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One Hundred Percent (Almost. Maybe.)

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"I'm good," Frank said, when Gerard asked, leaning against the wall in the lounge of the bus and worriedly sipping his coffee. And Frank was good, he was totally fine, almost. His head hurt the tiniest bit, and his throat did, too. But hell, his throat almost always hurt a little bit, so it was no big deal.

"Okay, but –" Gerard wasn't convinced. He ran his fingers through his hair – he'd gotten it cut pretty recently, and he always looked surprised when his fingers ran abruptly out of hair to go through. "Are you sure? Because we can –"

"What, Gee?" Frank interrupted. He pushed himself up a little bit from where he was slouched on the couch. "We're not going to cancel, and I want to play, okay?" It had been kind of a rough tour – it seemed like one or another of them was always down for some reason. It threw them off, ruined the pace, the beat, the feel of it being the five of them against the world on stage. They'd been going strong for a couple of weeks now and Frank wasn't going to let a headache and a sore throat throw them off their game. "I'm good."

Gerard put his coffee down and pressed one hand to Frank's forehead, like Frank was a little kid or something. Frank jerked away, and tried to bite his hand. Gerard pulled back, looking amused. "Jesus Christ, what are you, my mom?"

"Your face is a little warm," Gerard said, but he was grinning a little.

"Your face is a little ugly, but I'm not telling you not to play," Frank shot back, and Gerard really did laugh then, and Frank demanded that Gerard make him a cup of coffee, and Gerard did, and watched, approving, while Frank swallowed a bunch of aspirin with it, just to be on the safe side.

***

"I'm good," Frank said again, later, when he was lying on the couch in their dressing room. The couch smelled awful, like stale beer and cigarettes and ass. It wasn't helping that Frank had his face pressed against it, and he struggled a little bit to pull the hood of his sweatshirt up and over his head so he could rest his cheek against that instead of the rank couch. "I am totally fine, I'm just resting."

He knew they had about a half hour before they were going to go on. He was resting, for Christ's sake, or would be, if both Gerard and Ray weren't standing over him. Staring.

Mikey was in the corner, working on his hair in the mirror and not paying attention to any of them. Bob had gone on a coffee run and Brian had slipped out the door in what he seemed to think was a stealthy manner, probably to make sure Cortez was there for back-up. Just in case Frank couldn't make it on. Which totally was not going to happen. "Stop it," he said, opening one eye to glare at Gerard and Ray.

Gerard was gnawing on his lip and still staring at Frank. "He doesn't look great," he said to Ray.

Ray studied him a little. "No, he's got that red-cheek thing going on, you know, like when he's got a fever."

"You're totally right." Gerard leaned a little closer, then rocked back on his heels. "Also, it's about a million degrees back here and he's shivering."

"Shut the fuck up, both of you, or I’m going to stab your faces off," Frank mumbled into his hood. He was shivering. His hands were freezing. He rolled onto his back on the couch and shoved his hands into his armpits, trying to quit shaking. Gerard sat down on the couch, lifting Frank's feet and settling them onto his lap. And fuck, Frank knew it wasn't cold back here – it was hot enough that Gerard was sweating in his denim jacket.

Rolling over made Frank's head hurt a little bit more and he shut his eyes for a second.

"Frank," Gerard said, using his reasonable voice. Frank really, really fucking hated his reasonable voice. "If you go on tonight –"

"I am going on tonight," Frank interrupted grimly. He pushed himself up on his elbows and fumbled for the bottle of water on the table.

"Yes, well, okay, if you do –" Gerard handed Frank the bottle of water, and Frank took it and didn't say thanks. "You're going to just end up feeling worse and we have, like, tomorrow off, but then a show every day for the next four days after that, and –"

Frank wasn't even listening to this. Frank was, instead, doing battle against the child-proof cap on the bottle of Tylenol. "Open this for me," he demanded, holding the bottle out to Gerard.

"So maybe one night of not pushing yourself like a crazy person isn't necessarily a bad thing." Gerard popped the top off and tipped three pills into Frank's waiting hand.

Frank palmed the pills into his mouth and took a gulp of the lukewarm water. "That's the pot calling the kettle crazy," he said, grimacing.

Gerard was giving him the pinched, worried stare again. Ray was still just standing there, his hair looming over both of them now, head tilted to the side.

Frank sighed. "I'm playing tonight," he said, firmly. "It is a fucking sore throat. Luckily, I am not the lead singer. I can play my fucking guitar with a sore throat. I can play it with my eyes closed. I am fine."

"Besides," said Bob from the other side of the room, where he'd come back in during some point of the discussion. "He's going to do nothing but bitch until you get too tired to talk him out of it, and then he's going to go on and play anyway." He twirled one drumstick thoughtfully in one hand. "Then he's going to come off and be actually sick, and whine. A lot."

Frank, Gerard, and Ray were all staring at Bob now. Mikey was now carefully applying hairspray to his head and ignoring them all. Bob shrugged one shoulder. "All of this," he gestured at their little circle. "Is really just wasted energy."

Ray looked from Bob, to Frank, to Gerard. "He's right," he said.

Gerard looked at Frank. "Is he?"

"Probably," Frank admitted. "Except for the thing about me actually being sick." Because he wasn't. He pushed himself up to sitting to prove it, and then immediately sat back with his head against the back of the stinky couch. "Head rush," he explained, waving one hand at Gerard.

"Right," said Gerard, pushing himself up off the couch. "If you're sure."

"I'm totally sure." Frank was just going to sit here for a few minutes with his eyes closed against the way too harsh lights of the dressing room. Then he'd get up, and make sure his guitar was tuned, and head out with the band. His band. And he'd be totally fine.

***

Frank played the show. The whole show. And he was totally fine, and Ray and Gerard were total worrywarts for nothing. He played every note and he maybe didn't jump around as much as he usually did, but Gerard was prancing around the stage and taking up all the room, so Frank just hung onto his guitar and stuck to stage right and concentrated on getting his fingers on the right frets. Which was easy as anything. He was sweating like crazy under the stage lights and freezing at the same time, but fuck, that just kept him focused.

Gerard had all his focus on the crowd and that was awesome, because Frank didn't need any help. He had Mikey to sort of nudge him back in the right direction when he maybe staggered into him a couple of times. And if he pushed up against Gerard during "I'm Not Okay" and pressed his face to Gerard's sweaty neck and closed his eyes for a few seconds, that was nothing new at all. And Gerard pushed his fingers into Frank's hair and held him there, so clearly Gerard didn't mind. Gerard was steady to lean against, and the roar of the crowd sounded dull in Frank's ears.

When Gerard pushed him away, he did it gently, and Frank stumbled easily back to his usual spot on stage and just kept playing. He played the last few songs slumped back on his knees, sure, and the final encore he played hanging out on the floor on his back, feeling his way through the notes and not one hundred percent sure how he was going to get offstage when it wrapped up. But he played the fucking song. He played the fucking show.

The lights went down after the closer and Frank lay there on the stage and couldn't really feel his guitar under his hands. Someone wrapped their hand around his and he held on as he was pulled up – Ray, he thought dimly – and he let himself be led offstage, Ray with his arm under Frank's, keeping him upright. Even though he totally could have made it on his own if they'd just given him another minute.

Backstage, Gerard trailing behind them like a mother chicken, Ray easily pulled Frank through the crowds and into the dressing room. Frank couldn't keep his head up – it was pounding, like the music was still playing through speakers in his ears or something – and fuck, he was sick. He was so sick. Ray dumped him on the same smelly couch, gently, and Frank curled in on himself. He'd gotten rid of his hoodie somewhere on stage, and now he was just in his sweat-soaked t-shirt and jeans, and his armbands were still on, and they were hurting against his skin, he felt raw, and if his skin was hurting that meant he had a fucking fever.

Gerard was kneeling beside him on the floor. He pushed Frank's sweaty hair out of his face. "I told you so, Frankie," he said. Gerard always said I told you so. Frank groaned, but Gerard had grabbed Frank's hoodie from the side of the stage, and he draped it over him snugly, so Frank didn't care, he had moved on to desperately grateful.

He was still fucking shivering, but a little warmer. "Thanks," he muttered.

Gerard turned around sitting down on the floor against the sofa, his head near Frank's. Gerard's hair was soaked with sweat. So was his jacket. He had a pack of cigarettes in his hand and was turning the pack over and over against his knee. "You're an idiot," he said.

"I know," Frank said miserably into his hood, but he could hear the sort of fond tone in Gerard's voice, which made him feel a little less horrible. Still, he was dying. He could admit to his idiocy. A last-rites sort of thing.

"You're going to be so much sicker than you already were." Gerard had tilted his head to look at Frank over his shoulder.

Frank looked back. His head hurt. His eyes hurt. "I know."

Gerard pressed one hand to his shoulder as he got up.

"Ow," Frank said softly, letting his eyes close again.

"Brian," he heard Gerard saying. "We've got to get Frank back to the hotel, like, now, okay?"

"Car's already on its way around." Brian's voice was calm – this was nowhere near the first time Frank had been laid low after a show before – but Frank heard him asking Gerard in a low tone if a doctor was something to think about. Which, no, it wasn't, it so wasn't, because Frank wasn't even coughing (yet, but he could feel the tightness in his chest that preceded it, Jesus God, just kill him now), and it was really just a cold, and if he could open his eyes, he'd tell Brian that himself.

Gerard was doing it for him, the quiet, calming tone of, "Nah, he's okay, he's Frank. He's good at being sick."

Frank half-smiled against the gross couch. He was good at being sick. At least Gerard got that part. He loved Gerard. Until Gerard came to haul him up from the couch, and oh man, oh Christ, that hurt, he fucking hurt, all over. "You gonna hurl?" he heard Gerard ask quietly, close to his ear and – no, Frank shook his head. "No, 'm good," he said, and he wasn't going to, he just bit his lip hard and held on to Gerard until the room stopped spinning.

"Let's go," Frank heard, and maybe Gerard was talking to him, or to Brian, or to the rest of the guys, but Frank just grimly moved his feet forward and went where Gerard led him.

***

Next day was a travel day (on the bus, thank God, not a plane) and Frank was really fucked up. He wasn't even pretending to be okay anymore, because he was stuck on a bus for at least the next ten hours and oh holy hell, did he not feel good. He'd woken himself (and Gerard, who had the unfortunate short straw of sharing the hotel room with him) up with this sort of thick hacking in the middle of the night, and it had just gotten worse by the time he rolled out of bed in the morning. Like the gunk had gotten a chance to settle into his lungs.

"Awesome," he rasped, stumbling onto the bus at way too early in the morning, Gerard sort of half supporting, half pushing him from behind. "This is awesome, I'm gonna die."

"You're not gonna die," Mikey said from inside the bus, but he almost frowned when Frank came fully into view.

"No," Frank said, when he'd caught his breath. He made his way down the aisle to his bunk. "I'm just gonna wish I were dead."

Which he did. A few hours later when he woke up, and he'd forgotten to take aspirin before he passed out that morning, so he could feel every tremor of the wheels against the road through his skin. His head was heavy, his chest felt like someone was sitting on it, and he felt, for a short handful of seconds, like he was going to cry. He wanted Gerard to come take care of him. Fuck, he wanted his mom to come take care of him.

He pressed his hands to his eyes, just breathing for a second, until he felt slightly more in control, before rolling over slowly to get out of the bunk. He started coughing immediately, like shifting the gunk in his chest had been a really terrible idea, and ended up on his knees outside the bunk, burying his face against the mattress to try to muffle the sound.

"Frank?" Gerard poked his head back into the bunk area. "Oh man. Okay. C'mere."

Frank miserably let Gerard drag him to his feet. "It's fucking pathetic," he said, his voice raspy and shot. "That you have to do this."

"Nah," Gerard said easily, pulling Frank along and depositing him on the couch in the lounge. "It's pathetic that I know exactly what to do when you get like this."

Frank blinked up at him blearily. "Fuck my fucking life," he said, and bent over, coughing again.

"Amen," Gerard said. He waited patiently until Frank could fucking remember how to breathe again, then pressed three Tylenol into Frank's hand, holding a water bottle out, too. Frank swallowed the pills – Christ, his throat fucking hurt – and nodded his thanks, curling up on the couch in the lounge. It felt like it should be the middle of the night, but it was bright afternoon outside where the bus rumbled along the highway. It was quiet in the lounge, though, and Frank, slumped on the couch, asked, "Where the hell is everyone?"

"Back studio," Gerard said, gesturing with his head. At Frank's tired, raised eyebrow, he added, "Playing with Garage Band, not anything new."

"Okay." Frank pressed his face against the couch. He was hot. He figured he was going to feel like this forever, he was never going to get better. Until he died from whatever rare and degenerative disease no doctor was ever going to be able to diagnose. Also, his head was definitely going to fall off, like, soon. "Gee," he said softly. "I'm so sick."

"I know." Gerard finished what he was doing at the counter and came over, two mugs in his hand. He pushed at Frank to sit up a little and Frank whined, but did it, propping himself in the corner of the couch. "Drink this."

It was tea, too sweet and too much milk, but it tasted good and felt even better against his throat, and Frank sipped it, and thought that Gerard had been talking to his mom again, the fucker. Frank wasn't a child. He could take care of himself.

"Jesus, Frank," Gerard said, settling down on the floor beside him, his own cup – coffee, Frank saw, looking over Gerard's shoulder – in his hand. He took a long sip. "If you took care of yourself –"

"I take care of myself," Frank said, indignant, then immediately started coughing. "What," he said, when Gerard stared at him, his eyes crinkled in amusement. "I totally do."

"You're an idiot," Gerard said, but he nudged the back of his head against Frank's knee a little as he said it.

Which he wasn't, but he was so fucking sick of getting sick that if he stopped what he was doing every time he got a sore throat, he'd never get to live his fucking life. Frank was going to explain that to Gerard, but he closed his eyes for a second first and when he woke up, his head was still propped against the corner of the couch and there was a crick in his neck and a blanket thrown over him. The bus was driving slowly – city traffic, which meant they were getting near the hotel. He could vaguely remember people going in and out – sort of – but the rest of the ride was a blur of unconsciousness.

"Hey." A cool hand pressed against Frank's forehead and he looked up to see Gerard looking down at him. "You're still really warm," he said, looking a little worried.

"Yeah, well," Frank said, or tried to, but his voice was fucking gone, it came out as a croak, and then he started coughing, and oh, this was fun. "Fuck," he managed to get out, finally. "Fuck me."

Gerard stared down at him with his face all scrunched up. "You're not doing so hot on that whole breathing thing," he said lightly, but he had that look on his face like he was going to tell Brian on him as soon as he could.

Frank made a face at him, because his throat hurt like burning and he really, really didn't want to try to talk right now.

"Breathing is, you know." Gerard chewed on his lip. "Important."

"I’m breathing," Frank snapped, then wished he hadn't, because his throat really fucking hurt. "I'm fine, I'm just –"

"Sick." Bob emerged from the back, and he wasn't even looking at Frank, he was peering into the fridge, but he had that sure quality to his voice that Frank hated and tried to undermine at any given opportunity.

"Under the weather," Frank said, but ruined it by coughing again and not being able to stop, and when he could finally sit up again, it was only because Gerard was there beside him on the couch, his arm over Frank's shoulders, hanging onto him like he was holding him together.

"Yeah," Bob said, from where he was leaning up against the counter. "You're just a little peaked." He took a sip of Red Bull. "Or whatever."

"Shut it," Frank said, and rolled his head against Gerard's shoulder. He had a fucking headache. He felt like he'd been run over by a truck. Gerard still had his arm around him. "I'm probably pretty contagious," Frank said guiltily. "You should probably, you know."

Gerard didn't move away. "Some of us have an immune system," he said. "That will even protect us against such things as the common cold."

"Shut up," Frank whispered. "I hate you."

Gerard's hand tightened for a second on Frank's shoulder. "I know," he said. "So hey, Brian's got a doctor meeting us at the hotel."

So he'd already told on Frank to Brian. "I fucking hate both of you," Frank said without hesitation, his head buried against Gerard's shoulder. "So fucking much." He was fine. He'd be fine. This wasn't new or different or anything that he couldn’t fucking handle and a doctor would just confirm that hey, he was, in fact, sick, something which he and everyone else in a fucking five mile radius already knew.

"You know," Bob pointed out reasonably. "Sometimes doctors – who have, like, degrees and shit? – sometimes they know things and can help out." He took a sip of Red Bull. "With delicate fucking flowers like yourself."

Frank decided silence was the better part of valor and just held up a middle finger without opening his eyes or lifting his head from Gerard's shoulder.

"How you don't drown him in the tub," Bob said, clearly to Gerard. "I will never fucking know."

Gerard shrugged the shoulder Frank's head wasn't resting against. "I'm used to it at this point." He pushed a little at Frank's shoulder, as the bus came to a shuddering stop. "Come on, Typhoid Mary. We're here."

"Hates," Frank mumbled. Because really.

***

The doctor said bronchitis (which Frank could have told them) and what was probably just a bad cold on top of that. He gave him antibiotics for the bronchitis, and grief for having played while he was sick (whatever), and told Gerard (when Frank stopped listening to him) that, given Frank's medical history and fucking wretched immune system, bedrest was the best possible bet for getting better. At which Frank rolled his eyes so hard he gave himself a headache, and the doctor left, with a final, "Good luck," to Gerard, which Frank, to be quite honest, took offense at.

"If I did nothing but rest when the doctors said rest," Frank argued from his prone position on the bed, his face pressed against the hotel sheets, which were cool and smelled awesomely clean, "I'd never be in a fucking band in the first place."

Gerard looked at him. "Sometime I wonder if you even should be in a band."

"Hey," said Frank, genuinely more than a little bit offended now. Being in the band was everything to Frank. He wasn't going to let his fucking body stop him from being in it. Gerard would have to pry it out of his cold, dead hands.

"I don't mean it like that," Gerard said, edging closer to him on the side of the bed. "I just – you fucking worry me, Frankie."

"Yeah." Frank pressed his face harder against the pillow. "I'm good, though."

"You're not, though." Gerard shook his head, then bent down, taking his sneakers off. He climbed up onto the bed beside Frank, curling up behind him on top of the covers. Frank shivered, even though he knew the fucking room was warm, and Gerard made a small noise of worry and put an arm over him.

"You're spooning me," Frank pointed out, then added, "Fag," after a moment.

"You're sick," Gerard said in the same reasonable tone, adding, "Asshole," after the same pause.

"I'm playing tomorrow," Frank said. Insistently. Or, well, he tried for insistent, but his eyes were sliding closed, and his head felt like it weighed a million pounds, and he could feel the rasping in his chest, like if he moved an inch or breathed in too much, he'd be coughing himself into a fit.

"Shut up." Gerard had his forehead pressed to the back of Frank's neck. "I'm tired."

It was only about six pm, but Gerard kept weird fucking hours, so maybe he was. Frank had been awake for about two hours of the whole day, but he was so fucking shot he couldn't keep his eyes open, and he was stupidly glad to have Gerard in bed with him.

"You –" Frank started. He'd had a whole thing to say about how Gerard should sleep somewhere else, so he wouldn’t get sick, so Frank wouldn’t wake him later, when he inevitably started coughing. That Frank was a grown man, he didn't need watching over – but Gerard's arm was heavy over Frank's side, and his breathing even, and Frank feel asleep trying to figure out if Gerard was really asleep or just faking it.

***

Frank was good the next day, or, well, mostly. He woke up coughing and hacking like a pleurisy patient, but once his throat was cleared out, he was kind of okay. He took a long, hot shower, coughed and blew his nose for about fifteen fucking minutes afterwards, but he was fine, he was good as anything, he was good to go.

Except for how Gerard didn't believe him.

"You're okay now, but your fever is going to go up at about eleven, and then again at about six, and by showtime, you're going to feel like complete ass," he explained, all logic and reason.

"Fuck you," said Frank cheerfully, his voice a little riddled with snot, from where he was lying there in bed, again, so fucking tired of all of this he could not even. "You don't know."

"Yeah, except for how I do," Gerard said. He had a pack of cigarettes in his hand, turning the box around and around against his thigh, and oh, Frank would fucking mutilate someone for a smoke right now. Only it wasn't worth the fucking argument with Gerard about his lungs and breathing and whatever, so he didn't ask. He just eyed the pack sadly.

"It's early," he pointed out. "I'll sleep all afternoon and I'll be good to go by showtime."

"You'll be fucking dead on your feet by showtime." Gerard pushed himself up and walked to the door, already patting down his jacket, looking for his lighter. Frank knew his lighter was, in fact, on the desk, right there in plain sight, but if Gerard wasn't going to let him smoke, then fuck if Frank was going to point it out.

"Yeah, well." Frank lifted his chin at Gerard.

Gerard shook his head. "You're a moron," he said, opening the door to the hotel room.

"Your mom is a moron," Frank shot back.

"Your face is a moron," Gerard said, and he slid a fucking cigarette out of the pack before closing the door, letting Frank see it dangling between his lips as he went.

"Fuck you," Frank called after him, practically able to taste the nicotine. Then he took another breath, which caught funny, and left him hunched over coughing. Fuck. His. Life.

***

Frank made it to the venue, but by showtime, he felt like death fucking warmed over. He'd slept most of the day, but his fever had, yeah, fucking spiked at about six, to the point where his skin was super-sensitive and everything hurt, and he couldn't close his eyes without falling into the most fucked-up almost-waking dreams ever. Every time he jerked awake in a cold sweat, his body hurt more. Even though he'd insisted on coming with the guys to the venue, he ended up curled in on himself on the couch in the dressing room, shivering uncontrollably and stupidly fucking close to tears, just out of goddamn frustration.

"You're fucking human," Ray pointed out. "You get sick. It happens. Take care of yourself. We'll be fine."

Frank shut his eyes and shoved his hands into the pockets of his hoodie. Every muscle in his body ached. He was exhausted, felt like he could sleep for about eighteen hours, even though he'd been awake about forty-five minutes. He hated his goddamn body so much he couldn't even speak.

"Fuck," he said against the couch cushion, and coughed, curling up until he could breathe again. "Fuck, I'm sorry, yeah, I can't." He left it at that. He couldn't. He just couldn't, and that fucking sucked so fucking hard he just – yeah.

"It's okay, Frankie." Ray patted his shoulder. "We got it, we're good." He headed out the door – in search of Brian, Frank knew, about getting Cortez to take his spot, to take Frank's fucking spot on stage.

Frank shut his eyes again and tried to will himself into unconsciousness. There was nothing fucking worse than listening to his own band play without him, there really wasn't. This was so stupid. There was all this logic and bullshit and whatever, he knew if he sat out tonight, he might be able to actually make it for tomorrow night and the three fucking shows in a row after that, if he, you know, slept every fucking hour in between them, but this still fucking sucked. Hard.

He felt someone settle onto the arm of the couch by his feet. He assumed it was Gerard, but when he managed to open his eyes, it was Mikey sitting there, looking awkward and uncomfortable, which made Frank feel better – Mikey always looked awkward and uncomfortable, and Frank knew it had nothing at all to do with him. Mikey had been down with Frank being sick for the entire time they'd known each other. Mikey got it better than almost anyone.

"I could totally play," Frank said. His voice sounded terrible, even to his own ears.

Mikey moved his shoulders in what might have been a shrug. "Yeah," he said.

"Only." Frank shifted a little on the couch. He was still so fucking cold.

"Three shows after this one," Mikey said. "In a row."

"Right." Frank looked up. Mikey was slouched down on the arm of the couch.It was about twenty minutes to showtime. Frank nudged Mikey's thigh with one foot. "If I don't play," he said. "Who's going to make Bob's life miserable on stage? You?"

Mikey's mouth quirked a tiny bit in a crooked smile. "Sure."

Frank shook his head against the couch cushion. "I don't believe you," he said.

Mikey's shoulders were still tense, the way they got before going on stage, but he'd lowered them slightly. "Oh well," he said, sliding off the arm of the couch to sit half-on Frank's feet.

Frank sighed, which made him cough, and that set him off on a jag of ragged coughing that left him light-headed and really fucking happy when it stopped long enough for him to draw a breath. When he opened his eyes, Mikey was looking at him from the end of the couch, expressionless. "So yeah, okay, maybe I'll stay here on this really nice couch for a while," Frank said.

"Good thought," Mikey said, and he wasn't quite smiling, but he looked less tense around the eyes, Frank thought. Mikey got stage fright on a pretty regular basis, and the change in routine didn't help – something else Frank was making worse by being sick. He shifted a little on the couch and dug his toes into Mikey's thigh until Mikey sighed and lifted up a little, letting Frank shove his cold feet under Mikey's skinny leg. It was better than nothing.

***

Listening to the show from backstage sucked just as hard as Frank had thought it would. He slept through some of it – he'd actually fallen asleep pretty hard on the couch before the guys even left, and hadn't woken up until halfway through the first half – but mostly he just lay there miserably and had to keep untensing his fingers, as they automatically curved in to find the chords he should have been out there playing.

It would have been worse, only his fever spiked again around ten o'clock (like Gerard had said it would, when he'd left out Tylenol and Gatorade on the table next to Frank) and by the time the guys came back to the dressing room, he was so fucking out of it, he felt like it was all kind of a weird, fucked up dream. Gerard came right over to him, soaked with sweat, his hair dripping, and slid down on his knees on the floor next to him, saying, "Hey, Frankie, hey, we missed you out there tonight." His voice was all soft and quiet and close like they were alone or something, like no one else could hear, even though the room was filled with people.

Gerard pushed Frank's hair back off his forehead, his hand damp and hot against Frank's skin, and Frank wanted to press into it, but it seemed to take too much fucking energy.

"Okay," Gerard said, even though Frank hadn't said anything. "Okay, Frankie, we're just gonna – hang on, okay? I'll be right back."

He felt Gerard get up from the floor, and Frank was going to sit up in just a second, show that he was totally fine. He really was.

"He's burning up." That was Gerard again, sounding anxious. "I – he's really hot, Brian."

"Okay, Gerard, let's just –"

Frank kind of drifted for a while there, but when someone's – blessedly cool – hand pressed against his cheek, he opened his eyes. It was Mikey there in front of him. "Frank. You're okay, right? Let's get you up."

"Yeah," Frank managed, and he pushed himself up, Mikey's hand holding him steady. "No, I'm good, I just –" His chest did that gunk-shifting-fuck-you thing and he was coughing again, bent over himself and trying to breathe through it.

"Okay." Mikey waited it out. "Okay, Frank?"

Frank nodded instead of talking, keeping his head down, concentrating on not coughing.

"It just sounds bad," Mikey said, over his shoulder to Gerard and Brian. "I mean, it is bad, he's pretty sick, but Frank's good at being pretty sick. He's – you know I'm right, Gerard, it always hits him harder than it would anyone else."

"Yeah, I know, but look at him, Mikey, I just –"

"Hey." Mikey shook Frank a little bit, his arm around his shoulders. "Gerard wants to take you to a hospital."

"No, uh-uh." Frank bit his lip hard, getting himself to wake up a little and focus here. "No way, Gee," he rasped. "It'll make this worse, sitting there with sick people for who fucking knows how long."

"Frankie," Gerard said anxiously.

Frank waved a hand as Mikey helped him shove his feet into his sneakers, and pulled his hood up over his head. "I need to fucking sleep," Frank said. "The doctor said bed rest. I need bed rest." He got up, steadying himself against Mikey, Gerard quickly moving over to his other side. "God, Gee," Frank said hoarsely, as Gerard pressed close. "You need a fucking shower. You reek."

"Hotel," Gerard said. "Now, come on."

"It's the second day," Frank pointed out as they headed out slowly.

"The second day is always the worst," Mikey said from Frank's side.

"I know," Gerard said. "I hate the second day."

"Me too," Frank said fervently, and let them drag him out to the car.

***

Frank slept hard that night – he pretty much got back to the hotel and zombie-walked up to their room, and when Gerard pulled back the covers and pressed him down on the bed, Frank went down and out like a light. He didn't remember anything after that, but when he woke up enough to roll over in the middle of the night, Gerard was in bed with him again, and his hair was damp and smelled like hotel shampoo. Frank pressed his face against it and slid one arm over Gerard's waist, and then he was out again – his whole body pressing him for sleep sleep sleep.

He woke up before Gerard in the morning – no shock there, having slept for the vast majority of the past, oh, forty-eight hours – and lay there for a while, trying to gauge his body. He felt – better. He shifted a little and took a breath, trying to see how he – oh, there he went, coughing in a really gross way, all the gunk that had settled in place overnight trying to escape – but it was better, kind of. He could tell it was better.

Gerard had pushed himself up to his elbows behind Frank and was blinking at him, still half-asleep and looking totally alarmed. Frank waved a hand at him, still trying to catch his breath. "I’m good," he said, and it came out all clogged and raspy, but he was. "Honest, I just –" He waved in the general direction of the shower, and Gerard nodded foggily and lay back down, snoring almost immediately as Frank levered himself out of bed and stumbled towards the bathroom.

He stared at himself in the mirror as he let the shower run really hot. He looked like shit – huge dark circles under his eyes, despite all the sleep – and he still felt shaky, but at least he wasn't feverish, and it felt like the crap in his chest was breaking up. He climbed into the shower and took as long in there as he could, first washing his hair and conditioning it, too, and then washing himself down, God, there was nothing like hot showers, nothing - but then just stood there under the hot water, letting it beat down on his shoulders and back, hot as he could possibly stand it, breathing in the steam.

He blew his nose for what felt like twenty minutes after he got out, and coughed for a little bit longer than that, but by the time he emerged, wrapped in a hotel robe, he felt almost human again. He could breathe through his nose, and he could take an almost-deep breath without coughing, and he counted that as victory. In, you know, the book of Frank Iero.

"Hey." Gerard flapped one hand outside of the covers in the dim light filtering through the hotel room curtains. "Come back."

Frank crawled back under the covers and pushed up close to Gerard. Gerard let one arm fall heavily over Frank's side, tugging him close, but never opened his eyes. The shower had taken it all out of Frank – he felt tired, but in a human way, like he needed to sleep and not just pass out. His eyes were so fucking heavy, he couldn't keep them open, so he just curled up close to Gerard, and reveled in being able to breathe steadily.

They only woke up hours later because Frank's phone alarm kept going off, for long enough that Frank woke up and hauled himself off the bed, trying to fish the phone out of his jeans. Gerard slept through both the alarm and Frank's flailing entirely, and only woke up when Frank actually shook him.

"I don't – I got it, you're just – what?" Gerard stared at him, wild-eyed, for a handful of seconds before collapsing back down against the pillow. "Oh. I'm awake." He shut his eyes again, then blinked them open. "Hey." His hand flailed out, smacking into Frank's face and almost taking his eye out. "How are you feeling?"

"Ow," Frank responded, as Gerard finally found his forehead with his hand. "Better."

"Cool." Frank couldn't tell if that was an observation or a description, but Gerard pulled his hand away and snuggled back down under the covers. "Come back."

Which was one of the awesome things about Gerard: he didn't have to be sick to be happy spending the day in bed. Which is pretty much how they spent the day up until showtime, dozing and - in Frank's case - medicating. Gerard roused himself at about two, calling in for room service, and Mikey swung by just as the food arrived - he was weirdly psychic when it came to food. The three of them sat on the bed and ate and watched some horror movie on Pay Per View and even though Frank snuffled his way through the whole damn thing, including the zombie invasion, it was pretty much the best day ever.

He fell asleep before the end, with his head on Mikey's thigh, and woke up a while later to the semi-quiet voices of Gerard and Mikey arguing about zombies and their motivations. Gerard's fingers were moving softly in Frank's hair as he whispered fiercely over Frank's head. Frank yawned and stretched, taking a tentative breath that, hey, didn't rattle in his chest for fucking once.

"Hey." Gerard looked down at him from next to Mikey, his hand moving from Frank's hair to his forehead. "How are you feeling?"

"I'm good." Frank yawned again, as Mikey shifted a little under his head. "Jeez, you're bony. Eat something once in a while, why don't you?"

Mikey looked down at him. "My legs have been asleep for the past half-hour." He paused, then added, "And you're a pain in the ass."

Frank smiled sweetly up at him. "I know, right?" He pushed himself up, aching a little bit from the weird sleeping position, but not coughing. He would take what he could get. He leaned himself up against the headboard, eyeing Gerard.

Gerard just gave him a look. "Frank," he said.

"Gee," Frank said. "Seriously. I'm fine." Pretty much. He'd played in much worse shape than this. Hell, he'd played in much worse shape than this for practically the whole first year they were together.

Gerard had his arms crossed over his chest, eyeing Frank sternly, which might have been more effective if he didn't have what was quite possibly the best case of bedhead Frank had ever seen. He looked like a mental patient. Post-electric shock therapy. "You've been saying shit like that for, like. Days."

"Yes, but this time it's true." Frank smiled, going for charming.

"Seriously," Mikey said, turning to Gerard. "I'm with Bob – I don't know how you don't drown him."

"I'm fucking used to it," Gerard said. He scratched his head, sending the lock of hair that was already bumped up over the crown of his head even higher. "Okay," he said, coming to a decision. "Okay, you can play tonight, but you have to tell me if you start feeling like shit."

"I will," Frank promised, grinning widely and bouncing a little on the bed. Mikey rocked with the bouncing, grimacing.

"The truth," Gerard said. "Because if you're lying, I'll be able to tell."

"No, you won't," Mikey said, shrugging one shoulder when Gerard shot him a look. "But I will, so – there's that."

Gerard opened his mouth, then closed it, nodding glumly in agreement. "But Mikey will totally be able to tell," Gerard said firmly, pointing a finger at Frank. Frank was pretty sure he was going for threatening. It was cute.

"Got it," Frank promised solemnly.

"Okay." Mikey levered himself off the bed. "We're heading out in, like, an hour, so you guys might want to think about getting out of bed at some point."

"Fuck yeah, I'm going to shower," Frank said fervently, while Gerard wrinkled his nose and slid back down under the covers, waving goodbye to Mikey as he headed out the door. "You might want to think about it, too," Frank said, looking at Gerard.

"I just showered, like –" He stopped, thinking about it, and Frank, halfway out of bed, paused, waiting.

"If you have to think about it for that long," Frank said finally, "it might be time for another one. I'm just saying."

Gerard shoved at him with his foot. "I wash," he said.

"You take a whore's bath!" Frank said. "It's not the same thing."

Gerard sighed. "I'm just going to get all sweaty on stage," he said, curling up under the covers. "It's a waste of time."

Frank, stripping down en route to the shower, looked back. All he could see from the nest of blankets was the top of Gerard's head. "I don't know that going on stage with your hair like that is –" He stopped. Gerard's bedhead wasn't actually all that different from his stage hair. Frank shrugged.

He showered, and got dressed, and got to the venue with the guys, and he didn't even feel like he needed to lie down by the time he was done, which he counted very firmly as a win. He did feel a little bit like he was going to puke, but that was par for the course with regard to his nerves before showtime.

He was fine for a lot of the show - winded almost immediately, and he spent pretty much any second he wasn't playing just standing there with his head down, panting and gulping water and putting his hoodie on when the sweat started cooling on his skin and he started shivering, and then taking it off again when he started sweating so hard he thought he was going to have to lie down on the floor again. But - mostly he was fine.

Gerard kept sashaying over to check on him, swinging his hips and grinning. Once, he pressed his forehead against Frank's, murmuring, "You good?" He only move away after Frank nodded jerkily, still watching his hands on his own guitar.

He was breathless, and really tired, but still standing by the encore, and made his way over to Gerard, playing right next to him and watching as Gerard's face fucking glowed in the stage lights, amid the audience's screams, the words pouring out his mouth like he'd been made to sing them.

Frank was feeling maybe a little loopy.

He moved across the stage, so he could press his forehead against Gerard's back for a while, letting Gerard hold him up while he played.

Gerard lifted both hands as the song drew to a close. Frank slung his guitar behind his back as the crowd went crazy, screaming their hearts out. Gerard turned to him, grinning, just as the stage lights went out, and kissed him, wild and sweet. And just - it wasn't - Gerard had kissed Frank on stage before, but it wasn't like that. The lights were down, and the change from the stage lights to plunging darkness made it so even Frank couldn't really see, let alone anyone else. It was - a stage kiss and not a stage kiss; it felt like they were completely fucking alone for the three seconds it lasted, even though the audience was still screaming and they were pulled apart when Ray pushed by, hustling offstage.

But it had been really weird for that three seconds of kissing and Frank didn't even know why. Maybe he was sick, still. Maybe the fever had come back. He definitely felt dizzy, and Gerard had to turn back, confused, and then grab his hand and pull him offstage.

Then they were in the dressing room, and Gerard was still loosely holding Frank's hand, standing there with a towel slung around his neck and his hair dripping with sweat, talking animatedly with one of the techs about, Frank didn't even know, maybe the shower of sparks that Gerard loved so fucking much on stage. They were holding hands and no one was even looking at them funny, and it was so fucking bizarre that this was hitting Frank now, when nothing had changed, they were doing nothing different than they already did. But it was like he was at the over-tired state of hyper-awareness when it all slotted together - that they were doing everything but.

He blinked, letting his head fall forward, sweaty hair falling in his eyes. He was really fucking dumb sometimes.

"Frankie." Gerard was tugging on his hand now, looking at him and grinning. "Hey, how are you-"

"I think I need to sit down," Frank said abruptly. And did so, immediately, grateful that the couch behind him turned out to be unoccupied.

"Hey." Gerard was looking down at him anxiously, then snapped his head up and searched around the room, standing on his tiptoes, looking for Brian, Frank would bet money. "Okay, listen, this time, we're going directly to the hospital, no passing go, no collecting two hundred -"

"He's not sick," Mikey cut him off, drifting up out of nowhere and sinking down onto the couch beside Frank. He slouched back far enough that when he crossed one leg over the other knee, his foot stuck up farther than his head. Frank admired his awkward bendiness, and tried not to think about anything else at all.

"Huh?" Gerard said, looking down at them both. "Are you sure?" He sat down on the arm of the couch next to Frank and shoved his hand against his forehead, clearly forgetting that he was holding a cigarette in it, and almost setting Frank's hair on fire, jerking his hand away when Frank flinched, and patting Frank's bangs down distractedly.

"Yeah," Mikey said, already texting on his Sidekick. "It's something else."

He wasn't even looking at Frank. "You don't know. I could be sick," Frank insisted.

"Nah." Mikey squinted at the screen. "You're just freaked out about something." He shrugged, sliding lower on the couch. He was practically flat by this point.

"Are you?" Gerard was gnawing on his lip and fuck, fucking hell, he was holding Frank's hand again and Frank hadn't even noticed. "What are you freaked out about?"

"Who's freaked out?" Ray came up, his hair way crazier than normal. Frank was vaguely mesmerized by it.

Mikey tilted his head at Frank, before shutting his phone and getting up in one movement from the couch and taking off.

"I'm not," Frank said, but he didn't pull his hand away from Gerard's. Instead, he curled it a little, curiously, interlacing their fingers, and Gerard hummed happily and squeezed Frank's hand. Twice.

Fucking hell. It wasn't that Frank hadn't noticed, but he hadn't noticed-noticed, and now he was noticing. But Gerard still wasn’t noticing, and they were in a room full of people and it wasn't even a hotel night and Frank's body was still way too fucking unwell for all of this confusion.

"Can we go?" he asked Gerard plaintively. "Please?" he said as Brian came into the room, his gaze going directly to Frank. Brian also didn’t blink twice at the fact that Frank was now, in fact, clutching Gerard's hand.

"Car's on its way," he said, and stood up on his toes, looking around until he caught Bob's eye and tilted his head. Bob came over, his drumsticks still in hand, hair too-long and sweaty. "Where's Mikey?" Brian asked him, and looked surprised when Ray was the one who said, "Uh," and gestured with his hair.

Frank – still holding Gerard's hand, though he was planning on stopping any second – leaned his head back against the couch, craning his neck to see, oh hi, Mikey was making out with one of the guitar techs, pretty much just grinding against her in a dim corner back behind a stack of equipment boxes.

"Mikey," Brian called, in a carrying shout.

"Mikey," Gerard said against Frank's shoulder, averting his eyes.

"Coming," Mikey said back, faintly, and Gerard actually giggled when Frank murmured, "TMI, Mikey," into his ear.

Frank was suffused with this hot flash over his whole body, like his fever was spiking again, only it wasn't, nothing hurt, it had nothing to do with being sick.

Gerard was smiling at him, and holding his hand, and Brian was urging them up from the couch with a hand on Frank's shoulder, crowding them out the room, Bob and Ray following along obediently. When Frank glanced back, Brian had his hand on Mikey's back, not quite pushing him out of the room, but Mikey was definitely moving in a slightly petulant manner. "Whatever," he said, when he saw Frank raising his eyebrows at him, but he also looked back at the guitar tech girl, who raised her chin at him when he held up his Sidekick a little – the twentieth-century version of holding your hand like a phone and mouthing call me.

Frank cracked himself up, burying his laugh against Gerard's shoulder, and Gerard giggled back genially, not knowing the joke, but still right there with Frank.

It was a bus night, but Frank felt so much better than he had in fucking ages that it was fine. He was fine. It was easy to get on the bus, and everyone assumed he was still sick, so when he headed directly back to the bunk area, no one blinked.

When he didn't let go of Gerard's hand and brought him back there with him, no one blinked at that, either.

When he crawled into his bunk and tugged Gerard in with him, even Gerard didn't blink. Which, man, where the hell had Frank been all this time, when he could have been doing this without even thinking twice?

Frank was still not feeling one hundred percent, sure, and his clothes were stiff with sweat. He needed a shower in the worst way, and Gerard, man, needed one even worse than that, but fuck, Frank was so fucking past waiting another second for this that he just did not care.

Gerard crowded into the bunk after him and lay down on his side, smiling at Frank a little worriedly. Frank just slid one hand up around the back of Gerard's neck, and tugged, the tiniest bit, which was all it took to get Gerard close enough to kiss. And fuck being careful or subtle or any of those things they clearly hadn't been for a long fucking time. Frank slid his tongue into Gerard's mouth, kissing him for all he was worth, counting on – okay, yes, there it was. Gerard had tensed for a handful of seconds, and then gave a small sigh, and sank into it. Sank into it and rolled towards Frank on the bed, sliding his arm over Frank's waist and tugging him close.

They kissed in the dark of the bunk for a long time, and by the time Frank pulled back to breathe, Gerard was hard against his thigh. "Hi," he said, his breath warm against Frank's face. "Hi, what was that?"

He sounded interested, curious, like he really wanted to know. He brought one hand up, pressing two fingers against Frank's mouth, and smiled when Frank mouthed at them a little. "I don't know," Frank said against Gerard's fingers. "It seemed like something we should be doing."

"Oh." Gerard moved his hand, resting it against Frank's chest. "I – I'm cool with that." He leaned in again, and Frank closed his eyes, tilted his face up. Then he opened his eyes and scowled as Gerard pressed his hand against Frank's forehead instead of kissing him.

"I'm fine," he snapped, shaking Gerard's hand away from him.

"I'm just checking," Gerard said. "I don't want to, you know –"

"Get sick?" Frank asked, grinning as he reached up to tug on the front of Gerard's hoodie.

"Take advantage of you or something, fucker." Gerard let himself be pulled forward.

"Yes," Frank said against Gerard's lips. "You are so totally taking advantage of me." He slid his leg forward, pressed it up between Gerard's thighs. "My honor may never recover." He reached down, undoing Gerard's belt (one-handed, which was kind of awesome), and thumbing open the button on his jeans.

"Shut the fuck up," Gerard mumbled against his lips. "I just – you've never, you know, whatever." He kissed Frank again. "Done this. Or. I don’t know. I just never fucking knew, you know?"

"I know," Frank said. "How did we fucking miss this?"

Gerard rocked forward against Frank's thigh, biting his lip. His cheeks were pink and his hair was crazy and Frank wanted him so, so bad. "We're morons."

"Idiots," Frank agreed, working his hands into the waist of Gerard's way-too-fucking-tight jeans and working them down his thighs.

"Losers," Gerard gasped, as Frank wrapped his hand around Gerard's cock, because Gerard wasn't wearing underwear, which Frank had known and seriously, how had they not known they could have been doing this?

"We've done everything but," Frank pointed out, and he pressed his mouth against Gerard's neck, against the spot he knew about, because he knew everything about Gerard, he knew every fucking thing there was to know about Gerard. He dug his teeth in, and Gerard gasped really loud and rocked into Frank's hand.

"That still leaves a fucking lot left to do," Gerard said breathlessly, then demanded, "Do it faster."

"Pushy," Frank said, feeling gleeful, and leaned up on one elbow so he could stroke Gerard, rough and fast and tight and he knew Gerard liked that, too, and fuck, how many late-night conversations had they had about sex? How much had Frank filed away - how many minor little kinks, major turn-ons, of Gerard's had he somehow catalogued in his brain? How did he know that Gerard like that little tight twist at the top of the stroke, but not know that he could have been the one to be doing the stroking?

"We're so dumb," he said, twisting his hand over the top of Gerard's cock and feeling his palm get slick with how much Gerard was leaking, how fucking turned on Gerard was.

"So fucking dumb," Gerard agreed, practically climbing onto Frank. "Fuck, just like that, do it just like that, I – "

"I know," Frank said, "I fucking know," and he pushed his fist up tight over Gerard, palm sliding slickly over the head before stroking back down and jerking him in hard, tight strokes till Gerard buried his face against Frank's shoulder and cried out as he came all over Frank's last clean pair of jeans.

"Fuck," Gerard panted. "Fuck, Frankie." He kept his head buried there against Frank's shoulder, his voice muffled. "I'm glad you're feeling better."

"Me too," Frank said, twisting himself up and out from under Gerard and reaching down to open his own jeans, shoving them down until he could kick them off entirely. "Come here," he demanded, reaching for Gerard's hand.

"No, wait," Gerard said.

"I don’t want to." Frank angled his cock towards Gerard helpfully.

Gerard giggled. "I just meant," he said, and then slid down the bunk awkwardly till he was low enough to lick up the length of Frank's cock.

"Oh," Frank said. "No, that's good, I'm on board with that."

"I thought so," Gerard said and went down on Frank like it was something he'd maybe been waiting to do for a while. Happy and sloppy and wet and fucking awesome. Frank held onto Gerard's shoulders, and then switched to his hair, tugging gently, at first, and then harder as Gerard shuddered and then moaned around Frank's cock. "Jesus," Frank told the top of his bunk, "Jesus Christ, I–" He lifted his hips and fucked Gerard's mouth, and Gerard took it all, fuck yeah, he had a mouth made for cocksucking and Frank knew that, he knew that Gerard had a mouth made for cocksucking, and yet, they hadn't done it. "I’m a moron," Frank gasped, lifting his hips again, and again, Gerard's mouth so hot and tight around him that there was no way he was going to last. "Fuck, fuck, just fucking –"

He yanked on Gerard's hair, and Gerard went all the way down instead of pulling off, swallowing around him, and Frank came, arching his back and losing his mind.

He was still gasping for breath when Gerard worked his way back up the bunk. Gerard settled down next to him and Frank waved one hand in what he hoped came across as appreciation as he continued wheezing and trying to get his lungs back online. Gerard watched him from the pillow in a sort of sleepy concern as Frank slowly got his breath back. "Fuck," he rasped finally, managing to draw a breath. "Jesus, Gerard."

Gerard blinked at him with some worry. "Frank," he said. "Maybe the reason why we haven't been doing this is that I don't want to, you know, fucking kill you."

Frank took a breath that caught in his throat and he had to cough for a minute before he could answer. "But what a way to go," he managed finally, scrubbing one hand back through his hair.

Gerard grinned again. He inched closer to Frank in the bunk, and he'd pushed his jeans all the way off at some point, too, and was mostly somewhat naked against Frank, which felt nice, except – "Are you still wearing your jacket?" Frank asked, lifting his head.

"I –" Gerard looked down at the worn black denim. "Well, I didn't have time to take it off."

"It's like you think you're Fonzi or something." Frank tilted his head at Gerard curiously. "Does the jacket hold the key to your powers?"

"Shut the fuck up," Gerard said, pushing at him.

"Do I have to get used to this?" Frank pushed himself up on one elbow. "Are there different jackets for special sex occasions? Wait," he said as Gerard opened his mouth, ready to protest. "Wait, is this a fetish thing?" He wiggled his eyebrows. "Come on, tell me it's a fetish thing, because that would be awesome."

"You're a fetish thing," Gerard said, shoving at Frank harder.

"I am so totally a fetish thing!" Frank agreed gleefully. He was very okay with being a fetish thing for Gerard.

"That's not what I meant!" Gerard looked wounded. It was awesome.

"It's what you said," Frank pointed out, and Gerard shoved at him hard, and Frank shoved him back harder, and Gerard fell out of the bunk with no pants on.

"Jesus Christ, Gee," Frank heard Mikey say from outside the bunk, his dry monotone sounding pained, and really, it was sort of the best day ever.

***

Twenty minutes before showtime two days later, Frank was wearing his lucky t-shirt and the jeans Gerard had come all over the night before, and had already jumped on Bob's back and knocked him over on to his knees, and then managed to escape from the tangle of limbs they landed in before Bob could hit him. He was feeling pretty awesome.

He came scrambling into the dressing room, craning his neck over his shoulder to make sure Bob wasn't following. No sign of him, so Frank bounced happily into the room and crashed into Gerard, who was standing in the middle of the room, sort of looking around vaguely. Gerard wobbled, and fell over in, like, slow motion.

"Ow," he said, from where he'd landed.

"Sorry, sorry!" Frank slid to the floor beside him, bouncing a little. "I knocked over Bob, too," he explained. "I think it's going to be a fun night."

Gerard looked at him. "My head hurts," he said.

"You didn't hit your head," Frank pointed out.

"I know." Gerard looked – oh, man, he looked kind of miserable there on the floor in kind of a heap.

"Uh." Frank reached out a tentative hand and pressed it to Gerard's forehead. He was – kind of warm. "Gee, are you feeling okay?"

Gerard looked at Frank again. "…no?"

"Oh hell. Fuck, Gee, I'm sorry."

Gerard waved a hand at Frank and let Frank tug on it, getting to his feet slowly. "No, come on. It's not your fault. It's fine."

"No, it's not," Frank said glumly. "Brian's gonna kill me."

"Oh." Gerard ran one hand over his own face. "Yeah. He totally is."

"It's not my fault!" It totally sort of wasn't. "I didn't even – well, I did, but even if I hadn't, you had already –"

"No, yeah, I set myself up." Gerard sat down on the couch and looked around vaguely again. "Is there aspirin?"

"Yeah, yes, here." Frank was pressing the Tylenol and a bottle of Gatorade into Gerard's hand just as Brian walked into the room. Frank jumped back guiltily.

Brian looked at Gerard, and then at Frank. "Fucking hell, Frank."

"I didn't even –"

"You did, and now look at him." Brian looked pointedly at Gee, who, okay, Frank admitted looked to be less than one hundred percent. He was sort of wan, sitting on the couch, holding three Tylenol in one hand and the Gatorade in the other and not making any sort of move to actually take the Tylenol.

Frank looked at Brian. "At least he's not coughing?"

"Yet," Brian said, reaching over to nudge at the hand Gerard was holding the Tylenol in. Gerard obediently lifted it, dropping the pills into his mouth and swallowing them dry. Brian sighed, and nudged at the hand holding the Gatorade. "Oh," Gerard said, "Cool, yeah," and took a swallow.

"You're on in fifteen," Brian said, running a hand through his hair tiredly.

"He'll be fine," Frank said, still on his knees in front of the couch, looking at Gerard."I'm pretty sure," he added.

Gerard shook his head. "Totally good," he said, his voice just a little hoarse.

Brian's gaze at Frank was meant to be withering. Frank just got to his feet. Man, it felt good to have energy again. "He'll make it," he said, sprawling back on the couch beside Gerard. "It's one show," he said, half to Gerard and half to Brian. "Then you'll have days to be sick."

Gerard looked at Frank. "I don't fucking want to be sick for days, Frank," he said grimly.

"Yeah, but, well." Frank bit his bottom lip a little, trying to look contrite. "You probably will be, you know? So, uhm, it's cool that you have the time?"

Brian had his eyes closed, the headache look on his face again. "I hate you, Frank," he said.

"You love me," Frank said, beaming.

Brian shook his head, glancing at the clock. Gerard had his eyes closed now, and his head against the back of the couch. He was dressed for the show, shivering under his denim jacket.

"Fuck," Brian said. "Gee, you'll make it?"

Gerard waved one hand without opening his eyes. "Of fucking course."

Frank waved at him from the couch. "I'm good, too."

Brian looked at him. "You're a little shit who infected my lead singer."

"Well," Frank said. "Yes." He wasn't going to say he was sorry. He wasn't. Except, okay, Gerard really looked like he felt like crap. Okay. Frank wasn't sorry for putting his tongue in Gerard's mouth, he was just sorry he'd still been contagious when he'd done it.

"Fuck." Brian looked at the clock again. "Five minutes, we need you down by the stage."

"Cool," said Gerard, blinking his eyes open, as Brian headed out the door, probably to herd Ray and Mikey. Bob, Frank knew, had been stageside for ten minutes by now.

"Fuck," said Frank, sitting still as his stomach began to do abrupt and alarming turns at the mention of five minutes. He really hated his body sometimes. He took deep breaths, trying to focus on anything but the pre-performance churning in his stomach.

"You okay, Frankie?" Gerard's hand was warm on his arm, and Frank grinned at him, focusing on Gerard instead. Gerard's voice was hoarse and his face was a little pasty, but he was sitting up and sliding his hand down to curl his fingers around Frank's.

"Yeah," Frank said, breathing through his nose. He was, though. This was them. This was who they were. Gerard took a breath, and pushed himself to his feet. He waited, watching, as Frank sat there for another handful of seconds, willing his stomach to settle, and then pulled Frank up after him. Frank pushed up against him a little bit with his shoulder as they headed out of the room, and Gerard scrubbed one hand through his own hair, grinning, the color high in his cheeks, but right the fuck ready to go on.

Tomorrow might suck, Frank thought. But. "Tonight?" he said, leaning into Gerard's shoulder again. "Tonight will rock."

"Yeah, Frankie." They were stageside now, and the techs handed over the guitars to Frank and Mikey and Ray. Gerard stood straighter, looking more sparkly, at the roar of the crowd. Bob and Ray moved closer, Bob twirling his drumsticks and looking focused, Mikey already right by Gerard's side opposite Frank. "Let's go," Gerard said, and "Fuck, yeah," Frank said.

Because, fuck yeah. This was his band.

the end