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Frank gives himself one last look in the mirror. His tie is straight and his hair isn't sticking up anywhere stupid. He looks about as ready for an interview as he'll ever be - apart from all the neck and hand tattoos. If it weren't for those, he'd almost look respectable. He knows intellectually that they won't matter. Trent told him as much and Frank can't really imagine a guy like Grant Morrison caring about tattoos, but he still hears his dad's voice in his head, lecturing him about throwing his future away, whenever he's about to go to an interview. He gives himself a shake, hoping in vain to shake out the butterflies, and goes out the door.

The email he got gave him a residential address and as Frank drives up into the Hollywood Hills he wonders, not for the first time, exactly what he's getting himself into. He supposes it'll be an interesting experience if nothing else. And hopefully it will be an interesting experience ending in a job offer, because Frank likes his apartment and his car and he would like to be able to keep them. The odd studio gig and his savings are covering things at the moment, but he needs steady employment again.

He'd been able to channel his nervousness into actually getting to his destination, but the second he parks his car and looks up at the house in front of him, it all comes back: the fact that it's an interview, that it's an interview with Grant fucking Morrison, that if he gets this, he probably won't be doing much with music. At least not for a while. It's all overwhelming, and he just sits in his car and fucking breathes for a minute.

And then it's time, so he rings the bell and waits. Time stretches out long enough until Frank very nearly presses the button again before the door finally opens.

"You must be Frank Iero," Grant Morrison says. Standing in front of Frank. Reaching out to shake his hand.

"That would be me," Frank manages to get out in a friendly tone of voice, and shakes the hand offered to him.

"And I'm Grant, though I'm sure you've figured that out. Come inside. Would you like tea? Coffee? Biscuits?"

"I'm fine. Thank you, though," Frank answers.

Frank is led down a hallway and into what is clearly an office. It's neater than Frank was expecting from someone who is supposedly in desperate need of a competent assistant and who has already hired and subsequently fired several people who weren’t right for the job.

"Have a seat," Grant says. What follows is one of the odder interviews Frank has ever had. Grant asks him more about music than he does about Frank's work experience, though that definitely comes up. It's at once disconcerting and relaxing. Frank thinks things are going fairly well, all told. Until Grant mentions Superman and Frank goes off on a rant about how he’s so fucking deadly dull; when Grant quirks an eyebrow at him, he trails off and stammers, “Well, what are you working on next?”

“Superman,” Grant says dryly, and Frank swallows hard. Shit shit shit. He's blown this one. He can feel it in his gut. But Grant goes on, asks him more questions, outlines the job, which seems quite frankly somewhat terrifying in all that it will entail. Basically, Grant needs someone to run his entire professional life and, from what Frank can tell, at least coordinate some of his personal life.

"You don't need an assistant, you need a fucking superhero," Frank says. He's already blown this one, he may as well be blunt. "Their powers could be updating schedules using only their mind and the ability to grow extra pairs of arms that can all work independently of each other."

Grant laughs. "Perhaps if I write one I shall receive one. Stranger things have happened. Thank you, Mr. Iero. This has been an enlightening conversation."

Frank takes that as his cue to get up and Grant rises with him. "Thank you for the opportunity to interview," Frank says sincerely. Even if he blew it, this was kind of surreal and amazing.

Grant nods. "I'll be in touch within the week."

Frank drives home, walks straight to his fridge, and pulls out a beer. It's not like he has anywhere to be, what with being unemployed. He drinks it down entirely too fast and then sits on his couch mindlessly watching shitty daytime TV. He’s sipping on a second beer when his phone rings. He doesn't recognize the name on the caller ID, but he's sent out so many resumes lately it'd be stupid to ignore it.

"Hello, Frank Iero speaking."

"Frank, hello." There's no mistaking the Scottish accent.

Frank is sort of stunned for a second before responding, "Hi? What can I do for you?"

"If you feel up to taking on a job better suited for Bruce Wayne, I would like to hire you as my assistant," Grant answers.

"I... well, really, I'm more of a Jason Todd," Frank says before he can stop himself and then rushes to say, "I mean, yes, of course."

Grant laughs. “I had come to that conclusion. Can you start tomorrow?"

"Yeah, definitely. What time?"

"Let's say nine. We can discuss what your regular hours will be in the morning, as well as any additional questions or concerns you may have," Grant says.

"Sounds good. I'll see you then," Frank says.

"'Til tomorrow, then." Grant hangs up and Frank pulls his phone back from his ear and stares at it. He's not entirely certain he didn't fall asleep on the couch after a beer and a half and dream that.

*

Frank isn't entirely sure what to wear the next morning. On the one hand, he's going to be in Grant's house, not some office building, and the thought of putting on slacks and a nice shirt and tie is weird. Especially since despite his reputation for ostentatious suits, Grant had answered the door in a t-shirt and white pants yesterday. But at the same time, most of Frank's more casual clothes are going to make him look really young and he'd rather not deal with it. He finally settles on a green polo he unearths from one of his drawers, black jeans, and a grey cardigan.

He stops for coffee on the way and thinks about getting Grant something, but realizes he has no idea what Grant's coffee order would be or even if Grant likes coffee. Note to self: find out, Frank thinks, and makes sure to finish his off by the time he pulls into Grant's driveway. He's a little early, and while he's still pretty nervous, this time he's got the job, so it's easier to focus on other things. Like Grant's house. It's actually pretty modest for a place with a view in the Hollywood Hills. Which is not to say it isn't nice, because it really is. Just not as in-your-face as some of the other nearby houses. Frank suspects Grant saves the showiness for other areas of his life.

Frank gets out of his car and knocks on the door at exactly nine. Like the previous day, Frank has to wait a bit for Grant to answer the door. When he does, Frank is greeted with a broad grin. "Good morning, Frank."

"Morning," Frank replies.

"Come in, come in. I suppose we should get going. There are a lot of forms that will need filling out. Of course, we'll have to find wherever it is that I put them last for safekeeping," Grant says, shooting a rueful grin over his shoulder at Frank. "Oh, and do remind me to get you one of the spare keys so you're not having to wait for me every time you want to come in the door."

Frank almost wants to protest because Jesus, Grant's showing him a lot of trust right off the bat, but he can tell already it will just be easier that way so he nods and scratches out a note in a little notebook he fishes out of his bag. Grant's office has what Frank assumes was once meant to be a walk-in closet, but which Grant uses for his files and storage. Frank can tell immediately that this is going to be his project for the day. Maybe even into tomorrow.

"Well, this is where the forms should be. I'm set up as a proper business for tax and accounting purposes, so we'll need to file them all with the proper county offices," Grant says and opens the top drawer of one of the cabinets and starts rifling through. Frank opens the next one and starts looking as well.

"So, I'm assuming there's no organization to these files?" Frank asks.

"There was at one time. It's since fallen by the wayside, I'm afraid," Grant answers and moves down to the next drawer.

"So that means you won't mind if I tear everything in this room apart and put it back together?" Frank asks hopefully.

"Not in the least. Please do," Grant says with a laugh.

"I can keep looking if you want to get to work," Frank says, gesturing to the filing cabinets. "That's what I'm here for, after all."

Grant studies him for a moment, then nods. "Please, don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions about anything. Do with all of this as you please."

"Do you have a phone you want me to answer or anything?"

"As a matter of fact, yes," Grant says and Frank follows him back into the main part of the office where he hands over a phone to Frank.

"Any calls you want to take immediately?" Frank asks.

"None spring to mind. I suppose Dan DiDio or DC editorial. And my artist, Gerard Way. Though he usually emails. Or - I’ll make you a list," Grant says. "We do need to talk about your responsibilities; I'll want to get you started on answering my correspondence soon, but for now, finding those papers is more important."

"Sounds good," Frank replies with a little salute and goes back into the storage closet. He begins by just looking through each drawer to get a feel for what's in there and how he'll want to file it officially, as well as looking for the forms. He finally finds them in a manila folder in the third drawer of the second cabinet. He sits on the floor, pulls a pen from his pocket, and fills most of them out, leaving blank the sections with information he'll need to get from Grant. Under all the official government forms is a stapled sheaf of papers, and in big bold letters are the words "health care providers." Frank nearly loses his shit. This is too fucking good to be true.

He goes out into the main room and clears his throat. Grant looks up at him, eyebrow raised.

"I found the papers and filled out everything I knew. You'll have to sign a couple of them and fill in the remaining information, and then I can drop them off at the post office while I'm getting lunch," Frank explains.

"Excellent," Grant says. "I sense there's something else you'd like to discuss?"

"I found forms for health insurance? Is...are you providing me with health insurance?" Frank can't keep the incredulity out of his voice.

Grant grimaces. "I didn’t mention it with the salary information only because I got as far as researching a few plans for small businesses, and never got further. I am willing to provide it for you, but I was having trouble finding any plan that wasn't terrible in addition to being cost prohibitive. If you would like to continue my research and find something acceptable, I will absolutely pay for it."

"I haven't had health insurance since I moved out of my parents’ house. Which is, of course, when I got mono. Anything would be good. Anything at all," Frank explains fervently.

"Then we'll figure something out for you," Grant says.

"Okay," Frank takes a deep breath. "Okay, thanks."

He turns back to the closet and once safely inside, does a fist-pump. Fucking health insurance. It's not a sure thing, but just the possibility of getting it is better than any of his previous jobs in the last few years.

The floor of the closet is now covered with stacks of files; they’re sorted according to an order Frank thinks will be easier to work with. Grant knocks lightly on the door jamb before he has a chance to start refiling and says, “Leave that for now. I want to show you your workspace before lunch.” Frank practically does a facepalm. What was he thinking? Of course he isn’t expected to work in a storage closet. The files were just that distractingly bad. The way Grant’s lips are twisting, Frank feels like Grant knows it too.

Frank is still surprised when Grant leads him next door into a much smaller room, also set up as an office. His own office; he’s desperately impressed. It’s pretty tiny and there’s actually no closet; there’s a desk with a phone, a laptop, and a sleek-looking fax-copier-printer and a set of shelves holding a haphazard assortment of office supplies as well as boxes of – “My press clippings,” Grant explains. “The non-digital ones. You’ll also have to come get files from my office if you need them. Unfortunately this room was just too small for all that paper. Most of the correspondence is electronic these days, though, which makes it a bit easier. My one rule is that if my door’s closed, I prefer not to be disturbed, so don’t knock unless it’s something that absolutely can’t wait.” Frank nods in acknowledgement.

“Passwords and important phone and fax numbers are all on that sheet of paper on the desk,” Grant tells him. “This is a business line, but calls will also ring through from my mobile if I don’t answer it. After lunch perhaps I’ll show you the electronic end of things?”

*

Unsurprisingly, it’s the electronic side of things that proves to be a bigger headache. Frank spends no small amount of time fighting with Grant’s e-calendars and he hates them all. He unearths a paper planner on the storage shelves in his office, and copies everything into it, almost as a rebellion, even though he still has to use the electronic one. Grant, hilariously enough, is just as likely to stroll into Frank’s office and flip through the paper version as he is to look at the e-calendar on his phone or computer.

The worst, though, is Grant’s email. It comes from several different accounts: his website, his official DC internal account, his primary personal/business address – which it seems everyone in the world knows – and another private account which Frank doesn’t have access to, but which certain of his friends clearly prefer to use for both private and business-related correspondence. There are certain things he can answer and certain things he has to forward on to Grant, and certain things he has to rely on Grant to forward to him, and it’s a juggling act. After a few weeks Frank begins to think that superhero really should have been part of the job description.

Another thing that isn’t in the job description, but perhaps should have been, is “making sure Grant eats”. Frank had gone out for lunch every day his first week or so on the job. He’d have gone home if his apartment was closer, but of course it was too far, and buying lunch every day was not really in his budget even now that he was gainfully employed. Grant had finally noticed and said ruefully, “Frank, I apologize for not making it clear, but please feel free to use the kitchen.”

Frank had started bringing his own lunch after that, but he ended up eating at his desk more often than not, and that had led to Grant poking his head through Frank’s doorway and saying, “I do trust you to operate the requisite appliances in my kitchen if you’d like to eat at an actual table, with actual china and silver.” Frank had blushed a little and gathered up his Tupperware. As he’d passed Grant in the doorway, Grant had commented, “Oh, is that mango coconut curry?” Then they’d had a twenty-minute conversation about vegetarian restaurants and cooking – which Grant admitted he did next to none of – and Frank had belatedly realized that Grant’s refrigerator was full of vegetarian takeaways but that he rarely saw Grant eating them, or anything else.

He’d only worked for Grant for about a month at the time, but he’d started to feel obliged to coax Grant out of his office – or at least try to – at lunchtime, as long as the office door wasn’t closed. It had been easier than he’d anticipated; Grant had gotten into the habit of stopping Frank randomly when he walked through the main office, asking him questions about comics things from a reader’s perspective – which was thrilling. One day he’d taken the opportunity to say, “Well I was just on my way to eat. Why don't you come too?”

It didn’t always work, so he’d started offering to bring something back for Grant instead. Eventually Grant had sighed, fixed him with a knowing look and said, “Since you're determined to make sure I eat, if you'd be willing to handle the grocery orders you may consider your own lunches provided for as well.”

Frank still feels all triumphant about it. He makes sure Grant always has the ingredients for his favorite meals, even the ones he can’t cook himself, so occasionally Frank will bring his laptop out to the kitchen for the morning and make things that he knows will leave leftovers.

 

***

 

"Grant Morrison's office, Frank speaking," Frank says into the phone as he leans over Grant to grab a pen. Grant leans back to give him room and can’t seem to take his eyes off the scorpion on Frank’s neck. Frank places the pen in Grant's hand and Grant forces his eyes to Frank’s. Frank sets a stack of papers in front of him, covers the mouthpiece of the phone and whispers, "Sign these."

Frank turns his attention back to the phone, "No. No, Mr. Morrison is not interested in... I don't know where you got your information, but it's wrong. You'll have to send an email about charity-related requests. No, that's my policy because it's easier to check that your charity is legit when I have all the pertinent information in front of me. No I'm not trying to be difficult. Mr. Morrison is a busy man and he doesn't need his time wasted with fanboys trying to use a fake charity to get an autograph. Send an email, and I'll look into it and he may donate something."

Grant holds in a chuckle and signs the spots Frank indicated with sticky notes. Frank complains about doing so much internet research all the time, but Grant's favorite moments to surprise Frank are when he's wearing the reading glasses he tends to avoid, grinning faintly as he types away. He'd compared himself to Jason Todd, once; Grant thinks there's a healthy strain of Barbara Gordon hidden away in his compact frame as well.

It’s clear to Grant after only a few weeks that Frank doesn't really realize how much more smoothly everything in Grant’s life has been going since he started. Of course he wouldn’t, because he wasn't there before. Email is being answered in a timely fashion; meetings are being set up without hiccups, and none have had to be rescheduled because Grant wrote down a prior engagement in another spot. It seems simple, but Grant had to do it by himself for months between all the short-lived previous assistants, and it was truly the winter of his discontent.

He’s learned, through the whole ordeal, not to take anyone at face value. The last two assistants had been clean-cut young professionals, and they’d lasted no longer than a week or two apiece; somehow despite all their stellar resume items they’d been lacking in some nebulous thing required to do the job. Grant’s pretty sure it was the capacity to deal with him. Trent’s a good friend and Grant hadn’t really expected he would send someone totally unfit for the job, but when Frank had walked in the door, wide eyes contrasting with the wild tattoos and the little punk snarl he couldn’t quite turn off, he’d had Grant’s full attention immediately, although it had been Frank’s dismissive little “You need a superhero” that had truly clinched him the job. Grant’s pretty sure he’s found one. Everyone Grant works with seems to think so too, and Grant doesn’t let them forget it; he's always on the phone telling people, "No, you have to talk to Frank, he's the captain of this ship.”

Frank always seems to blush every time he hears it, which is disarming in ways Grant finds rather inconvenient, and which he tries to ignore. Grant’s friends all comment on how he’s much better balanced recently, in a tone which suggests it’s some sort of miracle. They’re not entirely wrong. Somehow, in the space of a month or two, Frank’s got him eating and sleeping on a regular schedule too.

Grant’s pretty sure that isn’t a normal part of the job description, but then again, what the hell does he know?

*

Grant and Frank go downtown to meet up with Mark Waid and Geoff Johns. It’s an interview about 52, and they’re using it as a opportunity to meet and get some bumps in the script smoothed out. Grant drives, and Frank sits in the passenger seat with his window down, a little smile on his face. “I like it here when you can just drive,” he says. Grant is not surprised. Speed, motion, the growl of the sports car...it’s very Frank.

The interview goes well, the meeting as well as can be expected. "We should go out for drinks," Mark says as he closes his notebook and stands. "This is LA, I'm sure there's a decent bar close by." Grant nods his agreement, but when Geoff meets Grant’s eyes they both just shrug. Neither of them spend a lot of time in this neighborhood.

"There's a place a few blocks west that always has great live music," Frank suggests as he untangles the cords of his laptop and puts it away.

"Well, lead on, good sir," Mark says. A surprised look crosses Frank's face, as if he didn't expect to be included.

"Yes, Frank," Grant says, making sure to catch his eye. "We shall follow your lead."

Frank bites his lip and his eyes flit to the side before looking back at Grant and smiling. "Okay."

When they get to the bar, Frank leads them toward a corner booth that appears to have a good view of the stage. Mark and Geoff slide into one side. Grant and Frank both hesitate at the end of the other bench, but just as they're about to sort it out and sit down a voice calls out, "Frankie!"

A young man who appears to be about Frank's age is coming toward them, trailed by a couple more. The others keep going, but the one who called for Frank stops in front of them. "Ricky! Hi!" Frank smiles widely and Ricky flings his arms around Frank. Frank laughs and squeezes back.

“I should have figured I’d see you, I didn’t even think about it!” Frank says. “Shit, are you playing tonight?” Frank’s beaming like he only ever does when he’s really excited about something, and Grant studies Ricky more closely. Young, fit, beautiful face; meticulous if heavy-handed makeup and an outfit that screams pop star.

Ricky catches him looking, but Grant, unruffled, just offers him a serene smile. Ricky looks him up and down right back, eyes sparkling. He turns to Frank. “I was going to dedicate all my songs to you tonight, hot stuff, but I may change my mind when you tell me who you’ve brought me. This isn’t your usual type, Frankie!”

Grant’s lips twitch a bit, but Frank goes practically crimson and ducks his head a little. “Ricky, this is my boss,” he mutters.

The moment stretches just long enough; Grant’s sure the next second ticking by will tip it over into uncomfortable - clearly Frank’s already there - but Ricky meets Grant’s eyes again, something bright and not-quite-readable in his. “Well, hello, Frank’s boss. Ricky Rebel, delighted to meet you.” He offers his hand, and Grant takes it.

“Charmed, Ricky. Grant Morrison.” The handshake, too, lasts just longer than it has to, because Ricky’s cocking his head and leaning in.

“Scottish?” Grant nods. “I thought so. I am a connoisseur.”

“Of Scotsmen?” Grant has changed his mind, this isn’t uncomfortable, it’s extremely amusing.

“Well, no,” Ricky tells him. “Just of Ewan McGregor, really. But that’s close enough, right?”

“Ricky -” Frank is practically groaning. He’s still pink, and showing the beginnings of a thousand-yard stare.

Ricky winks at Grant, then turns back to Frank. “You’re still my favorite, hot stuff. We have to go on in like fifteen, but you’ll come sit in with us, right?” He grins winningly. After a moment, Frank grins back.

“Of course I will.” Ricky kisses him on the cheek, waves in the direction of Grant and the rest of the table, and disappears across the bar.

Grant sits down and Frank slides onto the bench next to him. A waitress materializes instantly and takes their order; Grant tips his head toward Frank and says, “Ricky seems nice.”

“He’s memorable anyway,” Frank says fondly. “I played guitar on his album. He self-funded the entire thing, but he’s shopping it around to labels. Great guys, they should put on a good show.”

Their drinks arrive; Frank turns away when Mark waves a menu at him and asks him what’s good to eat, and Grant spends a few more minutes just studying Frank’s body language. He’s not sure where the hesitation had come from when Mark included him in the drinks invitation. He ponders for another minute whether it’s because they’re all quite a bit older than him. Well, Geoff only has seven or eight years on Frank, but Mark and he are Frank’s seniors to the tune of double digits. But no, that can’t be it. Frank has gotten along with literally everyone Grant has ever seen him talk to in the time they’ve been working together.

Then Grant thinks about how Frank had blushed and muttered when he’d told Ricky that Grant was his boss. That, he thinks, is the real answer. It’s something to do with him, clearly.

After the promised fifteen minutes, Ricky and his band is indeed filing onstage and launching into their first high-energy dance tune. Frank grins and taps his fingers on the tabletop; Geoff and Mark are both nodding along. After the first song, Ricky slides the mic back into its stand and says hello. After he introduces his band, he adds, “And we’re so lucky to have in the house tonight my friend, one of the best musicians I know, the guy responsible for those hot as hell guitar licks on my last record...Mr. Frank Iero! He’s gonna come play a few with us. Give him a hand!”

Frank drains his drink, looks around the table with a little grin, and slides out of the booth. “Go get ‘em,” Grant calls after him, and gets another small smile of his own. He can’t help returning it, and when he looks up both Geoff and Mark are watching him. “What?” he says bluntly.

The band starts playing again before either of them answers, and he looks automatically back at the stage, seeking out Frank’s small form. Frank’s taken over for the rhythm guitarist, falling into position with shoulders squared, feet spread wide. But he doesn’t hold still, not for a single second. He’s constantly in motion, nodding his head with the beat, hitting the chords hard, planting his feet and arching his back and then jumping and headbanging again.

It’s amazing. It’s mesmerizing. It’s fucking insanely hot. Ricky comes over to sing at him at one point, pressing their foreheads together and backing him up a few steps; then he’s gone and Frank is hitting the breakdown and Grant can not look away from his hands, watching his tattoos and the graceful arch of his fingers.

Frank stays onstage for another song, and when Grant finally looks back at his friends, they’re watching him with matching knowing expressions and he realizes he’s completely checked out of whatever conversation they were having.

"Good of you to join us, Grant," Geoff snarks.

Grant doesn't get a chance to respond because Ricky is telling the audience to "Give it up for Frank! We miss this fucker. Somebody tell the music business how fucking stupid they are for letting him go."

Grant cheers loudly, of course. He watches Frank exchange back-slapping hugs with the guys on the stage, though Ricky grabs his arse in the process, to catcalls from the audience. Frank laughs and practically falls off the small stage and walks over toward them.

"That was spectacular!" Mark enthuses and calls out to the waitress, "Bring this man another drink!"

Frank's grinning. Practically glowing. He's breathing a little hard and there's a light sheen of sweat across his forehead. "Thanks. It's been a while since I've played. That was fun."

"Grant, how do you find all the most talented people? Wait, don't answer that. I am either not sober enough or not drunk enough for a conversation about magic right now." Geoff laughs at his own joke.

Frank glances at Grant, his demeanor changing a little, getting a little more unsure.

"You," Grant pauses to clear his throat, "were amazing. You shouldn't be working for me." The second part is really not what Grant meant to say and when Frank's face falls, he rushes to clarify. "It's a fucking crime that you can't work in music full-time."

The flush on Frank's face from just playing gets deeper and he smiles a little bit and shrugs. "I like working for you."

Grant smiles. "I like it too." He wishes, after he's said it, that he could take it back - it feels too transparent, too true. But a glance around the table shows that everyone's attention has returned to their previous conversation and then the next round of drinks comes and they’re even further distracted.

It’s not that Grant didn’t realize Frank was a good musician. One does not work with Trent, even in the most casual sense, and not be a good musician. But Grant had never really thought about it beyond the vaguest terms. Trent mentioned that Frank’s band broke up while recording their major label debut and that he’d spent the last several years working hard and taking every music-related job he could find. Then the studio Frank had been most closely associated with had to close its doors, Trent had a brainstorm, and here they are.

Grant knew all that. But now it’s reality to him. Now he truly understands how profoundly unfair it is that someone as talented as Frank couldn’t make it doing what he loves. For all he understands that, the thought of Frank leaving to pursue music again fills him with dread, which he immediately feels horribly guilty about.

Grant forces himself to focus back on the group and the conversation that has been going on around him while he’s been lost in thought. He’s still very aware of every move Frank makes, of every sound. Grant is probably in quite a bit of trouble here. He can’t bring himself to care.

*

Last night had been a late night. Grant's glad they went out, not only because they rarely see Mark in person, but also because - well, the opportunity to see Frank play had been unexpected and...quite welcome. He'd still been thinking about it when he arrived home, complicated thoughts about Frank and music and missed opportunities, and he didn't sleep well. He makes tea and goes into his office. When Frank comes in for the day, Grant gives him an absentminded little wave, but when he returns his attention to his computer he finds that he can't concentrate. Focus, he tells himself, and after another moment gets up and closes his office door as well.

His cell phone rings. Grant looks at the display and sees Dan DiDio's name and swears under his breath. This is something that Dan does, calls on Grant's cell phone instead of the office phone, presumably just because he can. If Grant ignores the call, Dan will inevitably call the office phone and twit Frank in a faux-joking manner about Grant screening his calls. He's done it before, and it drives Frank crazy. So he answers, but he already has his back up and the conversation doesn't get any better from there.

Frank knocks softly on Grant's door and pops his head in within minutes of Grant hanging up. Grant knows he'd gotten a little loud there at the end, but Frank doesn't say anything except, "Anything I can help with?"

"My door was closed," Grant snaps absentmindedly, still half thinking about the conversation with Dan. Frank knows if Grant’s door is closed to knock only if necessary.

Today, though, Frank snaps back, "Fine, whatever." His face disappears from the crack of the door and he shuts it again, loud enough that Grant jumps a little.

"Fuck," Grant breathes to the empty room. "Why did I do that?" He shouldn’t have spoken to Frank like that. He glares at his cell phone like Dan's still there and then turns it off for good measure and shoves it irritably across his desk. He's going to work for a while and give Frank and himself a chance to cool off, and then he'll go apologize.

Grant’s brain is a contrary organ. He’s been lulled into complacency, perhaps, by the lack of chaos in his schedule, and it’s rebelling. Grant doesn’t believe in writer’s block, but he believes very strongly that some stories fight back. He’s got a very simple way of dealing with it – just sitting in front of the computer for however long it takes the ideas to spiral out of his consciousness.

He starts typing.

*

Grant hears the next knock through the cotton-wool of thirty hours of more-or-less consciousness, but it takes him a few moments to summon the words to reply. “Yes, what is it?”

Frank opens the door and pokes his head in, and Grant just blinks at him because he's still caught up in his thoughts, and suddenly Frank is yelling at him, which is new and different. And then he looks at the clock, and the date on his computer, and realizes that yes, he's been at it for quite a while and perhaps Frank had some cause for concern.

“I can’t believe you,” Frank is muttering under his breath. “You’re wearing the same clothes as yesterday. Have you left the room once since yesterday morning? Tell me you’ve left the room. I’m sure you didn’t eat – did you – you know what, I don’t want to know. Is that saved?” He points at Grant’s computer screen, and Grant nods slowly through the torrent of words. “Good, get the fuck up, you’re going to bed.”

“Don’t need to,” Grant manages to interrupt.

“Bullshit,” Frank says, and somehow he’s on his feet and Frank’s steering him like an amp case with a bum wheel, hands warm on Grant’s waist. He makes it into his bedroom and stumbles the last few feet to his bed before he realizes the hands are gone. Grant collapses on top of the mattress and pulls somewhat ineffectually at his duvet. Frank’s hovering at the door with an unexpectedly deer-in-the-headlights expression. "I'll, uh. See you tomorrow. Sleep well."

 

***

 

“I’ll, uh. See you tomorrow. Sleep well.” Frank sort of hates himself immediately as soon as the words leave his mouth, but it’s not his biggest concern. Yes, he just harangued Grant fucking Morrison like a nosy old-lady relative. Yes, he’s in his boss’s bedroom right now, which despite working in the man’s home for several months he’s managed to avoid. But no, what disturbs him most of all is how much he really wants to go strip Grant’s clothes off and tuck him in under that duvet. Because it's not at all a familial urge.

Mostly Frank is able to ignore the little twinges he gets from things Grant says and does, because no matter how complimentary or borderline flirtatious they are, he's convinced Grant doesn't really mean it that way. Grant's very protective; more than one time he's overheard Grant give some business associate hell for being a pain in the ass to Frank. It makes Frank feel protective right back; he’s just as likely to give some business associate hell for being a pain in the ass to Grant, but it also makes him sick with worry when Grant shuts himself away for nearly two days without a word, when he finds Grant pale-faced and bleary-eyed in front of his computer screen.

Just as Frank's about to turn and walk out the bedroom door, Grant says, "Thank you, Frank," very quietly. So quietly he nearly doesn’t hear it. Frank turns back and Grant is looking at him almost tenderly, and Frank's breath catches in his throat. Frank very nearly says, "Just doing my job," or something like that before he realizes he's really… not. So he settles on "You're welcome.” He leaves with his heart in his throat, pulling the door closed behind him, and goes to see if the cats have been fed recently.

*

“Grant,” Frank calls between their open doors, “What does ‘Dinner Party of Doom’ mean?” He’s looking at Grant’s e-calendar for next week. He did not make this entry. For one thing, that’s all it says, and the jokey title is totally a Grant thing. Frank spent twenty minutes one day reading back through all the entries in Grant’s calendar that were meetings with Warren Ellis and laughing until he choked.

“I have friends coming in from out of town that night and I’ve invited them over.”

“Are you...cooking?” Frank’s still in his own office, but he’s pretty sure Grant just flipped him off.

“I usually call a caterer,” Grant calls back. “There’s a number in my contacts list. I’ll have to remember to -” He pauses. “Frank.” He pauses again. “Would it be appropriate of me to ask -”

“You want me to set it up?” Frank asks.

“I’d - yes, please, I’d be grateful. If you could....”

“Number of guests, special requests?”

“Six, besides me, and I trust your judgment.” When he first started this job, those words scared the shit out of him, but Frank’s getting pretty good at this kind of thing. He knows what Grant likes now. And even what Grant likes to have on hand for people even if he doesn't particularly like it.

The caterer sends over a menu and a contract, and after reviewing everything, he walks out into the kitchen and the seldom-used - never, as long as he’s been here - formal dining room. He pulls out all of Grant's dishes and looks them over. Grant has nice stuff, for all that he doesn't ever use more than, like, one plate. Or two, if Frank is there. He calls and makes the order. Then he makes a list, grabs Grant’s credit card, and goes out to re-stock Grant's liquor cabinet. He's glad the caterers are bringing wine because he only ever drinks the stuff his parents and grandparents would have with their big traditional meals. Liquor is easier.

The day of the party, Grant’s a bigger pain than usual, and it hits Frank that he’s excited. Grant’s actually a pretty soft-spoken person, for all his wild and widely-publicized past, and these are friends he doesn’t see often. Frank shoos Grant back into the office when the caterers come over to set up. Grant laughs at him; clearly he knows Frank's basically just trying to keep him out of everyone's way. It’s usually more of a problem to get Grant out of his office, but when Grant says so Frank glares at him. Not funny. Or at least, not funny today. He just leaves Grant to his own devices and goes and helps the caterers get everything set up.

Frank made sure to dress up a bit today; it’s funny how everyone sort of snaps to when he tells them things and it's a little eerie to Frank. But the catering people are pros, and they get everything set up and the food started and it smells really fucking good and Frank is trying not to hover too much, but he almost can’t help it. He’s never done anything like this before, an event where he's mostly in charge of the planning and set-up. He wants everything to go well.

Frank's not really planning on staying past his usual time, and one of the caterers is staying to serve drinks until Grant's ready to serve dinner. But Frank ends up fixing some sort of problem with New York at the very end of the day - and seriously, Janelle is working fucking late and he wishes he could buy her a drink or something because she sounds stressed - and so he is still there to see Grant walk down the hall from his bedroom, dressed to the nines. And that's something else Frank's not used to. He gets casual Grant most of the time, and fashionable Grant is...yeah. Something else.

Frank wants to stare. Instead, he looks back at his monitor. "I'll be out of here in a minute. There was a crisis. I think Janelle was about to have a meltdown, but we fixed everything up."

"Janelle having a meltdown would be a very bad thing, indeed. Take your time, Frank," Grant tells him. Frank glances up and Grant's leaning his hip against Frank's desk and smiling down at him.

"I'm done," Frank tells him, starting the shutdown on his laptop and gathering things from his desk into his bag. "But if I wasn't done, you hovering wouldn't be the best way to keep me from fucking something up." He looks from where Grant's leaning on his desk, up to his face, and raises an eyebrow.

"I trust you, Frank," Grant says, sounding unaccountably serious. "I’ve yet to find something you can't do."

"Trigonometry," Frank shoots back at him, joking to cover up the sudden twisting of his stomach. He shoves his laptop into his bag and stands up.

"Then I suppose we're both lucky this position doesn't require the higher maths," Grant murmurs, stepping aside to let Frank pass him by. Frank makes the mistake of glancing up at him as he edges by, and his mouth goes dry. It's a gorgeous suit, midnight blue with a dark shirt and a brilliant blue tie, and Frank wants - to go home. Now. Fuck. But Grant stops him with a hand on his shoulder. "Thank you for coordinating everything for this party, Frank."

Frank takes a breath. "You're welcome." He slips out of Grant's grip and goes toward the door. “Everything is ready. The caterer is in the kitchen. He'll serve drinks when your guests start arriving and then serve dinner when you're ready for it. Someone is scheduled to come back tomorrow and clean up and gather all the equipment they brought. I'll probably be here, but in case I'm out at lunch or something…." Frank stops backing up when he runs into the door jamb. Grant is still standing by his desk, his expression edging towards mild concern, and Frank knows he's acting ridiculous but he feels ridiculous right now, so he guesses it's appropriate. "I...have a nice time, Grant."

"I will. Have a good evening, Frank," Grant tells him softly. Frank nods and forces himself to go out the door at a normal pace. When he finally gets out the front door and gets it closed behind him he is at his car within a couple of strides. He wishes it weren't exactly the wrong time of day, because traffic is going to be a nightmare when he'd rather be going fast. Fuck, fuck, fuck. He bites his lip and cranks his stereo. If he has to sit in traffic for an hour feeling like this, he's going to kill his hearing with fucking Black Flag while he does it.

Traffic isn't quite as bad as Frank fears, but it still takes him an absurdly long time to drive five miles. He stops at a corner store near his apartment and gets a six-pack. The first thing he does when he gets home, before he changes out of his nice clothes or anything, is to head for the kitchen, grab his bottle opener, and pop the cap on the first bottle. After his first sip Frank shrugs out of his cardigan, unbuttons a couple buttons on his shirt and shoves the sleeves up, and slumps into the couch cushions.

It's clear he's let himself get way too fucking comfortable in Grant's house, too used to the quiet, the murmur of Grant's voice, the music he plays when he's outlining. The same house full of light and voices and clinking glass is just - It's Grant's life, a nagging little voice tells him. Not yours. Yours just shares its space sometimes.

He flips on the TV in hopes of drowning out the voice with something mindless, but it doesn't really help. And there's nothing on that he wants to watch anyway, so he turns it off again. He picks his latest book up off the coffee table and tries to read, but he can't concentrate. He can't really deny that he'd like to be there right now. Would like to be standing at Grant's side and talking to his friends. But why? It's fucking ridiculous.

Not your friend, a pragmatic part of his brain says. Not your boyfriend, another part whispers. Frank sighs and goes to get another beer. If he can't read or watch TV, it's probably a really bad idea to even touch his guitar. He considers just going to bed. That's when the first text comes in.

Gordy is expounding upon the virtues of the scotch you picked up at the moment. I fear someone will have to pour him into a cab when the night is over.

Frank smiles a little bit and sends back, Don't forget, you have a conference call at noon.

I hope you're not suggesting I'm drunk, comes back about twenty minutes later.

With normal people, I'd judge by the spelling, but this is you.

The answer this time is immediate. I hope you're not suggesting I'm normal. Frank laughs out loud even as something clenches tight in his chest.

Never, Frank sends, and opens another beer and takes a sip.

A few minutes later Grant replies, I'd never call you normal, either. Frank snorts, and seconds later his phone beeps again. I mean that in the best way possible. We wouldn't work if you were. Frank's chest clenches even tighter. Frank knows Grant means their working relationship. He does.

Does he? Fuck, Frank needs to stop drinking. Or just fucking pass out already. ...Except then he wouldn't be able to text. Fuck. Frank taps out very carefully, Normal would be paying attention to your dinner guests instead of texting your assistant.

I thought we already established that I'm not normal. Frank rolls his eyes but the expression's somewhat weak. He's glad he's alone. And I am paying attention to them. I can split my attention fairly well. Sometimes.

If you hadn't added the sometimes, I'd have been forced to laugh in your face, Frank responds.

The cheek of you, the response reads. Why do I keep you around again?

Frank swallows hard. Because I keep your professional life running smoothly.

It's a good hour before he gets another text. All it says is More.

What does he mean, more? Frank stares at the phone for a few minutes but it doesn’t beep again. It’s really fucking late now, and finally he just decides to give up and go to bed. He doesn’t sleep well, has weird dreams when he does, and he's all out of sorts the next day. Grant, for his part, is acting completely normal and Frank hides in his office all day. He knows his reactions to everything that happened yesterday were over the top, and he feels like he should pull back. Be an employee. So he's formal and efficient and Grant looks baffled by it all, but eventually things go back to normal. Except they don't, because Frank can’t make himself forget what it felt like to want more.

*

Frank will admit - to himself, never to be divulged under pain of death - that his real interest in Gerard Way started not when he saw the scans of Gerard's thumbnails for the book he and Grant were working on, not when he saw some issues of Gerard's prior comics work that Grant had lying around, but when an editor at one of Grant's scheduling meetings teased Grant about always "getting hold of the hot young things as your artists". It was clear she wasn't just talking hot as in popular, and it was made even clearer by the way the tips of Grant's ears turned a bit red and he rubbed his hand over his scalp, even as he laughed.

But no, Frank hadn't been jealous. Just curious. Right.

He'd sort of forgotten about it, with the flood of work coming in now that Grant has a new book, several trades being collected, and a screenplay deal all going on at once. Then the scans of Gerard's inks started to come in for approval. Now, half of Frank's inbox on any given morning is comprised of emails from Gerard, sent during Frank's off-hours. And he really means off-hours. Gerard is in Brooklyn, for crying out loud; Frank can do the time zone conversion just fine, and he can practically map Gerard's stress levels by the timestamps on the pdf files.

Or - the timestamps, and the amount of rambling commentary in the body of the email. Frank had ignored it at first, just assuming it was meant for Grant and starring the emails for Grant's attention as usual. But when one of the comments had gone off onto a tangent about Bela Lugosi that Frank couldn't help disagreeing with, he'd shot back a response himself, signing it with his own name. Before he'd hit "send", in a fit of insanity he'd cursed himself for immediately, he'd appended his own work email - frankenstein@grantmorrison.com.

(Frank's not taking the blame for that one, either. Grant had set it up with their long-suffering web designer about a week after Frank started working for him, after seeing Frank's Karloff coffee mug and teasing out of him that it was his nickname. Grant still thinks it's hilarious, especially when Frank has to forward him the fan letters from the Seven Soldiers fans.)

He gets his own emails from Gerard now. Aside from his one very wrong opinion on Bela Lugosi's body of work, he's fucking fascinating to talk to. His emails are sporadic - sometimes once a week, sometimes three or four in a day. Or night. Gerard seems to be the kind of nocturnal dude Frank doesn't remember being since he gave up the life of a touring musician. Frank resists answering them instantly for a while, waiting until he has a moment or two of downtime at work - usually in the mid-afternoon after lunch and before Grant's tea break, when Grant's guaranteed to poke his head into Frank's office and either start chatting or invite him to join him.

Frank has priorities.

His work email account gets shipped through to the Blackberry Grant bought for him after Frank cracked the screen of his old POS phone in an unfortunate pit-related incident at a local hardcore show - which was totally unnecessary but Grant wouldn't let himself be talked out of it - and one night when Frank was having an insomniac fit of his own he'd written back right away.

Somehow, at some point, they'd ended up exchanging phone numbers as well. Frank thinks it had something to do with a broken scanner at four a.m. and the finished inks for the last four pages of Issue Two.

That was when the texts had started. Gerard in text is even funnier, somehow, than Gerard in email; something about his rambling nature distills down into hysterical, and often hysterically bitchy, soundbites.

Today, though, Frank’s in the middle of organizing proofs for Grant, and an innocent emailed question about dialogue boxes in a panel had turned into a Bon Jovi reference had turned into a discussion of diner food and then all of a sudden Frank's phone is ringing, Gerard's name showing on the screen over top of Frank's ridiculous wallpaper of his mom's dog wearing a pair of alien antennae. Gerard is calling him.

"Where did you go to high school, Frank Iero?" Gerard demands as soon as Frank says hello. He mispronounces Frank's name a bit, but it's better than everyone in Cali does. Gerard, in person - in voice? - is so Jersey it hurts.

"Belleville, Queen of Peace," Frank replies, and Gerard crows out a delighted,

"I knew it! That dude with the Disney bootlegs behind Kearny Diner, that was my little brother!"

"No shit," says Frank wonderingly. "That dude worked at my record label for a while. No way are you his brother!"

"In the flesh," Gerard answers. "But you...if you tell me you're Frankie Iero from fucking Pencey Prep, I will fucking shit myself!"

"...sorry ‘bout your pants, dude," Frank answers dryly, and this time when Gerard laughs Frank joins him.

"Small fucking state," Gerard says, "fucking Jersey."

Small fucking world. "You knew Pencey? I don't remember you, man, and I knew everyone in the scene."

"I didn't go out much," Gerard answers. "I was working in the city and living at home and spending a lot of fucking time on the train. But everyone knew Pencey."

Frank turns around in his chair and sees that Grant has wandered into Frank's office, the office phone clamped between his shoulder and ear and a file in his hands. "Frank, I need this faxed - oh," he cuts himself off when he sees Frank is on the phone too.

"Gerard," Frank says quickly, "I hate to do this, but Grant needs me and -"

"Oh! I didn't realize, the time zones, but of course you're at work! I'm sorry -"

"No problem, Gee, really. Talk to you again soon?" Gerard says goodbye and Frank hangs up, takes the papers out of Grant's hands and immediately starts apologizing.

Grant waves a hand. "It's not urgent, Frank, it's just something for my accountant." He quirks half a smile in response to Frank's raised eyebrow. "Something that is not miserably overdue, thank you for your overwhelming confidence, Mr. Iero." Frank laughs, and Grant continues, "That was Gerard? Gerard Way?"

Frank gets a sudden squirmy feeling in his stomach and he has no idea why. He wasn't doing anything wrong. Grant could care less if he makes a few personal calls at work, and - what is Frank doing, anyway, calling Gerard a personal call?

It was totally a personal call. "Yeah, it was," Frank says. He's slightly unprepared for the next question out of Grant's mouth.

"Who's Pencey? Someone whose mum was a Salinger fan?"

Frank feels himself color a little. "No! I mean, Pencey Prep, so yeah, but it's - it was - my band. The one before the one that brought me out here. Gerard - apparently I, like, knew his brother back in Jersey, it's pretty wild."

"New Jersey," Grant murmurs. "Magical. How is Mr. Way?"

"Ah. Fine," Frank says. "You should get the revised panels for page sixteen soon."

"I'm delighted to hear it," Grant says. He hesitates for a moment, like he's about to add something more, but then he just turns and heads for the door. "I left some hot water in the kettle," he calls over his shoulder like an afterthought. "Might still be warm."

"Thanks," Frank replies, slotting the paperwork into his fax tray and punching the number for Grant's accountant. After a moment's hesitation, he grabs his Karloff mug and heads for the kitchen. Maybe tea will settle whatever's going on with his stomach right now.

*

Frank uses his key to let himself in through Grant’s front door, juggling his laptop bag and a venti soy cappuccino - it was a long night last night, full of insomnia and late-night horror movies followed by a little exhausted, punch-drunk staring at his phone. He drops the stuff on his desk before walking next door - the door is open, and he likes to say good morning to Grant when he comes in as long as Grant’s not in the middle of something.

He can hear, as he approaches the doorway, that Grant’s on the phone. Then he hears Gerard’s name and stops, listens. “Of course not, Gerard,” Grant says, and laughs. “You are quite well aware I’m an early riser -” he is? “- and at any rate, if it was too early I wouldn’t have picked up.” It’s quiet - Gerard must be talking - and then Grant replies, “Oh, Gerard, that’s just low. That was the Con-That-Must-Not-Be-Named. Who was worse than I? Phil, for one - no - fine, ask him, but I’m confident he will agree.” Grant groans. “It’s completely unfair for the two of you to have lunch without me - well, if my ears begin to burn I suppose I will know why.” Frank realizes that he is eavesdropping shamelessly and grimaces, retreating back to his own office. Grant’s laugh, warm and caressing, follows him next door.

None of his business, Frank thinks, sipping the cooling cappuccino, none of his business at all if Grant talks to Gerard, if they have in-jokes and common friends. No business of his at all what tone Grant uses when they speak, and certainly not to wonder what tone Gerard uses back. He knows what Gerard sounds like now, though, and he can’t help wondering.

He definitely wants to talk to Gerard again.

 

***

 

When Gerard steps out of his apartment, he intends to just get on the subway like usual and go straight to the studio. But then his phone starts buzzing and it's Frank.

"Frank, hi!" he answers and passes his usual subway entrance. He'll get coffee. And maybe he'll just walk. It's not that far.

"Hey, Gerard." Frank's voice is friendly. Gerard imagines a smile on his face. He doesn't really remember too much about Frankie from Pencey Prep, especially since he didn't go to many shows and was drinking heavily at the time, but he remembers that smile beaming out from the stage.

"What's up?" Gerard asks after a beat of silence.

"So Grant is off at a meeting with some Hollywood types and everything I have to do requires him, or I just don't fucking want to do it at the moment. So I thought I'd call and see what life in the future is like," Frank says.

"Uneventful, so far. But I just left my apartment to go to the studio, so who knows what the day might bring. If Becky has anything to say about it, there will probably be swords."

"Becky?" Frank asks.

"One of my studio mates. She's also in comics. And she loves anything gory or involving medieval weaponry. Somehow I always end up holding a sword and being a reference for her. I don't know why. She always draws guys with like, muscles." Frank giggles down the line and Gerard smiles, pushing open the door to Starbucks. The barista shoots him a thumbs up and starts making his usual. Gerard hands over a five and waves absently for them to keep the change. It's twice his usual regular coffee with room, but he figures he owes it to them for being on the phone. "So is someone actually going to make one of Grant's movies?"

"I don't know. He left sounding pretty skeptical, but I'm kind of afraid that was just talk. Once every few weeks, Grant goes to a meeting and comes back disappointed. It's like clockwork," Frank sighs.

"Sucks," Gerard says. And it does. Grant's work really should be a movie already. It's a crime nothing has made it yet.

"Yeah. Luckily, he's busy enough right now that he can't really stop and wallow. So aside from playing with swords and drawing, you have any other big plans? Weekend fun coming up?" Frank asks.

"Not really. Mikey bribed me into coming home for the weekend, so I'll be in Jersey," Gerard explains.

"God, I miss Jersey. I'm so fuckin' tired of LA."

"Like, I know you went out there for your band and all, but why are you still there?"

"I thought if I just kept working hard in the business, eventually I'd find a band or get a steady gig playing somewhere or something. And I can't rag on it too much, because otherwise I wouldn't be working for Grant fucking Morrison, you know? Life's funny like that," Frank says.

Frank's voice goes all warm and soft on that last sentence. It's pretty adorable and Gerard totally knows how he feels. Working with Grant is something else.

“It is. Grant would probably say it’s magic,” Gerard says.

“He totally would,” Frank laughs. “LA has its good days and bad days. I was maybe more pissed off at traffic than usual this morning. Mostly because traffic was being stupider than usual. It’s five fucking miles between my apartment and Grant’s. It might as well be 50 some days, I swear to god.”

“You know, as much as I hate the subway sometimes, I think I’ll take it over that.”

“It’s probably your best option. I don’t know, I have friends who make it here just fine and love it, but it’s not for me. Not permanently, anyway.” Frank sighs over the line.

“Do you have plans to move back soon, or what?” Gerard sips at his drink. He definitely wouldn’t mind that at all.

“I don’t know. I mean, I love working for Grant and it’s a great opportunity and I don’t want to quit. And it’s not like he’s based in LA all the time, and telecommuting from Jersey would be several timezones easier than trying to do it from here.” Frank sounds like this is a subject he’s been having nightmares about or something.

Gerard turns and enters the building his studio is in. “Dude, I have a hard enough time with here and LA, but—”

“I know,” Frank interrupts.

“Fuck you!” Gerard says, laughing. “But seriously. I can’t imagine trying to deal with a, what? Eight hour difference? That would suck.”

“For real. But I don’t think I can afford to keep two apartments quite yet, you know? I suppose it’s not like I have to decide anything right this second. I just always assumed that living in LA was how I was paying my dues in the music business, you know? And now I’m not even doing music and it’s kind of weird.” Frank’s voice is kind of wistful.

Gerard punches the elevator button for the floor of the studio and prays the elevator isn’t busted. He’ll definitely have to hang up if he has to go up any stairs, that’d just be embarrassing. It creaks and starts going up, thank god. “Like, getting used to changing plans when you think your life is gonna go one way and it goes another is fucking weird. I think you’re allowed a little time to feel weird, though,” Gerard says as the door opens to the right floor. He pushes open the studio door and waves at Becky as he makes his way to his station. “You totally get an adjustment period here.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Frank sighs again. “I should probably let you go and bite the bullet and just do this shit I don’t want to.”

“Yeah, I just got to the studio, so I should probably get to work as well. Thanks for calling, Frankie.” Gerard cringes. Maybe he shouldn’t have used the nickname. Apparently that’s okay, because Gerard can tell Frank’s smiling when he starts talking.

“Hey, thanks for the distraction. Have a great day, Gerard. Oh, and tell your brother hi for me.”

“You too, Frankie. I will. Bye.” They hang up and Gerard starts getting situated. After a minute, the silence is broken.

“Gerard Way, was that a boy?” Becky asks in an alarmingly gleeful tone.

“Yes?”

“What I mean is, you haven’t stopped smiling since you hung up. It’s kind of creepy, actually.”

He rubs his cheeks. It’s true. Talking to Frank just makes him pretty happy but, “I... it’s complicated.”

“How?” Becky presses.

“Well, he’s in Los Angeles for one. That was like, the third time we’ve talked on the phone. We usually email,” Gerard says.

“He’s a pen pal? That is so fucking adorable and old fashioned,” Becky says.

“It’s... he’s Grant’s assistant.” Gerard sighs and runs a hand through his hair.

“Oh.” Becky draws out the o dramatically. She props her chin on her hand and asks, “So, like, is that a problem for you?”

“Not really? I mean. We’ll meet in San Diego. If like. I don’t know. We’re just friends. And he’s from Jersey and he doesn’t like it in LA, so I’m a good person to talk to about home.” Gerard waves his hands around and sighs.

“Okay, but you like him, right?” Becky asks.

Gerard sighs deeply. “Yes.”

“So play it by ear. See what happens in San Diego. I mean, at worst you keep talking about Jersey on the phone and emailing. Though, I don’t generally give buddies I’m just friendly with through work earnest little pep talks about life plans and adjusting. I’m just saying.” Her eyebrow is raised at him and he shrugs again.

“You could hear that?”

“The door isn’t exactly soundproof, dude.”

“So what are you working on today? I have pages I have to send in by the end of the week, so you can’t make me stand around holding swords for hours.”

She sticks her tongue out at him. “Just for that, since I get to choose the warm-up sketch subject today, the theme is swords.”

Gerard laughs. “I like swords too, you know. I just don’t include them in every drawing I do.” He pulls his sketchbook out and gets to work.

*

Gerard throws his duffel in the backseat of Mikey's car where it's idling outside the station and then slumps up front.

"So, does the trip from Brooklyn on a Friday afternoon still suck?" Mikey asks.

"Yep. Too many people, too long, smelly—"

"Wow, if it was smelly and you noticed—"

"Oh, fuck you. You're no better," Gerard grouses and pushes his sunglasses back up his nose. They make the turn down Mikey's street and on the corner is a VFW Hall. Gerard has a sudden flash of memory. Of standing in the back with a red plastic cup practically overflowing with beer from a keg and listening to Pencey Prep play. He hadn't been able to see much over the sea of bodies, but he definitely remembers being there. He also remembers that a fight broke out after and he'd dodged more than one stray fist.

"Hey, remember going to see Pencey Prep play there and then the fight after?" Gerard asks Mikey.

"Pretty sure I went to like, five shows that could be described exactly like that, dude," Mikey says.

"No, but I was there. And I think someone in the band had to get stitches? I don't remember, exactly. Pretty sure I left before it got to that point." Gerard picks at the hole in the knee of his jeans. He's also pretty sure he was too drunk to retain any details, but that's not the point and Mikey doesn't need the reminder.

"Oh yeaaaah," Mikey says. "I think it was Hambone. Man, I haven't thought about those guys in forever."

"Frankie is Grant's assistant," Gerard blurts out.

"Frank Iero? Is Grant Morrison's assistant." Mikey sounds incredulous.

"Yeah. Like, he went out to LA with his second band to record and they broke up and Frank stayed and tried to crack into the music business, but that didn't work out. So he knew Trent fucking Reznor through his studio or something, and Trent got him the job with Grant. It's fucking wild," Gerard explains.

"Holy shit."

"Pretty much," Gerard agrees. "It's a small fuckin' world. Anyway, he's like, ridiculously fucking good at his job because working with Grant has gotten like, a thousand times easier. I talked to him on the phone yesterday. He said to tell you hi."

"Tell him I say hi," Mikey says.

Later that evening Mikey’s roommate, Ray, gets home from work and they all pile in Ray’s car and go in search of some decent food. Ray turns on the radio. A song Gerard doesn’t recognize wraps up and then the DJ starts talking, “And that one was for our very own Mikey Way who’s off partying and left me here to do his work. Be sure to call and request it frequently.”

Mikey groans. “That fucker always plays that stupid song when he fills in for me. And then I have to fuck around with a million people calling in to request that goddamn song.”

Gerard cracks up. He’s heard more than one rant from Mikey about having to play certain songs when they’re requested. Clearly this is one of them.

“I hear that’s the price you pay for complaining about something in front of a known troll,” Ray intones wisely. Mikey reaches up from the backseat and pounds Ray on the shoulder with his fist.

Of course, they end up at a diner and Gerard is just reminded of his first phone conversation with Frank, so he tells them both how Frank remembers Mikey selling his bootleg DVDs and then he has to tell Ray the whole story of what Frank is up to now and where he is. This gets Ray and Mikey telling their Frank stories. There aren’t many, but it’s enough to completely delight Gerard.

The next day, none of it has really left Gerard’s mind. Over one last cup of fortifying coffee before heading over to their parent’s place for a family dinner, Gerard asks Mikey about Pencey, about the shows he missed. He’s glad he’s getting to know Frank now, but he wonders a little bit what it would have been like to have known him this whole time.

Mikey, of course, sees right through him. “So how much do you and Frank talk?”

Gerard shrugs. “Depends. Mostly we email or text. The phone is kind of a new thing.”

“So are you like...” Mikey gives a tiny wave with his fingers.

Gerard shrugs again. He has no fucking idea.

 

***

 

Frank’s phone rings a few days later and it’s Gerard. Frank grins at the screen for a moment before he answers. They chat for a while about their days, about random shit that pops to mind, and then as the call is winding down, Frank remembers that he has this little thing called a job he is supposed to be doing - well, he has been working the entire time they were talking, but usually people call because they need something from Grant. So he says, "Hey, Gerard. We never got around to, like, the original purpose of your call."

"Sure we did," Gerard says.

Frank thinks back over the conversation and he's pretty sure he didn't answer any important questions or anything. "Did we? I don't remember this at all."

Gerard laughs. "I just called to talk because talking to you sounded infinitely better than doing thumbnails."

Frank's been wandering around with the phone, and just as Gerard says this, he's in Grant's office, phone clamped between his ear and his shoulder, rifling for some paperwork, and he says, "Oh!" He’s surprised, and pretty pleased, and without really thinking about it he adds teasingly, "I'd tell you talking to you is infinitely better than just looking for lost invoices, but my boss is about three feet away and I don't want him to think I'm a lazy asshole," and smirks at Grant, who's at his desk.

Grant raises an eyebrow, looking vastly amused. "Who could possibly be better than my invoices?"

Frank says, "Oh!" again and then adds, "Gerard."

"Ah. Well, no argument there. But if you don't mind, I do, conveniently, actually have a question for him." Frank says goodbye and hands the phone over to Grant.

Frank continues searching for the invoices as Grant and Gerard talk. Frank loves listening to Grant talk about his work because he finds it fascinating, but he likes it when he's talking to Gerard even more now, because Frank can guess what Gerard's saying and how he's saying it even though he can't hear Gerard's part of the conversation. He sort of wishes he could, but he’s also got work to do, so he leaves them to it and goes back to his office.

*

Frank doesn't know, on the whole, how to feel about the part of his job that involves Grant and magic, because he without fail always pictures the wands-and-spell-casting type of magic, courtesy of umpteen rereads of Harry Potter, and he has to just bite his tongue and schedule Grant's corporate consultations without comment. But listening to Grant actually talk on the subject is less like going to, like, Charms class and more like listening to someone discuss philosophy or science or something...that actually makes some sense. And when other people bring it up so casually, like Gerard had last week, it's hard for him to shake.

Maybe he really just does want to think he was meant to take this job, because otherwise he has to think way too hard about what the hell he's still doing in LA He can't stop thinking about what the hell he's still doing in LA, especially after that conversation with Gerard. Especially now that Grant is starting to make noises about his return to Scotland.

Frank makes a mental note to try to call Grant's former assistant at DC. She certainly ought to be back from her maternity leave now, because it's been.... Frank counts back and his eyes widen when he realizes he's been working for Grant for nearly six months. It feels like - well, longer really, now that he thinks about it. But no matter how much insight Megan can give him into remotely managing Grant's work flow, there are three short-lived assistants and...rather a lot of changes to the job description between her tenure and Frank's.

Grant's not a great deal of help. Frank's pretty sure he hasn't realized how much the job has changed, either. Frank knows, he knows most of that is his own doing. There were just so many things that Frank could do for Grant, and he wanted to do them, and now...well, now he's not going to be able to. They're both going to have to deal with that.

There's a UPS box on Grant's front porch when Frank gets there. It's the monthlies from DC, Frank's pretty sure; they were supposed to have been delivered yesterday - they probably were delivered yesterday, but Frank had taken the afternoon off to go see his friend Mike, whose band had been in town for the night, and clearly Grant had forgotten to check. Frank makes a mental note to make sure the mail room at DC changes Grant's address for the summer and picks up the box.

Frank's early this morning so he can catch up from yesterday, and he's somewhat surprised to hear Grant already typing when he walks down the hall to the offices. He nudges Grant's door open with his shoulder and carries the box over to Grant's desk, dropping it on the visitor chair. "Special delivery," he says.

"Good morning," Grant smiles. "And you come bearing gifts."

"I come bearing DC's gifts," Frank corrects. "You're up early."

"I am," Grant replies. "Vince called me this morning at five am. Five! I asked him what in the world he was thinking, and he played me the same sad tune about already having eaten lunch and just forgetting there were time zones involved."

"So, it's Thursday," Frank smirks.

"As you say." Grant looks back at his computer, types for a few seconds, then looks back up at Frank. "Our schedules won't overlap much after I go home, will they?" Grant says thoughtfully, like it's just occurred to him.

Frank does not roll his eyes, possibly because he hasn't had coffee yet and isn't coordinated enough. "No, Grant, they won't," he says gently.

"Megan worked seven 'til three during the summer," Grant says thoughtfully - there's one question to tick off of Frank's list - "but that was Eastern time, and -" He studies Frank for a moment. "You've already thought of this, haven't you."

Frank nods. "Yes, Grant. I'll adjust my hours as much as I can. You usually work into the evening anyway, you know." He tries to sound upbeat, but - again with the no coffee - it's not the easiest thing to do.

Frank turns his attention to cutting open the box of comics, but he can feel Grant's eyes on him. Finally Grant says, "Very well," and goes back to typing. It sounds like he wanted to say more, but he doesn't continue and Frank does not ask.

*

On Wednesday, Grant pokes his head in Frank's office and asks, "Frank, could you book me a flight to Glasgow for the third? No, make that the second, because I'll need to be there by the third. British Airways has nonstop flights from LAX to Heathrow, which I would prefer, though a short layover in New York or New Jersey wouldn't be the end of the world." Grant disappears back down the hall.

Frank feels like Grant just set a time bomb on his desk. He knew it was coming. Especially after their conversation about time zone issues. But apparently he hadn't been prepared for it. Maybe because he still hadn't come up with a good plan for the whole timezones thing and he'd been focusing so much on that aspect that everything else was suddenly, intensely overwhelming and he's filled with worry.

Frank looks up flights and gets out Grant's credit card and books one and it's done. Most of Frank's attempts to actually do his job just don't work. He ends up staring into space, tapping a pen repeatedly on the desk, or pacing around his office. He's worried about everything. How he'll keep up with Grant on another continent, how he'll deal with Grant being on a totally different schedule than him, whether Grant will actually eat and sleep like a human being. Frank knows that sometimes Grant will deliberately deprive himself of sleep in order to get to another level of inspiration or whatever, but the very thought makes Frank twitch.

When Grant comes back into Frank's office a few minutes later, Frank has to work hard to school his features into something approaching normal.

''Flight's booked," Frank says with false cheer.

"Excellent." Grant smiles at him.

"Did you need me to make any other arrangements for your trip?" Frank asks.

“My sister is bringing my car and picking me up from the airport, so the flight’s the only thing. Thank you, Frank.”

Frank smiles and nods. He feels wooden and strange, but Grant switches smoothly to another topic, and then another, and Frank tries to keep up.

It’s just... Frank’s going to miss Grant. Practically his entire life has been revolving around Grant for months and now he won’t be there. Frank will be coming to an empty house to work. Not even the cats will be there to keep him company. He’s having a hard time not feeling as if he’s being left all of a sudden.

Over the next couple of weeks, he busies himself getting everything ready. He ships several boxes of things to Grant’s house in Scotland. Grant assures him someone is collecting his mail and packages and taking them to the house, so everything will be there when Grant arrives. Frank can’t help but leave detailed instructions and lists of the contents in the top of each one. Partly out of necessity so Grant doesn’t have to open a box and rummage through looking for what he wants. And also because a tiny part of himself wants Grant to have reminders that Frank exists.

He knows in theory that he should be able to work just fine with Grant away. The internet should make it pretty easy, all told. Should. Frank can’t quite shake the feeling that everything is about to go to hell in a handbasket.

While Frank’s busy trying to just stay on top of things and help out, he's quietly freaking out and trying not to. It doesn’t help that everyone who calls seems to want to chit-chat with some variation of “So, Grant must be looking forward to going home, huh?” He ends up being sort of snappish to someone the fourth or fifth time it happens, and he feels bad but also all twisted up inside, so he just sits at his desk and rubs his head. He hears Grant walk down the hall, and a few minutes later Grant brings him a cup of tea, and sits it down on the desk by Frank’s hand with a quiet click. Frank is mortified that Grant saw him lying down on the job...literally. But also, Grant is spoiling him and it makes him squirm. He wants to say something to Grant, but everything seems like too much or not enough. So Frank thanks him for the tea and sips it slowly.

Grant’s departure day comes, and he's called a car to come pick him up because he's got the cats as well as all his own stuff, and Frank helps him get everything loaded and then the cab is idling in the driveway and Frank mumbles to himself, “Shit.” He clenches and releases his fists a couple of times. "Have a safe trip," he finally says.

Grant smiles at him and Frank kind of wants to run away. "I'm sure I will. Frank…" Suddenly Grant's pulling him in for a hug, arms sliding around his shoulders. Grant has never really touched him like this before, and it feels...good. Frank can't stand how good it feels, but he makes himself smile at Grant anyway, because Grant deserves that, and not Frank's fucking issues. Then he climbs into the cab and it drives away and Frank waves, once. When he's standing by himself in Grant's driveway, he feels very small.

Finally Frank goes back inside, because no matter how he feels he still has work to do. Grant's house suddenly feels very large and very empty. Every noise he makes sounds extra loud. He has trouble concentrating on the emails, so he sets to work filing. The phone rings, and of course it's Gerard, because Gerard always seems to have perfect timing, and Frank doesn't say a word about Grant leaving, just listens to Gerard's story about how Mikey's cat had eaten through his laptop cord the other day, and how he hadn't noticed until the battery died but he'd remembered to back up the inks to his external hard drive, and wasn't Frank proud? And Frank laughs, and says he is proud, and says he'll pass them along to Grant when Grant arrives in Glasgow, and the sentence comes out smoothly and things feel - okay. For now.

*

They manage to get through about a week before things start going all to hell. Grant starts keeping weird hours and Frank can never get hold of him and he just knows the correspondence is a mess and that there are things he could be taking care of if he just knew what they were. Finally, Grant actually answers the phone when Frank calls for once. Frank yells a little.

Grant, atypically, growls a little bit. "I'm fine," he says, "It's fine, you're worrying about nothing. Go to a gig or do something twentysomethings like to do."

That’s really rich of him, because Grant lives it up more than Frank does. He feels like he's being condescended to, so he just says a short "Fine," and hangs up, and goes back to working out a scheduling thing and finishing an email to Grant’s LA agent.

A week later, Grant is minutes away from missing a scheduled event in Glasgow and Frank gets a call from Grant’s rep at his London publishing house. “He’s not here,” Liam says. Frantically.

“I - Liam, I am sorry. Let me call him.” Liam, I am in fucking Los Angeles, is what Frank thinks but does not say. Frank puts the office phone on hold and dials Grant’s cell from his cell and he feels ridiculous but he does get hold of Grant that way after letting the call ring through at least twice. Grant’s at the wrong address. Luckily, the wrong address is just minutes by cab away from the right address and things work out, but Frank calls again after the event and this time he is really mad.

 

***

 

The second call that Grant gets from Frank, he doesn’t really yell. Frank just very calmly lays out that this isn't working and lately all Grant is paying for him to do is to make a lot expensive international calls to Grant, on Grant's dime, that just end in Frank leaving a message on the answering machine and Grant never returning his calls. And lots of frustration for everyone.

"Gerard is freaking out about deadlines because you haven't gotten the re-writes to him, Dan wants to talk to you and you haven't emailed him back, and Vince can't even get in touch with you and you're in the same fucking country. And they're all calling me as if I have answers and I don't, which makes me seem incompetent and makes it harder for me to do my job in the future. Can we please do something? Because I can't coordinate all this stuff from another continent if you're not holding up your end of the deal."

Frank's voice is practically icy and that is what makes Grant stop instead of getting angry back. Because he suddenly realizes that Frank is really, truly upset. And it's not that he didn't realize Frank was angry and annoyed before, but it felt different. Like Frank would just get fed up and force him to go to bed or put a plate of food under his nose. But Frank's not here to do that and Grant is entirely too stubborn. It's almost as if he's been rebelling against Frank's presence in his life, which is stupid because Frank has, by and large, made everything better. Clearly he depends on Frank far more than he ever expected. Far more than he's ever depended on any one person aside from his parents as a small child. He's not entirely certain what to do with that, except he knows he needs to make it up to Frank.

"Come to Scotland," falls out of his mouth before he really thinks about it, but when he does think about it, he wouldn't take it back for the world. "Please."

"What?" Frank asks, clearly taken aback.

"Come to Scotland. You can stay until Comic-Con and we can sort out everything I've mucked up and then we can settle on a set plan for when I'm away that actually works and that I promise I will stick to.”

There's silence down the line for an extended moment and Grant prepares himself for a good grovel when Frank says quietly, "Okay."

"I'll get you a ticket right now." Grant turns to his computer and types in the address for a travel site. "How soon do you think you can fly out?"

"Um... I suppose I could come out like, tomorrow?" Frank sounds hesitant.

"Frank, you don't have to be here immediately, unless you want to." Grant hopes Frank wants to.

"No, I can. It's not like I have some crazy life that I have to make arrangements for. I don't even have a dog." Frank's tone is joking, but Grant can tell it's not really much of a joke. Grant suddenly remembers what he said on the phone the other day and feels immediately guilty.

"Frank—"

"So what are my options for flights?" Frank interrupts. Grant reads off the options and Frank chooses a fight leaving at 9:20 pm LA time and arriving in Glasgow at 7 pm the next day. "Oh, god," Frank moans. "I know that sounds more ridiculous than it actually is, but I'm still going to be on a plane for a long fucking time. I think I deserve a raise for this. Or a bonus or something."

"Well, you do deserve a raise and I've been meaning to give you one, so consider it done," Grant says.

"Grant, I was joking, you didn't have to—"

Grant interrupts this time. "Frank, I know. You deserve the raise, especially since we haven't found health insurance for you yet."

"Okay," Frank says. Grant can practically see the incredulous look on Frank's face. "Is there anything you need me to bring from the house?"

"Nothing I can think of at the moment. I'll call you tomorrow if I come up with anything," Grant answers.

"Okay. I guess I'll see you the day after tomorrow."

"Yes. I'll meet you in baggage claim. And Frank?"

"Yeah?"

"Thank you."

"Just doing my job," he says.

"No, you're not. You're going far above and beyond and you're not just my employee, but also a friend." Grant finds he wants Frank to be very clear on this point. He hears Frank take it a deep breath over the line, but he doesn't say anything. "See you soon, Frank."

"Yeah," Frank finally says and Grant knows he's agreeing to more than just the fact that they'll see each other. "Bye. Well, goodnight for you, I guess."

Grant smiles. "Good afternoon, Frank."

 

***

 

Frank's first full day in Scotland is kind of weird. And surreal. And just plain nice. He'd arrived in Glasgow the previous evening and Grant had met him at the airport with a broad grin and a hand on Frank's shoulder. The drive had been beautiful and ridiculously picturesque and there had even been a ferry ride, which Frank had done thousands of times before, but close to sunset in Scotland turned it into a whole other experience. By the time they arrived at Grant's house - which, even through half-lidded eyes, looked amazingly lovely - and got his stuff into the bedroom Grant told him was his for the duration, Frank could hardly stay on his feet. He hadn't slept on the plane, really. He hardly knew up from down. But he hadn't meant to go to asleep right away. Apparently seeing the bed was enough of a reminder that he hadn't slept in a billion hours. Grant had noticed right away and insisted he sleep, and everything else could wait for morning.

Frank expects to get up, get ready for the day, and get to work like normal. Well, as normal as it can be in an entirely different country where Frank can't even plug in his laptop like usual (a fact he'd forgotten until his layover at Heathrow, when he had frantically searched the airport shops and paid far too much for a couple of adapters like all the other poor suckers unused to international travel). What Frank gets is Grant ushering him into the car again (and Frank is seriously never going to get used to riding on the wrong side) and taking him out for a "proper breakfast and some sights to be seen."

"I can't just make you work straightaway," Grant insists when Frank asks. "It's your first time in a new country. You've got to see a bit. Get familiar with it, before you dive into business."

"You're the only boss in the history of ever to think that," Frank tells him.

"Since when have I been like other bosses?" Grant asks. Frank rolls his eyes.

So Grant shows him around the town. It's almost exactly like Frank pictured it. Which is to say, something out of a storybook. Grant tells him all these random little details that are apparently just floating in his head. Frank's favorite part is when Grant shows him the area "haunted" house. It's appropriately spooky looking and Grant seems convinced of the story's legitimacy, and it makes Frank shiver in the best way.

They stop in at Grant's usual grocery place on their way back to the house and the woman behind the counter immediately starts in on Grant, asking who Frank is, teasing him about finally bringing his boyfriend home to meet everyone. It makes Frank's stomach flip and his cheeks heat and he has no idea what to do with his hands.

Grant rolls his eyes and introduces Frank as his assistant. Frank has no idea what he's feeling.

"Sorry, lovey," the lady says to Frank. "We've got to take the piss out of our big-shot writer, or he'd let it go to his head. Maybe you can make him eat a decent meal now and again. I swear, all he ever buys is tea."

"That's a baldfaced lie, Katie," Grant retorts.

"Fine, fine. Biscuits, too. Tea and biscuits, all he ever buys." Katie winks at Frank. Frank can't really help but smile back. "I suppose you'll be getting proper food now, though. Your young assistant here needs sustenance in order to deal with the likes of you on a daily basis."

Between the three of them, they end up with several bags full of various parts of different recipes and Frank is struck by how surreal this is. They'll be, essentially, living and working closely together for at least the next month. Their boss/employee relationship hadn't been particularly conventional to start out with. Frank thinks, not for the first time, that maybe this is a little bit insane.

*

Frank’s first full day of actual work is kind of weird too. Grant's office isn't exactly large. It doesn't really need to be because it's usually just him at his desk with a notebook or his computer. Frank and all his things definitely do not fit, so he's constantly in and out, double-checking information with Grant, making schedules and lists, and sorting through all the correspondence that's piled up - there are a lot of emails that Grant forgot to send onto Frank. Frank can tell Grant is getting a little frustrated and Frank isn't keeping a lid on it much better. Finally he just leans over Grant, takes over his mouse, and goes all the way back to the last day Grant was working in LA. He sorts through all the emails, sending himself the things that he knows he needs to take care of. Grant's so close and god, he smells great and Frank is an idiot and he shouldn't have just taken over like that anyway. And ugh.

"Okay. We need a break," Frank declares upon standing straight again.

Grant nods and they both go downstairs. Grant sets the kettle going and when the water is hot, they sit at the table and drink their tea in silence for a couple of minutes. Frank sighs and runs a hand over his face.

"Okay, can we maybe work down here for the rest of the day? Or at least until I mostly have everything in control?" Frank asks. "I know you like writing up there, but until I have all this stuff organized, it's just gonna be more of the same."

Grant smiles ruefully. "It's my fault. The least I can do is help fix the mess."

"And like, can you just tell everyone to copy me on emails from now on? Our forwarding system only works when you actually check your email. I mean, most everyone knows by now, but there are enough that don't that I'm probably gonna be spending a good chunk of tomorrow catching up on correspondence."

"Well that was a more effective guilt trip than even my mother could send me on," Grant says.

"No, I didn't mean—"

Grant laughs and brushes Frank's wrist with his fingers. "Frank, it was well-deserved. I've been appalling at any semblance of keeping business straight since coming here and for that I apologize. I've made your job so complicated that you had to come to another country to complete it. We shall sit here for the rest of today or however long you require and I will do whatever you wish me to do."

"Okay," Frank says. "We should start with the correspondence, because a lot of your schedule is gonna depend on the responses we get from people. And we really need to send Gerard your re-writes because he's kind of starting to freak out."

Grant grimaces. "This script is not cooperating."

"Do you at least have some of it? Because I seriously think just giving him a few pages to start on would make him feel better about, like, life." If the edge of panic in Gerard's voice the last time Frank talked to him was anything to go by, at any rate. Frank had kind of wanted to give him a hug through the phone.

*

When Frank feels the tell-tale tickle in his throat, the headache starting to throb, the exhaustion setting in, he wants to punch things. He does not fucking have time to be sick. Especially not when he's in another country to fucking work and Grant is in the sort of writing groove where Frank has to convince him that food is something he actually needs and maybe also a little bit of sleep periodically. He takes his anger out on a poor admin who calls from DC and then immediately feels awful. He calls back to apologize, but he still feels bad and by the time he decides to stop for the day, he's thoroughly miserable.

Before he lets himself collapse, he makes Grant a sandwich and takes it up to him. Grant thanks him absently and takes a bite, typing one-handed. Frank sighs and rolls his eyes. He's sure Grant will stay up to the wee hours. If Grant wants to exhaust himself, Frank doesn't have the energy to try to talk him out of it tonight.

He goes to his room and doesn't wake up again until his alarm goes off the next morning. Frank is pretty sure that dragging himself out of bed is the hardest thing he's had to do for a while. The kitchen shows evidence that Grant has been down recently. Frank is grateful because that means there's still hot water in the kettle for him to make some tea. That's the only thing his throat can handle at the moment.

He makes it through the morning okay. He even manages to talk on the phone without sounding too awful. He makes some lunch, which Grant actually shows his face for, but he's distracted and eats quickly before heading right back to his office. Frank feels himself deflate as soon as Grant's out of sight. He starts feeling more terrible as the day wears on, but he soldiers through. He's got shit to do and he needs to start preparing for San Diego before too long, which means he really can't get behind on anything.

The next day is much the same. Attempting to sound human on the phone and trying to maintain his usual workload and deal with Grant without breaking his concentration or alerting him to the fact that Frank is ill. It’s pretty easy, given how caught up Grant is in everything. He gets through the day on copious amounts of tea and paracetamol he finds in the bathroom, which the internet tells Frank is Tylenol.

The following morning, he wakes up coughing. He's so busy hacking away that he jumps a little bit when Grant sits on the edge of his bed.

"I heard you all the way down the hall. Do you need water?” Grant asks. Frank shakes his head, no. “Frank. Why didn't you tell me you were ill?" Grant asks gently.

"I’m surprised you even noticed.” The words come tumbling out before Frank can stop himself. Grant looks vaguely guilty, but Frank starts talking again before he can say anything in response. “There's so much to fucking do." Frank punctuates his sentence with a cough. "I don't have time to be sick."

“Whether or not you have the time, you clearly are. Please take a day off, Frank. I am nearly done with the script and will make every effort to not let everything fall into disarray.” Frank must make a dubious face because Grant laughs. “I know I haven’t given you much cause to trust me in this area, but perhaps I can earn some. Go back to sleep, Frank. I promise to answer the phone at least every other time it rings and to write down everything.”

“In one spot,” Frank croaks. “Not scattered around on five different pieces of paper and a gazillion post-its.”

“I shall find a blank notebook, call it ‘Notes For Frank’ and put them all in there,” Grant promises. “Sleep.”

Frank does, albeit somewhat fitfully given all the coughing. A few hours later, he comes out of a doze to the sound of Grant tapping on the doorjamb. “I made tea, if you’d like some,” Grant says and comes in the door, tray in hand.

Frank sits up and Grant sets the tray next to him. There’s also toast and a bottle of what appears to be cough syrup. “You didn’t have to—”

“But I did. Drink your tea. If toast is too much, I can get you something softer,” Grant says.

“Thank you,” Frank says and sips his tea.

Frank sleeps through most of the rest of the day, squinting at the clock whenever he wakes and dosing himself with more cough syrup if it's time. He sleeps through what could properly be called lunchtime and is awakened from another sweaty doze around teatime by a gentle hand on his shoulder. "Frank," Grant says softly.

Frank murmurs a vague protest into his pillow. He's veering between embarrassment and wide-eyed gratitude that Grant would continue to wait on him when he's used to taking care of himself. He rolls, and Grant's hand slips down to his chest for a moment. The warm weight feels good against his abused muscles and he wishes Grant wouldn't move it.

Grant doesn't move it as quickly as Frank expects him to, but he still is turning toward the tray he's brought before Frank can properly enjoy the moment. "I brought more medicine," Grant says. "And soup, from the market. Katie's worried about you. She insisted on sending you oranges and told me very sternly to tend you well."

Frank smiles tiredly. He likes Katie. The oranges are on the tray too, three of them nestled in a deep red bowl. The soup is in a blue one. The whole tray is very - Grant. Grant is fond of pretty things, and Frank loves that about him, and he transfers the smile to Grant as he pushes himself into a sitting position.

Grant smiles back at him. His hand moves toward Frank and then jerks back a little bit and rests lightly on Frank's calf for a few seconds before Grant draws it away again.

"Has the sleep helped any?" Grant asks.

Frank takes stock. "Didn't hurt, at any rate."

Grant frowns. "If you need anything at all, please ask, Frank. Anything."

Frank looks down at the tray Grant sets in his lap and looks back up. "I think I'm pretty good for now." He starts coughing again. It's short and not that bad, but when he's done, he sees Grant looking at him with concern. More concern. "I'm fine," Frank says.

Grant looks skeptical. "You should take more medicine."

Frank glances at the clock. "Can't for another hour. I'll be fine, I promise. How was it today? Did you finish the script? Anything you need me to take care of?"

"Frank, the only thing I need you to do right now is eat your soup and rest. Yes, I did finish the script and even managed to send it on to Janelle," Grant smiles ruefully. "She emailed me back from her mobile telling me to thank you for being a miracle and to prepare yourself for hugs in San Diego. She may have also mentioned beer. I'd take offense at her lack of faith in me, but she's correct. Without you here, this wouldn't be finished right now."

"How did she even know?" Frank asks incredulously.

"I may have emailed several people and told them they could all stop being horrible nags because you were here now to do it for them." Grant smiles sheepishly and it's kind of adorable.

"Hey, I'm not—"

"Sometimes you are, a little bit. But sometimes it's what I need. Most of the time your mere presence is enough of a reminder."

Frank feels his face flush. He has no idea how to respond, but it turns out that doesn’t matter because he starts coughing again. Grant retrieves the tray from his lap and he curls in on himself and coughs himself out. For the time being.

“Are you sure there’s nothing I can do?” Grant asks, his face the very picture of worry.

Frank nods and gestures for him to give back the tray. “I can take some more medicine soon enough.”

“Not nearly soon enough, actually. I should let you eat and go back to sleep.” Grant makes to get up, but Frank stops him.

“Stay for a bit?” Frank wheezes. He suddenly finds that the thought of being alone is distressing. “Tell me how the day went. Did anything else happen?” Grant starts talking as Frank eats, telling him more about Katie and the phone calls he took and how Vince called and wants to visit before they all leave for Comic-Con. How his sister is ridiculous, but he supposes he has no room to talk. It’s exactly what Frank needed. By the time he’s done with his soup, it’s time to take more medicine, so he does. The next thing he knows, he’s waking himself up coughing again and it’s three am and he has to flail himself out of the duvet. Apparently he fell asleep and Grant must’ve.... Frank coughs harder and shakily measures out the liquid and downs it quickly.

When he wakes up in the morning, the only thing he really knows is that he can’t possibly stay in bed again today. Even if he’s not working, he can’t fucking stay there. So he grabs a book, his medicine, and a pillow, and goes downstairs to curl up in Grant’s egg chair in the sitting room. Grant discovers him there about half an hour later.

“You didn’t answer my knock,” Grant says, “and I was a bit concerned. But here you are. Are you - improved? Because you look -”

“Terrible? Zombielike? Horrifying?” Frank smiles a little to show that he’s kidding.

Grant smirks back. “I would never say so. I was about to say ‘embryonic’ though.” He pauses. “But I think it’s mostly the chair.”

Frank snorts. “You think?” He likes this chair though, likes that it’s just randomly in Grant’s sitting room with a hodgepodge of other furniture. Likes that it’s clearly actually meant to be sat in. It’s...as fucking endearing as everything else about Grant, actually, and Frank is so fucked it isn’t even funny. He closes his eyes for a moment and coughs. Please let me just get better.

Grant disappears with a murmured, “Hold that thought.” Frank frowns, hoping Grant doesn’t actually know what thought he’d just told Frank to hold. Well, not the getting better part, the endearing part. Then Grant reappears with his arms full of things: laptop, a couple books, his notebook, the cordless phone stacked on top.

Frank stares. “Are you...?”

“If you’re going to sit in here today, Frank, I will work in here. No -” Grant cuts off his thought before it can slip out of his mouth, “You are not working. You are resting. But you can rest in the same room as me. I -”

“I’ll enjoy not being alone,” Frank admits.

Frank does end up sitting quietly for most of the day, although several times when the phone rings and Grant answers, he talks and talks with a particularly manic expression that practically screams “Get me out of here.” The third time it happens, Frank is sipping a cup of hot tea, but he waves his hand to get Grant’s attention and makes a gimme gesture.

Grant hesitates, clearly having an argument with himself about whether or not he should let Frank talk on the phone, but then cringes back from the earpiece. “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that. I’m going to give the phone to my assistant now. Have a good day.” Grant hands the phone off to Frank.

“Hello, Frank Iero speaking.” The second the person on the other line starts talking, Frank knows who it is. “You just don’t give up, do you? Listen, Mr. Morrison is not interested. He wasn’t interested last month, he wasn’t interested last week, and he’s still not interested today. You must have something better to do with your time than waste ours.” Frank hangs up. That was the most satisfying thing he’s done in days. He looks up to find Grant looking at him bemusedly. Frank smiles and shrugs and curls back up in the chair, this time with the phone in easy reach.

Frank drifts in and out of sleep, waking to answer the phone or to read for a few minutes. Around lunchtime he gets up and tries to make lunch for them, but he drops a pan with a loud clatter and Grant comes rushing in and makes him go back to the chair. Frank would feel guilty and useless, but he’s so tired that he falls asleep almost immediately and only wakes when Grant shakes him. They share a tray of soup and sandwiches.

It feels nice, having Grant take care of him. Better than nice. Frank hates that he feels like he needs it. He answers a call a few minutes later and feels somewhat better. That, plus the lunch, is enough to mostly quiet his feelings of unease at how easy it is for him to just let Grant coddle him.

Later that afternoon, the phone rings and Frank answers as usual, but this time it’s Katie on the other end. “Is that man making you work? He should be ashamed of himself. I told him to take care of you, not work you to death. I ought to—”

“Katie! I’m fine. I’m relaxing in a comfortable chair and the only thing I do is answer the phone every once in a while. Believe me, it’s for the best,” Frank assures her. He smiles. He really does like Katie. "And Grant made me lunch," Frank tells her. "And I had one of your oranges with breakfast. Did you call just to check up on me?"

"Check up on me, more likely," Grant grumbles from the couch, and Katie laughs.

"I heard that. Take care of yourself, dearie. I'll let you rest now."

When Frank hangs up the phone he looks up and meets Grant's eyes. Grant's lips are twitching. "She's such a mother hen. And she has no faith in me whatsoever, clearly."

"You did make me take that phone call this morning," Frank teases.

"The ten-second evisceration, you mean? Ah now, you enjoyed that. I'm taking it as a sign that you're feeling better."

"Maybe," Frank concedes.

He is definitely feeling better the next day. He's not sure he could spend a whole day at a desk, at this point, but taking Grant's calls from the egg chair is sort of hilarious. He feels like something out of a Bond movie. Grant throws back his head and laughs when Frank tells him that, and makes him a SPECTRE COMMAND CENTRE sign on a post-it note. Grant’s not writing today; the annual trip to San Diego for Comic-Con coincides, roughly, with the midpoint of his summer stay, which apparently always means shipping boxes of things Grant’s decided need to go back to LA.

Frank had thought Grant’s office in LA was surprisingly sparse despite being desperately disorganized, and it had only become clear upon his arrival in Scotland that the reason for this was that the house in Scotland was the true repository - for books, for documents, for awards, for art, for the things that make up Grant. It’s the books he’s mining for material, mostly, and he’s surprisingly decisive about what he wants and needs. Frank, still recovering from his terrible cold, feels lethargic and useless. Grant has a list. Frank’s never seen him have a list for anything.

Frank just curls himself up into an even tinier ball in his chair and watches the packing process. Grant had snapped - gently, but still with a bit of bite - the last time he tried to get up and go over there. Frank’s disturbed from an absentminded and ill-advised study of Grant’s favorite white pants when his phone rings.

“Gerard!” he says happily into the phone.

“Frank, hi, it’s been forever, how are you?” Gerard sounds plenty enthusiastic himself. It really has been a while; the book Gerard and Grant are doing finished its first arc and Grant won’t start sending scripts for the second until after his California trip.

“Eh. I was sick for a while. Getting better. I’d better recover soon or I’ll be the most useless employee ever.”

“You’re making a pretty good supervisor right now,” Grant teases as he walks by, clearly having overheard.

“Is that Grant?” Gerard asks. “I thought he was in Scotland.”

“He is,” Frank replies. “So am I.” He makes a face at Grant, who makes it right back.

“Oh!” says Gerard. “I thought you were LA-based?”

“Technically I am,” Frank says. “This was, ah...a special case. Wow, I’m sorry I haven’t called, but I’ve been here for a few weeks, and I’ll be here for a couple more I guess, until the con.”

“I hope you’re enjoying yourself a little,” Gerard says. “I’m actually half Scottish and I’ve always wanted to see it. Never got around to it.”

“You should,” Frank gushes a little, “It’s gorgeous and, like, everything is a picture. I can’t wait until I can go back out with my camera.”

“Does Grant lock you in the basement at night?” Gerard teases.

Frank laughs. “It’s an old house, but I haven’t seen any signs of a dungeon.” Grant’s head snaps up, and after a fleeting inscrutable look, he laughs.

“You’re going to ruin my reputation, Frank.” Frank’s actually not sure what Grant thinks would ruin his reputation: having a dungeon, or not having one, so he just makes a face at Grant and keeps talking.

“Nah, I just got sick. Nothing major, that is, nothing out of the ordinary for me, although it always sucks. I’m feeling better, though, so I can get back to not being the worst employee ever pretty soon.”

Gerard laughs a bit. “You’re pretty much the best, Frank. I have no doubt.”

Frank can feel himself blush, but it also feels pretty good to hear that.

 

***

 

Grant finishes putting his shoes on and shoves the long sleeves of his tee shirt up around his elbows. He’s running a bit later than usual this morning. He can hear Frank moving around down the hall as he closes his door. When he turns around, Frank has just come out of the bathroom and he’s -

His hair is damp and he’s wearing jeans but no shirt, holding a towel in one hand. Grant almost turns back around, because he can’t - his eyes are skating over Frank’s skin, finding tattoo after tattoo that’s he’s never seen, that he wants to touch, and he doesn’t say what he wants to say, which is either “Oh, fuck” or “Let me touch you.” Instead he just says, “Good morning.”

“Morning,” Frank says, eyes meeting Grant’s and holding.

Grant can’t tell if he’s been caught staring or not, so he just smiles and says, “I’ll start the kettle.” Once he’s safely downstairs, he takes a deep breath. He’s actually surprised nothing like this has happened yet, and he can’t tell if he’s sorry. There are, thankfully, other things to think about besides Frank’s gorgeous ink. He’s getting mugs out of a cupboard when Frank comes downstairs, and Frank leans past him to open the breadbox and crosses to the toaster.

“I bought some more of that jam that you like. Katie told me they have a new flavor,” Frank says. Grant sets the cups down and hands Frank the French press.

“Oh, thank you, I’d forgotten we were low. I’ll need to fax some documents today, but I think I forgot to sign one of them, so I’ll go check after breakfast?”

“Sure,” Frank says distractedly, measuring out his coffee grounds. They finish breakfast mostly in silence, and then Grant heads back upstairs once Frank has disappeared into the corner of Grant’s sitting room that he’s taken over with his computer and files. Grant boots up his programs for the day and finds himself leaning back in his chair, making an absentminded study of which corner of his office could be most easily transformed into a work station for Frank. Then he remembers that this is supposed to be temporary, and Frank’s fine where he is, and it doesn’t make any sense to be planning long term.

Frank pokes his head in a little while later. “Are the documents you wanted faxed ready?”

“Oh! Give me a moment and they will be.” Grant picks up the stack of paper and shuffles through, looking for the blank signature line. He finds it and scrawls out his name and hands the papers over to Frank. Grant raises an eyebrow at him when Frank starts laughing.

“You’ve got ink on your cheek. How did you even manage that?”

Grant rubs at his cheek and Frank just laughs harder. “Stop! You’re just smearing it everywhere. It must be on your fingers too. Throw out that pen and stay right there.”

He disappears and comes back with a damp, soapy rag. Frank grabs Grant’s chin and turns his head and rubs gently at his face. Grant clenches and releases his fists to keep from grabbing Frank’s hips and pulling him into his lap. He works hard to keep his breathing regular and steady.

“There,” Frank says softly, pressing the cloth into Grant’s hand. “Now wipe off your hands.”

Grant does and when he’s done, Frank takes the rag and disappears again. The next time he comes back, he grabs the papers to fax. Grant sighs when he’s finally out of earshot.

It’s not that Grant’s bad at relationships - okay, perhaps it is. He doesn’t have any problems finding companionship, should he desire it, but a relationship is a different beast. It’s difficult to shed the persona, these days. With the people he works with most closely, the people he calls friend, there’s no artifice on his part. Frank is perhaps the closest of all, in some ways, but in others he persists in holding himself apart. The person who is “controversial Scottish writer” Grant is perhaps not so far removed from “Frank’s boss” Grant. And Grant doesn’t know how to get himself out of that box.

*

Their departure date sneaks up on him despite all the packing and making-ready that he’d been doing during Frank’s recuperation. He’s not ready to give Frank back to LA. Even the fact that San Diego is within days isn’t enough; he’ll have to share in San Diego too - not only Frank but himself. Yet he’s excited, as he always is, to see old friends and be with the community he loves. It’s the very definition of a mixed blessing.

Grant insisted Frank book them into first class for the flight back to LA. Frank is wide-eyed about it, but he deserves it, as far as Grant is concerned. Grant can tell he’s trying to stay awake and enjoy it, but he’s not long recuperated from his illness and his eyes start drooping. Soon enough he falls asleep, listing over toward Grant in his sleep. Grant smiles softly down at his head. Awake, Frank protests the smallest gestures of comfort and care. Asleep, he is quietly pliable, and Grant gently maneuvers him so his head is resting on Grant's shoulder and signals for a flight attendant; he has her hand him a blanket which he drapes over Frank and lets him sleep the flight away.

Frank wakes up as they're descending into Los Angeles. "Mmph. Sorry," he mumbles, moving back into his own seat.

"If I was annoyed, I'd have woken you up or moved you," Grant says as he closes his notebook.

Frank tries to move his arm to grab his bag and seems baffled by the fact that it's stuck, still wrapped in the blanket Grant had covered him with. He looks over at Grant who shrugs and smiles at him.

"Planes get cold."

"Thanks," Frank says. He still sounds groggy, and he doesn’t say anything more, just gathers the rest of his things quietly. They land and deplane and Grant shoves him into a cab and tells him to take the rest of the day and the next day off.

Grant takes his own cab home, letting himself into a quiet, empty house. He makes a mental note to call Scotland tomorrow and check on the cats. He’ll only be away for about two weeks, but he hates to leave them without company. He hesitates in the the doorway of his office for a moment, but his own exhaustion is starting to set in and he decides to change and sit down with a book instead.

The next day, in the early afternoon, his phone rings. It’s Frank. "I know I’ll see you tomorrow - maybe? I'm not totally sure what day it is anymore. But I will be honest with you, I'm going stir crazy in my own apartment and I just wanted to know if you -”

“I don’t need you to come in today, Frank. In fact, I expressly forbid it. I’ll see you tomorrow, we’ll make sure everything is ready, and we’ll take the train down to San Diego in the evening.”

“Are you working? I hope I didn’t -”

Grant laughs. "You caught me in the middle of procrastinating about packing, actually."

"Shocking. But god, don't remind me. I need to unpack before I can pack for San Diego. Thank god I did most of my laundry at home - I mean - before we left Scotland," Frank stammers.

Grant laughs again, to hide the way he really wants to repeat, ‘Home?’ “I’m sure you’re up to the task, Frank. Just don’t forget to leave extra room in your bag; I’ve never known anyone to leave Comic-Con with the exact same things they went with.”

“All I want is a Batphone,” Frank teases. “I think it would look good in my office. Or maybe your office. Maybe you’d be more likely to answer it.”

“I can leave you here,” Grant threatens, and Frank laughs. It’s a good sound.

 

***

 

Gerard takes the elevator up to Grant's suite in the convention center hotel on Wednesday night feeling a little like he's grabbed onto a live wire. Grant always makes him feel that way, if he's being honest; he's brilliant, witty, and attractive, and to top it all off, he's so nice that the combination of those things is not as overwhelming as you'd expect it to be. Just - well, electrifying. It's worse tonight, though, because this isn't just a social visit, it's a meeting with editorial to prep for their panel tomorrow, and that means Frank will certainly be there.

Gerard has spoken to Frank several times since he’d called and caught Frank in Scotland. They just chatted for a bit each time; Gerard had wanted to check and see how Frank was feeling, Frank had called back, Gerard had harangued Frank about this deeply, deeply wrong message board discussion on Doctor Who that Frank had forwarded him...but this is Comic-Con now, this is business, even though Gerard had, in fact, emailed Frank earlier in the day with the specific purpose of determining if he'd be at the meeting. He'd just needed to know, to be prepared. He finds himself a little queasy with anticipation. The Frank Iero he remembers from the Jersey pop-punk scene is just a small dude with a guitar and an over-sized scream. Five years can change a lot. Being sober can change a lot.

When he knocks on the door it's Grant himself who swings the panel open. "You must ha -" Grant cuts himself off mid-word. "Fuck, Gerard, I barely recognized you! Look at your hair, you crazy thing." He refrains from reaching out to pet it, like so many people have done in the past few days, but he does wrap Gerard up in a hug. "It's really fuckin' good to see you."

"You too," Gerard says, hugging back. He's struck by the usual urge to not let go, but he does so when the other occupants of the room start greeting him. Pete and Harvey are from DC. Gerard's met them both before, of course, and they both offer friendly handshakes, which he returns. But his attention focuses last on the final occupant of the room.

Frank. He's - god fucking damn, but he's hot. Hazy memories of a short guitarist did nothing to prepare him for this. Brown hair in an uneven shag across his forehead. Tattoos climbing up and down his neck and arms in colorful profusion, with a black polo shirt giving him only the barest veneer of respectability. Gerard's afraid he must look like he's been hit by a two-by-four, and he's glad that Frank's busy at the sink in the little wet bar area. Frank turns, wiping his hands on a towel, and when he sees Gerard he smiles and...yeah. Gerard remembers that.

"Gerard!" he says.

"Frank, hi!" Gerard can feel himself beaming at Frank like an utter loser, but Frank's sort of doing it too, and then he's hugging Gerard and he's tiny and wiry and he smells good and Gerard is so fucked, and there are - yeah. People in the room, including Grant, and things just ticked back toward awkward. Frank pulls back too, but he's still smiling.

"Catch up later, yeah?"

Gerard nods, and Frank turns back to what he's doing, and Gerard settles into a chair in the sitting area to listen to Peter talk. Gerard can't help watching Frank, though, as he moves around the room, sorting through files on the desk, punching irritably at the keys of his phone a few times. Grant, Gerard notices, is doing much the same thing, and their eyes meet a few times. Grant's expression is much more opaque than Gerard's own, he's sure, and during a break in the conversation Gerard turns to Frank and says, "You won't sit down and relax?"

Frank shoots him a tiny smile, but it's Grant that answers. "Oh, he won't rest, not till he's done organizing everything that he can, and everything else that will hold still for it." He sounds familiar, and immensely fond, and Frank almost looks like he's blushing.

Gerard just smiles at them both and says, "Somehow that doesn't surprise me at all."

Grant starts to outline an order for the panel, with occasional interjections from Gerard and Peter. Frank produces an email with the list of possible questions from the moderator and they start crossing things off the list. Eventually someone suggests dinner and they take a short break to order room service.

Harvey asks Gerard a question that gets him started sketching, and he quickly loses track of the discussion until Grant moves into the chair by his side and starts asking questions. That goes on for...a while, Gerard sketching and Grant gesturing and adding little sketches of his own. Peter and Harvey leave. The brainstorming session lasts until Frank says quietly, "Grant -" and Grant shakes himself a little and shifts in his chair.

"We have a party to get to, and we're miserably late, aren't we, Frank?" he says.

"Not miserably, just slightly," Frank tells him. Gerard looks up, scrubbing absentmindedly at the ink on his fingers, and Frank smiles. "You're supposed to be there too, I'm sure."

Gerard chuckles. "I would have kept drawing and just missed it altogether, probably."

"Maybe you need an assistant," Grant teases.

Gerard's eyes flick back to Frank. He's...not going to answer that, because shit. He gets up and straightens the stack of papers and brushes his hands clean. Frank hugging him again comes as a surprise - a nice one. "Are you -"

"Going to the party? Fuck yeah. I work harder than you do, Mr. Sword Model, DC owes me a few drinks." Frank is teasing too, with a sidelong little mischievous look at Grant.

"DC owes you a liquor store," Grant confirms. "As do I, most days. Shall we?" He gestures toward the door and they all file out.

The three of them make their way down to the lounge DC's reserved for their Preview Night party, collecting people they know along the way. Gerard gets pulled away by Jill Thompson, and he shoots a look in Frank's direction before giving her his full attention. Frank meets his eyes and smiles and mouths "Later?" As Gerard is turning back to Jill, he sees a dark-haired girl he recognizes from Editorial go running up to Frank and giving him a giant hug. Then he can't see anything because the room is dark, and packed.

Gerard manages to escape from the crowd after about twenty minutes when he heads to the patio for a smoke. He sees Grant across the room talking to Phil Jimenez, who is saying something that involves lots of intricate hand gestures, and cracks a tiny smile. It widens when he sees who is out on the patio. "Hey, Frank," Gerard greets him, leaning on the railing next to him.

"Gerard!" Frank takes a drag of his own cigarette and blows a stream of smoke out the corner of his mouth. "That was some pretty short-lived mingling. Aren't you supposed to be networking or something?"

"Aren't you?" Gerard replies, and Frank shrugs.

"Half the people in there don't know who I am, and the other half get haranguing emails from me several times a week. I'm probably better off out here."

"That's so not true," Gerard tells him. "I even told my brother - wait, you remember my brother Mikey, right? He told me ages ago to say hi to you, I can't believe I forgot! I -"

"Tell him I said hey," Frank interrupts. "What were you telling him?"

Gerard takes a moment to laugh at himself - he knows he's a rambler, and that was a diversionary tactic worthy of Mikey himself - and then continues, "That it's a thousand times easier to work with Grant since he hired you. Believe me, like 90% of those people in there know that, too." He watches Frank smile down into his drink and takes another drag of his cigarette. "He's lucky to have you," he adds, and Frank's eyes flick up to meet his, and he opens his mouth, then closes it again.

"I - thanks," he says after a minute. "But seriously, what about you?"

Gerard freezes for a moment himself, and does not say "I wish I had you," until he realizes Frank's most likely talking about networking. "I've had a foot in the door since I interned with Vertigo in the 90s, Frankie. They know me. I'm actually...sort of working on a pitch for something creator-owned right now."

"Really? Tell me about it!" Frank grins at him and sips his drink. Gerard crushes out his cigarette and drops the butt into a nearby tray.

"Nah, shoptalk's for the minglers in there," Gerard says. "This is the 'let's catch up' balcony." Frank laughs and leans back against the railing. Gerard catches himself studying the lean curve of his body, considers stopping, and decides that he's not going to hide anything. Frank's a little difficult to read - something about him is reserved, even now - but the way he smiles at Gerard...yeah, there's got to be at least a little interest there. Gerard hopes, anyway.

They end up talking for hours. Not that they never get interrupted, because Gerard has plenty of friends in the DC stable, and Frank was clearly exaggerating about no one knowing him, but they stick to their corner of the patio, snagging a table and smoking and watching the boats in the marina and just...talking.

Grant comes outside at one point and talks to them for at least twenty minutes. That draws Cameron Stewart and, later, Warren Ellis. At that point Gerard's gut aches from laughing, and his fingers are twitching from not being able to simply fucking grab Frank every time he laughs (giggles, really). It's just that adorable.

Grant gives Gerard the same opaque look as earlier, and Gerard can feel his mouth pull down at the corners but just keeps talking. Eventually Warren pulls Grant back inside and Frank and Gerard keep talking, but after a while Gerard yawns embarrassingly wide. Frank chuckles. "You should get some sleep. You're still on east coast time, it must feel really late to you."

Gerard automatically shakes his head, then stops when he finds himself yawning again. "Okay, you might be right. Hey..." he pauses and scrubs a hand through his hair, still feeling unfamiliar after his impromptu cut and bleach job last week, "you wanna have breakfast tomorrow before things get started? There's this great place a couple blocks from here I always like to hit."

"Yeah," Frank says, "that sounds...really great, Gerard. Call me when you're up?"

"East coast time, remember? It'll probably be, like, five here, so how about you call me?"

Frank laughs. "You're such a fucking liar, Gerard, you're never up at eight am. Don't you remember that I can see your timestamps? I know these things."

"Fuck you," Gerard says easily. "Just for that, I will call you when I wake up. Whenever I wake up."

"You do that." Frank lights another cigarette, reaches out to briefly touch the back of Gerard's hand. "Night, Gee."

"See you."

*

Gerard waits to call Frank until he’s actually ready to leave his hotel room. Frank answers laughing at him.

“Told you you wouldn’t call me at five fucking am.”

“Hey, it’s nine! That is still breakfast time on the west coast. We don’t even have to call it brunch!”

Frank laughs. “Whatever gets you through the day. So, breakfast?”

“Meet you in the lobby in five?”

“Definitely.”

Gerard glances in the mirror one last time, double-takes for the thousandth time since bleaching his hair, makes sure his keycard is in his pocket, and goes out the door. He finds Frank already in the lobby near the doors rocking back and forth on his toes. He hesitates for half a second before thinking fuck it and going in for a hug. Frank instantly squeezes back.

“G’morning,” Gerard says as he pulls back.

Frank grins at him. “Morning.”

Gerard leads out the door of the hotel and into the sun. He squints and pulls his sunglasses down off the top of his head and over his eyes.

“Welcome to California,” Frank says. Gerard flips him off and Frank giggles. They both light cigarettes and keep walking.

They get to the restaurant and get seated. When their waiter brings them coffee, Gerard really can’t contain the moan that escapes him. “Fuck, the first cup is always the best. It might be better than the first cigarette. I can’t decide.”

“First cigarette,” Frank declares. “But not by much.”

The waiter comes then and takes their order and they talk until the food gets there. About the con and how crazy it’s going to get. Frank is a little adorably wide-eyed about it.

“I’ve been in southern California for a few years now, and every time I’ve had to work or couldn’t afford it, or whatever. And now I’m working for one of the most in-demand guys here. It’s kind of crazy. And hard not to be intimidated, to be honest,” Frank admits.

“My first comic-con as like, a professional, was a disaster,” Gerard tells him. “I managed to forget half the things I needed at home. Like pens. And one of the prints I had made got fucked up. The first five or so looked great, but there was a print error that nobody noticed on all the rest. And I was a fucking wreck. You’re already doing infinitely better than I did.”

They talk and eat and talk until Frank glances at his watch and makes a face. “Shit, I gotta get back soon. Grant was doing a couple of interviews in the suite, but now it’s time for the actual work to begin.”

Gerard is not quite ready for breakfast to be over, to face the insanity of the con. He’d like to just stay here with Frank for a while longer. Since that’s not possible, he asks, “What are you doing for dinner? I’m going out with my friends Becky and Gabriel and Fabio tonight and you should come. You’ll love them!”

Frank beams at him. “I’ll have to double-check with Grant, but I’m pretty sure I can.”

“Great,” Gerard says. Frank reaches for his wallet and puts some bills on the table and Gerard does the same.

“You ready for this?” Gerard asks as they walk back toward the hotel.

“I think so. You? D’you have your pens?”

Gerard laughs. “I learn from my mistakes. Most of the time. See you later? If nothing else, we can wave at each other in passing at the panel.”

“Sounds good,” Frank says.

 

***

 

Frank feels stupid, but after he parts ways with Gerard, Gerard heading toward the convention center and Frank into the hotel to look in on Grant’s interviews, he can’t wipe the smile off his face. San Diego is gorgeous and his breakfast was great and the company was better and there are people everywhere in comics shirts and full-blown costumes and it’s just a good energy. It’s like being backstage at a great gig, waiting to burst out into that main room. Even if Frank’s more on the sidelines now, Grant’s undeniably a rock star.

Grant’s first interview is wrapping up when Frank knocks on his door, backpack full of things he thinks he’ll need, lanyard already around his neck. They have a few minutes to themselves, and Grant pours himself a glass of water and Frank double checks his bag and then looks up and says, “Grant?”

“Mm?” Grant’s jotting something down in his notebook.

“Will you need me tonight for anything? Gerard invited me out to dinner with some people.”

"You don't have to get my permission for these things, you know." Grant sounds a bit distant, but then he looks up from his notebook and adds, "You're the one who knows the schedule, Frankie." He smiles and Frank smiles back. It's true; but Frank's still secretly a little sad about it. It’s easy to be Grant's assistant, he’s good at it; but Frank’s finding that it’s hard to know how to be his friend. Grant has lots of friends and it's very apparent at times like this.

The rest of the day is a little hard, too. Frank wasn’t really prepared for how insane the convention hall is. He definitely wants to spend some more time exploring, but for today he’s glad he gets to stick to the meeting rooms upstairs and its warren of VIP areas. There are plenty of people to tell them where to go and when they need to go there, and Frank just does what he needs to do and what Grant needs him to do and takes a pretty large mental step back. A few times he catches Grant looking at him consideringly, but he ignores it. There are more important things going on in this convention center than Frank’s existential crisis.

He gets a big beaming smile from Gerard when Gerard arrives for the panel that afternoon, and Frank goes over right away and hugs him and says, “Dinner’s a go - what’s the plan?”

“Meet at the hotel bar at 7:30? We have a reservation - Gabriel or Fabio set it up, I think, I just follow them around.” Gerard makes a face, and Frank laughs.

“Who are they, anyway? How do you know them?”

“They’re...well, just wait. I met them through Becky, they’re pretty great.”

“I can’t wait -” says Frank, and then Grant calls his name and Frank wrinkles his nose at Gerard and crosses the room to go work.

*

Frank gets to the bar a few minutes late. It’s crowded and he’s a little bit overwhelmed for a minute, but he hears Gerard’s laugh across the room and follows the sound. He spots Gerard flanked by two dudes a bit taller than him who must be Gabriel and Fabio, and standing across from a cute redheaded girl he’s assuming is Becky. The closer he gets the more he realizes that Gabriel and Fabio must be twins. And that Becky is even shorter than he is. She spots him first and gestures to Gerard who whirls around and just fucking beams at Frank. Frank can’t help but return the smile.

“Frankie!”

“Hi. Sorry I was late. Grant had a thing and I had to—”

“It’s totally fine, we get it.” Gerard waves a hand. “It wouldn’t be Comic-Con without last minute issues. Okay, so you have to meet everyone. This is Gabriel,” Gerard gestures at the twin with facial hair and Frank shakes his hand, “I’ve conned him into doing art for my book. And this is his brother Fabio who also does amazing art.” Frank shakes Fabio’s hand as well. “They’re from Brazil, so this is the only time we get to see them. And this is Becky.”

“You like swords,” Frank says with a grin and reaches out for her hand too.

She grins and shakes his hand back. “I do like swords. I like how pointy they are and how they can be used against annoying studiomates.”

Frank laughs. “I probably don’t help him be less annoying, what with bugging him about deadlines and just generally bugging him.”

“No, no. He’s significantly less crazy since you started working for the big man! For that, I owe you a beer.” With that, she flags down one of the bar staff. Frank glances at Gerard and he’s mock-pouting, but he’s got the slightest tinge of pink on his cheeks. Frank bites his lip and is glad of the beer when it’s handed to him.

They stand around finishing their drinks and chatting about comics and the con. The twins tell a story about something that happened to them as kids visiting their grandma that nearly has Frank spitting out his beer, and definitely clutching his sides and leaning a little bit on Gerard, he’s laughing so hard. Fabio asks Frank about what he did before he worked for Grant and he tells a little about his time in the music business, which somehow leads to Becky starting in about metal. Once they’re on the topic of music it never really drops the rest of the night. Frank doesn’t mind. He feels a little more in his element in music discussions.

They finally leave the bar and as they walk to the restaurant, he can’t help but pull his phone out and shoot Grant a text, How goes the battle? He doesn’t get a reply. He shoves his phone back in his pocket and tunes back into the conversation.

Gerard’s hand bumps his on accident as they walk and a truly stupid thrill passes through Frank. It’s even better when Gerard purposefully bumps their hands together and smiles at Frank as the sun is setting over the Bay and it’s kind of stupidly perfect.

*

Frank gets dressed for the Eisner Awards with a certain amount of inner discomfort. He has a bit more access than a typical non-professional, but Grant and Vince are nominated for awards, so they’ll be seated at the tables with the rest of the nominees. Frank had refused to tag along, arguing that Grant’s assistant was probably not who the committee had in mind as a plus-one. Grant had eyed him consideringly and let it go. Frank’s expecting it to come up again at some point, and he has no idea how to express how uncomfortable it makes him feel to know they both want the degree of informality they have on a day-to-day basis but not know how - or not be able - to make it happen.

When Frank actually arrives at the ballroom (after conversing quietly with Grant and making notes in his Blackberry during the entire walk there) the first thing he notices is a section of first come, first served seating for regular con attendees, and he considers it briefly. He could try to find Gerard’s friends and sit with them, but once he actually sees the room he makes up his mind to lurk near the bar the entire evening. There at least he’ll feel like he’s doing something, even if that something is just having some drinks. He certainly won’t be the only one.

As it turns out, Gerard finds him, quickly enough that it’s apparent he was watching for Frank. He looks fantastic, all in black with a smartly buttoned waistcoat, shirt sleeves rolled to show off pale, strong hands and forearms. Frank knows he’s perfectly presentable in his white shirt and black tie, though he’d thrown a hoodie over top of it and shoved the sleeves to his elbows in a last-minute attempt to look less like a waiter. But he can’t help studying Gerard from the tips of his worn leather boots, to his tight black jeans, to the shocking silvery-blond of his hair. He spent so long wondering what Gerard looked like (and quite a bit of that time basing his entire mental picture on Gerard’s apparently-outdated Wikipedia photo) that being able to look at him feels like a luxury.

A luxury - and apparently one he’s not being very stealthy about, because eventually he becomes aware that Gerard is looking right back at him, a small, knowing smile on his face.

“Tell me about the hair,” is what he’s able to come up with as a conversation starter. It seems preferable to anything else he can come up with, most of which are cheesy-sounding lines and terribly unsubtle personal remarks.

“What about it?” Gerard pats at his head in an absentminded gesture.

“How long has it been -” Frank waves a hand. “It doesn’t match your picture.”

“Oh! Not long, a week or two maybe. I started thinking about this new character with short white hair and just got a - wild hair, I guess.” Gerard smiles impishly at his own play on words and then adds, “You were looking at my picture?”

“I -” Busted. “Is that a problem?” Frank decides to brazen it out.

“I’m going to say...not,” Gerard drawls lazily. “I at least remembered what you looked like. Or I thought I did,” he adds, eyes flicking up and down Frank’s body. “You’ve...grown up.” It’s at least as unsubtle as Frank’s staring earlier, and Frank feels something warm unfurl in the vicinity of his hips and spread until he’s practically tingling.

“It happens,” Frank returns, leaning his elbows on the high top of the bar table in a careless slouch. The awards start, and for a while they’re forced to be quiet. Gerard leans his elbows next to Frank’s, sips at his soda, and murmurs commentary and the occasional explanation to one of Frank’s own murmured questions on a category or a winner’s background. Every so often his lips brush the skin of Frank’s ear and whether it’s intentional or not, Frank shivers every time.

The next time Frank reaches for his drink, he does it with his other hand so that the backs of their hands brush together, and when he glances over at Gerard, Gerard is looking back at him with that same knowing smile. Frank licks his lips and completely misses the next award because he’s paying attention to the touch of Gerard’s skin on his knuckles and wrist and forearm. Then they announce the next award, and the master of ceremonies reads out Grant’s name, and the room bursts into applause that covers Gerard’s pleased, “He’s won!”

He’s won - they’ve won, Grant and Vince - and Grant takes the stage to accept the award. Frank can’t take his eyes off of him. Tonight’s Grant is the high-fashion Grant, who is sharp and sexy and remote and not at all Frank’s - except for how, as he lists the people he wishes to thank, Frank hears his own name last.

“...the most important people in my creative process, my artists - and Frank Quitely is consistently one of the best in the business and it is my constant delight to work with him - and my long-suffering, patient, and perhaps even magical assistant Frank Iero. He holds my life in his hands most days and I know he won’t lose the pieces. So...thank you, from the bottom of my black heart.”

Frank gasps, actually gasps out loud, and he’d be embarrassed if he were with anyone but Gerard. Being with Gerard for this is bad enough, because Frank can feel his heart racing and his breath coming unsteadily, can feel the crimson bloom creeping across his cheeks. Lord knows what expression he’s wearing, except that it’s accompanied by such a pure rush of miserably stifled love that he really has no doubt.

Frank’s eyes fly to Gerard’s face, and he knows he’s as scarlet as Grant’s beautiful silk tie, and Gerard is studying his face again, still knowingly, and after a long moment of silence Gerard says quietly, gently, “Everyone who works with him is just a little in love with him.”

“I -” What does he mean by that? Stunned, exhilarated, confused, embarrassed, Frank’s mind is racing, unable to comprehend.

“I think you're sort of more than a little,” Gerard continues, and fuck, he sounds almost regretful, and he’s pulling his hand away, taking a step back, and Frank freezes, flushed now with a sudden sweep of anger. Now he's essentially being cockblocked by his own stupid crush. Of course. As if his life wasn’t hard enough.

Frank looks up, looks into Gerard’s eyes again, and they’re soft and gorgeous and brilliantly clear and more than a little sad and fuck. Fuck, he can’t deal with this right now. “I - Gerard,” he whispers. “I have to - I need a moment, okay? Can I -” And Gerard nods and Frank flees, fumbling for his cigarettes as he goes.

 

***

 

When Grant gets offstage a few people clap his shoulder or shake his hand, and someone hands him a fresh drink, and things are basically a pleasant blur for a while as he makes his way through the room. He makes it all the way back to his seat before he realizes that it's not at all where he wants to be - or who he wants to be with. But the room is crowded and Frank is tiny and...he sees a flash of silver in the back of the room, in a quiet corner near the bar, and he changes course.

Gerard's leaning against the wall, holding a sweating glass of diet soda. He sees Grant coming and smiles, straightening up and giving Grant a quick hug. "Congratulations," he says.

Frank's not with him, and Grant's disappointed, but he smiles back anyway, because it's Gerard. "Thanks," he says, then adds, "I was hoping when I saw you...." He trails off. This is not a good idea. "It was easy to spot you," he says, making the conversation lurch onto a different track. "The hair, it's -"

Gerard grins. He looks a little manic around the eyes. "Freaky, isn't it? I fuckin' scare myself when I walk by mirrors, I hope I get used to it soon. I just - call it character research, I guess? For a new project."

"I'm familiar," Grant says, and Gerard laughs.

"The Invisibles, right? That was when I interned for Vertigo, I remember that." His eyes gleam, and Grant can't help himself, he reaches out and runs the fingers of his free hand through the hair at Gerard's temple. Gerard goes very still, but he doesn't say anything, and Grant rubs a tuft of hair between his fingers - it feels like raw silk.

"It looks good," Grant says softly, watching something - like suppressed nerves, maybe something more - flit across Gerard's face. "Looks like it should feel cold - or maybe hot, like superheated metal, or -"

"You've cracked my secret identity," Gerard jokes, a little unsteadily, eyes blazing like Grant’s never seen them do, and Grant gets a flash of an idea and then Gerard jerks back and he's distracted and -

Frank. He’s appeared, eyes hard, not even a hint of a smile. "Is this what you call 'just a little', Gerard? How could I not realize what a hypocrite you are?" he's saying, and Gerard has gone practically as white as his hair.

"Frankie, it’s not -" Gerard starts, sounding horrified. Something tight and cold in Grant’s stomach sobers him up right quick.

“Frank, what -”

"I can't do this," Frank whispers, searching Grant’s face. "The two of you...if it were anyone...I can't." His eyes cut back to Gerard for a moment, then his face twists back into something dark, something hurt, and he stalks off.

Grant looks back at Gerard and Gerard already looks a little sick - Grant can't even think of any way to soften the question, so he just says it. "What just happened here?" He knows Gerard and Frank have gotten close over the past few months and they seemed so genuinely thrilled to finally be talking to each other in person. They'd talked for hours the other night, and Grant had been envious that they'd had the time, for one, but it had also been pretty adorable. "The other day, when I suggested you needed an assistant...I shouldn’t have...Frank's not just...."

Gerard is quiet for a minute, worrying at his lips with his teeth, and then he says, "You and I both know I don’t want him for an assistant. Frank knows that. And I heard that speech, Grant. I don’t think that’s really what you want either."

"That's what I have, though. It was easy enough to ignore - the rest of it - when you weren't right here," Grant admits. He doesn't mean to make a confession or an accusation, but his words are clearly not coming out right tonight.

"Well, I seem to be fucking everything up this weekend." Gerard's voice is a bit acidic. "Clearly he thinks there’s something between us now. But Grant, for fuck's sake, you can't just...keep playing hot and cold with him. Frank deserves better than that."

Grant freezes. "Gerard. I wasn't - I would never - he doesn't care how I -" It's the most pathetic excuse for a sentence that he's possibly ever uttered, but he's honestly just stunned.

Gerard laughs incredulously. "Doesn't care? Jesus Christ, Grant, was that a guy who doesn’t care? That wasn’t all about me, you know. I would have thought you'd have noticed how much he cares by now. You only see each other every day."

Grant's paying attention now, something which it is becoming abundantly clear he has not been doing when it really counted, that is, before he fucked everything up. "He cares when I fuck up the schedule and forget things. He cares when I promise to change and then don't. I disappoint him and he deserves someone who -"

"That's the job, Grant."

"That's me. It's all me. You make him happy."

"He's not happy with me right now," Gerard says.

"Once again, something that can be blamed squarely on me," Grant says. "Just go after him, Gerard, for fuck's sake." It hurts to say. Grant thinks Gerard knows how much, because Gerard hesitates.

"I don't think this will solve anything," he says.

The hell of it is, Grant knows he's right. "It will for now. Go." Gerard searches his face once more, and frowns at whatever he sees there, but he stops arguing.

 

***

 

Gerard looks intently at Grant and frowns when Grant stops talking. Grant just sighs and repeats, "Go, Gerard. I'm supposed to get drinks with Geoff and Jim and Dan in ten minutes. He needs you."

Gerard's still reeling a bit from how suddenly his own feelings about Grant had crystallized when he'd felt Grant's fingers in his hair. He wasn’t lying - it’s hard not to be a little in love with Grant after a while. So he's not particularly surprised by the knowledge, even if it's come at a desperately bad time. All it's doing at the moment is making him want to wipe the resigned expression from Grant's face. But Grant - wittingly or unwittingly - is sending him after Frank instead.

Gerard is definitely under no misapprehension about what's between Grant and Frank. It’s impossible to miss when they’re in the same room. It had been written all over Frank’s face at Grant’s little speech, all over Grant’s as he watched Frank walk away. But they just - they clearly don’t realize. Gerard doesn’t know what to do, so he ends up sighing and shaking his head in both frustration and some sort of shock. He opens his mouth, but Grant makes a shooing motion at him and turns and goes off in the opposite direction from the direction Frank disappeared in. Gerard ignores how miserable he looks, because he can only go running after one of them.

They're all idiots. Gerard's not exempting himself from that statement. But Grant backing away from them both has made this choice easy enough for him. There's time, Gerard supposes, to be angry about that - later. Right now is for finding where Frank has gone.

Gerard doesn't know where he’s gone, exactly, except he thinks Frank's probably headed for a bar. That's where he would head if he were Frank. And he's sure that Grant's got comped rooms in the convention center hotel, so that's where he heads. Gerard walks into the hotel bar and looks around. At first he think he's going to have to continue his search elsewhere, but someone in a Storm Trooper costume with the helmet off moves, and Gerard can see Frank sitting at the bar. For the first time, maybe, Gerard is aware of how small he is. He watches for a moment; the bartender is flirting, and Frank's oblivious. Gerard just stares for a few moments and then walks slowly over there. He doesn't really know what he's going to say. He'd been thinking more about just finding Frank, and mentally calling Grant an idiot, than what he could actually do to somehow make this situation better. Finally, he just walks up and squeezes in next to Frank and says, "Anyone who smiles like you do should never be unhappy."

Frank is, apparently, drunk enough that he's really confused about why Gerard is there, or else the words take a little bit to register. He just blinks and says, "Yeah, well," and takes a sip of beer. He sounds so defeated. Gerard puts a hand over Frank's when he sets the glass down and says, "I mean it. Tell me what to do to make you smile at me again."

Frank rubs his head and takes a deep breath and squints at Gerard like he's some sort of puzzle or mystery. Gerard bites his lip and stays quiet, waiting for Frank's answer. "I don't. You," Frank starts and then stops. "Me? If you want me, you can have me."

Gerard's heart sinks a little, because that defeated tone is so not anything he actually wanted to hear. "I don't know which of us you've just insulted more," he says quietly.

Frank drains his beer and shoves the glass away from him and then rubs both hands down his face. "Gerard, I… I'm sorry. That wasn't what I meant to say. Well, not how I meant to say it. Because I like you. So much. This weekend has been really...intense. And weird."

It's true, all of it; it's more than a little weird really, especially the part where he knows he's Frank's second choice and yeah, that sort of hurts, but he's going to focus on the part where Frank likes him. That's something he knows he can work with. So he takes Frank's hand and smiles at him because if he forgets about the messy stuff for a moment, that really does feel great to hear. And Frank squeezes his hand and smiles back. It's a little tentative, but Gerard will take it. "Frankie," Gerard says. And then stops and somehow comes out with, "Wanna go get ice cream with me?" Apparently that does the trick for Frank too, because Frank tips his head back and laughs.

"You asking me on a date, Gerard Way?" Frank laughs and laughs, then wipes the back of his hand across his mouth and tilts his head a little. "Gerard. Gerard, I am a little drunk right now, and you just asked me out for ice cream like it's the Fifties, and I didn't tell you this earlier but you look like the hottest assistant professor on earth, and anything I say right now is going to sound inappropriate so -" He stops, reaches out and tugs their mouths together without a further syllable.

Gerard has to keep himself from flailing or anything and it’s nearly impossible, so he just puts his hand on Frank's neck and kisses back. They kiss until neither of them can breathe and when Gerard pulls back, he sees Frank's lips curling in that fucking smile Gerard loves. "I've been wanting to do that for months," Gerard tells him.

"You didn't really even know what I look like until like, a few days ago," Frank says incredulously.

"Doesn't matter," Gerard says. "I seriously made myself crave ice cream, though. You wanna?"

Frank nods and Gerard tosses a couple bills at the bar top - "Gerard!" Frank protests - and Gerard just tugs him away and out of the bar and out of the hotel.

When they hit the sidewalk, blinking a bit at the difference between the noisy bar and the cool night air, Gerard realizes what time it is. "I - ah -"

"It's sort of the middle of the night, isn't it?" Frank says, sounding amused. Maybe a little smug.

Gerard still has hold of his hand, though, and he pulls Frank close, tucks an arm around him and whispers in his ear, "At the risk of sounding forward -"

"Forward, Fifties boy?" Frank interrupts.

"Yes, forward. At the risk of sounding forward, how about we just order room service?" It doesn't necessarily mean - Gerard can - he can control himself, really. Maybe.

Frank grins at him, but then says, "That… actually sounds really nice. I think I'm kind of done with crowds of people for the day."

Gerard nods fervently. "Me too. I mean, I love it. But it's overwhelming. Um. D'you wanna go to my room?" Gerard thinks that is probably the better option, no matter what happens, since Grant's room is undoubtedly very close to Frank's, and Frank’s smiling now so the very last thing Gerard thinks he can handle right now is anything reminding Frank of Grant. He drags Frank back inside and up to the elevators and into his room, and he goes to the desk to flip through the room service menu while Frank pokes through the million tote bags Gerard has seemed to acquire so far this weekend.

"You know you're supposed to be here working, right?" Frank teases. "Not buying out the exhibition hall?"

"I can't help it," Gerard moans. "Do you see those Star Wars figurines? Those are fucking mint, and -" He stops talking, biting his lip when he realizes what an utter nerd he sounds like, but Frank is - laughing again, or still, and it's just as fucking nice to see his smile as Gerard had told him. He's also tossing the action figure down on the desk and crossing the room and tugging Gerard's head back down for another kiss.

This kiss is a little sloppier. Probably because Frank's a little looser, feeling more relaxed. But it's still fucking good. Gerard grabs Frank's hips and pulls him closer and Frank only breaks the kiss when he starts smiling again. "What?" Gerard asks, bemused, when he pulls back.

"I don't know, you're just really great. And I love that you're buying Star Wars figurines."

“You'd love my apartment in New York, then," Gerard tells him. "I -" Gerard tells him conspiratorially, "have a Boba Fett helmet."

Frank snorts and Gerard smacks him and they dance around a bit until they fetch up against the wall. Their hips slide together and it feels really fucking great and Gerard is barely listening, but eventually tunes in to Frank saying "...love my apartment, too. I have signed posters from The Body Snatcher and Son of Frankenstein."

"Let's go," Gerard says breathlessly as Frank mouths at the side of his neck.

"To -"

"Your apartment. Monday. Take me home to mummy."

Frank cracks out another laugh, but pulls back to look Gerard in the eye. "Shouldn't we see how this goes first?" he asks.

"I know how it's going to go," Gerard replies, tugging him close and kissing along the line of his jaw. He doesn't stop until the knock on the door signals that their room service has arrived.

Frank starts laughing again and after a second Gerard joins him. Yeah, it was maybe absurd, but Gerard is sure it’s not the most bizarre request the kitchen has ever gotten, even at this hour. And ice cream does sound fucking good. Even though it's interrupting them. Maybe they need a little interrupting. But Gerard knows, he just fucking does, that this is going to be good. He can feel it. Gerard goes over and opens the door and gives the guy some money and takes the tray and he and Frank sit on the bed cross-legged and dig in.

They eat and they talk, and it starts feeling comfortable again, like all those conversations they had on the phone. Gerard knows Frank, he realizes. Didn't remember exactly what he looked like or how he's decorated his apartment, but he knows who he is. And who he is is someone who's looking more and more tasty by the minute. He's overtaking the ice cream. He's overtaking everything.

Gerard leans forward and kisses him again. He tastes sweet and wonderful and Gerard feels like he's the one who’s been drinking. Gerard gets up and moves their bowls onto the desk and comes back, kneeing his way to Frank and kissing him and kissing him. He pushes Frank over onto his back and hovers over him for a second, before lying down on his side and pulling Frank to him. Frank shoves his hands under Gerard's shirt and they're still cold from the ice cream and Gerard jumps, but he doesn't care because Frank's hands are on him.

Frank's hands are all over him, running over his chest and up to his shoulders, and he pushes at Gerard's shirt to get it out of the way. Gerard wriggles, trying to help, and things get a little tangled up in the cuff area but eventually the shirt hits the floor and he's got his hands on Frank's buttons and this is when he discovers exactly what is under Frank's clothing. "You're fucking beautiful," he breathes. "Are you - Frank, are you sure?"

"Yes," Frank replies instantly and frames Gerard's face with his hands. "Fuck yes."

"Okay," Gerard replies and kisses him again. Frank wraps his arms around Gerard and suddenly Gerard is over on his back. Frank just stares down at Gerard for a minute and Gerard tries not to feel self-conscious. Frank leans down and Gerard thinks he's going for a kiss, but he goes for Gerard's neck instead, works up his jaw and down his chest and scoots down so he can get at Gerard's fly. “Oh," Gerard says, half moan. "Oh, I - Frank -"

Frank chuckles and rubs his face against Gerard's stomach and Gerard is sort of so hard he thinks he might die, and his jeans are really fucking tight but Frank is really fucking clever and gets them both out of their pants while Gerard is still attempting to push himself up on his elbows. Then he settles back down, an arm slung across Gerard's hips, his breath fanning hot across Gerard's thighs, and he looks up, grinning - still grinning - as he darts his tongue out to taste the tip of Gerard's cock. And then Gerard has to tip his head back into the pillows and moan, because apparently this is one more thing on a very long list that Frank is very, very good at.

He tries to watch after that. To watch Frank's gorgeous mouth and his hands, one stroking Gerard's stomach and the other joining his mouth on Frank's cock. Which… Frank's hands are so fucking amazing, Gerard really wants to draw them or just look at them for a long time. Except for how right now Frank's mouth is on Gerard's cock and his mind can't really stay focused on just Frank's hands. Gerard is not ready when he feels his orgasm taking over. He wants it to last for so much longer, but then Frank is scooting back up Gerard's body and kissing him.

Frank's mouth is red and shiny and swollen and he tastes like come, like Gerard, and it's fucking heady stuff, and Gerard pushes himself up and rolls Frank over and runs his hands over every part of Frank he can reach, skin and ink, soft and warm. Frank moans, and it sounds a little like Gerard's name, and his hips are already working when Gerard closes a hand around his cock. He wraps the other hand around the back of Frank's neck, running his fingers through the velvety short strands of hair, murmuring nonsense into Frank's ear as his hand works Frank's cock, as Frank arches his back and pushes into the grip, cursing and searching for Gerard's mouth, biting down on Gerard's bottom lip when he comes.

Gerard gives Frank’s cock a couple more strokes, then grabs his hip and kisses him. They kiss and kiss until their breathing slows and what started out as somewhat frantic kisses are slow and sweet. Gerard eventually pulls back and tips his forehead against Frank’s.

“Fuck,” he murmurs against Frank’s lips.

“Yeah,” Frank says back. Gerard rubs his face against Frank’s cheek and then pulls back, briefly struggling with the covers before getting them up and over the two of them. When he lies back down, Frank rolls over and rests his cheek on Gerard’s chest. Gerard kisses the top of his head and then falls asleep.

*

The next morning Gerard wakes up in basically the same position he fell asleep in. He takes a moment to relish the feel of Frank in his arms, to study all the tattoos he can see from this vantage. When Frank wakes up he makes the most adorable noises Gerard thinks he’s ever heard and lifts his head and rests it on Gerard’s chest looking bleary-eyed and just as adorable as he sounded.

“Headache?” Gerard asks.

“Mmm, no. I feel okay. I wasn’t that drunk. Just a little. And the ice cream probably helped,” Frank says with a laugh.

Gerard feels his face stretch into a smile. “See, I wasn’t being a total weirdo. I was just watching out for you.”

Frank laughs again. “Yeah, okay. I think it’s probably a good thing I like your weird ways.”

“Definitely,” Gerard says and rolls them over so he’s on top of Frank and starts kissing him. They do that for a while, trading lazy touches.

“We should like, multitask and do this in the shower,” Frank suggests breathlessly after a while.

Gerard feels his nose wrinkle, but follows Frank into the bathroom when he rolls off the bed anyway. Luckily, the shower includes a naked Frank, so that’s pretty good incentive for Gerard to get in as well. Frank keeps his promise to keep kissing and touching him, though. Gerard sort of never wants him to stop. They exchange handjobs and it’s fucking great. Especially when Frank comes gasping Gerard’s name.

Gerard dresses for the day and Frank makes a hilarious disgusted face before putting on the previous day’s clothes.

“You can go change in your room, you know,” Gerard reminds him.

“I’m going to! It’s still kinda gross.”

“C’mon, I’ll walk you up and then we can go get coffee and have a smoke,” Gerard says. He holds Frank’s hand down the hall and in the elevator and then all the way to Frank’s door. The door across the hall opens and Grant comes out, looking very dapper in a brightly colored, pinstriped suit. His eyes flit to their entwined hands and back up.

“Good morning,” he murmurs and smiles thinly. Gerard notices his eyes look a little pinched and his skin a little sallow. He flinches when a door down the hall slams. He’s hung over. Gerard holds in a sigh.

“Grant, do you—” Frank starts.

Grant waves a hand. “Take your time. I’m just going out for some fresh air. We can reconvene at the first meeting of the day.”

“Okay,” Frank says quietly. His hand grips Gerard’s tighter. Grant turns to go and Frank gets his room open one-handed and pulls Gerard inside. When the door shuts, he turns, tipping his forehead against Gerard’s shoulder. Gerard automatically puts his arms around Frank and kisses the top of his head. Frank breathes in through his nose a couple of times and when he pulls back, he’s smiling. It’s a small smile, but it’s genuine. “I’m so glad you’re... that we... I’m glad.”

Gerard smiles back. “Me too.” He kisses Frank and then pulls back, tugging at Frank’s hoodie strings. “Change. Caffeine and nicotine need to happen.”

Frank turns away to rummage through his bag for clothing, and Gerard sits on the edge of the bed and watches. It’s hard not to feel guilty that he’s the one who’s here like this; the smile on Grant’s face when he’d seen them had actually physically hurt to see. Gerard has to remind himself that it was Grant who took the step back. He could have gone after Frank himself, explained the misunderstanding, repeated what he’d said in his speech, and...Gerard wouldn’t be here right now. Wouldn’t have had some of the best sex he’s had in a long time last night.

Then again, Gerard could have explained the misunderstanding himself - the part of it that was his to explain, at least. He feels terrible that he hasn’t. “Frank,” he starts, hesitantly.

Frank doesn’t turn around, but he stops what he’s doing for a moment and says, “Not right now, Gerard. Let me get dressed. Let me buy you some coffee. Then we can -”

“Okay.” Gerard stands up and walks over to kiss the back of Frank’s neck. “Okay.” Frank starts changing, and Gerard steps back to let him move, casting his eyes over the desk and dresser. “You don’t have nearly enough Comic-Con swag yet, Frankie. Don’t tell me you’re actually working or something?”

Frank snickers. “Hard to imagine?” He pulls his new shirt over his head and turns around to sit and slip his shoes back on his feet. “The exhibit hall is so fucking crowded, man, I don’t even know what to do in there.”

“Well then, you are lucky you are with me, Mr. Iero, because I have scoped out the best stuff already, and I will be glad to help you get rid of any spare cash you have lying around.” Frank smirks and Gerard mock-preens.

“Maybe I’ll even buy you a present,” Frank says, slinging his bag over his shoulder. “And coffee. Come on.”

“Wait.” Gerard reaches out, wraps a hand around Frank’s upper arm. He pulls Frank close, and Frank comes willingly, and Gerard kisses him nice and slow until he’s a hair’s breadth away from not being able to stop at all. Just in case.

They both light up cigarettes once they’re out on the pavement for the walk along the marina. Their Professional badges get them in the convention center doors past the straining hordes of Saturday con-goers - Frank’s face when he sees the sheer number of people lined up is priceless - and they get coffee at one of the Starbucks stands before Gerard tugs Frank off into a quiet corner.

“About last night,” he starts.

Frank immediately looks wary, but says a guarded, “Yes?”

“I just don’t want you to misunderstand - Grant and I don’t - there’s no history there. We’re friends. There’s nothing going on and -”

“I overreacted,” Frank interrupts quietly. “I know I did, but you have to understand -”

“Whatever is going on between you and Grant, that’s a discussion for you two and not for me,” Gerard says quickly. “I just want you to know how I feel. And how I feel is really fucking interested in you, Frank.”

“It’s nothing,” Frank tells him. “That’s what is going on. Nothing. I - I’m really interested in you too, Gerard.” He’s a little pink, and Gerard has to lean in and kiss him again, although he’s mentally calling bullshit on that “nothing.” It’s not his business, though, not until they make it his business, so he settles for nibbling along the curve of Frank’s jaw, breathing in the scent of hotel shampoo from Frank’s hair, nuzzling Frank’s neck until Frank puts down his coffee and cups Gerard’s face in both hands for a proper kiss.

 

***

 

When Frank's phone alarm goes off signaling he needs to go to the meeting, he sighs. He's been having so much fun with Gerard, wandering from booth to booth and finding things to buy and loads of free shit and just staring at some of the downright crazy stuff they encounter. Gerard gets stopped a couple of times for an autograph or a picture. Gerard seems really surprised every time. It's adorable.

"Meet you later?" he asks.

"Duh," Gerard answers.

Frank pulls up the day's schedule on his Blackberry. "I don't know... there's meetings and another panel and a party I'm supposed to go to tonight. What's your schedule like?"

"Just go hang out at the booth with Becky and the guys, maybe do some drawings for people."

"Do you have your pens?" Frank teases. Gerard grins.

"I have a set of everything at the booth, I've learned my lesson." Gerard pauses. "Party?"

"Come with me?" Frank hopes Gerard says yes. Ending the day at a party like that with Grant is exactly everything he doesn’t want to do right now. He certainly wouldn’t blame Gerard for saying no. It’s sure to be horribly awkward at times.

"Totally," Gerard says. Frank beams at him. Suddenly the evening doesn't seem nearly as unbearable as it did five minutes ago.

"So meet in my room at around eight? We can go from there."

"I'll be there. Do you have any breaks later? We could have coffee or a smoke or something," Gerard suggests. Frank leans in and kisses him right there on the convention center floor. Gerard smiles at him when he pulls back.

"I'll text you. I think I have some time around lunch. I'll have to pick up some food for Grant, but we can take a few minutes?"

"Sounds good. Have a good day?" Gerard sounds a little hesitant.

“I will now,” Frank tells him. He’s hoping he’s not telling a lie. He’s not quite so sure when he winds his way up to the meeting room where Grant is hammering out a list of things with editorial. The comics industry doesn’t stop for Comic-Con, it just takes the opportunity to have lots of face-to-face meetings.

Grant probably does a lot better when he doesn’t have to have so many face-to-face meetings. An hour in and he’s already wearing the face that says “if you value my sanity, get me some tea and take the phone away from me.” Frank can’t do that, but he can make something up.

“Grant, I’m so sorry, but you have press in five.” Frank begins gathering his things, trusting the room to follow suit, and they do. Holding back a satisfied grin, Frank leads Grant upstairs into one of the special guests’ green rooms, shoving him gently toward a chair and going over to make Grant a cup of tea.

There are a few other people in the room, reading or chatting quietly, and Frank looks around for a moment before taking Grant the tea. “Frank, you’re a miracle,” Grant says softly.

“You don’t actually have press,” Frank says, unsure how exactly to answer that. His stomach squirms.

“I assumed,” Grant replies. “I...thank you, for knowing I needed a break.”

“I always know,” Frank responds before he can catch himself.

Grant sips his tea, and doesn’t say anything for a moment. “Yes, I know. I -” He stops. Frank knows he wants to say more. Frank very desperately wants him not to say more, because this conversation is drifting into an area he just cannot visit right now. Whatever is on his face, Grant obviously reads it right and just takes another sip instead. “I won’t need you this afternoon after my panel,” he continues. “If you have anything you’d like to do.”

“Yes. I - thanks,” Frank says.

Once they’re out of that room again, things get busy again. Frank takes a few minutes around lunch to smoke a quick cigarette with Gerard and find a sandwich for Grant. The time for the panel nearly sneaks up on him, but he herds Grant over to the right conference room and watches as Grant squares his shoulders, walks onto the stage, and takes command of the room.

Frank hovers at the edge of the stage watching Grant. He looks infinitely more at ease up there than he did in a couple of the day’s meetings, but Frank can see as the panel progresses that he’s getting worn around the edges. When Grant comes off the stage, he waves at everyone and then goes straight back to the quieter VIP areas.

“Are you sure you don’t need me?” Frank asks. Frank knows the only thing on his schedule is a casual get together a little later in the afternoon, but Grant gets himself roped into things sometimes and Frank doesn’t want to leave him when he’s clearly tired.

“I’m sure, Frank. I think I’ll go back to the hotel and attempt to sleep until the thing this afternoon.” Grant runs a hand over his head.

“Okay, I’ll get a security guy to walk you back to the hotel,” Frank says and starts looking around.

Grant opens his mouth and it looks like he’s about to protest, then he sighs and nods. “That’s probably a good idea.”

Frank flags down a security guy who is, luckily, just coming back from a break and has a minute.

“See you tonight,” Frank tells Grant.

“Yes. Tonight. Have a good afternoon, Frank.” Grant nods to the security guard and they walk away.

Frank heaves a sigh and then makes his way over to Artist Alley and finds the right booth. When he gets there, everyone is bent over a sketchbook. Frank is quiet walking up, but he supposes it’s not really necessary. All of them have gotten accustomed to working through the noise of Comic-Con. Gerard has a kid in front of him who’s maybe fourteen at the oldest and he’s talking to the kid about art and comics as he draws. Frank finds it more than a little charming. He stands quietly waiting for Gerard to finish.

Gerard hands the kid the sketch and says goodbye and caps his pen. “So what can—oh, it’s just you!”

Frank laughs. “Well, I feel wanted and appreciated.”

Gerard smirks at him and tugs him around the table and pulls him down for a kiss. He murmurs in Frank’s ear, “Oh, you’re very wanted and appreciated. But you’re not paying me to draw you something. Because I’ll draw you something for free and I don’t have to do it here.”

Frank swallows hard and whispers back, “I’ll have to take you up on that sometime.”

Gerard nods seriously and then one of the twins lets out a catcall and Frank starts giggling. Gerard grins back. “So are you just saying hi?” Gerard asks.

“No, I have the rest of the afternoon. Grant decided to go sleep—”

“Wow, he must be fucking exhausted, then,” Gerard says quietly. Frank nods.

“And then he has a casual get-together thing that I don’t need to be at. So I’m here.” Frank gestures around him at the booth.

“I’m scheduled to sign and draw for the next,” Gerard glances at his watch, “hour and a half, but you’re welcome to hang out.”

“Sounds like fun to me,” Frank says and grabs a spare chair. He pulls it up next to Gerard’s and sits down. Frank spends the rest of the afternoon watching Gerard draw, with breaks to watch Becky and the twins. It’s fascinating to see professional artists at work and he loves the things they come up with on the fly. None of them seem to mind any of his questions or him watching, which is nice. When things start wrapping up for the day, they all head for their hotel rooms promising to meet in the lobby in half an hour for one last dinner together.

In the elevator, Frank punches the button for his floor and then Gerard’s floor while Gerard crowds up against him nuzzling his cheek and slipping his hand in Frank’s back pocket. The elevator isn’t exactly empty, but Gerard doesn’t seem to care. And then it dings for his floor and Frank has to push him out.

“If you come upstairs with me, we’ll never get to dinner,” he laughs. Gerard grins back unrepentantly as the elevator doors close. Frank can’t seem to wipe the grin off his face. At least until he’s in front of his door, with Grant’s across the hall. He really wants to just knock and see how Grant is doing, but then he’d run the danger of waking him up or just bothering him, so Frank sighs and sticks his keycard in the slot of his door and goes in. He changes his clothes because he figures they’ll just head to the party after, makes sure his invitation is tucked in a pocket, brushes his teeth again, and then sits down to wait for the rest of the half hour to pass.

Finally he heads back downstairs to meet with everyone. They go eat dinner at an amazing restaurant and it’s a lot of fucking fun. Gerard’s friends are pretty much great, the food is great, and Gerard’s hand finding its way up Frank’s thigh every once in a while is even better. After dinner they split up, and Frank leads the way to the party. When Gerard sees the sandwich board sign saying “CBLDF Party” he starts laughing.

“What?” Frank asks.

“I actually had an invite to this. But I decided to skip it because being your date to whatever party you were going to sounded even better,” he explains, suddenly looking the tiniest bit bashful.

Frank leans up to kiss his cheek. “I’m glad.”

“So, is Grant involved with the Fund? Is that how you -” Gerard hesitates. Frank resists wrinkling his nose. If they can’t have a conversation about Grant - or with Grant - this is just going to be fucking torture.

“He and Vince donated some stuff for the auction this year. I helped coordinate and the guys at the Fund were cool, so they swung me an invite.”

“Will they be here?”

“No idea,” Frank says firmly. He’s not letting weirdness spoil this. “So, I haven’t actually met any of the CBLDF guys yet this weekend, do you know them?”

“Yeah, that’s Dave over there talking to - oh, hey, that’s Neil. Let’s go say hi.” Gerard grabs Frank’s wrist and tows him across the room to - yes, that’s Neil Gaiman, and Frank tries not to actually stare as Gerard exchanges hellos, then adds, “This is Frank Iero, Dave, Neil, he’s -”

“A lifesaver,” Dave finishes. “I’m so glad you came, it’s great to meet you. Frank works for Grant Morrison,” he says as an aside to Neil, who smiles and offers a hand. “You sure you don’t want to move to New York and work for us?” he asks Frank, and Frank laughs. The truth is, even if he’s joking, it’s really fucking tempting, except for one thing. One big, undeniable, inconvenient thing.

“Maybe next time,” Frank says, smiling a bit. He cuts his eyes to Gerard, who’s watching him intently and who jumps into the conversation with a comment to Neil.

After a few minutes of conversation, suddenly there’s a body squeezing in between him and Gerard and an arm wrapping around his shoulders and squeezing.

“I haven’t seen you boys much this weekend!” Jill looks back and forth between them, then releases them.

“We’ve been busy! Doing our jobs!” Gerard exclaims.

“Mmm. With each other, more like,” she teases. Frank feels his face flush and he peeks around Jill at Gerard who’s blushing a little bit too. But mostly he’s smiling wide.

“That too,” Gerard says with a smirk.

“Frank, is Grant here yet? I have a question for him and he’s been difficult to track down this afternoon.” Jill sighs long-sufferingly.

“I don’t know. He went back to the hotel to sleep for the afternoon, so I’m sure he’ll be arriving soon. I can call—”

“No, that’s not necessary. It’s not a business thing; it can wait.”

“So when are you heading back to Brooklyn, Gerard?” Jill asks.

“I’m not sure yet.” Gerard’s eyes flick to Frank’s and he raises an eyebrow. Frank grins at him. “Maybe not until Frank kicks me out of his apartment. But probably as soon as Grant gets me the next script because otherwise I’ll be too easily distracted.”

Jill tips her head back and laughs and Neil and Dave join her. Frank has a moment where everything about his life is incredibly surreal. Neil Gaiman and Jill Thompson are laughing about his love life.

Finally Jill gives them one last shoulder squeeze and leaves, and Dave leads Neil off to talk to someone else, and Frank and Gerard are alone - at least long enough to get some drinks and find what they think is a quiet corner. It’s clearly not as quiet as they’d expected, though, because no sooner is Frank wrapping his fingers around Gerard’s jacket collar than someone else is calling Gerard’s name with a laugh in her voice. It’s Becky, and as she dodges a cluster of taller people, Frank can hear Gerard bite back a sigh. “Hey, Becky,” he says.

Becky smiles. “Did I interrupt something?” she teases.

“Yes,” Frank tells her, and she outright laughs.

“I like you, Frank.” She takes a sip of her drink, then adds, “But really -”

“Really, it’s fine,” Gerard tells her. “You’re just going to owe me.”

Becky groans. “That never ends well.”

Gerard laughs and tugs Frank closer to give him another kiss. Frank loses track of who they talk to after Becky. Friends of Gerard’s, mostly, but when Vince stops Frank to say hello and thank him for helping with the auction pieces, Frank figures Grant’s around somewhere too. Frank can’t see him anywhere - and he’s looking - so he finally gives up and pulls Gerard out on the patio for a smoke. And a kiss. And a few kisses, and a few more, and Gerard’s mouthing at Frank’s collarbone through his shirt when Frank finally spots him.

Grant spots him at the same time, and they make eye contact - no denying it - but Grant makes no move to come over, and Frank closes his eyes against the sight. Closes his eyes until he can lose himself in Gerard again. When Gerard pulls back for a moment, Frank murmurs, “Let’s go.”

“Back to the hotel?” Gerard asks.

“Anywhere we can be alone,” Frank tells him. Gerard’s eyes light, and Frank’s blood heats. They share a look for a moment, then slip out without saying anything more to anyone.

They light cigarettes and walk back to the hotel hand in hand. Frank starts laughing after a minute of walking and smoking.

“What?” Gerard asks, bemused.

“We were totally the horrible PDA couple at that party, weren’t we?”

“Oh god, we totally were,” Gerard groans.

“Do you really care?” Frank takes a drag of his cigarette. He kind of does. But only for one reason. The rest don’t matter.

“Not really, except now they’ll never let us live it down. There’s always Con Couples, though. It happens every year.”

“Is that what we are?” Frank asks, sucking in another lungful of smoke. “A Con Couple?”

“I was hoping we were a little more than that,” Gerard says. “They always break up after a couple of weeks and then it’s NYCC and suddenly they’re interacting again and it’s awkward.”

“It’s not going to be easy, living so far apart,” Frank points out.

Gerard squeezes his hand. “We got to be pretty fuckin’ good friends long distance, didn’t we? And I have a few frequent flier miles racked up and I can work from anywhere as long as I have access to a scanner and an art store.”

“Yeah. So. We’re doing this?”

“Fuck yeah, we are.” Gerard stops and pulls Frank toward him and kisses him. “Let’s get inside. I need to...”

“Yeah, me too,” Frank whispers against his lips. They can’t get upstairs soon enough. Frank can’t help the way his mind is racing. Gerard and Grant, according to Gerard, are just friends - but the way Grant was looking at them says that’s not the whole story. And Frank would do nearly anything for Grant, but he’s just not strong enough to step aside. Even if he was, Gerard wants Frank, despite knowing, despite seeing how miserably hung up Frank is. Gerard wants him, and Gerard is everything Frank knew he would be and more, and Frank can be happy with that. He can.

He is happy, because Gerard has him up against the door to his hotel room as soon as he gets it open, and Gerard is biting at his neck and pushing at his shirt and he’s warm and solid and the personification of so many fantasies. Frank’s fucking missed this, missed the press of someone else’s body against his. He’s been single for a long time - hell, he’d been too busy for a dog, much less a relationship, even before he’d started working for Grant. And now... “You meant it, you’ll stay for a while?” he whispers. “After....” He trails off. “God, I’ve missed this,” Frank groans when Gerard tugs his shirt off and reaches for Frank’s belt.

“You’ll have to kick me out,” Gerard answers, shoving at Frank’s jeans, moaning appreciatively when he discovers Frank’s lack of underwear. “Oh, fuck, how are you real?” Frank laughs and goes to help him and between the two of them they manage to get rid of the rest of their shoes and clothing and stagger somewhat unsteadily to the bed. Once they’re there, though, they just wrestle around in a tangle of arms and legs until they find a comfortable position to keep kissing. Gerard’s straddling Frank’s hips and leaning down to kiss him again and again, and their dicks are sliding together and it’s torture, but the good kind.

“Fuck me tonight,” Frank asks - begs, really, as Gerard mouths down his chest, and Gerard bites into his pec hard enough to sting a little, then groans into Frank’s skin.

“I - yes,” Gerard says. “Fuck yes, Frankie.” He leans back up and kisses Frank again until they’re panting, then adds, “Do you have -”

“Yeah.” Frank waits for Gerard to move aside and rolls off the bed, heading for his travel kit in the bathroom and blessing himself for being insane enough to actually stock up, just in case. He grabs a packet of lube and a condom and walks back into the bedroom, where Gerard has pushed back the covers of the bed and is kneeling in the middle of the mattress, lips swollen, skin flushed, looking pink and white and yet not at all innocent. He reaches out when Frank is close enough to grab, twists his fingers in the longer strands of Frank’s hair and pulls him in. Frank has to tip his head back and moan, and Gerard chuckles.

“You like that?” he murmurs against Frank’s cheek. “God, Frank, you’re so fucking pretty. You should see yourself, I want to draw you like this.”

“Don’t you want to do anything else?” Frank asks breathlessly, running his hands up Gerard’s chest and back into the short strands at his nape.

“Everything else,” Gerard corrects him, tipping them back over against the pillows. “Everything.”

“Yes.” Frank gasps when Gerard starts sucking on his nipple. “Fuck. Yes, everything.” Gerard doesn’t spend long there. He kisses his way down Frank’s stomach, stopping to pay special attention to Frank’s birds and tracing the “and” with his tongue. He scoots down further, nuzzles the base of Frank’s cock. Frank’s hips twitch and Gerard looks up at him with a little smirk on his face.

“You’re not coming until I’m fucking you, so you might as well relax, Frankie.” Gerard nudges Frank’s knees apart and kisses up his thigh. He bites down lightly on Frank’s inner thigh and Frank twitches again. Gerard laughs into the skin there and follows it up with a kiss. Frank reaches out a hand and clutches at Gerard’s silvery-blond hair. He gasps and Frank has to bite his lip. Especially when Gerard’s fingers wander back, stroking lightly over Frank’s entrance.

“Gerard, your fingers. Please,” Frank moans.

There’s a pause and Gerard’s fingers are back. “Since you said please,” he says as he slowly slides one finger inside Frank. He keeps going, moving slowly. Frank doesn’t realize his eyes are shut until Gerard squeezes Frank’s thigh with his free hand and they pop open.

“Fuck, Gerard. More. Please.” Frank thrusts back onto Gerard’s finger and Gerard slowly adds another. Frank moans. He feels so good, he thinks he might vibrate out of his skin. “Gerard.”

Gerard bends his head down and sucks Frank’s balls into his mouth and Frank has to clutch the sheets in his fists. “You’re going to kill me,” Frank groans. “It’s been -”

“Been what?” Gerard pulls back and asks.

“A long time. Fuck, fuck!” Frank shudders as Gerard licks a stripe up his inner thigh, then leans in to mouth at the head of Frank’s cock. Gerard moans a bit and Frank’s hips buck. Gerard’s got a wicked mouth, and when he leans in and takes Frank more fully into his mouth, Frank just collapses back into the mattress and closes his eyes. “Nice knowing you,” he mumbles.

Gerard adds a third finger. He’s clearly drawing this out on purpose now. Frank just heaves a breath and tries not to come. Gerard pulls off with a pop and pushes himself up over Frank’s body to kiss him.

“Are you always so impatient?” he whispers into Frank’s cheek, and Frank nods mutely. “You shouldn’t tell me these things, it makes me want to tease,” Gerard tells him.

“I’ll beg, if that’s what you want, holy fuck, just keep -” Gerard pulls his fingers out and Frank breaks off with a whimper. He gets himself ready as Frank watches wide-eyed, then presses close and pushes in and they both groan, it feels so good. Gerard’s eyes snap shut as he starts up a rhythm, and Frank breathes shallowly and watches his face. He’s gorgeous, delicate and dirty, and Frank just has to reach for him, wrapping his legs around Gerard’s waist and drawing him down to bite at his jaw, hands wrapped tight around Gerard’s shoulders.

Gerard pulls back enough to get a hand in between them and stroke Frank off, and Frank’s own eyes snap shut. He’s sure he can’t last, feeling his own orgasm gather from his chest and legs and dick, breathing through it, feeling Gerard’s thrusts go hard and erratic and his breath panting out between moans, and it’s Gerard who comes first with a final hard thrust, groaning Frank’s name and stiffening against him, his hand still moving, moving until Frank follows, spilling into Gerard’s hand and onto his own belly. Gerard holds himself up long enough to pull out, sparking a whimper from Frank, and then presses up against his side despite the mess, searching for his mouth and kissing him till he’s dizzy.

“Frank, Frank, Frank, Frank,” he’s murmuring between kisses, soft repetitions that seem more like a mantra than a question.

Frank holds on and kisses back, and eventually they’re both still enough to catch their breath and then he replies with a soft, “Gerard.” He goes to sit up and get a washcloth to mop off with, and Gerard clutches him tighter. “I’m not going far,” Frank tells him, and when he’s gotten himself cleaned up Gerard is sitting up in bed, watching him. “See?” Frank says softly. “Still here.”

“You need to be here,” Gerard answers, just as softly, and Frank quirks a half-smile and crawls back onto the mattress.

“Okay.” He grabs Gerard around the waist and pulls him back down into the pillows, then squirms around until he can comfortably wrap an arm around his waist. “Better?”

“Perfect,” Gerard says.

It’s close.

*

Gerard has a panel Sunday afternoon, and it’s in the midst of a bunch of Grant’s interviews so Frank can’t get there. He texts Gerard afterwards with a sadface, only to get a message back: Stay tonight with me. I’m trying to reschedule my flight.

Frank immediately calls Amtrak and gets his ticket changed to Monday. Then he goes to find Grant, who’s seated at one of the tables in the Wired Cafe talking to Jim Lee. “I’m going to stay until Monday, Grant, if that’s all right? It was easy to switch the ticket. You gave me that day off already, so -”

“So you should stay,” Grant says equitably. “Jim here can tell you all the best things to do with a bit of extra time in San Diego, if you want to do a bit of exploring with....” He trails off. Frank bites his lip. Jim jumps in with some immediate suggestions, some of which sound pretty cool, and Frank makes Jim repeat a few of them so he can write them down.

“So, tonight, I’ll -”

“The staff is already holding my bag. I’ll get a cab to the station after I’m done here. I’ll just need my ticket.” Frank nods. Easy enough. He sets his bag down to dig for the tickets, and hands Grant’s over. Grant thanks him. Frank breathes out, nods at Jim, smiles back at Grant questioningly.

“Do you need me for anything right now?”

“The last interview is Jim and I at four, which is -” Grant squints at Jim’s watch. “In ten minutes. I’ll walk upstairs with Jim. I suppose that means you’re free to go, Frank.”

“I - all right. See you Tuesday, I guess.” Frank rocks back and forth on his toes.

“Thanks for your hard work this weekend,” Grant tells him, and the smile he gives Frank is smooth, remote. It’s his professional smile. Frank bites his lip again.

“Hope I did a good job....” He smiles back, and offers, “Bye, then.”

Grant says goodbye. So does Jim. Frank grabs the strap of his bag and leaves, walking somewhat blindly down the hallway till he finds a quiet spot to dial Gerard. “Hi,” he says, “Where are you?”

“Outside of Door D,” Gerard tells him, “going for a smoke. Should I -”

“Wait just a sec,” Frank tells him, jogging through the lobby and catching up with Gerard outside. He lets Gerard catch him in his arms and squeeze. Gerard pulls back, takes another look at Frank, and squeezes him again.

“I was on the phone for like, an hour, but I got my departure switched to Saturday out of LAX,” he says with a smile. “And I got a train ticket. And now you’re going to have to deal with me and all my stuff for a week.”

“I’m good at that,” Frank tells him. “I’m the best at that.” He leans up and kisses Gerard, right there on the sidewalk. “I’m so glad you’re coming.”

Gerard smiles. “Me too. Are you done?”

Frank nods. He’d stashed his stuff in Gerard’s room this morning, so he’s officially on his own time. “You?”

“Wanna go help me pack up the booth?” Gerard bats his eyelashes at Frank, and Frank snorts.

“Sure. Then I think we should go do something fun.” Gerard leers at him, and Frank adds, “Not in the hotel room!”

Gerard giggles. “Anything you want, Frank.”

With the five of them working together, the booth gets torn down quickly. They plan to meet up later for one last dinner, then Frank and Gerard drop Gerard’s boxes off at the hotel and set out on foot. They hit up several of Jim’s recommendations that are in walking distance, plus a little cafe for some gelato. They get different flavors and feed each other bites and it’s probably the most cliched thing Frank has ever done in his life, but he can’t bring himself to care.

When they get to the restaurant, they find their party has expanded to include more stragglers who haven’t left San Diego yet. They end up getting put in a room with a giant table to themselves and it’s a great night. There’s lots of laughter and gossip about everything that went on during the con. Frank is caught between finding it really, really fucking funny and the reality that he’s going to have to talk to many of these people on the phone with all this new information in mind.

“So why isn’t Grant here?” Phil Jimenez asks Frank.

Frank has to hold in a flinch. “He. Well, we were supposed to both go back tonight. But I, um. Decided to stay a little longer.”

Phil cuts his eyes to Gerard and smiles softly. “I understand.”

Frank beams back.

Things wind down and people start scattering to go do other things or go sleep and soon it’s just the five of them. None of them are in a hurry to leave the table. Frank’s only known Becky and the twins for a couple of days, but he’s sorry to have to say goodbye to them so soon. There’s always the chance of seeing Becky if he ever goes out to see Gerard or his parents, but he doesn’t foresee himself making it to Brazil any time soon. Finally, they all get up and walk back to the hotel. There’s a lot of hugging and backslapping and Frank makes sure they all have his email address and he has theirs.

When Becky hugs him goodbye, she pulls back, hands on his shoulders and says firmly, “You can’t steal him permanently. Finding a new studiomate we don’t all hate on short notice would be a pain in the fucking ass.”

Frank laughs. “I won’t hold him hostage, I promise. I can’t be held responsible for his own choices, though.”

She sighs dramatically. “Fine, fine.” She disappears into an opening elevator with a wave over her shoulder. “Bye boys! Have fun!”

They go up to their room and have slow, lazy sex. Frank feels like he’s making up for a lot of lost time kissing. He doesn’t mind. He comes with one of Gerard’s hands on his cock and the fingers of the other hand buried in his hair.

The next day, they take a cab to a UPS store to ship Gerard’s boxes of unneeded materials back to New York and then get on the train back to LA. It’s a short trip, but they both fall asleep, Frank slumped against Gerard who’s slumped against the window. When they get to Frank’s apartment, he can’t help the sigh of relief that escapes him. San Diego was fun and he was a little nervous about leaving the weird Con bubble, but he’s happy to be home. Once they get all their shit in from the cab, Gerard wraps himself around Frank from behind.

“So this is home?”

“Yup. Whatever you need, just use it or ask if you can’t find anything. Feel free to work wherever is most convenient for you if you need to. The table’s probably biggest, but the light in here is probably best because of all the windows,” Frank babbles.

Gerard’s lips trail up his neck to his ear. “Okay, Frankie.”

Frank pulls him over to the couch and they make out for a while. They fall asleep together again, the craziness of Comic-Con catching up with them, and when they wake up mid-afternoon Frank makes coffee and is poking through his cupboards trying to decide if he’ll make them a meal or order in when his phone rings. It’s Grant.

“Grant, hi!” he answers. Gerard’s head pops up from where he’s inspecting Frank’s DVD collection.

“Good afternoon, Frank. I’ve decided to move up my flight, so I’ll be going back to Scotland in the morning,” Grant says.

“What? Sorry, I mean - do you need any help? I can come over there and—”

“That won’t be necessary,” Grant interrupts. “Thank you, Frank.” There’s a long pause which Frank feels like he should fill or at least say you’re welcome, but he can’t seem to get his mouth to work, and then Grant adds, “Your assistance was invaluable this weekend. Thank you again for that. I’ll be in touch soon.”

“Safe trip,” Frank says as the line goes dead. He puts the phone down on the counter and frowns.

“What was that about?” Gerard asks.

“He’s leaving in the morning. He moved his flight up.”

“Oh. Huh,” Gerard says. He doesn’t look as puzzled as the words sound.

“Yeah,” Frank says. He sighs. There’s no way he can cook now. He’d be too distracted. He grabs a bunch of takeout menus from the drawer and hands them to Gerard to choose, and then he calls in the order and pulls Gerard back onto the couch to sit with him. On the one hand, he’ll have more time with Gerard, even if that means they’re sitting in the same room working. On the other, Grant going back so early is making his stomach hurt in inexplicable ways.

They spend the next few days exploring LA a little bit, as well as each other a lot. Frank leaves Gerard in bed early in the mornings and goes over to get some work done. Being in Grant’s house without Grant and without even the cats is weird, but Frank stays a few hours anyway. Grant isn’t in contact, but Frank figures he’s probably shaking off jet lag or has a bit of the Con Crud and is taking a few days off and just forgot to tell Frank. So Frank takes a few things home to do and he works on them while Gerard draws.

On Friday morning he looks over at Gerard munching on toast and drinking coffee and blurts out, “I’m glad you’re here.”

Gerard sets his toast down on the plate and his mug on the coffee table and scoots into Frank’s space. “Me too,” he says and nuzzles Frank’s cheek. “I was thinking about pushing my flight back again? If that’s okay with you.”

“That would be amazing.”

“Okay. I’ll call later, then.” Gerard kisses him, hands framing Frank’s face, and then goes back to his breakfast.

Frank didn’t realize how much he’d been dreading Gerard leaving until Gerard said something about staying. He goes back to his own breakfast feeling suddenly much more interested in eating and getting out to enjoy the day.

The weekend is great and when Frank gets to work early Monday morning, he’s feeling pretty good. Except there’s no email from Grant in his inbox and two from people trying to get in touch with him. Frank frowns and shoots an email to Grant to check in and then gets busy answering the phone messages and a few emails. By the end of the day, there’s no answer and he leaves frowning.

He tries calling Grant the next day and gets no answer. He finally gets a brief email just as he’s about to leave in which Grant promises he’ll email the people he’s supposed to. Frank breathes a sigh of relief and goes home to Gerard feeling a lot better.

Except the next day, he gets three emails from people attempting to get in touch with Grant that he forwards straight to Grant. He also needs Grant’s signature on something. It’s not particularly urgent, but he scans and sends the forms to Grant and puts “IMPORTANT” in the subject line requesting that Grant reply to the email to confirm that he’s seen it. Grant should have plenty of time to sign and mail them back.

When he gets home, Gerard is waiting at the door and pushes him up against it, scrabbling at his pants and unbuttoning and unzipping him before pushing him over to the couch. Gerard pushes Frank down and the coffee table out of the way and sinks down on his knees and takes Frank’s cock in his mouth. It’s so damn hot and Gerard is so fucking good at it, he’s coming down Gerard’s throat before he’s ready. He pulls at Gerard’s arm until he comes up off the floor and straddles Frank’s thighs.

Gerard leans down and kisses Frank. He strokes his hands up and down Frank’s arms, pulls back and asks, “How was your day?”

“Way, way better now,” Frank answers breathlessly and gets Gerard’s pants open so he can get his hands on Gerard’s cock. It turns into a really fucking great evening.

He doesn’t get a reply from Grant all day Thursday. He tries calling and emailing again, but gets no response. He’s so fucking frustrated, he decides to say fuck it and stay home on Friday. He’ll check his email and have the phone forwarded to his Blackberry, but he’s going to spend his last full day with Gerard enjoying himself, not frustrated beyond the telling.

When the light on Frank’s Blackberry starts blinking indicating an email, he picks it up immediately. Maybe, just maybe, Grant has finally gotten back to him. Except no. It’s an email from Mark Waid asking if Frank can make sure Grant has gotten some important information about “52” because he hasn’t responded to Mark’s emails. Frank wants to slam his head against the wall repeatedly. Gerard raises a questioning eyebrow at him from the corner of the couch.

Frank sighs. “Have you tried to get in contact with Grant recently? And, most importantly, has he gotten back to you?”

“Yeah, I emailed him a few days ago. No response,” Gerard says.

Frank rubs his forehead and takes a deep breath. Then another. His throat feels tight and his eyes are burning. He doesn’t fucking know what to do about it. “Why the fuck is he doing this? Again.”

Gerard pulls him down onto the couch next to him. “Frankie, I know it’s really frustrating, but he’s upset.”

"I can't…really, Gerard? Upset? I am fucking upset, because he promised me he wouldn't do this anymore. This is personal! What am I supposed to do here? I'm not going to apologize for being with you. It's the only thing… I can't."

Gerard sighs and tugs at his hair like he wishes it was still longer. "Frank," he says, clearly choosing his words carefully, "he's still going to be in love with you no matter who you're dating, or if you're dating."

Frank freezes, then sputters, "In love with?"

And Gerard just looks at him levelly. "Frank."

Frank's pulse starts pounding. He starts pacing, stops again, picks up a glass from the kitchen counter, puts it back down. Gently. "In love with me? He never- why -"

"He thinks you don't think about him that way. He thinks - knows, now - that you're interested in me. I...always hoped that was right, but shit, Frankie, I can see how you feel about him."

Frank feels his way onto a barstool and just sits for a moment, stunned. "I fucking am interested in you. You're…you make me so happy I can hardly breathe. I don't. He likes you."

Gerard takes a few deep breaths. "I know Grant likes me. I like him, and if things were different, maybe it would have been more than that. But he practically told the entire Eisner Awards how he feels about you, Frankie; the only mistake he made was to say 'life' instead of 'heart'."

Frank has no idea what to say. He feels a little like an idiot that this was apparently all obvious enough that someone else picked up on it - and that he didn’t. He'd like to think that if he had known - Grant's heart, shit, trust Gerard to be as melodramatic as possible, but he can't fucking deny it, and he'd known, he'd known he was hurting Grant. He'd just been wrong about how. But if he had picked up on it...what would he have done? That would have meant that he and Gerard wouldn’t have.... "What exactly do you expect me to do?" he asks Gerard miserably.

Gerard takes half a minute to respond; then he looks up and he looks so sad, like he did at the Eisners, and Frank swallows hard. "You should go to him, Frank."

"What? Fuck - no, Gerard. I'm not leaving you -"

"No, you're not," Gerard says firmly. "That is the last thing I would ever ask for. But I have to go home anyway. Not that I want to. I really fucking don't, Frank. But this - I fucking know you well enough to know you won't forgive yourself if you don't try to figure this out."

"I don't know how. I don't want to lose either of you," Frank whispers.

Gerard sets aside his sketchbook and pen and gets up, crowding into Frank's space and wrapping his arms around him. "I - Frank, even if we weren't anything more than friends I'd be glad just to have you. I can't speak for Grant, but -"

"No, you can't," Frank says skeptically.

"But I can't imagine he'd say different," Gerard finishes.

“This sucks," Frank mutters against Gerard's shoulder. "And it's also, like, my livelihood. This is basically the first stable, full-time job I've ever had. I don't want to.…" Frank sighs.

"You need to know what you do want, Frank. And I think you need to go back there to convince yourself what that is."

Frank nods. The problem is, he wants everything. He wants Grant and he wants his job and he wants Gerard. And he feels like he's in one of those stupid triangles where he can only choose two corners. "You're right. You're right, I have to go, but. Gerard -" Frank tips his face up to kiss Gerard, grabbing his head and tugging him in for a long, desperate kiss.

"Yes," Gerard mumbles, pushing him up against the wall. "Always yes."

*

Gerard leaves first, reluctantly gathering scattered possessions from across Frank’s apartment. It’s amazing how his things have mixed in with Frank’s in the past two weeks. Frank steals a Dawn of the Dead tee shirt out of the clothes pile; he makes sure Gerard sees him doing it, and Gerard just laughs. “That may have originally belonged to Mikey,” he tells Frank.

“Mine now,” Frank tells him, and Gerard grins.

“Whatever you want. I might make you bring it back to me eventually.”

Frank stifles a grin, then deadpans, “I might say yes.”

Frank flies out the next day. He gets to LAX late, suffers through the never-ending security, but when he gets to the gate he still has enough time to type out a text to Gerard. At the airport, wearing your shirt, feel like you're doing this with me.

His phone rings less than a minute later. “Frank,” Gerard says softly. He sounds a little choked up.

Frank doesn’t even have time to respond before he hears them call his boarding group. “I...Gerard, I’m boarding, like, right now. I just wanted to tell you - I -”

“Call me from the future,” Gerard interrupts, with a smile in his voice this time.

Frank laughs, like Gerard clearly meant him to, and promises he will.

 

***

 

Grant’s not expecting any deliveries and he has most potential visitors - usually his sister or Vince - well-trained to call beforehand. The only reason he even considers answering the door is that it’s a gray, foggy day, and staring out of his study window feels uncannily like piloting a ghost ship. If someone’s got lost by the loch and found his door, he wouldn’t feel right ignoring the summons.

He opens the door and gets the surprise of his life. “Frank?” Immediately his mind starts churning through worst-case scenarios. He can’t breathe.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Frank doesn’t clarify, and Grant doesn’t ask him to. There’s only one thing he could mean. Grant just can’t credit him flying five thousand miles to talk about it. Unless....

“Frank, please - come inside.” Grant steps back and motions Frank inside. He goes to grab Frank’s bag but Frank keeps hold of it, steps into the entrance hallway and sits his luggage by the foot of the stairs himself. When he looks back up, he’s much closer and looking unblinkingly at Grant.

"Grant, why didn't you tell me?"

Grant says, "Would it have made a difference?"

"I don't know."

"Then why are you here?" Grant asks.

Frank answers, "Because I want to know."

And Grant closes his eyes for a second, then opens them again. "Frank," he whispers. Frank’s finally here, no pretense or misunderstanding between them, and Grant has absolutely no idea what to do about that.

Frank steps closer and wraps his arms around Grant's waist and buries his face in Grant's chest. Grant lets out a measured breath and folds his own arms around Frank. Just knowing he doesn’t have to let go after a too-short moment is nearly enough, but he wants more, so much more. Grant gets a hand under Frank’s chin, tips his face up and kisses him, and Frank melts into him, but when he pulls back he says, "I'm really fucking pissed about whatever shit you were pulling this past week."

Grant pulls him back in. "I don't do too well without you anymore."

Frank freezes for a few seconds, then wraps his arms around Grant's neck and kisses back for all he's worth. When they pull apart again, Grant rests his forehead against Frank’s and Frank whispers, "You make me so crazy."

Grant can’t even deny it. But Frank’s been making him crazy for a long time too.

Finally Grant lets go and says, “Should we take your things upstairs? Do you need to rest? Do you -”

“Coffee,” Frank answers. “Just - can we have some, and -”

Grant nods, turning and leading the way into the kitchen. Coffee and conversation. The coffee’s the easy part; he gently pushes Frank into a chair when Frank tries to head for the coffee making supplies.

When the coffee is brewing, Grant turns back to Frank and leans on the counter. “Did you tell Gerard you were coming?” he asks.

Frank makes an expression that’s somewhere indefinably between a smile and a frown. “He made me come,” Frank answers.

The conversation part - definitely the hard part. Grant’s exhausted from a week of confusion and inner turmoil, and he just says, “What?” Then he mentally gathers himself and says, “How so?”

“He's… he's basically stupidly understanding and I don't get it, but I'm not going to complain.” Frank sounds confused too.

Grant says slowly, "He sent you after me." He can’t help but think about what he’d done at Comic-Con, about how neatly Gerard has turned the tables on him, and it makes his heart clench a bit that Gerard would do it. They’re a pair of masochists, it seems. Then Grant thinks about Frank, who must feel like he’s sacrificing something any way he turns, and his heart clenches even more. “What do you think he - what do you want, Frank?”

The coffee is ready; Grant turns away and fixes a cup for Frank and one for himself, sets Frank’s mug in front of him and sips his own, letting Frank consider his answer.

“I want...to have everything I want,” Frank says after a moment, staring at the hot surface of his drink. “Maybe, probably even, that’s unreasonable, but - I want Gerard and I want you and I sort of don’t want to lose my job, either.” He looks up at Grant. “I’d be satisfied just to get my hands on your correspondence from the last two weeks, for the time being.” He’s smiling a little at himself, and Grant smiles too, though he wants to hear a lot more about how Frank...wants him.

“Shall we just start there and...see what happens?”

They don’t actually start working right away, though. They finish their coffee and have a light dinner - very light, Grant is embarrassed to have Frank witness the barrenness of his cupboards - and talk, actually talk for the first time since before Comic-Con, about Comic-Con. About parts of Comic-Con, anyway. There seems to be a mutual unspoken agreement to keep things on a friendly level for right now.

Eventually, as the evening stretches out, Frank’s eyes start to droop. He excuses himself, mumbling goodnights around a big yawn. Grant smiles and lets him go, but after Frank disappears upstairs he sits for a moment, then pulls out his mobile.

It’s mid-afternoon in New York, and Gerard should be at his studio.

“Grant,” Gerard answers his phone on the first ring.

“Gerard, hello. I believe I owe you an email about scripts. This, sadly, is not that email, or about the scripts at all, except to apologize for the delay.”

“It’s okay, Grant,” Gerard laughs. “Why do you think I sent Frank back?”

“He’s not a thing to be sent, Gerard, and furthermore I know why you did already, because he told me.” Grant knows he sounds terribly stuffy, and tries to soften his tone. This is Gerard, after all, his friend, his - “But I would like to hear it from you.”

“I know he’s not,” Gerard retorts. “I’m glad you know that.”

All right, Grant deserves that. He knew Gerard was teasing and he’d picked at him anyway.

"Gerard," Grant says. "You… he…" He's totally at a loss for words. Because Gerard sent his boyfriend to Scotland with full knowledge of what could potentially happen, and how does one express gratitude for that? How does one request an explanation?

Gerard sighs. Grant knew he wasn’t really ignoring the other part of Grant’s question. Maybe he’s having the same trouble expressing himself. "I suggested he go,” Gerard starts, “because you need each other.” Like it's actually that simple. “And I don’t just mean to save you from your terrible organizational skills.” He says it dryly, but Grant can hear the wistful little note in his voice.

That one little note is why Grant says, “Come to Scotland.” He surprises even himself, but the more he thinks about it, it’s what he wants. Because so many things here still need to be sorted out, and it's the only way he can figure out to do it.

Gerard just says, "…what?"

Grant presses, "I'll book you a flight right now. Contrary to what Frank may say, I am actually capable of doing these sorts of things. Come. Please."

"Why?"

Gerard still sounds wistful, like there’s some foregone conclusion here. And that makes Grant pause. Not because he doesn't have an answer, but because there is so much he feels shouldn’t be said over the phone. So Grant says, "For any number of reasons. If nothing else, because I’m sure Frank misses you; and it would give us a chance to discuss some work and perhaps catch up to where we need to be. And those are only the most basic of reasons."

Gerard is still resisting. He counters dryly, "Frank can call me; and he's there now, so I trust you'll actually be able to function and send me things. I don't actually need to be in Scotland."

Grant sighs. He has no idea what Gerard is thinking, whether he’s all right with an open relationship, what he’s conceded, anything. He replies, “Consider it a personal request. I'll book you a flight and transportation to Dunoon and if you show up, I will be thrilled; and if you don't, that's fine too."

"Grant, that's not fair. Then I'd feel obligated to come because you bought the ticket."

Grant closes his eyes and breathes through his nose. Gerard is occasionally deliberately obtuse. "I don't care much about fair at this point, if it gets you here."

Gerard sighs dramatically and says, "Fine. But don't get angry at me if everything goes to hell."

Grant grins a little - it’s just so Gerard - and says, "See you soon. I'll email you for the details."

After he hangs up, he goes and fixes himself a drink and heads back to the parlor to settle into his favorite orange sofa. He’s hoping he’s done the right thing. Gerard has always been something special in Grant’s eyes, has always reminded Grant in many ways of a younger version of himself. There was always an attraction there; thinking about it too much usually just leaves Grant wondering with a little laugh at his own expense if it’s mere narcissism, or something different.

It was an idle enough thought for years, busy as he was, busy as Gerard was, working to establish himself with Grant’s help and on his own. Then Frank showed up, a tiny dervish who completely took over Grant's life - which basically is what Grant hired him for, but not nearly expecting what would happen. What he would feel.

When Frank and Gerard discovered each other, it made sense to Grant that they would gravitate towards one another, as young and lovely as they are, as many things as they have in common. He will admit to a bit of shock that there might be room for him in their arrangement.

He doesn’t understand what their arrangement is. He’s not sure either of them really understand what they want. They’re fumbling through this just like he is. But he knows it’s resulted in the presence of the man sleeping upstairs. Grant can still feel Frank’s lips against his, heady and sweet and unexpected. He wants more, wants things he’s sure he doesn’t deserve. But he wants.

Grant's up early the next morning, calling his travel agent and making the necessary arrangements for Gerard’s trip. His first, cowardly instinct is to let it be a surprise. Then he considers what he’s already put Frank through in the last few weeks and how angry he’s seen Frank get in the past, and reconsiders. Frank wakes mid-morning, bolts a cup of coffee, and takes Grant’s car down to town to do the shopping. He’s clearly noticed the lack of sustenance in the house. Grant surprises him by sending along a large list...and then he waits.

Frank comes in with his arms full of grocery bags. “Grant,” he calls out loudly before he notices Grant is already sitting at the kitchen table. “Katie just keeps getting worse and worse every time I see her. She has a dirty mind, and in a lady who looks like my own grandmother it’s sort of disturbing.” Frank sets the bags down then continues, “The worst of it is that it all sounds so charming, because of the damn accent.” Grant laughs, and Frank scowls. “Don’t you laugh, you’re even worse.”

He sounds so affronted, looks so irresistible in his cardigan and his jean jacket, that Grant just grabs him - to hell with the resolution to wait and see what happens, this is what Grant wants to happen. Grant pushes his fingers through the long strands of Frank’s hair and kisses the shit out of him, leaning back against the counter and tugging Frank in between his thighs, and Frank just goes with it, twists his fingers in Grant’s shirtfront and practically climbs up to keep contact. Grant doesn’t break the kiss until he’s actually lightheaded. Frank is flushed and dark-eyed, lips shiny with spit, and it takes every ounce of restraint Grant possesses to ignore it long enough to confess, “I have to tell you something.”

Frank pulls away and makes a nervous little face before schooling his features and saying, "Yes?"

"I called Gerard last night."

Frank makes the nervous face again. Grant goes on to tell him about the arrangements, that Gerard is coming to stay, and Frank sort of shakes himself a bit and says, "Well, that'll be interesting." He starts putting groceries away, and Grant can practically see him composing himself once his back is turned. After a while, Frank says nonchalantly, "When I first started working for you, I had a little bet going with myself as to which of your callers I’d eventually find out was your boyfriend and not just a colleague. Gerard was first on the list. Interesting, huh."

Grant stutters out, "You said interesting already." He doesn’t know where Frank is going with this.

Frank merely replies, "Yeah, I did," and keeps working.

Grant is glad he ignored his instincts and told Frank. Because this was not quite the reaction he was expecting, even if Frank reacted with something other than happiness. "Frank," he starts, and then stops, because he doesn't know what to say or how to say it to make the tension in Frank's shoulders go away, or erase that slightly brittle tone of voice he's using.

Clearly, words are not adequate at this point, so despite his fears of going too fast, too far....

All Grant can do, all he wants to do, is reach out. So he does.

 

***

 

The first touch is sweet and tender. Frank remembers what it was like, just yesterday, to have Grant's lips on his for the first time. Frank clutches at Grant's sides and just clings because that's really all he can do with Grant's hands on him; Frank's need for them has overwhelmed him.

"I've thought about you," Grant tells him, running his hands up and down Frank's arms, "every day since I left you. Every hour." He lifts Frank's chin with a knuckle. "I needed you here with me, and I had no way to tell you how much, or that it wasn’t just...professional. It was personal. Maybe it always was."

"You're telling me now," Frank points out breathlessly.

"You came to me," Grant replies, brushing his fingers over Frank's lips. Frank tries to kiss them but he's moving too fast, hands roaming over Frank's torso like Frank's going to disappear.

"I needed to," Frank replies. "It was easier once I realized that."

"I need you," Grant repeats, eyes gleaming dark and intense. "Come with me." He wraps a hand around Frank's wrist and tugs, and they make their way upstairs past the stained-glass sunbeams on the stairs and into Grant's bright bedroom, curtains pushed back to show the glinting surface of the loch. Frank feels like he always felt under stage lights, pinned and displayed and energized all at once, and being that much, all at once, for Grant is...shocking.

Frank needs him too, so much that he can't breathe. So he just pushes close, runs his hands up Grant's chest and says, "Anything."

And Grant grabs his hands, lacing their fingers together, and leans down and kisses him. It's soft and teasing at first because they aren't touching anywhere else. Frank whines and tries to get closer, and Grant kisses him harder. Finally he directs Frank's arms around his waist and pulls Frank flush against his body.

Grant's not a super big guy, but he still makes Frank feel tiny. Tiny and crazy, because he's going slow when Frank wants to go fast. He peels Frank out of his clothes, following suit with his own, and urges Frank up onto the bed, pushing him gently back against the bed pillows. "Stay there," he orders softly when Frank tries to move.

Frank takes a deep, shuddering breath. "I… okay."

Grant reaches down and strokes his cheek, leans down to kiss him again. "You are so beautiful," Grant whispers, then kisses the scorpion on Frank's neck and all the way down his arm, finally kissing each of the letters on Frank's knuckles. Frank tries really hard not to squirm.

Grant's going so fucking slow, but it feels amazing. Frank doesn't have it in him to complain; he just grabs Grant's shoulders and holds on as Grant kisses him endlessly, touches him everywhere. But finally he begs, "Please, please stop, please let me touch you."

And Grant lifts his head up and looks into Frank's eyes; he brings a hand up to Frank's face and strokes over his eyebrow and down his cheek. "I would like nothing better." And Frank pushes at Grant's shoulder until he rolls over on his back and starts touching everywhere he can reach.

Frank sweeps his fingertips over Grant's head, along the lines of his cheekbones and his jaw, kisses his face and cheeks and ears, licks the freckles on Grant's neck that always drive him crazy when Grant wears open-necked shirts. He rubs his face all over Grant's chest and belly, finally closing his mouth around the head of Grant's cock. Frank's so turned on he thinks he might die, just from the feel of Grant's body under his, and that's even before Grant hisses out his name and grabs onto Frank's hair.

Frank grips the base of Grant's cock with his hand and sinks down further until his lips meet his hand. He keeps sucking, swirling his tongue around Grant's cock, even with Grant panting and swearing above him and his fingers clenching rhythmically in Frank's hair. Frank continues until Grant's hips thrust up into his mouth and Grant tugs gently on his hair.

"Frank, stop. God, Frank," Grant orders breathlessly, "come here." Frank slides back up Grant's body, lets Grant tug Frank on top of him, lets him cup Frank's face in his hands and kiss him slow and unceasing, the repetitive push and drag of his tongue slowing things down while winding them up even further. Frank can barely breathe. He scrambles against the sheets to get his knees under him, straddling Grant's hips and bracing his hands on either side of Grant's head.

Grant puts his hands on Frank's hips and squeezes, then slides them up his sides and around to his shoulder blades, then pulls him down so their chests are touching. Suddenly Frank finds himself on his back, with Grant's weight pressing him down into the mattress. When Grant moves his hips and their cocks slide together, Frank moans.

"Frank," Grant whispers, eyes dark and intense, "this is - you're all I've thought about for months. I can't - let me show you."

"Yes," Frank gasps out. Grant moves his hips again and Frank tries to wrap his legs around Grant's waist. "Please," he begs. Grant leans down to kiss him quick and dirty before rolling off Frank and reaching into the drawer of his nightstand.

Frank bites his lip and watches as Grant slicks his fingers and wraps one hand around Frank's shaft - Frank moans in surprise even though he's expecting it - and traces back behind his balls with the other. "I don't need - please," Frank begs. "I can't wait -"

"You can," Grant tells him. "I need this, I need every part of you." Frank whines deep in his throat and tips his head back against the pillow, groaning as Grant stretches him. Grant whispers praise, mouthing at the hot skin of Frank's chest and shoulder and neck.

Frank grabs Grant's arm; he holds on with one hand and clutches the sheets with the other. Everything smells like Grant, every single one of his senses is filled with Grant. Frank gasps when Grant crooks his fingers to stroke his prostate and when his teeth nip lightly at Frank's nipple, Frank can't take it anymore. "Please, please, please, I need you."

He whines when Grant stops touching him, even though he knows it's only temporary. When Grant returns, lining up and pushing in, the whine strangles in his throat. He feels full, hot, surrounded, Grant nudging gently into his body and murmuring into his ear. Grant's eyes are squeezed shut and his voice is rough, murmuring Frank's name. "You feel perfect," Grant confesses, starting to move.

Frank gasps out Grant's name and wraps his legs around Grant's waist. Grant leans down and kisses his neck and his jaw. "You feel perfect too," Frank whispers; Grant's lips find his and he kisses Frank just like he's fucking Frank, slow and steady and driving him out of his mind with need.

Frank reaches out frantically, touching every part of Grant he can reach, needing the contact, needing the skin. He's breathing hard already, panting into Grant's mouth and chanting his name, voice breaking over a curse, over a plea for more. Grant wraps a hand around the back of Frank's neck and around his waist and thrusts faster, less controlled, crushing their mouths together, tongues tangling until Frank arches up and shouts and comes, comes without even a hand on him.

Frank hooks his ankles together and pulls Grant in as close as he can get him, running his hands over his head and shoulders. Grant buries his face in Frank's neck, mouthing against the skin there, the periodic word breaking through as a moan or a gasp. Frank's whole body feels amazing and Grant's body against and inside his feels even more amazing. Grant lifts his head and looks down at Frank's face, into his eyes, thrusts hard one last time, and comes murmuring Frank's name over and over and over.

Frank bites his lip and wraps his arms tightly around Grant, not letting him move for a minute, kissing his shoulder and his ear and his mouth in quick succession. Grant kisses back, one arm still firmly wrapped around Frank, the other cupping his face, stroking his cheek with his thumb.

"Grant," Frank whispers.

"I know," Grant whispers back and leans in to kiss him again as he pulls out. Frank breathes in sharply through his nose, but doesn't break the kiss.

Grant rolls off Frank and onto his back, which Frank objects to, but then Grant tugs him into his arms so he’s draped across Grant’s chest. He feels Grant’s lips in his hair and his chest still heaving under Frank’s.

“Fuck,” Frank murmurs.

“Yes,” Grant agrees, running one hand up and down Frank’s arm, tracing his tattoos with his fingertips. Frank nuzzles Grant’s chest, dropping kisses here and there.

“Know what’s fuckin’ awesome?” Frank asks between kisses.

“Hmm?” Grant’s got his eyes closed, clearly enjoying what Frank’s doing.

“It’s only eleven,” Frank says. Grant’s eyes snap open and he grins.

“Indeed.” He grins and then rolls them both onto their sides, tangling his legs with Frank and pulling him close.

“Whatever shall we do with all this time?”

“I think we can come up with something.” Frank replies. What they come up with is drifting off to sleep wrapped up in each other for a little while. They get up a little while later and shower. Grant’s hands are everywhere and Frank returns the favor and they come in each other’s hands. They go downstairs for lunch and Frank starts giggling when he sees the bags of groceries still on the counters, only half-unpacked.

Grant catches him around the waist and pulls him back against his chest for a moment. “Sorry, love. There were more important things to be tended than the groceries.”

Frank spins and wraps his arms around Grant’s neck. “Yeah, there were,” he says and leans up for a kiss. They eat and then go back upstairs to get good and fucking dirty again.

As he’s finally drifting off to sleep for real that night, Frank thinks about his room across the hall and how fucking glad he’s not in it. “Every night I’m here I’ve wished I could sleep with you instead.” Grant’s arms squeeze around him and Frank drifts off to sleep.

*

Frank wakes in Grant’s bed, sore and blissful and lazy, until he picks up his beeping phone and sees that the alarm that’s sounding is the one telling him Gerard’s plane is supposed to be landing. He swears softly. He’d meant to continue that conversation yesterday, and had gotten distracted.

Really distracted. He’s not accusing Grant of doing it deliberately. The look of desire, of love, on Grant’s face had been unmistakable - he’s wanted this at least as long as Frank has. Frank knew it was inevitable when he showed up here. And now they’re adding Gerard to the mix, and it’s going to be different. He still wishes he knew what Grant was thinking when he made the invitation.

Grant wakes up as Frank is staring at his phone, rolls over and kisses Frank’s shoulder, then sits up. “What’s going on, Frank?”

“Gerard’s plane should have just arrived,” Frank tells him.

“Ah, of course.” It’s pretty non-committal, and Frank just gives him a look. Grant reaches out to caress Frank’s cheek. “Go take your shower, love. I’ll fix some coffee and wait for you downstairs.” He’s still being tender, but Frank can feel a measure of their past formality blooming to fill the spaces between them. When he finally arrives in the kitchen, he knows the cab Grant arranged should be arriving soon. Frank’s too jittery to eat breakfast, but Grant brings him a cup of coffee and squeezes his shoulder.

“It takes an hour to get here from Glasgow, right? And we have to give him time to get off the plane and get his baggage. So he should be here in, like, half an hour?”

Grant smiles at him. “Perhaps more, perhaps less.”

“Yeah,” Frank sighs.

They sit quietly drinking coffee. On the surface, Grant appears calm, but Frank can tell by the way he’s fiddling with his cup that he’s not entirely relaxed. Frank has no real idea what Grant’s thinking. All Frank knows is that he is both really happy Gerard is going to be here and also nervous as fuck about it.

He tries not to fidget too much. When he hears a car on the drive, he practically leaps out of his chair and bolts out the door. When Gerard gets out of the car, he looks fucking exhausted.

“Gee, hi,” he says and pulls Gerard into a tight hug.

“Hey, Frankie,” Gerard whispers into his neck. Frank pulls back and there’s Grant, giving Gerard his own quick hug.

“Thank you for coming,” Grant tells him. The cab driver clears his throat and they both help get Gerard’s luggage into the house and sit him down at the table. Frank makes him a cup of coffee. When Gerard smiles gratefully at him, Frank can’t really help but lean down and kiss him. When Frank pulls back, he glances at Grant. He’s got an odd look on his face, but when he catches Frank looking, he smiles and Frank can tell it’s genuine.

Gerard, though. Gerard looks unsure and nervous and when he opens his mouth, he starts babbling about the flight and the ride over from Glasgow. Though, part of that could be just tiredness. Red eye flights will do that.

“You’re right, Frankie,” Gerard says with a yawn. “It’s just like a storybook.”

Frank grins. “I feel like I’m going to run into fictional characters every time I walk out the door.”

Gerard smiles and yawns again.

“Gerard, would you like us to show you to your room so you can nap?” Grant asks.

Gerard makes a face and shakes his head. “No, I should probably stay up and go to bed at a normal time or I’ll be all messed up.”

“We should make breakfast,” Frank tells Grant. “Are you hungry, Gee? Can I get you more coffee?”

“Coffee, please,” Gerard answers, looking a little desperate. “And food might be good.”

Frank laughs. “Both coming right up.”

Both Frank and Grant get up from the table. Frank pours the last of the coffee into Gerard’s mug and starts a fresh pot going and then he and Grant work together to make a simple breakfast of eggs and toast. They eat and Frank lingers over his food and coffee for as long as possible, but then he gets up and clears the table.

“Okay, as much as I would like to stay and hang out, I really have to go make some phone calls soon,” he says over his shoulder from the sink. “Gee, you should really rest for at least a little bit.”

“I’d fall asleep and not wake up until dinner time and then everything would suck. I’ll just have more coffee.” Frank turns to see Gerard staring at the coffee maker with a manic look on his face. Frank laughs.

“I could wake you up, you know. But if coffee’s what you want, you can have it.” He waves a soapy hand indicating Gerard should get it for himself.

“I’ll just be a zombie today and a normal person tomorrow,” Gerard says.

“You just want coffee more than you want to sleep.”

“Yup,” Gerard admits and happily takes a sip from his fresh cup. Frank smiles at him. It’s so typically Gerard. Gerard smiles sheepishly and shrugs.

Frank dries his hands and pulls gently at Gerard’s hips until he can reach to kiss him on the cheek. “Okay. I really have to go make those calls.”

Grant grabs his hand as he’s walking by and squeezes. Frank squeezes back and keeps going. As he’s climbing the stairs, he hears Grant ask, “Can I show you around?”

 

***

 

Gerard can hear Frank already cursing quietly at his laptop when Grant leads him upstairs to his office. Gerard is immediately charmed by the room itself; the windows on this side of the house all look out on the lake. “Chosen for the view?” he teases lightly.

Grant smiles. “Bedroom and office, guilty as charged. It’s the only real benefit - this place is colder than the grave in the winter. LA is a relief in ways, though I do find it difficult to write there.”

Gerard is mystified. “I thought you wrote every day.”

“I do,” Grant says. “But the main comics writing, it all happens here.” He pats his desk companionably. “Now, would you like to see the latest?”

“You’re asking?” Gerard teases. Grant sits him down in the desk chair and calls up a text file, murmuring commentary over Gerard’s shoulder as he reads, and Gerard completely loses track of time. For all Frank’s worry, Grant must have been working quite hard in the weeks before Frank got there. Thinking about Frank brings Gerard back into the present a little more fully, and he sits back a bit and stretches. He’s tired.

Grant clearly notices his fidgeting and says, "Would you like the full tour, or should we put it off until you’ve had a chance to rest?"

“A tour, please,” Gerard says, and Grant shows him around the house and grounds. It’s gorgeous, old and quirky and rambling, crumbling a bit around the edges. It’s practically the perfect place for Grant, and Grant confesses that he’s trying to fix it up piece by piece, but that he sort of loves it the way it is.

They avoid the downstairs sitting room where Frank has set up his workstation, but Grant shows him every other nook and cranny. And as they're wandering back into the entrance hall Gerard stops to study the stained glass window, and before he knows it he’s telling Grant about his ideas for his new comic - “The first one I’ll have written myself,” he explains, “and it’s sort of...involved. I’ve already pitched it to Dark Horse, but they asked me to get someone else to draw it. I don’t blame them. I’m so fucking busy already, and it gives me a chance to work with one of my friends....” Grant nods when Gerard tells him who he’s chosen. Gabriel (with and without Fabio) is starting to make himself known.

It isn’t until he describes the plot and confesses that Grant's run on Doom Patrol was a big influence that Gerard starts to feel embarrassed that he’s talking Grant fucking Morrison’s ear off about his own comic. But Grant doesn’t seem to mind, just keeps asking questions, and the flush of embarrassment is soon forgotten.

Everything is forgotten for a while, in fact. Gerard’s pretty sure that they both realize at the same moment that they've been talking for ages, that they have in fact migrated back to the sitting room on the main level, and there's no sign of Frank. So they go looking for him. They find him outside sitting on a bench overlooking the Loch, which clearly means he snuck out when they came back inside. Grant removes his jacket and drapes it over Frank's shoulders.

"You'll catch cold again," Grant explains.

Frank rolls his eyes. “It's August.” But he has a little smile on his face, he takes the coat anyway because it really is sort of cold - at least, Gerard is cold He’s also so glad to be with Frank that he can barely contain it. He sits down next to Frank on the bench, and Frank leans into his side. Gerard’s mind is whirling, a bit; ideas for comics and art mixing with thoughts about Grant and about Frank, but he feels somehow, despite everything, that he’s in the right place.

 

***

 

“Did he tell you he had dreads?” Gerard asks Grant after dinner. “Really alarming dreads.”

“No, I can’t say that I recall hearing this,” Grant answers, smiling at how Frank is covering his face in embarrassment.

“I smoked a lot of pot,” Frank says through his fingers. “It felt like the thing to do.”

“I don’t really remember that much from back then, but I remember I hadn’t been to a show in months and I went and Mikey pointed you out and said that was your new band and it took me a minute to put you and Frank from Pencey Prep together in my head.” Gerard grins at Frank and grabs his wrists, pulling his hands off his face. Frank resists a little bit, but is smiling back bright and gorgeous.

“I cut them off for our first big meeting with a major label. I’d have done it sooner because they got fucking annoying, but people kept giving me shit for them, so I kept them out of, like, spite.” Frank wrinkles his nose adorably. “I didn’t pick my rebellions very well, did I?”

Grant laughs. “Perhaps not, but I understand the impulse.”

Frank rubs his neck over his scorpion. “Until I got this done, it was all small rebellions for me. I didn’t want to make my mom cry because I’d already seen enough of that after the divorce.” Grant realizes this isn’t something he’d known about Frank. For all the months they’ve been working together, Grant didn’t know this very basic information about Frank’s life. Frank continues, “Though, if I’d had, like, a strict curfew and my mom hadn’t been as cool about all the bands, maybe things would have been different. I spent a lot of hours doing crazy shit in Jersey after sunset.”

“Dude, did you ever go to Rocky Horror at the theater by the mall—”

“Over by the p—”

“Yes!”

“I went a couple of times,” Frank says.

“God, I swear me and Mikey went like, once a week for an entire summer. We’d sneak a bottle of vodka in and get so fucking drunk,” Gerard smiles a little ruefully and rolls his eyes. Frank nods and reaches out to squeeze Gerard’s hand. Grant does know this story, knows about how Gerard’s drinking escalated to an unhealthy point, how he started doing cocaine. And then subsequently got clean. But Grant only knows that because he’s been in the room when Gerard was telling someone interviewing him or answering a question at one of the several cons they’ve both been at recently.

Frank and Gerard continue talking. Frank is practically glowing while talking about New Jersey. Most everything he says is new information to Grant. And most of what Gerard says, as well. He finds himself abruptly jealous of them both, for their shared reference points, for their apparent familiarity with the details of each other’s lives that Grant doesn’t have.

He listens to them talk, files away each gem of knowledge. He realizes how very correct Gerard was about him. He sees Frank every day, there are many things he should have known about Frank by now. And Gerard too. They’ve worked together for two years at this point. He should know more about Gerard, and he wants to know. Wants to know both of them beyond his hyperfocus on the present and the books he’s writing and getting things done. So he listens carefully.

Gerard makes it much later into the evening than Grant expects, but eventually his yawning can no longer be contained. Grant looks at Frank, who’s also drooping, and offers to show Gerard to his room. He’s not surprised when Frank follows them up the stairs a minute later. Grant is still leaning against Gerard’s door, explaining where he keeps extra linens, so he can see Frank stop dead in the middle of the hallway, clearly debating for a moment where to go. He has his own room, of course, but it’s all too apparent that he wants to go in Gerard’s, and maybe he’s remembering how he’d spent last night in Grant’s. Grant remembers his sleepy murmur - Every night I’m here I’ve wished I could sleep with you instead. When Frank settles for bidding both of them goodnight and going to sleep in his own room, Grant feels a little pang, but if that’s what will work best for Frank, he will let him have whatever he needs.

Except he's reading in bed an hour later when he hears the door across the hall creak open and the floorboards squeak as footsteps move away from the rooms. Grant waits something like ten minutes and when Frank doesn't come back, he goes looking. He finds Frank downstairs in the parlor, curled into an impossibly tiny ball in the spherical chair Grant has started thinking of as Frank's.

"Can't sleep?" Grant asks. Frank shakes his head no. "Any particular reason why?"

Frank looks up at Grant. The only light is the dim light reflecting from the front porch. "I don't like sleeping alone when there are two people in the house that I could be with."

Grant thought it would be something like that. "Do you really think I'd hold it against you if you decided to go in with Gerard?" Grant asks quietly.

"No. No, of course not. I just...." Frank waves his hands around. "I don't want to not be with you."

Grant reaches down and runs a hand through Frank's hair. Frank leans into the touch, but Grant reaches out his other hand and pulls Frank up. "C'mon, love. Let's find a nice mattress and some warm blankets for you to crawl between." He leads Frank back upstairs, but passes his and Frank's doors and goes down the hall to Gerard's room.

"Grant—"

"Shhh," Grant says, and knocks lightly on the door. He waits until he hears a faint "come in" from inside before turning the knob. Grant puts his hands on Frank's shoulders and pushes him inside, stepping in just behind him. Gerard's sitting up in bed but he looks a little disoriented.

"What?" Gerard asks, rubbing his eyes.

"Frank is having trouble sleeping without us, but doesn't want to choose. All three of us are competent adults; I feel we can sleep in the same bed for one night without trouble," Grant explains.

Gerard blinks a few times, then nods and lies back down, scooting toward the edge. Grant urges Frank to get in bed, too. Frank startles at the hand on his back, but Gerard reaches out for him and immediately wraps an arm around Frank's waist once he crawls onto the mattress. Grant can't help but just look at them for a few moments before getting in on the other side of Frank. They fit together like a matched set, nestled chest to chest, breathing each other’s air. Grant forces himself to take a slow breath or two to relax, but Frank himself reaches back and pulls Grant's arm over his chest.

Grant peeks over at the other pillow. Gerard has clearly already gone back to sleep. His breathing is deep and his mouth is hanging open a tiny bit, and Grant thinks he’s never looked more beautiful. Frank is also nodding off. Grant's a little surprised; he expected Frank to resist this, to need time to relax in this new and different bed, with two different people holding him. Apparently he was wrong. Grant reaches over and runs his hand through Frank's hair one last time before laying his head down as well.

 

***

 

Frank wakes up early. Too early. He's pretty sure his body has just completely given up trying to keep track of whether it should be sleeping or not. He’s fairly sure it’s also given up keeping track of up from down and happy from sad and - a lot of things. The first thing he notices is how warm he is. Almost too warm, but also really, really comfortable in the middle of a somewhat ridiculous tangle of limbs. Well, really, really comfortable apart from his bladder. Which is really not. Frank gently extricates himself from between Grant and Gerard to take care of that.

He nearly wakes them up first; the perfectionist part of him that wants to keep everything going smoothly especially wants to wake them up. But he shrugs mentally and just goes to the bathroom and then to the kitchen to see what sort of breakfast he can make for the three of them.

He fires up his laptop and checks the calendar for the day. Most of Grant's time is blocked out for writing. Since Gerard is here, Frank doesn't know how things will be changed, but it is good to know there isn't anything more pressing on the schedule for the day.

Frank finally gets the coffee going for him and Gerard and the tea for Grant. He figures it won't be long until the other two show their faces, Gerard especially. Frank's pretty sure he's incapable of not following the smell of coffee.

He's right. In a few minutes, Gerard shuffles into the kitchen with Grant right behind him. They don't look overly awkward or embarrassed, just sleepy. Gerard kisses Frank first this time, like a reflex from all the mornings they spent together after Comic-Con. He can feel Grant's eyes on them, watching every move. He keeps his attention on Gerard. For the time being.

"Morning," Frank says and Gerard nuzzles him, leaning his head against Frank’s shoulder for a moment. "Sleep okay?"

Gerard hums and takes the cup Frank hands him. “Yeah, did you?”

“Better than expected,” Frank answers, and Gerard hums again. He kisses Frank’s shoulder and shuffles off to the table.

Gerard won’t really be up for conversation until he’s got at least the rest of that cup of coffee in him, so Frank turns his attention to Grant, only to find that Grant has fixed Frank his own cup of coffee and set it on the counter next to the plate of muffins Frank got out. “Thank you,” he says, taking a sip - it’s perfect - and grabbing the plate to carry to the table.

Grant wraps a muffin in a napkin to take upstairs with him. This is normal when he’s writing; Frank normally just tries to coax him back down with fresh coffee or tea before lunchtime. Today, Frank can’t help studying everything Grant does just a little more closely. He’d been shocked when Grant had followed him downstairs last night, more than shocked when Grant had climbed in bed with Frank and Gerard. Maybe the most shocked of all that he’d passed out immediately and slept like a rock, even after that.

Frank snaps back to attention when he hears the refrigerator door open and shut. Grant touches his fingers to Frank’s elbow. “I’ll need your help with the summaries for the solicits later, but take your time,” Grant says. His fingers linger on Frank’s arm for a moment, then he picks up his breakfast and heads for the door. He stops in the doorway and adds, “Gerard? Any time you want to sit down and talk about scripts....” He smiles and Gerard smiles back.

“Since I’m a little less zombified today, I think I can handle that. I’ll check in later.”

 

***

 

Gerard’s only been in Scotland for twenty-four hours or so - some of which he was even awake enough to pay attention to - but the one thing he’s been excruciatingly aware of is every interaction between Frank and Grant. There have been few to note. A long look here, the curve of a hand around the back of a neck. A heartfelt smile; a moment standing too close. It’s especially frustrating because Grant doesn’t act much differently with Gerard. In fact, Gerard has been excruciatingly aware of...well, Grant himself, ever since the night of the Eisners, still thinking about the feel of Grant’s hand touching his cheek. Enough of that, and he starts to realize what it must have looked like to Frank.

It must have looked like this feels. Grant flirts, lightly; he edges past Gerard in the kitchen and murmurs his apology into Gerard’s hair. He came to Gerard’s bed last night, for fuck’s sake. And yeah, it was with Frank, but at the same time, it was with Frank, and that was...unexpected. Gerard urged Frank to come here for very specific reasons, would be perfectly happy with Frank continuing to be the pivot point around which the three of them move. But he’s not sure what to do if he admits he wants more intimacy, when Frank seems to be getting less than expected. He knows one thing he can do to reassure himself: tempt Frank away from work.

It’s not difficult to do. Gerard asks Frank to take a walk to town with him after lunch, and gets a half-hour’s worth of kisses on the front porch when they return. He spends hours drawing before dinner, and Frank’s there when he shoves the sketches away to pull Gerard close and gently massage his hands. Grant makes his excuses and leaves them alone that evening, and Gerard steering a sleepy Frank into his room instead of Frank’s own when they’ve stayed up far too late to watch horror movies ends with Frank on his knees in Gerard’s gorgeous paneled bedroom the next morning. Gerard can only groan and hold on to the footboard, because it may have only been a week or so since the last time they’ve done this, but it will never be enough.

“Frankie, shit, just wait -” Gerard feels like he’s going to come already, his entire body on a hair trigger, and he wants more of Frank than that. “Get back in bed. Please.” Frank leans back on his heels and looks up at Gerard.

“Gee, I want -”

“Yeah, me too. Just get up, Frank.” He knows he sounds pissy, because Frank smirks even as he obeys. Gerard shoves at him until he has him where he wants him, stretched out on his side, and then climbs up beside him.

“How am I supposed to suck you off like this, Gerard?”

Gerard just raises an eyebrow at him. “Really, Frank?” He props himself with an elbow next to Frank’s thighs and reaches for Frank’s cock with his free hand, and he knows when Frank gets it because all of a sudden Frank’s mouth is back on him, and normally Gerard is terrible at sixty-nine because he can’t fucking concentrate, but this is Frank. All bets are off with Frank. It’s a race to the finish from there, both of them fucking unashamedly needy, every touch of hands or tongues magnified a dozen times, but it’s so fucking good Gerard forgets about everything else, and he continues to forget about everything else for most of the rest of the morning until he runs into Grant by the teakettle.

Gerard grabs absentmindedly for two mugs from the cupboard and hands one to Grant. He pauses at the last second and switches them out. “I hope, on one hand, that this was a gift. On the other hand, I can see you buying this,” he comments, handing Grant the mug emblazoned, “Evil Genius at Work.”

Grant smiles. “Gift. That one’s from Vince. I bought him a beer stein with circus freaks on it that Christmas, I believe.”

Gerard laughs and looks at his own mug, which says something vaguely disturbing about haggis. “And this one?”

“I don’t remember,” Grant says, “but it speaks the truth.”

Gerard shudders. “Never mind, sorry I asked. I’m not a very good half-Scot, I guess.”

Grant looks him up and down. “Which half is it? I can’t tell.”

Gerard groans. “Ugh, go away.” He shoves at Grant’s arm, and Grant laughs and goes back upstairs. Gerard thinks about it a while longer after he leaves, stirring his tea absentmindedly. It’s just like yesterday (and presumably the day before, what Gerard remembers of it through the haze of air travel and coffee deprivation). Grant seems happy, most of the time, which is better than Gerard maybe expected, but whatever else is going on in this house is not what he expected at all. Maybe it’s time to stop avoiding his questions.

“Frank,” Gerard asks that afternoon, when they’re curled up on the sofa in Grant’s sitting room while Grant is upstairs writing, “I know how worried you were before you came up here, and things with you and Grant...he seems fine. But I thought there would be...something more, when I got here. Have you not talked -”

“No, we talked as soon as I arrived. But he hasn't -” Frank pauses, sits down his Blackberry on top of a stack of papers, picks it back up and runs his thumb along the edge. “We’ve only - that is, there was one time, before you got here. But that’s it.” He would probably deny it, but Gerard thinks Frank sounds unspeakably sad.

Gerard frowns. That right there is some sort of bullshit. Gerard knows how Grant feels, and he can’t believe for a moment that this is what Grant wants. He can tell from Frank’s face that it’s not what Frank wants, even if Frank doesn’t want to talk about it. Frank doesn’t have to talk about it. Gerard’s not sure he’d want to know anyway. But he does want to know that they are happy.

“Okay, Frankie,” Gerard answers softly, putting down his sketchpad to squeeze Frank’s ankle.

Gerard waits until closer to tea time before closing his notebook and going upstairs to knock at Grant’s door. The door’s actually open; he raps his knuckles lightly against the door frame and Grant looks up from his computer questioningly.

“Is it time for tea? Are you waiting for me?” Grant asks, tapping a few keys on his keyboard and spinning around in his chair to face Gerard.

“No,” Gerard says. “We’re not; Frank’s still working. I came to talk to you.” He’s hesitant, now that Grant is in front of him, to actually confront him, because Grant looks tired and a bit irritable already. But he presses on. “This -” Gerard waves his hands around vaguely, describing an arc that takes in Grant’s chair, the general location of the sitting room downstairs where Frank is waiting, “is not what I expected you to do when I convinced him to come here.”

Grant frowns. “Well, then, what did you expect? Besides, you're here now, and you can’t say you’re not reaping the benefits.”

“Oh, right,” Gerard drawls, mouth twisting a bit around the words. “Because that’s why I came. Please tell me that’s not why you asked me here, to be some sort of replacement, because I have done that for you once already, and let me tell you something. No matter how happy we are to be together, I hate knowing there's something he wants that I can't give him, and I could have tortured myself with that from home.” Gerard sucks in a deep breath; he kind of hadn’t intended to say that much maybe...ever. And Grant looks sad and Gerard frowns helplessly and then adds, “...and I want you to be happy too.”

“Gerard.” Grant sounds equally helpless. “I just - It’s a lot of pressure to put on someone. I don’t want him to feel like he has to -” He stops talking for a moment, rubs the back of his hand over his mouth, then finishes quietly, “humor me.”

Gerard nearly laughs, but Grant actually looks serious about this so he bites the inside of his cheek and takes a breath through his nose. “Does that seem likely to you? For Frank?

Grant’s lips twitch. “Perhaps not.” He pushes himself to his feet and crosses the room. When he draws near Gerard in the doorway, he pauses.

“Stop being so fucking noble,” Gerard tells him.

Grant studies Gerard’s face for a moment. “I asked you to come because it felt right to ask. And it feels right having you here, too.” Grant touches his fingers to the side of Gerard’s mouth. “You can laugh at me, you know. Gods know I deserve it. And you have a nice laugh.” He walks out, leaving Gerard to follow.

After a moment, he does. But he touches his mouth with his own fingers first.

This is going to get interesting.

 

***

 

“Well, this weather sucks,” Gerard comments from his seat on the sitting room couch. “Seat” may be a misnomer; he’s basically sprawled over the cushions with his head hanging off the edge. He’s practically inviting someone to lean over him and pin him to the cushions, though Grant’s sure he’s not trying to. Grant’s signing papers and trying to resist going over there and doing it himself.

Grant had taken what Gerard said yesterday afternoon quite seriously, he’d just needed some time to think about it. In the meantime, he knows Frank and Gerard slept together again last night, and the more affectionate Gerard and Frank are with each other, the more Grant wants to go to them and pull them close. Both of them. Either of them. He’s starting to develop a suspicious certainty - a conviction that they wouldn’t resist. The idea’s so simple that he distrusts it. He’s been ignoring it, at least for now. He doesn’t know how much longer he’ll get away with it.

He looks out the window. It’s been raining all day, but it’s not at all unusual for it to rain all day. Grant hadn’t even noticed. “I ordered it specially,” he tells Gerard, deadpan. “To protect your delicate skin. Fog is restorative.”

“He means he suspects direct sunlight would melt you,” Frank adds from where he’s lying on the floor typing an email.

“Fuck you.” Gerard doesn’t even move. Clearly he’s not too bothered.

“Don’t you have some sort of job, lazy?” Frank sits up to sift through a stack of paper. He pokes Gerard in the side before standing up to trade stacks with Grant.

“I have a video call in like, ten minutes? I don’t know. In Brazil it’s like...post siesta. Or whatever.”

“Would you like to use my office?” Grant asks.

“Nah,” Gerard says. “I mean, thanks, but I’ll just use my laptop. The fucking storm last night - I think I’ll just go to bed after.” He yawns, and Frank laughs.

“Don’t yawn into the webcam, Gee.” Frank opens his mouth comically wide and looms over Gerard, then kisses him on the cheek instead. Gerard swats him away, but he’s smiling as he rolls off the couch.

“Have a good night, you two.” It’s casual, but Grant can’t help thinking it’s deliberate.

“Goodnight, Gerard.” Grant looks up from his pen and smiles. When he looks back over at Frank, Frank is chewing on his lip and looking indecisive. “Yes, Frank?”

“I know I just made you sign a million things, but are you good for....”

“If there is something else you need, Frank, I’m not ready to turn in quite yet.”

Frank smiles. “Okay, good. I got back the photos from Allan? I thought maybe you could pick out the ones you like to send to Jonah for your publicity folio, and maybe DC Publicity too.” He sits down on the orange couch and snags his laptop, then pats the seat next to him. “C’mere.”

Grant hesitates. “You don’t have to stay, I can just make a list.”

“Nope. I was at this photoshoot, and you know Allan is crazy in the head. This I gotta see.” Frank grins at him, and Grant rolls his eyes and sits down.

Frank opens up the folder of images and keys up a slideshow. They watch the first few photos go by. They’re great - Allan, despite being a little batty, is really fucking talented. Grant remembers how Frank had started out that day annoyed, and snarked at Grant about having a fuckload of work to do back at the office, but by the end of the day, he admitted sheepishly the next morning, he’d actually been inspired to stop by Best Buy and play with the fancy cameras for a while on the way home.

Eventually, he comes to a shot that isn’t just Grant mugging for the camera. It’s a three-quarter length shot of Grant mid-gesture, gaze arrested in the middle distance, a hungry look on his face. Frank chokes back a noise beside him, and Grant nearly gasps himself. He remembers that photoset. Grant’s far from fearful of cameras stealing his soul, but he’s still shocked by how revealing the image is.

“I was looking at you,” Grant admits before he can stop himself.

“I know you were,” Frank answers automatically, like he remembers too, the visceral imprint of too-hot lights and Allan’s electronica music at just-below-audible volume. He sits the laptop down on the side table and Grant just stares dumbly as Frank shifts to face him and leans in. Grant starts to move, not forward but back and Frank makes a frustrated noise. "Why do you keep doing this? I thought we were, that we had...." And then he snaps his mouth shut.

Grant apologizes automatically, "I'm sorry, I can't -"

"Can't what?" Frank snaps.

"I don't want to hold back."

"Then fucking don't, oh my god," Frank growls. He pushes himself up into Grant’s space, and Grant catches Frank in his arms and kisses him, because that's what you do when beautiful boys launch themselves at you.

Finally Frank pulls back enough to ask, "Why the fuck were you holding back? Ever since...since Gee got here, you have been. Why, Grant?"

"To give you space?" Grant offers. He’s not so sure it was a fantastic idea anymore either.

Frank pauses and looks at him for a moment. "Space? Are you crazy?" he laughs. "I want -" He starts crawling forward again, right into Grant's lap, "as little space as possible."

"Noted," Grant says with a breathless chuckle against Frank's lips. Frank rolls his hips against Grant's and Grant moans, "We should move this somewhere more comfortable."

"But I've been thinking about you fucking me on this damn orange sofa since the first time I saw it," Frank says with a wicked little smile.

That smile...Grant’s powerless to do anything but roll Frank over and press him back into the arm of the couch and just stare for a while. "I thought about it too. I don't know if I should admit to the length of the list of things I've thought about."

"I don't know why you're still talking," Frank teases, and Grant laughs. He finally gets his hands up under Frank's shirt and pushes it up and leans down, kisses his way up Frank's chest, then pulls Frank's shirt up and over his head. He lets his fingers brush the tattoos on Frank's neck and chest, leans down to kiss Frank, then moves his mouth to where his fingers just were, tasting Frank's chest and collarbone and neck. Frank sweeps his hands up and down Grant's back, then tugs Grant's hips against his; he’s blatantly hard but so is Grant, and it’s okay. They’re okay, better than okay because they’re together.

Frank won’t hold still, hips wriggling and thrusting even as he leans up to slide his arms around Grant’s neck. He tugs at the neck and back of Grant’s tee shirt until Grant, laughing, pulls it off the rest of the way. “Just ask,” he says. “You can have anything you want if you ask.”

“Anything?” Frank asks. His voice is a little breathy and his eyes are sparkling.

“Within reason,” Grant amends. “I don’t think I can, say, give Batman pet cats or anything. But anything you want from me....”

“I want lots of things from you,” Frank replies immediately. He tugs Grant’s head down and whispers in his ear, “I think you should blow me.”

Grant moans in response. He leans in to kiss Frank for another moment before sliding off the sofa and onto his knees, finding the button and zipper on Frank’s jeans immediately, and Frank wriggles his hips until they’re bunched around his thighs. He wraps a hand around Frank’s cock and goes down on it immediately; he hasn’t done this for a while but it’s not like he hasn’t thought about it. He teases at first, gentle strokes and light licks, tracing the veins with his tongue, but quickly speeds up, driven crazy by the timbre of Frank’s moans. He wants Frank crazy, wants him writhing and struggling, wants to hold him down - and he does, with a hand tight around Frank’s hip. He hopes he leaves marks.

Frank seems to be encouraging it, groaning Grant’s name and rolling his hips whenever Grant’s lips and teeth stray to the clean skin of Frank’s thighs. Frank’s own fingernails are biting hard into the skin of Grant’s shoulders, but he doesn’t care. All he can see, hear, taste, feel, smell is Frank; Frank sweating, Frank cursing, Frank coming in his mouth. Grant swallows it down, lets Frank’s cock slip out of his mouth and pulls Frank down into his lap, immediately mouthing at Frank’s neck as Frank pants in his ear.

When Frank pulls Grant’s head around to kiss him, he goes willingly, and Frank mutters Grant’s name against his lips and pushes their foreheads together and says, “Anything?”

“What do you want?” Grant asks again, voice thick and used; he barely recognizes it as his own but he knows it is, knows this is no fever-dream.

“Take me to bed.”

Grant is on his feet immediately, reaching for Frank, gathering their fallen clothes and tugging Frank up the stairs. Frank is laughing at him, and Grant has the fleeting thought that they should be quiet, but he can’t bring himself to do it. Frank’s warm and pliant and he strips off his pants and underwear and snuggles into Grant’s sheets, teasing Grant over his shoulder for being slow. But Grant had started stripping as soon as he shut the door behind them, so he just crawls onto the bed and pounces, kissing up Frank’s back to his shoulders and pressing him into the mattress. “Took you to bed,” he mutters into Frank’s ear, biting at the curve of flesh. “What shall I do next?”

“Anything you want,” Frank tells him breathlessly.

Dangerous offer. But what Grant wants is to stretch Frank’s gorgeous inked arms out on either side of his body, press him chest-first into the sheets, and slither down to lick and suck him into submission. So he does, spreading Frank open and tasting him, touching him until he can tug Frank’s hips off the bed and thrust inside, folding down over Frank’s back and fucking him until he’s clutching at the sheets and moaning Grant’s name, until Grant’s vision goes blurry and he has to sink to the hilt and just cling, and shudder, and come.

*

“Mm,” Grant murmurs, pushing Frank up against the counter and nibbling along his neck, “I believe I know what I want for breakfast after all.” The coffee is brewing, the rain is still spattering against the windows, and Frank is moaning quietly. It’s a good morning.

“I am not on the menu,” Frank tells him.

“Aren’t you?” Grant pushes a hand through Frank’s hair, tips his head back and kisses him properly. Frank twines his arms around Grant’s neck and holds him close. Grant pushes his hips harder into Frank’s. Something on the counter shifts and clatters.

“Fine, you’re convincing me,” Frank groans. “If you need something to put in your mouth....” He trails off.

“Did that last night, if you recall,” Grant murmurs, and then he hears a noise behind him - a curious marriage of a laugh and a gasp. “Good morning, Gerard,” he adds, straightening up and turning around.

“Good morning,” Gerard says, quiet but steady. “I’ll just -”

“We’re blocking the coffee. How unfortunate.” Grant smiles and steps aside. “Shall I start some toast?” He raises his eyebrows at Gerard, who nods.

“Please,” Gerard replies. Frank is still standing where Grant left him, a stain of red blooming across his cheekbones, but he smiles when Gerard reaches past him for a mug, and Gerard adds, “Good morning, Frankie.” He leans in and kisses Frank lightly on the lips. “Coffee?”

Frank licks his lips when Gerard pulls back, then clears his throat. “You asking or offering?”

“Offering. I’ll fix you a cup too, Grant, if you’ll tell me what you’d like.”

I’d like to kiss you, is what Grant wants to say, he realizes. “Just sugar,” he says instead, filling the toaster from the breadbox and gently shooing one of his cats off the counter.

They eat their breakfast and Frank refills his cup and kisses the top of Grant’s head, then Gerard’s, and wanders away into the sitting room.

“What are your plans for the day, Gerard?” Grant asks as he sets their dishes in the sink.

“Thumbnails, mostly. With lots of breaks where I just draw whatever or bug Frank because I fuckin’ hate thumbnails.” Gerard makes a face and gets up to refill his own mug.

“How about you? More writing today?” Gerard holds out his hand and Grant hands him his mug to be refilled. Grant watches Gerard’s hands as he pours coffee and spoons in some sugar.

“I suppose so.” Until this moment, he hadn’t realized how little he wants to climb the stairs to go write alone in his office.

“Stay down here with us,” Gerard says as he hands Grant his mug and leans against the counter next to Grant.

Grant glances at the door that leads back upstairs and nods. “Yes, I think I will. I can write longhand in a notebook if inspiration strikes.”

Gerard beams at him and Grant is once again overcome by the desire to kiss him. Instead he smiles back and gestures for Gerard to precede him into the sitting room. Gerard pushes himself off the counter and Grant can’t help but reach out and touch his shoulder briefly. Gerard looks back at him with a soft smile and walks into the sitting room. Grant follows.

Frank is sitting at the small writing desk in the corner, reading glasses on, staring at his laptop screen. Gerard curls up on one end of the sofa and then frowns at his art supplies on the table.

“I feel we should make this a true rainy day. Write or draw or read or listen to music as the mood takes us,” Gerard says. Frank turns from his laptop with an eyebrow raised. “Or answer emails. Or play the guitar for us.”

Frank grins and turns back to the laptop. Gerard grabs a comic from the stack on the coffee table and starts reading. Grant eyes the other end of the sofa, but then a gust of wind hits the house and apparently one of the cracks in the house lets in the cool air; he can feel the room cool a degree or two. He kneels in front of the fireplace and gets to work making a fire. He sits back on his heels when the fire is crackling merrily. Apparently while he was busy, Frank got up from the desk and came to stand beside him, because he feels a hand stroke the top of his head. Frank’s holding Grant’s guitar, which normally sits on the stand in the corner.

“Gerard has the right idea,” Frank says. “Let’s just sit for a while.” Frank helps him to his feet and Grant lets Frank maneuver him until he’s sitting on the opposite end of the sofa. Frank leans back against Grant’s side and Grant wraps an arm around Frank where it doesn’t interfere with the guitar too much. Frank stretches a leg out and puts his foot in Gerard’s lap. Grant glances at Gerard who wraps his hand around Frank’s ankle and smiles.

“Play for us, love,” Grant encourages. Frank positions his fingers and strums out a chord; Grant doesn’t have to see his face to know Frank just grimaced. “I’ve neglected her for far too long.”

“Well, in your defense, the guitar in your office is perfectly in tune,” Frank says as he plucks strings and turns knobs.

“Mmm. I’m spending more time down here than I ever have before, it’s true. But she’s in good hands now.”

Frank finishes tuning the guitar and starts strumming a few chords before launching into some lovely finger work. Grant is mesmerised watching his hands and when he happens to look up at Gerard, he has a look of total adoration on his face. Grant is certain his own face looks similar.

Grant’s not sure how long Frank plays; he’s certainly not paying attention to the clock, and Frank never shows any signs of effort. But eventually he stops playing and sits up. Grant rubs a hand up and down his back a few times and Frank leans into it. When Frank stands, Gerard grabs Frank’s arm and tugs him down for a kiss. Frank puts the guitar away and goes back to his desk. Grant stays on the couch, and this time it’s Gerard who swings his legs up onto the cushions, toes tucking under Grant’s thigh.

It’s quiet for a while; Grant alternates between watching the fireplace and watching Frank type. He makes fantastic faces at the screen; Grant starts developing all sorts of plans to remodel and rearrange both his offices to accommodate a second desk, then remembers he actually likes the solitude sometimes and thinks better of it. He does resolve to spend much more time in Frank’s office. After a while, Grant thinks to look at what book Gerard’s reading; it’s one of the newer X-Men trades. “Always loved the X-Men,” Gerard says, seeing Grant looking. “My new comic kinda riffs on that.”

“Do you have anything in there?” Grant asks, gesturing at Gerard’s sketchbook. “Character designs, anything like that?”

“Oh, hell yeah,” Gerard laughs. “You sure you want to open those floodgates?”

“I am, in fact.” Grant pushes Gerard’s feet toward the floor and tugs Gerard’s arm until they’re sitting side by side. Gerard reaches for the sketchbook and starts flipping through, pointing out different character ideas. Every once in a while, Frank calls out suggestions; he’s clearly seen these sketches before too. Grant meets Frank’s eyes; Frank’s watching them with a small, satisfied smile on his face.

Grant looks back down as Gerard turns the page. He runs a hand through his hair and says, “And this is why the hair. Her name is Vanya.” Gerard explains Vanya in further detail, telling how she gets her white hair and then he waves his hands around, “I’m not sure yet how I want to end it. I had an idea where Seance impersonates Hargreeves, because he was a manipulative bastard—”

“Of course he was, he wears a monocle,” Grant interjects.

Gerard tips his head back and laughs. “That’s why I gave him one. Also, they look damn cool. But anyway, it’ll be all kind of fucked up dramatic.”

“I can’t wait—” Grant is interrupted by a window-rattling gust of wind. A door slams upstairs. Next to him Gerard jumps and then goes stiff, clutching his sketchbook tight, wrinkling the pages slightly. Grant gently loosens Gerard’s fingers and hesitates just a second before resting his hand on Gerard’s neck.

“You okay, Gee?” Frank asks, getting up from the desk and sitting down next to Gerard.

“Yeah, just. I guess I’m kind of jumpy. The fucking wind kept me awake a lot of the night.” Grant squeezes Gerard’s neck and he leans into it a little bit.

Frank laces his fingers with Gerard’s. “I’ll sleep with you tonight.” Gerard nods gratefully.

“The next project for this house is getting the windows and doors fixed so they don’t rattle quite so much,” Grant says. “Which isn’t particularly helpful now, I realize. I’m sorry the weather isn’t better, though. It’s really quite lovely here when the sun is shining.”

Gerard laughs a little bit. “I didn’t think you actually controlled the weather, you know.”

“I would if I could,” Grant tells him and gives his neck one last squeeze. He turns a page in Gerard’s sketchbook.

“Now who are these,” he looks closer at the page, deciphering Gerard’s handwriting next to the figures. “Piano movers?”

Gerard laughs. “Um, well, their names are Horatio and Giovanni. But they’re kind of me and my brother.”

“I don’t believe I’ve ever met your brother,” Grant comments.

“Oh, wow, you totally should,” Gerard enthuses. “He’s great, he worked for a music label for years - Frank knows him from back then - and he has his own radio show on one of the big Jersey stations now. And he loves your stuff. And comics in general. And - well, yeah. I keep telling him he needs to come out to San Diego, but I know I can get him to New York in February.”

“I’ll look forward to it.”

For the rest of the day, the three of them move in and out of the room, but always return. Grant keeps the fireplace stoked for most of the day, but when Frank and Gerard start a new DVD late in the evening, he banks the embers and tells them, “This will go out by itself. I hope it stays warm for you for a while, but I’m for bed.” They both nod, and he leaves them to it.

The next day is much the same; the rains continue, and if the wind abates a bit during the morning it’s back with a fury by afternoon. Grant spends several hours in his office in the morning, and several more in the sitting room in the afternoon, sketching out cover designs with Gerard. Frank takes the car out before dinner to drop off some packages, and returns soaked to the skin but triumphantly clutching a bag of takeaways from Grant’s favorite little Indian place. They eat on trays in the sitting room and it’s so lovely that Grant manages to forget how alone he’d felt the night before after he’d gone up without them.

After dinner, Grant sits in an armchair with a tumbler of whiskey and regards Gerard and Frank on the sofa. Frank has changed clothes and is bundled up in a too-big sweatshirt - possibly Gerard’s - and Gerard is sprawled comfortably with his head in Frank’s lap. Gerard is trying to summarize a subplot from the last series of Doctor Who while Frank plays with strands of Gerard’s hair. Grant could be helping, but all he wants to do is watch them.

Finally, he decides to go up to bed. He stands and says goodnight just as Frank yawns yet again. “Wait, I’m going up too,” Frank mumbles.

Grant can see him send a questioning glance to Gerard, who responds, “I’m waiting up so I can call Mikey after his shift. Sleep well.” His eyes travel from Frank to Grant, and Grant smiles briefly and turns to go. Frank’s stocking feet are silent on the carpet runner, but his hand finds Grant’s before Grant makes it to the staircase. Grant pulls him into his arms on the first landing and kisses him gently.

“Are you coming in with me?” he asks.

“Yes,” Frank breathes. “I - yes.” He tugs Grant the rest of the way up the stairs and down the hall to Grant’s bedroom, but once they’re inside he just walks over to the window and stares out for a moment. Grant crosses the room to stand behind him and kisses the back of his neck.

“What is it, Frank?”

“Thank you,” Frank says finally. “For being - for understanding. For trading off. I mean, I’m -”

“You’re not a toy, Frank, you’re a person. I’ll take what you have to give me. I understand it won’t be everything all the time.” He wraps his arms around Frank from behind and Frank leans into the embrace.

“I wish it could be,” he says after another long hesitation. Grant’s chest clenches all of a sudden, but he waits. He can tell Frank’s just thinking of the words he wants to use, and finally Frank squirms around to face him. “I’ve been watching you. You’ve been looking.”

“At?”

“At Gerard. At us.” Grant knows he frowns a little - this discussion has never boded well for him - but Frank reaches out a hand and touches his mouth gently. “No, Grant - it’s all right. It would be all right - with me -” He stops again. “It’s okay.”

Grant has nothing to say to that, really. It’s just how he feels, and he can’t change it, but he’s glad to hear it. “I - thank you. Frank -”

“I really am tired,” Frank says, leaning his forehead against Grant’s chest. Grant rubs his back for a minute, then pulls at his sweatshirt.

“Get undressed, love. Get in bed. I’ll be right behind you.”

Once they’re both under the covers, Grant just gathers Frank close and kisses him sleepily until they both drift off to the sound of the rain scouring the windows. He’s not sure how long he sleeps, but he wakes at the sound of a knock on the door. “Come in,” Grant calls out, and the door opens slowly. It’s dark in the opening, darker even than the bedroom, except for the bluish glow of Gerard’s cell phone in his hand. Then Grant realizes there’s no light in the room from his bedside clock either. “No power?” he whispers.

“It went out while I was still downstairs on the phone,” Gerard whispers back. “I waited, but it never -” His voice sounds very small, and Grant remembers he’d been disturbed by the wind these past few nights. Now, with the power out....

“It happens,” Grant says quietly. “Probably won't be fixed till morning.” Gerard doesn’t answer right away, not past a quietly indrawn breath, and Grant continues, “Stay here.”

Gerard doesn’t even hesitate. Grant hears the thumps of his shoes and presumably most of the rest of his clothing hitting the floor, and then the mattress dips as Gerard slides under the covers with Frank between them. Frank doesn’t even stir, and Grant curls up behind him again with a hand on his waist. It’s a different room than before, a bigger bed, but it feels very familiar.

 

***

 

Frank wakes up in a familiar position and in delicious warmth. He opens his eyes to see Gerard sharing his pillow, with a hand on Frank’s neck and his breath puffing against Frank’s forehead. Frank smiles, lips finding Gerard’s face and placing tiny kisses everywhere. Gerard makes an adorable half squeak, half moan and his hand wraps around the back of Frank’s neck. When Frank leans in for his lips, Gerard kisses back.

Gerard moves his hand down to Frank’s waist and rolls him over, nudging Frank’s legs apart and settling down between them, trailing kisses down Frank’s neck and sucking at the spot just below Frank’s ear.

“Fuck, Gerard,” Frank moans. Gerard fucking knows he’s - no, not ticklish, it’s just a spot that drives him crazy. Frank squirms, but Gerard’s heavy, and he’s good and pinned. And Gerard is laughing at him, tiny huffs of breath with hardly any sound, chased by another kiss, and another, until Frank growls under his breath and nips at Gerard’s throat and tips him over onto his back.

And then a hand is next to his on Gerard’s chest. Fucking unbelievable - Frank is just now awake enough to remember that he’d gone to bed with Grant, but he doesn’t even have time to wonder at Gerard’s presence before he’s caught by the look of hunger on Grant’s face. He leans down and kisses Gerard and Gerard makes a noise in the back of his throat. It’s almost like the noise he made when Frank woke him up, but different. More intense and needy. Frank is frozen in place and Grant pulls back slightly, staring down at Gerard and Gerard staring back.

Grant looks up at Frank. “Yes,” Frank whispers, barely daring to move or speak. He looks back down at Gerard, who licks his lips.

“Grant, I - I’m -” Grant just leans down again - so slowly - and kisses him. And kisses him. And kisses him again, until Gerard’s just moaning instead. Then Grant pulls back. He reaches for Frank, smooths Frank’s hair back and kisses him softly too.

When Grant sits up, Frank kisses his shoulder and his ear, and then nudges him out of the way and leans back down to Gerard himself. “Babe?” he whispers.

“Frankie.” Gerard sounds desperate. “I need -”

“What do you need, Gee?” Frank asks, running a hand up and down Gerard’s arm.

“You. Grant. Everything,” Gerard answers breathlessly.

“God, me too.” Frank leans down and kisses Gerard. Gerard’s arms curl around Frank’s neck and Frank keeps kissing. He feels Grant’s hand stroke down his back, then slip up inside the t-shirt he wore to sleep in, sliding across Frank’s skin.

“Take this off,” Grant says softly before turning his attention back to Gerard. Frank sits up and does as he asks, shoving absentmindedly at his shirt and boxer-briefs. He can’t seem to look away from Grant, who has turned his attention to Gerard, pushing Gerard’s clothing out of the way to bare a lot of soft white skin. “You are so beautiful,” he’s whispering. Frank lays a hand on Grant’s shoulder. “So beautiful,” Grant repeats, running a hand down Frank’s chest.

“He -” Frank says. Pay attention to him, he’s trying to say. Meanwhile Gerard’s taking matters into his own hands, tracing his fingers up and down Grant’s bare chest, sliding his arms around Grant’s torso.

Frank gets lost just staring at Gerard’s fingers on Grant’s skin for a minute. Grant does something to make Gerard gasp and Frank finally tears his eyes away to look at their faces again. Gerard’s biting his lip and Grant’s got a hand down Gerard’s underwear, slowly pushing them down his hips.

“Grant,” Gerard gasps again when Grant leans down and sucks at Gerard’s nipple through his shirt. When he pulls back, he scoots down, hooks both hands in Gerard’s waistband and pulls them off all the way.

Frank leans down and tugs on Gerard’s shoulders until he sits up and pulls the Day of the Dead shirt over his head, leans in for a kiss as he throws Gerard’s shirt blindly over his shoulder. Gerard clutches at Frank’s sides and Frank can’t really help but bury his fingers in Gerard’s hair. Frank feels Grant’s hand grasp the back of his neck and pull, bringing Frank’s lips around to meet his own. Frank forces himself to pull away after a few moments and move back a little bit. Grant slips into the space Frank vacates and presses Gerard’s upper body back into the mattress, licking and sucking at his chest and working his way up Gerard’s neck, back to his lips.

Frank runs his hands up Gerard’s thighs, slipping close to his cock but not touching. Gerard’s hips stutter and Frank knows if he could talk, if Grant weren’t swallowing Gerard’s words, he’d be cursing at Frank right now. Frank lets his hands wander, dipping between Gerard’s legs, always tantalizingly close to where Gerard would want him to be, but never touching.

Grant moves back to Gerard’s chest and immediately the litany starts. “Fuck, fuck, fuck. Grant. Fucking, Frank, touch me please,” he begs. Frank runs a hand over Grant’s back, then leans down and takes Gerard’s cock in his mouth.

Gerard moans fucking loud, but as the sound dies down Frank can hear Grant chuckling, can feel his shoulders shaking where their bodies are touching. “Gerard,” Grant whispers warmly, “Oh, Gerard.”

“What?” Gerard spits out, sounding desperate. Frank flicks the point of his tongue under the head of Gerard’s cock and Gerard makes a strangled noise.

“Just...you. I want to see you and Frankie together,” Grant murmurs. “Do you spread him over the sheets and worship him? Do you pin him down, tease him? Do you fuck him hard? All of the above?”

Frank’s the one groaning now, pulling off Gerard’s cock to pant helplessly into the crease of his thigh. Grant’s voice is like aural sin, and Frank’s so hard he has to press a hand against his crotch for a moment.

“I - I -” Gerard is stammering.

“I hope that’s an ‘I want you to watch sometime,’” Grant purrs into Gerard’s neck, biting gently into the skin. “I know how good Frankie must be for you. What I want to know now, my pet, is how good you’re going to be for me.”

Grant,” Gerard cries out, and Frank slides a hand up Gerard’s side, splays his palm across Gerard’s stomach, presses down a bit. Gerard’s hand closes hard around Frank’s wrist and he hangs on for dear life. Grant shifts and stretches for the drawer of his nightstand, and when he settles back onto his haunches he runs his fingers through Frank’s hair for a moment, then coats them with lube and traces gently back behind Gerard’s balls.

“You love this, though,” Grant continues, still in that same voice. “How long has it been, Gerard?”

“Long enough. Grant, I -” He breaks off, his free hand searching aimlessly over the covers. Grant leans down and grabs it, brings Gerard’s fingers to his mouth to kiss the fingertips, the knuckles. Frank shifts his own hand from Gerard’s stomach to his shoulder, stretching out along Gerard’s side and leaning down to kiss his lips. Gerard pulls him in and licks into his mouth. Frank can track the press of Grant’s fingers through the ebb and rise of the little noises Gerard makes between kisses.

He can also tell when Grant pulls his fingers out, and Frank stops kissing Gerard, as much as he loves it, because he has to watch Grant’s face as he lines up and pushes in. He has to, and it takes his breath away like he knew it would. He looks back at Gerard to see that he’s staring at Grant too, eyes wide. They’re staring into each other’s eyes, in fact, but Gerard still has his fingers wrapped around the back of Frank’s neck, and they stroke compulsively through the short hairs there. Frank leans in and kisses Gerard’s ear, whispers, “You’re gorgeous.”

“Not me,” Gerard gasps back.

“Yes, you. Both of you.” Frank kisses him again and pushes off the mattress so he can reach Grant. Grant has both hands on Gerard’s hips, steadying him as he starts to thrust, but he takes one off to cup Frank’s face and pull him in. “I love you,” Frank whispers against Grant’s lips, and maybe it’s fucked up to say it at this precise moment but it’s bubbling from his every pore and he has to.

And Grant - Grant sighs against Frank’s lips, and kisses him hard, and whispers back, “From the first day.” Gerard makes a noise, and Grant’s eyes shift over Frank’s shoulder. He reaches down and pulls Gerard up into his lap, and as Gerard wraps his legs around Grant’s waist Frank moves at the same time, slipping behind Gerard and running his hands up and down either side of Gerard’s spine. Frank can see Grant’s eyes flutter closed as they start to kiss and as they start to move together.

Frank lowers his mouth to the expanse of Gerard’s pale bare skin, bites lightly at the neck tendon, runs his tongue down the slope of Gerard’s shoulder. He slides his hands around Gerard's belly, feels Grant's belly rub the back of his fingers. He leaves one hand on Gerard and slides the other up Grant's chest, leaves it resting over Grant’s heart for a few seconds before letting it wander down and wrap around Gerard's cock. Gerard bucks forward into Frank’s hand and back against Frank's cock with a loud moan. Frank gasps into Gerard's neck, but starts stroking Gerard's cock. Grant continues rolling his hips at the same steady pace.

Grant pulls Gerard closer, so Frank's hand around Gerard's cock is definitely rubbing against Grant’s belly, and nuzzles Gerard's temple. Frank leans forward and kisses Grant’s cheek, and Grant turns his head and captures Frank's lips with his. They kiss for a long moment and then Gerard clearly gets impatient because he thrusts up into Frank's hand. Grant pulls back with a breathless laugh.

"Am I going to have to teach you patience?" Grant's voice is low and impossibly sexy.

Frank feels Gerard suck in a deep breath. "Maybe," Gerard says with a certain amount of bravado. In response, Grant cups Gerard's cheeks and kisses him slowly, almost sweetly, and stops moving his hips. Frank giggles into Gerard's neck and stops moving his hand, too.

Gerard whines in the back of his throat but doesn’t move. Frank can feel the tension in his shoulders from holding himself back and kisses his neck and up behind his ear.

Grant pulls back, hands still on Gerard’s face, and whispers, “Yes, precisely like that. If you’re such a quick study at patience, perhaps I’ll have to teach you other things. Though, I think we may have to conduct further experiments with regard to your patience. Don’t you think, Frank?”

“Yes,” Frank breathes, and then Grant starts moving again. Slowly. Slower than before. Frank starts moving his hand on Gerard’s cock again, trying to match Grant’s pace. He’s more or less successful and when Grant speeds up, he speeds up. Gerard finally just gives up trying to hold himself up and leans back heavily against Frank’s chest. Frank wraps his free arm around Gerard and looks up into Grant’s face. He can see in the way Grant’s biting his lip, looking as if he’s concentrating very hard, that he’s getting closer to coming.

“Faster, Frank,” Grant orders and Frank starts moving his hand faster, feels Gerard getting tenser with each stroke until he finally comes with a long moan, spurting all over Frank’s hand and Grant’s belly.

Grant fucks him steadily through it and when Gerard reaches out a hand to stroke Grant’s side, Frank watches Grant’s body go stiff as he thrusts up into Gerard one last time, his eyes flicking back and forth between Frank and Gerard as he comes.

Grant leans forward to kiss Gerard, moves one hand from Gerard’s hip to wrap around the back of his neck. Frank kisses Grant’s fingers and when Frank looks up and past Gerard’s shoulder to Grant’s eyes, Grant murmurs, “Lie down, love. Let us take care of you now.”

Frank moves to do what he’s told and collapses down onto the bed with a somewhat hysterical giggle. His legs are asleep and tingling like a motherfucker.

“My fucking legs are asleep,” he gasps out between giggles. Gerard laughs like it’s been surprised out of him, big and loud, and flops down beside him, kissing his cheek. Grant chuckles quietly from where he’s still in the middle of the bed and then – fuck – his hands are on Frank’s calves, rubbing gently.

It feels weird and a little prickly and so fucking amazing, Frank sort of never wants him to stop. He can’t really help but moan.

“Does that feel good, Frankie?” Gerard murmurs in his ear, stroking a hand lightly across Frank’s chest.

“Yes, fuck,” Frank gasps. Gerard bends down and starts mouthing at Frank’s neck and chest and back to his lips, then sucks one of Frank’s nipples into his mouth, teeth nipping lightly. Grant’s hands move up Frank’s legs, massaging them slowly, thoroughly. Gerard licks down Frank’s stomach, tracing Frank’s birds and the lettering there as Grant’s hands reach Frank’s thighs.

Gerard moves down further, tongue tracing the curve of Frank’s hip and then his lips are on Frank’s painfully hard cock, mouthing lightly before Grant puts a hand in his hair and pulls Gerard off to kiss him. Frank moans at the sight. Then it’s Grant’s mouth on his cock, sucking him down and swirling his tongue around the head, and then they switch and it’s Gerard again; and Frank is very certain he is not going to last much longer at this rate. He calls out their names, both of them, reaching for anything he can grab on to: Gerard’s shoulder, a handful of the sheets.

Gerard pulls off and lets his tongue slide down to lick around the base of Frank’s cock as Grant takes the head in his mouth again. It’s both their mouths on his cock at once that sends him over the edge, coming in Grant’s mouth. Grant swallows, but immediately pulls Gerard in for another kiss, tongue working into Gerard’s mouth. Frank groans beneath them, almost regretting that he’s come already. He could watch them kiss forever. He tells them so.

“Don’t you want one, love?” Grant stretches out along Frank’s side, pulling him in for a kiss without waiting for an answer.

Frank can taste himself on Grant’s lips and it’s devastating, in the very best way, and he cuddles into Grant’s side, tucking his face into Grant’s neck and kissing his throat gently, over and over. He feels the covers slide up over them both, feels Gerard press up against his back, feels Grant’s arm stretch over Frank to reach Gerard. “Always,” he murmurs into Grant’s throat. “This always.”

*

The sun is shining the next time Frank wakes, naked and warm, and he sits bolt upright in confusion before he remembers what happened and how he got here. How Gerard got here, he doesn’t even know, but he’s here, wrapped in the sheet with his face buried in Frank’s pillow and fast asleep like the oblivious covers-hog he is. Frank looks to his other side where Grant, who’s not nearly such a heavy sleeper, is watching him with fondness and, it appears, some degree of amusement. Frank opens his mouth to say something, and Grant shakes his head, points toward the door.

They both climb out of bed carefully, slip into various discarded pieces of clothing that are seriously all over the bedroom, what the fuck. Frank bites back giggles and Grant tugs on his robe then tugs Frank out of the room, but merely to trap him against the wall in the hallway and kiss him into very satisfied silence. They descend to the kitchen hand-in-hand, then Frank says, “Good morning - I - what -” He looks back toward the stairs and adds, “Shouldn’t we -”

“Let him sleep,” Grant says. “He was up late.” He starts fixing coffee, and Frank automatically goes for the mugs and the beans and then stops in the middle of the kitchen and says, “That actually happened, right? I didn’t just have the second most awesome sex dream of my life?”

Grant just calmly lifts the bag of beans out of his hand. “Dare I ask about the first?” He’s got a smug little smile on his face, though, and he adds, “You were asleep when he came in. The power had gone out and I told him to stay with us. I believe you were at least reasonably awake for the rest of it. At least, I hope you were.”

“I was awake. I remember everything.” He sits the coffee mugs down on the counter and wraps his arms around Grant’s waist. “I meant everything,” he adds meaningfully.

Grant cups his chin and kisses him gently. “I love you too.”

Frank grins against Grant’s lips. “Yeah, I definitely meant that. Though I’d mean it more if you’d finish making the coffee.”

“Anything for you.” Grant kisses him once more, on the forehead, and goes back to the coffee while Frank goes to dig in the refrigerator. Everything inside seems fine - the power couldn’t have been off for more than a few hours - but Frank decides to make omelets anyway. He’s slicing vegetables when Gerard comes through the door, typically rumpled with his hair sticking up all over.

Gerard leans in to kiss him before going for the coffee, and when he gets there he sleepily kisses Grant good morning as well and then pauses and bites his lip. He’s clearly wondering if he crossed some sort of line, like it was just a sex thing, and Frank wants to insist “No, it’s not,” but Grant has things under control as always. He just puts a hand on Gerard’s neck and kisses back, and then turns Gerard around and pulls Gerard’s back against his chest so they can watch Frank cook. Gerard practically melts into Grant’s arms - and Frank knows the feeling - but his eyes are still darting around the kitchen. Frank chuckles and wipes off his hands. He goes over and fixes Gerard a cup of coffee and presses it into his hands before giving him a kiss on the cheek. “Predictable,” he teases softly.

“Not always.”

“No, you’re right,” Frank replies. “Sometimes you surprise me.”

“Good surprises?” Gerard presses, a desperately hopeful look in his eyes.

Frank smiles. “I really can’t complain.” He kisses Gerard once more for good measure, stretches on tiptoe to kiss Grant as well, then goes back to making breakfast.

 

*

 

Six months later

 

Frank gets the door to their hotel room open with a small amount of difficulty, juggling a bag of con swag that got shoved at him at some point. He’s just coming back from a few rounds of beers with a couple of other assistants and some people from DC he’s had contact with, so he supposes his slight tipsiness isn’t helping too much.

Grant and Gerard are sitting on the bed and Frank opens his mouth to give them shit for not helping him, then immediately closes it. Gerard is leaning against Grant’s chest and Grant has one of Gerard’s hands cradled in his, rubbing it gently. Gerard spent the entire day drawing commissions for people, his hands must be sore.

“Hi,” Frank says quietly, setting his bag down on the table and crawls up on the bed with them. He leans in to kiss Grant, then Gerard, and takes Gerard’s other hand in his and starts rubbing. “Long day, babe?”

Gerard nods and sighs happily. “I got caught up in the details of one of my commissions. It was a lot of fine pencil work. I should have just made it sketchy, but I couldn’t stop.”

Frank nods and asks Grant, “How’d the interview go?”

“Well enough. I suppose we’ll see how well when the article is published.”

“You’re a journalist’s dream,” Gerard tells Grant, tipping his head back for a kiss, which Grant seems quite happy to provide.

“How’s that, pet?” Grant sifts through Gerard’s hair, only recently dyed back to black, with his fingertips.

“A graceful turn of phrase, a few snippy soundbites, a nice accent....”

“It was a print interview,” Frank puts in dryly.

“Like you don’t like listening to him talk,” Gerard shoots back. Frank actually has no response to that - of fucking course he loves listening to Grant talk. But he can’t quite let Gerard get the last word, so he tackles him instead, right off of Grant’s lap and onto the mattress beside him. He pins Gerard’s hands above his head - he doesn’t want to do cause any more damage, after all - and straddles his waist, leaning down to kiss him. When Gerard honks out a surprised laugh and squirms to evade him, Frank licks his cheek instead, only to feel himself plucked off of Gerard and wrapped up in Grant’s arms. Grant twists his fingers through Frank’s hair - long now, and falling all over his face - and tips his face up for a kiss of his own.

“You’re quite the handful tonight, aren’t you, love?” Grant murmurs. “I take it the drinks were flowing?”

“M’not drunk,” Frank tells him, nosing along Grant’s jaw. “Not even a little bit. What I am is very, very easy. You should take advantage of it.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Grant replies with a chuckle. “I suppose I can take that as a vote for staying in tonight?”

“You can take whatever you want,” Frank leers.

“I’ll keep that in mind too.”

“I think,” Gerard says, going up on his knees and leaning in close, “that staying in is the best idea anybody has had all day. Who fucking wants to listen to Dan DiDio talk for an hour? I mean really.”

“Why are you talking about Dan DiDio in bed? Can we make that a rule? That needs to be a rule. No Dan DiDio talk anywhere within a ten foot radius of the bed. I may never get it up again, god.” Frank tugs hard on Gerard’s lapels, bringing his face even closer. Frank can feel the rumble of Grant’s chuckle in his chest.

“Sorry, babe. I’ll make it up to you,” Gerard murmurs against his lips.

“You’d fucking better,” Frank whispers before covering Gerard’s lips with his own. Frank works on the buttons of Gerard’s shirt as they kiss. They don’t cooperate particularly well. Or Frank’s fingers aren’t cooperating. He sort of wants to just rip it off him, but Frank doesn’t really relish the thought of sewing tiny buttons back onto the shirt. Frank pulls back with a huff.

Grant laughs. “Having trouble, love?”

“Too many fucking buttons,” Frank grumbles. “Both of you. All the damn time.”

Gerard sits back a bit to give Frank more room, grinning at him. “Don’t lie, Frankie. You love the buttons.”

It’s true, he does. But he likes them more when he’s in the mood to go slow and isn’t tipsy. Unsurprisingly, it’s easier to get Gerard’s buttons undone when they’re not kissing and he’s only too happy to shove Gerard’s shirt off his shoulders and down his arms. Gerard unbuttons the cuffs quickly and tosses the shirt away from him. Frank gets his hands on Gerard’s soft sides and pulls him close again. Gerard smiles against his lips, kisses him for a few moments, and then pulls back again. Frank whines.

“Your shirt needs to go away too,” Gerard says and looks up over Frank’s shoulder at Grant. “Also yours.”

“All clothing needs to go away,” Frank says and reaches for the button on Gerard’s jeans.

“You’re going to need to sit up if you want that, love,” Grant says and Frank sighs. Sometimes the process of getting naked is half the fun. Other times it just makes Frank impatient. He’s pretty damn impatient right now.

Grant deposits him on the mattress and stands up to strip. Frank peeks over his shoulder, then decides he really doesn’t want to look away at all, watching avidly as Grant removes first his dress shirt, then his belt, then his slacks. When he notices Frank watching, he stops with his hands on his waistband. “Yes, Frank?”

“Do I need a reason?” Frank asks quietly.

“To watch? I suppose not.”

“Glad you approve,” Frank snarks. “I’ve only been wanting to see this all day.” He tries to hold on to the teasing tone, but it comes out a bit more breathless than he intends, because he’s entirely fucking serious. It’s an unfortunate side effect of Grant in convention - that is, suit and tie - mode.

“What about me?” Gerard whispers in his ear from behind him, sliding his hands up under Frank’s shirt.

Frank turns back around to face him and keeps working on Gerard’s fly. “Your pants are so tight I can count your change, babe. Trust me, I was looking. So was everyone else who came by your table. Becky thought that one guy was going to poke his eye out with his mace.”

Gerard snorts. “I’d think that was a euphemism, but I remember him. He was -”

“If you say hot, I am taking away all your bins of dress-up clothes,” Frank tells him.

“He was out of luck,” Gerard says primly, “because I am taken. And fuck you, Frank, they’re not dress-up clothes, it’s cosplay.

“Whatever you say, Gee.” Frank finally conquers Gerard’s fly and helps him wriggle out of his pants and underwear. Gerard scoots backwards on the bed and Frank pouts until he feels Grant’s hands on him, stripping him out of his shirt and jeans and shoes and socks. Grant takes his time, but Frank’s not impatient anymore. He’d let Grant do anything to him.

“You looked tempting yourself,” Grant tells him, leaning in to mouth at the side of Frank’s neck and pushing Frank down on the bed. “Vince laughed at me through half of that All-Star Superman panel. He knew where my attention was.”

Now that Grant, Frank and Gerard are all cohabiting between Scotland and Los Angeles, they see a great deal of Vince. He and Gerard get along particularly well, but it doesn’t stop him from finding them all vastly amusing. “That panel went really well,” Frank tells Grant, then adds, “But why are you and Gerard still talking about work? Both of you. It’s like I’m not naked here.”

Grant laughs into Frank’s neck. “I am quite aware that you are naked, Frank. Gerard as well.” Grant moves his hips and very obviously hard cock against Frank’s thigh. “Would you like me to tell you more about how distracted I was by you? How I couldn’t stop looking over to where you were standing and wanting to grab you buy the hips and push you up against the convention hall wall and have my way with you right there?”

Frank moans and Grant puts a hand on his hip and pulls until Frank rolls onto his side. Grant kisses him, tongue working his mouth exactly how he knows Frank likes it. Gerard rolls up against his back, cock sliding against Frank’s ass, and starts tracking the letters on the back of Frank’s neck with his tongue. Frank has to pull back from Grant and just breathe. He feels Grant reach across him run his hand down Gerard’s arm and grab his thigh, pulling him even closer against Frank, which pulls Frank’s hips and cock against Grant’s.

“And you,” Grant says over a moan. Gerard stops his licking and puts his face over Frank’s shoulders, their cheeks together. Grant leans in and kisses him before briefly before saying, “you with your vest and tie, standing in your booth gesticulating about what, I don’t even know. I could hardly sign for looking at you.”

Gerard’s hips flex against Frank’s ass. “Me? I could hardly fucking see you. Just your head every once in a while. It was like torture.”

“I’m glad we’ve established that we were all sexually frustrated all day,” Frank says breathlessly. “Less talking, more dealing with the frustration.”

Grant laughs. “You say that as if we can’t talk and deal with our sexual frustration at the same time.” Grant takes his hand off Gerard’s thigh and rolls Frank’s nipple between his fingers. “You know we can.”

Frank hisses and arches his back, which pushes him back against Gerard. Gerard makes a satisfied noise and grabs Frank’s hips to pull him back even tighter. “I’m dealin’ with it just fine,” he says. “Your ass, Frankie....” He’s moving his hips, just slightly, just enough to start the kind of pressure and friction that he knows will drive Frank particularly crazy.

“Appreciates the attention,” Frank jokes, trying not to think too hard about last night, him on all fours and the two of them rimming him for what felt like forever until he came at the first touch of Grant’s hand.

“He’s thinking about last night,” Grant says from where he’s tracing Frank’s chest and neck tattoos. Of course Grant knows. Grant always knows. “You were so good last night,” he murmurs. “I think you’ve earned something special.”

It’s always special. Even Grant’s little games, as much as Grant likes to rev them up and drive them crazy, make things just that much better afterwards. Grant’s been pushing them both lately, teasing them nearly to their limits, then keeping to the sidelines and watching them instead. It’s incredibly hot to perform for him - and Frank knows Gerard really fucking gets off on it - but they’re here in New York now, and it is frustrating to have to be professional, and Frank just really, really needs them. “I want both of you,” Frank says. When they both freeze for a moment, he knows they know exactly what he means.

Grant moves his hand to Frank’s neck and kisses his forehead. “We haven’t done that before.”

“I need—”

“I know,” Grant says, stroking his thumb along Frank’s jaw. Frank knows how intimately Grant studies the things he loves, and he surely has Frank committed to memory, because he always knows.

Gerard kisses his neck and squeezes Frank’s hip in his hand. “Whatever you want, Frankie,” Gerard whispers.

“I love you,” Frank whispers back, and Gerard kisses his shoulder next.

“You too.” Frank feels Gerard twist around to grab something out of his bag, and then he’s returning with cool, slick fingers. Frank arches back against him, feeling Gerard’s lips at his temple as he works Frank open. Then Grant moves in, taking Frank’s face in between his hands and kissing him deeply.

“When Gerard’s ready,” Grant tells him, “I want to see you ride him, love.”

When he goes to sit up, Frank grabs at him, frantic. “Grant, wait, I -”

Grant clasps Frank’s hands between them. “I know. I’m not going far. I’m coming back.” Behind him, Gerard leans in to mouth along Frank’s shoulders, and Frank closes his eyes and loses himself in Gerard’s hands for a while.

Frank feels some movement behind him. Gerard shifts a little bit, and then Grant is kneeling on the bed beside him again. Frank opens his eyes, reaches out, and places his hand on Grant’s hip. Grant smiles at him and strokes his arm. “I’m ready,” Frank says.

“Not quite yet. But you will be. Gerard, on your back,” Grant orders and Gerard moves away, taking his fingers with him. Frank whines and Grant smirks down at him and helps him sit up, but steadies him as he turns and swings his leg over Gerard’s belly; Grant holds Gerard’s cock as Frank sinks down, eyes fluttering shut as he’s filled up.

Frank knows without looking that Gerard is watching - watching his cock disappear into Frank’s body. He loves the visual and all it represents, and he watches every single time he is actually able to see it happen. Grant is more unpredictable. He likes watching Frank’s face as he’s being fucked, likes watching Gerard suck cock or fuck Frank. He likes watching their hands.

When Frank forces his eyes open to look, he discovers it’s the latter. Frank’s steadying himself with one hand on Gerard’s side and he’s got the fingers of his other hand laced with Gerard’s, resting on his chest. Grant is staring at their clasped hands. It makes Frank’s heart swell a little bit every time he catches Grant at it and he can’t explain why.

“Kiss me?” Frank whispers and then bites his lip. He needs Grant closer. Needs more than just his eyes, as much as Frank loves it when Grant is looking at them.

“Of course, love,” Grant murmurs and leans forward, pressing his lips almost chastely to Frank’s. Gerard shifts his hips the smallest bit, startling a gasp out of him. Grant swallows the gasp, slipping his tongue into Frank’s mouth. They kiss like that for a minute, tongues sliding against each other. Finally Frank has to pull back. “Please,” he begs.

Grant cups Frank’s cheek and leans down to kiss Gerard before moving behind Frank, his chest against Frank’s back. There’s a brief pause, the snap of a lid opening and closing, and then there’s a finger stroking around Frank’s entrance and Gerard’s cock.

Frank and Gerard moan in unison when he pushes it in alongside Gerard’s shaft, Frank sucking in a giant breath of air afterwards. Gerard is staring up at him, glassy-eyed, a flush spreading across his throat and chest. Frank has no idea what he looks like, but he feels wound up, needy, crazy, and he imagines if he could see Grant right now he’d look fucking intense. God, he needs - “Grant?” he begs.

Gerard is underneath him, looking at them with big eyes and teeth sunk into his bottom lip, lifting his hips in a more-or-less steady rhythm, but Frank has to squeeze his eyes shut when Grant wraps an arm around him from behind. “You feel amazing,” Grant whispers in Frank’s ear. “So tight, but you’ll open for me, won’t you, my love? You’ll give me more.”

“Yes,” Frank moans. “Always yes. More.” And he doesn’t even get the word out before Grant’s pushing in a second slicked finger and the sound strangles in his throat. Frank can hardly breathe. He has to lean over and rest his forehead against Gerard’s chin.

“Deep breath, Frankie,” Gerard whispers into his hair and lifts his arms to wrap them around Frank. Frank does as he’s told, nuzzling Gerard’s neck before pushing back up again.

Grant’s lips find his earlobe and he sucks lightly for a few seconds and then murmurs, “Are you ready for more, Frank?”

“Yes,” Frank breathes. “Fuck yes.” Grant slides a third finger in, letting Frank breathe through the sensations before starting to thrust them slowly. Frank’s can’t seem to keep his eyes open, it’s all too much.

“God, Frankie. Grant,” Gerard moans, pausing his thrusting so he can get in time with Grant. Frank is really starting to lose his mind now. He wants everything, he wants his hands everywhere, but he can’t seem to concentrate long enough to move them anywhere, so he just leaves them where they are, planted on the bed next to Gerard’s sides. Frank opens his eyes again, looks down at Gerard just as Gerard reaches down and wraps his hand around Frank’s cock.

“Fuck, Gee, I can’t -” Frank gasps. He’s not going to fucking last, with much more of that, and that’s just not on.

Gerard licks his lips, pants out a few breaths of his own. His eyes flick over Frank’s shoulder, having some sort of conversation, then he replies breathlessly, “You’ll be glad of it in a minute,” and closes his hand tight around the base of Frank’s cock just as Grant pushes the tip of his cock against Frank’s hole. Frank throws back his head and keens, no other word for it, and Grant spreads a hand low on Frank’s stomach and presses, holding him still, pressing in. And Gerard’s right; the tight grip is maybe the only thing that keeps him from coming then and there. Gerard’s spitting out a string of broken curses, holding his hips flexed, holding still and sunk in and waiting for Grant to move.

Grant moves, one hand holding Frank steady, the other wrapped around Gerard’s thigh. He goes slow, and he was careful with the lube, and he’s so, so fucking careful with Frank; but every stroke pushes both Gerard and himself farther in, and it’s the best thing Frank’s ever felt but also way, way more than his nerve endings can handle. He drops his head, lets it hang low, dipped down between braced shoulders. He kisses Gerard’s collarbones, which are right there and begging for it, and then just rests his forehead against Gerard’s chest and breathes. Gerard’s fingers curl through his hair and clamp down tight.

Grant holds his hip tight and leans over to murmur in Frank’s ear, “You’re going to feel us all day tomorrow. You’re going to walk around the convention hall and feel us with every step. How does that sound, Frank?”

“Fuck,” Frank gasps against Gerard’s chest. Gerard’s fingers tighten in his hair. Grant takes his hand off Frank’s thigh and reaches around, tangling his fingers with Gerard’s around Frank’s cock. Frank gasps again, hips bucking at the sensation. Grant’s cock slips out and Frank can’t help but whine, but he’s lining up and pushing back in just as quickly and holy fuck, it feels amazing.

“How does that sound, Frank?” Grant repeats.

“Amazing,” Frank whispers. “Perfect.” Grant kisses the spot between Frank’s shoulder blades. He’s moving faster now, and Gerard is moaning underneath them, arching into the thrusts and tossing his head back and forth on the pillow and...coming. Frank and Grant can both feel it, and they both make a noise, Grant pleased, Frank pleading. Gerard pulls Frank’s face down and kisses him hungrily, frantically, all over his face for a moment before biting his lip and pulling out.

Still panting, Gerard drops his hand to Frank’s hip, the other still wrapped around Frank’s cock with Grant’s. Grant tugs Frank back up into his arms, jerking him off with one hand and holding him against his chest with the other. He’s muttering now, the words indistinct but the tone clear, until he finally just falls to repeating, “Now, love, now, love, now.” With Grant’s hips snapping in at the same time, hard and fast, Frank can’t hold out any longer, and he comes with a groan all over Gerard’s stomach.

Frank,” Grant moans and bites down on the juncture between Frank’s neck and shoulder, coming with a final snap of his hips driving his cock deep inside Frank. Frank moans again, hands clutching at Grant’s arms where they’re wrapped around him. Grant pants into Frank’s neck for a few moments before slowly pulling out.

“Fuck,” Frank gasps, not ready for it. He never is, but this time it’s more intense. He almost wants to cry. Gerard rubs his hands up and down Frank’s thighs soothingly.

“You were so good. So, so good. Love you so much,” Grant whispers in Frank’s ear as he gently helps him off Gerard and settles him onto the bed.

“So much,” Gerard repeats, hand cupping Frank’s face, then reaching out for Grant, pulling him down for a kiss. “Both of you,” he whispers against Grant’s lips.

“Madly, my pet,” Grant answers softly, kissing Gerard’s cheeks and eyebrows before sliding off the mattress to go to the bathroom for washcloths. Frank’s eyes slip closed at that point, and he’s not really aware of anything for a while but the warm-rough swipe of cotton, the sway of the mattress, the tug of the covers from under his feet. His skin is tingling still in waves, muscles jumping as his heart and breathing slow down. He clutches at Gerard, who clutches back unapologetically. When Grant lies down beside them, he wraps an arm over them both.

“M’never moving again,” Frank mumbles into Grant’s bicep. “But I don’t want to.”

*

“Hey, Frankie!” an unidentified voice calls out. Frank turns and waves in the direction of the voice, but keeps moving. He’s on a mission, juggling a couple of cans of Red Bull and a bottle of water. The signing is about to start and he doesn’t have time for chit-chat. He slips through the crowds and around the line at the DC booth. The guy in charge of manning the booth for the day waves him through and he’s finally in front of Grant.

“Okay, I had to like, fight off a whole platoon of motherfucking Stormtroopers for the Red Bull, so I feel this deserves extra compensation of some sort,” Frank tells him as he hands Grant his energy drink and the bottle of water.

Grant’s eyes are twinkling with mirth and not a little suggestiveness. He manages to keep the suggestiveness out of his voice when he responds, though. Only Frank knows what he really means. “I’m sure we can work out some form of reward for being such a brave and capable assistant.”

“Good. Okay, good luck with the signing. I’ll be over at the booth with Gerard, so just wave or send me a text if you need anything,” Frank says. He wants to lean up and kiss Grant. To whisper in his ear that every time he moves, he’s reminded of last night. Instead he smiles and lets himself reach up and straighten Grant’s tie, which is totally an assistant thing to do, okay.

“Thank you, Frank,” Grant says, raises his can in salute, then turns toward the chair waiting for him at the table and the line of eager fans. Frank pushes his way out of the throng and over to Gerard. The booth seems a little empty without the twins, but Becky is here and a couple of other people they know.

When Frank hands Gerard the extra Red Bull, this time he gets a kiss in thanks and an arm wrapped around his waist, pulling him closer to Gerard and to the table.

“Fuck, I love you,” Gerard says happily as he cracks open the can. Frank smiles and runs a hand through Gerard’s hair and looks at the drawing he’s working on.

“Looks good,” Frank says. “You’re going lighter on the details today, I see.”

“I learned my lesson. I mean, I draw all day most days, you’d think I’d be used to it. I must like, grip my pens harder at cons,” Gerard says, wrinkling his nose.

“I know I do,” Becky pipes up down the table. “It’s not our regular drawing environment, you know? And it’s kind of stressful because of all the noise and people stopping by and shit. It’s like clenching your jaw, but for artists. And I, unlike some other people I could mention, don’t have anybody to rub my hands at the end of the day.” She raises a knowing eyebrow, and Gerard makes a face at her.

“I bet Jon would do it,” Frank teases.

Becky glares at him. “It’s a good thing I like Jon, or I’d still be mad at you for stealing my studiomate. Just so you know.”

Frank holds up his hands in mock surrender. “Hey, Gerard found a replacement right away! And it wasn’t just me, you know.”

“Yeah, well. I can take you. He’s got magic on his side and I’m not fucking with him,” Becky says and then cracks up. So do Frank and Gerard. They laugh until the next person wanders up to the table. Frank lets Gerard and Becky talk and grabs a chair and pulls it up next to Gerard’s. He can’t help the little noise that escapes him when his ass meets the seat. Gerard glances over, giving him a look so heated Frank has to swallow hard. But then his eyes are back on the person in front of them. After a minute, Gerard’s hand finds Frank’s thigh under the table and squeezes.

Frank looks over to the DC booth and apparently they had the line wrap the opposite direction from yesterday, because Frank can see Grant just fine from where he’s sitting. He’s looking up at somebody in front of him and clearly listening carefully. Frank smiles. Grant loves talking to fans almost as much as they love talking to him. Loves hearing their stories, loves hearing what his stories mean to others.

Frank stretches up to get his Blackberry out of his pocket and holds back a grimace. It’s almost like the pain after a tattoo. He’s sore, but it was so fucking worth it, he’d never give it up. It turns the soreness into a deeply satisfying reminder every time he feels. it.

Frank pulls up the day’s schedule and double-checks everything. Gerard nudges him in the side.

“You have that fucker memorized, Mr. Perfect Assistant,” Gerard teases.

Frank rolls his eyes. “It never hurts to double-check.”

Gerard leans close and whispers in his ear, “You’re not gonna drop the pieces, Frankie. Of his life or his heart. You’ve got us both and we trust you.”

Frank rolls his eyes again, but he has to bite his lip. Gerard kisses his cheek and squeezes his hand before turning back to the drawing in front of him. Frank looks up again, over toward Grant, and sees him looking back with a soft smile on his face.

Frank raises his eyebrows and tilts his head, a silent Shouldn’t you be paying attention to that?

Grant’s smile gets bigger. He glances at his watch and and back up at Frank. The look in his eyes says very clearly, I’m counting the minutes.

Frank smiles back. He’s counting too. Gerard next to him, Grant within eyesight. It adds up to everything.