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To Steal a Kiss From Borrowed Lips

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Gerard traces his finger against the window, doodling symbols in the steamed-up glass. Outside, the snow swirls down in thick clumps, glistening under the orange light of the streetlights.

“You got any New Year’s resolutions?” Ray asks.

Gerard makes a face. “Not really. I always try to make some, but then I don’t keep any of them.”

“So what are you failing to do this year?” Ray jokes. He unwinds his scarf and tosses it down on the table along with his snow-covered gloves. “I said I was gonna start being more generous, so. I’m getting a head start.”

Gerard draws in a deep, happy breath. “The world doesn’t deserve you,” he says. The air is heavy with the scent of coffee and the warm, cozy aura of tiny cafes; his own personal heaven on Earth.

“Just don’t expect me to start buying you the crazy fancy ones with the whipped cream and charisma shots,” Ray says with a grin. “I’m not trying to feed your addiction. It’s bad enough that we’re here in the evening.”

Gerard huffs and turns to watch the baristas at work. The nice one, Brendon, is fixing up something magical. Golden sparks flutter down from his fingertips and sink into a foam-topped drink. Every single time Gerard comes into the shop, he asks Brendon to show him a few tricks, but he’s always met with laugh and a rejection. Fucking mages with their cool powers and their secrets.

Brendon scoops up the drink, leans over the counter, and calls, “Chai latte with a motivation shot for Ray!”

Ray hops up. “Oh, so I can’t get the magic shots, but you can?” Gerard asks, tagging after Ray.

“You and magic don’t mix well,” Ray says. “Remember the time you put an attraction spell on your jacket to get Frank to - “

“And then he just ended up stealing the jacket, yeah. I remember,” Gerard says dryly. He’s never claimed to be an expert mage. It’s probably a good thing he didn’t make the romantic element strong enough, anyway; love spells are supposed to be super unreliable.

“Maybe that should be your New Year’s resolution,” Ray suggests, taking a sip of his latte. “Getting better at magic. Or asking Frank out.”

Gerard winces. “Either of those things would take a miracle.”

“Not a miracle, just practice. And a little confidence.” Ray nudges him. “I bet he’d say yes. You should do it at the party Monday night, kick the new year off with a bang.”

Gerard looks away. The whole Frank situation is… complicated. Gerard’s been crazy about him for a year now, but he has no idea how Frank feels. He’s gay, so there’s at least a little potential there, and he is pretty touchy, but then again, that’s just how he is. And he’s out of his league, anyway.

“Don’t get yourself down about it,” Ray says kindly. “I’m sure it’ll all work out eventually.”

“Maybe,” Gerard says. He knows it’s stupid, he’s just getting himself worked up over nothing, but he can’t let it go.

Brendon scoots over to his side of the counter. “I’m hearing the subtle tones of a Gerard mopefest,” he says. “What’s up, man? You need a pick-me-up?”

Gerard gives him a small smile. “Nah, just the usual. Thanks, though.”

Brendon grins. “Aw, don’t give me that. What is it this time? Did somebody mischaracterize Batman again?”

“No,” Gerard says. It comes out a little sharper than he meant it to. “It’s none of your business, okay? It’s just… personal.”

Brendon backs off at once. “Okay, okay. Sorry,” he says, raising his hands in a gesture of peace. “I’ll just finish this up for you. Hope you feel better soon.” He smiles again, a little hopeful - the face Gerard can’t help but forgive - and goes back to his work.

Ray opens his mouth to say something, but Gerard silences him with a glare. He’ll feel better in a minute, but only if people don’t keep reminding him that he’s living in unrequited hell.

“Caramel macchiato for Gerard!” Brendon calls. He leans over and presents it with a flourish.

Gerard takes it and returns to his table with Ray. “You know what?” Ray says lightly, sitting down across from him. “I think this year’s gonna be great. All you have to do is make a decision to enjoy it.”

Gerard isn’t going to respond to that. He takes a sip of his drink. It’s actually… really fucking good. He drinks down about a quarter of it in one go. He didn’t realize how long it’d been since he’s had good coffee - since yesterday, at least. It warms him from within, stirring a glimmer of happiness in his chest.

Maybe Ray’s right. Even with Gerard’s mess of a love life, maybe this year won’t be so bad.

***

Gerard’s alarm clock beeps rapidly. He groans and slaps it until it shuts up. It’s a fucking Saturday, he doesn’t even need to be awake until, like, noon. He must’ve forgotten to turn it off yesterday.

Just as he’s pulling his blankets back up again, a dog starts yapping at the top of its lungs. Motherfucker. If the neighbors got a chihuahua, Gerard’s seriously going to die. The husky was bad enough.

There’s a skittering sound, and a small weight lands on his legs. Gerard jerks and sits up. A fluffy orange dog sits at the foot of his bed, tail wagging frantically. It barks at him.

“Hi,” Gerard says blankly. “Where the hell did you come from?”

He wraps the blanket around his shoulders and slowly gets up. The little fuzzball keeps looking at him, its tongue hanging out in a doggie smile. “Mikey?” Gerard calls, not looking away from it. “Did you get a dog without telling me?”

There’s no response. Maybe he forgot to close the door when he left the apartment, and that’s how it got in?

Gerard pads out into the living room and stops short.

This is not his apartment.

His head spins with disorientation. He definitely went to sleep in his own bed; how the fuck did he get here? The setup does look familiar, though. It takes him a moment to place why.

This is Frank’s place. It has to be. The layout is right, and the record player, and the rug on the living room floor. Now that Gerard thinks of it, the dog looks an awful lot like the one Frank always shows him pictures of, too.

That’s one mystery solved. The only remaining question is, once again - how the fuck did he get here?

He runs through a list of possible explanations. He fell asleep watching Daredevil last night, and he hadn’t touched a drink, so alcohol-induced amnesia is out. He’s never been a sleep-walker, either. Really, there aren’t a lot of ways he could’ve gotten here.

Unless it was magic.

It must’ve been a transport spell. Gabe always plays pranks around April Fool’s; it shouldn’t come as a surprise if he’s expanded his repertoire to include New Year’s. If today were a weekday, Gerard would’ve been pissed, but he has the day off. There’s no harm done, really.

“Frank?” he calls out. “You home?”

There’s no response. Fuck. Gerard’s going to have to get a ride home from Mikey, then. He reaches into his pocket for his phone, but comes up empty.

Panic jolts through him. He checks the other side, then his back pockets, but his phone isn’t there. Maybe he left it on the bed. Gerard takes a deep breath, making his way back to the bedroom. Yeah. It probably just fell out while he was sleeping.

He goes and searches through the covers. Sure enough, there’s a phone buried beneath them - but it’s not his. It’s Frank’s. So even if Gerard could call him, Frank wouldn’t be able to respond.

Gerard keeps looking through the bed, panic beginning to rise within him once more. He doesn’t really need to call Mikey, he can make it home on his own, but he can’t leave without his phone. If it’s not here, he’ll have to search the rest of the apartment.

He goes through the living room and the kitchen with no luck. Shit, shit, shit. Gerard tries the bathroom door, and it swings open. He searches by the sink, the cabinet, the shower. Nothing.

He glances up at the mirror, and his heart flies out his chest.

Instead of his own face staring back at him, he’s met with Frank’s. Gerard stays frozen. Mirror-Frank looks mildly petrified, his sort-of mohawk sticking up at every angle. Gerard touches a finger to his cheek, and mirror-Frank does the same.

“Motherfucker,” Gerard breathes. His voice is lower than it should be. It even feels different, vibrating at a different frequency in his throat.

If it wasn’t certain before, it sure as shit is now: there’s magic at work here. But Gerard can’t think of anyone who’d prank him like this. But it’s not even just him, is it? If he’s in Frank’s body, then where’s Frank?

Fuck.

Gerard takes Frank’s phone from his pocket. It recognizes his - Frank’s - thumbprint and unlocks with a click. Mikey’s number is saved at the top of his contacts.

The phone rings once, twice, and Mikey’s voice says, “Hello?”

“Hey,” Gerard says. “How much do you know about body swap curses?”

***

“This is the weirdest fucking thing that’s ever happened to me,” says Frank.

Gerard nods vigorously. He can’t stop looking at himself - at Frank? God, this is going to get confusing fast. Based on the way Frank’s been staring at him for the past ten minutes, he must be going through something similar.

The thing is, he doesn’t appear anything like Gerard would expect. He’s seen himself in the mirror every day of his life, but there’s something different about this, about being able to see his own body from the outside. His face is rounder than he thought it was. His voice is higher. It’s like looking at the person he knows best in the world, except they’re a total stranger.

“You know what’s weird?” Frank asks, frowning into his cup of coffee. “This tastes, like, so much fucking better to you. That’s not fair.”

“That explains a lot,” says Mikey, his spoon making a tink sound as he stirs it around his mug. He’s barely said anything this entire time.

Gerard squints at him. “Do you not think this is weird at all?”

“No, it definitely is. But you two were weird anyway.”

Gerard sighs. That’s his brother for you. “We need to figure out who did this,” he says. “Frank, have you pissed anybody off lately?”

Frank shakes his head. “I don’t even know any mages. It’s gotta be on you, dude.”

“But nobody I know would do this.” Gerard takes a drink of coffee and makes a face. Frank’s right, it does taste different. Not bad, exactly, but different. Frank’s taste buds are weird. “I guess the most important thing is figuring out how to reverse it,” he says. “I can’t show up to work like this.”

“You’ve got a right to disability leave,” Mikey reminds him. “Curses are covered. Remember the time Pete got hexed? He probably could’ve worked, but they gave him two weeks off, and he got paid the whole time. You can just stay home until we figure out how to fix this.”

“But what am I supposed to do?” Frank demands. “Gerard can’t play guitar for shit, I can’t go to band practice as him!” He glances at Gerard and says, “No offense.”

“None taken,” Gerard says.

Mikey rubs at his eyes behind his glasses. “I guess we go to the one person we know who has any intel on curses.”

***

“A body swap, huh?” Lindsey says, interested. She leans against the doorframe, looking back and forth between the two of them. “That’s not exactly an everyday curse. Do you know who did it?”

Gerard shakes his head. “At this point, we’re just trying to get back to normal.”

“Preferably as soon as possible,” Frank mutters. “Your hair keeps getting in my eyes.”

“That’s why it’s usually mine and not yours,” Gerard mutters back.

Lindsey smiles widely. “Oh my God, that’s hilarious,” she says. “And weird. See, that’s such a Gerard expression, but on Frank’s face? Ha!” She beckons them inside. “Come on, I’ve got to see more of this.”

“So, what exactly are you going to do?” Frank wants to know.

Lindsey closes the door behind them. “A quick reversing spell should do the trick. Body swaps aren’t common, but they’re not too difficult, either. Once I lift the curse, you should pop right back into your own bodies.” She leads them into her living room and opens up a large cabinet.

“Will it hurt?” Frank asks as she sorts through the cabinet’s contents.

“Nope! It’s easy as blinking.” Lindsey picked out a few bottles and shut the cabinet, turning to face Frank. “You ready?”

Frank blinks. “I… guess so.”

“Let’s do it,” Gerard cuts in. He’s been on edge ever since he woke up, trying to take up as little space in this body as he can. Every motion is an uncomfortable reminder that he isn’t where he should be. It would be different if it were someone else, but this is Frank. The guy Gerard’s been daydreaming about for months. There’s entirely too much potential for creepiness here, and Gerard needs to be back in his own body before he can fuck something up.

“All right. I’m gonna have you two sit down and hold hands now.” Lindsey gets down on her knees. Frank takes a seat next to her, and Gerard follows suit. Holding hands. Right. He can do that.

Frank grabs his hand and laces their fingers together. Really, it’s Gerard’s own goddamn hand, so it shouldn’t make his heart skip a beat. But that logic doesn’t make it any easier to meet Frank’s eyes.

Lindsey wipes her thumb across Gerard’s forehead. It leaves behind a streak of something wet and tingly. “Protection oil,” she explains. “Just to aid with the process.” She does the same to Frank, then sits back. “Okay. You two holding on tight? The whole body-switching process might be a little dizzying.”

Gerard squeezes Frank’s hand. “We’re ready,” he says.

Lindsey closes her eyes and holds her hands out palm-up. Spots of white appear, revolving around her hands like stars around the sun. They get brighter and faster with every second, swirling into her hands as if she’s pulling them straight from the air.

“May this curse be broken with a wash of light,” she chants. “Right your wrongs and release your spite. May the cursed be healed of all their ills, and sheltered from your wicked will.”

She takes Frank and Gerard’s clasped hands in her own, and the spinning white light sinks into them. Gerard closes his eyes.

When he opens them, he sees his own face blinking back at him.

“It didn’t work,” Frank says, disappointed.

Lindsey frowns. “Wait, what? It should’ve worked. It always has before.”

Gerard looks down at his fingers. “Well, last I checked, I didn’t have tattoos.”

Lindsey takes her bottle and reads the label. “That doesn’t make any sense,” she mutters. “It should’ve worked no problem.” She glances up at Gerard, looking troubled. “Whoever put that on you must be stronger than I am. Are you sure you can’t figure out who did it?”

Gerard shakes his head. “I tried, but I can’t think of anyone. Maybe it was…” He bites his lip. “Maybe it was just random.”

“What, like a hit and run but with a spell?” Frank asks.

“It’s not unheard of,” Lindsey says heavily. “People do get crazy around the holidays. But let’s hope it’s nothing like that. I’ll do some digging, maybe I can find something more specific to body swaps.”

“Thanks anyway,” Gerard says with a small smile. “At least now we’ve tried something.”

Lindsey smiles back, but it doesn’t quite reach her eyes.

***

Gerard and Frank each go back to their own apartments. It’s simultaneously relieving and stressful to be separated. Gerard’s not sure how much more he could take of watching someone else inhabit his body, but walking away while they’re so closely connected feels… weird.

Gerard elects to ignore it. As long as he’s not forced to look at his own face, he can pretend nothing is wrong. He shuts himself in his room and slips on a pair of headphones. At least his taste in music hasn’t changed. He roots around his disaster area of a floor until he finds his sketchbook, tapping his fingers to Bowie all the while.

It’s buried beneath a pile of dirty clothes and watercolors. Gerard winces at the thought of Frank waking up to this mess. To this entire situation, really. It’s uncomfortably fucking intimate - more than any normal relationship, be it friendship or romance. They’re walking through life in each other’s shoes, and that means Frank can see every hidden, shameful detail of Gerard’s being. If Gerard had any chance of successfully asking him out, it’s probably shot now.

What a way to start the new year.

Gerard uncaps a pen. Frank’s hand is smaller than his; when he grips the pen, it fits differently, resting lower against his thumb. He scratches it clumsily against the page. Frank has zero muscle memory for drawing, that much is clear. But as Gerard keeps sketching, the lines get cleaner, closer to his normal style. He breathes a sigh of relief.

After a couple hours, there comes a knock at the door. Probably Mikey coming to check if he’s wigging out yet. Gerard shifts his headphones off of one ear and says, “Hey, Mikes.”

Frank cracks open the door.

“Hi,” he says. “Can I come in?”

Gerard blinks. It takes a minute to process that, yes, he’s looking at himself again, and, yes, Frank is in his bedroom door. At a quarter to midnight.

“Yeah,” he says belatedly.

Frank steps inside and closes the door behind him. “Sorry, I know it’s kinda late,” he says. “I just felt like I should be here. I can’t keep sitting alone with my thoughts, y’know?”

Gerard nods. If he allowed himself to think freely for more than a few minutes, he’d probably end up doing something utterly fucking indecent. Frank’s situation is undoubtedly different - it’s not like he’s dealing with the ethical dilemma of switching bodies with his longtime crush - but still. Gerard understands his urge to drown out his thoughts.

Frank sits down on the bed beside him. “What’re you drawing?” he asks. “Some Freaky Friday shit?”

“Nah, a cyborg. Normal shit.” Gerard shifts the page so Frank can see.

Frank laughs. “Normal by comparison, yeah.” He takes the paper and looks it over with intent. “Goddamn,” he says. “You’re fucking incredible. I mean, your drawings are cool enough as it is, but I’m a shit artist. How the hell did you manage this with my hands?”

Gerard thanks his lucky stars once again that Frank doesn’t blush as easily as he does. “I dunno,” he says. “I guess it’s more of a mental thing than a physical thing.”

“Hm.” Frank looks up, studying Gerard’s face with the same intent look he gave the drawing. It’s vaguely reminiscent of when Gerard stares at himself in the mirror, picking out every blemish and flaw in his appearance. But there’s no negativity behind it, just a quiet intensity that sends a shiver down Gerard’s spine.

“What’s it like to be me?” Frank asks.

Gerard shrugs. “I don’t think it’s been long enough for me to tell.”

Frank tilts his head slightly. “Really? It’s pretty different for me.”

Gerard furrows his brow. “Like how?”

“Like…” Frank smiles to himself. “Well, you’re taller, for one thing. You don’t get cold as easily. Your hair’s a fuckin’ mess. But it’s also, like,” his expression sobers up a bit, “when we were going to Lindsey’s, y’know? On the way there, the way people looked at us… I’d kind of forgotten what it was like to walk around without people staring at my tats.”

Gerard’s eyebrows fly up. He didn’t even think about that. He didn’t notice anything when they were out of the house, but then again, maybe he just wasn’t paying attention. “Do you, like…” He chooses his words carefully. “Do you regret getting them?”

Frank scoffs. “Me? Hell no. It’s just different not having them, that’s all.” He pauses. “Speaking of which. Do you think you could…” He gestures at Gerard.

“Could what?” Gerard asks.

Frank coughs. “Like. Show me what they look like?”

Gerard freezes.

“It’s just, I’ve never seen them without a mirror, especially the ones on my back, so…” Frank fidgets a little. “I want to see what they look like for other people. Is that weird?”

Gerard forces himself to shake his head. If he had tattoos, he’d probably be wondering the same thing.

“So can I see?” Frank says hopefully.

Gerard takes a deep breath. This isn’t weird; Frank said it himself. He’s not even looking at Gerard’s actual body, anyway. Just his own. There’s nothing to be nervous about.

He lifts his t-shirt up and over his head. The urge to clutch it to his chest and cover up seizes him, but this is for Frank, not him. Gerard slowly lowers the shirt. “The back ones?” he asks.

Frank nods. His eyes are fixed on the twin birds at Gerard’s hips. Gerard swallows hard and shifts on the bed, turning so his back is to Frank.

“Woah,” Frank breathes. “That’s fucking sick.” The mattress creaks as he moves closer. “I’ve never been able to see them right,” he says. “It’s… weird. They’re all facing a different direction. But it’s so fucking cool, too, God.” His fingers touch Gerard’s back, and Gerard jumps.

“Sorry,” Frank says quickly. “I just wanted to…”

He traces along the unseen lines on Gerard’s back, his touch feather-light. Gerard’s hands clench into fists on his thighs. He can picture the ink in his mind’s eye, the Keep the Faith, the jack-o-lantern, the Slaughterhouse-Five tombstone. Frank’s fingertips keep trailing down towards the twin pistols in the small of Gerard’s back. It’s a miracle Gerard can keep still.

Just when it’s getting unbearable, Frank pulls back. “Awesome,” he says. “Hey, is it cool if I crash out on your couch tonight? Maybe tomorrow morning we can figure out another way to try and fix this.”

Fix this. Right. Gerard shakes himself, clearing the fog from his brain, and tugs his shirt back on. “Yeah, that’s fine,” he says. “See you in the morning?”

“See you,” Frank says. He doesn’t move.

Gerard turns to face him again, raising his eyebrows in an unspoken question.

Frank shakes his head. “It’s so different, being you,” he says, and leaves the room.

***

Someone rips off Gerard’s blankets. All his built-up body heat vanishes at once. He curls into himself reflexively, but it’s too late; he’s already getting cold. “What the fuck,” he groans.

“Wow,” says Ray’s voice. “You really did switch bodies, huh?”

Gerard squints his eyes open and rolls over. Ray’s standing over him with his blanket in hand, grinning widely. “If you were actually Frank, you would’ve killed me for that,” he says.

“Who says I’m not going to now?” Gerard mutters, pulling his knees up to his chest to conserve heat. “What the fuck, dude, I was sleeping.”

“It’s nine. Normal people are awake by now.”

“Your sleep schedule is a fucking anomaly, Ray, normal people aren’t that healthy.”

“Whatever.” Ray drops the blanket. Gerard keeps one eye on it. Half of him wants to dart out of bed and grab it, but it’s probably already gone cold by now. “Mikey told me Lindsey couldn’t heal you,” Ray says, taking a seat on the mattress. “I thought I’d come over and help brainstorm.”

Gerard stifles a yawn. “Don’t you have work today?”

“I don’t need to be at the studio until noon. We’ve got a couple hours.” Ray leans down and grabs the blanket, tossing it back over Gerard. Gerard wraps it around his shoulders gratefully. It’s chillier than it was before, but it’s better than nothing.

“So, who the fuck did it?” Ray asks. “We’ve got to figure this out. It must’ve been somebody powerful, if Lindsey couldn’t break their spell. Have you come across anybody like that lately?”

Gerard shakes his head. “I already told you, I barely know any mages. It’s just Grant, Gabe, and Mikey, if he even counts.”

“Aren’t there a ton at your work, though?” Ray says skeptically.

Gerard sits up on his elbows. “I mean… a lot of the people who do inks have some magic in ‘em. But they’re, like, acquaintances at the very most. Why would any of them want to fuck with me?”

“Maybe you cut one of them off in the parking garage,” Ray suggests. “Or they think you’re rude and antisocial. Or they don’t like your sketches.”

“Do you really think that warrants a fucking curse?” Gerard says incredulously.

Ray shrugs. “Who knows? People are petty. And it’d be easier to hurt somebody if you don’t really know them, right?”

The door swings open. Frank has a blanket wrapped around his shoulders like a cape, exactly the same as Gerard. He takes a sip from the steaming cup of tea in his hands and says, “Morning.”

Gerard raises an eyebrow. “Did you just, like, go into my kitchen and make tea?”

“Technically, it’s my kitchen,” says Frank, wearing his trademark shit-eating grin. On Gerard’s features, it comes out a little more gleeful than mischievous, but Gerard could still recognize it from a mile away.

“Well, as long as you’re taking over my apartment, you might as well come in,” Gerard says dryly. He sits up fully as Frank scoots inside and jumps onto the bed next to Ray. “Watch it!” Gerard says. “If you spill that on me, motherfucker - “

“Don’t worry, I won’t,” Frank says cheerfully. “Wouldn’t wanna mess up a face that pretty.”

Gerard tries to speak, but all that comes out is a strangled little noise. “Fuck you,” he says.

“Hey, Frankie,” Ray says, eyeing him curiously. “So, you’re Gerard.”

“So I am,” Frank says, bobbing his head.

“Anyway,” Gerard says loudly. “I still don’t think anybody from work would curse me.”

“You don’t want to believe anyone would curse you, period,” Frank says. “People aren’t as nice as you think they are, Gee.”

“But when would they even have the chance?” Gerard asks. “It’s not like I’m going up and down floors all day. The only places I ever really see are my office, the bathroom, and the fuckin’ break room.”

“Maybe they slipped something in the water cooler?” Frank asks, wrinkling his nose.

Gerard shakes his head. “No way, there’d be too much risk of getting the wrong person.”

“That’s an interesting idea, though,” Ray says thoughtfully. “Have you eaten anything with magic in it lately?”

Gerard shakes his head. “Can’t afford it. I mean, the last time I even saw someone put magic in food was when you got that enchanted coffee on Saturday.”

“It’s a good thing I didn’t let you get one,” Ray says with a laugh. “Who knows where we’d be then?”

“Fuck you, Brendon’s good to me,” Gerard says, smiling. “Even the normal coffee at that place rules.”

“Yeah, it definitely cheered you up after you were moping about…” Ray trails off. “Huh. Brendon was awful nice to you after that, wasn’t he? But you snapped at him.”

“He was making fun of me!” Gerard protests, then it hits him. Ray’s right. There is one mage he forgot about. “Oh, fuck,” he says out loud. “You don’t think - “

“It’s the right time frame,” Ray says, biting his lip. “That was Friday evening, and you woke up like this on Saturday…”

Gerard’s already up and out of bed.

***

The door to the coffee shop bangs open, the bell overhead jangling wildly. Gerard stalks straight up to the counter. Frank follows just behind him. Brendon has his back turned, busy fixing something at the coffee machine.

“What can I get for you?” says the girl at the cash register.

“Hey, Brendon,” Gerard barks. “You got a minute?”

Brendon turns around. He fumbles and almost drops the latte he’s holding. “Oh,” he says, eyes wide. His gaze is fixed on Frank. “Hi, Gerard. Is this, um - is this your - “

“Over here, genius,” Gerard snaps. “I’m Gerard, he’s Frank.”

Brendon very slowly sets down the latte. “No,” he says. “That’s not - what? How did that happen?”

“You tell me,” Gerard says, folding his arms over his chest. It’s funny - in this case, it’s actually quite nice to look like Frank. The tattoos probably give him a huge edge in the intimidation factor.

Brendon swallows hard and nods. “Okay,” he says. “Just… give me one second. I’ll meet you outside.”

Three minutes later, he’s huddled against the brick wall outside, looking guiltily between Frank and Gerard. “I’m so fucking sorry,” he says. “I had no idea it was going to be like this.”

“Here’s a lesson in responsible spellcasting, then,” Gerard says. “One: don’t curse someone if you don’t know what it’s going to fucking do. Two: don’t fucking curse people at all!”

“It’s not a curse!” Brendon protests. “What the fuck, Gee? You know me, I’d never do that to you!”

“What the hell is it, then?” Frank demands.

“It was supposed to be a fucking luck spell!” Brendon cries out. “He seemed upset when I saw him, so I wanted to make him feel better!”

Frank snorts. “Yeah, some fucking luck this is.”

“No, listen,” Brendon says, raising his hands. “It just creates a change, all right? That’s all. It’s a tricky little charm, it finds a way to get at the root of what’s making you sad, and then as soon as you fix it, it goes away. I’ve used it on myself a million times. It always works.”

“That explains why Lindsey couldn’t cure it,” Ray murmurs. “It was never a curse.”

“Oh, well that’s just fantastic,” Frank says sarcastically. “It’s not a curse! Whoop de doo. Can I get my fucking body back now, please?”

Brendon lowers his hands. “Well,” he says, averting his eyes. “I guess that depends on if Gerard’s fixed the problem yet.”

Gerard fixes him with his best death stare. Brendon flinches.

Frank looks at Gerard. “Well?” he asks. “What’s your issue, dude? You heard him, if we figure it out we can get our bodies back.”

Gerard’s throat has gone dry. He can’t say it. Not like this; not in front of Brendon and Ray, not while Frank’s so pissed off. If he tells the truth, there’s already enough risk that he’ll lose Frank based on the sheer awkwardness of being in love with one of his best friends. But if Frank finds out that they’re in this mess sheerly because Gerard couldn’t handle his emotions? It’ll be a disaster.

“I don’t know,” he whispers. “I was just in a bad mood that day, I - I don’t…”

Frank’s eyes narrow. “You’re lying,” he says. “What’s wrong, Gerard?”

Gerard looks away. He can’t do this. He’ll get Lindsey to try again; now that they know what this spell actually is, maybe she’ll be able to lift it. Frank might be pissed, but he’ll get over it. As long as he doesn’t find out the truth.

“Come on,” Frank says angrily. “We’re in this shit together, we can fix it together! You need to tell me something, Gerard!”

“I’m sorry,” Gerard mumbles. “I can’t.”

“Why?” Frank demands. Ray places a hand on his arm; Frank shrugs him off. “What’s up with you? You’ve been acting weird for ages. If something happened, if - if I fucking did something to you, can you just fucking tell me?”

Gerard makes the mistake of looking into his eyes. They’re angry, sharp as broken glass, but what’s worse is the hurt behind it.

“I thought we could tell each other anything,” Frank says. God damn it.

“I’m sorry,” Gerard manages. Before Frank can say anything more, he turns, and he runs.

No spells can change his luck. Even when fate shines on him, he hides from its light, and it twists, vengeful, into a bitter curse.

***

This has got to be the most pathetic New Year’s Gerard has ever had.

He was supposed to be with his friends right now, watching last year’s one-hit-wonders perform New Year’s Rockin’ Eve and drinking cheap champagne. But he couldn’t go to a party with Frank after everything that’s happened. It’ll be better if he just gets Lindsey to fix this, then make up with Frank once the dust has settled.

In the meantime, he lies in bed, staring at the ceiling.

What a fucking luck charm this is. He can’t really blame Brendon; he was only trying to help. And if Gerard wasn’t such a chickenshit, it might even have worked. It certainly connected him to Frank. Funny. Gerard got planted into an entirely new body, and he still hasn’t grown a backbone.

The muffled sound of laughter and clinking glass floats from a neighboring floor. It’s like it’s engineered specifically to mock him.

Gerard holds his hands up, flexing his fingers. They’re decorated with ink, calloused with years of playing guitar, carrying a history of their own. They’re not Gerard’s.

The longer this lasts, the angrier Frank is going to get. He didn’t ask to get stuck living as Gerard. He might be out there enjoying being able to hold his liquor for once, but once tonight ends, he’s gonna be pissed. They need to get their own bodies back, pronto.

Maybe Lindsey will be at home. She’s probably out with friends like the rest of the world, but fuck, Gerard can’t just keep sitting here. He has to do something.

He rolls out of bed and goes searching for his coat. He’s just heading out the door when it swings open. Mikey steps inside, holding a flute of champagne.

“Oh,” he says, surprised. “Are you coming, then? The others sent me to get you.”

Gerard shakes his head. “I’m going to find Lindsey.”

Mikey sighs. “Gerard - ”

“Don’t,” Gerard cuts him off. “I got us into this, I’m going to get us out of it.”

“She’s not going to be home,” Mikey says. “She’s going to Jimmy’s, remember? He’s gonna kick your ass if you try and do business with her at his party.”

Gerard pauses. The last person he wants to deal with is a tipsy and/or pissed-off Jimmy Euringer.

“You can talk to her soon,” Mikey says. “But can’t you just try and have a good time tonight? Please?”

Gerard bites his lip. “I… I really don’t think I can be around Frank right now, Mikes.”

“Good thing he’s not there, then,” Mikey says. “He’s dealing with shit, too. But I’d like at least one of my best friends to hang out with me on New Year’s. It’s kind of depressing without you guys.” He uses the same matter-of-fact Mikey Way tone as always, but Gerard knows him well enough to hear the sincerity behind it.

Fuck. He never could say no to Mikey.

“Fine,” he says grudgingly. “For you.”

“There we go,” Mikey says, clapping him on the back. “Who knows? Maybe you’ll even have fun. It’s the holidays, after all.”

“Don’t push it,” Gerard says, and steals Mikey’s flute of champagne.

***

Gerard hates to admit it, but Mikey was right. Now that he’s here, surrounded by warmth and light and cable television, it’s hard not to enjoy himself. Ray’s got on a paper hat and a pair of those stupid glasses shaped like the number 2019. He tried to coax Mikey into putting one on, but Mikey just threw crackers at him until he backed off.

In terms of romance, Gerard is a catastrophe. But goddamn, he loves his friends.

There’s a loud whoop from the kitchen. A swarm of tiny bluebirds shoot into the living room, twittering loudly, and crash into a window. Ray jumps to his feet. They wheel around his head and fly up to the ceiling.

“Gabe!” Ray yells. “That’s animal cruelty!”

Gabe hoots with laughter. “They’re not even real!” he says. He stumbles out of the kitchen, pink-cheeked and grinning. “You want me to make more? ‘Cause I can make more.”

He raises the red solo cup in his hand. The birds loop down and begin to circle the room, one of them coming to hover right over Mikey’s head.

“Don’t you dare,” Mikey warns.

“Three minutes ‘til the ball drops,” Gabe says, smirking. “Let’s see what else’ll - “

“Gabe, I swear to fucking God - “

Gabe giggles and lowers his hand. The birds vanish in a puff of blue.

When it clears, Frank is standing in the doorway. “What’ve I missed?” he asks.

Gerard freezes. There’s no way for him to escape; Frank’s blocking the only exit. Shit.

“Frank!” Ray says, delighted. “I thought you weren’t coming!” He runs over and hugs Frank, nearly lifting him off his feet. Frank laughs.

“Eh, I couldn’t stay away too long. I felt like a loser drinking alone.”

Gabe stares. “Call me crazy,” he says. “But isn’t that Gerard?” He looks down at his drink. “Fuck, I’m way drunker than I thought I was.”

Ray winces. “It’s a long story.”

“Speaking of which,” Frank says. He steps away from Ray and looks directly at Gerard. “Can we talk for a minute, Gee? Alone?”

Oh, fuck.

Gerard slowly stands up. Frank leads him out of the living room, away from the action, and into the nearest bedroom. He closes the door behind them.

“Hi,” Gerard says nervously.

Frank doesn’t respond immediately. He shifts his weight from one foot to another, fidgeting in place, before he finally looks up at Gerard. It isn’t long before his eyes dart away again.

“I meant what I said, before,” he says. “You’ve been acting weird lately. Like, weirder than usual, I guess. And it sucks that you don’t want to tell me what’s up. Whatever it is, whatever’s wrong, I… I could help. Probably. And even if I couldn’t, it’s better to talk shit over than keep it bottled up, y’know?”

Gerard winces and opens his mouth to speak, but Frank raises a hand. “Wait, I’m not done.” He takes a deep breath. “But… it’s kind of hypocritical of me to be mad over all that, ‘cause I… I’ve been hiding something, too.”

Gerard waits.

Frank bites his lip, glancing back at the door. A realization slowly presses down on Gerard’s chest - he’s scared. Gerard doesn’t know why, but the evidence is all there. The stammering. The twitchiness. Frank’s emotions, translated through Gerard’s nervous tics.

And he still hasn’t said anything.

“I’m listening,” Gerard says.

Frank exhales slowly. “Look,” he says. “I get that this is, like… super bad timing, and probably really fucking weird. But I just thought, fuck it. I’d better get it out before we switch bodies again, so at least once that’s over, you won’t have to be around me if you don’t want to.”

Gerard takes a step closer on instinct. “Hey,” he says, concerned. “Why would I ever want that? You’re my best friend, Frankie, I’m always gonna be here.”

Frank winces. “Yeah, that’s why I… Okay, listen. I just…”

Outside, people are beginning to count down. Their voices rise in a shouted recitation: Ten! Nine! Eight!

“I’m sorry in advance,” Frank says, fidgeting with the long sleeves of his shirt. “But it’s now or never, right?”

Four! Three! Two!

“What?” Gerard asks, bemused.

Frank pulls him in by his collar and kisses him.

Everything flips upside down. Gerard’s senses vanish and double and phase, the world spinning like a top around him. A tingling sensation spreads over his entire body, and the feeling of Frank’s lips against his is lost as he goes numb. There’s a jolt, a dizzying recalibration, and his knees buckle.

He gasps, and his eyes fly open. He’s fallen half on top of Frank - Frank, who is himself again, mohawk and tattoos galore. Gerard looks at his own hands to double check, and there they are. The same long fingers and reddened knuckles as ever.

They’re back.

“Holy shit,” Frank says in a daze. “Did that just happen?”

“You tell me,” Gerard says.

“That was fucking…”

“Awesome,” Gerard says without thinking.

“So, you…” Frank fumbles with his words. “The luck charm. The problem was - “

“The same as yours, I think,” Gerard says, his cheeks going hot. Damn it. He didn’t miss that particular reflex.

“And we fixed it,” Frank says.

“I’d hope so,” Gerard says.

The door bangs open. “You guys missed the ball dropping!” Ray says. “You - huh?” It takes a moment for his eyes to track them down to the floor, and he claps a hand over his mouth. “Oops,” he says guiltily. “Sorry!” He backs out and shuts the door.

Frank bursts out laughing. Gerard tries to keep a straight face, but his mouth twitches, and then he’s falling into Frank again, wheezing with laughter.

“Fuck,” he chokes out. “Did you see his face?”

“Forget him,” Frank says. “Let me see you.” He takes Gerard’s face in his hands, and Gerard stops laughing abruptly.

“You’re so fucking gorgeous,” Frank breathes. “Being you was good, but getting to look at you is so much fucking better.”

Gerard swallows hard. “It’d be better if you did more than look,” he says.

“Good point,” Frank says. He leans in and presses their mouths together once more, kissing Gerard deeply, like everything he’s ever wanted. The air is thick with magic. It pulls them together like magnets, warms their touch, sends sparks running along Gerard’s skin wherever it meets Frank’s. It’s not like a charm or a curse, the kind of magic that comes with special effects, but something natural. Something true. Gerard can feel it.

He thinks Frank can feel it, too.