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***

Honestly, Gerard only even knows who Panic! at the Disco are because of all the shit Pete is always sending Mikey. Burned CDs, emails full of mp3 tracks, demos in varying stages of completion. Seemingly every single band Pete has any connection to at all winds up on Mikey's iPod in the end, and it's almost an accident that Panic's album is the one Gerard chooses to listen to on the day his own iPod takes a nosedive off the edge of the shelf and directly into Gerard's steaming cup of coffee, leaving him at Mikey's (and, by extension, the Pete Wentz Music Empire's) mercy until he can get it replaced.

He chooses Panic only because he sort of vaguely recognizes the name. Like, he knows they're basically Pete's pet project, and also that they're somewhat established and successful. That's more information than he knows about the vast majority of the music Pete sends Mikey, so he pulls up their album listing and is vaguely surprised to find they've already released two of them. For some reason, he had the hazy sort of impression they were a high school band or some shit.

Whatever.

A Fever You Can't Sweat Out turns out to be unexpectedly appealing. It's kind of weirdly theatrical and chaotic and awesome. Gerard likes the way it's kind of all over the place - synthesizers and trumpets and organs and oddly self-conscious lyrics full of words like "formaldehyde" and "nitroglycerin" and "surreptitious." It's just...more interesting than he expected it to be. Pretty. Odd. is much less his speed. He does like some of the poetry of it, but the music doesn't really do anything for him, and he keeps ending up back at Fever. He listens to the whole thing straight through, four times.

He's not really sure where the urge to cover Lying comes from. It just sort of comes to him while he's wandering around, humming it under his breath making coffee, and then he's kind of hooked on the idea.

So, Gerard asks Mikey to ask Pete to ask the Ross kid to ask his band if MCR can cover their song on tour.

That's pretty much where all the problems start.

***

The answer, at least according to Pete, is not just 'yes' but a flattering 'holy shit, are you fucking kidding???' So there's that settled. Gerard and Ray spend a little time fucking around with various arrangements. At some point, it occurs to Gerard to pull up a couple of YouTube videos and see how the kids chose to do it.

And okay, no, actually that's where all the problems start.

***

"Tell me," Gerard says into his mic, pacing back and forth across the front of the stage. He's a sweaty mess - he can feel his makeup bleeding all over his face, his skin hot and clammy under the burning lights of the stage, and fuck, he has missed being on tour. "Tell me, do you ever dream...you're running through a sunflower field in the month of May. The cotton candy clouds are dancing across a crystal blue sky..."

And oh, yeah, people know this speech. More people than Gerard would have expected, actually, by a pretty long shot, at least if all the shocked screaming is anything to go by.

Gerard smiles. "Your lover is running toward you," he continues, stalking slowly toward Frank with sweeping, exaggerated steps, "the wind whipping through her lovely, lavish locks." He threads his fingers through Frank's hair and uses it to pull his head back a little, until his face is upturned. "You lean in for that perfect, passionate kiss..."

The Panic kids used to lean in and then pull away teasingly at the last second, never quite getting there. Well, fuck that.

The screaming girls in the crowd get impossibly louder as Gerard all but shoves his tongue down Frank's throat, only breaking away when Frank's stifled laughter threatens to choke them both. Gerard turns to look back out at the front of the stage.

"But really," he says, smirking. "Who gives a fuck about that dream?" and the crowd goes wild again as he walks around behind Frank and presses his mouth to Frank's skin. "I'd rather dream," he says, while Frank tips his head back and makes a face like a porn star, "about hard. Sweaty. Crazy. Angry. Monstrous. Fucking," and then the music starts up, hard and fast, and the crowd screams bloody murder, and Gerard launches into the song.

He loves his fucking job.

***

"Gerard!" Mikey's voice rings through the whole bus, unusually loud. Gerard sticks his head out of his bunk.

"What?"

"Get out here, fuck." He's laughing, so whatever it is, at least it can't be too bad.

Gerard drags himself out of his bunk and out to the lounge, where Mikey and Frank are hunched over in front of Mikey's laptop, laughing like assholes. Frank looks gleeful enough to be a little worrying, actually.

"You have to see this." Mikey waves Gerard over. "Look what you did."

Confused, Gerard sits down and hunches over Mikey's shoulder until he can see the screen. It's a YouTube video. Mikey hits play before he has a chance to register much more than that.

It only takes a second for Gerard to realize he's looking at the Panic kids. They're onstage somewhere - the video title isn't helpful at all, it just says I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS HAPPENED! LIVE SHOW!!! - but all becomes clear when, after walking across the stage and taking a long swig from a water bottle on one of the amps, the singing one sits down on the edge of the amp and brings his microphone to his mouth.

"So! How many of you guys have heard of My Chemical Romance?" he shouts, and the kids in the crowd scream flatteringly loudly. The singer grins, bright and engaging. "Yeah? They totally fucking rock, right?"

The crowd screams again.

"I know!" the kid says. "Well, I don't know if you guys know this, but they're on tour right now, and they're playing our song!"

The screaming ratchets up a notch. Gerard is grinning a little bit, almost in spite of himself - something is coming, Mikey and Frank are almost vibrating with repressed laughter, so there has to be more to it than this, but the kid is all but bouncing in place, energetic and eager. The stage setup is ridiculous. There are flowers and actual bubbles floating everywhere. Seriously, how fucking cute are these kids?

"So the way I see it," the kid says loudly, over the sound of the crowd, and he stands up from the amp, bouncing a little on his toes. "Turnabout is fair play, right?"

And then he leans over and picks up an enormous pink feather boa from the floor behind the amp, and Gerard's jaw drops as the first notes of Prison start ringing through the air.

"Sing it if you know it!" yells the singer, and then -

"What the fuck?" Gerard bursts out laughing in spite of himself. The kid is...completely ridiculous, camping it up all over the stage, flicking his boa at the drummer and shoving his microphone into the air, hip cocked out to one side and striking absurd poses in a very obvious imitation of Gerard that is -

Okay, it's actually pretty fucking funny.

"That little shit!“ laughs Gerard, watching as the Ross kid Pete likes so much drops down to his knees, and the singer threads his fingers into Ross's hair and pulls his head back, mugging exaggeratedly porny faces at the crowd the whole time.

The crowd is screaming so loudly that Gerard can barely hear the song, which is kind of awesome, actually, but from what he can hear, the kid actually isn't doing a half-bad job. Gerard is impressed in spite of himself.

"Is that kid supposed to be me?" Frank wonders, pointing at Ross, who is kneeling expressionlessly on the stage in what looks a lot like pinstriped pants and some kind of incredibly nerdy vest and cap. He looks like he could be waiting in line for coffee, for as much attention as he appears to be paying the hand fisted in his hair, yanking his head back.

"Who gives a fuck?" Gerard shoves at Frank's shoulder, pointing at the lead singer. "Look at me!“

On cue, the kid does a hilarious sashay up to the mic stand and starts snapping his fingers in the air.

"Kid did his homework," mutters Mikey, still grinning at the screen.

"Shut up," says Gerard. He's still kind of laughing.

The video cuts out just before the song ends. They watch it through one more time, and then show it to Ray and Bob as soon as they get back to the bus, before Gerard goes back to try to finish his interrupted nap.

He falls asleep still grinning to himself...and maybe plotting a tiny bit of revenge.

***

Gerard stalks over to Frank, breathing "perfect, passionate kiss" in a breathy voice - and then, instead of kissing Frank like he's been doing all tour, he pulls back at the last second with wide eyes and his fingers up, covering his mouth like he's scandalized.

"This isn't that kind of dream!" he says, with exaggerated little-boy innocence, which he then immediately destroys by winking lewdly at the audience. "Did you see what I did there? I almost kissed boy!“

The crowd screams and yells, and Gerard grins wickedly as he adds, "Don't worry, I would never do a thing like that!"

Gerard locks eyes with one particular camera in the front row, and hopes that kid has a YouTube account.

***


Gerard will be the first to admit it gets a little out of hand after that.

The kid - Brendon, Gerard has done some homework of his own, by now - Brendon responds to Gerard's salvo by turning up his own performance to truly ridiculous heights, groping the bassist's dick through his jeans, and all but blowing the Ross kid onstage, winking and swishing his hips and striking pose after campy pose with the fucking feather boa. It becomes a game, a deliberate back-and-forth. Gerard is embarrassed by the fact that he knows Panic's tour schedule by heart now, and has a permanently-open YouTube tab running on his computer.

It's fun.

Brendon seems to be enjoying it, too, and from the way he never fails to retaliate when Gerard changes his own game up a little, Gerard thinks maybe he's not the only one haunting YouTube and memorizing show schedules.

There's quite a bit of internet buzz about it, which Gerard ignores almost entirely, but eventually he gets asked about it directly in a before-show radio interview.

"I don't know," he says, grinning. "At first, it was just, like - I liked the song, we wanted to do a cover on tour, so I thought it'd be fun to cover that one, you know? I watched a couple of videos to see what they did with the live arrangement, and it was a lot of fun, the setup they used, so we threw that in too."

"It seems to have spiraled a bit from there," the interviewer points out.

Gerard laughs. "Yeah, it's turned into kind of a thing. It's all - we're all just having fun with it."

"I've seen some of the videos," the interviewer says, and she's grinning. "You do a pretty good imitation, actually. Do you feel like you've captured the essence of Brendon Urie?"

Gerard will never know what makes him say it. "Well, you know. I'll never have his ass, but I think I do all right."

***

"GUESS WHAT I HEARD, YOU GUYS!" Brendon shouts gleefully into his mic the next night. "I HEARD GERARD WAY IS JEALOUS OF MY ASS. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THAT?"

The crowd screams, and Brendon throws his head back, laughing.

"Let me tell you a secret," he says, leaning forward playfully by the edge of the stage. Bubbles float around behind his head, making the pink boa look less like an ironic statement and more like just...part of his outfit. "He could have my ass, if you know what I mean, and I'm pretty sure you do." He leers cheerfully at the crowd. "I mean...you've all actually seen Gerard Way, right?"

The music for Prison starts up, under the roar of the screaming crowd, and Brendon hitches his feather boa up onto his shoulders and throws it around his neck, ostentatiously ordering the crowd to clap for him.

Halfway through the song, he kisses the hell out of the startled-looking bassist.

In his bunk with his computer, Gerard grins helplessly at the screen through the entire video. Holy shit, the kid's got balls.

He watches it twice more before he closes the laptop and leaves his bunk.

Christ. He is way the fuck too old for shit like this.

***

"He better be at least twenty years old," Frank says, walking up behind Gerard without warning.

Gerard fights the urge to slam his laptop shut. He's not doing anything wrong. He's supposed to be watching this shit. Uh, again. This is how he gets material for the show.

"...What?" he asks, belatedly registering Frank's words.

Frank rolls his eyes. "If you flirt with this kid any harder, you'll be having sex with me out there," he says. "And not that you're not hot or whatever, but seriously, that's a little fucked-up."

"What?“ Gerard really does slam the laptop shut at that. "Fuck you, I'm not flirting! We're not flirting - "

"Oh, whatever," says Frank. "You don't have to get all Gerard about it, it's not like care who you fuck. I'm just saying that, y'know, both our lives might be a little easier if you actually just got his fucking number and called the kid, that's all. Even, like, an email would be better than this. Lame as fuck, but, you know. Still an improvement." He pauses. "Seriously. He's at least twenty, right?"

Gerard scowls. "He's twenty-one," he mutters. Not that he checked. "Not that I checked. Because it doesn't matter, we're not flirting. It's just. We're just - "

"He invited you to 'have his ass,'" Frank says slowly. "Onstage. In front of the entire internet. I don't actually know what you're freaking out about, man. He couldn't have made it much clearer that you're not going to get shot down, or whatever."

He disappears into the bunks before Gerard has time to come up with an answer, or even actually process what he just said. He's still staring blankly at the empty doorway when Mikey comes in a few minutes later and arches an eyebrow at him.

Gerard flushes unaccountably.

"You, uh. You think Pete would be willing to...get an email address for me?" he asks, wondering what the fuck he thinks he's doing.

Mikey smiles.

***

Gerard has no idea what to actually say to Brendon.

Mikey has his email within fifteen minutes of Gerard asking for it. He also helpfully acquires a phone number, and Gerard honestly does think about calling, but that would be a terrible idea. He kind of thinks that a normal person could probably play it off as just wanting to meet the kid and say hi and laugh about the whole stage thing, but Gerard is not a normal person. Gerard is an awkward person. When he gets uncomfortable, he tends to talk about, like, superheroes. Brendon would probably be confused by a total stranger calling him up and rambling for 45 minutes about the Doom Patrol.

So he doesn't call. He keeps the number, though. And, before he can overthink the whole fucking thing even more than he already is, he does at least sit down and send an email.

It contains nothing but a single YouTube link to a video he found last night, a sort of spliced-together compilation of their respective stage covers with the sound removed, cleverly edited together and set to Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better. It made him laugh; it seems like an innocent enough thing to share.

About three hours later, Brendon responds with a picture of a handful of kids lined up outside the venue for Panic's show, dressed like various incarnations of Gerard. He's added a note that says, This could totally be my new thing. Next tour, can I do Black Parade?

Gerard laughs, and then spends half the trip to Denver doodling a series of sketches of Panic! at the Disco in full Black Parade dress, surrounded by their flowery mic stands and floating bubbles. He emails them to Brendon before he can talk himself out of it.

***

Brendon wears a Black Parade jacket with his feather boa two nights later. He sends Gerard the link, like Gerard hasn't been stalking YouTube like a total creep since this whole game started, and hadn't already been watching the clips before Brendon even made it out of the venue.

I wanted everybody to wear them, says the email. Jon was down for it, and I think Spencer secretly was too, but Ryan says he's not 'encouraging me' anymore, whatever that's supposed to mean.

Gerard smiles. Now I'm trying to picture talking my guys into ruffled shirts and waistcoats, he sends back. Frank and Mikey would probably go for it, but Ray would cry and I'm pretty sure Bob would leave the band.

It's getting easier, the emailing. They never say anything super-important or thought-provoking or anything. Brendon seems to have a lot of thoughts about 80's movies he needs to share, and most of the time Gerard just sends more pictures - sometimes with notes, like the sketch of himself wearing Brendon's top hat and tails from the video for I Write Sins, which Gerard attaches to a message that says, I definitely cannot rock a top hat. There goes my next big plan to capture the essence of Brendon Urie, and sometimes with no explanation at all. Once, Gerard draws Brendon as a vampire, and Brendon responds with a link to a Fall Out Boy video where he actually plays a vampire, and Gerard gets so excited that he actually draws out an entire comic book panel about Brendon's vampire character on a killing spree. Brendon thinks it's so cool that he prints it off somehow at a venue, sticks it to the wall inside his bunk, and takes a picture of it with his phone, which he then sends Gerard.

It's all pretty stupid and meaningless stuff, but Gerard likes that he never sends a message Brendon doesn't reply to, and he likes it even better when Brendon is the one to email him first.

God, Frank is right. Gerard really is lame as fuck.

***

"I can't believe you still haven't called the kid," says Frank.

Gerard rolls his eyes. "So you keep saying."

"It keeps being true. This shit is just getting stupid. How many more signals are you looking for, here?"

Gerard flops onto his back, staring at the hotel room ceiling. "He's twenty-one years old. He used to be a fucking Mormon, for Christ's sake."

Frank arches an eyebrow. "Did he tell you that himself, or have you been doing some research?"

"Shut up."

"No, seriously, because that's not creepy at all. Was this strictly Google-based, or did you actually call up people who know him with, like, a list of questions - "

"Oh, fuck you - "

"I just. I seriously don't get it. You're obviously interested. He's obviously interested."

"He's twenty-one."

"He's legal." Frank throws a balled-up pair of socks across the room at Gerard's head. "Get the fuck over yourself, holy shit. You're not somebody's grandpa, what the fuck - "

Gerard sits up. "He sings about, like, the sun and the moon having a fucking tea party in a garden, Frank. There are flowers. There are bubbles. I dress up like Death's marching band and sing about...whatever, like, corpses, and cancer, and vampires."

"Didn't Mikey say the Ross kid writes all that shit?" Frank rolls his eyes. "And anyway, he also sings about being the hottest fuck in the universe, or whatever. I still don't get what the problem is. You don't have to marry him, for fuck's sake."

Gerard isn't sure he really understands it, either. He sure as fuck doesn't know how to explain it. It's just -

When he's onstage, it's like slipping into a character. He can be...whatever, he can be campy and flirty and outrageous and loud. He can grab a hot guy by the front of his shirt and kiss the fuck out of him right there in front of anyone and everyone, and that's great. That's amazing. Offstage, though...offstage, he's just a socially-awkward ex-junkie comic book geek who smokes too much and mumbles a lot and gets nervous when people make eye contact. Emails are one thing. Face to face, though...somehow, Gerard can't see a kid like Brendon being, like, bowled over with lust for Gerard's super-hot zombie-drawing skills and awkward mumbling.

"Gerard," says Frank, more serious than Gerard usually sees him. "It's coffee. It doesn't have to be this big a deal. Just...ask the kid out for a coffee."

Gerard exhales sharply, and stares down at his phone.

Coffee. Right. Totally doesn't have to be a big deal.

He still doesn't call.

***

Their tours cross in Chicago, which Gerard only actually knows because of all the creepy stalking. But they do - Panic has a Thursday-night show and a free day on Friday, because they're only going as far as Columbus on Saturday. MCR has a St. Louis show on Wednesday and then drives overnight to Chicago for a free day on Thursday and a show on Friday night. It doesn't get much more perfect than that.

Unfortunately, by Chicago, Gerard still hasn't called Brendon. In fact, he's freaked himself out so much by now that it's actually been two days since he even emailed. This is the opposite of progress.

"This is stupid," says Mikey, and then he calls Pete. "Hey," he says, right in front of Gerard's face. "My brother's an asshole. We're coming to the kids' show tonight. Make sure somebody's ready for us, okay?"

"Mikey, fuck," says Gerard. "No, look, tell him - "

"Cool, thanks," says Mikey, and hangs up. The look he gives Gerard is not remotely sympathetic. "Shut up. I have never seen you this intimidated about getting laid. What the fuck, man?"

Gerard scrubs a hand over his face, flushing. "He's twenty-one," he repeats miserably for the millionth time, but this is Mikey, and he hears the part Gerard isn't saying.

"And you're thirty-one," he says matter-of-factly. "Gee, that isn't bothering anyone but you."

Part of Gerard wants to give his whole speech again - the one about the bubbles and the vampires and the tea party in the garden - but he knows Mikey won't care about any of that, any more than he does about the age thing.

Instead, he drops his eyes to the grungy bus floor and admits, "I'm not...that guy. The guy on the stage, the guy he's been - whatever with. I'm not that guy, not really."

Mikey rolls his eyes. "Gerard, I've met this kid, okay? He's a bigger dork than you could ever hope to be, and that's fucking saying something. He's not...that guy either, you know? Fucking nobody is, man. You're just as likely to meet him and...whatever, not be interested anymore, or whatever it is you're afraid of, as he is. Maybe more likely, actually. You're mostly quieter and just kind of awkward. He gets louder when he gets nervous, and can be kind of annoying."

Gerard raises an eyebrow, because Mikey hangs out with Pete fucking Wentz, and Mikey rolls his eyes again.

"We're going to the show," he says, in a tone that brooks no argument. "You have four hours to get over yourself, starting now."

He walks off without a backward glance, leaving Gerard to sink onto the couch and put his head in his hands.

Fuck. Fuck.

***

Panic is already taking the stage by the time they actually arrive, largely due to Chicago traffic but also, possibly, a tiny bit because of Gerard changing his shirt four times and deciding to put eyeliner on, then thinking that looked like he was trying way too hard and taking it off again, then wondering if he should look like he was trying at least a little bit and putting it back on again.

In his defense, it's been a long time since he's done this shit. In fact, he's actually never done this shit, if you want to get technical, because Gerard's dating history is not exactly littered with people like Brendon. It's stupid. Everything is fucking stupid.

"I'm not going," he tells Mikey, but Mikey is ready for this, and Frank and Ray materialize out of nowhere to manhandle Gerard into the car by force.

"This is really cute," Frank tells him, climbing in after. "It's like twenty-one is catching!"

"Fuck that, he wasn't even like this when he was twenty-one," points out Mikey.

"Maybe twenty-one and Mormon is catching," muses Frank, and Gerard elbows him hard in the stomach.

"Fuck all of you," he says. "And he's not Mormon - oh, shut the fuck up."

Even Ray is laughing at him, that high-pitched giggly laugh of his. "No, Gee, it really is cute. I can pass him a note outside study hall if you want. Or maybe little pictures you draw for him, like, you know, zombies with little cartoon hearts instead of eyes, and - "

Gerard sinks down in his seat and grits his teeth all the way to the venue.

***

Sidestage is crowded. Sidestage is always crowded, but usually there aren't an extra five people milling around for no good reason, getting in the way just by existing. Nobody so much as looks at them funny for being there, though, leading Gerard to wonder exactly what Pete has been telling people.

Panic's set has barely started, so Gerard has a good long time to stand there watching Brendon work the stage. He looks...comfortable and happy, bouncing around the stage and cheerfully teasing the crowd. The kids get louder and louder as the set gets closer to Prison - they know what's coming. Brendon is laughing as he bends down to pick up the boa, and Gerard hadn't really planned to do it, but somehow isn't really all that surprised when he finds himself walking out onto the stage.

"Oh my god," says Brendon, catching sight of Gerard as the screaming of the crowd ratchets up to impossible levels. "Oh my god." He starts to laugh.

Gerard is laughing too, as he walks up and tugs on the end of Brendon's boa. "Hi. I heard you might be playing our song. Can I borrow this? I forgot mine."

He doesn't have a mic of his own, so they mostly share Brendon's, following each other around the stage and grinning at each other like absolute assholes, and maybe Gerard isn't this guy most of the time, but they're onstage right now, and that's really all it takes. He pulls out every trick he's got, does his best to be so campy he's practically a caricature of himself, and Brendon jumps into it right along with him, every time.

Gerard can't remember the last time he had this much fun.

They can both feel the kiss coming from a mile away. So can the crowd, from the sounds of it. They actually, physically circle each other at first, neither one quite able to stop smiling long enough to look remotely challenging about it, and then Gerard closes his fist around the front of Brendon's shirt, and Brendon is breathless and laughing when Gerard yanks him forward and kisses him.

It's not like it's a real kiss. It's more a crash of mouths than anything, and they're both sweating and laughing and putting on too much of a show for the moment to really mean anything, but Brendon's mouth is full and soft, and to Gerard, it's pretty much perfect anyway.

From the way Brendon turns and beams out at the crowd, shouting "GERARD FUCKING WAY, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN," like even he can't quite believe it, Gerard thinks maybe he's not the only one who thinks so.

***

He doesn't stay onstage past Prison, even though Brendon quietly mouths, 'Lying?' at him when he starts to back away. He just shakes his head, because Brendon's already done Lying tonight, and he doesn't think the crowd would mind, but this actually isn't his show, and now that he thinks about it, Brian is probably going to have a few things to say to him already.

He watches the rest of the show from sidestage with the guys, all of whom are fucking assholes who can't stop laughing and poking him and making stupid smoochy faces at him the entire time, like, seriously. Who here is supposed to be passing notes in study hall? Whatever.

They clear the area before the end of the show, retreating to wait in Panic's dressing room so they're not quite so in the way. Gerard keeps saying they should just leave, but he might as well not be speaking at all, for all the attention anybody pays him. Time flies by unfairly fast, and before he knows it, the door is opening and Brendon is the first one spilling into the room, practically bubbling over with post-show high. His eyes go straight to Gerard and he absolutely beams, hesitating a little awkwardly in the open doorway like he doesn't quite know what to do.

"Let us in, fuck," says a voice from behind him and Brendon flushes and ducks out of the way, dropping his eyes from Gerard's and turning to smile at Frank, Ray, Mikey, and Bob. A lot of confused hugging and hand-shaking and introductions follow, and Gerard somehow manages to end up on the opposite side of the room from Brendon. It's not like he even did it intentionally, though the looks Mikey and Frank are sending him are enough to let him know that no one will ever believe him when he says so. Everything is momentarily awkward again, and Gerard doesn't know how to fix it.

There's enough chatter that he can kind of ignore it, though, so that's mostly what he does, until he feels his phone buzzing in his pocket to signify an incoming email. He checks it more out of reflex than anything, and is startled to see that the email is from Brendon.

...who is standing across the room, leaning against the wall and staring determinedly down at his phone instead of at Gerard, his cheeks a dull red.

Gerard opens the email, chewing hard on his lower lip, and then almost laughs out loud.

Okay, this is lame, says the email. But you already know I'm lame. So, wanna go get some coffee?

It's Gerard's turn not to look at Brendon as he carefully types out, The diner next to the hotel has awesome coffee.

When he glances up across the room, Brendon is smiling at his phone.

***

Brendon talks too fast and sits too close, crowded in on Gerard's space in a way that makes it hard to breathe, but kind of in a good way. He bounces one leg rapidly under the table - he's close enough that his foot brushes up against Gerard's sometimes. It's been a long time since Gerard has been this painfully aware of someone's foot against his. He stares intently down at a napkin and doodles industriously through an entire pot of coffee without looking Brendon in the eye once, and accidentally spends like thirty minutes explaining about all the reasons Superman sucks in response to a momentary awkward silence.

It's actually going fairly well, at least for one of Gerard's dates.

"So, the thing is, I like you," Brendon eventually manages, sounding incredibly awkward about it. "And. I'm - I mean, I really suck at this. Like, a lot, you have no idea. So. I just thought I should tell you up front that, you know...this is me flirting, I guess."

Gerard finally manages to make himself look up and meet Brendon's eyes. Brendon looks hopeful and kind of embarrassed and at least as uncomfortable as Gerard feels, which actually makes Gerard feel sort of obscurely better in spite of himself.

He slides the napkin he's been doodling on across the table. "Uh. This is me flirting back, so. I think I'm even worse at this than you, if that helps at all."

It's a picture of Brendon as a comic-book-style superhero. He has rippling muscles and a flowing cape. There are bubbles drifting out of the palms of his hands. Gerard is a complete idiot.

"Dude," breathes Brendon, apparently genuinely awed. He shifts even closer to Gerard in the small round booth. He looks suddenly...determined, or maybe just like he's steeling himself for rejection. "There's, uh," he says carefully. "There's more coffee. In - in my room. At the hotel."

Gerard's mouth goes dry. He looks at Brendon, who is holding Gerard's napkin-doodle very carefully, and blushing a dark, painful red. He could not look less like the confident, outrageous kid from onstage than he does in this moment. It's reassuring. Gerard smiles.

"Yeah," he manages. "Yeah, yes. More coffee sounds...great."

Brendon beams. Under the table, Gerard shifts his foot until it brushes against Brendon's, and leaves it there.

***

THE END