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"What, no suit?" Mikey doesn't sound like he cares, he seems mostly concerned for his own fucked-up tie. Gerard slaps his hands away as soon as he reaches him, and fixes it with a couple of neat tugs. When he pulls back, Mikey's raised an expressive eyebrow at him. "They teach you that in French art camp?"

Gerard rolls his eyes and steps back. "It isn't art camp. And you're a dick."

"It's my wedding day. I'm allowed to be a dick." He turns away and surveys his reflection in the mirror. Gerard turns enough to do it with him.

Mikey looks good. Alicia was right on insisting they kick it a little bit old school. The short-sleeved dress shirt would look strange in any other outfit, but the sharp vest, sharp slacks, and a bold-patterned tie all complete the look. Gerard is just man enough to admit that the fag in him is pleased. He hasn't been back long enough to know what Alicia is wearing, but he knows to count on her for a damn good show.

"Okay, checklist," Mikey says, sounding a hell of a lot like Mom. Gerard is a little freaked out, but possibly not as freaked out as Mikey.

"Yes," he says, because that is what you're supposed to say to a groom an hour before his nuptials.

"Rings."

"Got 'em." Gerard slips his hand in his jeans pocket just in case. The rings are snug and present. He looks back into the mirror to find Mikey's gaze tracking his every move.

"Okay," Mikey says, then blanches. "Shoes."

"On your feet." It isn't Gerard's duty this time to make sure Mikey has his shoes on, but he's happy to help, anyway.

"Right. Good." Mikey's eyes are a lot bigger than they've ever been. Gerard would laugh, but he's an older brother for a reason.

"Mikey."

"Yes."

"You will be okay," Gerard assures him, still watching their reflections in the mirror. "Got the vows?"

Mikey pats the front pocket of his vest and it makes a crinkling noise in answer.

"Good. Got a bride?"

Mikey's gaze softens the tiniest bit. "I'm pretty sure she's across the hall. If you wanted to check, that'd be cool."

Gerard watches him for signs of irony or mocking. He gives up after a few seconds, and obediently leaves the room, stepping out into the quiet hallway like he's waiting for the storm to arrive.

It's eerily quiet. He isn't sure what kind of hustle and bustle he was expecting, but there is no noise coming from downstairs at all. He doesn't even know the size of the wedding, that's how out of it he's been. He feels bad, but then again, they shouldn't have planned a wedding in four months. He could have helped, if they'd waited longer.

When he knocks on the bridal party's door, it opens to something akin to a vaudeville dressing room. Ah. So, that's where the insanity is.

Between Alicia's mother, Alicia's brothers, Alicia's maid of honor, three random children Gerard doesn't know, and his own mother, hovering and barking out instructions, he doesn't see Alicia until he's halfway into the room. When she turns around and spots him, it's like the skies parting. She looks stunning.

Her hair is up in a kind of side French braid, wrapped all around her head like a black halo, and tucked into the side is a blue daisy. Her face is open and bright, beaming. The yellow dress has a wide poufy skirt down to below her knees; her shoes match the blue of the daisy. The ink on her chest is like an elaborate necklace, her only accessory besides the flower. It spreads all down her arms, weaves around her skin.

"Gee!" She elbows her way past the clucking hens and runs up to him like it's been forever. He hugs her, smelling the faint jasmine of her perfume, closes his eyes. He thinks, sister.

"Hey, beautiful," he whispers. He pictures Mikey fretting in the room across the hall and wonders if he knows how lucky he is. Then he thinks, he doesn't need to wonder. Mikey knows.

"You took long enough to get here, huh?" She lets him go and punches him on the shoulder. He rubs at it, 'cause she's a bruiser. She's bouncing on her toes; it's like her face has forgotten how not to smile. Gerard can't stop smiling back. "He okay?"

Gerard makes an a-okay sign with his hand. "Freaking out, obviously, but he's fine."

"Shoes?"

"On."

"Good." She bites her lip, and keeps on grinning. "You look awesome."

"Not the word I would use," he hears Mom's voice and there she is, watching him with that special Mom look, the kind that tells him she still hasn't forgotten that time he decided to entertain her friends by stepping out in her heels and lipstick. You were seven! Oh, I should have known. Afterwards, she and Helena bought him tiny pink slippers and told him that when he grew up a little bit, they would teach him the correct ways of applying lipstick. Just like painting, honey. Stay inside the lines.

"Mom." His voice is muffled by the scratchy lace over her shoulder. "Sorry I didn't call. The plane was delayed."

"I knew you'd show," she tells him, then pushes him away and squints. "Have you showered?"

Gerard rolls his eyes. "Mom, I barely got here as it is."

"You smell like airport and somebody else's ass, Gee. Take a goddamn shower. Don't you have any better clothes? Your brother's getting married, for Christ's sake."

He can still hear Alicia's giggle as he leaves the room, towel and bar of soap in hand. He has no idea how women get all this stuff. Then again, it's helpful that they're at an inn, he supposes.

"So?" Mikey's eyes have grown even bigger in the time Gerard's been gone and he hasn't moved away from the mirror.

"You have a gorgeous bride and a really annoying mother. I've been ordered to shower."

Mikey wrinkles his nose and laughs. "Not a bad call. But you can keep the outfit."

"You're the soul of generosity," Gerard intones and goes in search of a bathroom.

*

Alicia walks down the aisle to "Here Comes the Sun" and everybody cries. The daisy tucked behind her ear looks like it could flutter away at any moment. When Gerard turns to Mikey, he looks much the same. The entire garden is a burst of color, green bushes, yellow and red and blue flowers, pastel-colored guests.

The vows are simple and make his mother sob so hard, the JP has to grant her a delicate pause to pull herself together. There is the tiniest of giggles from the audience. Mikey rolls his eyes.

The rings are platinum bands, which Gerard has kept warm and safe. His heart pounds when he hands them over, then abruptly lightens. First duty done and over with. He smiles for the rest of the ceremony.

The photographer gets down on the ground and Gerard knows there will be a picture of Alicia's foot going up when her husband kisses her for the first time. He's already planning the kind of frame to make them for it.

They walk back down the aisle clutching hands, and Gerard doesn't realize he's leaking until he's wiping it away and blushing. He catches someone's eye and laughs through the embarrassment. His kid brother, man.

*

There is no head table, but there are place cards. He is seated next to Ray, whom he knows, and an intimidating-looking blond guy named Bob, whom he doesn't. Also, an intimidating-looking redhead named Chantal, and Alicia's younger brother, who will never be intimidating. There is another place card at the table, but the guest must not have shown, and that means more for the rest of them.

He realizes only after five minutes that it's the best table he could have gotten. Bob is quiet, and works with Mikey at Skeleton. Every now and then he pipes up with a comment that comes out of nowhere, and makes Gerard double over with laughter.

Chantal is an honest to God burlesque performer. Gerard pictures her in a corset, handling a riding crop, and his dick gets oddly happy about the image. He briefly wonders if they need to have a talk about proper reactions to late-onset heterosexuality, or if Chantal just translates across the board. Her tits imply that she is an any-and-all -orientations kind of gal.

After Mikey and Alicia had their first dance, and Mom cried into her second hankie, each table received a bottle of red, a bottle of white, and a bottle of "let's pretend this is for the children and not any recovering alcoholics who might be in attendance today" sparkling cider. Gerard appreciates the gesture, as well as the fact that they didn't cheap out on either kind.

"So, Gerard," Chantal says, turning her impressive cleavage on him. Gerard can see Peter zoning in on those puppies like they're dinner and elbows him discreetly in the ribs. He's never been happier to be gay and no longer a teenager in his life.

"Yes?"

"Why have we never met?" Her voice is husky like a porn star's. Gerard gets momentarily mesmerized by it.

"I've been away." He sips his cider in order to cover up this slight identity crisis.

"French art camp?"

"Oh for – it's not camp," he sighs and gives Mikey a mental noogie. "It's a retreat. For artists."

"Like a camp for adults," she clarifies for him, eyes serious.

"Well, there were grants involved, and my work is a bit too large to fit on a fridge door, but fine. A camp for adults," he capitulates. Mikey has always been amazing at wearing Gerard down even across miles and oceans.

"What's your work like?" she asks him next, and he seeks escape. His work is just too difficult to sum up off-handedly like this, it could take hours.

"Crazy," Peter supplies.

"He draws a lot of dick," Mikey's voice pops out of nowhere and Gerard groans and buries his head in his hands.

"I hate you."

"You can't hate me. I'm a married man!" The glee in Mikey's voice is nearly audible over Chantal’s hooting laughter.

"That doesn't make any sense," Gerard reminds him, but looks up and smiles, anyway. "Jesus, married."

"Fuck, I know, right?" Mikey makes huge eyes at him and damn, it is so weird. He was a skinny-ass kid with glasses only five minutes ago. Gerard is old.

*

He goes for his first smoke after salad is served. He considers this to be a feat of gigantic proportions. Mom made him promise that he wouldn't smell like smoke for at least half an hour. Her lending him her lighter, his own having been taken away by CDG security, was a present for his brother getting married.

"Oh my God, do you have another one?"

The unfamiliar voice cuts through the smoky happiness of Gerard's brain and he turns to see a guy watching him with – wow, really pretty eyes. Colorful tattoos spill out of his rolled-up sleeves and there's even a splash over the collar of his button-down. Gerard's extending his pack before his brain has managed to process the fact that he's wasting French smokes on someone he's never met.

"I'm Gerard." Apparently his brain is determined on fixing the problem.

"Frank," the guy says and looks at Gerard like he’s Christ reincarnated. It’s oddly compelling. "I got held up between the ceremony and the reception, and now I feel like an idiot. Thus, smoke break," Frank says.

"There was a whole hour of cocktails in between," Gerard reminds him, wondering what could possibly have held him up. "Did you fall in the fountain or something?"

Frank actually blushes. Gerard can't believe it; it's too unreal.

"If I said yes, would you believe me?"

"No."

"Well, it happened."

Gerard blinks. "No fucking way."

"Way," Frank confirms with a sigh. Now that he's looking for it, Gerard can make out the wit tips of his dark hair curling over his neck. He’s wearing no tie, and a sheepish expression.

"You fell in? How?"

Frank lights the cigarette and takes a drag before shaking his head and laughing. He's got a high-pitched giggle Gerard thinks he could draw in baby blue. "I wanted to be able to see the first kiss."

Gerard lifts a thumb and squints as he first measures up Frank's height, then turns his thumb on the fountain in question, splashing innocently in the garden. "I can see how you might have had a problem there," he says.

"What the hell was that?" Frank demands, looking at Gerard like he grew several heads and chopped them all off right in front of him.

Now it's Gerard's turn to blush. "Sorry. I'm an artist. Measuring distances and proportions is kind of second nature at this point."

Frank's face clears and he cackles and slaps his hand on the wall. "You're Gerard."

"Oh God."

"Mikey's brother."

"Yes. What has he been saying about me." Sometimes it is really difficult having a kid brother who knows everyone while you escape to hermitic retreats several bodies of water away.

Frank just shrugs, still smiling. His skin has a tinge to it, drawing out something Italian in the tan, maybe. Gerard pictures cypress trees and olives in white dishes. "That you're an artist and you went to France to prance among your natives."

Gerard stares.

"Mikey's words, not mine," Frank allows. "What does that mean, anyway? Mikey's Jersey through and through."

Gerard sighs the sigh of the long put-upon, wonders how it is that a human being who's been on this Earth a significantly shorter amount of time than himself can make him feel like the biggest dork on the planet, and replies, "I received a large grant to work at an artist's retreat outside of Grenoble."

Frank whistles. "Wow. That's a lot heavier than the way Mikey described it."

Gerard nods, mollified for the time being. "It wasn't camp."

"Of course not." Frank's eyes crinkle at the corners. "So, what do you do?"

"Hmm?"

"Your art, what do you do?" Frank gestures with his cigarette, drawing questions with the curves of his smoke.

"My work is – abstract," Gerard starts, then thinks screw it, and sags against the wall. "I mostly focus on the human form, anatomy, stuff like that."

"What does that mean?" Frank demands. Apparently, his previous embarrassment is all but forgotten. Gerard has a perverse desire to throw him back in the fountain.

"I draw a lot of dick," he says instead and watches Frank sputter. It's incredibly satisfying.

After Frank stops bugging his eyes out at him, he squints and lifts his chin. "How is that working out for you?"

Gerard grins and licks his lips. "Pretty well, actually. I literally get paid for it."

"For drawing dick." Frank shakes his head. "Man, if my life were that easy."

Gerard would normally bristle at the implication, but he thinks he might want to draw Frank. Maybe not even nude. He just wants to capture the sun on his face, the smile that travels all across his face, not knowing where to land. He thinks of Alicia and her grin, of Mikey and his soft eyes.

"My life is pretty great," he finally admits and takes another drag. "What do you do?"

He can see Frank pursing his lips like he just held something back. Gerard calls him on it. "Hey, now. I told you mine, you tell me yours. And quickly, or we'll miss the cake. I have a toast to make."

Frank laughs and ducks his head. Gerard just smiles at him. It's irresistible. "I work with Mikey."

"You work for Skeleton?"

"In a way," Frank smiles. It's an adorable smile and maybe that's why it takes Gerard a moment.

"Oh," he says. "You're Frank." As in, Iero. As in, owner of Skeleton Records.

“Yep, I am. What’s he said about me?” Frank squints against in the setting sun.

Gerard is about to open his mouth and tell him that it’s possible Mikey has described Frank as a "midget freak with too much energy and time on his hands," but he gets interrupted before he can even start.

"Gerard Arthur Way, I am going to kill you!"

Gerard drops his cigarette. Frank whips around and there's Mom behind him, bearing down on Gerard like she'd just caught him drinking on school property. He has to remind himself that he is thirty two and not fifteen. It doesn't help.

"Hi, Mom!" He goes for innocent, and hits just this side of guilty.

"You're supposed to be giving your toast and you're out here, smoking? Oh, hi, Frankie, how are you, dear?" Her words are a torrent of rage and familiarity all at once. Gerard blinks.

"Hi, Mrs. Way!" Frank waves and cocks his head in a smile. Gerard rushes up to his mom, ignores Frank smirking at him out of the corner of his eye, and kisses her on the cheek.

"I lost track of time, I'm sorry."

She shakes her head and pushes him towards the door. He hears her muttering to Frank behind him. "Honestly, showing up in jeans and a t-shirt, wearing Chucks, for Christ's sake."

Right before Gerard rounds the corner, he hears Frank answer, "Well, he's an artist, they never conform. Trust me, I work with ones a lot worse. Plus, that's a pretty nice jacket."

*

The mic is already on when he goes to switch it on, so of course that means it gives a feedback loop so loud every single guest in the place winces. Gerard looks out at his own table and Frank is there parked by Gerard's empty seat, smirking.

Gerard looks away and coughs like a loser. He's an artist. He's not a performer, for crying out loud. The things he does for Mikey.

Who's also smirking at him, but Alicia is giving Gerard a huge earnest stare of encouragement, so he goes with it.

"Hi, everyone." He doesn't look anywhere but down as he starts. He would try to picture the audience naked, but that way lies porn-ridden napkins and scandal. Instead, he looks at his Mom-reviled Chucks, clutches the mic, and begins. "As best man, I am forced to say good things about the groom. I'm not sure there's a whole speech in there."

He hears a smattering of laughter, and it perks him up. He quirks his mouth at Mikey, and continues the speech watching both him and Alicia. He pretends there's nobody else there.

"But I guess I can try. Actually, I want to talk about them both, and not just because Alicia is amazing and Mikey doesn't deserve her. It's because I've never met two people better suited for each other. If I had to hand-pick my brother a life partner, Alicia is exactly who I would choose, time and time again."

He watches her face for signs of embarrassment and she watches him back and bites her smiling lips. He turns to the audience for the first time, eyes up, his voice gaining.

"She is kind and beautiful. Laid back but tough when she needs to be. She is also willing to spend the rest of her life getting Mikey to stop electrocuting himself in bath tubs." More laughter skitters across the crowd. "She is basically everything he could have hoped for. I’m so –" he pauses and feels the stupid bubbling in his chest, watches Mikey's eyes. The audience is now silent. "I'm so touched and proud to be able to call her a sister."

Here he takes a breath and tangles the mic cord between his fingers.

"Growing up, I knew that long-term love existed, of course. Our parents have been married for longer than even I’d like to admit."

Another smattering of laughter and he catches Frank's eye by accident. His face is open and curious and Gerard – Gerard likes it. His eyes stay on Frank as he continues.

"But it was different, you know? Their love was for old people; I didn't think our generation could have it." Frank's dark eyebrow twitches. Gerard isn't sure how he even notices. "But seeing Mikey with Alicia by his side, well. I only wish our grandma was alive to see him."

He finally breaks Frank's unwavering gaze and turns back to Mikey and Alicia. "I love you both so very much. Please have lots of babies so they, too, can believe in old-people love."

Mikey flips him off as he's laughing and Alicia sticks out her tongue. Gerard grins and turns back to the audience.

"Please lift your glasses to the beautiful couple!"

He lifts his mic in lieu of the glass as the guests toast, drink, and clamor for Mikey and Alicia to give them a tiny preview of the wedding night. Gerard stays there as long as he can, and finally beats a hasty retreat to his table after Mikey's retrieved his tongue back from Alicia's throat, and squeezed Gerard's hand in passing.

He wishes that the sparkling cider had the same calming effect that beer used to, but then again, the bubbles feel nice, and he knows the lack of aftereffects will be even nicer. He settles for gulping the entire glass when Frank tilts his head and just squints at him. Gerard has no idea what he's doing. When Frank doesn't stop staring after Gerard's glass is empty, he sets it down and asks, "What? Do I have something on my face?"

Frank shakes his head and shrugs. "You and Mikey look different."

Gerard looks around the table to see if anybody else is hearing this. Nobody else seems to care – Bob and Ray involved in some quiet discussion about bats, he thinks, Peter watching Chantal chatting to Dad across the room with wistful lusty eyes.

"Yes," Gerard finally confirms for Frank. "We do."

"But not. Like. You have similar eyes, but yours pop more."

Gerard blinks. "Pop?" The images conjuring in his mind are pretty unpleasant.

Frank waves his hand around. His tattoos shift in the light. "You know, they're, like, out there. Mikey hides his."

Gerard's brain has no idea which way to spin – flattered that Frank has noticed his poppy eyes, or upset that he seems to have given Mikey's the same consideration. Either way, it sends his stomach churning. Watching Frank, he feels like a kid; he feels like Peter.

"Huh," is what he says, and goes to refill his glass with the fake bubbly. "I guess Mikey's more reserved than me."

When he looks at Frank over his glass, Frank has one hand slung over the back of the chair, and he's sprawled, relaxed. Gerard has a ridiculously hard time not letting his eyes stray where Frank is most, well, inviting. His black pants are too tight for that kind of sprawl; this wedding isn't supposed to be R-rated. What Frank says, holding Gerard's gaze and pouring himself a glass from Gerard’s bottle, is, "Maybe it's the eyes, then."

Gerard has to track back to the last thing he said. "Yeah. Yeah, maybe."

"Hey, Gee, Gerard, sorry, I need your help," Peter interrupts and tugs on his sleeve and Gerard is almost grateful for it, because Peter's easy, Peter is small potatoes compared to the stare of this guy who appeared in Gerard's life only half an hour ago.

Gerard spends the next twenty minutes talking Peter through his emotional turmoil which revolves around Chantal's chest and Peter's virgin dick, and that's comforting and familiar territory. Reserved Mikey used to sprawl on Gerard's floor and weep openly about girls who wouldn't give him the time of the day.

Then he hit puberty and never looked back. All the awkward adolescence was settled onto Gerard's then-hefty shoulders. He bore it only marginally well.

*

Dinner is delicious. Gerard smells more of it than he eats, weirdly not hungry, but he is craving another cigarette. The guests have all begun to mingle more and more, and he knows the dancing portion will begin soon, and he needs to fortify himself. The sky outside is fading blue being overtaken by pink. It probably smells gorgeous. He excuses himself to no one, as he's the only one left at the table, and shuffles outside. It's still warm, but the air has a slight bite to it. He breathes it in, allows it to stir the hair on his forehead. He watches a few others partake of the nicotine all down the smokers' lane.

He's not surprised to see Mom join him a minute later and greets her with a smoke and a smile.

"Hey, baby," she says quietly. All her duty has been done, too, he thinks. She got Mikey here. She got him through it. Now she stands here, smoking and quiet.

"Hey, Mom," he answers and props his shoulder against the wall to face her better.

She's older than she was a year ago. He saw her on Christmas, but it was such a whirlwind of gifts and parties; they barely got a chance to talk to each other. The grooves on her cheeks and under her eyes remind him of tree bark, the most obvious metaphor for the years' passing.

"How's tricks?" she asks and her gravelly voice makes him feel like he's back in their kitchen, catching up over cereal and coffee.

"Tricks is good." He takes a drag, and thinks, should I? "Tricks is having a showing soon, actually." He exhales and squints against the smoke.

"Oh, yeah? In France?"

"Paris, yeah." He hasn't told anyone, it's felt too huge. "Nothing – I mean, it's just a smallish gallery." In Paris.

"In Paris," she echoes and watches him like only Mom can, the kind of pride that makes his heart pinch. "Helena's up there very happy right now," she notes and his laugh almost comes off as a sob. What a weird day, he thinks a little wildly.

"I know," he says after a beat and his voice catches. "I feel her when I'm over there."

"She's with you," Mom agrees and reaches out a dry hand to pat his own. Their cigarettes spark together. "You okay?" she asks, Mom through and through, matter-of-fact, but still totally prying.

He nods the truth. "I'm great. I missed you."

She smiles and nods. "Of course you did, I'm your mother. But a week'll be plenty, you'll see."

She's probably right, but right now, he's so happy to have this week stretching ahead of him, filled with no expectations, just the people he needs, and home.

"Still seeing Paul?" she asks next and he scrunches up his face in answer. "So, it didn't work out," she intones. "Well, the next one will."

"Mikey's happy," Gerard evades and she smiles.

"He is." She takes one last drag and crushes the cigarette with her heel. "All right, kid, going back in. Your father is already kind of sloshed. You go say hi to him sometime tonight, all right? He's barely gotten to see you."

Gerard vows to say hi to Dad, and watches her walk away. He's down to the filter, too, which means it's time to go back, so he follows her in.

*

Music blares out of the speakers and about half the room is crammed onto the slippery dance floor. The DJ looks like he probably works at Skeleton, kind of familiar, and Gerard spots Ray's hair by the speakers. It bobs seriously to the beat.

He slouches against the wall. The tiny white lights lining the walls and ceiling make everything look warm and clean. It's a beautiful place, out of the way and comforting. They probably couldn't have found a better one if they had a year to plan.

"You dance?"

Frank is right beside him. How does he do that? Gerard smiles despite himself. "Nah, I just watch."

"Like a creep." Frank sounds like he's confirming something he already knows.

Gerard rolls his eyes. "Not a creep, an observer. I'm an –"

"Artist, I know. You watch for artistic value. I dig it," Frank says and he's grinning and beautiful. Gerard can really appreciate his face, the small neat nose, the square cut of his jaw, the dark hair framing his face. Gerard's an artist. He appreciates beautiful things.

"Exactly," he nods. "Plus, it's fun." It's true. He enjoys being a creep sometimes. He is a creep with boundaries.

Frank, apparently, agrees. "It is fun." His grinning eyes catch the light and shimmer. What a girly thought. "But dancing is also fun. You should try it."

"I'm not really that great at it," Gerard admits, even though that's kind of a lie. He just doesn't like other people being present when he's shaking his groove thing.

"What, you don't do the white man's sway?" Frank asks, and demonstrates. His lips stretch into a devious expression.

"Why?" Gerard knows the answer, because the music has turned slow and terribly romantic. What he doesn't know is why he's kind of resisting.

"'Cause I want to dance. Dance with me?" Frank asks, and he's suddenly closer and his hand is brushing against Gerard, like a little kid asking for permission for a treat.

Gerard can't say no. He opens up his fingers and curls them around Frank's and nods slowly in answer.

They do the white man's sway. Gerard can't resist a crack about Frank doing the girl part because he's so short. Frank notes that Gerard can't lead for shit.

"It's true," Gerard agrees. "We're both pretty pathetic at this."

"Hey, at least we're pretty good with the swaying."

They are. Frank is shuffling along, sometimes leading, sometimes letting Gerard fumble it all on his own. Their feet don't get in each other's way only because they're mostly revolving in one spot. Still, his hands prickle where he's holding Frank's waist, warm through the fabric, and soft. All his nerves seem to be concentrated in his fingers and around the back of his neck, where Frank's bare forearms are wrapped in a loose hold.

Frank looks him in the eye and Gerard thinks, what is this? He feels overheated and a little bit shaky and he can't resist bringing Frank just a little bit nearer. It's like he wants to leech off his heat, but he has plenty of heat on his own, and together they're like a furnace.

Then Frank turns him a little to the left, and Gerard almost swallows his tongue. Peter is hanging on Chantal's neck, his face practically smooshed into her chest, and judging by the carefully stiff way she's holding herself, she's trying to be a good sport about the boner he's so obviously popped in his dress pants.

Gerard giggles and Frank immediately demands to know what he's laughing about. Gerard just nods his head in Peter's direction and Frank hides his face against Gerard's shoulder and shakes with laughter. Gerard breathes through it and tries to hold them both up steady.

After the dance is done, they break apart slowly. Gerard feels like he's grown an extra set of limbs. It takes him a while to figure out which way to turn his feet, where to put his hands. They're itching to be back around Frank.

Instead, he goes for another smoke. Frank follows.

*

"So, how did you get started with Skeleton?"

Gerard makes them stand a ways away from the people smoking in clusters around the shrubbery, because he doesn't feel like engaging anybody else in conversation.

"Hell if I remember." Frank is fumbling with the lighter, his thumb missing the clicker. Gerard steps in to help before he can think about it. His fingers brush over Frank's knuckles and he pulls them away and feels like an idiot. Frank mumbles a thanks, then inhales. Gerard takes another step back, settles against the wall.

He gathers some control over his thoughts and says, "Well, you wound up owning a record company. There must have been steps that you took that led you there."

Frank sighs dramatically, then spoils the effect by laughing. "All right, well. I dropped out of college because I loved my shitty-ass interning position at Eyeball much better than my Theory of Personality psych classes."

Gerard nods. He was around the scene long enough to know Eyeball was important shit.

"My mom loved that, by the way," Frank mumbles around his cigarette and puffs. Gerard laughs. "Right, so I begged the guys over there to give me a full time gig, which they did."

"She must have loved that, as well," Gerard notes.

"You bet." Frank lifts his chin and looks like nothing more than a punk kid from Jersey. "And that's how I got started in the business," he explains.

"Right." Gerard is pretty sure there's more to the story. "Now to the part where you own your record company at, what, twelve?"

"Seriously, how many short jokes you got under those sleeves?" Frank complains, but he's still grinning. Gerard just watches him and knows that he's grinning back.

After a moment of thoughtful silence, Frank looks away into the fast receding line of the sunset and furrows his brow, like he's trying to remember. "I wanted to do my own thing, build up a whole different kind of company, you know?" He scratches the back of his neck and Gerard watches the cherry of his cigarette and tries not to picture Frank setting his hair on fire. "It started in my mom's basement with, like, spray paint and Hanes t-shirts," Frank says, finally dropping his hand.

"Spray paint? That give you a lot of start-up?" Gerard quirks an eyebrow.

Frank imitates him and ashes on the ground. "I had ambition. Also, I'm a pretty smart guy, I don't know if Mikey's mentioned that." He looks dead serious, but there's a tell-tale twitching happening around the lips. Gerard rolls with it.

"He might have mentioned it," he allows. "But he's really mostly mentioned the short thing."

Frank gives another dramatic sigh and slouches against the wall in a mirror image. "I guess we're even, Mister French Art Camp."

Gerard is surprised by his own laugh. "True." Mikey's way of showing affection is different from other people's.

Then Frank tilts his head again, like it makes him see things better. "What about you, with the art? How did that happen, the big grant in Grenoble?"

"Went to art school, graduated, moved back with my parents." Gerard rattles off, then thinks about it. "Made a studio in the attic and just – I don't know. Made art," he encompasses with a sweep of his hand. "I guess I sold enough to build myself a reputation."

He'd applied for the grant because he'd never been outside of Jersey. Because he needed to get away. Because he was sober; because Bert.

"So you always wanted to do art?"

"Mmm, yes. Except for the couple of years I wanted to be in a band," he admits sheepishly.

Frank's eyebrows shoot up in an endearing sort of arc. "Seriously? What happened?"

"Didn't take," Gerard says. "I mean, I could sing. You know. Can sing. But the other guys were lacking." He realizes how that sounds a beat after it leaves his mouth. Oops.

Frank is quick. "Wow, no ego problems, or anything," he grins.

"Sorry, I know." Gerard huffs a breath. "No, but seriously. It just. Maybe it wasn't the right time or some shit."

Frank hums in agreement. "Yeah, ditto."

"Ditto?"

"Yeah, I did the whole band thing the five minutes I was in school," Frank replies and tosses his butt away. His hands find their way into his pockets like they don't know where else to settle. He looks a bit awkward without the cigarette, a bit tilted and off-balance. Gerard wishes he could follow the hunch of his shoulders with a pencil.

"So, what happened?"

"Oh, you know, couple of punk bands, nothing too serious, I guess. I loved making music, I still play and shit –"

"Oh yeah? Let me guess." Gerard pretends to think hard. "Guitar. Right? Unless it's the kazoo." He pauses. "It's totally the kazoo, isn't it?"

Frank looks mildly offended for a split second, then shrugs it off with an easy grin. "Can't live without the kazoo."

Gerard laughs. Then, "No, but – guitar, right?" Suddenly, he wants to see Frank with a strap around his neck, fingers on the frets, lost in it.

"Yeah, guitar," Frank shrugs." And bass. Some drums. I don't know, stuff here and there." Frank plays it off like it's no biggie. Jesus, how is this guy real. Gerard is not above admitting a total thing for musicians. Versatile musicians are just a bonus.

"Wow. So, you still play?" Gerard is now picturing Frank on stage. Is he the strong-and-steady, all about the playing kind of guy, or is he wild and crazy? He hopes he's wild and crazy. Then he realizes he's being kind of wild and crazy himself.

Frank smiles at him like he knows. "Yeah, I still play. I fill in for a couple of bands, sometimes tour with them. It's a blast, but…" He peters out, watching his own foot make patterns in the gravel.

"Yeah?"

Frank slides a hand out of his pocket long enough to scratch at the back of his neck. "I love Skeleton, so that's where my head is at most of the time."

Gerard nods. "Mikey's crazy about his job," he says. "Seriously. Like, nuts over it."

"Well, we're nuts about Mikey." Frank grins and shakes his head. "Man, France."

Gerard's brain doesn't catch up quickly enough. "Hmm?"

"I just. France. How long you in France for?" Frank asks and for the first time sounds almost unsure of himself.

Gerard feels a weird kick in his gut, but ignores it. He answers honestly. "Until I run out of money or Grenoble runs out of coffee and paints, I guess." Although. "Soon, I guess. I've been feeling pretty homesick recently," he admits.

Frank nods. His lips lift up the tiniest bit. Gerard's fingers itch for a pencil again. "What's it like?"

"Grenoble?"

Frank nods.

"Hmm." Gerard has no idea how to put it, so he goes for simple. "Old. Beautiful. Foreign, but that sounds stupid, doesn't it?"

Frank shakes his head. "Nah. When I was a kid, my parents took me to see where my grandparents came from in Sicily. It was beautiful and old, too. I get that."

Gerard laughs and takes his last drag, lingering. "Ever been to France?"

Frank's response is immediate. "The French are snooty."

"Maybe," Gerard hedges. "But the language is beautiful. You can, I don't know, lose yourself in the flow. And the countryside, too." He looks out at the fading garden, and thinks about riding the train down to the Côte d'Azur. The sizzling sun outside the window, green grass, golden stones along the coast.

"Mmm."

Frank's voice shakes Gerard out of it and he smiles apologetically. "Guess I like it over there. But I miss home, I really do."

"Well, you're here for now," Frank says, sounding all mysterious and when Gerard looks at him, Frank's eyes are almost gone in the smile. Gerard grins back. He's not sure it's possible not to grin when looking at Frank.

"I am," he admits.

*

He finds Dad kind of late, but he's been running on frozen time. The entire day seems like one long hour, or a year.

Despite being just this careful side of tipsy, Dad hugs him like Gerard is twelve again and sniffs a little into his shoulder. "Gee."

"Dad," Gerard echoes and gets stupidly choked up. He misses Mom like a background ache all the time; Dad is a constant presence in his mind, so he doesn't realize he's missed him until they're hugging. Weddings, he thinks squishing into Dad's belly, are ridiculous.

He's quizzed on every artist he's worked with/for/under for about twenty minutes, because the only person more interested in Gerard's art than Helena is Dad.

"You still on your abstract period, or has impressionism taken over?"

Gerard rolls his eyes and steals a stale roll off of Dad's plate. "Impressionism, what the fuck."

"Don't you knock Monet, kid, I'll teach you what's what."

Gerard gives him an indulgent look and makes a point of not rolling his eyes. "I appreciate Monet as much as the next art geek, I'm just not into dots."

"That's pointillism, you philistine."

Gerard loves Dad so much. He chews on the roll, which turns out to be the very opposite of stale and melts on his tongue – maybe he should have had more than just some scraps of lettuce, he wonders vaguely – and informs Dad that he is now rolling with his own, as-of-yet unnamed style of putting different shit on canvas and seeing what sticks.

"So, gallery showing in Paris, huh?" Dad asks after Gerard has devoured the rolls off Mom's plate. Gerard nods, mouth still full, and takes a sip of someone else's coffee. Dad shakes his head, the big softie. "You're doing good, kid," he tells Gerard and Gerard nudges their feet together.

"Thanks, Dad."

Dad gets a little red at the tips of his ears and looks across the room at the laughter and the lights. They both watch Mikey and Alicia's attempts at slow-dancing to the Misfits for a while. It's a bit of a classic moment. Gerard's gaze wanders until he's found Frank, slouching in a chair, elbows on the table, in what looks like a pretty one-sided conversation with Alicia's bridesmaid. Julie? Julia? She's cute as hell, whatever he name is, and chatty, from the looks of it, and Gerard's stomach kind of squeezes around the rolls and he wants to punch himself in the face.

"So, Paul didn't work out, huh?" Dad breaks into his self-loathing reverie and Gerard jerks around.

"Hmm?"

"Your mother said you and Paul didn't, you know –"

Gerard screws up his face again and shakes his head. Paul was never – he was never it, and Gerard never let himself believe otherwise. Now, he can't find anywhere safe to look – on the one hand, embarrassingly concerned for his love life Dad; on the other, a dude he barely knows being flirty with a cute girl. He settles on his shoes again and sighs. "No, we didn't."

Gerard can practically feel Dad's sympathetic stare on him, which is both sweet and exasperating. When he finally looks up, he's twisted enough away from Dad to be kind of conveniently facing Frank's table. And as he drags his gaze upwards, it takes him a split second to figure out that Frank is glancing over in his direction. As soon as their eyes meet, Frank quirks his lips and looks away and – Gerard can totally tell that Frank's a big faker and isn't actually as interested in what the poor girl is saying as he's pretending to be.

Gerard's skin feels a bit fluttery, and his brain feels a bit stupid, and his heart feels like it's going to thud right out of its confines. He turns to Dad, because he's a jerk.

"Sorry, I just kind of. I don't know." He doesn't not want to talk about it. There's just nothing to say.

"Well, I'm sorry that it didn't work out," Dad allows and Gerard smiles his thanks at him. He stands up and is about to go do something stupid, maybe, like ask Frank for another dance, because things are maybe getting just a little bit tight in his chest and dry in his mouth, when Dad puts his hand over Gerard's. "Oh, and Gee?"

"Yeah, Dad?"

"Wouldn't have killed you to find a suit. All I'm saying."

Gerard groans and frees his hand so he can flap it about. "Okay, fine, fine. Tell mom next time Mikey gets married, I'm renting a tux."

*

He chickens out between the dance floor and Frank's table, and ends up cutting a path through the chairs to get to the door. He nails himself in the hip with one, then while he's staggering around in pain, catches his foot on another, and by this point, he's just hoping to get out alive and have a smoke in peaceful humiliation outside. Amazing that only a minute ago, he was thinking of asking Frank to dance, for fuck's sake. Mikey's more graceful than this.

It's dark out now, and the garden is strewn with tiny lights that hide in bushes and trees and light up the fountain. He's down to three smokes, but that's all right, because he's got two more packs in his duffel before he has to switch back to domestic.

He's just flicked the cigarette into life and pushed hair out of his face with the palm of his hand when he feels the air shift around him. He doesn't look until the last possible minute, playing it cool and nonchalant, kicking at the gravel by the wall. But he's never actually been cool, nor has he ever succeeded at nonchalant, so when Frank's shoes shuffle into view and park less than a foot away from his own, Gerard looks up and just stares at him.

"How's your hip?" Frank asks, lips quirked, hand already making grabby fingers at Gerard's jacket pocket.

"Fuck you," is the best Gerard can come up with as he fumbles for the pack and tosses it at Frank. "By the way, that's, what, four you owe me?"

Frank skims a smoke from the pack one-handed and stuffs it into Gerard's pocket. "Three."

Gerard counts up mentally. "I've lost too many to count to needy bastards today."

Frank lights the cherry and squints through the smoke. "Oh, yeah? Who else have you been giving them up to today?"

Gerard's flush creeps up the back of his neck and flutters up his scalp with tickling fingers. "Hmm, other short jerks who never carry their own and fall into fountains?" Or Mom, he remembers. Sorry, Mom.

"Hey, now," Frank says. "There's water in that fountain. You got a hankering for wet smokes?"

"Point," Gerard admits. "Doesn't mean you don't owe me."

And because he's the slowest person on Earth, Gerard doesn't realize they're deep into flirting territory until Frank says, as he reaches into his pockets, "So I owe you. But hey, I am no longer empty-handed. Here, catch."

Gerard catches whatever the hell Frank's just tossed at him only because there is a God out there who loves un-athletic fags. He opens up his hand. "A Lindt truffle?"

"There's a whole display of them on the side of the room that doesn't, you know, have a door leading outside."

Huh. "Busted."

"You know you're supposed to mingle at these things, right?" Frank is outright laughing at Gerard, and seriously.

"I've mingled!" he argues, unwrapping the truffle. It's dark chocolate. He loves dark chocolate. "I've totally mingled."

"You're mingling with the garden," Frank points out. "And you've mingled with people directly related to you."

"I'm mingling with you," Gerard counters. "And I've never met you."

"True," Frank concedes with a nod. "Totally flattered, by the way."

"I'm sure. I know you’re only out here for the smokes."

Frank takes a drag and half-squints at Gerard as he exhales and doesn't answer. Gerard catches sight of his pink tongue curling around the escaped smoke and licks his lips. He's crazy. He's wired and loopy and jetlagged. He needs to leave. He needs to sleep. He needs to leave.

"You're not eating your truffle," Frank breaks the silence with a nod at Gerard's hand.

Gerard says, "Huh?" and then looks down. "Oh." The chocolate is melting slightly in his grip and he pops it in his mouth without thinking. The flavor blooms on his tongue and he brings his hand up and licks up the remnants from his palm. He doesn't realize he's sucking on his own thumb until he catches Frank's gaze on him.

"Uh." Gerard's frozen with his thumb in his mouth, cigarette smoldering down to the quick between his fingers. He must look idiotic and he wonders what he can possibly do to escape and go die by himself. Yelling things like fire! or timber! is pretty tempting, but he's still got his thumb in his mouth.

Right.

He slips it out with a quiet pop and seriously, if the ground opened up and swallowed him whole, he'd be totally okay with that. Where the fuck are you, oh God of Un-athletic Fags?

"Jesus Christ," Frank mutters and tosses aside his cigarette and Gerard watches, unmoving, as Frank takes the small step it takes to bring them within an inch of each other. Gerard’s heart is hammering. Somewhere inside his head, a soundtrack starts up, but it's not the right soundtrack, because no one's there to save the day, he's pretty sure, but –

But Frank is right there, and Gerard wonders wildly if his teeth are covered in chocolate, which would mean he can't even open his mouth and say anything, and oh, Jesus, he's crazy, this is Mikey's wedding, this is Mikey's boss -

Frank's lips move around Gerard's name in a whispered question. Gerard only knows this because he's watching them and then he flicks his gaze up at Frank's eyes. Frank is so close, Gerard can see even in the dark how long his eyelashes are. He licks his teeth, then his lips. He says, "Frank?" and his voice catches.

The next moment is a gravitational pull that happens before each first kiss. He knows it has to happen, knows it like he knows the axis tilt, but it doesn't add up until Frank's lips are on his own.

It's not a soundtrack anymore; it's fucking thunder.

Before Gerard can even so much as lift a hand, Frank's opened up his mouth and invited Gerard in. Gerard deepens the kiss immediately, and when he does move, he moves until Frank's enveloped in his arms, chests and knees lined up, tongues touching. His back is to the wall the next second. Frank is gasping into his mouth, cigarette smoke mingling with Gerard's chocolate, the chocolate that Frank had given him as penance for taking half his pack.

It's crazy, but so is he, so are they, apparently, because Gerard can't stop. He hears the gravel crunch under their feet, and the rough brick wall isn't exactly pleasant pressed up against his skull, but. Frank's hands are fluttering all down his front, across his chest, beneath his jacket and around his waist, then his belly, then back to his waist. Gerard keeps realizing he's tensing his back, or his shoulders, and he keeps trying to relax, but he can't.

He can't, he can't, Frank feels amazing against him. He's whimpering into Gerard's mouth and gasping like he can't get enough air. Gerard gives him all the air he wants, sucks on his tongue, bites his lips. They're necking like teenagers, and he almost laughs when his brain catches on long enough to notice he's hard as a fucking rock.

"What," Frank mumbles and Gerard figures he really must have laughed. Fucking crazy.

"Sorry," he gasps, and pulls back just enough to look at Frank. "I don't know why I'm apologizing," he admits. He's cupped his hands around Frank's jaw.

"Then don't," Frank whispers and his gaze is on Gerard's lips, and Gerard can feel his breath on the tip of his nose.

"Okay," he nods and goes in for another crazy-making kiss, because fucking hell. Jesus. What's even better now is being able to feel Frank's jaw moving under his hands, it's dirty, knowing Frank's working for it as hard as Gerard. Gerard moans and slides his hands enough to grab Frank's hair, feel the precise shape of his skull.

When his fingers catch and pull Frank's hair, Frank gasps into his mouth. Gerard does it again and gets the same result, and Jesus.

"Fuck. Really?" he mumbles around Frank's tongue and Frank doesn't even bother to use words, just nods and dives back in.

Gerard grabs his hair tighter and smiles into Frank's groan, just as Frank's hips stutter up against his own and oh, Gerard thinks, giddy with it, yeah, that's it. When he grabs Frank's hips and pulls them against his own, they both hiss.

Frank breaks off the kiss and buries his head in the crook of Gerard's neck. Gerard's eyes flutter closed. "Fucking hell."

"I know." Gerard licks his lips. "Hey, so I guess we've met now, huh," he says and feels kind of stupid until Frank pulls back enough to laugh gently.

"Thank God."

"Yeah?" Gerard feels the slow spread of his smile.

Frank nods and looks smug and satisfied and Gerard desperately wants to get him naked. "Fuck, yeah."

*

Frank doesn't have a room at the B&B, hence, apparently, his wet retreat home and back after the whole fountain debacle. This much they figure out in the five minutes it takes them to calm the fuck down and assess the situation without the hazy cloud of lust around them.

"You have a room, don't you?" Frank asks, hands tugging on Gerard's t-shirt. Gerard blinks.

"I don't know?"

"What – how can you not know?" Frank demands.

"Uh –" So, Gerard is not really a planner. At least he kept the rings safe. "I was running really late, right off the plane, so I just – got ready in Mikey's room." He has no idea where he's staying tonight. He had vaguely thought he'd be hitching a ride back with Mom and Dad. They've always been good for that. "What?"

Frank is looking at him like he's crazy. "Mikey's room," he says.

"Yes?"

"Which. Presumably he won't be using," Frank explains slowly, over-enunciating. Gerard doesn't get it until he does. He smiles in answer.

"Oh," he says.

"Yeah," Frank nods and quirks his lips. "I thought you were smart, artist man," he adds, backing Gerard up against the wall. Gerard spreads out his arms in defeat.

"Don't need to be smart to be an artist, just talented."

Frank bounces up and kisses him quick and sure on the lips, lingers. He pulls back, licks his lips and whispers, "At least you've got that going for you."

Gerard feels the prickle of his breath run all across his skin. "Yeah?"

"That and you're fucking beautiful," Frank says and even in the dark, Gerard can see him color. His stomach whoops and he draws in a shaky breath before he can speak.

"Am I?"

Frank rolls his eyes and then nudges Gerard's chin with his nose. "Like you don't fucking know."

Gerard kind of does, but it's better hearing it from Frank than anybody else. He leans down. They've already gotten the first kiss over with, and the next hundred, but it still catches him by surprise that he can do this. He can't resist the pause at the moment before their lips connect and simply breathe the air between them. When he does close the distance, he tastes their mingled breath.

*

"Hey, Mikey."

"Gee?" Mikey whips around. "Where've you been?"

Gerard notices the moment it clicks for Mikey – the kiss-bitten lips, messed-up hair, and he'll bet his entire Doom Patrol collection that he's got some stubble burn going on already. "Gerard."

"Mikey."

Mikey seems a little too tipsy and happy to muster up any kind of resentment, but Gerard can see him trying. "What have you been doing."

"Smoking."

Mikey crosses his arms over his chest and lifts an unimpressed eyebrow. "With your tongue?"

"That's gross," Gerard points out.

"So is you macking on my boss," Mikey counters, and okay, that's just weird.

"How the fuck would you even –"

"He's standing right there with beard burn, you fucking asshole," Mikey sighs and Gerard can't help whipping around, and yep. Stubble burn. He turns back to Mikey. "Fuck me."

"That's your wife's job," Gerard points out, because hey. He's the older brother here. It is already supremely unfair that Mikey has found the love of his life and married her, and Gerard has not.

"Shut the hell up, Gee." Mikey sighs again. "What do you want."

Gerard tries for casual. "The room key. I don't have one."

Mikey's eyes grow marginally wide for a split second. "Oh, hell fucking no."

"Mikey!"

"Gee, please don't have sex with my boss on my wedding night. Or, like, ever." He's pinching the bridge of his nose, the big drama queen.

Gerard rolls his eyes and tries again. "Mikey."

"Saying my name won't convince me that I'm okay with this." He pauses. "Gerard, I am not okay with this."

"Mikey. I don't care right now." He's doing his best older brother stance, which is pretty difficult when your entire body is vibrating with now now now and all he has to do is just think about Frank, and his dick stirs in his pants. He only has so much left in him to wait. He switches tacks. "Mikey, please. I just. I've – It's –"

And he finds he has no words for this. He has no idea what he's doing, but he'd rather not tell Mikey that while he's begging a room key off of him. He just. He wants.

But Mikey hasn't been his brother for twenty nine years for nothing. He doesn't look happy when he hands the key over, but he does squeeze Gerard's fingers when it's done. "Just. I don't know. Be careful, all right?" he says and Gerard can't hide the confusion on his face. "I mean. Frank isn't just anyone. You know what you're doing?"

Gerard softens. "Honestly, not really. But – I know, okay?" He does.

"Well, fine. Go forth and forni – aw, hell, I'm not saying that."

Gerard laughs and on an impulse captures Mikey in a hard hug. He mumbles his thanks it into his shoulder.

"You're fucking welcome," Mikey mumbles back and pushes him away. "I'm going to go where my brother isn't getting naked with my boss, okay? Okay."

Gerard gives him a salute and turns on his heel. Frank is lounging in the doorway, watching. He has the look of a man who's been undressing somebody slowly with his eyes. Gerard gets the thrill of knowing he's the someone somewhere deep in his belly.

He's shaking by the time he reaches Frank. "Hi."

Frank grabs his hand and pulls him in, looks him in the eye. "Hi."

*

Once they're through the door, Gerard is done waiting. He's been watching Frank, this guy he's just met, on and off all day, and if he's been kidding himself about appreciating beautiful things, he'd done now. He grabs Frank before he's even kicked the door shut, and it only catches on the lock once Frank's back hits it.

"Fuck," Frank groans and tips his head back, panting. Gerard really agrees and presses his entire body up against Frank, where he's hard and warm and fucking alive. Gerard mouths at his throat, sucks at a spot behind Frank's ear that apparently makes Frank actually shudder against him, and his head fucking spins.

"Jesus," he pants and grabs Frank's shoulders, pulls him away from the door. Frank follows willingly, even when Gerard pushes him down onto the bed with no warning. Frank bounces on top of the covers and grins at him.

He's about to say something when Gerard knees his way up over him and interrupts, "if you ask me if I see something I like, I'm out the door."

Frank laughs, high and sudden. "You wouldn't."

"No," Gerard admits and kisses him. "I wouldn't."

There are elbows and knees in the way, but when he unbuttons Frank's shirt and slides it off, and then tugs down his pants, he has to pause and look.

He is covered in ink. Sprawling, winding drawings all over his skin – down his arms, hugging his chest, words and pictures and Gerard can barely make them out in the dark, but he can't stop looking. "Holy shit," he says and hears Frank's quiet laughter while he's battling with Frank's shoes and pantlegs.

Once all Frank is wearing are his boxer briefs, Gerard's hands flutter immediately to his hips. "These are –" He stops and just breathes as he leans down and makes out the lines, details coming out like smoke out of air. Two birds on either hip, with an "And" right below the belly button. He watches Frank's belly rise and fall rapidly under his scrutiny, but Frank is silent.

Gerard sits back and rolls Frank over so he can see, what else, what else does he have?

"The Stooges? Seriously?" His fingers are hovering over the "arch" and "roy" inked around the small of Frank's back.

"You know it," Frank answers, and it comes out tight.

"Fuck." Gerard runs a hand through his hair, and he has no idea where to start, what to even do. Frank is beautiful. He can't even imagine drawing him because he's already art, with the ink and the sheen of sweat prickling up all over his skin, and the crazy beat of his pulse under Gerard's fingers.

Mindlessly, Gerard tugs on Frank's underwear, urges his hips up, slides his hands under the waistband and tugs them off. Frank is panting and the sound is all Gerard can hear in the moment Frank's entire body is revealed to him, splotches of ink on his shoulders, back, thighs.

"God, you're gorgeous," Gerard says and is barely even aware of it until Frank says,

"Gerard, please, please -"

And – yeah, he's been a little side-tracked, Gerard realizes.

"Yeah, yeah, okay."

He fumbles out of his own shirt, then swears when he realizes he just can't take his pants off without getting up, and as he's shoving them and his underwear off, Frank catches his gaze over his shoulder. They look at each other silently for a long moment. Gerard's skin feels like it's going to burn right off, he's buzzing, he's crazy.

He crawls up the bed not breaking Frank's gaze, and when Frank looks like he's about to turn over, Gerard catches and stills his hips. "No, stay."

Frank licks his lips and nods. "All right."

Gerard crawls up behind him and leans down. He can't help it, he has to. He touches his tongue to the tips of the guns at the small of Frank's back and licks down. Down and down until Frank sighs beneath him and then begins to shake. Gerard clutches his hips, and goes further down still, until he licks for permission to continue and Frank gasps and groans out, "Yes, yeah, fucking yes."

Gerard loves the taste, loves the texture, and Frank feels amazing against his tongue, shivery and mesmerizing and God, so hot. Gerard licks all around, flutters his tongue, feels Frank's voice crescendo into breaking. He rims him until Frank is crying out beneath him, and then he rims him until Frank fumbles his hand under his belly and starts to jerk off, fast and hard. Gerard moans against him, forces himself to stop, and rolls Frank over. He bats Frank's hand away and fuck, fuck, he loves this taste, too, loves the taste of Frank's cock leaking in his mouth.

"Fucking - Christ." Frank's voice is rough and fucking loud and Gerard spares a thought as to who might be listening, but then realizes he doesn't give a damn. He sucks Frank's dick deep into his mouth, then slides almost all the way off, then sucks him in again. He shifts onto his elbow and then – yeah, now he can go down deeper, so deep, Frank's cock hits the back of his throat and Gerard's eyes water. He breathes through it.

His scalp stings where Frank's grabbed handful of his hair, and his arm aches where he's leaning on his elbow, and Frank's thighs shaking around him feels fucking perfect, Jesus, he loves giving blowjobs.

Frank is swearing above him, cursing high and low and it's the hottest thing Gerard has ever heard. He wants to tell him that, but his mouth and tongue are busy, so he stores it up, he'll tell Frank later, later, when Frank isn't busy himself –

"Gerard, I'm gonna – Gerard –"

Gerard squeezes Frank's hip, do it, you can, and Frank does, coming down Gerard's throat the next moment, and shudders beneath him into stillness.

Once he's pulled off and taken a couple of gulping breaths, Gerard says, "You're so fucking hot like that."

Frank barks a kind of a shocked laugh and grabs Gerard's shoulders, urges him up. "Me? Jesus, you just –"

Gerard lands a bit hard on Frank, but Frank doesn't seem to mind, because he's kissing him, hard and rough and Gerard loses every sense besides taste and smell, like, he doesn't even have peripheral vision anymore. He's shorting out, and he only notices that he's rubbing himself on Frank's leg when Frank slides his hand down and stills him. Gerard pulls away.

"Sorry, sorry, just – "

Frank is watching him with half-hooded eyes, and Gerard can't not watch him back. He licks his lips just as Frank asks, "What do you want?"

Desperately, more than anything, Gerard wants to fuck Frank, but he thinks maybe that's not something you ask on a first date. He bites his lips and goes for the universal, "You," and lets Frank interpret that in any that he chooses. He's pretty sure Frank doing anything to him will be what he wants. He isn't lying.

He isn't wrong, either. Frank pushes at him until Gerard's rolled over onto his back and makes his downward path obvious, even as he meanders from throat to nipple to belly. Everywhere his mouth touches Gerard is like breathing through fire, Gerard can barely take it. By the time Frank reaches his dick and gives it a preemptive squeeze, Gerard is ready to crawl out of his skin. "Frank –"

Frank doesn't wait for him, and that's good, too. He doesn't tease, either, and oh, Christ, Gerard had suspected his mouth was made for sucking cock, but it's good to have proof. Gerard gets loud, almost embarrassingly so. Restless, too, like he's lost his motor function control along with his peripheral vision, and his feet have no idea where to be, and his hands are lost between his hair and chest and the covers.

Frank pulls off enough to smirk at him and slide down the bed. "Put your legs on my shoulders," he orders, and Gerard obeys immediately, glad of the command. Frank watches him for a minute, his breath so close to Gerard's dick, Gerard whines. "God, you're fucking hot," Frank whispers and before Gerard can even think of anything to say to that, he sucks him back in.

Gerard feels everything tighten, narrow, and God, he must have left his stamina back in Grenoble, because he knows he won't last. He tries to warn Frank, but his hands have gone numb and he has no idea how to even find them. He gasps out Frank's name instead, and Frank gets it and begins to pull off, only – doesn't, keeping the head of Gerard's dick in his mouth, pumping him with one hand.

Right before Gerard comes, Frank opens his eyes and looks up at him, and Gerard shudders and that's it, he's done, he's coming, watching Frank's mouth and hand working his dick in tandem. Jesus.

He can see Frank's throat working as he swallows. Gerard gulps for air and falls back, having just realized that he'd propped himself up on his elbows. "You – wow," he tells the ceiling.

Frank shifts and gently drops Gerard's thighs onto the bed. They burn a little, and he shakes life back into them, slides his feet up and down. Frank slides up the bed, curls in, and props himself on his hand, watches Gerard's face. "I fucking love the taste," he says, and his voice is low and raspy. Dirty. Gerard makes his hand move enough to grab his face and pull him in for a kiss.

"I do, too," he confesses once he's licked it off Frank's tongue.

Frank grins. "So, are you one of those guys who pass out right after they get off?"

Gerard laughs. "Opposite, actually."

"Seriously?"

Gerard nods and sighs. "Brain's too overworked. Can't sleep."

Frank smiles and shifts until he's resting on his elbows, looking down at Gerard's face. "Brain overworked? What the hell do you think about while you're getting off?"

Gerard chews on the inside of his cheek and considers. "If it's good, I think about the person doing the getting me off part. Like. What can I do to them next, what will they like. Stuff like that."

"What else?" Frank demands and Gerard smiles and starts to trace a pattern over Frank's shoulder, one of the spots where there's no ink at all, just virgin skin.

"What they look like while they're getting me off. How they feel."

Frank gives him a tiny smile. "What did I look like?"

"Incredible," Gerard confesses. Frank ducks his head and grins.

"So, you're not gonna pass out on me?"

Gerard isn't.

*

The room is non-smoking, and Gerard feels a little bad, but not as bad as he wants a cigarette. He’s glad that the bed’s right by the window; they've maneuvered the screen open enough for them to be able to dangle their hands into the open air.

Frank is perched on the window sill stark naked, knobby knees inches away from Gerard's face, feet planted on a pillow. They'd kicked the covers off, and Gerard is lounging on the bed, bent knees tucked under the sheets where it's warm. The wind rustles his hair, washes over his face. The hand holding the cigarette out the window is about ten degrees colder than the rest of him.

"You're such a pussy," Frank informs him.

"Pardon?"

"Hiding your delicate ass under the sheets. It's May, you know."

Gerard raises his eyebrow and takes a drag. "I like being comfortable, sue me. It's early May in Jersey."

"Like I said. Pussy."

Gerard bites Frank's knee and drops the cigarette outside.

*

He fucks Frank up against the open window, their voices carrying all across the garden. Frank is braced against one side of the frame, squirming against him, gasping, biting his forearm in an effort to muffle his voice. It doesn't work. Gerard fucks him hard and fast and the breeze feels fucking amazing on his overheated skin, raises all the hair on his arms.

"Frank, oh, fuck –" he's chanting, and he is no longer in control of himself at all, his hips dictating where he goes, as deep into Frank as he can, as hard as he can, and Frank takes it, begs for more between gulping breaths. Gerard gives it to him, he can't not, and he breathes in the scent of Frank’s hair, some kind of spring bloom mixing in with his skin and faint shampoo, and whines low in his chest, can't even take a breath, he can't do anything but keeping fucking Frank until they're both shaking and crying out and falling apart.

*

The alarm clock on the bed flickers over into 03:28. Gerard watches Frank, half-lying on his side, one arm out the window once more. He knows that they should sleep, but he can't. He can't stop touching Frank. His hand reaches out all on its own to trace the shadow of Frank's collarbone, the soft dip below his throat.

"You tired yet?" Frank asks with a lazy smile.

Gerard shakes his head. "More like delirious."

Frank snickers and maneuvers himself back onto the window sill and takes a drag. "Yeah, sounds about right."

Gerard watches him, too lazy to light himself another cigarette, even though he kind of wants one. "I should be passed out by now. It's, like, morning in Grenoble."

"It's morning here," Frank points out.

"No, I know, but like – coffee and croissants kind of morning, not just staggering home drunk kind of morning."

"Done that a lot?" Frank asks quietly, and Gerard wonders what Mikey's told him. He treads gently.

"Too much, I guess. A while back," he says and watches Frank for a reaction. He's looking out the window, nodding along to the smoke escaping his mouth.

"Yeah, that happens. But this is better."

Gerard smiles and stretches out his legs, his arms, pops his back. "Much," he agrees.

"I haven't seen this side of the sunrise in a while," Frank tells him quietly, and Gerard has to remind him the sun won't be up for at least two hours. "I know that. I just think." Frank pauses and ducks his head, looking a little sheepish. "I think we should see it."

Gerard blinks. "The sunrise?"

"Yeah. We've come this far, right?" Frank's voice is quiet in the dark, colored in shadow.

Gerard's whole body is exhausted, running on adrenaline and the hum of his skin. He considers that for a moment before agreeing, "Yeah. Okay."

"Yeah?"

Gerard smiles. "Let's do it."

Frank smiles back, and looks out the window again.

"Does it feel like we've met before?" he asks after a long moment.

Gerard watches his profile, the perk of his nose, the pout of his lips. He shakes his head. "No."

Frank's face falls visibly before Gerard can catch himself. "What it feels like is –" A line he's read somewhere comes to him, and he says, "Like we have known each other all our lives, and then we met."

Frank grins and glances at him. "Yeah. I guess that's the way to put it."

*

Frank maps Gerard's entire body with his tongue, flickers it against Gerard's hips, along his lower back; he slides it down Gerard's thighs, bites the back of his calves; he spreads him open and Gerard shakes the bed, coming apart against Frank's tongue.

He kisses him afterwards, lingering and slow and lazy and aching, and Gerard thinks about the week ahead, and he thinks about the curves of the plane, the wing he knows he'll see out the window of seat 25A. He winds his fingers in Frank's hair and brings him closer. Frank gets there first.

*

"Frank, Frankie," Gerard whispers and Frank mumbles into his shoulder, curls into him. Gerard breathes out a laugh. "C'mon, sunrise, you wanted to see it."

Frank stirs and when his fingers land on Gerard's waist, they're awake and intent. "Mmmf."

"Frank?"

"'M up, totally, sunrise, gorgeous…"

Gerard succeeds in maneuvering them sideways on the bed. They blink blearily as the horizon beyond the screen mellows into yellow and blue out of pink streaks. When Gerard turns his head, Frank's eyes are lit up, eyelashes stuck with sleep. He's watching Gerard back.

"This is one of those moments," he whispers and Gerard tightens his hold on Frank's warm shoulder. His throat is tight.

"It is." He can manage a whisper, but his full voice has been eaten up by the mass of whirling feeling deep down in his belly. He's a mess for their tangle of elbows and knees and sheets and sweat. The room probably reeks of it all.

When Frank tilts his chin up, Gerard meets him awkwardly halfway, lips catching. Gone is the taste of cigarettes. They're an equal measure of night breath and come and sweat. Gerard slowly turns until he's pinning Frank into the sheets, anchors him on the bed.

They fuck slow and lingering and Gerard takes the moments when he isn't feeling blindingly, mindlessly turned on, to feel Frank's skin beneath his fingers and taste his shaky breath.

He breaks apart into a million shards of skin and light, made new by the hazy rays filling the open windows. Frank's eyes are open, watching, grin slow and heady, and Gerard drops his head and gasps against Frank's neck, feels it moving beneath him. Frank's slippery hands are sweating into his skin.

"Fuck," Gerard pants, breath dissipating around Frank's chest.

"No fucking kidding," Frank whispers in his ear.

*

"So, the language is beautiful, huh?" Frank says at 7:34, and his voice is wrecked, too loud in the bright sunlight. Gerard is hiding his face in Frank's belly, and he hears it in stereo of voice and rumble.

He has to sift through the debris of what used to be a pretty functioning brain to figure out what Frank is saying. "Yeah," he finally mumbles, and moans again. "Why are there no shades on these windows?"

Frank pokes him in the shoulder and cackles. "Because it's morning. Time to rise and shine."

"Fuck you, how are you even awake," Gerard complains, because, seriously. He's aching all over, he feels like he's run a marathon puffing on a carton-full of cigarettes.

"I'm young," Frank informs him, then overrides Gerard's whining before he can even start. "No, seriously. France, worth a look?"

"Huh? Yeah, I guess – why – oh." Gerard's brain finally switches into gear and it's like a rolodex sifting through the contacts. Oh.

Frank is still beneath him, waiting. Gerard struggles to lift himself up in a way that won't put his entire weight onto Frank's stomach. It takes a few tries, but finally he's upright enough to be able to look Frank in the eye. "What, you want a look?"

Frank watches him back, a slow smile spreading across his face. "Maybe. You a good tour guide?"

Gerard nods as he says, "I'm a shitty tour guide. All you'll see are coffee shops, art supply stores, and museums."

"What, no Eiffel Tower?"

"Tourist."

"Snob."

"Frank."

"Yeah?"

Frank's hair is crazy, possibly crazier than Gerard's. One side is flat, the other is standing on end, and in the back, there's an amazing sort of curlicue that Gerard had no idea could exist in a natural state free of product. His eyes are half-lidded, and he's got a tiny smile playing on his lips. He looks perfect.

"I could be a crazy person," Gerard warns him. It's only fair.

"I could be a snorer," Frank counters.

"I'm messy. And I don't like to shower."

Frank scrunches up his nose. "I'll make you take baths." Then he adds, "I fall into fountains and my job takes up about seventy percent of my time and brainpower. Also, I’m vegan."

"I'll make you take a vacation. And I'll eat all the cheese." Gerard draws in a breath. "I'm a space cadet who forgets to turn on the coffee maker, or turn off the stove."

"I'll keep you away from the kitchen," Frank shrugs.

Gerard stills. For some reason, his voice comes out a lot less hesitant than he's feeling. "You want to see my gallery opening?"

"In Grenoble?"

"Paris."

Frank chews on his lip, and when he's done, it's shiny and pink. Gerard has to stop himself from reaching out and taking it between his lips.

"Okay," Frank says.

Gerard's head reels. He's hallucinating, he thinks, because he barely knew that Frank existed less than twenty four hours ago. This is what delirium feels like. "Frank."

"Gerard," Frank says and lifts one eyebrow. He's laughing.

"You're fucking crazy," Gerard whispers and throws an arm over Frank's body, brings them closer. "What about Skeleton?"

"Ray's been begging me to take a break."

"Frank."

"That's my name, you want it in writing?"

And Gerard thinks he really kind of does, because this can't be real, but then Frank reaches out and pulls him bodily in and they meet somewhere in the middle, Frank's thigh digging into Gerard's hip, and Gerard leaving an elbow-shaped imprint on Frank's belly.

"This is crazy," he mumbles in between kisses, and Frank answers, "I fucking know," and Gerard laughs against him and wonders if he'll be able to see the wing of the plane from the aisle.

~end~