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There's someone upstairs with Mikey. Gerard can hear their voices carrying through the walls and floors of the house, drifting in bits and pieces of not-quite-conversation. He can't make out words, but tone and tenor carry, and he can tell when they laugh.

Whoever Mikey's friend is, he laughs a lot. Gerard lies back on his bed and listens, blinking up at the ceiling. Mikey's telling a story, his voice light and eerie, wandering along on the way to his point, and he has to stop every few minutes while the other guy laughs, loud and rolling.

Gerard brushes his hair off his forehead and tries to imagine the face that goes with that laugh. He pictures it split with a grin as wide as the Joker's.

After awhile the voices track across the house with footsteps creaking the floorboards, moving from the kitchen to Mikey's room, and the stereo starts up so Gerard can't hear them anymore. He sits up and reaches for a book and his headphones. He doesn't know why he was listening anyway.
**
"Did you have somebody over earlier?" he asks, looking up at the ceiling again, fingers twitching for something to keep them busy and finding the hem of the bedsheet. It's sticky with something long spilled and dried and forgotten. He should probably wash his sheets at some point.

"Yeah." Mikey's stretched out on his stomach, chin in hands, weight centered on his elbows, and if Gerard hasn't sketched him this way a thousand times he would do it now, just for the lines and angles. He traces his fingers down Mikey's back instead, counting the bumps of his spine. He remembers the summer before Mikey's senior year, when he went from the same chubby build Gerard still has to all bones and sharpness. Mikey got sick in the beginning of July and the baby fat melted away and then the buzz of hope and anxiety under his skin and a last spurt of growth kept it from coming back again.

Gerard doesn't care what Mikey looks like. He remembers being scared when Mikey was sick, because it was too hot out to have a fever. Mikey seemed to almost glow with it, and his eyes sunk into his skull like a vampire's, and when he talked it was all delirious nonsense that appealed to Gerard with its flights of fancy and repelled him with its lack of Mikey, his centering force, his caustic wit. Gerard has drawn Mikey in masks a hundred times, he doesn't care what his brother looks like, as long as the heart of him is the same, what he knows, what he needs.

"My buddy Gabe," Mikey says, glancing back at him. Gerard runs his fingers back and forth across the beam of Mikey's shoulders.

"Have I met him before?" Everyone is Mikey's buddy, it's a catchall term for anyone pleasant, funny, in possession of alcohol, or with good taste in music.

"No." Mikey turns over slowly. "He's cool, though. I think you'd like him."

Gerard thinks about Mikey's friends, scene kids in tight jeans and t-shirts and carefully sculpted hair. He does like some of them. Others make him nervous. They all tend to look right through him.

"He laughed a lot," he says, for lack of anything else coming to mind. Mikey smiles, a quick flash of teeth.

"Yeah, he does that."

Gerard's hand is resting flat on Mikey's chest, over his heart. He doesn't remember putting it there, but he tends to reach for Mikey when he isn't thinking, hauling him into hugs or lacing their fingers together. Mikey never seems to mind.

"He's cool," Mikey says, his voice sleepy and distant. "I like him." Gerard feels the beat of his heart under his palm until they both drift off to sleep.
**
The next day is a bookstore day, where Gerard does his level best to be a good Barnes & Noble employee and not make anyone uncomfortable. He sets the bar there in the hope that at least three days out of five he can manage it.

Today's a pretty good day; a couple of kids linger around the graphic novel section long enough that he can swoop in and try to educate them. That's pretty much all he asks out of most days.

His break rolls around and he goes to find Mikey and ask if he wants Gerard to bring something back from the food court for him so he can spend his own break sitting in the back room and texting everyone he knows. Today he feels like nachos, and he has a whole speech prepared about how nachos are what he is getting, whether one order or two, and he is not waiting in line for sandwiches or kebabs or anything else, and Mikey can take it or suck it.

Mikey's working the info desk, which is his least favorite placement and usually leads to some good stories for the drive home. Just before Gerard gets there, a tall, skinny kid in a band t-shirt steps up to Mikey.

"I'd like to place a special order," he says. He's got a grin that takes over his whole face with white teeth and the sense that even if you didn't quite get the joke, it was a good one and you probably would like it if you were in on it.

"A special order, huh." Mikey's smiling, too, the tiny twist of his mouth that's about the best anything gets while he's at work.

"Yeah."

"Why do I get the feeling that you're adding 'in my pants' to the end of that in your head?"

The guy laughs, throwing his head back, and Gerard realizes he's the guy from the house. Gabe, the buddy.

"I'm way more smooth than that," Gabe says, leaning over the desk. "You know that, Mikey Way."

"Sure." Mikey nods and glances over Gabe's shoulder, smiling a little more when he sees Gerard. "Hey, Gee."

"Hey." Gerard nods at Gabe, his own attempt at a smile wilting at the intense, thoughtful look Gabe gives him. "I'm on break. You want nachos?"

"Aww," Gabe says, looking at Mikey again. "I was going to see if you wanted to grab dinner when you're done tonight, man."

"I can eat nachos now and dinner later."

"Sweet. Hey, are you going to introduce me or what?"

Mikey blinks slowly. "Gabe, this is my brother Gerard. Gerard, this is Gabe Saporta."

Gerard is already familiar with the dazzling smile, but Gabe has a painfully tight handshake, too. "I've heard tons about you, dude," Gabe says while he crunches Gerard's fingers. "You're Mikey's favorite thing except his hair."

"Shut up," Mikey says, and Gerard gently pries his hand free, unable to think of anything to say in response. He settles on an awkward smile instead and then bolts for the food court, working his fingers against his palm in his pocket.
**
That night Mikey comes home late, loose-limbed and singing to himself. He smells like smoke and beer when he comes up on Gerard in the kitchen and presses a sloppy kiss to his cheek.

"Have a good night?" Gerard asks softly, tucking Mikey's hair back behind his ears, fingers brushing carefully, lightly over Mikey's cheekbones.

Mikey nods, catching Gerard's wrist and holding his hand in place where it's cupping his cheek so he can lean into it. "Was fun."

"You need anything?"

"Just going to bed." Mikey holds Gerard's hand another minute, then lets go, offering a shy, crooked little smile that Gerard knows like he knows himself, a good one that means Mikey's quietly, all-the-way-through happy. "See you in the morning?"

"I'm off tomorrow." Gerard taps the end of Mikey's nose. "I think I might go into the city."

"Cool." Mikey heads for the door, his shoulder catching the frame and his feet threatening to get in the way of each other. "Then I guess I'll see you at night."
**
Gerard takes the train into the city, sitting and staring at the book he shoved into his bag without paying much attention. It's one he read already, and didn't much like. Stupid.

People-watching is the only way to keep from going crazy with boredom. He has his sketchbook, but the concentration it would take to compensate for the jolting of the train seems like more trouble than it's worth, and besides, nobody he can see is all that interesting.

Just as he finishes that thought, his eyes move another seat on and he realizes he's looking at Gabe, sitting with his legs stretched out into the aisle and his shoulders hunched under his hoodie, earphones disappearing under a baseball cap and brow furrowed in concentration. It takes a minute for Gerard to figure out what he's doing, because that requires looking away from Gabe's face and down to his hands. He's holding a deck of cards, shuffling through it again and again, lips moving with whatever's on his iPod and fingers dancing with the red and black.

That is something Gerard could most certainly consider interesting enough to draw. But it feels like moving might break the spell of the moment, shattering something unnameable. He holds very still, not quite holding his breath until the train gets to the station.

He scrambles out of his seat and away, not looking back, not sure if he really hears Gabe saying "Hey, dude--" or if he imagines it.
**
Mikey crawls into Gerard's bed that night like he's being poured out of a jar, flopping facedown with his arms and legs at awkward angles.

Gerard is sitting up, sketchpad balanced on his knees, so he pets Mikey with his foot. "Bad night?"

"Just stupid." Mikey's voice is muffled by a fold of the blanket, but Gerard can still hear his irritation. "Customer service can fucking suck it."

"Yeah." Gerard adds another line and stares down at the page. When he finished his errands in the city, he went to a coffee shop and drew Gabe as he'd seen him on the train, deck of cards and boneless sprawl. That's a few pages back, now. Since he got home he's been drawing him doing other things--walking, laughing, leaning across the counter and talking to Mikey. He's messing with that one now, trying to find the right way to convey the casual, hip shot ease of his stance.

"Is there dinner?" Mikey asks, and Gerard nods, rubbing his foot against Mikey's side and biting at the end of his pencil. "You eat already?" He nods again and worries his tongue against the wood. "So you're not going to go get some for me?"

"No," Gerard mutters, digging his toes into Mikey's ribs. Mikey grumbles and squirms, then sits up with a sigh.

"Fine." He pauses, cocking his head and nodding at the sketchbook. "Can I see?"

Gerard has never said no to that question from Mikey and he isn't sure how to start now without looking weird. Besides, there's no reason to say no. So he hands it over, spinning the pencil anxiously between his fingers.

Mikey's eyebrows lift slightly as he flips back through the pages. He doesn't say anything for what feels like a long time, lingering on the first drawing and then the last.

"You going to draw him into something?" he asks finally.

"I don't know. Maybe."

"Hero or villain?"

"Antihero, I think."

The corner of Mikey's mouth lifts in a slight smile. "Yeah. Definitely an antihero." He hands the sketchbook back, nodding. "Looks awesome, Gee."

"Thanks."

"I'm gonna go get food."

"Okay." Gerard hesitates until Mikey's already out the door. "Are you and him, like, a--a thing?"

Mikey's footsteps pause, and Gerard can picture the tilt of his head as he considers the question. "No. Just fooling around."

"Oh. Cool." He doesn't know why he asked. It's an irrelevant question; he doesn't care what Mikey does with his friends, and he's never asked before.

Mikey moves off again, and a minute later Gerard can hear him upstairs in the kitchen. He sits there with the pencil in his hand and the sketchbook ignored beside him, not sure why it suddenly feels like he can't breathe.

But a few minutes later Mikey comes back in with a Coke and a bowl of microwaved leftovers, and sits back down on the bed, bumping his shoulder against Gerard's, and the panic in his chest eases away.

"You want to watch something?" Mikey asks, and Gerard nods yes, absolutely, and tucks the sketchbook under the bed as something to think about later, not now.
**
For a few weeks things stay the same; work and sleep and movies and drawing, building the world out around his antihero. He hasn't given him a plot yet, but he's had a few unconnected adventures. And friends. Gerard kind of wants to give him a pet, too, like a sidekick, but he can't quite pin it down in his head.

Mikey asks to see the drawings a few more times, and smiles. He laughs at the one-page wordless sequence of Gabe fleeing and hiding from an evil clown.

"You should show him that one," he says, resting his head on Gerard's shoulder. "I bet he'd like it."

"Is he actually afraid of clowns?"

"I dunno." Mikey's breath comes in warm little snuffles against the curve of Gerard's neck. Gerard settles his head against Mikey's.

"I guess it's kinda creepy that I'm drawing him at all."

"I bet he'd think it's cool."

"Yeah?" Mikey nods and Gerard shrugs as best he can while being careful not to push Mikey away. "I don't know. Maybe."
**
"Mikey's brother."

Gerard is used to being identified that way. He looks up and blinks. "Oh. Um."

"I'm Gabe." The Gabe in question offers his hand and Gerard shakes it automatically, eyes skittering off to a point over Gabe's shoulder.

"I know. I mean, we've met. Here. Mikey's not working today."

"I know, I texted him. He said his awesome brother was here, and could get me my order." Gerard glances at him from the corner of his eye and sees that Gabe is grinning, broad and sunny. "And I remember being introduced. You bought me nachos."

"I bought Mikey nachos."

"Yeah, but I ate 'em." Gabe leans in and Gerard's nose wrinkles; he has never encountered a human being wearing that much cologne in his life. And he lives in Jersey, so that's saying something. "So. Special order?"

"You actually had a special order?"

"Yeah."

"I thought it was just, like, a euphemism."

"Making out with your little bro isn't a special order, dude. It's a..." He frowns, gesturing. "Shit, I got nothing. Buy one get one free?"

Gerard shakes his head slightly. "I don't think so."

"Damn. It'll come to me later." Gabe leans against the Romance H-N shelf and Gerard thinks of three different panels he needs to correct, because the easy way Gabe flings himself around is all wrong. "So. Special order for Gabriel Eduardo Saporta?" His grin gets sharper at the look of surprise Gerard doesn't quite catch. "Yeah, I'm one of those."

Gerard recognizes the impulse, the quick "make fun of yourself before they make fun of you" defensive feint. It probably looks more awkward when he does it. "S-a-p-o-r-t-a?"

Gabe's shoulders relax just a fraction. "Yeah. Thanks."

"Be right back." Gerard goes to the front desk and finds the right order, some books and CDs and a British music magazine all banded together. When he turns around, Gabe is standing at the counter with a wad of cash.

"Here you go."

"Thanks." Gabe watches him for a minute. "What time are you done?"

"Eight." Gerard hands him his stuff and fights the twitching need to touch his hair, to knock it in front of his face. "Why?"

"I've got a couple things to do, then I'll be back this way. Thought I could take you to get dinner."

Gerard stares at him. "Me?"

"Yes."

He doesn't consider it, not even for half a second, before shaking his head. "I can't. Not...I really can't."

Gabe nods a little, hugging his bundle to his chest. Gerard thinks distantly that he needs to correct a few more drawings, because he didn't really get how skinny Gabe is.

"I'll see you, then," Gabe says, turning away.

"Are you a dog person or a cat person?"

Gabe looks at him, eyebrows raised, but smiles after a minute. "Dogs. Totally."

"Okay. Thanks."

Gabe stares at him for another moment. "I gotta find out what's in the water at the Way house," he says finally, and goes.
**
"Your friend Gabe was in the store today." They're sitting on the couch, watching The Daily Show, Mikey's head pillowed on Gerard's knee at an angle that can't possibly be comfortable but that Mikey doesn't seem to mind. "Picking up his stuff."

"Cool," Mikey mumbles, using Gerard's kneecap to bump his glasses higher on his nose. "His order came in like a week ago."

"He asked me to go to dinner with him."

"Did you?"

"No."

Mikey shifts onto his back, frowning. "Why not?"

"Because..." The answer is so self-evident he can't even think of it. "Because I'm not..." Mikey's eyebrow lifts dangerously. "Because I'm not you."

"He already has dinner with me. He asked you because he wanted to have dinner with you."

"Why would he want to do that?"

Mikey shrugs. "Maybe he wants to see your drawings."

It's like he choked on an ice cube, something cold blocking up his chest. "You told him about that?"

Mikey's eyes widen. "No. No, of course not. Just a joke, Gee."

The cold feeling eases; Mikey doesn't lie, not to him. "I don't know how to hang out with people like him."

"You mean tall people?"

"No."

"Jewish people?"

"What? No."

"Uruguayans?"

It takes a minute for Gerard to figure out what the hell that even means, and he rolls his eyes. "No, Mikey. Come on."

"What, then?"

"You know. Cool people."

Mikey laughs, his glasses slipping down again, leaving the delicate skin at the corners of his eyes all exposed and crinkled with smile lines. "Gabe isn't cool."

"Yeah, he is."

"He's not. He's just...Gabe. Just this guy."

Gerard traces the smile lines. "Like you're just Mikey."

"Yeah." Mikey shifts onto his side again, catching Gerard's wrist and moving his hand down to rest on his shoulder. "Kinda like that. And you hang out with me all the time."

"That's different and it's bullshit and you know it. You're my brother." He rubs his knuckles against Mikey's shoulder, frowning down at the swell of bone under Mikey's t-shirt. They're both quiet for a minute, watching Jon Stewart do his thing.

"You should've had dinner with him," Mikey says softly.

"Yeah, well." Gerard shrugs, swallowing against the familiar choking realization that he did something wrong, again. "Maybe next time."

And because Mikey is Mikey, he doesn't push or tease. He just settles his head against Gerard's thigh and nods, eyes on the TV again. "Yeah. Next time."
**
The next night Gerard wakes up from his eleven-to-one nap at the sound of someone banging on the window at the far end of the basement. Part of him wants to ignore it in the hopes that whoever it is will go away, but he remembers that Mikey's out and about tonight, at a show that'll turn into a party or three. It's much too early for him to be coming home in the normal run of things, but there's always the chance that it's something not normal, and that chance is enough to get Gerard out of bed, up the stairs, and to the side door.

Gabe is standing in the narrow strip of yard, still kicking at the window. "Quit it," Gerard says, his voice thick and rough with sleep. Gabe jumps at the sound, turning to face him and nearly falling over.

"Mikey's brother!" He gestures, wide and expansive and meaningless, and Gerard knows he's drunk even before he steps close enough for the smell to confirm it. "Take pity on a dude."

"Mikey's not home."

"Mikey has to be home for you to take pity?" Gabe's lower lip creeps out, curling down in the most ridiculous, exaggerated pout. "Is Mikey your conscience? Does he keep your soul in a jar?"

"A flask, actually." Gerard rocks back on his heels, glancing over his shoulder into the house. "You don't have any other friends?"

"It's a long story, man, but if I can just crash out here for, like, an hour, my buddy can pick me up and I'll be out of your hair. Swear it on Mikey's hairspray."

It's not all that funny a line. Gerard shouldn't encourage him by laughing at it. "Fine. Come in."

Gabe follows him down the basement stairs like an overgrown puppy, bounding down two steps at a time and bumping into Gerard's back over and over again. "Sorry, sorry." Not sorry enough to check himself, obviously. Somehow the clumsiness makes it hit Gerard a little harder, that Gabe's younger, still kind of a kid. "Oh, dude, can we play video games?"

"Knock yourself out." Gerard grabs the blanket off the couch and wads it up instead of folding it, feeling weirdly exposed by the fact that Gabe saw it, that he...what, knew Gerard slept? That wouldn't make any sense at all. He isn't worrying about what Gabe thinks. He isn't trying to impress Gabe.

"You're awesome," Gabe chirps, turning on one of the video game consoles and stretching out on the floor on his stomach. "You want to play?"

"Nah." Gerard sits on the couch, rubbing his palms on his thighs. "So, um, why aren't you at the show?"

"Thing with a guy."

"What?"

Gabe shrugs and rubs his nose, eyes already fixed on the screen. "Thing, with a guy, I don't want to bump into him just yet. Gotta get the rest of the pieces in motion. Everything all lined up. Then I can be like, oh, you were looking for me? That's cool. Must've missed your messages. Anyway! Everything's chill, man." He glances over his shoulder and grins, quick and sharp. Gerard can't look away from that smile. It's hypnotic. "But I'm gonna go to the party."

"Oh." Gerard nods slowly. "Um. Cool." He watches the screen for a few minutes, as Gabe maneuvers his character recklessly down one path and up another, until Gabe suddenly snaps his fingers and hits pause, sitting up and digging around in his pocket.

"Here!" He hands Gerard a flask, grinning again. "A thank-you gift. My mama raised me right. Well, sort of. She can't stand my stupid ass most of the time, but she did get some manners into it."

Gerard smiles a little and unscrews the lid, sniffing enough to identify the contents as gin and setting his expectations accordingly as he takes a drink. It's awful gin. Figures. "Thanks."

"Have as much as you want. I'll get more later." He sits there and watches Gerard drink, his eyes bright and kind of...playful, is the only word Gerard can think of for the expression there. He doesn't understand it at all. Even with what Mikey said, and knowing that Mikey doesn't lie, it's hard not to suspect that he's being played here, somehow.

"Hey," Gabe says suddenly, and Gerard jumps, nearly dropping the flask. "Hey."

"What?" He looks down at himself, checking if he drooled without noticing or something, if his fly's undone, if one of the random faux pas that follow him like familiars is the reason Gabe spoke. "Jesus, what?"

When he looks up again Gabe is right there, suddenly kneeling in front of the couch and leaning in close, and now Gerard does drop the flask, because the very last thing he expected when he let Mikey's buddy inside was for Mikey's buddy to kiss him.

To kiss him a lot, in fact, roughly and with a lot of tongue, one of his hands coming up to cup Gerard's chin and the other one grabbing the flask, bracing it against Gerard's hip and keeping it from spilling. He makes this noise against Gerard's mouth--kind of a satisfied hum, almost a purr, and there's no good reason for that to go straight to Gerard's dick, but it does.

"Fuck," Gabe murmurs, turning his head to kiss Gerard's jaw. "Wanted to do that."

"W--" Gerard chokes a little on the word as Gabe sucks at the skin of his throat, just under the hinge of his jaw, where apparently there's some kind of circuit breaker that connects directly to his higher brain functions. And his dick, but at this point he's just assuming that everything is connected to his dick, and that's why it's on overload. "Why?"

"Dumb question. No dumb questions." Gabe climbs up onto the couch, straddling Gerard's lap and twisting the cap back onto the flask before he sets it aside. "Dumb questions are banned. Making out is awesome."

He's drunk, Gerard reminds himself as Gabe kisses him again. He's very drunk, and there's no reason in hell Gerard's not shoving him off of his lap and away from him except that he's also a very good kisser and there's still that hypnotic thing about him, the one that's absolutely going into the comic as his antihero's antipower, and oh God, what kind of complete loser is he that he's thinking about his comic at this particular moment in his life?

Gabe rolls his hips down against Gerard while he kisses him, and pays attention to that spot under Gerard's jaw again, and it's so shock-sweet that Gerard's hips jerk up and he comes in his jeans after not very long at all, just a few minutes. Gabe laughs softly against his skin, but somehow it isn't mocking, just happy and bright. Why does that word keep coming to mind when he looks at Gabe?

Gabe's still kind of rocking against him, rough and awkward and then jamming his elbow into Gerard's ribs, which is when Gerard realizes that Gabe is trying to get his jeans undone. He sits there blinking while Gabe jerks himself off, his hand moving fast between his own stomach and Gerard's, until Gabe makes a sound low in his throat and comes over his own hand and Gerard's t-shirt.

Gabe kisses him again, wet and sloppy and deep, then leans back and reaches down for the flask, somehow maintaining his balance easily while arched back off Gerard's lap. "You should be a stripper," Gerard mumbles.

"That's on my list, believe me." Gabe takes a drink and holds the flask to Gerard's lips, and Gerard swallows the nasty shit down because if there ever was a moment in his life that he needed it more than now, he can't remember. "Hey, you think maybe I could lie down for a couple minutes? I just need a disco nap and then I'll get out of your hair."
**
Gabe is still asleep on the couch, under Gerard's blanket, when Mikey comes home with coffee and bagels the next morning.

Gerard doesn't say anything. Mikey doesn't say anything. Gabe says a lot of things, most of them incoherent and incomprehensible, and then really rude once it becomes clear that neither of the Ways is going to give him any coffee. He flips them both off and informs them loudly that he's not kissing either of them goodbye as he marches up the steps and out the door.

Mikey looks at Gerard for a minute as the sound of the door banging shut rings down through the house. Gerard shrugs and looks down at the floor.

"I gotta go shower," Mikey says finally. "I got stuff in my hair, I don't even know what it is."

"Animal, vegetable, or mineral?"

"No idea."

"Scary shit." Gerard takes a small swallow of coffee, holding it until it burns his tongue numb. "Mikey?"

Mikey shakes his head and presses a fast, dry kiss to the corner of Gerard's mouth before he stands up. "It's cool, Gee. I told you. You've gotta listen to me."
**
Gerard puts the drawings away.

It's not that he feels guilty, exactly; well, he does, but more than that he feels confused. And he can't shake the suspicion that it was all a joke to Gabe. Seduce the weird guy for laughs. Despite what Mikey said, and despite that momentary flash of realization about how Gabe is very young, Gerard can't shake the grim awareness that Gabe is also cool, and everything baffling and shifty that that means.

He tries not to think about it, not to remember Gabe's weight against his thighs or Gabe's mouth hot and hungry on his. Sitting on the couch tends to make him think about it, especially since the smell of Gabe's cologne is still all over the blanket.

Gabe still comes over to hang out with Mikey, so apparently he isn't having these problems. Which just fucking figures. Gerard stays in his room when Gabe is there, headphones on and re-reading stories he knows by heart.

Mikey comes downstairs after Gabe leaves, every time, even if Gerard pretends to be asleep or busy and doesn't answer when he knocks on the door. He just lets himself in and flops down on the bed next to him, and usually jams a bony elbow into his ribs. Mikey is kind of a pain in the ass.

And if he didn't come downstairs and barge in without permission, Gerard would probably panic and die. His brain doesn't make any sense even to himself.
**
Gabe shows up at the bookstore just as Mikey goes on break. Literally just as he goes, which means this was planned out with malice aforethought. Some of Mikey's hair care products are going to have a tragic end as soon as Gerard gets home.

"Hi," Gabe says, cornering Gerard by the display of Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

"Hi."

"I need to talk to you."

"I'm busy."

"Doing what?"

Gerard stares at him. "Working. I'm at work."

"Whatever, anyone who actually wants to buy these books doesn't deserve help. I need to talk to you."

"Why?"

"Because you're being weird, and I feel bad." Gabe picks up one of the books and scowls at the cover. "Also Mikey says if I don't talk to you, he's going to make me sorry."

"How?"

"I don't fucking know. When I ask for specifics he just smiles at me. Creepily." He shoves the book back on the display and knocks four others down onto the floor. "Shit. Sorry."

"I'm not being weird." Gerard kneels down and gathers up the books, glad for the excuse to not look at Gabe. "I'm always like this."

"Yeah, well, you're going to have to get over that if you're going to sing in a band, right?"

Gerard drops all of the books again. "What?"

"You're going to have to get over that if--"

"How do you know about that?"

Gabe has a very expressive face when it comes to letting someone know he thinks they might be an idiot. "Mikey told me. You and him and that weirdo drummer and Toro if you can get him."

Gerard shakes his head and puts the books back on the display, one at a time, concentrating on making them line up perfectly with the edge. "That's just...we're just bullshitting. It's not for real."

"Well, Mikey thinks it's for real, and he's for real buying my old bass, so..."

"This is what you wanted to talk to me about?"

"No. Not really. Will you fucking look at me?"

Gerard stands up and shoves his hands in his pockets, pinching himself through the fabric as he looks at Gabe. Gabe gives him a double thumbs-up once he manages eye contact. Gerard is starting to suspect that Gabe is genuinely an asshole.

"I'm not an asshole," Gabe says, and Gerard has to pinch himself harder to keep from jumping. "Well. I'm an asshole. But I'm not a jerk, okay? I'm sorry that you feel weird about drunkenly hooking up with me in your basement, but I'm not sorry about the hooking up itself, because that was fun and, like...wait, is the problem that you didn't have fun? I'm good at hooking up, dude, even when I'm wasted, so if you didn't have fun, then I've gotta be honest, I'm a little shocked."

Gerard is used to feeling completely, utterly lost in conversations, but this might be a new level of confusion even for him. "What?"

Gabe gives a sharp huff of breath and throws his hands in the air, glaring around at the bookshelves, and suddenly it hits Gerard: Gabe is feeling insecure, and weird, and like he has no idea what planet the person he's talking to is coming from.

"So we're in the same boat," he says without thinking.

"What?"

Gerard shakes his head, easing his hands out of his pockets. "Never mind."

"Look, just stop being pissed at me, okay?"

"I'm not."

"Then what is your deal?"

Gerard shrugs, brushing his hair off his forehead. "I don't know what to do with you."

Gabe stares at him for a minute and then starts to laugh, hard enough that he leans against one of the shelves. It's the same loud, crazy laugh that Gerard knew him by in the first place, the one that made him think of the Joker. That comparison doesn't really feel accurate any more.

"You don't know what to do with me." Gabe shakes his head, grinning. "I don't know what to do with you, either, but I bet I can think of something. Seriously, you...Ways."

Gerard smiles too, looking down at the floor. "I, um, I really do need to do some work."

"Okay." Gabe takes a step back, then snaps his fingers and points at him. "But I'm taking you both to dinner tonight, got it? I've got duct tape in the trunk. Don't even think about trying to get away."
**
Dinner is weird. Profoundly weird. No duct tape is required, but it's still...weird, and also Gabe doesn't end up paying for anything, which is what Gerard thought "taking you to dinner" meant.

Gabe doesn't even pay for his own meal. Honestly. Gerard has no idea what happened there.

But Mikey smiles a lot, and Gabe tells bizarre stories that can't possibly be true but are wonderful enough that Gerard forgets to feel awkward and out of place and laughs instead. The conversation twists and turns and teleports and somehow he ends up explaining the entire plot of Watchmen and its contextual place in the history of comic books. Gabe doesn't interrupt him or try to change the subject even once, even though he can't possibly really be interested. Gerard briefly considers the possibility that instead of the Joker, Gabe is the Comedian.

Mikey drinks his milkshake and looks like it's his birthday or something. So it's all right. Weird but all right.

When they get home, Gerard goes down to his room and digs the drawings out, spreading them across his floor and kneeling down to study them one by one. Not totally accurate, not perfect, but the bits and pieces hidden in each of them are starting to click in his head. He has a sense of the outline of what they might make when they all come together.

He looks up and Mikey is standing in the doorway, still smiling. Mikey doesn't say anything, just carefully picks his way across the room and stretches out on the bed. Gerard scoops the drawings back into a pile and grabs his sketchbook.

He sits at the foot of the bed, leaning back against the wall, and Mikey wiggles around until his head's resting on Gerard's thigh. Gerard strokes his hair with the back of his knuckles as he arranges the sketchbook against his knees and starts to draw.
**
Gerard starts leaving the basement door open again when Gabe visits. They don't always come down; sometimes they're just swinging through grabbing alcohol and a change of clothes before heading to a show or a party, and sometimes they vanish into Mikey's room for hours and Gerard can hear a slow back-and-forth on Mikey's newly acquired bass. Well, he hears the bass for part of the time. It usually falls silent after a while, and that's when Gerard puts his headphones on.

But Gabe usually yells hi down the stairs if nothing else, and sometimes they both come down to hang out, fighting for space to fold up their long bony limbs on the couch while Gerard chooses avoiding elbows in the ribs as the better part of valor and sits on the floor.

One night they come stumbling down the stairs smelling like beer and smoke, giggling at some joke that involves repeating "and a bandanna" at each other at random intervals. Gerard isn't really listening, because the Millennium Falcon is just getting to Cloud City.

"Oh, sweet," Mikey says, swinging his legs up unto the couch and tucking them under himself. "We're going to see the good part."

"They're all good parts," Gerard murmurs, ducking as Gabe rumples his hair so Gabe's arm won't block his view of the screen.

"Who do you think would win in a fight, Gabe?" Mikey's voice is warm and thin, drunk and happy. Gerard can cut him a little slack on talking over the movie. "Lando or Greedo? I mean, it's totally different from Han and Greedo's thing, but I dunno, it might be interesting, right?"

Gabe shrugs and flops down next to Mikey, stretching his legs out. "Dude, I've honestly never seen these movies, I don't--"

Gerard's eyes widen and he reaches for the remote, hitting mute just as Mikey says, "You've never seen Star Wars? Are you a Communist or something, Saporta?"

"Dude." Gabe holds up his hand. "The reason you think Star Wars is awesome is that your parents thought Star Wars was awesome. What do my parents think is awesome? Hint: not Star Wars."

"I think Star Wars is awesome because Star Wars is objectively awesome."

"You know, this kind of cultural narcissism and hegemony is exactly--"

"I don't know what that means," Gerard says.

"It means you can both suck my dick."

"Turn it off, Gee," Mikey says, shaking his head. "We've gotta start him at the beginning, or it'll all be ruined. He'll learn it all wrong."

"Definitely start at the beginning." Gerard nods and turns the TV off. "I'll go get the tapes."

"I don't want to watch Star Wars!"

"It's like part of your soul never grew in." Mikey looks at Gabe, frowning with what may be genuine distress or may be him just being kind of drunk. Probably genuine distress, though. Gerard is aware of the depth of his brother's emotional investment in Star Wars. "I'm so sorry. Don't worry. We'll fix you."

"You can suck my dick twice, Mikey Way."

Mikey laughs and reaches out, curving his fingers loosely around the back of Gabe's neck and pulling him in for a kiss. Gerard blinks rapidly and looks down at the floor, the weird green carpet and the remote lying where he dropped it. There's some dried tomato sauce on the remote, he should clean that up, instead of listening to the soft wet sounds and accompanying occasional moan-like noises coming from the couch. Jesus. This is awkward.

Mikey says something, too low for Gerard to hear, and Gabe laughs. It isn't the loud bright laugh that Gerard is used to, though; this is hot and low and sort of throaty. It makes his stomach tighten and twist.

"Gee," Mikey says, and Gerard shakes his head, still staring at the carpet.

"I should, um. I should go to bed or something, Mikes."

"Gee." Mikey's voice is firmer this time, his "I am not taking any shit" voice that only Gerard and the guy who does trade-ins at the video game store tend to get. Gerard takes a breath and looks at him.

Gabe and Mikey are both looking at him, a combined stare that sort of makes his heart freeze up in his chest. Gabe's eyes are dark and intent, and he licks his lips in a way that just shouldn't be allowed, not when he's looking at Gerard. Gerard has to look away before it makes his skin peel off and spill his guts all over the floor.

Mikey's skin is all flushed, like a fever, his mouth red and wet. He's smiling at Gerard, warm and affectionate and happy, and then he reaches out his hand. "C'mere, Gee."

"Mikey..."

"Just come on."

Gerard gives in, taking Mikey's hand and letting Mikey pull him over to the couch. Mikey keeps pulling until Gerard is halfway on the couch, balanced on his knees on the edge of the cushion. Mikey squeezes his hand tight and then kisses him. It's the same way they always drop kisses on each other, lightly, lips closed, but this time it's lips to lips, and Mikey's are wet and soft against Gerard's that are dry from the shaky, nervous breaths he can't quite control.

"I keep telling you," Mikey says softly, resting his forehead against Gerard's, his words warm breath against Gerard's skin. "It's cool. Everything is okay. Listen to me, Gee. Trust me."

"I do."

"Okay." Mikey kisses his eyes, soft and fast, then guides his hand over and gives it to Gabe. "Now him."

"Bossy little shit," Gerard whispers, and Mikey snorts, but Gerard doesn't have time to say anything else because Gabe is apparently tired of waiting. He tugs at Gerard's hand hard enough that Gerard falls forward against his chest, gasping a little in surprise. Gabe's free hand comes up and curves around the back of Gerard's skull, holding him in place as Gabe goes after his mouth. That's the only way Gerard can think of it; kissing is too mild a word. This is claiming, consumption.

Gerard is vaguely aware of Mikey shifting around at his end of the couch, and then Mikey's knees bump against him once or twice. He tries to look out of the corner of his eye and see what Mikey's doing, but it makes him turn his head and Gabe's fingers tighten in his hair, guiding his attention back where he wants it. Gerard doesn't resist much at all. Gabe kisses just as well as he remembered, and he's let go of Gerard's hand and is working his fingers up under Gerard's shirt, sliding them over skin.

"Be nice, Gabe," Mikey says, his voice low and thick, a note in it that Gerard's never heard in his voice before, that he probably shouldn't hear. But Mikey said this is cool, that everything is okay, and Mikey doesn't lie.

Gabe is nice, Gabe is really nice, his hand sliding down again from Gerard's torso to his waistband, popping the button on his jeans and working the zipper down. Gerard's breath stutters in his chest and he turns his head to the side, breaking off the kiss and biting his lip. Gabe's mouth moves to Gerard's neck without missing a beat, his hand dipping down into Gerard's boxers and guiding his dick up and over the waistband.

Gerard realizes that Mikey has his own jeans open and shoved half-down, his hand moving slow and steady. He closes his eyes and takes a shaky breath that catches as Gabe bites down on the curve where his neck joins his shoulder. Gabe's hand is on his dick and Gabe's teeth are in his skin and it's so much, maybe too much, maybe he's going to fly apart.

Fingers touch his face, light and gentle on his cheek and then brushing his hair off his forehead. It's Mikey, he knows it's Mikey, touching him, there with him. Mikey's always there. Always, always, Mikey.

Everything is okay.

Mikey makes a sound, something like a moan and a sigh all caught up together with a yes, and Gabe's hand tightens a little around Gerard's dick. He's licking at the place where he bit now, soothing the teethmarks with his tongue, making pain and pleasure blend in Gerard's head and heat in his stomach until he gasps and comes, his eyes closing tight and his hand reaching out blindly for Mikey's.

Mikey laces their fingers together and holds on while Gerard catches his breath, blinks until his vision clears, pushes his sweaty, clinging hair off his forehead yet again. When he looks at Mikey, they're both smiling.

"Cool?" Mikey says. When Gerard nods, he squeezes his hand again. "Cool." And then he guides Gerard's hand down to Gabe's fly, both of them together, entwined fingers brushing where the hard curve of Gabe's dick distorts the denim. Mikey leans in and kisses Gabe over Gerard's shoulder while they get the zipper down, and Gerard closes his eyes again, giving up on seeing in favor of listening, and touching, and being here, in this.
**
Things change fast in all of their lives, but saving one night a week for Star Wars lingers on longer than anyone ever would have thought it might.
**
MTV awards shows are weird. Gerard doesn't think that's ever going to change, no matter how many of them he attends. His scientific evidence for that is that he's already attended a lot of them, and they're still weird.

He's standing backstage, drinking a bottle of water that's been infused with herbs or berries or sorcery or something, waiting for the director to fix whatever crisis is going on so they can get on with filming this thing. Television magic, a lot less magic from backstage.

"Mr. Romance."

He looks up, startled, then smiles as he recognizes the figure wandering out of the hallway to the green rooms. "Mr. Starship."

Gabe leans against the wall next to him, glancing out at the stage and rolling his eyes. "Nothing?"

"Probably another ten, fifteen minutes."

"Good thing this isn't pretending to be live."

"No shit." Gerard rubs the back of his neck. "Mikey's around here someplace."

"I saw him earlier. I bet I'll find him again later. It's cool." Gabe's quiet for a minute, looking off at something Gerard doesn't bother to try to see. "I read your comic."

"Which one?" It never stops being awesome that he can say that. Multiple comics, fuck yes, everyone he went to art school with can blow him.

Gabe smiles, a close-lipped twist of his mouth. "Antihero."

Gerard coughs and takes another drink of water, sternly ordering himself not to blush.

"It was pretty good."

"You voluntarily set foot in a comic shop?"

"No." Gabe reaches over and plucks the bottle from Gerard's hand, taking a long drink. "I made Pete buy it every month and send it to me."

"Ah."

"I liked it." Gabe takes another drink and hands the bottle back. "But it was weird. I read the whole damn thing, and never found the part where the main dude hooks up with the two nerdy yet hot brothers who run the satellite spy network."

"Huh." Gerard rolls the bottle between his palms. "Weird."

"I kinda want my money back."

"Don't you mean Pete should get his money back?"

"He doesn't need it." Gabe reaches out and brushes his fingers over Gerard's wrist, feather-light, his smile growing into that broad, bright Joker's grin. "But if you're not going to refund me, I could take it out in trade."

"The trade isn't out yet."

"Gerard?"

"Yeah?"

Whatever Gabe's going to say gets lost as the director gets things moving again on the stage, but Gerard doesn't really need the words. Gabe's smile says it all.