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Okay, so let’s say Frank’s parents are a) still happily married and b) move around allll the time because of his Dad’s job, or something, so Frank goes to like two, sometimes three different schools a year, never stays long enough to really make friends or get involved in anything, and after a while he just stops trying.

Trying to make friends as the new kid is hard enough, but trying when you’re the new, short, weird kid who’s sick a lot and, by some cruel trick of nature, both totally puny AND kind of chubby, is nigh on impossible. Frank is by nature a totally sociable person, but when he’s never around for very long it doesn’t seem worth doing that thing where you pretend you’re like everyone else in order to fit in, and then release the real you in tiny bursts of concentrated weirdness once you already have someone to eat lunch with. So Frank pretty much says FUCK IT and doesn’t try to be any less weird or short or new or sick, and mostly he spends his time doing things that are pretty solitary but he can take them with him when his parents drag him off wherever they’re going next, so at least if he’s lonely he’s never bored: he plays video games, he reads a lot, and plays his guitar, and writes shitty poetry that he posts anonymously online, and watches a lot of movies and TV and argues about them less anonymously online, and trawls the net for new music and talks about that not anonymously at all online.

This is how he meets Mikey Way. Frank sees him around all the Music MySpaces he stalks, and then he pops up in a couple of the forums too, and they start exchanging PMs and then IMs, and it turns out that Mikey is Frank’s age and basically his soulmate, and when Frank’s parents announce that their next move will be to Jersey, Frank freaks out and IMs Mikey like WHAT SCHOOL DO YOU GO TO OMGGGGGGGGG and then makes sure his parents will send him to that one too.

So Frank shows up around the middle of November in Junior year, and having a ready-made friend at school is like the best thing that has ever happened to him. He seriously cannot believe his fucking luck, and he feels sort of pathetic being so grateful to have someone to eat lunch with and tell him where the office is and not lie about it because it’s hilarious to fuck with the new kid, right (ugh, Frank hates everyone), plus Mikey has his own small group of friends who are all really nice to Frank too, and now he has people to walk with in the halls and stuff and it’s totally awesome. Frank has never been happier.

The best part is that Mikey is even more awesome in real life. On the internet Frank couldn’t see his stupid hair or the way he wears his glasses on the end of his nose or hear the really quiet but totally hysterical little asides he makes during conversations, and Frank falls in BFF love so fast it’s disturbing. Lucky for him Mikey feels basically the same way, because Frank never gets tired of listening to Mikey talk about WWF or debating whether the original or the remake of Dawn of the Dead is better, and they like all the same music and he laughs at all the jokes Mikey makes but for some reason most people don’t seem to hear, and it rocks.

At home he’s like FrankFrankFrank when he talks about school, and Gerard (who’s in his Sophomore year at SVA) is like, yo, I gotta meet this kid, so a few weeks after Frank starts at the school, Mikey invites him to have dinner and stay over.

When Frank gets there, Mikey takes Frank up to his room, that has bunkbeds which Frank is secretly relieved about because floorsleeping = dust = Frank’s stupid lungs throwing a fit. Frank dumps his stuff and Mikey’s like oh, come meet my brother, and Frank totally wants to because Mikey talks about him all the time and he sounds really cool. So they troop down the stairs to the basement (Gerard moved down there when he started college) and the first time Frank sees Gerard, he is standing in front of his closet wearing a skirt and high heels and nothing else, and when they come in the room he says, “Mikey, do you know what I did with that blouse I got from Goodwill?” and then turns around and sees them.

Frank is standing there like :OOOOOOOO because Mikey did not TELL HIM that his brother would be CROSS-DRESSING, which Frank is FINE WITH because he is OPEN MINDED and NON-JUDGEMENTAL and has MAYBE PUT ON MAKE-UP IN THE PRIVACY OF HIS OWN ROOM HIMSELF, but it is just that he would have liked to have been WARNED ABOUT IT.

Gerard is going DDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD: because there is a STRANGE BOY IN THE BEDROOM AND GERARD IS NOT WEARING A SHIRT. He doesn’t care who sees him in the skirt and heels, but he would prefer not to meet new people when he is TOPLESS, MIKEY, GOD.

Mikey is going :||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| because he totally TOLD GERARD FRANK WAS COMING, and now what if Frank is some kind of douchebag who gives Gerard shit and then Mikey won’t be able to be his BFF anymore, this is EXACTLY THE KIND OF SHIT GERARD ALWAYS PULLS, WHY COULDN’T HE BE WEARING AN ENTIRE SET OF CLOTHES IS IT TOO MUCH TO ASKKKKKKKK.

So for a few torturously long seconds they just stand around going
:OOOO
DDDD:
:|||||||||||||
at each other, and then Frank blurts out, “Nice to meet you,” and steps forward and holds his hand out to shake, like, what the hell, when did he become his Dad.

Gerard shakes his hand though, and then kind of folds his arms up over his chest and is like uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh I’m going to put some clothes on. More clothes. Different…different clothes, and Frank and Mikey are all OKAY HAHAHAHA WE’LL BE OVER HERE STARING AT THE WALL.

So Gerard yanks on some PJ pants, wiggles out of the skirt, and pulls on the first T-shirt he can find, which happens to be a pink one with She-Ra on it that’s actually his girlfriend’s, but whatever, and Frank doesn’t even give him any shit about it or even seem to notice at all.

So Gerard explains about how he’s planning to go to school in drag just to see what it’s like, if he can get away with it, etc etc, and Frank is all busting out everything he knows from the ten million books he reads a year, and he actually holds his own in this conversation about gender identity and social norms that might be a little heavy for a first time meeting, but Gerard is actually impressed, because usually Mikey’s friends are much more ‘hahaha hello Mikey’s weird older brother MIKEY LET’S GO’ about it. Mikey waits for Frank to go to the bathroom and then is like ‘I told you he was awesome, dude’ and Gerard’s like, ‘He is awesome! A+++ friend choices, Mikey!’ and Mikey’s all at peace with the world because now nobody’s a douchebag or wearing a skirt, and Mikey can relax.

They have dinner with Gerard and Mikey’s parents, and their grandparents who also live with them, which explains why the house is so massive but not really why it’s so weird (seriously there are all these creepy china dolls everywhere, Frank doesn’t know whether they’re cool or terrifying yet. He can’t decide) and Frank has such a good time, because at home it’s just him and his parents, and Mikey’s Nana and Grandpa really remind him of his own, and it’s just a nice family dinner. The grown-ups all love Frank because he’s super-super polite and insists on helping clean up and he seems to think that both Gerard and Mikey are awesome cool people, which obviously they are, but sometimes people outside their family don’t always seem to get it.

After dinner Gerard goes out to meet his girlfriend, and Mikey and Frank do everything up to and including painting each other’s nails. But black, so it’s badass. They stay up way too late gossiping and eating junk food and watching movies, and it’s completely awesome.

After that, Frank usually stays over one night every weekend. His parents are so pleased that he’s made friends and they’re not unpleased about having a night to themselves every week, either. A lot of times Gerard is at the house too, and they all hang out together downstairs in Gerard’s basement, because he has a big bed and more space and his room is full of all his drawings and everything. Frank is obsessed with collecting designs for all the tattoos he’s gonna get when he’s eighteen, and Gerard promises to draw something for him.

Gerard’s experiments in cross-dressing continue, and by the time he gets to the point where he’s ready to take it outside there’s a million photographs of Gerard in various outfits with different hair and make-up all over the place, and something ELSE which is all over the place is Frank’s libido. Like. He knew he liked boys as well as girls, or at least in theory, because it’s not like people have been lining up to sit on his face or anything, but he watches a lot of porn and he knows what he likes to think about when he’s jerking off, so. But now here’s Gerard, who’s older and Mikey’s brother and has a girlfriend, but is also this like, triple threat of awesome friend, cute guy and now HOT GIRL all at the same time. Frank’s brain basically goes FFZZZZT a lot, but he doesn’t let himself think about it too deeply because of the aforementioned brother older girlfriend situation. Blah blah whatever, he’s pretty busy just enjoying school and his friends and playing guitar with Gerard’s friend Ray, who’s teaching Mikey to play bass so that they can have an awesome band some day.

He does let himself think about Gerard in his girl clothes when he’s touching his dick, though, because…whatever, it’s hot, and it’s just fantasising. Gerard In Frank’s Head isn’t what Frank thinks about when he’s playing video games with Mikey and Real Gerard comes in and starts complaining about this kid he hates at SVA, for example. There’s a very clear separation in his head.

School lets out for the holidays, and Frank gets shipped around everywhere to a million relatives’ houses, which he likes because he loves his family and there’s always a ton of food, plus this time when people ask how he’s doing he can say YES, AWESOME, LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT MY SOCIAL LIFE AND INTERESTS, whereas before he’d just mumble something about concentrating on his studies and avoid his Mom’s guilty face. But he also gets dragged to these stupid work functions of his Dad’s, which he hates because he has to wear like a shirt and tie and shiny shoes and it’s just so Super Dweeb Chic it’s not even funny. In the car on the way back, though, his Dad does impersonations of all the idiots he works with, and that’s pretty funny. Even funnier is the way Frank’s Mom has had like one extra glass of wine, so she can’t stop giggling or sliding down in her seat.

The best thing about this Christmas, though, is a) having someone to be bored with during Mass on Christmas Eve because the Ways and Frank’s family go to the same church, and b) getting to hang out with Gerard and Mikey the day after Christmas and play with each other’s new toys. Plus Frank and Mikey go to a bunch of parties and Frank takes full advantage of the mistletoe/egg nog/holiday spirit equation to suck as much face as possible. He racks up some serious notches on his make-out belt and even scales the dizzy heights of groping and grinding, but still no sex. OR phone numbers. God dammit.

He decides to make a New Year’s Resolution to get laid, and announces it at the party Gerard and Ray sneak them into – sneaking because it’s Gerard’s girlfriend’s roommate’s party, and apparently the roommate is some sort of jackass who doesn’t believe it’s physically possible to socialise with high-schoolers once you’re in college. Gee’s girl – Katie - is all it’s fine it’s fine just if ANYONE ASKS YOU ARE FRESHMEN, which means Mikey and Frank keep asking each other ‘do I look like a freshman? I look like a freshman, right?’ every three minutes until Ray threatens to kick them out himself.

At Frank’s virginity-loss resolution, Mikey toasts him and cheers, but Gerard looks all curious and is like, “I didn’t know you were a virgin!” REALLY LOUD, so now everyone ELSE knows too, awesome. Gerard’s like no, no, but you don’t SEEM like a virgin, you know what I mean? Like, I wouldn’t think that about you, and Frank doesn’t know what to say to that, like, when was Gerard thinking about whether or not Frank was a virgin? And what does he MEAN, that Frank doesn’t seem like one? Frank’s going to take it as a compliment, because some days it feels like EVERYONE KNOWS, like he’s wearing a sign, or…well, like Gerard’s yelling it in a room full of hot college boys and girls, THANKS GERARD.

One of the aforementioned hot college girls who’s listening in is all, “You can practice the run-up with me if you like,” all twinkling at him, and she’s really pretty so Frank ignores the fact that all his asshat friends are making stupid WHOOOOOOA noises, and puts his tongue in her mouth before she can change her mind. She’s taller than him, and hotter, and Frank’s pretty sure she’s a better kisser too, but she doesn’t seem to mind so he just goes for it.

Her name is Tina, he learns between kisses, and she’s a Junior and a psychology major, and Frank actually has a little conversation with her about that because he’s read a lot of books about it and thinks he might like to major in it too, maybe. She goes to school with Gerard’s girlfriend here in the city, but is from Florida originally. She has long blonde hair and long sparkly nails and at some point after midnight (Frank gets to KISS SOMEONE at MIDNIGHT \o/ \o/ \o/ \o/) she drags him into an empty room/closet/SPACE WITH A DOOR and pretty much ravishes the shit out of him, like by the time Frank comes out his hair is all fucked up and he has three hickeys and a hole in his shirt and he’s like, missing a shoe.

Katie starts laughing the minute she sees him, and goes, “TIIIINAAAAAA!” and Tina sweeps by all WHAT? She doesn’t have a hair out of place, and she comes over and kisses Frank again and squeezes his ass with both hands, making him jump and squeak into her mouth before she laughs and says she’s going to another party but Frank should look her up when he’s a freshman for real.

Gerard laughs his ass off throughout this whole exchange, but not in a mean way, and he’s genuinely interested when he asks Frank if he had a good time. Frank kind of wobbles around and touches his swollen lower lip and says, “I think so?” and Katie laughs again and says, “Yeah, that’s Tina.”

The next day when they’re all nursing their hangovers – or hickeys, if they are Frank, because he was so busy getting…well, busy, (\o/!) that he sort of forgot to get drunk - Gerard whispers to Frank, “So, I mean…did you? With Tina?” And Frank’s like “No, dude, come on, I just met her,” and Ray, who has the ears of a bat, is like OH MY GOD, YOU’RE ADORABLE, and Frank’s all fuck youuuuuuuu and Gerard’s like, no, dude, I’m with Frank. Sex with strangers is meaningless, and Ray’s all sex with TINA isn’t meaningless, I’m willing to bet, and Gerard ignores him and starts going on about how he thinks that it’s awesome and romantic that Frank wants to wait until he finds someone special, and Frank’s like I hate to burst your bubble, dude, but I don’t WANT to wait, I am having waiting THRUST UPON ME, and Mikey’s like ‘lol thrust’ which makes them all laugh until they have to stop to hold their heads and groan.

School starts up again, the year goes on. Mikey takes Frank to a horror convention where they fanboy a bunch of B-list movie makers and spend way too much money on giant posters. Gerard kind of disappears inside his college work for a while; what he lets them see is totally awesome, but it sucks that he can’t hang out as much.

Mikey and Frank go to a party one Friday, and Frank gets really, really, really drunk for the first time. He’s been a little tipsy before, but not wasted out of his FACE like this. Luckily he doesn’t do anything embarrassing, except for throwing up four times on the way back to Mikey’s place.

Mikey doesn’t really want to try to wrangle a loud, drunk, vomiting Frank through the house, so they go through the basement entrance, where Gerard is sitting on his bed working on some homework. He looks up in surprise when they enter, and then immediately starts laughing and comes to help Mikey get Frank laid out on the bed.

“Urrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh,” says Frank, and falls asleep with his shoes still on. Gerard takes them off, and his jeans, and Mikey brings a glass of water which they somehow manage to forcefeed to him between themselves, by which time Mikey’s about to pass out because he’s not exactly sober himself.

Gerard lets Mikey go upstairs to bed, and kind of bends himself around where Frank is crashed out on the bed, to carry on with his homework.

In the morning Frank wakes up with his head pounding and his stomach in uproar and his bladder telling him that no matter how bad he feels, he has to get up and piss in the next five minutes or there’ll be trouble. It takes him a minute to figure out he’s in Gerard’s room, that he must have fallen asleep down there, and he’s embarrassed, kind of, but he can’t think about it because he has to really concentrate on making it to the bathroom and back without falling over or throwing up again. He refills the water glass and gargles with like a half a bottle of mouthwash, too, because what the fuck died in his mouth, seriously.

Gerard shuffles back in just as Frank is lowering himself back down onto the bed. Frank gingerly lets his head come to rest on the pillow and looks pitifully up at Gerard. “I can get out of here, if you want,” he says, praying that Gerard won’t make him move because he’s going to diiiiiiiie if he even has to turn over, and Gerard just kind of laughs and shakes his head.

“Not as long as you don’t mind me being here too,” he says, climbing back into bed himself. Frank groans and clings to the mattress when Gerard’s weight makes it dip. “It’s way too early to be upright.”

“Muurrrrgh,” Frank says in answer, closing his eyes. He loves how blessedly dark and quiet it is down here. “Mikey?”

“Still dead to the world and will be for hours,” Gerard says confidently. He turns his head on the pillow to look at Frank. “Do you need to call your parents?”

Frank doesn’t know where his cellphone is. It’s in his pants, he thinks. Now that he comes to think of it, he doesn’t know where his pants are either. “Unnuh.”

Gerard hands over the house phone, and Frank manages to hold a halfway cogent conversation with his Dad about how he won’t be home ‘til later (one of the great things about having a best friend with an older brother is that through cunning use of not letting his parents ever find out what Gerard is actually LIKE, Frank has them thinking Gerard is an awesome chaperone, which means they let him do stuff he knows he’d never be allowed to do otherwise, like go to parties where there will also be a shitload of beer) before dropping the phone on the bed and cuddling down under the covers as far as he can. “Mmf.”

He’s so tired but for some reason he can’t get back to sleep, he’s weirdly jittery and his stomach is giving him so much grief. Gerard makes sympathetic noises – he has hangovers all the time, Frank knows, so he’s like an expert in the field or something – and makes Frank drink some more water and gets some Advil out of his nightstand, too. Then he’s like uhhhh I don’t know if this is weird, or something, but when I feel like shit, like…it helps if there’s someone else, like, there. To…soothe me, or whatever. Frank doesn’t really know what Gerard’s getting at, because there IS someone else there, Gerard is there, and he’s totally soothing, in his own very weird way, but then Gerard kind of nestles a little closer and moves Frank around so his head is on Gerard’s shoulder and Gerard puts his hand on Frank’s tummy and starts rubbing very gently in circles.

Frank says, “I think this probably IS weird, dude,” and Gerard’s like um, yeah, I know, D:?, and Frank’s like, fucking, I didn’t say STOP, and so Gerard just kind of cuddles him and keeps making big, warm circles on Frank’s belly with the flat of his hand, and Frank doesn’t care HOW weird it is, it feels fucking awesome, and he just sighs and starts to feel a little better and soon drops back off to sleep.

He wakes up a few hours later by Mikey crawling into the bed with them, moaning about how he’s never drinking againnnnnnnnnnn whyyyyy, and he and Frank have a sleepy argument about whether or not Mikey feels worse than Frank because HE didn’t throw up a billion times last night and so has more booze left in his system to metabolize. Gerard is despatched to bring back juice and coffee and chips, and then they all shuffle around under the covers until they fit, and watch Hellboy on very, very low volume.

So everything is fine, Frank’s hangover is sinking into the background, he feels okay so long as he doesn’t move at all. Then Gerard goes and fucks everything up by starting to talk about his Go to School in Drag project, and Frank’s brain is so confused because Frank is sleepy and his mind is fuzzy and without his permission he’s suddenly thinking about the jerking-off Gerard while he’s cuddled up to the real one who’s still stroking his tummy absent-mindedly, and they collide in Frank’s head and Frank’s dick goes ohhhhh, NOW I see and starts to make its feelings about the situation known, and Frank like JUMPS out of bed before things can get really horrifying and stammers something about needing to get home, as he sways around yanking his jeans on and jamming his feet into his shoes which are suddenly six sizes too small, while Gerard and Mikey go O.O at him from the bed.

Gerard says, “Wait, we’ll drive you,” but Frank’s like NO HAHAHAHAH I NEED THE FRESH AIR OK BYYYYYYYE and speedwalks out of the house and around the corner, where he has to sit down on the kerb and call his Mom to come get him because he still does feel pretty terrible.

He perks up when he gets home because his Dad says he thinks they can stay in Jersey until Frank finishes high school. Frank is so \o/ about this it isn’t even funny – all the time he’s been enjoying himself with Mikey he’s had this little nagging voice of ;____; what about when I have to leeeeeeeeeeeeave in the back of his head, and now he can shut it the fuck up. Yay! He texts Mikey the good news and then goes back to bed, where he frets for a little while about the whole boner situation, but decides it’s just one of those things, and it’s not like he hasn’t gotten inappropriate boners like twice a week since he was twelve in places way stupider than his best friend’s big brother’s bed – the library, for example, or on public transport, or the DENTIST, srsly, wtf was THAT about, and he guesses random boners must be kind of like sheep because he’s getting sleepy again lying there counting them.

Mikey texts him back ‘yay.’ and Frank grins at his phone before snuggling down and sleeping off the rest of his hangover, waking up just in time to eat dinner and watch a movie with his parents in the den.

Gerard actually does go to school all day in drag, and Mikey and Frank can’t stop laughing every time they catch each other’s eye all day. They call him at lunch to see how he’s doing, and he’s so excited to tell them he got hit on twice and some guy gave up his seat on the train. Frank makes him promise not to change until Frank sees him, but Gerard goes one better and comes to pick Mikey and Frank up from school, lounging against the hood of his car like something out of a magazine and looking fucking SMOKING hot, like even Mikey says something about how Gerard looks good as a girl but it’s a shame he’s actually such a butt-ugly dude. Frank knows Mikey doesn’t mean it, but he still laughs when Gerard gets all bitchy.

(The image of Gerard and his girl clothes and the car go STRAIGHT to number one in Frank’s spank bank, though. Jesus fuck. Gerard totally knows he looks good, too, like he keeps fluttering his eyelashes and touching his own mouth and doing these little sidelong looks from under his eyelashes. Frank is only ONE MAN, ok. Well. One high school boy, anyway.)

Gerard drops them both off at Frank’s house and then goes off to meet Katie, like, how the fuck Gerard managed to find a cute, cool chick who thinks it’s awesome when he wants to dress up as a girl too is just BEYOND FRANK, like, he barely leaves the HOUSE, but he has a GIRLFRIEND, it’s not FAIR. Where are all these people who want to have kinky sex HIDING? Frank doesn’t even want to have kinky sex! Just regular sex. Mikey totally gets laid, not as much as he makes out, but enough, and Frank doesn’t think he’s totally HIDEOUS compared to Mikey or anything. He complains about it while they’re doing their History homework, and Mikey’s all, well, maybe you’re trying too hard. Frank’s like I’m not trying too hard! And Mikey’s like, well, then maybe you’re not trying hard enough. Which is such bullshit because Mikey doesn’t try at ALL, he just lounges around and lures people in with his hipbones and his knock-off DVDs and his hook-ups with the kid who sells pot at the back of CVS, and the sex just FINDS HIM. Ugh.

Mikey’s like ‘it’s not like you’re a monk, dude, you do all right. And what about Tina?’ and Frank’s like THAT WAS AGES AGO. *complain whine complain*

A few days later, Mikey doesn’t show up for school. Frank’s kind of grumpy about it because they’re supposed to present this stupid project they worked on for English, and this makes it look like it isn’t done, which it IS, but Frank doesn’t want to present it by himself. He calls Mikey before last period all WTF and Mikey’s like dude, dude. Katie dumped Gerard.

Frank’s like oh. D: Is he okay? And Mikey’s all uh…no. So Frank worries his way through last period, calls his parents to say he’s going to Mikey’s to drop off his homework (this is actually true, and another reason why Mr. and Mrs. Way like Frank so much: he’s a good influence on Mikey that way) and gets there as fast as he can.

He knocks gingerly on the basement door, and when there’s no answer he pushes it open and sees like, a big tangled lump of Way brother on the bed, half of which is crying and the other half is patting the crying half gently and looking kind of helplessly around the room.

Frank’s like DDD: but he goes in anyway, feeling for the first time like maybe he won’t be welcome, like maybe Gerard won’t want his little brother’s stupid dweebie friend eyeballing him while he’s having a heartbreak crisis or whatever. Frank sort of skirts around the bed and puts Mikey’s homework down on the desk and then hovers uncertainly in the middle of the room for a minute.

Mikey says, “Thanks, dude,” and Frank goes over to the bed and sits down at the foot. He puts his hand over Gerard’s ankle and pats it a little. He doesn’t know what else to do. After a while he escapes back home. Mikey comes to school the next day, but he doesn’t seem to want to talk about it.

At the weekend Frank assumes Gerard’s ~delicate condition means he isn’t invited over, which he’s vaguely mopey about until late Saturday morning when Mikey calls him like WTF why aren’t you coming over? :|||||| And Frank’s like I didn’t know if you wanted me to! And Mikey’s like DUDE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD COME OVER, DON’T LEAVE ME ALONE WITH HIM FOR ANOTHER NIGHT.

Frank’s kind of o__o but he goes to get his toothbrush and things and then goes over to Mikey’s. Mikey’s in his own room for once, in the top bunk where he sleeps, throwing a beanbag up and down in the air and kind of scowling. Frank slides in to his bunk (he can’t help thinking of it as his) and lies there in silence for a few minutes before saying, “Dude, you wanna talk about it?”

Mikey’s like sigh, sigh, flop about, sigh, and then finally says, “It’s just that sometimes I think he enjoys it.”

Frank doesn’t say anything, just waits, and then Mikey goes on, “Not the being sad part. But…I don’t know. Just the drama, I guess. And he likes it when Nana spoils him.”

Frank doesn’t really know what to say to that, because he kind of gets that Mikey is allowed to say shit about Gerard but nobody else. Mikey’s not wrong though. Gee IS a total drama queen, and he DOES like to be spoiled and doted on, and really any excuse to get wasted is a good excuse, according to Gerard. Frank says, “I don’t think he likes being sad all the time, though.”

Mikey goes ‘hmm’ and they’re quiet again for a while until he says, “This always happens. This always, always happens. I guess I just wish he could just have a girlfriend or a boyfriend or whatever without it being so…you know? Like…why is it always life or death?”

“I don’t know,” Frank says. Mikey kind of sighs and shifts about. Frank gets out of his bunk and folds his arms on the edge of Mikey’s and puts his chin on them. Mikey’s pinching the bridge of his nose under his glasses. He looks really worn out.

“I promised I’d go back down,” he says, and rubs his whole face with both hands. “I slept like an hour last night.”

“I’ll go,” Frank offers. “I mean…he probably wants you, but. I don’t know. If you want, like, a break or a nap or whatever. I don’t mind.”

“He’s hungover,” Mikey says. Frank says, “Yeah.”

He goes and gets a glass of water and some crackers and takes them down into the basement, which STINKS, ok, even for Gerard that shit is pretty foul. It smells…well, basically like Gerard shut himself in there and smoked a lot and drank a lot and threw up a couple times and didn’t shower since he got dumped. Frank makes himself inhale a few really big, deep breaths so he can get used to it, then picks his way over to Gerard’s bed and puts the water and the crackers down on the nightstand.

Gerard’s all bundled under the covers, and he peeps up at Frank like ;_____; but he lets Frank make him sit up and drink some water and take some Advil and Frank turns his pillow over for him because the topside is all damp, and he strokes Gerard’s crazy hair off his face, which is all pink and tear-stained, and Frank lies down with him and lets him cuddle up because apparently Frank is a sucker just like Gee’s Grandma.

He remembers how Gerard made him feel better when he was hungover that time, and he says, “Do you want, I mean…uh,” and puts his hand on Gerard’s belly and rubs a few hesitant circles until it becomes obvious that Gerard’s not going to tell him to stop. He tries to think of what else would be soothing, and ends up pressing his cheek against the top of Gerard’s head and trying to beam well-being into him with his mind, or something.

Gerard sighs after a while, and peers up at Frank and is like, is Mikey mad at me, and Frank’s all naw, dude, he’s just getting some sleep. And Gerard’s like thank you for coming down :(((( I don’t wanna be alone :(((( and Frank’s all, *patpat* you’re not alone, man. Then Gerard starts on a giant ramble about how he IS alone and he’s always going to BE alone and he’s going to DIE alone, and Frank just cuddles him and kind of spaces out a little and thinks about the hot dude he saw when he was sneaker shopping with Mikey last week, and then he comes back in time to hear Gerard say, “Don’t ever fall in love, Frankie. It’s not worth it.”

Frank says, “Of course it’s worth it,” before he even knows what he’s saying, like, how the fuck would he know, he’s never been in love at all. He likes the idea of it, though. Gerard sighs again, all shuddery, and his face starts to crumple up and Frank’s like dude, dude, don’t cry, come on, you’ll make your head hurt. It could be worse, okay? Someone could be dying, or you could be in high school and a VIRGIN still, and Gerard cracks a teeny smile at that and is like, “Still no luck, huh,” and Frank’s like :/:/:/ no. Gerard’s like dude, it’s not the be all and end all, ok, trust me, plus your first time’s gonna suck. Your first time always sucks, because you’re so nervous and you don’t know what the fuck you’re doing.

Frank’s like uh huh, and then Gerard says, “Of course, I have it on good authority that I STILL don’t know what I’m doing,” and Frank’s like, oh. Oh, dude, ouch, and Gerard’s like :////////// yeah. Frank does not know what to say to that at all, like…if someone told him he was a bad kisser even, he thinks he’d just lock himself in a hole in the ground and die. He ventures, “Is…is that why she broke it off?” and Gerard’s like no, I think the fact that I’m a fucking LOSER is why she broke it off, and then he gets upset again and starts ranting about all the reasons why he’s a failure as a human being. Frank can’t really tell what he’s saying because his voice is doing that weird stretchy rollercoaster WEEEaaahEEEaaaah thing it does when you try to talk while you’re crying, but at the end he does manage to catch Gerard sniffling, “I mean, of course she doesn’t want to be with me. Why would ANYONE want to be with me, I’m not worth their fucking time.”

Frank knows that Gerard doesn’t really believe that, like, how could he possibly believe that, Gerard is so smart and interesting and talented and nice and awesome, but he doesn’t really mean to blurt out, “You are,” and then when Gerard looks at him, “I think – I think you are.”

He’s embarrassed for a minute, and he feels his face flush, like way to write CRUSH CRUSH CRUSH across his FACE, bloodflow, that’s totally awesome, but Gerard doesn’t notice or is nice enough to pretend not to notice and just says, “Thanks, Frankie.”

Gerard sits up a bit and drinks some water and makes a big production out of wiping his face and blowing his nose and sighing a lot, then says, “God. Can we talk about something else? Let’s talk about you, okay?”

Frank gawps a bit because Gerard wants to talk about not-himself about as often as Mikey wants to be the centre of attention, but before Gerard can change his mind he’s like, oh, actually, you know what, I did want to ask you something. What did you mean, you know on New Year’s, when you said I didn’t seem like a virgin?

Gerard like wrinkles his brow and is like oh shit, I did say that, didn’t I, and Frank’s all, but what did it MEEEAN, and Gerard’s like idk, dude, just…the way you are. The way you move, or something. I don’t know, it just seems like you’d be good at it.

Frank immediately says, “I WOULD be good at it,” which actually makes Gerard laugh a little bit. Frank feels triumphant! And also kind of tingly, lying here wrapped up with Gerard who thinks Frank seems like he would be good in bed. And who is also all heartbroken, ugh, why is Frank’s dick such a creep :(

Gerard changes the subject then, thank GOD, and asks if Frank still thinks he’s going to major in psychology, and Frank shyly admits that he’s thinking about creative writing, and Gerard’s all dude, I didn’t know you wrote, and Frank’s like uhhhhhh poetry and Gerard’s like !!!! CAN I SEE IT? And Frank’s like HAHAHAH NNNNN. Gerard pouts and Frank’s like, dude, it’s BAD, and Gerard’s like you know you’ll have to sit there and get ripped apart by your classmates if you do it at college, right? And Frank’s like I knowwwwww but that’s different.

After a while Gerard falls asleep, and when Frank goes back upstairs Mikey’s still asleep too. Frank plays on the computer for a while, then wakes Mikey up and they go out to the record store and the photo place where Ray works part-time and the shoe store so Frank can eyeball his hot dude some more, but runs away when Mikey tries to make him ask the guy’s name.

More time passes, Gerard eventually drags himself up out of his pit of misery – well, okay, everyone else drags him, and the final blow to Gerard’s wallowing time is dealt by his Grandma, who apparently goes down to the basement and shuts the door and then comes out thirty minutes later brushing her hands off and looking satisfied. Gerard won’t tell anyone what she said, but he stops locking himself in his room so much after that. Mikey and Frank start thinking about colleges and decide they’re definitely both either going to school in New York or New Jersey, although Frank still doesn’t really know what he wants to major in and Mikey has no fucking clue either.

Frank writes a lot more terrible poetry full of thinly-veiled metaphors about forbidden lust and unrequited crushes, but it’s weird because he doesn’t sit around like, aching for Gerard’s touch or anything when they’re actually together. He likes it when he and Mikey and Gerard all curl up to watch movies though, and he has an excuse to get close, he can’t lie about that. But in terms of stomach-butterfly jittery nervous crush feelings, he has them more about the hot shoe store guy (who SMILED at Frank the last time they went in :DDD) and this girl Jenna in his homeroom who he thinks he might ask to Prom, because she’s cute and nice and wears a Misfits hoodie to school sometimes, and she always asks how Frank’s weekend was.

(Gerard and his high heels remain firmly at the top of Frank’s jack-off list, though. He’s pretty sure he’s going to be rubbing one out to that when he’s NINETY.)

As it turns out, anyway, Jenna likes Mikey. Frank finds out because she asks him one day if he thinks Mikey would go to Prom with her if she asked. Frank is like, >:(, but he dutifully delivers the information to Mikey. Mikey is kind of :| and all ‘bros before hos’ about it, trying to be noble or some shit, but Frank knows he likes her too so he just says, go with her, whatever, I don’t even care. It’s only Junior year, anyway. Frank can go to Prom next year.

There’s always a huge party at the end of the school year, apparently, thrown by this one family, and all the college kids go as well as the high schoolers. Everyone Frank knows and everyone he DOESN’T know is there, and it’s actually kind of like a movie with all the Senior girls crying on each other and the fights and the drunken dancing and that one chick who always passes out on the stairs. Frank spends most of the night with Gerard and Ray and their friends, and somehow they all end up in this game of Spin the Bottle, which Frank loves because he is an awesome kisser and also because there tends to be not very much weirdness about who you’re kissing or what gender they are or whatever. This chick across the circle spins and gets Gerard, and crawls over to kiss him and because Frank is sitting RIGHT THERE he can totally see it when she slips him the tongue and tugs on Gerard’s hair where it’s getting really long. Gerard sits back on his heels after and whispers to Frank, “Pretty sure she has no memory of sitting behind me in English for two years,” before spinning himself.

He gets Frank. Frank kind of stares at the bottle, then at Gerard, then back at the bottle, then at Ray who’s making that WHOOOOOOA noise again, what the fuck is that, seriously, then at Gerard who’s smiling, and Frank kind of panics and leans forward and pecks Gerard really quickly on the lips. Gerard looks surprised when Frank leans away superfast afterwards, and everyone goes BOOOOO and bugs Frank to kiss Gerard properly. Frank doesn’t know WHAT TO DO, he just knows that if he kisses Gerard for real that will be the END of the Jerk-off Gerard/Real Gerard separation, but if he doesn’t kiss him then either he’ll think Frank thinks he’s gross or something, or worse, he’ll know how much Frank DOESN’T think that, and Frank spends so long worrying about what to do that he totally misses it when Gerard leans in and wraps his hand over the back of Frank’s neck and pushes Frank’s mouth open with his tongue.

It is the weirdest thing in the world the way Frank feels like he’s suddenly gone deaf and blind and been paralyzed from the neck down, like he just is not aware of anything except for the fact that Gerard is kissing him GERARD IS KISSING HIMMMM, and he doesn’t even realize that he’s kissing back and he’s got one hand on Gerard’s shoulder and one in his hair until Gerard breaks off and grins at him, and all the sound rushes back into Frank’s ears and he can hear everyone catcalling and his own accelerated breath. Before he can look like any more of an idiot he lets go and wipes his hands on his jeans all flustered, then spins the bottle and gets some random dude across the circle. Frank crawls over and kisses him quickly, but the dude is obviously not up for tongue (THANK GOD, Frank can’t even THINK ABOUT IT) so Frank escapes gratefully back to his spot, where he stares at his knees and blushes like a moron and does not look at Gerard.

After a while, holding his breath and panicking every time the bottle spins gets really old, so Frank gets up - ostensibly to get another drink, but actually just to get away from Gerard and his warm side and his stupid laugh and his TONGUE that he just put in Frank’s MOUTH. He wanders around and talks to this kid Jamie for a while, because he works on the school paper and Frank’s thinking about joining next year, because he should probably have something to put on his college applications other than ‘moved around a lot. Good grades! :D?’

He actually does get himself another drink, narrowly avoiding Matthew Turner who’s a dickhead on the football team who always gives Frank a hard time for no reason, and bumps into Mikey in the hall.

Mikey’s like dude where have you been all night and Frank’s like HAHAHA CERTAINLY NOT KISSING YOUR BIG BROTHER, except he doesn’t say that, he’s just kind of twitchy and nervous, but Mikey’s drunk enough that he doesn’t even seem to notice. He tells Frank that Jenna’s parents are out of town so Mikey’s going to stay over there tonight, “But you can still crash, man, it’s totally fine.”

IT’S NOT FINE, Frank wants to say. IT’S NOT FINE BECAUSE I WILL BE ALONE IN THE HOUSE WITH GERARD AND HIS TONNNNNNGUE, but he can’t say that so he just kind of shrugs, and thinks about maybe going home to his own house, except he can’t because it’s already two in the morning and Frank’s parents theoretically believe that the Ways make sure they’re home by midnight.

Anyway, he won’t be alone at all, because Mikey’s parents and grandparents will be there too. And Ray, apparently, and Gerard’s friend Otter, both of whom crash in the basement with him, leaving Frank to run gratefully up to Mikey’s room and shut the door and sit in his bunk and FREAK THE FUCK OUT ABOUT KISSING GERARD. He just doesn’t know what it meeeeeeans, like – was that just a Spin the Bottle kiss? Because it felt like kind of a more kiss than that…but maybe it wasn’t, maybe Gerard kisses everyone like that because he’s in college and he’s had sex, and right now he’s downstairs laughing with his friends about how Frank got all worked up over a little tongue action.

Except Gerard doesn’t seem like he would laugh about that, because he’s not an asshole. And anyway he’s not really someone who goes around kissing just anyone either. So does that mean it was a real kiss? If it was a real kiss, does that mean things are now weird? What will Mikey say? Frank has no idea if Mikey would be cool with Frank kissing his brother or not – it’s one of the very few things Frank has never discussed with him. Although, Mikey’s totally dating the girl Frank wanted to ask to Prom, so it’s like Mikey OWES HIM, isn’t it?

Frank doesn’t know. He doesn’t knoooooow, and he falls asleep not knowing and wakes up not knowing, and his cellphone beeps and it’s a text message from Gerard saying ‘r u cming down’ and Frank reads it a hundred times but it doesn’t offer any clue as to whether he should be going in there expecting more kisses or not. He wishes he could ask Mikey :( But he can’t, so he just heads down to the basement, via the bathroom where he brushes his teeth and washes his face and tries to flatten his hair down, even though the effort will be totally lost on Gerard, who is usually indistinguishable from a homeless person until well into the afternoon.

He pushes open the door, and is relieved to see that it’s just Gerard in there (Frank likes Ray, but he doesn’t really know Otter so he gets a little nervous around him, as if he’s not about to crawl out of his skin already) and flabbergasted to see Gerard dressed and…Frank can’t be sure, but he thinks he might have SHOWERED.

He’s just lying on the bed, though, flipping channels, and he smiles normally when Frank comes in, and pats the bed next to him. Frank doesn’t know if it’s a ‘hey, Mikey’s friend who I kissed during a totally routine party game last night, let’s watch cartoons’ pat, or a ‘hey, Frank, let me explain to you how kissing you was a giant mistake and can never happen again’ pat, or a ‘bow chicka bow come-here-to-me’ pat, which Frank is actually pretty sure people don’t do outside of pornos, but whatever. He walks over and sits down gingerly on the bed, and Gerard kind of laughs and pulls him to lie down, but then he doesn’t DO anything, they just watch TV and talk about random shit – or, Gerard talks and Frank nods and says ‘uh huh’ whenever Gerard pauses to take a breath.

He’s acting like everything’s normal, but…how can it be normal when he kissed Frank last night? How can it be normal when he’s SHOWERED? Frank lies there and fidgets and feels Gerard’s arm brush against his and smells the girly shampoo he (occasionally) uses, and then Gerard says to the TV, “Did I weird you out last night?”

Frank panics about what to say, and can’t think of anything except the truth, which is, “Kind of.”

Gerard’s like, “Oh,” and then doesn’t SAY ANYTHING ELSE, what the fuck is Frank supposed to think now? He fidgets some more, and then Gerard turns his head to face him and Frank can’t help looking at his mouth, and Gerard smiles a little bit but still doesn’t say anything, and Frank opens his own mouth to…he doesn’t even know, ask if Gerard is weirded out, maybe, but before he can get any words out, his cell rings.

Frank groans and answers it, and it’s his Dad saying he has to come home for a family meeting. Frank’s stomach turns over and he’s like AM I IN TROUBLE and his Dad’s like no, you’re not in trouble – wait, why, what have you done? And Frank’s like nothing, hahaha, well, what is it then? And Dad’s like, oh, I think you should just come home and we’ll talk about it here and Frank’s like IS SOMEONE SICK? DID SOMEONE DIE? IS IT GRANDMA? And his Dad’s like NO, worrywart, nobody’s sick or dead or in trouble, I promise, just get your things together and I’ll come pick you up, okay?

Frank’s like okaaaay, and hangs up and Gerard’s all worried-face and like are you okay?? And Frank’s like IDK :/:/:/ but I have to go, and Gerard’s like oh :/:/ okay :/:/ and Frank runs back upstairs to get his shit together.

In the car Frank’s Dad STILL won’t tell him what’s up, he just asks a bunch of questions about the party which Frank can’t answer without busting out his Gerard crisis or revealing how much he enjoys the underage drinking aspect of life, so he just kind of jitters around in the passenger seat, and when he gets home his Mom is sitting at the kitchen table looking sombre and Frank’s like SERIOUSLY WTF IS GOING ON, SOMEONE TELL ME BEFORE I THROW UP, and that’s when his Dad drops the bombshell that they have to move again.

There’s a tense silence, and then Frank is kind of impressed at how pissed off his own voice sounds when he says, quietly, ‘what.’ His Mom starts to say she knows Frank’s going to be upset, and Frank’s like UPSET? UPSET? YOU PROMISED! YOU SAID WE WERE STAYING THIS TIME! All pointing at his Dad like J’ACCUSE, and his Dad’s like, I know, Frankie, but things change and Frank’s like I’M NOT LEAVING, YOU CAN’T MAKE ME, YOU’RE RUINING MY LIFE, the whole bit, and there’s screaming and recriminations and Frank running upstairs and slamming the door to his own room so hard everything falls off the shelf over his desk.

His parents follow, because they don’t understand the concept of leaving Frank alone ever, god, he HATES THEM, and Frank jams his chair under the doorknob so they can’t get in and screams at them some more about how they shouldn’t have had a kid if they were just going to be selfish assholes who didn’t want him to ever have friends or be happy, WHY DO THEY HATE HIM, and then his Dad gets mad and is all THAT’S ENOUGH, and Frank’s like YOU CAN’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO I AM GOING TO BE EIGHTEEN IN OCTOBER, I AM NOT COMING WITH YOU and then steps on his own point by adding THIS IS CHILD ABUSE, and his Dad’s like LISTEN TO ME, YOU UNGRATEFUL LITTLE ASSHOLE and Frank’s all I AM NEVER LISTENING TO YOU AGAINNNNNNNNNNNNNNN ALL YOU TELL ME IS LIES and throws himself on the bed and puts Slipknot on his iPod with the volume cranked all the way up to max. He doesn’t even really like Slipknot, but it seems like the thing to do.

 

***

 

After an hour of listening to his angriest music, he has a headache and also needs to pee, so he moves the chair and tiptoes out to the bathroom. He hangs over the banister on the way back to see if he can hear his parents talking, but he can’t. He shuts the door to his room again but doesn’t put the chair in front of it this time. He sits down in front of his computer and plays Grand Theft Auto for a while, flicking to his buddy list occasionally to see if Mikey’s on, but he isn’t because he’s still off boning the girl Frank liked, WHY DOES GOD HATE FRANK, SERIOUSLY.

After a while his Mom knocks on the door. He can tell it’s his Mom because she does a little skippy rap-tap with her knuckle, whereas his Dad thumps the door and then ‘hilariously’ opens it and goes ‘Dad on deck!’ without waiting for Frank to say it’s ok, because he is a douchebag asshole who wants Frank to suffer.

Frank grunts, and his Mom comes in with a sandwich and some juice, and Frank ignores her, and she puts them down on the desk by his elbow and he still ignores her, and she stands there with her arms folded so he detours his car and kills some prostitutes just to get in her face. She says, “Frank,” and he’s like WHAT, unless you’re going to tell me we’re not moving you don’t have anything to say that I want to hear, and she leans over him to pause his game – HE HATES THAT, UGH – and is all ‘do you think you’re the only one this is hard for? You don’t think that maybe I liked staying in the same place for more than five minutes?’ and Frank’s like YOU KNEW WHAT YOU WERE GETTING INTO WHEN YOU MARRIED HIM, I WASN’T INFORMED OF THE SITUATION BEFORE I DECIDED WHETHER OR NOT I WANTED TO BE BORN – OH WAIT, I DIDN’T DECIDE THAT EITHER, and she’s like DON’T YELL AT ME and he’s like WHY NOT, YOU’RE YELLING AT ME and then Dad comes in all DON’T YELL AT YOUR MOTHER and Frank’s like GET OUT OF MY ROOM and they have another few whirls around the merry-go-round of whether or not his parents hate him, or if Frank is being completely unreasonable.

Eventually Frank – doesn’t win, exactly, but hits them with a few really sweet guilt trips over constantly being lonely and given a hard time at school, and his parents leave him alone after his Mom tells him to eat his sandwich and Frank’s like ‘I don’t want anything the money from this stupid job paid for, take it awayyyyyyy’ and his Dad’s like EAT THE DAMN SANDWICH and Frank’s all FINE, but only because secretly he’s actually starving, and obviously his Dad thinks this is some kind of victory because he finally gets the fuck out of Frank’s room.

Frank slams around his room a little, which is stupid because all that happens is he has to clean up after himself because he hates it when his room’s a mess. He opens Word and writes a giant angry screed about how much everything sucks, then checks his buddy list and Mikey STILL isn’t online, so Frank tries to read for a while but he can’t concentrate because he’s so upset. When it gets so dark he has to turn the lights on he sneaks downstairs and finds his parents sitting together on the couch. Frank stands in front of them with his arms folded and is like, “Details?”

It turns out they’re supposed to leave in a month – A MONTH, which means Frank won’t even get to spend the whole summer here, and he was really looking forward to that. He and Mikey were gonna get jobs and save up to go on a road trip the summer before college. And they’re going to live in fucking North Dakota. NORTH DAKOTA. What’s in North Dakota? And why couldn’t it be somewhere close by, like…Philadelphia or Baltimore or somewhere that Frank could still see his friends sometimes, UGH HE HATES EVERYTHINNNG.

The only bright side is that his Gerard problems suddenly seem tiny and insignificant. They don’t even MATTER now anyway, because Frank is being shipped off to the middle of fucking nowhere, and Mikey and Gerard will both have forgotten him completely by the time school starts again. ;_________________________;

Somewhere in the middle of Frank’s Pity Parade, Mikey calls. He’s like, dude, Gee said you ran out all in hurry, what’s up? And Frank’s like sniff sniff WE’RE MOVING and Mikey’s like ………………………………………. but you can’t :| ILU :| and Frank’s like I KNOW but we ARE, what can I do ;___; and after they hang up Mikey goes and tells Gerard, and Gerard’s like but he can’t! And Mikey’s like I know! But he has to! And they sit around on the couch in the living room moping.

Their Mom comes in and sees them lying around like

Gerard: :((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((
Mikey: :||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
(Frank, in his bedroom at home: ;__________________________;)

And she’s like WHO DIED and they tell her about Frank, and she’s like ‘oh no!’ and makes them both a glass of iced tea and sits and rubs Mikey’s knee while he tells the floor how much everything sucks.

Frank forgives his Mom pretty soon, because she looks really sad when he won’t speak to her, but he’s still in a giant rage with his Dad, because this is ALL HIS FAULT. He refuses to pack any of his shit up, and researches about boarding schools in the area (his Dad says no) and the possibility of supporting himself through senior year (his Dad says Hell no) and how to become emancipated legally from his parents (his Dad says LET ME KNOW HOW THAT GOES) and none of it’s any use. He withdraws from the Ways a little bit, because now when he’s with them he just feels like he’s counting down the days until they’re not friends anymore, and everyone’s generally bad-tempered and unhappy and it’s not a good time.

Things come to a head when Frank accidentally (on purpose) leaves the garage door open so that when it rains, all the cardboard boxes Frank’s Dad has in there ready for the move get soaked and become floppy and useless. Frank’s Dad is all SABOTAGE!!! And Frank’s like I AM NOT EVEN SORRY FUCK YOU and his Dad’s like YELL YELL YELL and Frank shouts something about I HATE YOU I HATE YOU AND YOU DON’T EVEN CARE, YOU DON’T EVEN CARE THAT I’M UNHAPPY, YOU DON’T CARE ABOUT ME AT ALLLL and then, mortifyingly, he runs out of anger somehow and just starts crying, which he doesn’t want his Dad to see, so he runs upstairs and flings himself onto his bed, feeling kind of like a heroine in a tragic novel, or Gerard, but he forgets to barricade the door so pretty soon his Dad comes up and knocks on it.

By some miracle, though, he doesn’t do his usual routine, instead he says quietly, “Frank, may I come in?”

Frank’s all ;________________________; do what you want I don’t care ;__________; and his Dad comes in and sits on the side of the bed for a while. Frank sniffles into his pillow, and then he feels his Dad’s hand on his back, and he starts rubbing Frank’s shoulders like he used to do when Frank was a little kid and had bronchitis all the fucking time and couldn’t sleep on his back without drowning in his own mucus. Frank just breathes and tries to calm down.

After a while his Dad starts talking about how he knows this isn’t easy for Frank. He says, “It’s not easy for me either, you know. I don’t like always being the new kid anymore than you do.” And Frank’s like, but Dad, you chose this job, and his Dad’s all, I know. He’s like, “We thought about sending you to boarding school, we thought maybe that would be more stable for you. And maybe I was being selfish, but here’s the thing: you’re my son, and I love you, and I just wanted…I didn’t want you to live…not with me. :( ”

Frank’s like, “I don’t want to live not with you either, Dad.” His Dad’s like, “Has it been so terrible for you?” and Frank’s like, “No, I mean…kind of, but I guess I didn’t really realize how lonely I was until I wasn’t anymore.”

His Dad kind of sits there (feeling like the World’s Biggest Tool) for a while, and then says, “Look. If there was some way for you to stay here, and I would know that you were safe and happy and cared for, then…then I guess your Mom and I would consider it. But boarding school? Don’t take this the wrong way, kid, but if you have a hard time making friends at day school, then I don’t really see how adding curfews and live-in bullies to the mix is going to help.”

Frank’s like, sigh, I guess you’re right, sigh. His Dad rubs his shoulders some more, and then tugs on Frank’s earlobe, and then tickles underneath it which makes Frank laugh a little bit despite himself, and then he hauls Frank up and gives him a big hug. It’s nice: his Dad. He says, “So we’re friends again, right?” And Frank’s like, I guess. And his Dad’s all, good, because I don’t like it when we fight. It makes me really bummed. And Frank’s like, Dad, don’t say bummed, so his Dad says it about nine more times until Frank gives it up and laughs for real.

So things are better at home, which is awesome because Frank hates fighting with his parents, it makes his stomach hurt all the time. He’s still miserable though, and he goes around to Mikey’s and they sit in the bottom bunk together like :((((((((( and promise to talk every day and still go to the same college so they can get back to being BFF. They go downstairs at some point to play video games, and Mikey’s Grandma comes in and sits by Frank and asks him how he’s doing, and Frank’s all :(((( okay I guess :(((((( I don’t wanna go, and she’s like, I know, sweetie, and he tells her what his Dad said about needing to know Frank was happy and how he convinced Frank boarding school is a terrible idea. Mikey listens with one ear while he unhappily kills zombies.

Then: Grandparental subterfuge! She has an idea, and asks her husband what he thinks, and he’s all, A+ brains, baby, and on board with the plan, so she floats it with the Ways. A couple days later they call Mikey and Gerard up for a family meeting, and the boys are kind of D: because these things always end in one of them being in trouble, but this time their Grandma is like, okay. How would it be if Frank stayed with us next year?

Mikey is like YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY and freaking out that he wants to call Frank RIGHT NOW, but they convince him not to until they ask the Ieros, because there’s no sense getting Frank’s hopes up if it’s all going to come to nothing. So there are ~~secret parental meetups and Mikey bouncing off the walls for a few days because he CAN’T TELL FRANK OMG, and then one day Frank is sulkily packing some comic books into a box when his parents come in and are like, okay. Okay. OKAY. We need to talk. Okay.

Frank’s like GOD, WHAT IS IT NOW, AM I ADOPTED, and they bust out the living-with-the-Ways plan, and he’s like O___________________________________________O for about ten minutes, then THROWS HIMSELF at his parents and hugs them to tiny pieces before doing an alarming victory dance around the kitchen.

The plan is that Frank will go with them when they move, but then he’ll stay with the Ways during school time and go back to his parents’ for holidays, like if he was in college. The Ieros are going to pay the Ways for Frank’s keep, but he’ll have his allowance put directly into his bank account and it’s his responsibility to make it last until the next payment. His parents give it the big ANY TROUBLE AND YOU COME TO LIVE WITH US, ANY SLIP IN YOUR GRADES AND YOU COME TO LIVE WITH US, IF YOU SO MUCH AS LEAVE HAIR IN THE WAYS’ SINK YOU COME TO LIVE WITH US, and Frank basically promises to be a Saint, he’ll do ANYTHING, he can’t even believe this is happening.

So, blah, blah, montage of happiness. Frank and Mikey go through all Frank’s crap and decide what needs to be taken over to the Ways’, and everything else is boxed up and taken to North fucking Dakota. Frank spends the rest of the summer at his parents’ new house, getting his room set up for when he’s home and just hanging out with them a lot, and right before he comes back he’s sitting in the kitchen writing in his journal while his Mom cooks dinner, and all of a sudden she gets all weepy and is like MY BABY and Frank’s like !!!! and runs over and hugs her, and she tells him how much she loves him and how she’s going to miss him, and Frank’s like ;_____; I’m gonna miss you too, Mom, and when he goes to bed he has a mini freakout about whether this is a terrible idea, but then in the morning Mikey’s sent him an email with a dorky picture of his bunk, with a drawing of himself lying on the pillow which Gerard must have done, and Mikey going :| and doing the thumbs up next to it, and he thinks, no, this is going to ROCK. It will be JUST LIKE THE OC, except better, because it won’t have Marissa in it.

School starts again in the Fall, and Frank moves in with the Ways. It’s a little weird at first being there ALL THE TIME, and he’s super-polite and obsessed with making sure he’s not in their way or anything, until Mikey’s like, dude, you’re freaking my parents out the way you leave the room whenever they come in, like, if you want to watch Fear Factor with my Dad, that’s cool. So Frank tries to relax, but he can’t stop the compulsion to help with as many household chores as possible, which makes him the perfect child in the Ways’ eyes, because their kids are gross slackers.

Sharing a room is awesome most of the time, but sometimes it pisses Mikey off when he just wants to listen to music or something and Frank is all NO, HOMEWORK because he’s paranoid about his grades slipping, or when Mikey leaves like ONE SOCK on the floor and Frank gets all twitchy eyebrows about it, or when Mikey just…UGH, he just realizes how he’d gotten used to having a room to himself, and now there is someone else IN IT ALL THE TIME, blargh. They have a few little fights over stupid stuff like personal space and music choices and Frank’s snoring or when they are just sick of each other’s faces. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does Mikey usually slips down to the basement and sits by Gerard all :||||||||| and Gerard just pats his leg and reminds him that when THEY shared a room Gerard used to wake him up with nightmares all the time, and Mikey once threw up from the top bunk and it went in Gerard’s hair.

(Sometimes Frank is the one to go down to the basement, which pisses Mikey off even more. Gerard is HIS BROTHER. But Frank is an emotionally manipulative little asshole and gets all okay, well, I never HAD a brother, or any friends, so I guess I don’t know all these RULES about who gets to hang out with him, and Mikey is like ughhhhhhhh and writes grumpy entries on his MySpace that he deletes after half an hour.)

Mostly, though, they have the best time. Frank’s parents call him every day and he’s like THANK YOU SERIOUSLY THIS IS AWESOME and then tells them that he misses them and he wants to come home to visit soon because he doesn’t want them to think he prefers the Ways or anything.

The kissing-Gerard situation seems to have worked itself out, too, actually. Gerard never says another word about that time he KISSED THE HELL OUT OF FRANK, so Frank assumes it was just a party thing and thanks God he never go the chance to make an idiot out of himself over it, and goes back to relegating Gerard to the Jerk-off Cortex in his brain. Sometimes he feels kind of weird when he comes down from whacking off in the shower to the idea of Gerard putting on lipstick and the real Gerard is slumped over the kitchen table groaning into his cereal with last night’s eyeliner trailing down his face, but whatever.

Gerard comes up with the Our Lady of Sorrows design for Frank’s tattoo and Frank immediately pledges to love Gerard FOREVER. Gerard kind of blushes and scratches his head and looks away when people praise his art, but he’s pleased, Frank can tell.

The SATs take up like every spare inch of Frank’s brain, because he knows he’ll get yanked back to North Nowhere if his scores aren’t good. He gets really good scores, though, and Mikey does really well too, mostly because Frank forced him into studying with him all last year. Mikey’s totally smart, but he’s super lazy.

Frank’s birthday rolls around! Halloween! It falls on a Friday and his parents want him to go home for it, but Mikey already bugged his parents into letting them have a party, so Frank has this kind of awkward conversation with his Mom where she’s like, so you’d rather spend your birthday partying with your friends than hanging out with us? And he’s like…well…yeah. He’s gotta go to school in the day anyway, so he’d just spend the evening travelling the billion miles to North Dakota and besides, he already made the appointment to get his tattoo done. (He does not tell her this part.) They agree that he’ll come home the next weekend instead.

He’s actually pretty bummed about not seeing them. They always make a huge deal about Halloween, and the Ways are…well, it’s kind of like Halloween every DAY in their house, but it’s not like they’re going to be waking him up by blasting a tape of screams down his ear and then putting fake blood on his pancakes for breakfast.

(His Dad actually calls him and plays the screams down the phone on the morning of his birthday. Frank loves his Dad.)

BUT. TATTOO. PARTY. EIGHTEEN. FINALLY. Life is good. There’s a brief hair-related disaster when Mikey and Frank try to bleach Frank’s hair in the sink and it goes orange instead of blond, but Gerard says he likes it. “It’s orange,” he says thoughtfully. “Like a pumpkin. Very Halloweeny.”

(Mrs. Way just stares and then is like I AM A HAIRDRESSER HELLO, and Frank’s all, I knooooow, but it’s punker to do it in the sink. Donna’s like IS IT PUNKER TO BE ORANGE? And Frank’s all…it’ll have to be? Donna says AT LEAST LET ME STYLE IT FOR YOU, which Frank submits to kind of reluctantly, but she actually gives him a badass fauxhawk thing. Mrs. Way is so cool.)

So Mikey and Frank and Frank’s new hair go off to school, and Frank suffers through ENDLESS HOURS OF POINTLESSNESS before finallyyyyyy it’s time for his tattoo. He’s jittery with nerves and excitement, and he keeps expecting them to tell him they’ve changed their minds or the LAW and he won’t be able to get it done, but he just shows his ID and the guy nods and tells him to take his jacket off and gets to work.

It hurts, so Frank can’t stop laughing. That makes Mikey laugh too, perched on a chair watching, and Mikey’s laugh is so stupid that it makes Frank laugh even more, and the tattoo artist yells at him a bunch of times to keep still unless he wants to end up with a Magic Eye picture on his arm. Frank actually thinks that would be cool, but he tries to stop giggling.

When they get home they obviously have to peel the wrappings off and take a bunch of pictures for posterity and the internet, and Frank just keeps staring down at his arm and BEAMING. It’s really there! Nobody can ever take it away! Gerard asks to see it, and Frank shivers a little when he runs his fingertips near the edge.

“It looks good,” Gerard says. “Like, it’s so cool. I drew it and now it’s on you.”

Forever,” Frank says. “You have to draw my next one too, okay?” Already he’s planning his next like FIFTEEN.

Party! It’s pretty awesome. Mikey knows everyone in the world so there’s lots of people, and everyone’s in costume. Mikey kind of accidentally makes out with someone not-Jenna, and Jenna sees and there’s kind of a half drama which is her yelling at Mikey and Mikey kind of going :| and then falling over sideways because he’s wasted and needs the wall to hold him up. Frank just walks up to people and is like MAKE OUT WITH ME IT’S MY BIRTHDAY and most of them do. \o/ He sees Gerard getting groped by some dude in a bear suit, and then later sees something suspiciously bearsuit-shaped disappearing into Gerard’s room and is like, oh, is Gerard in there having SEX with someone in a BEAR SUIT but then gets distracted by someone accidentally banging into his arm, which fucking hurts. It turns out to be somebody cute, though, and Frank gets a handjob as an apology. Score.

(The next day, when Mikey and Frank have migrated down to Gerard’s room for the traditional morning-after movie, it will transpire that the dude in the bear suit stayed over after the sex, and therefore had to do the walk of shame home this morning IN THE BEAR SUIT because all of Gerard’s clothes were too small or too dirty. It’s pretty legendary. Frank feels twinges of jealousy whenever he thinks about Gerard with someone like that, but he just tries to ignore them.)

Nothing much else interesting happens for the rest of the year. Frank and Mikey apply to like, the exact same colleges. Frank goes home for Thanksgiving and then again for the holidays when school lets out. He’s really happy to hang out with his parents, but he’s so bored. The only excitement comes when he forgets to wear long sleeves and his Mom is like WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK IS THAT ON YOUR ARM and they have to have the whole IT’S MY BODY/YOUR ALLOWANCE IS OUR MONEY/YOU TOLD ME THAT MONEY WAS MINE TO LOOK AFTER/I DIDN’T MEAN FOR YOU TO SCAR YOURSELF PERMANENTLY WITH IT conversation, but in the end there’s nothing they can do about it, so Frank counts it as a win even though his Mom keeps grabbing his arm and making sad faces at it, like, did it have to be a Virgin Mary crying BLOOD, Frankie? Your Grandma’s going to freak out.

New Year sucks. Frank spends the whole time getting Mikey to send him picture messages from the party he’s at. Also he is forced to realize that a year after making his resolution, he is STILL A VIRGIN. Mikey points out that he could have slept with any number of people by now if he wasn’t such a fucking sissy about wanting it to be ~~special. Frank’s like, I don’t want it to be SPECIAL necessarily, but I don’t want it to be with someone I’m never going to hook up with again, and Mikey’s all why the fuck not, man? And Frank’s like, idk, it’s just how I roll. /o\ Mikey’s like, you sound like Gerard. You’re both such losers. Frank’s like, Yeah. :/

One day after school starts up again, Mikey’s going to hang out with some friends after school, but Frank has an article to finish for the school paper (which he did join, and likes even though Jamie is the new editor and he’s kind of crazed about it) so he heads home by himself. He lets himself in the basement entrance to see if Gerard’s there, because he likes doing homework better when there’s someone else around too, and Gerard is there, but he’s got Otter over, and Gerard’s friend Todd from school who Frank doesn’t really know at all.

Frank’s like oh, sorry, and goes to leave, and Gerard’s like no, dude, hang out, it’s cool. Frank feels a little nervous, but he sits on Gerard’s bed and shows Todd his tattoo when he asks, and takes the video game controller when it’s handed to him, and listens to them talk about some people Frank doesn’t know.

At some point Tina comes up, and Gerard laughs and shoves Frank’s knee and is like, you know TINA, though, huh, and Frank blushes and grins and then Todd points at him, and is like, oh, dude, was that YOU? You’re the virgin? And Frank kind of looks at Gerard like YOU’RE TELLING PEOPLE I DON’T EVEN KNOW??? And Gerard’s like oh, shit, dude – Todd, shut up - no no, I just told the anecdote, it wasn’t like I was – TODD STOP LAUGHING, SHUT UP – look, I never meant for it to be like…whatever.

Frank gapes at him a little, and then recovers himself with, “Whatever, dude, I’m not the one who got dumped for being a lousy lay.”

Todd laughs so hard at that Frank thinks he might lose a lung, and Gerard is all FRANK, THAT IS NOT WHAT HAPPENED, and Frank’s all, whatever, I got homework to do.

He makes his excuses and runs upstairs to write his article – which he feels like scrapping and writing a new one entitled ASSHOLES AND THE THINGS THEY DO TO MAKE MY LIFE MISERABLE – and seethes to himself, and after a while Gerard comes up to make friends and Frank pretends it’s cool, because he is totally going to get back at Gerard for this shit, he is just waiting for his MOMENT.

Waiting for his moment turns out to be boring, though, so he comes up with a more immediate solution. Gerard always goes to the bathroom for like a million years right before he goes to bed – to do what, Frank has no fucking clue, but it certainly isn’t bathing. He’s pretty sure Gee just admires himself in the mirror for a while – so while he’s doing that, Frank sneaks down and hides in Gerard’s closet. His plan is for Gee to come back, get into bed, and then right when he’s falling asleep Frank is going to jump out and go RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH and scare the crap out of him. Gerard HATES it when people jump out at him, and Frank hates it when stupid art school students called Todd laugh at him, so he figures this’ll even them up. Whatever, it makes sense in his head.

At first it all goes according to plan. He thought about doing the thing where you hold a flashlight under your chin, but that’s not so effective when the dude you’re trying to scare sleeps with a nightlight, sigh. He’s bundled himself into the bottom of Gerard’s closet, which was a fucking mission in itself because Gerard thinks clothes go crumpled up in the bottom instead of hung up on the rail, and pulled the door shut after himself, and then Gerard comes back into the room and closes the door behind him. Frank can see him through the crack in the door if he sits forward and keeps his eye pressed to it.

He putters around a little bit, moving some schoolbooks from one pile into another, then back again. Then he actually does admire himself in the mirror for a while, pulling faces at himself which is hilarious even though Frank does the same thing when he’s alone. For a horrible minute he thinks about what would happen if Gerard started…practicing his acceptance speeches, or dancing around singing into his hairbrush, or something else that everyone does but NOBODY IS SUPPOSED TO SEE, but after pouting at himself for another few minutes he switches off the main light and crawls onto his bed.

He doesn’t get under the covers, though, and Frank is like, sigh, is he gonna watch a movie or read a book or something and I’m gonna be stuck here for hours, and starts revising his plan that maybe he will just jump out once Gerard is engrossed in whatever it is he’s going to do. Gerard shifts around a little on the bed: he bends one leg and lets his knee fall sideways onto the bed, tucks his foot under his opposite knee, and folds one arm up other his head. With his other hand he rubs over his tummy a little bit, staring at the ceiling, and then he sticks his hand down his pajama pants.

He sticks. His hand. Down his pants. Frank blinks twice, leans away from the crack in the door, shakes his head in the dark, and leans forward again.

Yep. Hand in pants. He doesn’t really seem to be doing much with it, though, so maybe he’s just scratching or adjusting or something, or he sleeps with his hand down there, like some guys do. Except…if Frank presses his eye closer, he can definitely see that Gerard’s hand is moving in a ‘hey, groping myself’ sort of way inside his pants.

Frank sits back inside the closet and tries to collect his thoughts, which is hard because they’re racing around everywhere going GERARD IS JERKING OFF omg YOU HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE omg YOU CAN’T LEAVE NOW, HE’LL KNOW YOU WERE IN HERE AND THINK YOU’RE A PERVERT omg BUT WOULDN’T IT BE HOT IF YOU STAYED and then Frank’s dick gets in on the discussion like YES IT FUCKING WOULD and Frank is all I CANNOT STAY HERE AND WATCH GERARD JERKING OFF FROM HIS CLOSET. THIS WAS NOT PART OF THE PLAN. THE PLAN WAS FOR HILARIOUS SCARINGS, NOT CRIME.

He takes a few deep breaths, rearranges his jeans around his dick, which is a creepy traitor and getting hard, and decides that he’ll just bust out of the closet now and be like HAHAHA I SCARED YOU ISN’T THAT HILARIOUS and pretend he didn’t see Gerard’s hand doing anything it wouldn’t do in front of his mother. Except when he leans forward to peep through the crack again, Gerard’s stopped groping himself and is pushing his pants down enough to pull his dick out. Frank can’t really see it, but he can see the way Gerard’s hand wraps around it, and he can see Gerard’s face go all slack, and he can hear Gerard sigh.

There’s a flash of heat all over Frank’s body from his scalp to his toes, and his stomach flips right over and his dick gets so hard so fast Frank actually feels a little dizzy from it. He’s glued to the crack in the door now, trying to breathe as quietly as possible while he watches Gerard stroke himself steadily, turning his head on the pillow every so often and making tiny little noises under his breath.

Frank’s dick is like WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK and Frank is like I KNOW BUT WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT RIGHT NOW and just tries not to make ANY NOISE AT ALL. After a while Gerard stops even though he hasn’t come yet, and rolls over to his nightstand and gets something out of it…fucking KY, or something. He squeezes some into his hand and pulls his T-shirt up under his chin with the other and gets back to it, only this time there are these noises, slick and wet and rapid so even if Frank closed his eyes there would be absolutely no doubt as to what’s going on. Plus Gerard sighs again and Frank knows that sigh, that’s the sigh of ohhhh, yeah, that’s it, right there, and Frank would pretty much give anything to be able to jerk off himself right now.

It’s not like it is in porn, where the dude is all oiled and hairless and plastic-perfect, it’s better, because the faces Gerard makes and the way he moves his hips, all that stuff is totally unselfconscious because…he doesn’t know that there’s a perv in the closet. He looks kind of stupid with his shirt under his chin and his pants around his thighs, but stupid in the way that’s hot and makes Frank want to know what it’s like to touch his soft belly and his hard cock and feel if his face is warm where his cheeks are flushed, oh God this is so wrong, being seen naked is like Gerard’s WORST NIGHTMARE if he hasn’t specifically signed up for it, Frank is going to HELL.

When Gerard lets go of his cock briefly, Frank can see that it’s bigger than Frank’s and the way he touches it is different, too, he uses his hips less than Frank does, focuses more on his hand, and he’s got this twisty thing he’s doing with his palm over the head that Frank is going to try just as soon as he can get out of this fucking closet, and then he rubs over the bare skin of his tummy again and up to his chest and starts playing with one of his nipples, and Frank just has to put his hand on his dick when he sees that, he has to, just to squeeze himself through his jeans a little bit, rub the heel of his hand there and give himself a little friction, something. He’s desperate to know what Gerard’s thinking about – Christina Ricci, probably, or maybe Johnny Depp because they rewatched Sleepy Hollow the other day. Or this girl on the train that Gerard talks abut sometimes, or that dude on TV that he likes, or maybe he has a secret go-to fantasy, something that always gets him off good and fast like Frank with Gerard’s high heels. Maybe it’s Bear Suit Guy! Frank wants to know.

Gerard’s face is real pink by now, and the flush has spread down his throat and over the top of his chest, too. He looks like he’s pinching his nipple pretty hard, and his mouth is open and he’s touching the tip of his tongue to the middle of his top lip. Frank doesn’t know whether to look at his face or his hand moving quickly on his cock or what, so his eyes are somewhere in the middle when Gerard makes this hiccupy gasping sound, shoves up with his hips, moans, “Fuu-uuck,” really quietly, and comes all over his stomach and chest.

Frank feels like he’s going to explode. Dick-first. Or maybe burst into flames, face-first, Jesus Christ, he needs to get out of there. Gerard can’t just fall straight to sleep after coming, though, oh no, he needs to lie there squeezing his dick and panting for a while, and then he needs to take off his T-shirt and use it to wipe off his hand and his belly and his crotch, and then he needs to drop the shirt on the floor like the fucking bum he is, and grope around for another one which he examines briefly before shrugging and pulling it on. Then he tugs up his PJ pants, and stretches and sighs some more, and then gets under the covers, and then…Frank thinks he’s actually talking to himself, but it’s really quiet and Frank can’t hear what he’s saying over the chorus of FUCKING TOUCH ME running through his ears, and after what feels like a fucking ETERNITY, his breathing evens out and it seems like he’s asleep.

Frank gives it another few minutes to be sure, then pushes the closet door open and stands up gingerly. Gerard’s lying facing the wall and still breathing deep and slow, so Frank tiptoe-walks as fast as he can to the door, shuts it behind him and cringes at the noise the latch makes, then scurries up and stairs and throws himself into the bathroom, leaning against the door as soon as it closes and shoving his hand down into his jeans, not bothering to unbutton them. He comes in like two and a half strokes and then slides down the door with his hand still in his pants, sitting there sprawled across the floor staring crazily at the tiles.

He remembers when he first moved in and even felt a little weird about jerking off in the Ways’ house, until like four days of no orgasms started to make him crazy and he ended up using all the hot water having a fucking marathon in the shower. And now he feels comfortable enough to commit sex crimes in their son’s closet! AWESOME. Frank groans and thunks his head against the door before heaving himself onto his feet to clean up before he heads to bed. He grimaces at how gross his jeans are and thanks God that part of his agreement with the Ways is that he does his own laundry.

Life is pretty much hell after that. Frank can’t even look Gerard in the face, he just acts like a total twitchy asshhat whenever Gerard is around, which is ALL THE TIME all of a sudden, like Frank totally stops going down to the basement but Gerard chooses NOW to decide to spend all his time in the living room, so Frank basically exiles himself to his and Mikey’s room and when the Ways act concerned he just says he has a lot of homework. That’s not exactly a LIE, but he doesn’t have THIS much.
Gerard’s all :(((( Frank’s mad at me why :(((( and Mikey’s all, dude, wtf did Gerard do, and Frank’s like nothing! I love Gerard! Shall we go out? To the mall, or somewhere far, far away?? DDDDD:

Gerard has no idea that Frank’s twitchy and guilty because he’s an eye rapist, of course, so he keeps trying to make Frank laugh or talk to him or LOOK AT HIM, but he won’t. One day (after Frank and Mikey have a fight over the fact that Frank isn’t speaking to Gerard and won’t tell Mikey why, and Mikey storms down to the basement in a huge huff) Gerard knocks on the door to his and Mikey’s room (a new thing he had to learn to do. Mikey and Gerard have never knocked on each other’s doors before) and comes in with some papers and is like, “I worked on some more designs for your next tattoo,” and hands them over all shy.

Frank’s kind of frozen where he’s sitting reading in his bunk, and for a second he thinks about just bolting (for some reason he feels like if he spends more than a few minutes with Gerard, Gerard is somehow going to KNOW), but Gerard’s standing between him and the door, so he sits up and takes the drawings and is like, “ThanksmanI’lllookatthemlater,” and Gerard’s all :( oh :( okay and kind of shuffles away. Frank stands up and paces frantically around his room a few times, then sits down and looks at the drawings.

He’d told Gerard he wanted something Halloween-y, and there’s a bunch of bats and vampires and shit like that. Then there’s a few different pictures of a pumpkin which Frank thinks are fucking badASS, and immediately decides that’s what he wants. He looks closer and the pumpkins have different expressions and little notes underneath. One is happy because it’s escaped Pie Duty for another year, one is angry about the fact that so many of his brethren have fallen to a yummy, pastry-y death. One is all mischievous because it knows something you don’t, and one is sad because its friend isn’t talking to it and it doesn’t know why.

Frank stares at it and sighs, and stares, and sighs, and feels guilty, and sighs, and then his phone beeps with a text from Mikey that says ‘I WILL KILL YOU’ so Frank heaves himself up and goes downstairs and knocks on Gerard’s door, and Gerard answers it and his hair is everywhere and he looks sleepy and soft and hopeful and Frank’s stomach clenches painfully at how much Frank wants to drag him into bed and combine snuggling and sex in every way possible, oh God, he misses when he had a crush on Gerard’s high heels and not on Gerard himself.

Gerard says, “I’m the sad pumpkin. In case that wasn’t clear.”

Frank’s all, no, I got it, dude, and Gerard’s like :/:/:/? With Mikey glaring daggers at Frank from where he’s sitting in Gerard’s room. And Frank’s like ughhhhhhhhh and finally says, look, I’m not mad at you, I’m not not-speaking to you. And Gerard’s all, then what is it, dude, come on, this sucks, you’re acting so weird and Frank’s like you don’t know the HALF OF IT and Gerard’s all so TALK TO ME and Frank’s like I CAN’T and they just make frustrated faces at each other for a minute, and then Gerard’s like, “Is it because I told Todd about the virgin thing?” and Frank latches on to that excuse and is like YES IT IS, and Gerard’s all, because I told you I was SORRY, and it’s not like you came off so bad in the story, like, you and Tina, remember, and Frank’s all, well, I know, but that’s not the point, and Gerard’s like so is that why you don’t feel like you can talk to me? Because I’ll tell other people? Which isn’t it at all, but Frank says, YES. YES, THAT IS IT. I DO NOT TRUST YOU AND YOUR MOUTH THAT IS BLABBERY.

Gerard looks totally crushed, though, which is kind of hypocritical because he CAN’T keep secrets, like, he’s the opposite of Fort Knox that way, especially if he’s been drinking. Frank feels like an ASSHOLE, though, making Gerard feel bad when actually the problem is that Frank should be on the Sex Offenders Register. So he hurriedly backtracks and is all, but you know what, that was just me being like, way oversensitive, and I’m sorry, and Gerard’s like, well, okay. I want you to trust me, though, and Frank’s like, I do trust you, I was just being an idiot, I promise. I trust you. You wanna stand there and I’ll fall backwards into your arms so I can prove it? And Gerard laughs and shakes his head (even though Frank was kind of serious) and is like, so no more weirdness? And Frank’s all, no more weirdness, and Gerard gives a big smile like :D and pulls Frank in for a hug.

Frank panics over his shoulder and then clings to him a bit. He smells terrible but he feels really nice, warm and solid and Gerard-shaped. He lets Frank go and Frank goes to sit by Mikey, who slaps Frank over the back of the head. Obviously Frank would destroy him on any other occasion, but this time he actually deserves it, so he lets it go.

The problem is that now he can’t stop thinking about it. Every time he looks at Gerard he thinks ORGASM I SAW YOU HAVE AN ORGASM and it’s impossible to get it out of his mind. He has a new jerk-off fantasy, at least…or is it a fantasy if you actually saw it? He has a new jerk-off MEMORY OF HIS CRIME, then, except in the jerk-off version he’s not in the closet but on the bed with Gerard, and Gerard opens his eyes and looks at Frank when he comes.

Frank pines, and tries to hide it, and pines, and writes more bad poetry, and pines, and then the inevitable happens and he gets sick. His Mom is all ready to fly out and camp in his room with a giant vat of soup, but settles for reading Mrs. Way a giant list of Care and Feeding Instructions over the phone.

His chest is all full and painful and he can’t breathe right, and everything hurts and he’s thirsty all the time and too hot or too cold or both at once. Mikey and Gerard’s Grandma looks after him really well, but it’s not the same. He can’t stop coughing and he tells Mikey he should move down into Gerard’s room so he can actually sleep without Frank waking him up all night, but Mikey’s all, uh, no, what if you die. Frank’s like, I’m not going to die. Mikey’s like, not if I’m here, you’re not. :|

At one point Mikey helps him downstairs so they can all watch a movie in Gerard’s room. Frank is tucked up between them and falls asleep like, the second the movie starts. When he wakes up, Mikey’s gone and Gerard’s lying next to him on his stomach, head on his folded arms.

Frank’s all, *koffkoff* hi, and Gerard’s like, how’re you feeling? And Frank’s like :(. He starts coughing again and Gerard props him up on a giant mound of pillows so he won’t suffocate. “Do you want anything?”

Frank confesses in a small voice, “I want my Mom and Dad.”

Gerard looks sad and curls up around him. He puts his head on the pillow and rolls his forehead against Frank’s cheek a little bit, then puts his hand out and starts rubbing over Frank’s chest where it hurts. “I wish I could make you feel better.”

Frank grumbles and closes his eyes. It feels so nice to lie here with Gerard like this. He wishes he wasn’t sick so he could enjoy it properly. He shifts a little bit under Gerard’s hand. “That helps.”

Gerard says, “Okay,” really quietly and just keeps moving his hand around. Frank is all mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, and he wants to stay awake but he can’t, he’s never been able to stay awake when he’s sick, it’s like his stupid body just goes SLEEP. SLEEP IS WHAT WE NEED. DELICIOUS SLEEP and shuts down without asking his opinion about it at all. He falls asleep again with Gerard’s breath steady and warm against his neck, and Gerard’s hand rubbing slowly over his chest.

It’s possible that when he starts to get better, he plays up the sickness for a little longer so he can get as much snuggling time as possible. Gerard doesn’t seem to mind, though, and once Frank wakes up to find Gerard leaning right over him and looking closely at his face. He moves away as soon as he sees Frank’s awake, and mutters something about Frank making weird faces when he’s dreaming, but it’s not very convincing. Frank is pretty sure Gerard was like…watching him. Watching him sleep.

He thinks deeply about this. A lot. Does that mean Gerard like…likes him, maybe? Likes him as in maybe wouldn’t have minded Frank watching him jerk off at all, likes him? Frank doesn’t know. Is it still a crime if the person being watched theoretically wouldn’t object to it if they knew? There is no website on the internet that provides an answer D: He tries to bring it up as a theoretical thing with Mikey, but Mikey’s just like WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING, CREEPAZOID and Frank’s like THEORETICALLY and never speaks of it again.

But now he’s like reading double meanings into everything Gerard says and does, tries to work out if the way Gerard touches him is different to the way he touches Mikey, or if it’s all Frank’s wishful thinking.

He gets his answer a few weeks later, when Gerard and Ray take him and Mikey to a college party. The night before, Frank fell asleep in Gerard’s room again, and woke up in the middle of the night feeling hot and flushed and agitated, with Gerard asleep face-down in the pillow next to him, thank GOD, the last thing Frank needs is Gerard being awake to see Frank get hard in his sleep, cringe, cringe.

Now they’ve somehow fallen into a game of Spin the Bottle again, and it’s some serious déjà vu when Gerard spins and the bottle comes to a stop facing Frank. Frank stops breathing, and Gerard hesitates for a second before leaning forward to spin again. Ray’s all hey, what are you doing? And Gerard’s like, spinning? And Ray’s all, what, you don’t want to kiss Frank? You didn’t mind last summer, and Gerard goes bright pink and is all, that was different. “He lives with us now, he’s like my little brother.” Ray shrugs like, fair enough, and Gerard spins again.

Frank doesn’t know what to do at all. He can’t move. His mouth has gone totally dry and his stomach is churning and he thinks he’s either deathly pale or bright red. His little brother. Gerard thinks of Frank as his little brother. His ears are ringing and he has to force himself to stay there for like ten minutes before leaving so it won’t be obvious that he’s running off to hide in the bathroom and sit with his head in his hands, just breathing. It could be worse. It could be so, so much worse. Frank could have told Gerard how he feels, for example, or…it could be the end of the WORLD. That would be worse, right? He knows he’s just being dramatic because he’s drunk, but right now he feels like moving in with the Ways was a giant mistake. All it’s done is turn him into a giant sex creep incest person. He finds Mikey and pleads drunkenness and goes home early by himself. At least he knows, he tells himself as he gets into bed. He knows how it is now, and he can stop jerking himself around and just get on with shit.

A few weeks of moping-disguised-as-homesickness later, Frank is in the mall with Mikey and some of their friends from school. He wanders off while they’re fighting over the headphones in the record store, and ends up lurking behind a display of Vans in the shoe store, eyeballing that hot guy who works there. The guy looks over a couple of times, but Frank always looks away and ducks down before they can make eye contact. The next time he looks over, hot guy is gone.

Because he’s standing right next to Frank.

“Hi,” he says.

“Uh,” Frank says, brilliantly. Then, “Hi.”

The guy smiles and wow, he’s so cute, Frank’s smiling back before he even knows what he’s doing. “You’re in here a lot,” the guy says, and Frank’s like, I guess, and the guy’s like, but you never buy anything, and Frank’s like, that’s not true! Last month I bought some laces. The guy says, “Purple. I remember.”

Frank’s belly does that stupid crushy flip thing. “So, like,” he tries for casual. “You gotta name?”

The guy points to his own chest. Frank follows his finger and there’s a nametag that says ‘Scott’ on it. “Oh,” says Frank. “Well. In my defence, you have a very distracting face.”

Before Frank can kill himself (A DISTRACTING FACE. WTF IS THAT) Scott laughs and says, “Thank you.”

Frank’s all, you’re welcome. Scott smiles at him some more and then says, “You’re gonna have to help me out. You don’t have a nametag.”

Frank says, “Oh! Frank. My name is Frank.”

Scott says, “Frank,” approvingly, and they grin at each other some more before he’s like, “So, you have a pretty distracting face yourself, man. I’m getting no work done with you to look at.”

Frank laughs a really spazzy laugh and fails to come up with a smooth comeback at all, but it’s ok because Scott says he’ll make Frank a deal: Frank gets out of the store so Scott can concentrate, and Scott will call him when his shift is over in an hour.

Frank stammers out something like, “Okay!!! :DDDDD” and they exchange numbers and then Frank rattles off around the mall to find Mikey and be like HOT SHOE STORE GUY ASKED ME FOR MY NUMBER AND HE HAS A NAME AND IT IS SCOTT AND IT IS PERFECTION. Mikey’s all, “No way!” and gives Frank a high-five.

Scott calls and asks Frank to meet him, and they get smoothies and walk to the skate park and sit on the railing and talk. Scott is a sophomore at Rutgers and his favourite band is Black Flag. He admires Frank’s tattoo and shows off his own. He has gray eyes and spiky hair. He’s in a band. He laughs at Frank’s lame jokes and makes some lame jokes of his own. He is in no way related to Frank or anyone Frank lives with. He is perfect.

He walks Frank home (he says it’s on his way anyway) and makes out with him on the sidewalk for like ten minutes, which is awesome. Also, unlike some of the dudes Frank’s kissed he’s not all crazy aggressive LET ME SHOW YOU HOW MASCULINE MY TONGUE IS, but he’s also not like, wussy making Frank do all the work guy. Frank says he’ll call, and then lets himself into the house.

“That you, Frankie?” Mrs. Way calls from the other room.

“Yeah,” he calls back. “I’m not late, am I?”

“No, dinner’s ready in ten minutes,” she calls back.

Frank goes up to his room to dump his bag and jacket. Gerard appears in the doorway and is like, who was that dude you were making out with outside? And Frank’s like…uh, why were you watching? And Gerard’s all, I wasn’t, I was just looking out the window and there you were, which is a lie because Gerard never looks out the window if he can help it. Whatever, Frank’s too buzzed to get into it with him, so he just relays the story of the shoe store and the smoothies and how it led to kissing, and then Mikey comes home so Frank has to repeat it all, which he so does not mind doing. He is already composing his journal entry about it in his head. Mikey’s like this is awesome :| can he get me a discount at the store :| and Frank’s all, oh my God.

So he and Scott start dating. Gerard makes some noise about how he thinks Scott is too old for Frank, and Frank’s like, it’s only two years! And Gerard’s all, but he’s in college! And Frank’s like, so are YOU, and Gerard’s all I’m not dating HIGH SCHOOLERS, which seems unnecessarily bitchy, even for Gerard. Mikey’s like, Gee, what the fuck giant bug crawled up your ass this morning, and Gerard just mutters guiltily about having a lot of college work and being stressed, and skitters back down to the basement.

Whatever. Frank is too busy seeing Scott and talking on the phone with Scott and IMing with Scott and making out with Scott to care about Gerard’s bizarre sudden-onset Victorian age-gap issues. On a weekend visit home he tells his parents, which is kind of an awkward conversation because Frank’s never tried to hide the whole boy-liking thing, but he hasn’t ever had a boyfriend before so it’s never seemed like he needed to bust it out in any kind of meaningful way. They don’t seem at all surprised, although his Dad makes some grumpy remarks about Frank dating a boy he’s never MET. Frank’s all, oh my god, what do you want to do, veto him? And his Dad’s like, it is my inalienable right as a Father to frown at him across the dinner table while your mother makes eyebrow movements at me. You are depriving me of a very important aspect of fatherhood, I can’t even ask him what his prospects are or what his intentions are towards my son and Frank’s like, shut up shut up I will arrange for you to meet him just STOP TALKING OH MY GOD.

Also, Frank’s acceptance letters are starting to arrive, and he got into Rutgers so he’s pretty set on going there, and his mom is all, Frankie, I don’t think you should make your college choices based on a boy. And Frank’s like, I’m not! Well, I am, but the boy is Mikey. His Dad’s like, does Scott know about this? Because he thinks he’s hilarious and Frank is like MOOOOM MAKE HIM STOP IT and explains that Mikey will probably get a scholarship to Rutgers, so that’s where Frank wants to go too.

His parents are like, fine with us. Frank’s grades are actually better than they’ve ever been because he’s obsessed with not giving them a reason to bring him to North Dakota, so they’re happy to trust him to make these decisions. Frank is like, yay! \o/

Dating Scott is so awesome. He’s just like someone Frank would be friends with, only with sex. Well. Not actual sex sex. But naked! And blowjobs! And naked blowjobs! All of which take place in Scott’s dorm room because Frank feels really weird about taking him back to the Way house. He knows he can, but he can’t get his head around the idea of like, getting busy with Scott upstairs while Mikey and Gerard’s grandparents read the papers in the living room. Scott doesn’t care, so after they go out they tend to go back to his room to fool around, which means Frank’s home a lot less. Between that and the paper and school and fitting in homework and all the paperwork there suddenly is for Rutgers (Mikey did get his scholarship, so Rutgers it is), he’s super busy and time fucking flies.

They’ve been dating for a couple months when the whole, ‘naked blowjobs are nice and all, but how about we get to the fucking’ thing starts to come up in conversation. The thing is, Frank wants to go further, but he’s just not crazy about the idea of getting fucked in the ass. The problem is that neither is Scott, who’s done it both ways and only really liked it when he topped. Scott’s fingered him during a blowjob, and Frank liked that okay, but he wasn’t sure he’d like it if he wasn’t getting his dick sucked at the same time, and Scott’s good in bed but even he’s not that flexible. Scott doesn’t even really like getting fingered, so they’re kind of at a loss. “We can just keep doing what we’re doing,” Scott suggests, which, yeah, but Frank kind of wants more.

 

***

 

He tries to talk to Mikey about it, but Mikey’s never all-the-way fucked a dude either so he doesn’t know. The internet just tells him to take it slow and do what he’s comfortable with and take his time, and Frank’s been TAKING his time for EIGHTEEN YEARS, so that’s no help. Ugh.

One day when they’re in Gerard’s room playing Mario Kart, Mikey makes some eyebrow movements at Gerard and then abruptly leaves the room, and Gerard heaves like, three gigantically awkward sighs before blurting out, “Mikey says I should talk to you about sex.”

Frank drops the controller and then fumbles to pick it back up, blinking furiously as if that’ll stop his traitor face from going bright red. “What?” He’s going to KILL Mikey. KILL HIM.

Gerard’s a little pink in the face himself, but he kind of stammers out that Mikey told him about Frank and Scott’s, uh, issue, and because Gerard’s had sex with dudes Mikey thought he might be able to help, and…you know what, forget he said anything, and Frank’s like, no no, because although he’s embarrassed and it feels a little weird to talk about Scott sex with Gerard, he actually does need help.

Gerard’s all, so? And Frank’s like, well, you know. And Gerard’s all, well, what have you done, and Frank’s like, everything but? I don’t know. He stares down at the controller until Gerard takes it off him and pauses the game and leans back against the wall so their shoulders are touching. He coaxes it out of Frank that Scott doesn’t want to bottom but he’s okay with fucking Frank, and at first he kind of pulls a face and is like, oh, one of THOSE guys, and Frank’s all, well, so am I, dude, and Gerard’s like, well, fair enough, maybe you’re both just tops? Some guys just don’t like getting fucked, which sucks, but there it is.

Frank’s quiet for a minute, and then he says, “Do you like it?”

Gerard kind of smiles and moves his head around before saying, “Yeah, I like it. I mean, at first it was kind of uncomfortable, you know, but it was still good.”

Frank says, “It’s not that I think it’s gonna hurt. I don’t know, it just…I don’t know.”

Gerard clears his throat and doesn’t look at Frank when he says, “Well, do you like, I mean. Has he, you know,” and makes a vague but still really dirty gesture with his fingers that makes Frank have to shift around because now he’s thinking about fingers and Gerard and it’s…he shouldn’t be. “Yeah,” he manages.

“Did you like that?”

Frank shrugs. “I guess? But he wasn’t, I mean…he wasn’t just doing that. It was while he was like…” he trails off, and Gerard supplies, “Sucking you?” which makes Frank have to work really hard to keep his breathing steady, and also pull his knees up because he’s got memories of Scott’s mouth on his cock, and Gerard right next to him saying ‘sucking’ and making finger gestures, and his dick is totally misinterpreting the situation.

Gerard asks, “Was he doing it right?” and Frank’s like, “I don’t know?” and Gerard kind of hmms and says, “Like, I’m not a…sexpert or whatever, but in my experience, if he was doing it right, you’d know.”

Frank doesn’t really know what that means, so he just shrugs. Gerard’s face is still pink, when Frank sneaks a look at him, and he’s pulled his own knees up too. Gerard asks, “I mean…do you…do you ever do that when you’re by yourself?”

Frank says, “No,” and then before he can stop himself, “Do you?”

Gerard hesitates, and then nods, and Frank almost bites through his own lower lip at that visual, Jesus Christ. He immediately flashes back to that time when he was watching from the closet, and wonders if he could even have watched Gerard fingering himself without exploding into tiny bits.

“But I mean, like I said, I like it,” Gerard’s saying now, eyes firmly on his own knees. “Some guys don’t. Maybe you just don’t. But I mean…maybe you can try by yourself, although the angle might not be…I don’t know.”

Frank turns to look at him at the same time Gerard turns his own head, and their faces end up only a few inches apart. Gerard’s cheeks are flushed and his mouth is open slightly, and his eyelashes look very black. Frank says, “What’s it like?” and then, when Gerard licks his lips quickly, clarifies in a croaky voice that doesn’t seem to belong to him, “Getting – getting fucked.”

Gerard sucks in a shaky little breath, and his eyes are locked on Frank’s mouth. “It’s…it depends who you’re with, how you’re doing it. It can be really deep, you know, like…like a possessive kind of thing…” he trails off for a while, and his eyes flick back up to Frank’s when he finished, “I guess it’s just…it’s really intimate. And it’s, I mean, it can just feel really necessary, you know? I mean, when you – when you really, really want it.”

The way Gerard’s looking at him is making Frank shiver at the same time as he feels hot all over. Then Gerard leans back slightly and says quietly, “So you should – you should talk to Scott about it.”

“Right,” Frank says, wincing inwardly. Scott. His boyfriend, that he totally forgot he had for a moment there. “I – yeah. Uh. Thanks, man.”

“No problem,” Gerard says lightly.

Frank picks up the controller and unpauses the game, and promptly drives off the side of the track like fifteen times in a row.

The thing with Scott isn’t just about sex. They have a good time together. But it is kind of a LOT about sex, and the realization that they basically don’t want to have it is kind of a bummer. Frank tells Scott what Gerard said, and Scott’s like, but I just don’t like it, dude, I’m sorry, and Frank’s all, you don’t have to apologize, and they kind of sit there looking at each other awkwardly before agreeing to continue along the path of naked blowjobs because that was doing them fine up until now.

The problem is, seeds of doubt and all that. The relationship kind of peters out a couple weeks later, and Frank is more bummed about not getting to hang out with Scott anymore than anything else. He spends half a weekend getting drunk with Mikey and feeling angry and ranting about how he hates everyone, and the next half getting drunk with Mikey and feeling really sad and demanding a lot of cuddles, because Mikey gives good cuddle despite being a bony fucker. He mopes through the rest of the week and writes a lot of poems, then goes back to his parents’ for a weekend and lets them spoil him rotten, and by the time he comes back to the Ways he feels mostly okay. He avoids the shoe store, though. :(

The worst part is he now doesn’t have a date for prom. AGAIN. For about five minutes it looks like Mikey won’t have one either and they can just go together and pretend they’re not bummed that they don’t get to take the stupid dorky pictures and buy corsages or whatever, but then news spreads that Mikey Way is flying solo to prom and like six girls dump their dates and ask him on the same day.

Gerard is kind of weird around Frank. Like, when he and Scott first broke up Gerard was there for beer and commiserating and whatever else, but now he’s kind of tentative and guilty-seeming, although Frank doesn’t know why. It wasn’t Gerard’s fault they broke up. He assumes Gerard just feels really sorry for him, which is compounded when Gerard interrupts Frank’s millionth diatribe about how much it sucks to not have a date for the prom by saying, “I’ll go with you.”

Frank snorts. “Right.”

“I’m serious,” Gerard says. He’s not laughing or anything. “I’ll go with you to prom.”

Frank just kind of stares at him, and his brain goes through this crazy cycle of GERARD WANTS TO GO WITH YOU TO PROM/NO HE’S JUST BEING NICE/NICE IS BRINGING YOU A DRINK, NOT OFFERING TO ACCOMPANY YOU THROUGH A TEENAGE RITE OF PASSAGE/SHUT UP and his mouth ignores all of this and says, “Thanks, man, but I don’t need a pity date.”

Gerard frowns and says, “It’s not a pity date!” and then gets a funny look on his face and stammers, “I mean, I mean…well. I just thought, you know, you wanna go so bad, and I’m not doing anything, and it could be fun, you know-”

“Dude,” Frank cuts him off before Frank can do anything stupid like say yes. All he can think of is Gerard saying Frank is like his little brother. “Everyone knows I live here. There are very few things lamer than going to prom without a date, and one of them is going with your adopted big brother.”

Gerard stares at him for a second, and then says, “Oh,” very quietly. “Yeah. I guess you’re right.”

Frank doesn’t know what to say. He looks around the room for inspiration. None is forthcoming. He switches tack and wishes for death. That isn’t forthcoming either.

“I didn’t mean like a date date,” Gerard mutters, not meeting Frank’s eyes. “I just thought at least then you might have a good time, you know, if you had a friend there.”

Frank thinks he would probably have an AWESOME time with Gerard, because Gerard is a) a hilarious dancer, and b) a total bitch about other people’s clothes. But the fact remains that Frank can’t think of anything worse than going to Prom with someone who thinks of him as a sibling. “Everyone knows I live here,” he repeats. “They’d – look, even if we had a good time, everyone would know.”

It’s lame, and he doesn’t even care what everyone else thinks, not really, but he can’t tell Gerard the truth. Gerard just nods and says, “Okay,” and Frank escapes up to his room to write an email to his Mom about how he can’t wait for college to start so that high school can just be OVER ALREADY.

Prom approaches. Mikey rents the stupidest suit in the world, it’s like the most eighties thing ever created, but somehow Mikey kind of rocks it. Frank actually does have a tux thanks to his Dad’s stupid work functions, and he’d brought it back with him but of course now he doesn’t need it. He hates everything. He manages to convince himself that it’s lame to be bummed about not going to Prom, that it’s stupid anyway and he can still go to the party Mikey’s hitting afterwards, and it almost works until the day of, when Mikey’s all getting ready and going out to pick up his girl and Frank’s like, >:(.

He’s fucking around on the computer when he gets an IM from Gerard that says ‘come downstairs’. Frank’s busy moping so he sends back, ‘y?’ and Gerard replies, ‘something 2 show u’.

Frank sighs and clomps down the stairs to Gerard’s room. When he pushes open the door he can’t see Gerard at all at first. “Gee?”

“Hi,” says Gerard.

Gerard who is in a dress. And the make-up and the heels (THE HEELS) and the whole bit, and if Frank didn’t know better he wouldn’t even know it was HIM, he would just think Gerard had disappeared and been magically replaced by a hot chick.

“I don’t think anyone will be able to tell, now,” Gerard says nervously, playing with the bracelet he’s wearing. “I mean, if you still wanna go.”

Frank just stares at him like :OOOOOOOO, a total flashback of the first time they met and Gerard rewired Frank’s brain in about five seconds flat. “Uhhhhhhh,” he manages. Gerard’s wearing a dress. A DRESS. And his hair is all…something, shiny and different, and he’s…fucking, Frank doesn’t even know. He can’t think. A dress. A DRESS.

Gerard’s face kind of falls. “Oh God. Okay, just – just forget it, okay, I’m just going to get changed and…kill myself, and we can pretend this never happened-”

“No!” Frank yelps, surprising himself as well as Gerard. “No, I…shit,” he looks at Gerard in horror. “Shit, Gee, I didn’t buy tickets!”

“Oh!” Gerard’s face clears and he grabs something off his desk. “Courtesy of Mikey,” he says, and waves the tickets at Frank. “Mikey says you have a tux?”

So that’s how Frank and Gerard and Gerard’s high heels end up going to Prom together. When they get there Frank’s kind of torn between wanting to parade Gerard around all LOOK AT THE HOTTEST THING HERE AND HOW I AM WITH HIM and wanting to hide them both in the shadows in case anyone realizes that it’s Gerard just taking pity on poor dateless Frank.

Gerard is weirdly different in drag, though, he’s all confident and swishy or something. Not that regular Gerard isn’t swishy as fuck when he wants to be, but…Frank doesn’t know, just something about the dress and the heels seems to make Gerard feel better about people noticing him, hold his shoulder straight and his head high.

It also seems to make him an even bigger bitch than usual. Every five seconds he’s nudging Frank and saying, ‘That haircut makes his face look like a garage door,’ or ‘Oh, honey, no, not with your complexion,’ or ‘Oh my God, is that velour?’

Frank can’t stop laughing, and every time he does Gerard smiles at him and bats his fucking eyes, and Frank knows this isn’t for real but he wants it to be so bad that he lets himself pretend, lets himself put his arm around Gerard’s waist, pull him near, speak closely into his ear under the guise of being heard over the music.

The music is fucking terrible, and when they find Mikey and his date (who either has no idea who Gerard is, doesn’t recognise him, or is just very cool) they all sneak out to smoke a joint under the bleachers.

“Does Grandpa know you have that?” Mikey asks when Gerard gathers his dress up to reveal a silver hip flask stuffed into the top of one of his stockings (his STOCKINGS, Frank has to fake a coughing fit so he has an excuse to curl up and hide his lap from view).

“Yes,” Gerard says, unscrewing the top and taking a deep swing.

Mikey presses, “But does he know you have it there?” and Gerard flips him off before handing the flask to Frank.

The silver is warm from Gerard’s skin, and the situation in Frank’s pants isn’t helped at all by that. Frank takes a quick gulp and passes the flask to Mikey, noticing Gerard’s shiver out the corner of his eye.

He’s buzzed enough that the ‘oh, let me warm you with my body’ card seems like a reasonable one to play, and he tugs Gerard a little closer to him. Gerard snuggles in under Frank’s arm, and Frank thinks it’s not pushing it too much to rub his shoulder and the top of his arm, just to keep him warm.

Mikey’s girl wants to go back inside and find her friends after a while, but there’s still booze in the flask so Frank and Gerard stay where they are, huddled together in the dark. Gerard asks if Frank doesn’t want to go in and dance, but Frank is first of all pretty sure that holding Gerard close on the dancefloor will be too much to deal with, and also, now he can’t stand up without revealing the giant boner he just got from that image, fucking hell.

Gerard says, “Frankie? You look a little flushed,” and touches Frank’s forehead briefly, his cheek, the side of his neck. His eyebrows are quirked a little with concern and his lips are right there, and maybe it’s the pot or maybe it’s the booze or maybe it’s the Prom, Frank doesn’t know, but he forgets all the reasons why he shouldn’t and leans forward to touch his mouth to Gerard’s.

Gerard leans back almost as soon as there’s contact, though, leaving Frank hanging in mid-air. He stares at Frank. Frank says, “Sorry,” and Gerard shakes his head.

“It’s still me under here, Frankie,” he says quietly. For a minute Frank doesn’t get it – he knows that, of course he knows that, but then he realizes Gerard means that it’s still – that he still sees Frank the same way. As someone he doesn’t want to kiss.

“Okay,” he says. Except…he’s kind of mad. “You know, you shouldn’t invite yourself to people’s proms and let them put their arm around you and then not want to kiss them. I’m just saying.”

Gerard stares. “What?”

What the hell, he’s started now. “Like, I know you said that this was just a friend thing, but I don’t know, I mean, why would you get all,” he waves a hand at Gerard’s general state of dress, “And then not…”

“What?” Gerard says again, still staring.

“Is it a joke?” Frank wonders aloud, suddenly afraid that it is, that this is another one of Gerard’s experiments. “Is…are you making fun of me?”

Gerard shakes his head slowly, looking like Frank just told him the world isn’t round after all. “Frank, I dressed like this because you said you’d be embarrassed to be seen with me.”

Now it’s Frank’s turn to stare. “I didn’t say that!”

“Yes you did!”

“No I didn’t!”

“You did!” Gerard says, stamping his foot. “You said it was lamer than not having a date to Prom at all!”

Oh. Frank did say that. “I only said that because-”


“So I thought if nobody could tell it was me then they’d think you were here with a chick and you could have a good time,” Gerard goes on, getting more upset with every word, “But I’m not a chick, Frank, I’m not a girl in a dress you can just kiss and then when I look like me again I have to pretend it didn’t happen, that isn’t fair!”

Frank is seriously going to punch Gerard in the face. “Not fair? What about you, fucking kissing me at parties and letting me sleep in your bed and showering and then telling Ray I’m like your little brother?”

“I never,” Gerard begins hotly, and then trails off, looking confused and then sheepish. “I said that, huh.”

Frank folds his arms and raises an eyebrow. Gerard waves his hands around helplessly, opens his mouth and closes it again a few times, and then says, “Not here, okay. Can we talk about this at home?”

It’s like the weirdest journey home ever, Gerard tense and curled in on himself, Frank lost in a whirlpool of not knowing what this means, what’s going to happen, whether things are really fucking terrible or about to be really fucking good, he just has no clue. He texts Mikey a lie about not feeling good, and follows Gerard into the basement.

Gerard steps out of his shoes straight away and heads over to his desk, where he pulls a few baby wipes out of an open packet and uses them to take off his make-up. Frank doesn’t know what to do so he stays where he is, standing awkwardly in the middle of Gerard’s room, watching the line of his back shift whenever he moves. Gerard shoves his hands through his hair until it’s messy and sticking out all over the place, and then bends his arms up behind himself, scrabbling at the top of his dress.

“I’ll get it,” Frank tells him, and moves across to stand behind Gerard. Gerard goes completely still and his head bows, hands braced on the desk in front of him as Frank finds the fastening at the top of his dress and pulls the zipper down slowly. It’s dark material and Gerard’s skin is smooth and so white underneath, and Frank can’t help himself, he leans in and kisses Gerard’s shoulder, his spine, touches his waist as the skin there is revealed.

“Thanks,” Gerard says in a strangled voice. He doesn’t quite look at Frank when he says, “Turn around.”

Frank wants to argue, but he also doesn’t want to fuck up…whatever it is that’s going on, so he backs up and turns around and stares at Gerard’s giant Nosferatu poster until Gerard says, “Okay.”

When Frank turns around, Gerard’s standing there in PJ bottoms and a T-shirt. He makes another sheepish face and shrugs. “Just me, I guess.”

“Gerard,” Frank starts, but Gerard holds his hands up, and then starts wringing them in front of his chest.

“Okay,” he says, “Okay, I have to tell you something. About when – about when I said. That. That you were like my little brother.”

Frank feels like this is going to go on for a while, so he dumps his jacket and toes out of his shoes and yanks off his stupid bow tie so he can undo a few buttons on the shirt that is suddenly strangling him to death. “Okay?”

“Okay,” Gerard says again, and then starts pacing up and down. “Oh God. Okay. You remember, the night before, when you fell asleep in my room? And you’d kind of been doing that a lot ever since you got sick, right?”

“Right,” Frank says warily.

Gerard makes a tortured face and sits down on the bed, hiding his face in his hands. “Mmf mff phrmm mm mf,” he says.

Frank blinks. “What?”

Gerard drops his hands, stares wildly at the ceiling for a minute, then admits with his eyes closed, “I groped you in your sleep.”

“Oh my God,” Frank says.

“I know,” Gerard says miserably. “I know, Frank, okay, I didn’t mean to, it’s just that you were right there and I was touching you already, you know, like rubbing your stomach, and then you fell asleep and it was just, you were always there and it was so hard not to touch you and I just kept going, and you were kind of making these noises like-”

“Oh my God,” Frank says again, but this time because he’s going to die from embarrassment.

“Like you were enjoying it,” Gerard goes on, “And so I just kept going, and then, and then you were, I’m pretty sure you were getting hard but then you started to wake up and I pretended to be asleep and I just panicked, okay, after you moved in with us I promised myself I wasn’t going to think about you like that anymore because if anything happened between us and then it went wrong it would be so awful, and because there was Mikey, you’re his best friend, Frank, I committed a sex crime on his best friend and so when Ray was saying shit I just panicked and I said you were like my little brother and I didn’t mean it, ok, I swear to God I have never once thought of you like my little brother, but I should never have touched you like that and, well, you know now, so if you want to call the police or whatever can I just ask that you tell them I mugged you or something instead, because if my Grandma ever found out I did that to you I’m pretty sure she’d have me killed.”

He deflates after that, which is understandable because that many words take a lot of oxygen, and just sits with his hands in his lap staring at the floor.

Frank has a lot of impulses: hug Gerard, call him a creep, shove him down against the bed and hump the fuck out of him, but the strongest of all is to confess. “Uh,” he says, and goes to sit down next to Gerard, who flinches a little. Frank touches the back of his hand, takes a deep breath and says, “Okay. Okay, here’s the thing.”

There’s no way to spin the whole eye-rapist thing to make it less creepy than it is, so Frank just lays it out pretty much as it is, figuring at least Gerard can’t get too mad now he’s copped to molesting Frank in his sleep. It actually gives him a nice feeling that they’re both huge creeps, but he suspects that’s creepy in itself, so he just tells Gerard what he did and then sneaks a look at his face.

Gerard’s staring at him, which is understandable, but he doesn’t really look mad. Not that he would really have a shocked-and-appalled leg to stand on after the whole sleep-groping thing.

“I know it’s worse than what you did,” Frank starts, but Gerard cuts him off.

“It isn’t worse! Mine is totally worse! You didn’t touch me.”

“No,” says Frank. “I just raped you with my eyes.”

“Oh my God,” Gerard says. He laughs and shakes his head. “We are both giant creeps.”

“I know,” Frank agrees. They sit there for a while, just keeping each other company in their creepiness.

Eventually Gerard says, “Did I look good at least?” and Frank tells him, “You always look good to me,” which is sort of stupid and he feels his face flush when he says it, but it’s the truth and Gerard seems pleased, he does this little head-duck smiley thing, he’s seriously so fucking cute Frank can’t even stand it.

He leans over and kisses the side of Gerard’s face, and Gerard makes a little noise and turns to meet him. It’s way better than the kiss at that party, because Frank’s expecting it and also, Ray Toro is not there making stupid noises in the background. Frank pushes on Gerard’s shoulders a little bit and Gerard goes easily back onto the bed, which means Frank can do what he’s wanted to do for months and climb the fuck on top of him.

Gerard seems to be down with this plan also, and he puts his arms around Frank so they can just kiss and rub against each other for a while. Gerard does this thing where he runs his hand through Frank’s hair and then tugs on it a little bit, which Frank is very very okay with, and he seems to really like it when Frank kisses his neck and bites down a little under his ear.

After a while Gerard brings his hands around to Frank’s chest and starts wrestling with the buttons on his shirt. “Do you have any idea how good you look in this thing?” he says, tugging so the shirt pulls up from where it’s tucked into Frank’s pants. “It was so hard to keep my hands off you all night, dude.”

“Me?” Frank kneels up and struggles out of the shirt, fuck the fucking buttons, and tugs impatiently at Gerard’s T-shirt. “You were wearing stockings. Which you totally took off before we even started making out, by the way, which is total bullshit.”

Gerard looks up from where he’s unzipping Frank’s pants and gives him a sly little smile. “I’ll wear them next time,” he promises, and then laughs when Frank curses and shoves him back onto the bed again.

They can’t stop kissing at all, but through some inventive wriggling, the rest of their clothes end up on the floor with their shirts, and then Gerard is awesomely naked and Frank gets to wrap up in the comforter with him and press against him all over.

Frank thinks that he’s actually glad Gerard is not the first person he’s ever gotten naked with, because he thinks this would suck if he was all freaking out about what to do. He’s a little nervous, because it’s new and it’s Gerard, but he’s not shy. Neither is Gerard, which is kind of a surprise, like Frank had maybe thought he would be bashful or something, but he totally isn’t. It helps that Frank spied on him that time, because he knows to stroke Gerard’s belly and chest, and he knows to play with his nipples. Gerard moans and arches when Frank pinches one, but when Frank scoots down and gets his mouth on the other one Gerard goes crazy, making this whimpery noise and writhing around on the bed underneath Frank. It’s completely awesome, and Frank is just thinking that he would be happy to do this for the rest of his life when Gerard grabs his hair and yanks him up and says, “Do you want to fuck me?”

“Uh,” Frank says, and then, “Yeah, fuck. Yes.”

“Okay,” Gerard says happily, smiling like Frank just said he wanted to bake him some cupcakes. “There’s-”

“In the drawer, I know,” Frank says, leaning over to open it. He gets out the lube and a condom (a condom! Frank is going to have all-the-way sex, for real! He loves Prom! He loves everything!) and when he shifts back again, Gerard has moved around somehow so that his legs are open and Frank settles in between them. It feels really different than with Scott; Gerard isn’t as skinny, and his skin is all smooth, or something. It’s awesome. So awesome that Frank forgets about the sex thing in favor of more kissing and rolling around, just because it feels so nice.

Eventually, though, Gerard breaks off and says, “Frank, come on, please,” and Frank is just not capable of saying no to Gerard, especially not when he’s naked and hard and pushing up against Frank like he can’t get close enough. He says, “Yeah, okay,” and his voice doesn’t even sound like his own, all rough and breathy. Gerard shivers and rubs against him some more and says, “You should put the condom on first, otherwise your fingers will be all,” he makes a gesture which Frank guesses is supposed to mean ‘covered in lube and useless’.

He kneels up and opens the wrapper, but then Gerard says, “Wait,” and sits up and kisses Frank again, running his hands over Frank’s chest and down his arms and between his legs. He wraps one hand around Frank’s cock and strokes it, slowly, and Frank has to push him off because he seriously does not want to be that dude who comes before he even gets his dick inside anything.

He only fumbles the condom a little while he’s putting it on, which he thinks is pretty good seeing as he’s never had to do it with naked Gerard lying there in front of him all…naked, and naked. Gerard hands him the lube and Frank slicks his fingers up, and then he does start to feel more nervous because this is somewhere he’s never been before, like, he fingered Scott a little, but not knowing that it was actually leading up to anything.

Gerard says, “Relax,” and grabs his hand and guides it down between his legs. Gerard’s skin is really hot against his fingers, and when Frank pushes in slightly Gerard sighs and turns his face to Frank for a kiss. “Good,” he says. “Mmm. Keep going.”

Frank feels like his face is on fire, and his chest hurts a little because he keeps holding his breath by accident. He’s so hard he’s aching and he has to press himself against Gerard’s thigh for a little friction while he pushes his fingers further in, moving them around a little and grinning when it makes Gerard wriggle and say, “Yeah.”

Frank kisses his shoulder, and moves his fingers in and out, and Gerard lifts his own hand and says, “Can you make like this?” and makes that gesture again, the one he made when they were talking about sex that time, and now Frank has his fingers in Gerard’s ass it makes a lot more sense and is also even hotter, if that’s possible. Frank tries to copy him, and is rewarded with Gerard moaning, a full-on porn moan that’s loud and sudden, like it was startled out of him. “Again,” he says urgently, and Frank is only too fucking happy to comply, okay, he’ll do anything Gerard asks if it makes him sound like that, look like that, with his face flushed and his head tipped back on the pillow, eyes closed and throat rippling when he swallows audibly between deep breaths.

After a while Gerard says, “Okay,” and hands Frank the lube again.

Frank’s fingers slide out of his ass with a noise that should probably be gross but is in fact awesome and hot. Frank says, “You don’t – I mean, are you sure?” looking down at his dick doubtfully, because it’s not like he’s packing a Pringles tube or anything, but it seems like two fingers to cock is still kind of a big step.

Gerard gives him another one of those little smiles and says, “I like the stretch.”

“Okay,” Frank says, although it comes out as a breathy, wordless noise. He concentrates on slicking his cock and not coming all over everything, and when he looks up Gerard has rolled over onto his side, away from Frank. “Um,” says Frank, and Gerard looks at him over his shoulder.

“C’mere,” he says, and Frank goes, snugging up behind him even though he’s a little uncertain, because he’s always imagined it going more in a face-to-face direction. Gerard says, “Trust me, okay, it’ll be easier like this.”

Frank says, “Yeah,” because he does trust Gerard, and because what the fuck does he know, right? It’s nice this way, with his arm around Gerard’s waist and his knees tucked up behind Gerard’s. His cock is fucking throbbing by now, and when Gerard lifts his leg and plants his foot on the bed, Frank reaches down and guides himself up against Gerard’s ass.

“Slow, okay?” Gerard says, and Frank just nods because he can’t really talk. He nudges forward a little, and then a little more, and it seems like it isn’t going to work at first and Frank has no idea what to do about that, but then Gerard shifts a little and pushes back against him and the pressure gives, and Frank tries to go slow, really he does, but once the head of his cock is inside Gerard’s body it’s so tight and so hot and Frank kind of panics and ends up pushing forward faster than he meant to. Gerard hisses a little and Frank says, “Sorry, sorry,” all breathless while his brain is just going OH MY GOD I’M FUCKING GERARD. Gerard shakes his head and says, “Nnn, ‘sjust been a while.”

He shifts his hips and Frank slides the rest of the way in and then tries to just wait and get a hold of himself, fingers on Gerard’s hip so tight he knows he’s leaving bruises, and his forehead pressed hard into Gerard’s shoulder. Gerard’s taking these deep breaths and Frank wants to pull back and slam into him so bad he’s about to go blind, but he grits his teeth and tries to be still.

It probably isn’t actually all that long before Gerard says, “Frankie, Frankie,” and pushes against him again. Frank pulls back as slowly as he can and then pushes in again, and Gerard sighs and braces his hands on the wall in front of him. He arches his back and when Frank thrusts in the next time he sucks in a deep breath and says, “Oh, fuck, fucking yeah,” and that’s pretty much the end of Frank’s ability to be slow or careful or remotely considerate.

Gerard was right, it is easy like this; Frank doesn’t have to hold himself up, and he can keep his arms around Gerard and tug him back against Frank’s body and run his mouth messily over Gerard’s shoulder and the side of his neck. He’s aware of Gerard’s skin all over, of how closely they’re pressed together, but mostly he’s aware of his dick moving in and out of Gerard’s ass, of fucking him and of how fucking good it feels. He feels Gerard’s arm moving against his own, though, and he opens his eyes long enough to realize that Gerard’s jerking himself off. That’s really hot, but it makes Frank feel kind of bad and also weirdly jealous, like he wants to be the one touching Gerard, he doesn’t want anyone else to do it, not even Gerard himself. Frank moves his hand from Gerard’s belly to his cock, and Gerard moans some more and puts both his hands back on the wall and rocks back hard against Frank every time he thrusts.

Everything’s hot and sweaty and Frank knows he’s making stupid grunting noises, but that’s okay because Gerard’s making a whole lot of noise himself. Frank pretty much never wants this to end, but he can tell from the way that his belly and his balls and everything in between is getting all tight and wound up that he’s not going to last much longer. It seems really important, for some reason, that Gerard comes first, so Frank moves his hand faster on Gerard’s cock and tries to brace himself so Gerard can move on him in the way that works best. Gerard starts making this high-pitched ‘aah, aah’ noise on every thrust, and the weirdest and hottest thing is that Frank can feel that Gerard’s going to come soon, he can feel Gerard’s thighs shaking and his dick pulsing in Frank’s hand but most of all he can feel the way Gerard is getting all wound up tight, like, inside, can feel it around his cock, and when he gasps, “Frankie, Frank I’m gonna come,” Frank grits out, “I know.”

Gerard laughs and then whines and shoves his hand down over Frank’s, squeezing, and that is all Frank can take, okay, he really hopes Gerard isn’t one of these people who announce their climax well in advance or anything because all he can do right now is shove his cock as hard and as deep into Gerard’s ass as it’ll go and come his fucking brains out.

When he emerges out the other end of his orgasm, his hand, he notes with glee and not a little relief, is totally covered in Gerard’s come. They lie there cuddling and breathing hard for a while, and then Frank remembers that he read you’re supposed to pull out while you’re still hard, so he touches Gerard’s hip and moves back slowly. Gerard makes a little complainy noise, and Frank makes a little apology noise in reply. He gets rid of the condom, and then Gerard says, “Hand me my shirt?” so Frank does and then watches in unsurprised horror while Gerard uses it to clean them up.

Gerard says, “Oh, what, you neat freak,” and drops the shirt back on the floor. Frank pulls the covers up from the bottom of the bed and they cuddle underneath them, kissing and pressing close. After a while Gerard says, “I was right, you’re totally good at it,” and Frank says, “I know, right?” and they giggle for like ten minutes.

“Modest, too,” Gerard murmurs. “You’re my dream boy.”

“Shut the fuck up,” Frank tells him, and then, “I had sex! On Prom night!”

Gerard grins. “Congratulations, you’re a cliché.”

So they cuddle a while longer, and after a bit Gerard gets up and Frank is all, where are you going? And Gerard’s like, I’m getting my PJ’s, and Frank’s like, why, and Gerard says he can’t sleep naked. Frank’s like, well, okay, but I don’t have to get dressed, do I? Gerard says, “No, but Mikey might come down in the morning.”

“Oh,” says Frank. He compromises by putting his underwear back on and making Gerard find him a clean T-shirt. “I mean, it, Gee, clean. Not just not-filthy.”

When they’re tucked back up together again, Gerard says, “I wanted to do that for a long time.”

“Me too,” Frank says.

“It was just weird,” Gerard goes on. “I mean, with you living here and all. And Mikey. But you’re moving out in a month.”

“Yeah,” Frank says, and then, “Fuck, I won’t see you all summer.”

Gerard makes a sad face. “I know. And there’s still Mikey. I mean. I don’t know. He knows how I feel about you.”

Frank lifts his head up off the pillow and looks at him. “He never said anything!”

Gerard shrugs. “He said you never said anything to him about me.”

“Well, yeah,” Frank says. The thought of Mikey is making him feel anxious. “Do you think he’ll be mad?”

“I don’t know,” Gerard says quietly. “I hope not.”

Frank checks his phone. Mikey has replied to his ‘I don’t feel well’ text with ‘liar’ which tells Frank absolutely nothing. Gerard says, “He’s not, I mean. He wouldn’t be all, standing in the way guy. Not if he thought that you, like, I mean,” he clears his throat a few times, his fingers moving restlessly in Frank’s hair. “I mean, if this is something that you wanted. You and me.”

Frank eyes him. “Seriously, if you don’t know that I’m crazy about you by now then I don’t know what else to do. I just gave you my virginity.”

Gerard rolls his eyes, but he’s smiling. “Shut up.”

“It’s a precious gift,” Frank goes on, straight-faced. “I didn’t want just anyone to have it. I entrusted it to you.”

Gerard wavers visibly, and for a second Frank thinks he’ll fall for it, but then he purses his lips and says, “You’re mocking me.”

“Yup,” Frank says cheerfully.

“I let you fuck me in the ass and you’re mocking me.”

Frank laughs, he can’t help it, but then he nuzzles in close to Gerard and says, “I do. Want it. You and me.”

“Well,” Gerard says petulantly. “You better, asshole.”

Mikey doesn’t come back until the next afternoon, by which time Frank and Gerard are awake and dressed and in the living room sitting at opposite ends of the couch and jumping guiltily every time anyone comes in the room. There’s been a mutual agreement that the Ways should not find out about them until after Frank moves out, and it sucks because Frank really wants to be back down in the basement, maybe expanding on the ‘awesome blowjob’ theme that they were exploring this morning.

When Mikey comes in, he says, “Hey,” like nothing’s changed, and tromps up the stairs. Frank makes a face at Gerard and follows him up to their room. He closes the door behind him, and leans against it with his arms folded while Mikey changes out of the dumb suit. Frank ribs him about not being able to return it now he had wild monkey sex on it all night long, and Mikey kind of laughs, and then sits down in Frank’s bunk and looks at him expectantly.

“Okay,” Frank says. “Yeah. Me and Gerard.”

Mikey nods slowly. “I figured.”

Frank says, “Like, I don’t know. I guess I should have told you.”

“I knew,” Mikey says simply.

“But you never said anything.”

“Well.” Mikey moves his shoulders around and sighs, and then says awkwardly, “Like, I’m not trying to be a douche, okay, but he’s my brother.”

Frank nods. He pokes at a spot on the floor with his toe. “I know.”

“I have this friend,” Mikey says, not looking at Frank. “This friend, Mark? And he has this sister, Louise, and then Mark’s friend Tim started dating her, and then it was like, every time Tim called the house he just wanted to talk to Louise, and when he came over it was to hang out with her in her room all the time, and he never hung out with Mark anymore, and then when Tim and Louise broke up Tim could never come around to hang out with Mark at all.”

Frank has never heard of this Mark, but he lets it go. “It’s not going to be like that, dude.”

“It’s like, he’s my brother and you’re my best friend,” Mikey says in a rush. “And I’m still going to be his brother, but now you’ll be his boyfriend, and I don’t know, I mean, you’ll be that first.”

“But I won’t,” Frank insists. “Mikey, come on. It won’t be like that.”

“You know what he’s like when things go wrong,” Mikey says, staring determinedly at the wall. “He’s not an easy person, Frank.”

“I know that,” Frank says quietly. “I still want him.”

Mikey sighs. “Yeah.”

Frank goes over and sits by him. “This sucks. I had it on good authority that the conversation you have with your best friend after you lose your virginity is supposed to be awesome.”

“Well,” Mikey says. “You had to go and lose it to my brother, dude.” He gives Frank a sidelong look and takes a deep breath and says, “I guess I hoped it wouldn’t happen until you already moved out. Things are gonna be different next year anyway. I mean, you’ll have a new roommate and everything.”

“Oh,” says Frank. “I guess.”

He suddenly wishes he’d taken the Ways up on their offer of living here while he was at college, but he’d kind of wanted the whole dorm-roommate-college experience. Except now he’s thinking about how he won’t live with Mikey anymore, and that sucks.

“I’m still going to be your best friend,” he says, picking at a thread in his jeans. “I mean, that’s not going to change.”

Mikey just shrugs again. Frank stares at him until he rolls his eyes and says, “Don’t look at me like that, Jesus, are we gonna start crying now?”

“Shut the fuck up,” says Frank, and shoves him, and Mikey pushes him off the bed and tells him to fuck the fuck off so Mikey can get some fucking sleep. Frank won’t go until Mikey promises to be his best friend forever on pain of death and terrible hair, and then lets Mikey kick him out and slinks back down to the living room, where Gerard is sitting all hunched up in the corner of the couch, gnawing on like, all ten of his nails at once.

What follows is a month of serious weirdness. Frank already feels like he’s graduated, so he kind of drifts through school writing notes to Mikey and sometimes letters to Gerard that are embarrassing but Gerard seems to really like them and he draws little doodles in reply. They’re acting like nothing’s changed in front of the grown-ups, but the problem is that Frank actually finds it really hard to keep his hands off Gerard now he’s allowed to touch him, and he finds himself doing really stupid stuff like hooking his foot around Gerard’s ankle under the dinner table, or holding his hand where nobody can see, or making out with him behind the door to the den. Frank doesn’t know exactly what Mikey’s said to Gerard about the whole thing, but Gerard is kind of super-attentive to Mikey, to the point where Mikey’s like, oh my God, Gerard, you have to relax, you’re freaking me out.

When they hang out as the three of them, Frank keeps thinking about Mikey’s imaginary friend Mark and his tragic friendship-ruining romance, so he tries not to hang off Gerard too much. The problem is that he can’t figure out what qualifies as regular would-have-done-this-anyway touching, and what falls under the new boyfriend situation touching, so it’s all a little awkward. Plus Gerard is suddenly Mr. Personal Space until Mikey leaves the room, at which point he usually pins Frank down and starts trying to cram as much making out into the smallest timeframe possible. The whole thing leaves Frank anxious and fucking frustrated.

“It’s stupid,” he complains to Gerard one night when Mikey’s out at the movies on a date. “I want to go to the movies on a date too. When I was with Scott-”

“You know how I love it when you start sentences that way,” Gerard interrupts. He doesn’t look up from his comic book, though.

“When I was with Scott,” Frank goes on determinedly, “And there was a movie I wanted to see, like, sometimes I would go with Scott, and sometimes I would go with Mikey, and sometimes I even went with Scott and Mikey, but I feel like I can’t do that with you. Plus nobody even knows about us. I’m sick of all this lurking bullshit.”

“It’s been three weeks,” Gerard says mildly, turning a page.

“Ugh,” says Frank. He kicks moodily at Gerard’s shoes. “You don’t even care. This is like your ideal relationship. You don’t even have to leave the basement to see me.”

Gerard sighs and closes the book. “Come here,” he says, and drags Frank to lie next to him. Frank puts up a little token protest, but then goes and curls up against Gerard’s shoulder. “Maybe,” says Gerard, “I’m enjoying having you around here all the time because in a week you’re going away for the entire fucking summer, and then you’ll be in college and make a billion friends and you probably won’t even recognize me when I’m following you around everywhere dying of a broken heart.”

“Shut up,” says Frank. Gerard only sounds like he’s half joking, so Frank squirms around until he can kiss his mouth.

“Empty house,” Gerard points out, sliding his hands under Frank’s shirt.

“Yeah,” says Frank. “Yeah, okay.”

Graduation happens, and Frank’s parents come up to watch him walk across the stage in a stupid outfit and collect a piece of paper that tells him something he already knows. Obviously Mikey’s parents and grandparents are there, and Gerard comes too, in an outfit that isn’t even all black, and Frank actually thinks he’s combed his hair as well as washing it. He smiles a lot at Frank’s Mom, so much so that Frank actually wants to tell him to cut it out, he’s making her nervous. They all go out to dinner, and Gerard’s Grandma makes Frank give a little speech about how much fun he’s had living with the Ways and how nice it is that they made him a part of their family. It’s embarrassing, but he means it. He thinks Gerard gets a little misty-eyed, maybe. He kicks him under the table at the exact same time that Mikey does, which means Gerard goes, “Ow, motherfucker!” and then claps his hand over his mouth and starts mumbling horrified apologies to Frank’s parents. It’s pretty hilarious. Mikey laughs so hard Frank has to hold him up.

Frank goes home for the summer and it sucks. His parents are all pleased to have him home again but he’s so bored he thinks he might die. His parents give him money for graduation, and he uses some of it to get the mischievous pumpkin Gerard drew tattooed on his back (much to his Mom’s irritation) and most of the rest of it to take Mikey on a little roadtrip after all. It’s nothing fancy, they just go to a lot of shows and meet some really weird people, but it’s a lot of fun and Frank tries real hard not to spend the whole time texting Gerard.

After he gets back home he mopes around and spends hours on the phone with Gerard. He wants to ask Gerard to come visit him, but he doesn’t know if that’ll make Mikey mad. Then one day Mikey calls him and is like, for the love of God, Frank, ask him to come stay with you already. He’s wasting away in his fucking tower here, Jesus. So Frank asks, and Gerard is like, practically on the highway by the time Frank finishes his sentence.

That means Frank has to tell his parents, of course. He asks if Gerard can come stay first, and they say yes, and then he kind of talks in ever-decreasing circles for a while until he gets to the point, being, “Uhhhhh so Gerard and I are kind of dating, just so you know.”

His parents are surprised, but they don’t seem to disapprove or anything. His Mom makes a little bit of noise about Gerard being older, and Frank can’t work out if it’ll make things better or worse to be like, “Mom, the guy’s going to be sixteen until he dies.” Then she wants Gerard to sleep on the couch, and Frank’s all, “I’m eighteen,” and his Dad’s like, “They lived together, Linda, I’m pretty sure that ship has sailed.”

Frank thinks his Dad is just pleased he gets to be mortifying and ask Gerard a bunch of questions over the dinner table, like what is Gerard planning to do after college, and are there a lot of prospects for cartoonists on the East Coast, and does he know he kind of looks like a vampire. Frank cringes at the last question, but Gerard just beams and says, “Thanks!”

The thing about Gerard, is that underneath all the weirdness and the drama, he is genuinely a sweet guy, and so respectful of Frank’s Mom that he practically bows when she comes in the room. Gerard stays for a week and makes them fall in love with him.

“You should show me your poems,” he says one night when they’re just lying in bed together, kissing and fooling around lazily. Frank makes a face and Gerard pinches him. “Come on, it’s like a perk, right, you have to.”

Frank says, “Fine, fine,” and digs out one of his notebooks. He’s already chosen the one to show, it’s the one that’s pretty recent but not so recent it’s full of thinly-disguised odes to Gerard’s ankles, or whatever. He hands it over and then bundles under the covers, wrapping them around his head so he won’t have to hear Gerard’s reaction.

It’s really hot under there. After a while Gerard digs around and pulls him out. “Frank,” he says, smiling, “They’re really good!”

“No they’re not,” Frank says immediately. “Really?”

“Really,” Gerard says. “I think you have a unique voice.”

In the morning Frank texts this news to Mikey. Mikey texts back, ‘I think ur fuckin deluded.’

When Gerard has to leave Frank feels like it’s the end of the world, seriously.

“I’ll see you in a few weeks, right,” he says, to reassure himself more than anything. Gerard hugs him closer, his face pressed against Frank’s neck.

When his parents take him back to Jersey for college, it’s such a weird feeling. He feels like he’s coming home, except not. He’s really nervous about his roommate, too, he just knows it’s going to be some douchebag on the football team or something, even though Frank was very clear on his request form about wanting…not a douchebag.

Gerard and Mikey come to ‘help’ him move in (this consists of Gerard kissing Frank whenever he thinks Frank’s parents aren’t looking, and Mikey complaining that Frank took all the good posters from their room), and Frank’s roommate isn’t there yet so Frank hugs his parents goodbye and then spends the day standing in a million lines with Mikey because apparently getting into college isn’t enough, you also have to prove you really want it by going through this Japanese endurance show-style beaurocracy-fest. When he gets back to his room, the half that isn’t full of Frank’s stuff is full of someone else’s stuff, and there’s a blond kid standing there unpacking a box on the desk. He’s kind of a big kid. Frank hovers nervously in the doorway, then makes himself march in and says, “Hey.”

The kid turns around and says, “Hey.”

“I’m Frank,” says Frank.

“Bob,” says the kid. They stare at each other for a minute. Bob says, “Are you my roommate, or just a really crappy welcoming committee?”

They do the whole ‘where are you from, what made you pick Rutgers, which classes are you taking, can you believe how long those motherfucking lines were, oh my God’ thing while Bob unpacks. Frank busies himself sticking photographs to the wall by his bed, and after some time he feels Bob peering over his shoulder. Bob points to a picture of Frank and Gerard and says, “Is that your boyfriend?”

Frank says, “Yes,” and doesn’t even try to hide the giant smile.

Bob peers at the pictures some more. Frank photo-introduces Mikey and Ray (“That guy’s hair is epic,” Bob observes) and then Bob gets to a picture of Gerard in his girl clothes and stops. He looks back at a boy-clothes-Gerard picture, then at the girl one again. Frank holds his breath and thinks, “Please don’t be a douchebag, please don’t be a douchebag, please don’t be a douchebag.”

Bob just looks for a while longer and eventually says, “Nice stems.”

“Yes!” Frank says, and when Bob gives him a weird look, “You’re not a douchebag!”

“No,” says Bob warily. “But I’m reserving judgement on you.”

Frank has plans to meet up with Mikey and Gerard at their favorite diner later, so he invites Bob along. When they get there, Ray’s in the booth with Mikey, and Gerard’s randomly standing at the counter reading a menu even though he always has the same fucking thing. Frank sneaks up and grabs him from behind, and Gerard doesn’t even startle, just twists in Frank’s grip and hugs him so hard Frank’s lifted off his feet a little.

“Yes, waitress,” Gerard says to nobody, “I’ll take one of these hot freshmen to go, please.”

“Shut up,” Frank says gleefully. “You fucking dork.”

He introduces Bob, and they all sit together in the booth. Ray asks what classes they’re taking, and then doesn’t even listen because he starts in on this story about how his media professor used to hit on him all the time when he was a freshman. Frank’s heard it, but he listens anyway, squished between Mikey and Gerard and drinking his diner coffee. “I missed you,” he tells it.

Gerard kisses under his ear. “I missed you.”

“Ugh,” says Mikey. Frank steps on his foot under the table. Mikey throws a balled-up napkin at Gerard’s head. Gerard doesn’t notice.

And they all lived happily ever after.