps back into bed and turns off the lights. He's definitely not opposed to Frank using the handcuffs on him.

When Gerard wakes up, it's still night outside the window. He tosses and turns and notices Frank, standing in the middle of the room in his underwear, yanking off his t-shirt.

"Is it snowing?" Gerard asks, his voice hoarse from sleep.

It's dark inside the room but Gerard can see Frank's grin clearly. Frank crawls onto the bed and joins Gerard under the blankets and the duvet.

"Yeah. It's really fucking cold," Frank replies, pressing his cool skin against Gerard's.

Gerard shivers and rubs Frank's hands between his, trying to warm them up.

Frank doesn't look tired. He looks very alive, his eyes wide, staring into Gerard's. He kisses Gerard, his lips cold and chapped. He slips his tongue inside Gerard's mouth and rolls on top of him, pinning Gerard onto the mattress.

It squeaks a little when Frank sits up in Gerard's lap. He grabs the hem of Gerard's t-shirt and peels it off of him. He tosses it on the floor and kisses Gerard again, dirty and wet and so fucking loud.

Gerard shivers and jumps when Frank's fingers trail down his stomach and into his briefs. They latch onto Gerard's cock, cold but smooth and Gerard pushes into Frank's hand.

Frank gives a few tugs and rubs his thumb over the tip of Gerard's cock. Then, his fingers slide off and Gerard squirms, trying to get some friction.

Gerard can feel Frank on top of him, hard, his cock is almost digging a hole in his shorts. Frank nibbles on his chin and starts licking him, his tongue rough on Gerard's hot skin. He licks Gerard's neck, his throat, his chest and licks his lips. He also makes a tiny noise that sounds like a growl before humping Gerard's thigh, thrusting hard and fast.

Then, they move together, their bodies rubbing against one other. They find a rhythm and stick to it for a little while, moaning and groaning, Gerard's fingers making their way down Frank's spine and skidding past the elastic of his underwear. He tugs on it, frustrated and Frank suddenly stops moving.

He sits up in Gerard's lap and takes off his shorts. He takes off Gerard's underwear too and shifts at the edge of the bed.

He searches for something in his nightstand and bounces up and down on the bed, making the springs squeak.

There's a tiny bottle of lube in his right hand and a box of condoms in his left. He smirks and lies down next to Gerard.

They don't discuss it. Gerard doesn't ask Frank what he wants to do because it is obvious. It becomes even more obvious when Frank rolls a condom down on his own cock and crawls between Gerard's legs.

He coats his fingers with lube and leans down to kiss Gerard again.

The lube is really cold. Frank doesn't waste too much time prepping Gerard. He pushes two fingers inside him, moves them, twists them. He pushes a third finger in and Gerard's hips snap. He bumps into the headboard and whimpers.

Frank doesn't seem to notice. He looks different. Maybe it's the weird glow coming from outside the window or the way he's so focused on what he's doing. He's biting down on his bottom lip and stroking himself, looking predatory and so hot that Gerard feels his cock twitch, requesting his immediate attention.

Gerard is about to touch himself when Frank grabs Gerard's legs and pulls them further apart. His fingers slide out of Gerard with a wet noise. He wraps them around Gerard's cock and pushes his own cock inside Gerard, a hard, vicious push.

It suddenly feels like all the air has been fucked out of Gerard. He can't catch his breath until Frank slides out of him.

He pushes right back in, deep and starts moving, slowly building up the pace.

Gerard can feel Frank everywhere. He moans and bites down into the pillow next to him, stifling the tiny squeaks that get caught in his throat.

Frank fucks him through daylight and fucks him until they're both covered in sweat, their skin slippery and hot.

Something warm stirs inside Gerard's stomach and his vision blurs out. He's about to come his brains out when Frank lets go of his cock and slides out of him.

"Wha-," Gerard mouths.

"I'd like you to fuck me," Frank whispers against Gerard's mouth before kissing him. "Please."

Gerard likes that turn of events. He loves being fucked silly by Frank, though. He might need Frank to do that some more; maybe when they are ready for another round.

Frank doesn't let Gerard move an inch. He pushes his legs back onto the bed and kneels on top of him. He rolls a condom down on Gerard's cock using his fucking mouth and Gerard can't even look at it. It's just too much.

Gerard opens his eyes when he can feel the pressure of Frank lips is gone. Frank grins down at him as he starts to sink down onto Gerard's cock. He's really tight and Gerard almost comes from this alone.

"Oh, fuck," Frank groans, exposing his neck as he tilts his head back and grabs Gerard's shoulders. "Fuck, Gerard. Fucking fuck me." He makes a noise that definitely sounds like a growl.

Gerard arches his back and thrust inside of Frank, once, twice and Frank leans down to press his open mouth against Gerard's.

Frank starts moving back and forth, holding Gerard down and licking at Gerard's lips.

It's fast and rough and Gerard can't really control his hips anymore. Frank pants against Gerard's neck and kisses his damp skin, whispering vowels and words that don't even mean anything.

Gerard can feel Frank's cock trapped between them, squeezed, rubbing against Gerard's stomach. He can feel Frank tensing around Gerard's dick and he can feel his teeth sinking into his shoulder, biting down as Frank comes. Gerard feels Frank's spunk spreading between them as they move and he can feel himself go over the edge.

The noise Gerard makes when he comes is a little embarrassing but he can't really make himself shut up. It's just too good, too fucking much at a time. It's a high pitched moan that doesn't sound like him.

Frank kisses Gerard, sloppy and wet and Gerard can feel the copper taste of blood on Frank's tongue.

As Gerard slowly comes down, Frank pulls away, Gerard's cock slipping out of him. He collapses next to Gerard and pants, spread across the bed, naked and beautiful.

Gerard rolls onto his side, his shoulder sore, and plants a quick peck on Frank's cheek.

"Why didn't we try that before?" Gerard asks, panting and shaking all over.

"I don't know." Frank giggles and shuts his eyes. When he opens them again, he looks a little freaked out. His eyes are wild, his breath is shaky. He grabs Gerard's shoulder, the one that's not sore and examines it. "Did I bite you?"

Gerard grins. Frank biting him was kind of really hot, a kink Gerard didn't even know he had.

"Did I break skin?" Frank asks looking like he's about to have a panic attack. "Is it bleeding?"

Gerard pets Frank's arm and smiles at him. "No. I'm fine, Frank. You didn't hurt me."

"Are you sure?" Frank frowns and looks closely at Gerard's shoulder, the wrong one and Gerard doesn't feel like showing him where he really took a bite off of him.

"Positive."

Frank kisses Gerard's shoulder and lies back down. "Ok."

Unsurprisingly, Frank falls asleep pretty quickly, about ten seconds after he closes his eyes and throws an arm across Gerard's chest.

Gerard's shoulder hurts. It hurts so fucking much that Gerard rolls onto his other side and massages the spot where Frank bit him. The skin underneath his fingers is burning. Gerard drags his thumb over it but doesn't feel much, just a few tiny punctures. There's no blood on his fingers when he looks so it's probably nothing serious. Gerard manages to fall asleep after an hour or so even though his stomach is growling.

As long as his boyfriend doesn't have rabies, Gerard should be fine.

 

*

 

The rest of day is spent in bed, eating pizza and discussing feminism and how werewolves are really a metaphor for… – Frank isn't really sure what Gerard is even talking about. Frank likes it though. He likes how passionate Gerard can be about pretty much everything.

Frank drags Gerard to the kitchen at some point because Gerard tells him how he's always had this fantasy about fucking someone on a kitchen counter. Frank is a good boyfriend and intends to keep Gerard happy and well fucked and possibly in his apartment as long as he can without having to use his old handcuffs on him.

They're fooling around on the table more than anything else when Frank flails and breaks his coffee maker. He pushes it off the counter without even realizing it and the thing crashes onto the floor.

"You need a new coffee maker." Gerard laughs as he kisses Frank's chin and rubs his dick against Frank's leg.

"I need a new couch too," Frank observes, tugging at Gerard's t-shirt. "This place is falling apart and I'm pretty sure it's all your fault."

"How is it my fault if your dog is insane and likes to eat couches?" Gerard asks, pulling away and hooking Frank's legs on his shoulders.

"Peppers is not insane. She's just jealous you get all the attention." Frank voice breaks as Gerard starts licking at the birds tattooed on Frank's hips before kissing a path down to his dick.

Gerard fucks Frank in the kitchen, on the table before sucking him off against the fridge. They eat the entire contents of Frank's pantry before moving on to the living room.

They put on a horror movie Frank has seen hundreds of times and Frank blows Gerard while they're lying on the floor.

When it's time for Frank to go to work, they've done it in every room in the apartment, bathroom included and Frank needs to add a new shower curtain to his shopping list now.

Frank is stupidly giddy when he leaves Gerard on the couch, watching some crap reality show. He kisses him goodbye and leaves, fully intending to rub his disgusting happiness in Bob's face.

 

*

 

Gerard spends the night at Frank's, feeling a little under the weather. Maybe his body is not used to getting so much exercise or maybe he's coming down with the flu. Frank cuddles with him when he comes back from the bar, smelling very strong of alcohol and stale tobacco.

Frank brings him breakfast in bed and jerks him off before Gerard leaves for work.

Gerard goes home at the end of the day feeling exhausted and sick. He doesn't go to Frank's because he's all out of clean clothes and needs to get some work done on his werewolves, something he can't really do when Frank's around, being snuggly and hot.

There's a pile of mail waiting for Gerard, mostly bills and some dirty dishes in his sink, growing mold or possibly an entire new civilization. Gerard is too tired to do anything about it though. He heads off to bed and sleeps for twelve hours straight.

He wakes up to the sound of his alarm clock, piercing through his ears. It seems louder than usual. Everything seems too loud, even the birds chirping insolently outside of his window.

Gerard scratches at his sore shoulder and tries to sit up. He's not even up when his head starts spinning and Gerard falls right back into bed. His stomach churns and his vision blurs out.

The bathroom is too far away and Gerard can't move his legs. He rolls over to the edge of the bed and pukes his guts out on the floor, barely avoiding the rug and his shoes.

The room is still spinning around him when Gerard grabs his jeans at the foot of the bed and takes his phone out of the back pocket. He quickly dials Mikey's number and crawls back under his blanket, shivering and sweating, his teeth shattering and his stomach clenching.

"I'm dying," Gerard whines, burying his head under the pillow and swallowing painfully, the taste of puke bitter on his tongue.

"Hangover?" Mikey asks, the sound of his voice reassuring.

"No. 'M sick. Puking my guts out."

Mikey doesn't say anything for the longest time. Gerard is about to fall asleep when Mikey tells him, "Maybe you got the zombie flu."

Gerard doesn't know what that is but this doesn't feel right. Gerard hasn't felt this miserable in weeks. Maybe it's the fact that he hasn't had anything to drink in two days, not even a beer or maybe he's really about to turn into a zombie.

"I don't want to die alone."

"I'll be right there," Mikey says with a very audible sigh. "Don't turn into a zombie, please."

Gerard hangs up and falls back asleep.

After a while, his phone buzzes in his hand and Gerard throws it against the wall. He hears a loud crash followed by the sound of someone pounding on his door, loud and insistent.

Gerard digs his head out from under the pillow and crawls out of bed. He manages to stay upright even though his head his throbbing and his legs are shaking. He makes it to the door without puking or falling over.

For a second there, Gerard thinks Mikey is his guardian angel. He even sees wings on his back but that's probably because Gerard is delirious with fever.

"You better not eat me, Gee," Mikey says as he drags Gerard back to bed. He tucks him in and disappears for a while, only to reappear with a glass of water and a handful of pills.

"Mom said I should take your temperature too," he says, sitting at Gerard's side and putting his cold hand on Gerard's forehead, just like their mom used to do when they were kids.

Gerard swallows the pills with a grimace before pulling his blankets up to his chin. The water doesn't help getting rid of the taste of puke in his mouth.

"How do you feel?" Mikey asks, putting the glass of water on Gerard's nightstand and lying down next to him. "You look like you've been crapped out by a bear."

"I feel like bear shit," Gerard mumbles, massaging his sore shoulder and tugging on his t-shirt to scratch at it. The skin is peeling under his fingernails.

"Can you call work for me?" Gerard asks, putting his head on Mikey's chest. He can hear the blood pumping through Mikey's veins, underneath the skin, through the fabric of his sweatshirt.

"Where's your phone?" Mikey tries to get up but Gerard clings to him tight.

"Over there." Gerard points at the wall behind him.

Mikey cranes his neck and stares at what used to be Gerard's phone. "Shit." He digs out his Blackberry from the front pocket of his coat and holds it in front of Gerard while Gerard dials Sarah's number.

"Did you get bitten by a vampire, a werewolf, someone with really poor dental hygiene maybe?" Mikey asks, putting the phone to his ear.

Gerard shakes his head, weakly and sighs. The last thing Gerard hears as he drifts off to sleep is Mikey's voice. "Hi, is this Sarah?"

 

*

 

Frank tries to call Gerard a couple of times. Both times, he gets straight to voicemail. He's not really worried though. Gerard always calls, even when he's hungover or too tired to come by Frank's place.

The afternoon passes and Frank is about to head off to pick up Peppers from Bob's when he gets a call from a number he doesn't recognize.

When he picks up, the voice sounds familiar, the tone is flat. "Frank?"

"Yeah. Who is this?" Frank asks as he locks his door and stands in the hallway, staring out the window at the snow, still coming down hard in the streets.

"Hi. It's Mikey. Mikey Way."

"Hi."

"I'm Gerard's brother," Mikey adds, unnecessarily.

"I know. Hi, Mikey," Frank says, slowly walking down the hallway.

Something stirs in his guts and Frank knows there's something wrong with Gerard. It's just a hunch. Mikey wouldn't be calling Frank is nothing was wrong with Gerard.

"Gerard wanted me to call you. His phone is fucked," Mikey mumbles, his voice suddenly distant.

"Give me the phone, Mikes."

Frank recognizes Gerard's voice shouting in the back.

There's a short silence followed by some fumbling and cursing. Then, Gerard speaks in a weak and whiny voice. "Hi, Frank."

"Hey. Everything ok?" Frank asks, zipping up his coat and pulling the hood of his sweater up on his head. It's really cold outside and the snow covering the sidewalk scrunches under his feet as he takes a few careful steps.

"I'm fucking sick."

"Do you need me to come over?"

Frank looks at his watch. He could drop by Gerard's place before picking up Peppers back from Bob's. It's not like he's on a tight schedule anyway. Bob can wait. Peppers is not going to turn into a pumpkin if Frank doesn't show up.

"I don't want to give you whatever I have. I might be contagious," Gerard replies and Frank hears Mikey's voice.

Mikey sounds pretty pissed off as he yells, "Fuck you. What about me?"

"You're expendable," Gerard mumbles back at his brother and Frank smiles.

"I want to come," Frank insists when the brotherly bickering stops.

He hasn't seen his boyfriend in almost two days and doesn't really give a flying fuck if Gerard gets him sick. Frank always recovers fast anyway, one of the only perks that came with his condition. "Do you need something?" he asks, stopping in front of the Starbucks across from his apartment in case Gerard wants some coffee. Gerard always wants coffee.

"Do I need something?" Gerard asks, his voice muffled.

"Soup," Mikey shouts.

"Soup," Gerard repeats. "Why do I need soup?"

Mikey shouts, his voice sounding much closer now. "Because you don't have anything edible here and you've already puked the equivalent of three meals on your bedroom floor."

"I need soup."

"Ok. I'll get you some soup," Frank says as he stops a cab and hops into the backseat. "Please, don't die," he adds and Gerard replies with a lengthy sigh and a moan.

"I'll try."

As soon as he hangs up, Frank calls Bob to ask him if he can keep Peppers just one more day. Bob seems fine with it and Frank can hear Jamia cooing with delight in the back.

"You can take the night off if you need to take care of your sick boyfriend. You won't be missed," Bob says before yawning loudly into the phone.

Apparently, Brian is training this new kid tonight – whom Frank might or might not have fucked before – so he can help out when they're swamped.

"Is Brian trying to replace you because you're a lousy employee?" Frank asks and he can almost see Bob giving him a finger through the phone.

"Go see your boyfriend, motherfucker," Bob says before hanging up on him.

Frank shoves his phone back in his pocket and heads to the Chinese place a block away from Gerard's apartment. He gets some soup for Gerard; one that has loads of vegetables floating in it and looks pretty delicious and healthy enough to cure whatever Gerard has.

When he knocks on Gerard's door, the soup is still warm in Frank's hands.

Mikey is the one to open the door. He takes the bowl of soup from Frank's hands and takes him to where Gerard is lying, pale, shaking and looking like a zombie with the plague.

Gerard gives Frank a weak smile and sits up in his bed.

"So, are you by any chance a vampire?" he asks, his voice hoarse. He coughs and clears his throat.

"No," Frank replies as he sits down next to Gerard and plants a kiss on his forehead. Gerard is burning up. Frank pushes a sticky lock of hair away from his face and kisses his eyelid. "Hey."

"Hey," Gerard replies, putting his head on Frank's shoulder.

Mikey walks into the room with a tray and sets it in Gerard's lap. Mikey taped a note on the bottom of the tray with a huge smiley face with vampire teeth on it. The soup is sitting in the middle of the tray with a slice of bread that looks kind of stale.

"Eat," Mikey orders, dropping a spoon into the bowl and walking out of the room. "And no fooling around. I don't even need super hearing to know when you guys are doing it. I'm in the other room, not in Russia."

Gerard laughs and Frank puts a hand on his hot, pallid cheek. He rubs his thumb over it and kisses Gerard's mouth. His lips are hot and dry and his breath smells a little like barf but Frank doesn't care. Gerard kisses back, slow and tender until Frank pulls away.

Frank shrugs off his coat and kicks off his shoes. He slips under the blankets and pats Gerard's thigh. "Eat," he says, nodding towards the soup.

"Are you a zombie?" Gerard asks, poking the soup with his spoon, stirring the vegetables and pushing them in the corners.

"Not that I know of," Frank replies, stealing the spoon from Gerard's fingers. He catches a tiny piece of carrot and a pea with it and shoves them into his mouth. He eats two more large spoonfuls before plunging the spoon back in the bowl and giving Gerard a grin. "I love your brain but I kind of have a thing for your ass," he says, poking Gerard with his knee under the blanket. "Why?"

Gerard takes his spoon back and starts eating. He doesn't say anything for a while and just eats, making faces every time he swallows down his food.

"I feel like I'm burning up from the inside and everything fucking hurts," he finally says when he's almost done with his food. He pushes the tray to the end of the bed and curls up in Frank's lap. "I feel like I've been ran over by a truck and left to rot in the middle of the road."

Frank pets his head, gently. "You don't look like road kill to me," he says, stroking Gerard's side and squeezing his hip.

Gerard makes a tiny satisfied noise and shuts his eyes. He falls asleep on Frank's shoulder a few minutes later, his breathing slow and his fingers clinging to Frank's shirt.

Mikey checks up on them a few minutes later, his head sticking in the doorframe. He gives Frank a hint of a smile before disappearing again.

Frank doesn't try to move. He doesn't want Gerard to wake up; not when he looks so peaceful. Gerard's skin is hot under Frank's fingertips. It's hot and damp and Gerard is probably running a fever of a hundred and something. Frank pulls the blankets on top of Gerard and worms his way underneath them until he's lying down, wrapped up around Gerard.

Gerard sighs against Frank's chest and his fingers clench, tugging on Frank's shirt and his nails trailing down his stomach.

It's already the middle of the night when Frank starts drifting off. He looks out the window at the snow, coming down again, heavy and cottony. He looks back at Gerard and plants a tiny kiss on the top of his head and lets his fingers move under the collar of Gerard's shirt, closing on Gerard's shoulder.

That's when he feels the tiny bumps denting Gerard's skin. Frank examines Gerard's shoulder and notices the scars, bruises and circular puncture wounds that look a lot like the ones Frank used to have on his leg, right above his ankle.

Something in Frank's stomach stirs. It's all too familiar, the fever, the scars, the way Gerard smells. It can't be happening though. It's not possible.

"Gerard," Frank whispers, shaking Gerard gently.

Gerard hums and his hands trail up Frank's chest, his fingers twisting in the fabric of Frank's t-shirt.

"Gerard, wake up." Frank shakes him a little harder; speaks a little louder.

Gerard's eyelids flutter as his eyes slowly blink open. He looks up at Frank and grins. "Hey."

Frank doesn't smile back. He is too busy freaking out. "How did you get this?" he asks, running a shaky finger on Gerard's bruised shoulder.

Gerard pulls his t-shirt back on to cover his shoulder and kisses Frank's neck. "It doesn't hurt anymore," he whispers before closing his eyes again.

"Did I do this to you?" Frank asks, his voice loud and shaky. He pulls Gerard away from him and holds onto his wrists, tight.

"Yeah. But it's fine," Gerard mumbles, his eyelids drooping, heavy with sleep. "I'm fine."

"Shit." Frank lets go of Gerard's arms and shifts to the edge of the bed. "Shit, Gerard. Why didn't you tell me before?"

Gerard shrugs and reaches across the bed to grab Frank. "Shut up and come back to bed," he says, sitting up and scratching at his shoulder.

This is the reason why Frank should stay alone, locked in a cage, as far away from human kind as possible. This cannot be happening. Not now that Frank finally has something good, something that makes it worth getting up every day.

Frank scrambles to his feet, feeling numb.

He made this happen; made Gerard sick and ruined his life. He's standing right here in front of Gerard but doesn't even know what to tell him.

"Frank?" Gerard stares up at him, fully awake, his eyes huge and his mouth hanging open. He looks scared shitless and confused and Frank can't even find the courage to tell him what's happening.

"Shit, Gerard," Frank mutters as he stumbles out of the room.

It's not like he wasn't planning on telling Gerard. He would have had eventually, when he was sure he could trust Gerard and that this thing they had was actually going somewhere. Now, it's too late, too fucked up.

Frank hears Gerard's voice, weak, calling him, pleading him to come back.

Mikey, who is lying on the couch, half asleep under a pile of blankets, sits up when he sees Frank, rushing towards the door and tripping over his untied shoelaces.

"Frank?" Mikey sounds just as confused as his brother. He kicks the blankets down and gets up. He follows Frank to the door and holds it open for him, shooting glances back towards Gerard's room.

"Make sure he stays warm," Frank says, realizing he forgot his coat on Gerard's bed.

He can't go back. He can't even look at Gerard right now. He needs to get out of here so he doesn't choke; so he doesn't scream or start punching holes through walls until his knuckles bleed.

"I will," Mikey says, frowning.

Frank takes off when he hears Gerard calling him again, his voice breaking. Frank just can't deal with this now. He buries his hands in the sleeves of his hoodie and shuts the door after him.

 

*

 

"Are you feeling better?" Mikey asks as he shifts next to Gerard, petting his forehead. "You look better."

"A little," Gerard replies as he swallows the lump in his throat. "I don't get it, Mikey," he adds after a while, sitting up in his bed and watching the snow clouds outside of his window. The sun is piercing through them, bright and warm.

Gerard's stomach seems to have settled now. His head isn't throbbing anymore and nothing hurts but his shoulder, the one that still has bite marks on it.

Gerard picks up the glass of water on his nightstand and takes a big gulp from it. It's a little warm but Gerard doesn't mind.

"Do you want me to call him?" Mikey gets out of bed and disappears into the bathroom for a minute. He comes back with some aspirin and a fresh glass of water from the tap.

Gerard takes the aspirin because he knows Mikey is going to make him take it anyway, even if he tells him he doesn't need it anymore.

"I can lend you my phone if you want to talk to him," Mikey says, fixing his hair into the tiny mirror hanging on the wall by the bathroom door. He combs it, pokes at it and straightens it with his fingers until it looks even messier and ruffled than before. Then he turns to Gerard and hands him his Blackberry. "You should talk things out. It can't be that bad."

Gerard takes the phone and dials Frank's number. He hesitates before punching the last digit but Mikey is staring at him and Gerard doesn't want Mikey to think he's chickening out.

Frank doesn't pick up. The phone rings four or five times but Frank doesn't pick up. Gerard hangs up without leaving any message because he's not even sure what to say and hands Mikey his phone back.

"Maybe he freaked out because he's a vampire and since he bit you-" Mikey starts, pocketing his phone.

"That's not how vampires are made, Mikey," Gerard interrupts, shaking his head in disappointment. "You're being ridiculous. I didn't drink Frank's blood."

"Just an idea," Mikey shrugs, sitting on the edge of Gerard's bed. "Maybe he's something else."

"Where's our Giles with his library full of books about demons and monsters when we need him?" Gerard says, kicking Mikey's butt through the blankets and pushing him to the edge of the bed.

Gerard manages to get up and Mikey walks him to the kitchen, an arm wrapped around Gerard's back.

Gerard drinks an entire pot of coffee by himself and smokes about half a dozen cigarettes before his alarm clock goes off in the bedroom.

"I think I should go to work today," Gerard says as Mikey makes them a couple of toasts. "I'm feeling a lot better."

"Yeah?" Mikey bites off a corner of his plain toast and walks off to the living room. He sits down on the couch and turns on the TV. "I think you should stay in today," he says when Gerard joins him on the couch. "Just to be on the safe side."

"Giant insects and random musical numbers?" Gerard suggests when Mikey starts flipping aimlessly through the channels.

"You bet," Mikey mumbles through a mouthful of toast.

Gerard feels a little guilty about missing out yet another day and making Mikey stay with him. Mikey has a job too; one he actually loves doing. It wouldn't be the first time they skip together, though, and Mikey looks like he doesn't mind spending some time with his lame-ass of a brother.

The movie is just starting when Mikey turns to Gerard and says, "Don't worry. He's gonna call you and apologize for being an asshole."

Gerard runs a finger on the bruises on his shoulder and thinks about the way Frank looked at him before he left. There was something strange in his eyes. It looked like disgust or maybe terror.

Gerard should have known something was bound to go wrong. He should have known it was too fucking fantastic to last.

He stares at the screen and his fingers twitch. If only Frank would pick up his phone.

 

*

 

Frank doesn't go home. He doesn't call Bob and doesn't pick up the phone when it rings inside the pocket of his jeans.

As soon as he leaves Gerard's apartment, Frank feels like the biggest piece of shit ever. He doesn't know what to tell Gerard. The only thing he can think about is how he ruined Gerard's life by being a careless jerk. Maybe he would feel better if Gerard punched him in the face or kicked him in the groin.

It doesn't seem fair. Frank never bit anyone before; not since he became a monster anyway. He's always been careful with the guys he picks up. He's been living with this for years and never once did something this stupid. It could have been anyone but of course, it's Gerard; the only guy he's ever cared about; the guy he might be sort of in love with.

Frank walks out of Gerard's building, makes a left, a right and another left, walking past the lit up windows of a crowded diner. He doesn't feel like going anywhere so he just walks until his feet hurt and until the sun comes up between the tallest buildings. His shoes are soaked, squeaking in the melting snow.

Frank thinks about calling Bob for a while but realizes Bob is probably asleep now. Everyone's asleep. Frank doubts Bob can even help right now anyway. He's going to yell at Frank and tell him how much of an idiot he is for infecting someone.

There's another diner around the corner of whatever street Frank ends up in. For a little while, it's just him and an old, tired looking waitress named Ana.

Frank stays there for a couple of hours, mainlining coffee and watching the cars go by in the street, thinking about Gerard and how both their lives are going to change forever because Frank is an idiot who can't control himself and his stupid teeth.

When his phone rings, Frank digs it out of his pocket. It's Mikey's number. Frank hesitates for a moment but doesn't answer. He switches it off and tucks it back in his pocket.

He gets up, tips his waitress way too much and walks out of the diner, aimless and exhausted.

His feet take him back to Gerard's. Even though he still doesn't know what to tell him, Frank knows he needs to be with Gerard. He's his responsibility now.

Mikey opens the door and stands in the middle of the hallway for a few seconds, the expression on his face unreadable. He eventually steps aside and lets Frank in, turning to look at Gerard over his shoulder.

"I'm gonna go grab us some lattes," he shouts before turning back to stare at Frank. "I'll be back in five."

Gerard mumbles something and Mikey pushes past Frank before closing the door behind him.

Gerard is sitting on the couch, in his pajama pants and Frank's Black Flag t-shirt; the one Frank thought he had lost. He's not looking up at Frank. He stares at whatever is on TV and doesn't acknowledge Frank when he sits down next to him.

Frank deserves this.

"I'm sorry I left," he says, picking at the loose thread of his shredded jeans.

"It's alright," Gerard mumbles unconvincingly, still not looking at Frank.

Gerard is watching the same movie they watched together on the first night they spent together. Frank doesn't remember much about it but he doubts there's a lot of movies starring giant wasps and singing football teams.

"No, it's not alright." Frank shifts on the couch and tugs on the hem of Gerard's t-shirt. "I'm the reason why you're sick," Frank adds just when a swarm of wasp is attacking the school's marching band.

"Do you have rabies?" Gerard asks, finally looking up at Frank. He looks better, rested and the colors are back on his cheeks.

"No, Gerard," Frank replies, taking a deep breath before adding, "I'm a werewolf."

The revelation doesn't really have the effect Frank was expecting. Gerard stares at the TV as if Frank wasn't even there.

"I'm a werewolf," Frank repeats, his hand sliding down Gerard's thigh and wrapping around his knee.

"I heard you the first time."

"You have the right to be pissed off," Frank says, squeezing Gerard's knee and shifting a little closer to him. "I'm so fucking sorry. I fucked up and now you're sick and I ruined your fucking life."

Frank wants to punch something, maybe himself if he could. He wants to make everything go away, the way he feels and the way Gerard is staring at him like Frank is insane.

 

*

 

Gerard doesn't really know what to think. Frank sounds grave; he looks so serious and sad and also kind of freaked out. Gerard isn't sure he can believe him though. As far as Gerard knows, werewolves only exist in movies, comic books, bad young adult literature and in his own mediocre drawings.

Frank squeezes Gerard's knee again and whispers, "Say something, Gerard."

"You're a werewolf," Gerard says, grabbing Frank's hand in his.

"Yeah."

"Are you going to eat me?" Gerard asks, staring at Frank's teeth. They don't look sharper than normal, maybe a little crooked if anything.

Frank's smile is small but it's there when he replies, "No."

"Do you even eat people?"

Frank shakes his head no. "I'm more like Oz. You know, Willow's ex?"

Now, it really feels like Frank is just trying to mess with Gerard's head.

"I know who Oz is. I'm not a moron," Gerard says, letting go of Frank's hand and shifting away from him.

"Well, Oz and I have a lot in common," Frank says, putting his feet up on the couch and sitting cross legged. "I mean, we're both very short and we both play guitar."

Frank is not smiling. He just stares at Gerard and picks at his stupid torn jeans, tearing a piece of thread and rolling it between his thumb and index finger for a few seconds before throwing it across Gerard's lap.

"You're tinier than him," Gerard declares and Frank's fingers latch around Gerard's thigh.

Mikey comes back a few minutes later with three lattes and a couple of warm chocolate chip cookies. He puts one latte on the table next to Frank, puts the other one on the side table by Gerard and sits on the armrest, clutching the last cup to his chest.

"Do you still need me around?" he asks, shoving a cookie in Gerard's mouth before Gerard even has time to say anything.

"I'm gonna stay with Gerard," Frank replies, stealing a piece from Gerard's cookie.

Mikey sticks around for a few more minutes anyway. He drinks his latte and looks at Gerard and then at Frank, his eyebrows furrowed.

Gerard nods to let him know everything's ok and Mikey slaps his crooked knees as he gets up.

Mikey grabs his latte and his coat on the couch, and stands in front of the TV, his knees bended at an awkward angle. "I'm gonna go now," he announces, giving Gerard a look that screams, I'm gonna kill that motherfucker if he hurts you.

They watch him drag his feet across the room and towards the door.

"I'm so fucking sorry," Frank says as soon as they're finally alone again. He puts his Styrofoam cup on the coffee table and inches closer to Gerard. "I'm so sorry, Gerard."

"For what?"

"For biting you," he replies, nesting his head in the crook of Gerard's neck and planting a small kiss there, his lips warm and his breath smelling like vanilla and sugar.

Gerard grabs a handful of Frank's hair and tugs on it, tilting Frank's head back.

"I still think you're shitting me," he says before kissing Frank's chin and the corner of Frank's mouth. He lets go of Frank's hair and his fingers trail down Frank's spine.

Frank shudders and climbs into Gerard's lap. "I wish I was."

A moment later, they're lying on the couch, Frank, wrapped up around Gerard's back, holding him tight as he kisses at the nape of Gerard's neck, his hands firmly gripped around Gerard's hips.

The movie is over now and they're not really watching a rerun of Ace of Cakes. It's just on to make the silent less uncomfortable.

Gerard's stomach growls and Frank seems to notice as he rubs slow circles on Gerard's stomach with his thumb and kisses the shell of his ear.

Frank gets up a few minutes later and searches Gerard's fridge and cupboards, desperately trying to find something edible. The only things he finds are an old jar of pickles, some mustard and a can of Spam. He eventually gives up and orders them a pizza, without any meat because apparently, werewolves can be vegetarian too.

Gerard doesn't move from the couch and watches Frank as he moves about the apartment, looking for change to tip the delivery guy.

They eat the entire pizza and watch some stupid show about teenage vampires and Gerard's stomach finally settles.

"I'll stay with you tonight," Frank says as he grabs his phone on the coffee table and sits up. "Just have to call Bob and tell him you're still sick."

"Does he know you're a werewolf?" Gerard asks as he pats at his stomach, full and content. His voice comes out hoarse.

"Yes. Him, Jamia and Brian."

It's all Frank tells him. He gets up, kisses Gerard's lips and walks over to the kitchen to call Bob.

Gerard turns the TV off and lies down on the couch. Frank's warmth is still there on the cushions. It lingers against the small of Gerard's back along with his scent.

He watches the snow fall outside for a little while, listens to Frank's voice, soothing and close by, and shuts his heavy eyelids.

When he opens them again, Frank is right here by his side, curled up behind him, holding him tight, his breath brushing up against Gerard's neck.

The cramps are back. Gerard doesn't feel like he's going to puke anymore but everything hurts, every muscle in his body. It feels like his bones are about to break, like he's going to explode. He shivers and rolls around in Frank's arms until he's facing him.

"You bit me," he says and Frank opens his eyes. They're bloodshot and a little puffy. He probably has some sleep to catch up on.

It finally hits Gerard. Frank is a werewolf. Frank bit him. Gerard is now a werewolf too. A+B+C=D

Gerard doesn't really know the mechanics of werewolf transformation but he gets it now; why Frank has been apologizing so much and why he freaked out.

"You fucking bit me," Gerard croaks.

"I know." Frank plants a kiss on Gerard's lips and whispers, "I'm so fucking sorry. I didn't mean to."

Gerard knows Frank didn't mean to. Everything was just too good; the way Frank tensed around Gerard's cock and the way he sunk his teeth in Gerard's shoulder to stifle a groan; the way he looked when he came, his hair in his face, his mouth open, his tongue, his lips, and the way he kissed Gerard, needy and urgent; the taste of Gerard's blood in his mouth.

Frank is staring at him now, intent and so very pretty that Gerard just needs to kiss him. Frank's mouth is hot and tastes like pizza and the cigarette Gerard is craving for. Gerard licks at Frank's tongue and hums, his fingers tangled up in Frank's hair, tugging.

They kiss for ages, pressed against each other tightly, Gerard's fingers up in Frank's t-shirt, tracing the outlines of the tattoos Gerard doesn't need to see. He knows every curve of Frank's body by heart, every dot of ink and every freckle.

Gerard knows he's still the same Frank, yet everything feels different somehow. Every inch of Frank's skin feels new and Gerard wants to rediscover it, look for hints, for things that say, "I'm a werewolf".

There's nothing there though. Just skin and sweat and Frank, pretty and his.

"Were you planning on ever telling me?" Gerard asks when he pulls away and starts playing with a lock of Frank's hair, twisting it around his finger. It's soft and curls behind Frank's ear.

Frank lets out a heavy sigh and closes his eyes as he says, "Eventually."

"Does this mean I'm never going to die?" Gerard asks, tucking Frank's lock behind his ear and running a finger on Frank's perfectly arched eyebrows.

Gerard knows a few things about werewolves. He knows they only turn into furry creatures on full moons and knows that only silver bullets can kill them. It's not like he has a PhD in monsters or anything.

"We're not vampires," Frank replies, hooking a leg over Gerard's hip and pulling him closer.

"Vampires exist?" If werewolves exist, chances are, vampires do too. This gets Gerard a little excited for some reason. Maybe it's because he's always had a thing for vampires.

Frank huffs. "How the hell should I know? It's not like there's a monster club where we, freaks hang out."

"So we can die?" Gerard asks, pressing a hand on Frank's chest, trying to feel Frank's heart under his fingertips.

"I'm pretty sure we can die, yes."

Frank grabs Gerard's hand and pushes it underneath his t-shirt, pressing it on his warm skin. Gerard can feel the subtle beats of Frank's heart, thumping against his palm, regular but fast.

"Silver bullets?" Gerard asks, his mind racing.

"Silver bullets or getting hit by a train. I don't think we're invincible."

"Are you sure?" Gerard asks as he pulls his hand away from Frank's chest and wraps it around Frank's hip. He pinches at the flab of skin and pushes his fingers down, inside the waistband of Frank's jeans.

"No, Gerard. I never stood in the middle of traffic just to test that theory," Frank replies, his breath hitching as Gerard's hand cups around his ass, so small, almost flat but warm and smooth.

Gerard kisses his neck and Frank tastes musky and salty with a little bit of fruit, probably remains of the last shower he took. Gerard breathes in his scent before he pulls away.

He stares at Frank and bites on his bottom lip. He pulls his hand out of Frank's jeans and lets it rest on Frank's side, curled around Frank's hipbone.

"Is it gonna hurt?" Gerard asks as Frank starts rubbing at Gerard's sore shoulder, the pad of his fingers soothing.

From what he's seen or heard in movies, turning into a werewolf looks excruciating.

"Yes."

"A lot?"

Frank doesn't reply. He presses his lips against Gerard for a second, runs his fingers through Gerard's hair and lets out a heavy sigh.

"I'll stay with you," he finally says, his eyes almost green in the dim glow of the street lights. He stares into Gerard's eyes and squeezes Gerard's hand. "I'm not gonna leave you," he adds and Gerard is not sure he believes him.

 

*

 

Frank wakes up in a crick in his neck, his chin pressed against Gerard's shoulder and his nose buried in Gerard's hair. It smells like stale tobacco and that prickly Gerard scent it always has after a few days without a shower.

Gerard's alarm clock buzzes annoyingly and Frank reaches behind him to hit the snooze button. He snakes a hand under the hem of Gerard's shirt and strokes at his chest, lazily, following the rhythm of Gerard's soft snores and tracing patterns on his stomach with his fingernails.

An hour pass and Frank feels like he should call someone. He wants to tell Bob and Jamia and maybe even Brian if he cares. He can already hear the disappointment in Bob's voice; see the quiet sadness in Jamia's eyes. He fucked up. He's willing to take the consequences of his actions, whatever they may be.

Gerard stirs and Frank can feel him shaking, his skin hot and damp, his breath stuttering.

The sun is warm and bright outside the window. Frank can feel it on the bare skin of his back and on his neck.

Gerard rolls around onto his side and Frank watches him sleep for a few more minutes, his eyelids fluttering, his lips open, as if they were waiting to be kissed.

Frank doesn't kiss him though. It feels like Frank shouldn't steal kisses from Gerard's lips now. He doesn't have the right to.

The scars marking Gerard's shoulder are rough under Frank's fingertips as he drags them slowly over Gerard's skin, his nails grazing the fabric of Gerard's t-shirt as they slide underneath his collar.

It takes another minute for Gerard to wake up. When he does, he blinks and rubs his eyelids with his fists before throwing an arm across Frank's chest.

Frank isn't sure what time it is anymore. Gerard opens his eyes, wide and gives Frank a small, tired smile.

"You feelin better?" Frank asks, whispering the words against the underside of Gerard's jaw before pressing his lips on Gerard's chin.

Gerard groans and runs a finger on the shell of Frank's ear, combing his hair.

Then, just as Frank rolls on top of him and kisses his lips, Gerard asks, "How did it happen?"

"You mean-" Frank starts but Gerard interrupts him with a kiss.

"How does that shit even happen?" he asks when he pulls away, his lips wet and red.

Frank licks at his own lips and rolls onto his side. He tucks the pillow under his head and stares into Gerard's eyes as he says, "Did I ever tell you I dropped out of college?"

Gerard shifts next to him and pulls the blankets on top of Frank's bare chest. He strokes Frank's arm, slow and tender and nods, inviting Frank to keep talking.

"I dropped out because of this," Frank says, his hands clenching into fists. "I had this friend. Jepha. He was kind of my boyfriend sometimes, especially when we had nothing better to do."

Gerard nods again and purses his lips into a thin line.

"We always hung out in his room and smoked pot every night. He kinda forgot to tell me he was a werewolf," Frank says, his eyes falling over Gerard's shoulder.

Frank should have said something to Gerard. He should have warned him about the risks of being with a werewolf.

"One night, we both passed out in his room during one of his cycles and he attacked me. It wasn't anything like us." Frank sighs and bites his bottom lip. "I don't really remember how it all went down because I was too fucking stoned but I remember crawling out of his room and bleeding out in the hallway."

No one came to help him as he crawled into the elevator and managed to make his way to the TV room. He lied down on the floor between the couches, passed out from the pain, his ankle torn to shreds. When he woke up the next morning, covered in his own blood, Jepha was peering over him, back to his normal self and Frank's ankle already looked better.

"I'm sorry, Frank." Gerard's hand is soothing in his wrist, tracing the outline of the chainsaw tattooed above the crook of Frank's elbow. "I'm so sorry."

"I can't stop thinking about his eyes," Frank says, shivering. Jepha's teeth were sharp and fucking scary but it was his eyes that got to Frank; his eyes were not right. They were not Jepha's eyes anymore. They had nothing human about them.

"Are we going to attack people now?" Gerard asks and his eyes widen in horror. "Am I going to bite Mikey?"

Frank shakes his head no and whispers, "I have this place. Bob locks me up for five nights a month so I don't hurt anyone."

"How did you do before you had Bob?"

"I. I used to wake up in the woods a lot," Frank replies, his voice a little high pitched. "In random places all over campus. I even woke up in the next town over this one time and had to walk back to my dorm naked."

He doesn't tell Gerard how he would find animal carcasses around him and how he would still have the taste of blood and meat in his mouth, sickening. He doesn't tell him how he always got so sick that he couldn't stop throwing up until there was only bile left in him and how he curled up in a ball in his dorm room and cried until he didn't have any tears left, and until his throat was raw.

"Must have been scary," Gerard says, petting Frank's cheek like he can see how painful it is for Frank. Maybe he can.

"I ate a dog once," Frank says, his voice low and Gerard's jaw drops and his hand squeezes tight around Frank's arm. "It was four times as big as Peppers."

This hurts Frank even more than the rest. It was his mom's dog and Frank is still grateful that it wasn't his mom under his claws and his razor sharp teeth. He had to make up some story about how Cujo ran away because Frank was an idiot and had forgotten to lock the gate.

His mom was pissed off at him for weeks after that but it was better this way. Frank had to plaster flyers everywhere around Belleville to find a dog that was long dead and buried in their backyard, a few feet away from his mom's petunias.

Gerard kisses him and all the bad things slowly start to fade away, with a flick of Gerard's tongue on Frank's.

They're still kissing when Frank's phone buzzes somewhere on the floor, annoying and insistent.

Gerard groans and breaks the kiss. He mumbles something as he sits up and grabs Frank's pants on the floor. He hands them to Frank and presses himself back against Frank, crawling under the blankets, one hand worming its way down Frank's boxer shorts and curling around Frank's dick. He doesn't stroke though; just leaves his hand there, warm, his grip loose.

The phone stops vibrating in Frank's hand as he digs it out of his pocket. It's Bob.

"You should call him back," Gerard says as he lets go of Frank's dick. His hand trails up to Frank's chest and stays there.

They have one of these moments when everything's quiet and perfect. It's one of these moments when Frank wants to say stupid sappy things. He wants to tell Gerard that he loves him and that he will take care of him for the rest of their pathetic lives but the words won't come out. It's probably for the best.

Instead, Frank calls Bob back.

 

*

 

Gerard doesn't go to work that day. Then he doesn't go to work for the rest of the week. He makes up an imaginary flu and Sarah believes him. She tells him to get some rest and that everyone at the office misses him. Gerard doubts everyone in the office even knows his name.

Frank stays over at Gerard's place, trying to get him through the first days, the first week, the first month of Gerard's transformation into a fucking werewolf.

It still feels strange and pretty much like a bad joke.

They go from the bed to the couch and from the couch to the bed. They kiss and watch stupid things on TV, pretending that everything is fine; that they're normal.

Gerard asks Frank stupid and very random questions about werewolves and hair growth and Frank answers most of the times. He's very patient with Gerard.

Frank leaves for a few hours to get groceries, goes to work twice during the week but always comes back early. He tells Gerard they don't really need him that much at the bar and Gerard knows he's just saying that because he's worried.

Frank drags Gerard into the bathroom a few times and they end up showering together. They don't do anything because Gerard just doesn't feel like he can stay upright too long.

Frank fucks him really slowly once they make it back to bed though and Gerard comes with a loud growl that doesn't sound like him at all.

There's something different in the way Frank fucks him now. He's more careful in some ways but spends more time nibbling on Gerard's neck, biting and sucking Gerard's shoulder. He seems to be enjoying himself a lot more now. When Frank comes, it feels like he's lost control completely, like he's not holding back anymore, like he's not afraid.

Things get a little better and then get a little worse. It just comes and goes depending on the day. Gerard realizes Frank has been through this once. He knows exactly how to hold Gerard, his hands pressed against his stomach, rubbing gently and waiting for the pain to pass. He knows how to soothe Gerard by whispering how everything is going to be alright even though Gerard knows it's a lie.

After a while, it doesn't get better. It gets worse and then, Gerard's first cycle comes.

"Am I going to bite your head off?" Gerard asks, worried as he stares at the driver into the rearview mirror.

They're in a cab that's taking them to the bar, Gerard's things in a backpack in his lap and Frank clinging to Gerard's arm, patting at his hand.

"No," Frank replies, his voice low and hoarse.

"How do you know I'm not going to hurt you?"

Frank shrugs one shoulder and replies, "You will hurt me and I will hurt you back. It's just how it works."

Gerard's stomach flips. This is not how his life is supposed to go. He's supposed to get his own comic book out, get himself someone nice he can grow old with, maybe have kids and pets, a house and a mortgage. He's not supposed to turn into this thing that tries to bite people's heads off and claw their faces off. Life is not supposed to be like this.

"We heal fast," Frank adds as an afterthought and squeezes Gerard's hand.

Bob is waiting for them in front of the bar, smoking and pacing into the melting snow. He looks up at Gerard as he gets out of the taxi and gives him a half smile, something that barely hides the fact that he looks terrified. He stubs out his cigarette against the wall and heads inside the bar.

Frank doesn't say much as they follow him inside. He asks about Peppers as he grabs Gerard's hand and laces their fingers together.

"She misses you, fucker," Bob replies, taking them to a heavy looking door.

Gerard has never been to this part of the bar before. It smells rancid and stale. The only source of light is an orangey bulb hanging from the wall making everything look a little off, a little weird.

They go down a narrow flight of stairs and Gerard can feel Frank's hands on his shoulders.

The room is small. It's a square of concrete walls, concrete floors and a tiny window that barely gives out any light. It almost looks like the window in Gerard's old bedroom back at his parents' house, only smaller.

There's a sheet spread out on the floor by a corner and a set of chains and handcuffs.

Gerard stops in the middle of the room and shuffles his feet. He doesn't want to go any further. He's not ready. Not yet.

Frank wraps an arm around his waist and pushes him forward, towards the corner and the chains and Gerard tries to shrugs him off. He can feel something stir in his stomach. He feels sick and too hot and the room smells really bad, like wet dog or maybe piss.

Bob clears his throat and walks over to the chains, rattling them idly. "Want me to take care of Gerard too?" he asks, not looking at Gerard.

"I'll do it," Frank says and Bob nods. "I'll do us both."

Bob walks over to the window and stares outside, his hands behind his back.

Frank takes off his clothes without any warning while Bob is still there, like it's not a big deal. It's probably not. They've doing this for years and Bob has probably seen Frank naked more than Gerard ever did.

Frank yanks off his t-shirt, pulls down his pants, kicks off his shoes and folds everything into a neat pile. He stands in the middle of the room, naked, so small, and stares at Gerard.

"You should take off your clothes," Frank suggests with a nod.

Gerard doesn't feel comfortable. He tugs on the sleeves of his jacket and stares at the birds tattooed on Frank's hips. He opens his mouth to say something but closes it back.

Frank walks over to Bob and shoves his clothes in Bob's arms. "I'll put Gerard's by the door," he says and Bob climbs up the stairs quickly without a word.

"Are we going to kill each other?" Gerard asks, his voice shaky. He takes off his t-shirt and shivers in the cool air.

"No," Frank replies unconvincingly, ducking his head and walking over to the window. He watches Gerard as he takes off his jeans and his underwear, slowly. Gerard throws them onto the floor and Frank comes to pick them up, gathering them up in his arms.

Gerard rubs his hands over his skin, trying to get warm as Frank climbs up the stairs and knocks on the door. He comes back a few seconds later and gives Gerard a sheepish smile.

"You have my permission to eat me if you get too hungry," he says, grabbing Gerard's hands and pulling him towards the chains.

Gerard feels really stupid like this, naked and cold but Frank is there and this makes everything a little more bearable. Besides, Frank is joking which can only mean there's nothing Gerard should worry about.

 

*

 

The truth is, Frank doesn't know how these things work. He just knows how it feels right before it happens; how he wishes he was dead and then his mind just shuts down. He always wakes up feeling like death, cold, naked, wounded and so very tired and vulnerable.

Sometimes, he has flashes of consciousness; briefs moments when he tugs on his restraints and howls at the moon, so far away behind the window. He has moments when he feels everything, the burn on his wrists and ankles, and the hunger, sharp, unbearable; a need to tear things apart and to claw his way out of the cellar.

Frank can hear Bob's footsteps upstairs as he ties Gerard up, the chains clinking together and his fingers shaking a little around Gerard's wrists.

He's not used to doing that. Bob is usually the one putting him in restraints. He always double checks the locks and the chains before leaving. There's something reassuring about their routine, something Frank doesn't get tonight.

Gerard stares at him the whole time. He watches Frank, his eyes big and worry creasing his forehead.

Frank kisses his lips one last time and sits down next Gerard on the sheet, yanking on his chains and locking the handcuffs around one of his wrists. Frank hopes one wrist will be enough. He still has a free arm to grab at things and possibly hurt Gerard but it's not like Bob had time to install something else.

Gerard reaches for him and Frank takes his hand, locking his fingers with Gerard's.

They sit there and wait for the night to fall, quiet and patient.

When it starts, Gerard squeezes Frank's hand. He squeezes almost to the point of breaking it. Frank knows it's probably the worst pain Gerard's ever been in but he will get used to it soon enough.

Frank pets the back of Gerard's hand and whispers, "It will be over soon, I promise."

Gerard whimpers, growls, and curls up on the sheet, the chains already digging into his wrists as he pulls on it, pressing his hands on his stomach and down his groin.

"I know it hurts, Gerard," Frank says, cringing and biting the inside of his cheeks to refrain from screaming. He can feel everything. He can feel his bones cracking and his heart taking on a faster pace, menacing to explode out of his chest.

"I can't," Gerard cries out, tilting his head back to give Frank a pleading look. "I can't breathe."

Frank shifts closer to him and plants a kiss on Gerard's forehead. "Look at me," he tells Gerard in his firmest tone of voice.

It seems to be working because Gerard settles for a few seconds. He stares into Frank's eyes, his pupils slowly turning golden.

"It's almost over," Frank tells him, squeezing Gerard's hand back.

Frank hits his head against the wall repeatedly as he feels his blood boiling. He knows the sun is about to set and then, this will be over. He grabs Gerard's hand and squeezes it lightly. "I love you," he tries to say but his voice comes out as a roar.

Then the pain is so intense that he loses his mind and growls as his body transforms.

 

*

 

It's not like in the movies. There's pain and then there's nothing.

Gerard wakes up in the early hours of the morning, shivering and wounded. He looks down at his hands and they're covered in blood, maybe his own, maybe Frank's. There's also dry blood and what appears to be tiny bits of flesh caught under his fingernails. His wrists are free now but there are deep cuts around them. He probably tried to get out of his restraints.

The light coming from outside the window is weak and the single beam of sunlight reaching Gerard's naked skin is cold.

Gerard's hand finds a blanket wrapped around his chest and pulls it up to his chin. He lets out a heavy sigh and his chest hurts.

Everything is quiet. Gerard can barely hear any birds chirping outside. The only sounds he hears are the sound of his own heart beating and the sound of Frank's breathing, slow and soft.

Gerard looks over his shoulder and Frank is there, curled up behind him, breathing down Gerard's spine. Gerard wraps a hand around Frank's arm and his skin is sticky with blood. He has deep cuts on one of his wrist and a few more on his back.

Gerard rolls around and the concrete under him is too cold and too hard. It hurts to breathe. It hurts to move.

Gerard grits his teeth and settles closer to Frank. He runs a finger on Frank's bloody lips and on his cheeks. His skin is warm and flushed. Gerard kisses a tiny spot under Frank's eye, the only spot that's not covered in blood or scratches.

Frank hums and moans, a hand skidding around Gerard's hip. He opens his eyes and smiles at Gerard.

"Hey," Gerard tries to say but the word comes out as a groan. His throat is raw and Gerard can't even swallow anymore. He coughs and it feels like his lungs are trying to make a run for it, as if he's about to cough up razorblades. He kneels up on the blood stained sheet and Frank draws circles on Gerard's chest with his fingernails.

"How do you feel?" Frank asks, pulling the blanket to himself as he sits up.

"Like I died and dug myself out of the grave to munch on fresh brains," Gerard whispers and his fingers find a deep cut on his chest. The edges are rough and tender, damp with warm blood.

There's a pile of clean clothes from Gerard's backpack sitting at the foot of the stairs and another one a few steps above it; Frank's ripped jeans, his Circle Jerk t-shirt and his sneakers.

"Bob," Frank says as he rubs at his wounded wrist.

Gerard nods. Of course Bob was here. He probably came down before Gerard woke up to untie them and make sure they were still alive.

Frank plants a kiss on Gerard's forehead, gets up, picks up their clothes and drops Gerard's onto the sheet. He puts on his jeans and pokes at something on the back of his shoulder. There's a lot of dry blood there and a small circular wound, just like the one on Gerard's shoulder.

"I think I bit you." Gerard sucks in a breath, the cut on his chest still tender as he presses his palm over it. His stomach churns and Gerard feels something on his neck, burning, a fresh new pain to complete the picture.

"Yeah," Frank says with a grin, as if Gerard biting him was nothing. He puts on his shirt, kneels down in front of Gerard and rubs his thumbs on Gerard's cheeks. He kisses Gerard's lips and Gerard can smell blood on his skin. "I bit you too," Frank adds, his fingers trailing down Gerard's neck.

"I don't remember anything," Gerard mumbles and Frank gives him another quick and noisy kiss before pulling away.

Frank gets up and there's a smile at the corner of his lips. "Me neither."

"I think I'm gonna be sick." Gerard scrambles up to his feet and gets dressed as fast as he can before stumbling up the stairs, his head pounding and his vision blurred. This doesn't feel like a hangover. This feels more like he pulled an all-nighter working on an art project and then got ran over by a bus and trampled by an elephant.

Walking hurts. The simple action of putting a foot in front of the other sends spikes of pain through his legs and his spine like they're broken.

Frank trails after him, his hand on the small of Gerard's back, twisting in Gerard's t-shirt. He doesn't let go of him until they're at the door.

It's unlocked and slightly ajar. Gerard pushes it open and climbs up the last couple of steps.

Bob is sat at a table in front of a tall cup of what appears to be the most delicious coffee blend Gerard has ever smelled in his life. There's the smell of tobacco and something fried and sweet too. Gerard's stomach growls loudly and Frank steers Gerard towards the table, his hands everywhere on Gerard.

"Hey, lovebirds." Bob's voice is almost cheerful.

Gerard slumps down on the bench and stares at the box of donuts open before him, a colorful mix of pastries, sprinkles, jelly and chocolate.

"You were really loud for a while down there," Bob comments, a large grin on his face.

Gerard can feel himself blush. They were loud but Gerard still doesn't know what they did. Every inch of his body feels sore though so it was probably not something very pleasant.

Frank snorts and pushes Gerard with his hip to the corner of the booth. He grabs a donut from the box and shoves it in his mouth while Bob gets up and circles the counter. He comes back with two mugs and a fresh pot of coffee.

"Coffee," he offers and Gerard almost shouts his answer and shifts on his seat, a little impatient.

"Yes, please."

Gerard hesitates for a few seconds while Bob pours him some coffee before picking a Boston cream donut from the open box. He eats three or four of these and drinks at least four cups of coffee in a record time, his stomach growling.

"You were cuddling when I found you this morning," Bob says after a while. He gets up again and adds, "If you guys ever have a litter, Jamia wants one of your cubs."

"Fuck you," Frank says with his mouth full. He waves a sticky finger at Bob before sticking it in his mouth and sucking on the jelly.

 

*

 

Frank remembers more than he usually does. He's not sure why he lies to Gerard because what he remembers is not even bad. It's just a little strange.

One thing Frank remembers is that Gerard bit him first. Gerard turned and yanked on his chains and then bit Frank, hard and eager. Frank remembers feeling the sting of Gerard's teeth and the burn. He also remembers Gerard lunging at him and clawing at his chest. He remembers pinning Gerard down on the floor and biting his neck until Gerard became more docile, until Gerard stopped wriggling under him and started panting. He remembers sniffing Gerard out and licking his wounds, gentle.

He doesn't feel the need to tell Gerard about any of this though. It might be the first time he doesn't wake up feeling like he was steamrolled and he feels strangely hopeful and happy.

They spend the day napping in Brian's office and talking for hours, curled up in the armchair. Gerard still has questions and Frank doesn't have an answer for a lot of them but he does his best to sound like he knows his shit.

"So, am I the first guy you bit?" Gerard asks, his fingers twirling around Frank's hair. He gives Frank a small smile because he probably knows the answer to this one.

"You're the only guy I ever want to bite," Frank replies before pressing his lips on Gerard's neck, his teeth grazing at the hot skin. "So juicy," he mumbles and Gerard shudders against him.

"Is it going to hurt like this all the time or is it going to get better with time?" Gerard's breath hitches as Frank's lips trail down Gerard's chest and on his stomach. Frank lifts up Gerard's t-shirt and plants a kiss on his navel. He smells like sweat and fucking sex and Frank can't help himself.

"Both," he finally says, whispering the word against Gerard's skin as he pulls Gerard's pants down, not even bothering to unzip his fly. He yanks it down around Gerard's thighs and kisses a path down Gerard's stomach.

Gerard takes a handful of Frank's hair and ruffles it. "I feel like I should be pissed off at you but you're making it very difficult."

"That's good," Frank mumbles as his lips close around Gerard's dick. He licks at the tip and strokes the base with his hand, his rhythm slow and lazy.

Gerard pushes inside Frank's mouth and Frank presses his hands on Gerard's hips, trying to keep him still. The cheap leather of Brian's armchair squeaks under Gerard as he squirms and slowly slides down.

Frank pushes him back up before they both fall off the chair and sucks harder and faster, staring at Gerard's face and at his lips, speaking silent words Frank cannot make out.

Gerard doesn't last long. He growls and pulls on Frank's hair, a little too hard.

Frank hums and digs his nails into Gerard's thighs in reprisal.

Gerard thrusts a couple of times and spills down Frank's throat in thick and hot spurts.

A few seconds later, Frank comes without even touching himself. The friction of his dick against the edge of the chair is all it takes before he's moaning and panting, biting into Gerard's inner thigh and drawing blood.

He almost falls asleep with his nose buried in Gerard's junk but Gerard shakes him gently and helps him back up on the chair. He slides in next to Gerard, boneless and well fucked, their bodies a perfect fit.

They both fall asleep for a little while and when Frank wakes up, Gerard is no longer lying next to him. He's hunched over Brian's desk, his hair in his face. Frank can hear the sound of a pencil scratching against paper and Gerard's breath, shaky.

Frank slides out of the armchair and joins Gerard at the desk. He wraps himself around Gerard's back and plants a quick kiss in Gerard's smelly greasy hair.

"Does this look right to you?" Gerard asks, finally sitting up straight. He pushes a very detailed sketch of a werewolf to the side and Frank lets go of Gerard to examine it more closely.

"Pretty accurate, yeah," Frank replies, a finger tracing the outlines of the creature. The eyes are yellow and the teeth pointy and bloody. It looks fierce and dangerous, much like Jepha or Gerard. The nose might be a little too long though and the posture seems wrong somehow. Frank is pretty sure werewolves can't stand up straight like this.

Gerard sighs and scribbles his initials at the bottom of the sketch before shoving it under a pile of order slips.

"Why can't we go home?" Gerard asks, looking up at Frank with sad eyes. "I'm fucking bored to death here."

Frank circles around him and sits down in Gerard's lap. He wraps his arms around Gerard's neck and shifts until Gerard's fingers latch around Frank's hip.

"Cause we can't," Frank replies, nuzzling at Gerard's neck and putting his head on Gerard's shoulder.

"Why?"

Frank whispers, "It can be dangerous for, you know, people and for us too, I guess."

Gerard doesn't push for a better answer, something more elaborate, and Frank is thankful for that.

Gerard pulls a blank sheet of paper from a desk drawer and picks his pencil back up. He sighs and starts sketching something new.

Frank watches Gerard's wrist move as the pencil runs on the paper, another werewolf slowly appearing before his tired eyes. Gerard's other hand is busy stroking Frank's back, his fingers sliding underneath Frank's shirt and rubbing the cuts and bruises Gerard gave him last night.

 

*

 

The next couple of nights are just as painful as the first one and Gerard doesn't remember anything in the morning. He doesn't have as many cuts and wounds though and the ones on his chest and on his neck heal pretty fast.

It's the fourth day of the cycle when Gerard wakes up, still chained up to the wall. Bob is probably late because Gerard can see the sun outside, its light dull and cold.

Frank is still fast asleep, half lying on top of Gerard, his face pressed against Gerard's stomach, his nose in Gerard's pubes, his breath slow, brushing up against Gerard's hip.

If Gerard could block out the pain, he would most definitely get hard from this. If he could forget that he was tied up to a wall in a fucking cellar that smelled like piss, he would enjoy waking up like this, Frank all over him.

Waking up next to Frank is the only highlight of these past few days but it's always tainted by the fact that Gerard hurts so fucking much that he wants to die.

Four days of turning into a werewolf every night and Gerard doesn't think he can do this anymore. The moment before he transforms always feels like it's the worse thing Gerard ever went through. It feels like his body is being torn to shreds, like he's burning from the inside out and exploding, and then there's the morning after and Gerard feels even shittier. Nothing looks better in the light of day. Not even Frank, his beautiful face and his small smile can make this better.

Gerard pulls on his restraints and the chains rattle against the wall. He manages to sit up and Frank clings to him, his fingers clasped around Gerard's thighs, not letting go. His hands are slippery and Gerard wants to push them away from him.

The smell in the room is sickening. The dry blood on the sheet is rough against his bare skin. The cuffs around his wrists are too tight. They dig into Gerard's flesh with every movement, cutting deeper.

"Frank," Gerard tries to call but his voice is gone. He swallows and tries again but the only thing that comes out of his mouth is a low murmur, a gasp that never reaches Frank's ears.

Gerard stirs and reaches for Frank, patting his shoulder and shaking him a little. He needs Frank to wake up now. He needs someone to come down and untie him before he has a full on panic attack, before he can't breathe, before he loses his mind.

Frank moans and rolls out of his lap. He curls up onto the sheet and grows still again, his chest barely moving.

"Frank," Gerard murmurs, hardly making a sound.

Gerard yanks on the chains once again and the pain is so sharp that Gerard bites down on his bottom lip until it bleeds.

There's nothing he can do but wait. He's trapped, cold and no one is coming to help him. Maybe he's going to bleed to death if he tugs on his chains for a little while longer. Just a little harder.

Minutes or maybe hours pass and finally, the cellar door opens with a creak.

Gerard makes the chains rattle one more time, just so Bob can hurry up down the stairs and Gerard almost passes out from the pain. He can feel tears rolling down his cheeks and his chin, dripping down on his chest, washing the blood away.

Bob lays a blanket on Frank and kneels down in front of Gerard. He rushes to unlock the handcuffs, punctuating everything he does by a string of apologies. "I'm so fucking sorry I was late. I'm so sorry."

As soon as he's free, Gerard cringes and crawls on his hands and knees, grabbing the pile of clothes Bob dropped next to him. He manages to stand up but his head is swimming, his legs rubbery and his knees shaking.

This is the worst he's ever been in his entire life, even worse than all the times he passed out in his own puke or pissed himself, and he owes it all to the tiny man lying in a corner on a smelly, blood stained sheet, looking so vulnerable.

Frank is slowly stirring into consciousness, a stupid smile on his face and Gerard hates him more than he thought possible. Gerard loves Frank and hates him so much at the same time that it makes him sick.

Gerard wraps his arms around his stomach and takes a deep breath. He counts to ten and waits for his stomach to settle again, his fingers clenched around his sides, his nails digging into his skin.

Bob looks away while Gerard puts on his clothes. He always does that which is kind of weird but Gerard appreciate nonetheless. Bob looks out the tiny window and mumbles things Gerard doesn't even want to hear. He talks about Frank and how Gerard is good for him but Gerard doesn't really listen.

Gerard is done with this. He's done with the pain and the cold and the loneliness. He's done with being tied up to a wall and waking up with cuts and bruises and with a foul taste in his mouth. He needs to get out of here and possibly never come back.

"I need to go now," Gerard says but his voice is still just a murmur.

He clenches his hands into fists and stares down at Frank.

Gerard could kill him. Maybe it would break the curse. Gerard could strangle him right here, feel Frank squirm and convulse between his hands and make this all go away. He could squeeze Frank's windpipe and feel him fade away, gasping for breath, his eyes wide, his hands flapping around helplessly.

Frank rolls onto his back and mumbles in his sleep, his hands searching for Gerard next to him on the sheet. His hair falls over his eyes and Gerard wants to touch him, tuck his hair behind his ears and kiss him, sweet and not rushed but he just can't make his feet close the distance between them.

The rage he's feeling is something he doesn't understand, something that he can't help, something irrational and strong. Frank's face used to soothe him. It used to make his heart beat faster. Now, everything is tainted, broken, ugly and painful.

Gerard is climbing up the stairs when Bob turns around.

"Gerard?" he calls after him but Gerard ignores him.

He pushes the door open, walks out of the cellar, across the bar and out into the street.

The sun is bright outside the bar. It's so bright, it hurts Gerard's eyes, makes him recoil in his jacket.

The door slams shut behind him and Gerard hunches over the sidewalk and throws up. He pukes until his throat burns and his stomach is sore. He pukes until he can't breathe anymore.

Gerard wipes his mouth off with the back of his hand and stumbles down the street, glaring at anyone who even dares to look at him. They're all judging him. They're all mocking him because he probably looks like a zombie with puke and blood drying on his face.

He's going home, whatever Frank thinks about it. He's going home where an unopened bottle of Jim Beam Black is waiting for him in the kitchen cabinet, something he had kept just in case. In case of emergency, get stupidly drunk. That's the only thing he knows will make the pain go away, even if it's only temporary.

 

*

 

"Gerard is gone," Bob announces when Frank opens his eyes. He blinks at the bright light coming from the window and yawns loudly.

The sheet is still warm next to him and it still smells like Gerard, sweat and tobacco.

Frank sits up, wraps the blanket around him and croaks, "What?"

Bob is sat next to him, his arms around his knees, staring at nothing particular on the ground, maybe counting the tiny blood spatters on the cement.

Last night wasn't quite as bad as Frank imagined. Things seem easier when Frank isn't going through this alone, when he has a hand to squeeze, someone to hold the morning after. It makes Frank feel like he's some kind of selfish jerk though, a jerk who bites guys just so he's not going through his cycles alone.

Frank doesn't even feel sore this morning, probably because there was a lot more snuggling and less fighting last night.

It was their fourth night together and this time, Gerard didn't even try to attack him. He just sat there and pulled on his chains, whimpering. Frank remembers a little bit of scratching and biting but nothing too bad.

Frank rubs at his wrist and the cut isn't too deep. He has a few fresh cuts on his sides, right below the ribs from when Gerard struggled to get Frank off of him but besides that, he's alright.

"Is he upstairs?" Frank asks as he gets up and jumps into his jeans. He feels like he should reward Gerard with a lengthy blowjob for being such a good little werewolf last night or maybe he could fuck him on Brian's desk if he has enough strength left in him.

"He left something like ten minutes ago. He didn't say where he was going," Bob replies, slowly getting up and dusting off his pants even though the floor isn't really dirty.

Frank doesn't like the sound of this. He doesn't like the fact that Gerard is alone out there when he should be in here with Frank, having breakfast and coffee with him. Frank got used to having Gerard all to himself and cuddle with him in Brian's stupidly small armchair. He got used to the lazy handjobs, the sloppy kissing and the naps.

"He got up, got dressed and left."

Bob shrugs and stares out the window while Frank slips on a t-shirt and a hoodie that smells like Gerard, probably because Gerard wore it for an entire week without washing it.

Frank's stomach flips and he rushes upstairs and digs out his phone from the pocket of his jacket. He tries to call Gerard but it seems like Gerard switched off his phone.

"Did he tell you anything?" he asks, slumping down on a bench, the one in the corner booth. He lies down and stares at the ceiling, his stomach clenched.

Bob sets a cup of coffee on the table and pushes a box of pastries and cookies towards Frank. "He looked really freaked out," he mutters as he joins Frank at the booth. He takes a couple of donuts and wraps them in a paper napkin. Jamia apparently likes the ones with sprinkles on them.

Frank reaches for the box on the table and grabs a white chocolate chip cookie. It's still warm when Frank takes a large bite out of it, the chocolate melting in his mouth and on his fingertips.

"I was a little late this morning and he was up really early," Bob explains, frowning when Frank licks the chocolate on his fingers. "I think he tried to get out of his chains by himself."

"Fuck."

Frank knows exactly how this feels because he's been there before.

It wasn't Bob's fault, really, but it was still one of the worst things Frank experienced. Frank doesn't like confined spaces and being tied up but he has to do it anyway, night after night so he doesn't start attacking people at random or so he doesn't eat the neighborhood pets.

He doesn't like this but it never lasts that long anyway. His werewolf self can't really complain to Bob about the handcuffs being too tight or the chains being too short.

One morning, a year or so ago, Frank woke up early and Bob was running late; something about his car not starting. Frank can be patient but his patience has limits and being tied up to a wall, naked and alone for two hours is not something he particularly enjoyed.

"I'm so sorry. Jamia-" Bob doesn't finish his sentence but Frank gets it.

Bob shouldn't have to do this every morning, five times a month. He shouldn't have to get up at the crack of dawn after only an hour or two of sleep, and leave his soon to be wife all alone and so very pregnant.

"It's not your fault," Frank says as he sits up.

"He's probably home," Bob adds after a few seconds, staring at Frank's phone as if it would make Gerard call.

"I guess."

"It might be better if we leave him alone today. I can pick him up this afternoon and get him back here before sunset," Bob offers and the knot in Frank's stomach starts untying.

"Yeah?"

"Don't worry about it. Your boyfriend isn't a moron."

Frank worries though. He doesn't get any sleep all day, skips lunch even though Jamia made him eggplant parmigiana because he's too fucking stressed out. Gerard isn't here. Frank paces around the bar for a while, dialing Gerard's number every so often, feeling more and more restless as the hours pass.

It's the middle of the afternoon when Frank finally puts on his jacket and walks out of the bar. He sends Bob a text telling him where he's going and heads for Gerard's apartment.

 

*

 

Gerard pokes at his wrists and runs his nails around the rough edges of the wounds. He winces and takes another swig of whisky, straight from the bottle. It's lukewarm now and kind of gross. He almost chokes on it and coughs, a hand clasped over his mouth.

The curtains are closed because Gerard doesn't want to see the sunset. He lies still in the dark, waiting for the hours to pass, dulling the pain with another gulp of whisky. It taste bitter but warms up his guts, making everything fade away and dissolve in a cloud of bourbon.

Gerard curls up in a ball on the floor, between the couch and the coffee table, breathing in the dust and staring at the opposite wall. There's a poster of the Empire Strikes Back tapped up there and Gerard just stares at it, his thoughts a confused jumble of Frank, blood, Han Solo, Millennium Falcon and sharp teeth.

He stays like this for hours, drinking and not doing anything much, hoping the earth will eventually swallow him if he pretends he's not here.

Gerard doesn't remember falling asleep. One moment he's counting the dust bunnies under his entertainment center and the next, he's drooling all over his cheek and his hair. He wakes up to the sound of someone pounding on his door, confused and hazy.

"Fuck off," he mumbles, his voice hoarse. He clears his throat and grabs his bottle on the floor, taking a sip of whisky to make the world stop spinning. It doesn't really help though but at least, Gerard doesn't really care if the walls are dancing around him.

The pounding doesn't stop. It intensifies to the point where Gerard thinks whoever is standing behind his door is trying to knock it off its hinges. The sound is almost deafening, making Gerard's head throb.

"I said fuck off," Gerard groans, his voice still barely audible.

The voice coming from behind the door is soft but filled with panic. "Gerard?" it says and Gerard knows it's Frank. "Please, open the door," he pleads, the pounding finally stopping.

"Fuck off," Gerard shouts and this time, his voice is loud. He crawls back up, spilling what's left of his whisky on the carpet and scrambles to his feet, still holding the empty Jim Beam bottle and swinging it back and forth. "Fuck off," he repeats, making his way to the door anyway.

"Gerard, you need to let me in now," Frank says, his voice pressing.

"Go away," Gerard mumbles, dropping the bottle in the hallway. It crashes and breaks into tiny pieces that scatter all over the floor.

"Are you okay?" Frank asks and Gerard steps on the shards of glass to get to the door. He fumbles a few seconds to unlock it and flings it open.

"Broke some glass," he replies, holding on to the door so he doesn't fall. He looks back at the broken bottle and notices a trail of blood leading to where he's standing. He didn't even feel a thing when the shards cut through his socks and the plant of his feet. He still doesn't feel anything.

"What the fuck is this?" Frank asks, shoving Gerard against the wall and pushing the door closed behind him. He touches Gerard's face, his fingers on Gerard's cheeks and asks, "Are you drunk?"

"None of your business."

Frank presses himself against Gerard, his body warm and hard. "You're my business," he says and Gerard snorts. For some reason, everything Frank says sounds ridiculous. "You need to come back to the bar now," Frank adds, looking down at the broken bottle of Jim Beam in the middle of the hallway. "I can't let you wander around your building like this."

"Can werewolves be drunk?"

"Yes," Frank replies, taking a step back, his hands pulling away from Gerard's face. "Now let's fucking go."

Frank wraps an arm around Gerard's waist and pulls him closer. It feels like they're back at the bar, back to being whatever they were before they got together, when Gerard's life was much simpler, when he was just a drunken motherfucker with trust issues and not a werewolf.

Gerard puts his hands on Frank's chest and pushes him away. He pushes him hard, as hard as he can and Frank lets him go.

"Don't touch me," Gerard shouts, sliding down the wall and crawling away from Frank. "I don't need you to fucking walk."

"I think you do," Frank says with one his stupid grins that Gerard usually loves. Today, it just pisses him off even more.

"You did this to me. You turned me into this."

Frank kneels down next to Gerard and wraps his arms around him, holding on tight. "I'm sorry," he whispers into Gerard's ear. He pulls Gerard up on his feet and swipes the shards of glass with his foot, carefully pushing them to the side. "I'm so sorry."

"Yeah. Sorry doesn't cut it, motherfucker."

Frank's mouth opens. His lips move like he's trying to say something but Gerard cuts him off.

"This," Gerard says, tugging on his t-shirt, almost strangling himself with his collar. "This is all because of you. Everything I feel is because of you. You broke me."

Frank ducks his head. The asshole can't even look into Gerard's eyes when he says, "Please, come back with me. I know how you feel but it's just tonight. You'll be feeling so much better tomorrow. I promise I'm gonna take care of you."

"You don't know how I feel, asshole." Gerard hates Frank about as much as he loves him right now. He wants to throw him against the wall and fuck him until he screams. He loves and hates every single thing about him. "I hate you," Gerard mumbles out loud.

Frank sighs and shakes his head. "You don't mean it. It's your pal Jim talking."

"No. I mean it, Frank. I hate your fucking guts and I wish I could kill you," Gerard spits out as he stumbles down the hallway, shrugging Frank off. "I bet it would fix all of my problems."

"That would make you feel better?" Frank asks, following Gerard around.

Gerard nods. "That would be a start."

"Then fucking kill me."

Frank walks to the kitchen, opens a drawer and takes a knife. He presses it against his throat and puts Gerard's hand around the handle. "Do it."

Gerard bites his bottom lip and pulls the knife away, the blade sliding off of Frank's skin, leaving a tiny red trail. He drops the knife at his feet and clenches his hands into fists. He stares at the red line on Frank's throat for a few quiet seconds and takes a swing at Frank, his knuckles cracking against Frank's jaw.

Frank doesn't move. It doesn't seem like this even hurt him. He stares at Gerard for a second and rubs his jaw.

"Are you feeling better?" he asks with a grin.

Gerard rushes over to the sink and pukes. He gets some on his hair and on his shirt but he doesn't even give a shit. The puke gets into his nose and Gerard chokes. He wipes it off with the sleeve of his shirt and pukes some more.

Then he feels a hand on his shoulder, warm and soft and just a little bit clingy. Gerard turns around and takes another swing at Frank.

This time, Frank ducks. Gerard's hand crashes against one of the kitchen cabinets and something in his knuckles cracks. He can barely feel any pain though. It's probably there, dulled by the alcohol. He pushes Frank against the kitchen counter and punches him in the chest and in the stomach, anywhere he can reach. He wants Frank to hurt so much but the blows are weak. He's worthless with his left hand.

Frank grabs Gerard by the waist and holds him tight, so tight Gerard can't breathe.

"Are you going to calm the fuck down now or do I have to knock you out?" he shouts in Gerard's face, his breath smelling like coffee. Fuck, Gerard could use a coffee right about now, if only to wash up the taste of puke in his mouth.

"Asshole." Gerard spits in Frank's face and squirms between Frank's arms, trying to get him to let go. Frank is much stronger than he looks. Gerard always noticed that but it's the first time he really gets it.

He doesn't really expect what comes next, maybe because his brain is working a little slower than usual.

Frank hits him. He pushes Gerard against the wall and punches him. His fist catches Gerard's jaw and Gerard sees stars.

Gerard falls onto his knees and sits on his heels, waiting for Frank to strike again.

Frank doesn't though. He grabs Gerard under his arms and carries him to the door. He pushes him against the wall and rubs at Gerard's sore jaw with his thumb.

"I'm sorry," he says, his voice, calm. There's something in his eyes that looks a lot like sadness but Gerard could be wrong on this one. Everything is a little bit hazy right now.

"You didn't really leave me a choice here, did you?" Frank asks with a half smile. He strokes Gerard's chin and runs a finger on Gerard's lip.

Gerard snatches Frank's wrist and pushes it away. "Fuck you."

Frank blinks. His hand slowly slides off of Gerard and his face turns pale. He chews on his bottom lip and takes a couple of steps back. "Will you come back with me?" he asks, his voice low.

Gerard doesn't say anything. He doesn't feel like talking anymore. He follows Frank, obediently stepping into a cab that takes them back to the bar.

Frank tries to grab Gerard's hand but Gerard pulls it away. He tucks it between his thighs and stares out his window so he doesn't have to look at Frank.

After tonight, all of this will be over. One more night and they are over.

 

*

 

Gerard lets Frank tie him up to the wall. He lets Frank lock him up and doesn't say anything. He doesn't even look at Frank. Gerard's right hand looks broken, swollen and his chin is bruising rapidly.

Frank hates that he had to hit him. He hates seeing Gerard like this, broken and so full of drunken rage.

If Frank could do things differently, Gerard wouldn't be here. Frank would have stopped everything after that very lousy handjob. Gerard would be upstairs right now, drinking his life away. He wouldn't be sitting next to Frank, his wrists bound tight and his hair all over his face, smelling like puke.

The sun sets and Frank doesn't even feel like saying anything. He doesn't tell Gerard the usual it's almost over that doesn't really mean a thing and doesn't help Gerard feel better. He doesn't tell him they will be alright because Frank doesn't feel like lying.

Nothing can fix them now. Telling Gerard that he loves him won't change the fact that Gerard hates him. He hates him so much that he won't even look at Frank as he starts changing.

Frank deserves everything Gerard throws at him. He's almost glad Gerard hit him. He's almost glad Gerard held that knife to his throat for just a few seconds.

Gerard attacks Frank almost right away. He turns and goes straight for Frank's throat. He pulls on his chains and sinks his teeth into Frank. The pain is sharp but it only lasts for a second.

That's the last thing Frank remembers, Gerard's teeth and the growling coming out of Gerard's throat.

When he wakes up, Frank is curled up on the sheet, alone, wrapped up in a warm blanket and a pile of clothes sitting next to him. He instinctively searches for Gerard but Gerard is already gone. His chains are dangling off the wall, bloodstained. The last thing remaining is his scent laced with blood and sweat.

Frank examines his new wounds. His shoulder is badly injured, a piece of skin and flesh missing. It hurts like a motherfucker. His head is pounding, maybe because Gerard tried to smash his skull against the cement. He doesn't really remember but it's the only explanation that fits the state of his head.

"Is everything ok with Gerard?" Bob asks when Frank joins him upstairs, pulling his t-shirt down to cover the deep cut on his stomach.

"I don't think so," Frank replies and there's a lump in his throat that he can't swallow. "Pain killers," he mumbles as he sits down at his usual booth.

"He looked really bad when I untied him," Bob says, pushing a cup of coffee under Frank's nose. "I think you guys went a little crazy on each other last night."

Bob disappears for a minute in Brian's office and comes back with a tube of aspirin. "That's all I could find," Bob says, tossing the aspirin at Frank.

Frank doesn't catch it. It hits him in the chest and bounces off his thighs before rolling off the bench. Frank bends over and picks it up, a very bad move that makes him dizzy and feel like his brain is about to leak out of his ears.

Bob sits across from Frank and watches him as Frank fails to open the tube. Frank fumbles with it and cringes. Bob snatches it from him and pops the cap open without any difficulty.

"Looks like he fucked you up pretty bad too, last night. You should see your face. You look like you lost a fight against King Kong."

Bob pours a couple of pills in Frank's hand and closes the tube back.

"I punched him," Frank mumbles into his coffee, swallowing the aspirin and grimacing as the coffee burns his tongue and his throat.

Bob doesn't say anything. He stares at Frank, probably expecting some kind of explanation.

"He hates me, Bob. He told me he hated me."

Bob rolls his eyes like it's a fucking joke and says, "Sometimes, I say stupid stuff I don't even mean when Jamia and I fight. I'm sure he didn't really mean it."

"He should hate me." Frank kicks the foot of the table and almost knocks his cup of coffee off the table. "Fuck, Bob. I hate myself for putting him through this. No one should go through this."

"You're right," Bob says, pushing a donut under Frank's nose. Frank doesn't want a fucking donut so he just pushes it back towards Bob.

"Youshouldn't be going through this either. It wasn't your fault. You know you're gonna have to stop beating yourself up for that at some point?" Bob asks with a half smile. He looks at his watch and finishes up his coffee.

He packs a couple of donuts in a paper towel for Jamia and gets up.

"I don't think I can fix this," Frank says just as Bob grabs his jacket behind the counter. "He said I broke him."

"He was drunk. You're lucky he didn't talk to you about tiny pink elephants living in the clouds."

Frank shrugs. He would have preferred pink elephants to Gerard spitting in his face.

Bob lets out a heavy sigh, like Frank is the most annoying asshole in the all the land. "You love this guy and he's proven more than once that he loves you too," he says, shoving the donuts in his jacket. "You two just need to stop acting like idiots."

Fuck. Bob is starting to sound exactly like Jamia.

"Maybe you should give him some time to breathe first and see how he feels in a few days."

Frank doesn't want to give Gerard time to breathe. He doesn't want to leave Gerard to mope around in his apartment when all Frank wants is to be with him. He wants to wrap his arms around him and kiss him until Gerard forgets everything.

"Leave him to digest all of this," Bob adds as he steps outside.

Frank finishes his coffee, smokes a cigarette he finds in Brian's secret stash, in one of his desk drawers, and heads home. He can leave Gerard a few days to recover.

 

*

 

Gerard doesn't come out of his apartment for two days. He doesn't clean up the mess he made, broken bottles, blood and puke all over the floor. He doesn't talk to Mikey and lets the battery of his phone die. He doesn't feel like talking to anyone. He doesn't answer the door when someone knocks on it. Whoever it is doesn't stick around and Gerard doesn't have the energy to run after them.

He doesn't go to see anyone about his broken hand because he's not even sure it's broken. It hurts and looks swollen but he can still use it and wriggle his fingers so he figures it will pass.

After all, he's a werewolf and werewolves heal fast. The bite marks on his neck and arms stay tender and red for a couple of days and the bruises on his body turn purple, yellow and disappear in just a few days.

He goes to work on Monday feeling somehow better. When Sarah asks him about the bruise on his chin, he tells her he fell. She seems to believe him.

There are lots of overdue projects waiting for him at his desk and Gerard drowns himself in work for the rest of the week. He skips lunch breaks and leaves the office last, bringing work with him at home.

The werewolf project is shelved and Gerard doesn't even feel sad about it. Capelli thinks Gerard's werewolves are a little too scary for children and hands him the reins of a new project, something very stupid about turtles and starfishes being in a rock band under the sea.

Gerard works on it without much passion but really, it doesn't matter. Gerard still has his job and it's the only thing he wants to focus on right now. It's a distraction that keeps him very busy for a little while.

He doesn't go back to Frank's bar. He doesn't go to another bar either. He buys a bottle of Jim Beam at a liquor store on his way back home and drinks alone in the dark every night.

Mikey drops by a couple of times and Gerard pretends everything is fine.

"That thing with Frank wasn't really that great," he says when Mikey asks him why he's not at Frank's.

Mikey gives Gerard a weird, suspicious look but doesn't poke around any further.

Gerard doesn't talk about Frank after that time because thinking about Frank hurts him even more than turning into a werewolf.

One night, he finds a post it note Frank had left in a kitchen drawer. It's just a grocery list but Gerard spends the next day in bed, staring at Frank's handwriting and cringing so hard he thinks his teeth are about to fall off.

He doesn't see Frank for two weeks. Frank calls him a few times but Gerard doesn't pick up. Frank doesn't leave messages. The only thing on Gerard voicemail is Frank's heavy breathing and the distant sound of barking, probably Peppers. Gerard listens to the message every morning and every night before he goes to bed even though it's probably not very healthy.

Gerard tries really hard to stop thinking about Frank. He tries to erase the wordless message a few times but always fails. Maybe he's not ready to let this go.

Then one Sunday afternoon, Frank shows up on Gerard's doorstep. He looks pale and thinner like he's been skipping a lot of meals.

"I didn't want to bother you or anything," he says when Gerard opens the door and lets him in.

"What do you want?" Gerard asks, sounding a little harsher than he intended and Frank's eyes widen. "I mean," Gerard starts again, his voice softer, "how are you?"

Frank rubs at the hair at the back of his neck and stares down at his shoes. "I'm ok. I just wanted to know how you were doing," he mumbles, following Gerard into the kitchen. "You don't answer your phone anymore so I was kind of worried."

"I've been busy at work," Gerard replies, picking up the row of empty Jim Beam bottles cluttering his counter and throwing them down into the bin.

"Your werewolves?" Frank smiles, just for a second. For a second, Gerard's heart flips and he wants to kiss him, something sloppy, wet and loud.

He takes a deep breath and looks away. He stares at his feet instead because they're much more interesting. "No. I'm done with the werewolves," he replies after a moment. "They weren't very popular with upper management."

Gerard's apartment looks like a war zone and smells like something crawled in and died. Maybe a rat or Miss Four F's cat. It's been missing for a few days so it's very possible its rotting corpse is hidden somewhere behind the furniture or under the floorboards.

"Oh." Frank shuffles his feet and bites down on his bottom lip. "Too bad. They were really good," Frank says, his voice earnest. He picks at the loose threads of his hoodie and finally looks up at Gerard. "I called Mikey a couple of times but he called me a douchebag and hung up on me so I figured I needed to drop by if I wanted to know how you were doing."

"I'm good," Gerard says, unconvincingly. He's not good. He doubts he can ever be good again.

Frank gives him a coy smile and leans against the counter, his hip sticking out of his ridiculously tight t-shirt. "So, hmm."

"You want coffee?" Gerard offers, grabbing two mugs from the cupboard above Frank.

"Sure."

As they wait for the coffee to brew, Gerard's coffee maker is the only sound filling the apartment. The silence is awkward and too heavy. Gerard can hear his own heart beating in his chest, fast and he can hear Frank's stomach growling.

It makes Frank giggle and Gerard grins. He missed hearing Frank's childish giggle.

Frank eventually breaks the silence when Gerard pours them some coffee.

"I was wondering if you would come to the bar for the next cycle," he says as he runs a finger on the counter, wiping off the thin layer of dust Gerard didn't have time to clean up. Frank rubs his fingers together and picks up his cup of coffee.

"I haven't thought about it yet," Gerard replies, staring into his coffee as it held the answer. "I don't even know when that is."

"Gerard." Frank puts down his coffee and sighs. "I know I fucked you up; that I broke you. I know what I did to you-"

Gerard doesn't want to hear this. He doesn't want to be angry at Frank anymore.

"Can we skip this for now?"

Frank takes a step forward and is all in Gerard's space, warmth seeping through his clothes, his breath in Gerard's face. He smells good and Gerard is sure he tastes good too. His fingers clasp around Gerard's arms and Gerard doesn't push him away.

"I love you," Frank says and he sounds desperate, urgent. "I love you and I want to take care of you."

"Frank," Gerard sighs. "I don't-" he stops.

Of course, Gerard loves Frank too. He loves him with every fiber of his being. He loves him so much that it hurts. He loves Frank but something in his head screams, He doesn't really love you. He pities you. You're his responsibility now. Nothing more. He'd really want to make this voice shut up but it sounds a little like his mom's and his mom can be very convincing.

Frank cups Gerard's cheeks with his warm, smooth hands and licks his lips. He stares into Gerard's eyes, intent and so fucking pretty that Gerard wants to let Frank kiss him. He closes his eyes for a few seconds and when he opens them, Frank hasn't moved.

"I miss you," he whispers, rubbing his fingers all over Gerard's cheeks.

Gerard might explode if he doesn't stop. He might just go for it; push Frank against the coffee maker and eat him up.

"Mikey. Mikey's gonna be here soon," Gerard says, breathless, backing up against the counter.

Frank pulls away before his lips touch Gerard's. He lets go of Gerard, his fingers trailing off his cheeks and down Gerard's neck. He clears his throat and looks at his coffee on the counter.

"Will you let me know?" he says, looking up at Gerard and tucking his hands in the pockets of his jeans, not touching his coffee. "About your plans for the next cycle?"

"I. I'll tell- I'll call you." Gerard stutters a bit. He can still feel Frank's fingers on him even though their warm pressure is long gone.

Frank just nods.

Gerard watches as Frank walks away. He grabs his coat in the hallway and heads out without a single glance back at Gerard.

That's probably all Frank wanted; just to make sure Gerard wasn't a liability. Gerard hates feeling like this, like he's a burden, like Frank only wants to be with him because of what they are.

 

*

 

Frank goes to work, comes home, sleeps for a couple of hours, snuggles up with Peppers on what's left of the couch and eats when he bothers enough to get up and go to the kitchen. Most times though, he stays in bed until it's time to go to work again, with Peppers nested between his shoulder blades, licking Frank's earlobes and whimpering whenever she needs to go relieve herself on the neighborhood trees.

He thinks about Gerard all the time. He watches Cartoon Network because he hopes he will see Gerard's name in the credits of whatever lame cartoon. He thinks about Gerard when he's tossing and turning in bed, alone, longing for Gerard's warmth and his smell, fading fast from the couch cushions and from that one pillow Frank likes to bury his face into.

Maybe Frank should have kissed him. Maybe saying I love you wasn't the right thing to do or maybe it just wasn't enough. Gerard didn't say it back so it probably means he still hates Frank.

One night, this cute guy Frank had seen before at the bar flirts with him. Frank lets him but doesn't reciprocate. The guy loses interest quickly and starts flirting with Jimmy, the kid Brian hired part time.

Frank did fuck Jimmy a while back. He remembers now because of the Kanji tattoo on the back of his neck. Frank remembers licking it while he was pounding Jimmy into a pool table.

Frank's stomach twists and then, he starts thinking about the time Gerard fucked him in the shower. It naturally leads him to think about the time he gave Gerard a blowjob in the bathtub which leads him to think about the time he almost told Gerard he loved him, that time they were taking a bath together, Gerard's arms wrapped around him, his lips pressed against Frank's neck.

It's not really late but Frank tells Bob he needs to go home. He's feeling sick and the ball in his stomach is back.

Frank doesn't go home right away though. He walks around the neighborhood and finds himself at that diner, the one with the old waitress named Ana. He stops there and grabs a cup of coffee.

He doesn't know how his life turned to shit so fast. Maybe he and Gerard burnt out their quota of happy and now they have to suffer for the rest of their lives.

Ana remembers him or at least she pretends she does. She gives him a tired smile as she pours Frank another cup of coffee and asks him if he's alright.

Frank tells her he is even though it's a lie. He decides he's not coming home tonight. Everything reminds him of Gerard everywhere he goes.

 

*

 

Gerard thinks about Frank so much it hurts to breathe. It's a couple of days before their next cycle when Gerard sends him a quick text. He doesn't really have anywhere else to go but the bar and Mikey's idea to build him a cage didn't really pan out.

"You know you're being an idiot," Mikey tells him when they're watching a very bad horror movie on SyFy. It has zombies which makes up for the lack of plot. Everything is better with zombies, Gerard decides as he watches one of the zombies bite into the neck of a douchebag and rip it apart.

"I told you I won't use your fucking cage, Mikey," Gerard eventually says when Mikey pokes him with his elbow. "I'd fucking rip your head off. You don't want that to happen, right?"

Mikey rolls his eyes and says, "I like my head where it is but I wasn't talking about my werewolf cage of awesome. Even though I think my invention is fool proof. And by fool proof I mean, you proof."

"Hey!"

"I was talking about Frank," Mikey adds with a half smile. "You're an idiot over this whole thing."

Gerard frowns. He shouldn't have told Mikey about the I love you incident. "I'm not an idiot," he protests.

"Yes you are. A stubborn, grade A idiot."

"So I'm the one to blame here? I asked to be turned into a fucking werewolf?"

Mikey cocks one of his eyebrows, giving Gerard his most disapproving/annoyed look. "No one's to blame," he replies. "Besides, I think this is pretty cool."

Gerard doesn't really see anything cool about being a werewolf. The more he thinks about it, the more he realizes it's really overrated. Fucking Hollywood.

"Can we talk about something else?" he pleads, turning back to the screen. This movie is a load of crap. There's almost no blood and the zombie attacks are kept to a minimum. Everything about this movie is so very bad that it's kind of awesome. It might be up there with the giant wasps from outer space movie in Gerard's top ten B-movies to watch with Mikey.

"No," Mikey says and Gerard sighs. He can't catch a fucking break. Mikey is lucky Gerard loves him.

"I know you think Frank only wants you around because you both turn into furry creatures for a few days a month but that's not it."

"When did you become Mikey Way, love PhD?" Gerard deadpans.

Mikey doesn't seem amused or impressed. He just keeps his blank expression, his flat tone of voice and asks, "You know Frank always loved you, right?"

Gerard hums and stares at the screen. He wishes Mikey would just eat his pizza and shut up already.

"I didn't see any other guy lining up on your doorstep to bring you soup and stay with you when you were sick."

Sometimes, Gerard wishes Mikey wouldn't be such a smartass about everything. It can be a little tiresome.

"It was soup," he says, waving dismissively. It was only soup, not a declaration of love complete with flowers and a poem or song, an Ode to Gerard's smelly pants or to his cock. "He's the reason why I was sick in the first place, remember that detail?

Mikey rolls his eyes and swats at Gerard's hand. "Stubborn doesn't look good on you. It makes your ass look fat."

"Can we shut up and watch the zombies now?"

"So disappointing." Gerard knows Mikey isn't talking about the zombies and their cheap makeup, the fake blood looking a little too much like cranberry sauce. He's not going to give up on this one so Gerard brings out the big guns.

"Shut up about Frank already or I'll tell Alicia about your secret plans to move in with her, one pair of socks at a time."

Mikey glares at Gerard and purses his lips. "You wouldn't dare."

"Watch me."

Mikey probably knows Gerard's threats are empty but he stops talking for a little while anyway.

It's too late though. Gerard keeps thinking about the way Frank held him tight when he was lying in bed and how he freaked out when he saw what he did to Gerard. Maybe he really does love Gerard. Maybe Mikey is right and Gerard is just a little stubborn. Fucking Mikey.

 

*

 

Frank doesn't really think Gerard is going to show up at the bar. Something in his stomach stirs and he's got that weird taste in his mouth that tells him he's going to go through his cycle alone and then the next one too and he's never going to see Gerard again.

Maybe Gerard found some nice and cozy cave or maybe he built himself a werewolf proof cage in his parents' basement. Maybe Mikey helped. The idea to build a cage would have been Mikey's, Frank is pretty sure of it.

Frank still doesn't believe it when he receives a text from Gerard, two days before the cycle. He stares at it for a while and tries to decipher some kind of hidden message in it. It just reads I'll be at the bar but Frank wants to think it might mean Gerard is not mad at him anymore.

Frank takes Peppers to the bar with him. He doesn't put her in her cage though because Peppers has been a tiny bit grouchy these past few days and has refused to comply. Frank carries her in his arms because he doesn't want her to strain herself by walking too much. He kisses the top of her head, right between her pointy ears as he pushes the door open and puts her down onto the floor.

She barks and manages to escape before Frank has time to grab her leash. She runs across the bar, her tiny claws clinking against the tiled floor and jumps on one of the benches, the one in the corner booth.

Jamia is there, all smiles and giggles, her belly round and her cheeks full and pink. She beckons Frank to join her. She's looking at someone on the opposite bench and smiling at them. It's probably Bob.

When Frank gets to the table, he sees it's Gerard and not Bob sitting across from Jamia, Peppers in his lap, licking his chin and trying to climb him. She probably missed him.

Frank picks her up and scratches her belly as he sits down next to Jamia.

Gerard wipes off the dog drool off his face with the sleeve of his hoodie and gives Frank a smile, the first genuine smile in so fucking long that Frank has no choice but to smile back at him.

"I invited Gerard to the wedding," Jamia announces, kind of out of the blue. "I thought he was going to be your plus one but then Bob told me you guys were being stupid, so there. He's invited."

"I don't know if I can come," Gerard says, ducking his head and picking Peppers' hair off his hoodie.

Jamia kicks Frank under the table and gives him a reproachful look that probably means, Say something, you idiot.

Then Bob walks into the bar looking like he just ran a marathon and Jamia seems to forget all about making Frank embarrass himself.

Bob puts a plastic bag full of groceries on the table and Jamia clasps her hands together.

"Pickles?" she asks and Bob digs out a jar of pickles from under all the candy.

Her face lights up like a fucking Christmas tree and she proceeds to make herself the grossest sandwich in the history of sandwiches. She puts mustard on two slices of bread, sticks a couple of pickles between them and adds a chocolate bar in the middle, flattening it between her palms.

"So, you guys," she says with her mouth full. She stops talking for a second and closes her eyes, looking like what she's eating is the most delicious thing she ever had in her mouth. "Have you talked things out?" she asks, before taking another bite of her pickle, Payday, mustard sandwich.

"Peppers is being a little difficult so I hope she doesn't eat your furniture," Frank says, not so smoothly changing the subject. "She finished my couch last week," he adds, noticing the way Gerard's lips curve into a smile.

"That's my girl," Jamia says, grinning and scratching Peppers' ears.

"If she tries to eat anything of ours," Bob grumbles, "Jamia will have to eat her."

Bob circles the booth and puts his arms around Jamia, his chin on the top of her head.

"Hey. That's insulting," Jamia protests as she tries to shrug him off but Bob holds on tight.

"I know I eat for two, three or maybe ten little Bryars but I would never eat Peppers. Look at her tiny face. She's so cute."

Jamia punctuates this by taking another bite of her sandwich and planting a mustardy kiss on Peppers' snout. Peppers doesn't seem to mind the least bit though as she tries to lick Jamia's face.

Frank snorts at the thought of ten mini-Bobs running all over the place.

"You want a bite, baby?" Jamia asks Bob, handing him what's left of her sandwich and rubbing her stomach satisfactorily.

Bob takes it and grimaces. "That's just gross," he says, untangling himself from his better half.

Jamia huffs and murmurs something into Peppers' ear. If Frank learned anything from hanging out with a pregnant Jamia is that saying no to her is next to impossible and definitely not a safe choice.

Bob glares at the sandwich for a moment before doing something even grosser than Jamia. He rummages through the plastic bag, opens the sandwich and adds a layer of onion and sour cream chips on top of the mismatched garnish of chocolate and condiments. He takes a large bite of it and hums in delight.

Jamia grins at him and snatches the sandwich back from his hands. "You're gross," she giggles and Bob licks his lips to catch the tiny crumbs of chips that are stuck there.

When Frank looks away, Gerard is staring at him. He's still smiling but it's more subtle, like he's too sad or hurts too much to give Frank a full on grin.

Frank transfers Peppers from his lap into Jamia's. He pets Peppers, kisses her head, gets up, steals a Snickers from the bag and walks away from the crowded booth. He leans against the counter for a minute, eating his chocolate bar and watching Jamia and Peppers share the gross sandwich.

Frank heads down to the cellar alone. He doesn't want to stick around upstairs with Bob and Jamia and their constant mingling in his fucking business.

It's cold in there and it's about an hour before sunset but Frank starts taking off his clothes anyway. He folds his jeans, his underwear and his shirt and hoodie into a pile and puts it at the end of the stairwell. He sits down on the sheet and notices someone had washed it. It doesn't smell like wet dog anymore but more like a flowery scent. That's the kind of things Brian does.

Bob joins him a few minutes later, closely followed by Gerard. Frank can hear Jamia's voice upstairs, which means she's either talking to Brian, Peppers or to herself. Either way, whoever she is talking to isn't very loquacious.

Frank watches as Bob goes to stand by the window. Gerard sheds his clothes, slowly and sits down next to Frank on the clean sheet. He clears his throat and Bob takes the hint.

Bob secures the restraints around Gerard's wrists first, carefully tying Gerard to the wall. Then he takes care of Frank. He gives him a weird look, something Frank has a hard time reading and says, "See you in the morning."

He climbs up the stairs and Frank can hear him lock the door.

Frank clears his throat and turns to Gerard. He opens his mouth to say something but Gerard beats him to it.

"So, I guess they think we need to talk?" he says, not sounding too sure of himself.

Frank hums in agreement and tugs on his chain as he shifts a little closer to Gerard. He sits cross-legged in front of him and rubs his wrist.

"I think I meant it," Gerard says, "what I said about hating you." His voice shakes as he wraps his chains around his wrists.

"I know," Frank mumbles. This is definitely not a good start and Frank doesn't really see any make up sex in his near future.

"I meant it at the time. I think I was just angry; really angry at you and at myself. You didn't deserve it. It wasn't your fault."

"But it was," Frank mumbles and Gerard shakes his head no.

"I have this thing about people," Gerard adds with a deep sigh. "They always tend to leave me sooner or later. I've had a few people leaving me lately. Boyfriends, family members." Gerard considers, pulling tiny pieces of dead skin from his lips.

"I won't leave you," Frank says, reaching out to touch Gerard. His fingers graze at Gerard's shoulder, fleeting.

"I know you won't now," Gerard says, shifting away from Frank. "But maybe you should. I'm sick, Frank. Being a werewolf is the least of my problems. I'm flawed and I come with some serious baggage-" He stops, takes a deep breath and looks up at Frank. "You don't need me in your life. It's already a fucking mess without me around and I would only fuck it up even more."

Frank considers punching Gerard for a second or maybe make out with him fiercely. Gerard is a moron.

"I have baggage too. We all do; but that doesn't mean I'm gonna leave you. My life might be a fucking mess but I know what I want and the fuck if I'm gonna let you decide for the both of us."

Now he's the one who's angry. He puts his free hand on Gerard's thigh and shifts closer to him, tugging on his restraints. It hurts but he doesn't care. He needs to touch Gerard. He needs to be close to him again.

"I am a burden and I fucking hate it. I'm an alcoholic," Gerard admits and Frank is pretty sure he's the first person Gerard has ever told. He stares at Frank's hand on his thigh and eventually says, "I'm also a werewolf with serious trust issues and I hate these fucking chains. But you." He takes Frank's hand and squeezes it. "You're you. You look like this is nothing; like this is easy; like you don't feel a thing."

Frank cringes. Gerard obviously doesn't know him that well. "It hurts. But having you around makes things easier, you know?"

Gerard doesn't have a come back this time.

"I meant it too," Frank adds after a minute. "The thing I said the other day about loving you. I've been meaning to say it for a while now but I never found the right moment. Stupid things like me biting you and you being a moron got in the way."

Frank waits for Gerard's answer but it never comes. Maybe he shouldn't have called Gerard a moron. The sun is setting already and just like that, Frank turns. He howls and growls at the sharp and seemingly endless pain and cries out a wordless plea.

He can see Gerard's body twisting and breaking next to him. He can hear him pant and claw at the cement.

They don't attack each other this time. Frank only remembers part of the night. He remembers Gerard biting his own wrists and he remembers jumping on Gerard and lying down on top of him and nibbling at his neck.

The morning comes and Frank is halfway on top of Gerard when he wakes up; his face pressed on Gerard's spine and one arm wrapped around Gerard's chest. He lifts up his head and plants a kiss on Gerard's damp skin, in the crook between his shoulder blades.

Gerard moans sleepily and Frank plants another kiss on the small of Gerard's back before sitting up on the sheet, shivering in the cold air of the cellar.

A minute later, Gerard rolls around onto his back and stares up at Frank for a little while before tugging on his chains to sit up. He manages to lever himself up, groaning and tilting his head back against the wall. He's bruised all over and there's some dry blood on his neck and on his chest and one of his wrists looks really fucked up.

Frank doesn't remember inflicting any of these wounds to Gerard. He runs a finger on Gerard's cuts, wishing he could kiss them all better. Maybe he can do this later when they're not chained up to a fucking wall.

Neither of them speaks for what seems forever even though they still have a discussion to finish. Frank thinks opening his mouth might ruin their moment of whatever this is, and there's always the risk of Gerard spitting in his face again.

Bob is late today. Maybe the asshole is doing this on purpose because keeping them locked up and naked might be the only way to get Gerard to talk to Frank. That or Bob's stupid car is acting up again. Frank only hopes Gerard is not going to freak out this time. He doesn't really know how to appease Gerard.

Gerard doesn't move from where he's sitting and he doesn't seem panicked or angry. He stares down at Frank's hand for a while before looking up, out the window. The sun is out this morning and it looks like it's going to be a nice day, the first of the season. Frank wishes he could be outside and let the sun warm up his bones, walk down the street with Peppers' leash in one hand and Gerard's in the other.

Maybe it's the way Gerard looks, all hot and bothered, with his hair covering half of his face, his lips red and open or maybe it's because Frank missed the shit out of him but Frank gets really hard, really fast. He can't even hide it because he's fucking naked. Even though the cellar is cold, he's feeling like he's burning up, his skin covered in sweat, vibrating as he strokes Gerard's chest.

"Shit," Frank mumbles, his fingers trailing off of Gerard to hide his hard on under his hand.

Gerard turns around. When he gets up and stands there in front of Frank, staring at Frank's dick, he looks sort of confused, like he's not sure what to do with this. He might not be ready to deal with this yet.

Frank thinks that maybe, Gerard is going to leave. Of course, he can't really leave, not when he's still tied up to the wall but he can stand as far away from Frank as possible and let Frank take care of his own boner like a fucking douchebag.

Frank gets up after a second and reaches out to touch Gerard. He tentatively puts his free hand around Gerard's waist and rubs his thumb over Gerard's hipbone.

Gerard shudders. He looks at Frank's hand and then up again. Then he takes a couple of steps forward and kisses Frank. He just goes for it, all tongue and teeth and heavy breathing. He kisses Frank and tugs on his chains so hard that they snap and clatter and Frank is pretty sure he sees blood trickling on Gerard's wrists. He whines and moans and Frank pushes him against the wall, kissing him back, hard and desperate.

Frank is panting by the time he pushes against Gerard and rubs his dick all over Gerard's thighs. Frank needs this. It's been too long. He wants to tell Gerard how much he missed him but the way he's humping Gerard's leg might be a dead giveaway. Words are overrated anyway.

They've been kissing for a minute or two when Frank sinks down to his knees. His fingers latch around Gerard's dick and he gives a couple of quick tugs before taking Gerard inside his mouth.

The taste on his tongue is familiar, that bitter and salty tang of Gerard he can't ever get enough of. He sucks and licks and strokes while Gerard comes undone.

There's something desperate in the way he moans and pulls on his restraints. Frank knows the fact that Gerard can't touch him is probably frustrating as hell and it makes Frank giggle. He loves this; the thought that he is the one in control and that Gerard is his, compliant, vulnerable and so very pretty.

When Gerard pushes inside Frank's mouth, Frank pulls away and grins.

Gerard whines and thrusts forward, his dick rubbing against Frank's cheek and leaving a wet trail on Frank's hot skin. He thrusts one more time and pulls on his chains, twisting them around his wrists, making them even shorter.

"Please." Gerard's voice is rough.

Frank gets up and presses his mouth against Gerard's, muffling the sounds escaping Gerard's throat. He licks at Gerard's open lips, and Gerard licks back, their tongues dancing together.

This feels really good, so good that Frank could come just like this. Frank's knees shake when Gerard rubs his dick over Frank's. He thrusts up and the chains clatter loudly.

Frank takes a step back and Gerard lets out a tiny frustrated groan.

Frank is enjoying this way too much. He really hopes Bob is going to take all the time in the world to get here. Fuck. He almost wishes Bob doesn't show up at all today. There are worst things than being tied up in a cellar all day with Gerard, all needy and hot.

"Frank," Gerard whines, and Frank starts working on his own dick, stroking it to the messy rhythm of Gerard's breath.

After a while, he switches to Gerard's dick because he's not really that big of a jerk and Gerard arches into the touch.

The sound Gerard makes when Frank starts building up the pace is kind of ridiculous and so fucking sexy at the same time, like he's about to die or choke, a high pitched, muffled squeak that Frank has never heard before in a human being.

Then there's the sound of a door upstairs but Gerard moans just a little louder and Frank isn't really sure he heard something anymore. He lets go of Gerard's dick for a few seconds, using his hand to cover Gerard's mouth instead. He goes back to humping the shit out of Gerard while he listens, waiting for the cellar door to open. Any second now and Frank will have a very bad case of the blue balls until he can drag Gerard to Brian's office and fuck him on every surface he can find.

But the door doesn't open and Frank doesn't hear any sound besides the one Gerard makes as he tries to bite Frank's hand, snarling and licking at Frank's palm.

Frank removes his hand from Gerard's mouth and puts it on Gerard's shoulder, urging him to get on his knees without even using actual words.

Gerard obediently kneels down in front of Frank, his hands held up high over his head and useless, clasping helplessly at the restraints.

There's tongue on the tip of Frank's dick and then there's Gerard's mouth, his lips closing around Frank. Gerard hums as he starts sucking, his head bobbing, his cheeks hollowed, and Frank can feel it all the way up his spine, like a surge of electricity.

Gerard's pace is slow and lazy. He stares up at Frank and then proceeds to swallow around Frank's dick, taking him in his throat and mumbling, gurgling, making a mess of spit and precome on his lips and on his chin.

Frank doesn't want to push but he can't help himself. Gerard's mouth is hot and wet and Frank fucking needs to come soon, before they're interrupted. He thrusts, his hips snapping and his free hand tangled up in Gerard's hair, his fingers pulling on it, ruffling it.

He's pretty sure he's growling like a fucking animal when Gerard uses just a little too much teeth. Frank slides out of Gerard's mouth and kneels down in front of him.

"Fuck, Gerard," Frank says, a little out of breath. He wants to tell Gerard they should be doing this all the time. They should make this a tradition, every time they're locked down here. That's too many words though and Frank's brain is not functioning properly. "All the time," he only manages to gasp and Gerard grins at him.

Gerard licks at his lips and pants, his pupils blown and his hair a fucking clumpy mess. Frank is pretty sure Gerard was made for porn. His tongue flicks inside Frank's mouth and Frank moans. He can taste himself, just a hint of salt on Gerard's tongue.

Something Frank is sure of is that he's going to die if he doesn't fuck Gerard, right here, right now, up against the wall. He's going to explode and Bob will only find tiny pieces of him scattered about the room when he gets here.

Frank pulls away and crawls back up on his feet. He pants and grabs his dick, stroking it for a few seconds. His hand moves effortlessly around the slick shaft. He's fucking ready for this.

Gerard looks up and kisses the tip of Frank's dick. He's about to put it back in his mouth, that look of deep concentration Gerard always has on his stupid face before he goes down on Frank, when Frank grabs Gerard's shoulder and says, "I want to fuck you."

Gerard smiles, lopsided and beautiful and gets up. He plants a quick kiss on Frank's chin and tugs on his chains to stroke Frank's cheeks, his fingers so cold on Frank's burning hot skin.

Frank spits in the palm of his hand and gives himself a nice and easy handjob while Gerard stares at him, his dick twitching, probably needing immediate attention.

Frank smirks as he lets go of his dick and pushes a finger inside Gerard's mouth. He adds another one and then another one until Gerard spits them out with a tiny wet noise. He gives Frank a weird smile, looking kind of creepy, and pulls on his chains once more.

As soon as Frank's fingers are out of Gerard's mouth, Frank flips Gerard around with a flick of his wrist and pushes him against the wall.

"Cold," Gerard says, squirming against Frank's hand pushing on the small of his back.

Frank can't really do anything about that. The wall is the only available surface right now. Frank doesn't apologize because it's not his fault and pulls Gerard's legs apart with his knees. He presses himself against Gerard's back and licks at Gerard's bruised neck.

Gerard looks over his shoulder and Frank kisses his jaw before pulling away.

He starts slow because he doesn't want to hurt Gerard. He slides one finger inside Gerard and pushes it up to his knuckle, stirring it a little until he feels Gerard tense around him.

Gerard pushes back like he needs more and Frank adds another finger and then another. He is already four fingers deep inside Gerard by the time Gerard begs him to stop, struggling against his restraints.

Frank's fingers pop out of Gerard one by one with a wet noise and are immediately replaced by Frank's dick.

When Frank pushes in the first time, Gerard is still a little tight. Frank slides in and out, starting very slowly and then progressively going faster and pushing harder, watching Gerard yank on his chains and mutter curses under his breath. He groans with every thrust and tilts his head back, putting it on Frank's shoulder, exposing his neck.

Frank curls his fingers around Gerard's throat and leaves them there, not really squeezing. He can feel every groan, vibrating against his fingers; every moan, every scream Gerard holds back.

It's probably one of the hottest things they've ever done, up there on Frank's list with that time they played with every food item in Gerard's pantry, making a mess out of themselves with peanut butter and grape jelly. There will be less cleaning up to do afterwards.

It might also be the single most amazing sex Frank ever had with anyone. Maybe he should buy some chains they can use at home. It's so amazing that Frank speeds up and pounds Gerard against the wall like he's trying to fucking break it, his rhythm getting too fast for him to breathe.

They've been at it for a while now when Frank lets go of Gerard's neck and goes for Gerard's dick. He pulls out of Gerard after a couple of deep thrusts and flips him once more, Gerard's back against the wall.

When Frank kisses him, Gerard's bottom lip is bleeding, probably because he bit it a little too hard. Frank licks it and Gerard laughs. Frank tightens his hold on Gerard's dick until Gerard starts cursing again. He says fuck about a hundred times and sometimes, it even sounds like he's trying to say Frank's name.

Frank grabs his own dick and strokes them both at the same time while his other hand, still bound and sore is stroking Gerard's wrists, prodding at the edges of the wound.

Gerard comes first with a loud growl. His eyes roll back and he bites down on Frank's shoulder, barely stifling the sound coming out of his mouth.

Frank keeps stroking and doesn't stop until he's coming too, spilling into his own hand and spreading spunk all over their dicks, their stomachs and their thighs.

"Wow," Gerard pants before planting a kiss on Frank's sore shoulder.

Frank doesn't really what to say to that so he shuts the hell up. He lets go of their dicks and kisses Gerard. It's a small, kind of lazy kiss; all Frank can muster and Gerard giggles in Frank's mouth.

They're both slowly coming down, their lips touching, their breaths labored, when Frank falls to his knees, his legs no longer carrying him. He slumps down onto the floor, boneless and pretty much exhausted and grabs a corner of the sheet to clean up.

Gerard joins him a few seconds later, sitting down a little more gracefully, his cheeks red and his hair stuck to his face. He untangles himself off his chains and lies down on the floor, only a few feet away from Frank.

"Wow," he repeats just as Frank is about to go into a sex induced coma. Then Gerard whispers, "I missed you."

Frank rolls onto his stomach and crawls between Gerard's legs, grinning up at him. "I've missed the crap out of you too," he says and his voice sounds really hoarse.

Gerard grins back and Frank manages to pull himself up to Gerard's crotch. He hooks his chin there, Gerard's pubes kind of rough against his skin and Gerard's dick still wet against Frank's throat.

Frank isn't sure what's going to happen now. He doesn't know if this was just a random fuck and if Gerard is going to disappear on him in four days. He doesn't know if Gerard even likes him anymore.

"In case you were wondering," Gerard says after a few seconds of silence. "I love you too."

Frank lets out a heavy sigh and Gerard wriggles under him, giggling and wincing as he yanks on his chains. Frank sighs again, just because he likes what it does to Gerard and lays his head on Gerard's stomach. He closes his eyes and plants one last kiss on Gerard's skin before giving in to sleep.

 

*

 

Gerard is still recovering, half asleep and pretty much fucked out when he feels Frank crawling on top of him. He opens his eyes, his head foggy with sleep and Frank is staring at him with half lidded eyes.

They're still tied up and Bob is still late. If Frank wasn't obscenely pretty this morning, Gerard would try to break free of his chains but right now, he's not ready to move a muscle.

"Hey," Frank says with a grin. He licks his lips and then his mouth smears all over Gerard's damp skin, over his chest and his neck. Then he starts licking Gerard all over like he's a human Popsicle and Gerard can't really say he's not enjoying this.

"Hey," Gerard replies, shivering, the sweat on his skin, cold and sticky. "Where's Bob?"

Frank shrugs like he doesn't care and starts kissing Gerard again, licking the beads of sweat off of his arms. He growls and nibbles on Gerard's shoulder, sinking his teeth lightly before sucking a new bruise onto Gerard's neck.

Gerard is going to have a hard time hiding this one from Mikey and Sarah. He can always pull off the old Gryffindor scarf trick.

Frank is working on yet another hickey when Gerard looks up at his wrists and realizes they're bleeding. He probably shouldn't have let Frank fuck him against the wall like this. These will prove to be a little more difficult to cover up than a couple of hickeys.

Gerard winces as he tries to touch Frank. He reaches out for him, tries to run a hand through Frank's hair but Frank is too far away.

Frank abandons the hickey in progress in Gerard's neck and licks a path down Gerard stomach, his tongue lingering on the cuts and bruises. Then, he's licking Gerard's throat again, planting kisses everywhere.

When he pulls away, Frank grins at Gerard and shifts further on top of him until he's practically sitting on Gerard's chest. His right arm is at a weird angle behind him, like Frank's shoulder is dislocated. He doesn't seem in any pain though as he straddles Gerard and giggles.

Frank is not too heavy so Gerard doesn't mind. He doesn't mind when Frank starts licking at Gerard's wrists either. Actually, it feels pretty good.

Frank takes his time, licking and kissing the wounds, the tip of his tongue sliding under the metal of the cuffs, soothing. Frank moans like he's enjoying this and Gerard shuts his eyes. He bites his bottom lip to muffle a groan. When he opens his mouth, Frank's mouth is there to cover it within seconds, the coppery taste of his own blood on Frank's lips.

They're making out as if there was no tomorrow when the cellar door finally opens. It creaks and Gerard hears footsteps down the stairs.

Frank gasps and breaks away, sliding off of Gerard's chest and covering his cock with his free hand because, fuck, he's hard again.

Bob climbs down the stairs slowly, letting Gerard plenty of time to sit up and hide his own hardening cock, pulling the sheet in his lap.

Bob doesn't bother to throw a blanket on top of them. He kneels down and unties them quickly, without a word. He starts with Gerard, unlocking the heavy bolts and dumping a pile of relatively clean clothes in his lap.

Gerard is pretty sure he hears him snort when Bob sets Frank free. He probably saw them. He probably heard them too. It's not like they've been all that quiet this morning. Gerard knows that he should feel embarrassed but somehow, he's not.

They get dressed while Bob goes back up the stairs. They giggle like idiots and make out for a little while even though they know Bob is within earshot.

Frank's fingers are on him as Gerard climbs up the stairs. Frank even gives Gerard a gentle slap on his backside before sliding his hands into Gerard's back pockets.

"I'm sorry I was so late," Bob says when they finally crash onto the bench, huddling themselves together in a corner. He doesn't sound convincing at all, probably because of the smirk on his face.

"How late are you, asshole?" Frank asks, his fingers skimming past the hem of Gerard's hoodie.

Gerard tries really hard no to moan or to come in his pants, biting the inside of his cheek and grabbing the box of pastries Bob got for them so as to keep his fingers occupied.

"Two, maybe three hours," Bob replies as he sits down across from them and pushes a couple of coffee mugs in their direction.

Gerard bites down on his donut, thinking how he's getting really tired of eating the same thing when he's at the bar. Maybe he should convince Bob and Frank that Frankenberry is the only valid breakfast option. Frank would be really easy to convince.

"Did humping like bunnies help patch you up?" Bob asks just as Gerard is halfway through his donut. Bob chuckles and Frank squirms in his seat like he's trying to kick Bob under the table.

Gerard is not really embarrassed, just surprised Bob even talks about it. Gerard opens his mouth, trying to come up with something to say and almost chokes on his donut, a tiny lump of pastry going the wrong way. He coughs and washes it down with a sip of hot coffee.

When he turns to Frank, Frank is already staring at him like he needs Gerard's help. Maybe he doesn't know where they stand now and Gerard isn't sure he does either.

Gerard smiles and takes Frank's hand under the table and squeezes it lightly as he replies, "Yeah. All patched up."

"Hot sex fixes pretty much everything, Bob," Frank adds with a shit eating grin that only he can manage to turn into something so charming. "Especially when there are chains involved."

Bob goes bright red which looks really weird on him since he's really blond and pale and very much like a Viking. But he smiles and clears his throat.

"Jamia will swing by for lunch," he says, moving on to another, less embarrassing subject. "You can tell her all about you sexcapades."

"Did she put you up to that?" Frank asks, rubbing his thumb over the cut on Gerard's wrist. Gerard sucks in a breath and Frank pulls Gerard's hand from under the table and plants a tiny kiss on the wound.

Bob ducks his head and starts rambling about how he and Jamia decided to hire Ray and the Matts to play at their wedding reception.

Ray's band. It's been a while since Gerard spoke to Ray. Maybe it's time Gerard patched things up with him. too. Although sex is pretty much out of the question this time.

Frank bounces up and down on the bench and turns to Gerard, his grin wide and happy. He's almost squeaking when he says, "You should see that guy Ray. The stuff he does fucking blows my mind."

Gerard quietly laughs when Frank tells Bob, "You gotta ask him to play some Otis. Maybe Try A Little Tenderness."

Gerard loves when Frank gets all passionate about something. He watches him and listens to him talk for a while, his heart beating a little faster every time Frank's fingers brush over Gerard's skin.

 

*

 

"We want a couch, not a fucking chair," Gerard says, as Frank flips through the pages and points at this really cool armchair that looks perfect for some afternoon snuggling by the TV. It's bigger than the one in Brian's office but it has that footrest thing Frank really likes. Frank can already see them fool around in that chair.

"But it looks just so comfy, Gerard," Frank whines as Gerard turns the page. "You could sit on me and it could be our make out chair."

"We should get the loveseat instead. It goes with your carpet," Gerard says, ignoring Frank's attempt at being cute.

Frank pouts. He pulls his finger out of the catalog and lets Gerard take over the turning of the pages.

"Do we need a new coffee table?" Frank asks. The one he's eyeing would be perfect to replace his old one. It's not broken or anything; just old and it might not survive another day of let's fuck on some random piece of furniture.

"No," Gerard says with a sigh. "Your coffee table goes with your carpet and with the loveseat we're getting."

Shopping for new furniture isn't as fun as Frank thought it would be. Gerard can be a little bit bossy about interior decoration. Actually, he's a little bossy about a lot of things, like where Frank puts Gerard's art supplies when Frank is trying to clean up the apartment. Since Gerard got sober, he's a little more everything and Frank really likes that new side of him.

"We need a desk for you though," Frank says, thinking about the current state of his living room.

Gerard turns the page and mumbles, "I'm good."

Since Gerard moved in, Frank's living room floor has been cluttered with sketches, paintings, pages and pages of graphic novel in progress. Frank doesn't really mind because it turns him on when he watches Gerard work. He lies down on his stomach, in the middle of the living room and just watches Gerard draw.

The sounds and the smells are soothing. They're so soothing that sometimes, Frank falls asleep. There's something about the smell of paint and the way Gerard's fingers move about the paper that gets Frank every time. When he wakes up, Gerard is still working. Sometimes, Gerard draws Frank and sometimes, he draws on Frank.

"Don't need a desk," Gerard says as he buries his face in the crook of Frank's neck.

"You need a place to work on your graphic novel and this is the shit, ok?" Frank says excitedly.

The desk isn't really cheap but Frank could take a second job to pay for it. They're a little short on cash since Gerard quit his day job to pursue his dream of publishing his very own comic book about gay time-traveling werewolves.

Frank is pretty confident that in less than a year, Gerard will have made it big time.

"You can put your pencils here and you can sit your ass down on this awesome chair," he continues, pointing at random items on the double pages of the catalog and imagining what they would look like in his living room. Maybe they could put the desk in their bedroom and Frank could watch Gerard work from the bed.

"We're on a tight budget," Gerard says, looking up at Frank and planting a quick kiss on the underside of his jaw. "It's not like I'm making a lot with my art."

"Fine. No desk for you," Frank huffs. He snatches the catalog back from Gerard's hands and flips the pages a little faster.

Gerard nuzzles at his neck and his fingers skid around on Frank's chest, under the duvet.

"We do need a new lamp, though," Frank says with a sigh. That's something they can actually afford.

"Do we?" Gerard asks, knocking the catalog away from Frank's hands and climbing into his lap.

He leans over and kisses Frank. Every flick of Gerard's tongue turns Frank into a useless, boneless idiot. Frank twists his hands into Gerard's shirt and in his hair and pulls.

Frank forgets about whatever they were doing just a minute ago, at least for a little while, until Gerard breaks the kiss and sits back on his side of the bed.

"Why do we need new stuff anyway?" he asks when Frank picks up the catalog again.

Frank finds the page with all the lamps again and browses through them. "We need stuff because we do, ok?"

They really need a new couch because Peppers ate her way through the old one and replacing it with Gerard's barf scented couch is out of the question. Frank made Gerard throw it away along with his moth eaten rugs when they decided living together was the only way to go.

They did keep Gerard's coffee maker because Gerard can get very serious about his coffee. It's actually Gerard's job to make it every morning before he starts working. He doesn't let Frank get anywhere near his machine. Frank's boyfriend might be a freak but his coffee is the best ever. It's even better than Bob's.

Peppers jumps up onto the bed just as Frank shifts into Gerard's lap and slides a hand down Gerard's pajama pants. She can be a real cock-blocking bitch sometimes.

Frank lets go of Gerard and sits up in bed. Peppers climbs into his lap and paws at his t-shirt, trying to climb up Frank's chest to lick at his face. Frank lifts her up and blows a raspberry on her tummy.

Next to him, Gerard snorts.

"Why a lamp?" Gerard asks when Frank puts Peppers onto Gerard's pillow. She curls up in Gerard's hair and Gerard reaches up to pet her.

Frank lies back down. He pulls Gerard's hair on top of Peppers, making her a comfy hair blanket. He giggles when Gerard gives him one of his I'm not amused look. Gerard tucks his hair back under his head and slides closer to Frank, abandoning his pillow to use Frank's instead.

"Remember how you broke the one on my nightstand while we were trying the Piledriver?" Frank says, giggling.

Gerard lets out a tiny laugh and plants a kiss in the crook of Frank's neck. "We should buy a cheap one so I can break it too."

Frank is almost at the end of the catalog when he gets to a section that has pictures of cribs, mobiles and playpens with tiny dogs or squids on them.

"Oh shit. They have baby stuff," he says, pushing the catalog under Gerard's nose. Then he shakes Gerard's shoulder and makes him look up. "Gerard, they have all this awesome shit for babies."

Gerard hums and pushes the catalog away from his face. "Too expensive and too ugly."

"We need to get something for mini-Bob. I'm still fighting for the title of Godfather," Frank says and Gerard looks up at him. He grins and plucks the catalog from Frank's fingers.

"I was thinking about making them a mobile," Gerard mumbles before planting a kiss on Frank's shoulder.

Gerard is already painting the nursery, trading his usual creepy and gory for bunnies and puppies.

He throws the catalog over his shoulder and Peppers' head shoots up. She stares at the catalog for a second, looks at Frank and then back at the catalog. Then she puts her head back down on Gerard's pillow and shuts her eyes.

"Are we going anywhere today?" Frank asks, closing his eyes and running his fingers through Gerard's hair.

Gerard mumbles something about Frank's tuxedo needing a touch up before Bob's wedding but Frank chooses to ignore it.

Frank prefers to skip the humiliation of having to get a child size tuxedo re-cut for him. He might as well lie in bed all day with his hot boyfriend and their dog.

Now, he's sure that it doesn't get any better than this.