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In My Blood Like Holy Wine

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It's the dirtiest thing he's ever done, and Gerard's had a lot of dirty sex in his life. Well, not a lot, not compared to some of the people he knows who've fucked literally hundreds of other people, and not dirty in, like, a perverse way. He's never done anything that's made him feel guilty afterwards or like he'd done something to be ashamed of. He just knows that even just the regular stuff he likes -- sucking cock and fucking guys and being watched while fucking -- is stuff that most people would think was dirty.

Whatever. Gerard spent way too much of his life convinced that nobody would want to have sex with him ever. Once he found out he was wrong and that there were men and women who though he was hot and totally wanted to fuck him, he reveled in it. Sex feels fucking awesome, especially when it's dirty.

This, though, is by far the dirtiest thing he's ever done and it is going to make him feel guilty afterwards, he knows that. He knows he's going to hate himself a little bit afterwards, but nothing he's ever done has been half as hot as this, on his knees in his room with the lights off, marathon of hilariously bad B-Movies ignored as Beginning of the End plays forgotten on the television, his little brother's cock in his mouth.

Mikey's sprawled across Gerard's bed, one arm draped over his eyes and the other hand fisted in Gerard's hair. Gerard's sucking him off, dizzy with how much he's getting off on it. He always gets off when he sucks cock, really enjoys doing it, but it's Mikey. It's Mikey, and Gerard's going to hell, he knows, but he doesn't fucking care because it's so good, sends sharp, white hot spikes of pleasure through his belly intense enough he has to pull off and gasp. And Mikey's moaning, so soft, whispering, "Gerard, yeah, fuck, just like that," and Gerard feels drunk even though he's not.

He had been, the first time. The first time, they'd both been drunk, really fucking drunk and watching Doctor Who and Mikey had been laughing and rolling his hips and saying how he wished he hadn't broken up with Lisette because she gave the best fucking head in the world. And Gerard had been laughing, too, and he'd said, "No fucking way, I give the best fucking head in the world. I'm a fucking expert cocksucker."

And Mikey had said, "Fucking liar, prove it."

And Gerard had cracked up laughing, and Mikey had thrown his head back, it was so fucking funny, the very idea of it, and Gerard had leaned forward and started unzipping Mikey's fly just as a joke, just because they were drunk and it was funny. And Mikey hadn't been wearing underwear, so when his fly opened, his cock was right fucking there and he was half hard and Gerard leaned down, pretending he was going to suck it, and he thought it would be even more hilarious if he licked, it, so he did.

He licked the tip, salty and bitter against his tongue, and he did it against because he fucking loved the taste, worked his tongue into the slit and Mikey jerked hips up and gasped, "Fuck, fuck, do it," and then it wasn't funny anymore -- he was sucking Mikey's cock and, fuck, even as drunk as he was, he knew it was wrong. He didn't stop, though, and Mikey didn't stop him. Mikey had just gasped and moaned, "Oh, Jesus," in this sex voice that Gerard didn't even know he had, and Gerard had felt dirty and amazing and like he never wanted to stop.

It's happened four times, total. The first time they'd both been drunk. The second time, Mikey had been drunk and clumsy as he'd pawed at Gerard's face, tugging his head down, whispering, "I need, fuck, Gerard, I need you to..." The third time, they'd been listening to the new Opeth album and Mikey had started rubbing his cock through his jeans and Gerard's breath had caught in his throat and he'd whispered, "Do you want me to?" and Mikey had closed his eyes and whispered, "Yes."

Now Gerard's on his knees, Mikey sprawled across his bed, Mikey's cock in his mouth for the fourth time, and Mikey tastes so good. The fucking desperate, hungry noises he's making are so fucking good, as is the way he keeps moaning Gerard's name, like he's not trying to pretend it's anyone else. Gerard takes him down as far as he can and Mikey jerks his hips up, choking him.

"Sorry, fuck, sorry," Mikey whispers.

Gerard coughs and spits onto the floor, then wipes his mouth with the back of his hand and says, "It's okay. It's good, sometimes, when it's rough."

"Oh, Jesus," Mikey moans, and he's winding his fingers tighter into Gerard's hair and tugging him down and Gerard just goes. He lets Mikey fuck up into his mouth, slides his hands up and down Mikey's thighs, then up over his belly and his sharp hipbones.

Mikey's saying, "Please, please, Gerard, fuck, I need, please," but Gerard isn't sure why he's begging since he's the one in control. He rubs Mikey's thighs and feels light headed, his cock so hard, but he's not touching. He's never gotten himself off during, never gotten himself off while Mikey was still there. As soon as he's alone, he comes so fucking hard, shaking, taste of Mikey still thick on his tongue. He wants to touch, wants to jerk himself off, aches and shivers just thinking about it, but he doesn't.

Mikey whines high in the back of his throat and his fingers twist painfully in Gerard's hair and his hips jerk and he's coming, gasping, pulling Gerard's hair so hard that his eyes water.

When he's done, when Gerard's swallowed, he sits back on his heels and runs his thumb over his lower lip. He's breathing hard and he dips his head and whispers, "I'm, um, I need a drink." His legs are shaking as he stands, but he takes slow breaths and steps over piles of clothes and around dishes and makes it to the other side of the room. He's reaching for a cup of coffee, gone cold in the hours since he'd poured it, when he hears Mikey moving behind him. He wants, to, God. Wants to shove Mikey back on the bed and fucking kiss him, taste his brother's mouth and the skin of his neck and listen to Mikey moan and gasp as Gerard fucks him.

Gerard lifts the coffee cup to his lips, but he doesn't drink. Not because it's cold, he actually doesn't care about that, he just doesn't want to dilute the taste of Mikey's cock on his tongue. And he doesn't need anything to drink, anyway, just says that because with his back turned, Mikey can get dressed and leave the room and they won't have to look at each other.

After the first time, Mikey hadn't been able to look at him for days.

He hears Mikey zipping up his jeans, hears him stumble and curse softly, probably tripping over books Gerard had forgotten to pick up. He hears Mikey let out a loud breath, then another, then the door opens and closes and he hears Mikey's feet on the stairs.

Gerard puts the coffee cup back on his desk and has his hand in his pants before Mikey even reaches the top step. He drops to his knees and falls forward, rutting against his hand and coming so fucking hard, right in his pants, gritting his teeth and shuddering and pressing his face into the carpet.

He knows why Mikey does it. He knows Mikey's just horny and when you're seventeen, a blowjob is a blowjob. And Gerard really is good at it; he doubts any of the high school girls Mikey's fooled around have ever sucked his cock half as well as Gerard does. And Mikey trusts him, looks up to him, wants to hang out with his big brother because being older somehow makes Gerard cool in his eyes.

Gerard's not cool, and he's not somebody Mikey should trust. The first pang of attraction had been uncomfortable and so weird, Gerard sixteen and Mikey's voice just starting to crack. It had been uncomfortable, so Gerard had stuffed the feeling away and vowed to ignore it for the rest of his life.

He hadn't really been able to ignore it. There had been other moments, Mikey snuggling into Gerard's bed and whispering that he'd just lost his virginity, telling Gerard everything that had happened and asking if it was weird that he was happy and sad at the same time about it. Sometimes Gerard would just look up at him over dinner, and Mikey would be chewing garlic bread with his mouth open or laughing at something their father said, and he was so beautiful it hit Gerard like a fist to the gut. He wanted to touch so bad, wanted to kiss every inch of Mikey's skin.

It scared the shit out of him when he thought like that, so he stuffed it away every single time and made himself forget about it. And it worked for a little while. It probably would have kept on working for months and weeks at a time if Gerard hadn't crossed the line. If he'd kept his mouth to himself, he probably could have just lived with it forever, and maybe in time it would have faded. But he knows what Mikey's cock tastes like, now, has the weight and slide of it across his tongue committed to memory. He knows the sounds Mikey makes when he's turned on, knows the way he shudders when he comes, and Gerard doesn't think he's ever going to be able to make himself forget.

+++

When Gerard finally gets back from class, the commute long and boring and the only thing that sucks about living in Jersey, he walks in the door and is immediately assaulted by Mikey's hyperactive little fucker of a best friend. Frank jumps onto Gerard's back and tugs his hair and Gerard winces and says, "Ow, you little fuck, Jesus, watch your fucking knees," as Frank scrambles up onto his shoulders, using Gerard's head to push himself up.

"I'm the champion!" Frank cries, throwing his arms up into the air.

Gerard laughs and staggers a little bit under Frank's shifting weight, but he lifts his hands to hold on to Frank's knees and bounces a little bit, then heads for the nearest doorway. Frank squawks and flails as Gerard reaches the door to the kitchen, falls backwards, arms windmilling, to keep from slamming his head into the top of the frame.

"Ow, fuck, ow, let go," Frank says as Gerard keeps a strong grip on his legs, walking Frank -- now dangling from Gerard's shoulder's by his knees -- through the kitchen and into the family room where Mikey's huddled on the couch in an oversized navy blue hoodie, hands in the front pocket and eyes on the floor instead of the TV.

Gerard lets go of Frank's legs and Frank falls to the floor and giggles and says, "Heading for the door was a dirty fucking trick, man."

"Older brother," says Gerard. "Dirty tricks are my specialty. Ask Mikey what I bastard I can be."

Mikey looks up and he doesn't smile, exactly, but there's something warm in his eyes that makes Gerard feel warm, too.

Frank says, "I always wanted a little brother to, like, hang out with and then I could just shove his face into dog shit when I got bored."

Mikey says, "And for the first time, I'm glad we don't have a dog."

"I wouldn't ever shove your face into dog shit," Gerard tells him, holding his hand to his chest in mock offense. "Macaroni and cheese, maybe."

Mikey does smile at that, a little bit, and he says, "I still ate it all, though."

Frank says, "Aw, man, being an only child fucking sucks. Hey, we're going to Kristina Moreno's party tonight, and her boyfriend's, like, thirty so you won't be the only person there over twenty-one. I know you hate that. You in?"

Gerard shrugs and says, "I have work to do."

"On a Friday night?"

Gerard says, "All weekend, probably."

"College sucks," Frank says sadly, then he leaps onto the couch and wrestles Mikey to the floor.

"Stop, fuck, little freak," Mikey says, but he's laughing and his cheeks are pink as he pulls Frank into a headlock. He grins up at Gerard and, shit. Shit, Gerard's so gone. He's known it for a while, but the way it feels when Mikey just smiles at him really drives the point home.

He wants to go to the party and get drunk and kiss Mikey up against the wall in front of everybody so they know Mikey's his. It's nothing he'll ever be able to do, though, so he shakes his shoulders and tries to push the feelings down and away where they can't get to him.

Gerard makes a pot of coffee after dinner, and his mother says, "You're never going to sleep if you drink that."

"That's the point," he tells her, and heads downstairs with a thermos full of coffee and ideas swirling through his head. He has to turn in a six-page comic in a week, and he's not allowed to use any text or dialogue and, though it's not officially part of the assignment, his professor had said, "Maybe branch out from zombies this time, okay?" and winked at him.

Gerard likes zombies. And vampires. He loves their sharp angles and how he can do so much with nothing but black ink and a red marker.

He looks down at his sketchbook and thinks, "No monsters, okay," and starts to draw. He flips page after page, giving up and starting from scratch until he thinks he's finally got something, a main character at least in the form of a praying mantis. A praying mantis is totally not a monster, even if they make great movie monsters.

It's three o'clock in the morning before he has it all storyboarded, a couple of full panels sketched out and colored in every shade of green and yellow to convey fresh air and sunshine, to prove he can work in more than just black and red and gray.

His neck and shoulders ache and his back is tight. He stands and stretches, trying to ease the kinks in his muscles from sitting hunched over his desk for hours. He scratches his stomach and wonders if there are any good leftovers in the fridge.

It's dark upstairs. All the lights are off and the house is totally quiet. There's enough light to see by, though, the light of the full moon coming strong through the windows. Gerard pauses in front of the picture window for a moment to look up at it, huge and silver, closer than he ever remembers seeing it before. He thinks about the moon crashing into the earth and grins and heads towards the kitchen.

There's leftover hamburger helper and Gerard takes it out of the fridge, pulls back a corner of the plastic wrap and puts it in the microwave. He trying to decide how long he should heat it for when there's a thump on the front porch. He freezes. He wonders if they're being robbed.

There's another thump, and then someone starts rattling the doorknob, and Gerard steps back into the far corner of the kitchen where it's darkest, reaching his hand up to touch the house phone, readying himself to call 911.

The doorknob rattles, then there's the scrape of a key and the deadbolt clicks open and he can hear Frank giggling.

"Fuck you," Mikey whispers. "It's, like, hard, okay? To be coordinated."

Frank giggles again, and Mikey laughs with him, both of them clumsy drunk as they make their way inside.

Mikey whispers, "Quiet, quiet, fuck, you'll wake my parents."

Frank says, "I'll show you quiet." And then there's no sound. No sound for a long moment, until Gerard hears the wet sound of a kiss, mouths and tongues parting. Then Frank murmurs something too soft for Gerard to understand, and Mikey moans softly and says, "Oh, fuck yeah, Frankie," in his sex voice. In the voice he uses when Gerard's going down on him.

Gerard presses his back to the wall and takes a deep breath. He won't name the feeling rising in his gut, won't call it jealousy.

"Looking at you," Frank whispers, and Gerard thinks he hears the soft noise of clothing being pushed up or down. "Fuck, watching you all night, not being able to touch you, God, just makes me want to fuck so bad."

Mikey whispers, "Yeah, yeah, come on," and they're moving, stumbling past the kitchen doorway, down the hall. When they stop again, Gerard can just make out the shape of Mikey's shoulder as he presses Frank against the wall and kisses him, hard and needy. Then they're moving on, stumbling and laughing and shushing each other, soft moments of silence that Gerard knows are frantic kisses.

He wipes his hand over his face as he hears Mikey's bedroom door shut. He thinks leftovers, right, he should heat up his leftovers and just go back to his room and eat and sleep and forget about it. He knows it's a secret Mikey's keeping, something Gerard's not supposed to know about.

He knows he shouldn't sneak down the hall, heart beating too fast, cock starting to swell, and stop just outside Mikey's bedroom door. He knows he shouldn't close his eyes and press his forehead to the doorframe and listen, but that's what he does.

He can hear their voices, but not what they're saying. He hears Mikey moan, low and desperate, hears Frank's voice whispering something over and over again, but no matter how hard he tries he can't make out the words. There's silence for a while, then another gasp and Frank says, "Oh, cocksucking Jesus, fuck," and Mikey says, "Please, please, Frankie, please."

Mikey's bed creaks once, then again, then with a rhythmic regularity that leaves no question as to what they're doing. The only thing Gerard doesn't know is who's getting fucked. Is it Frank, down on his hands and knees, head thrown back as Mikey grips his hips and shoves into him? Is it Mikey, on his back, legs wrapped around Frank's waist as they kiss and Frank fucks him hard and deep?

He's turned on listening to them fuck. He's turned on and he's angry and he's jealous and his chest fucking aches. He knows it's ridiculous. He knows Mikey's never been his. But still, he feels sick with it and stumbles away from the door, can't listen to another second of it without losing his mind.

Once he's in his room, he picks up the first thing he sees, the plastic R2D2 figurine he got when he was eight, and throws it against the wall. It doesn't break, but he doesn't even watch it hit the floor. He grabs his sketchbook and rips the pages out, tears them into bits, crouches down in the middle of his room and puts his arms over his head and he's shaking and he's so close to tears and he fucking hates it so much.

He curls up next to his desk, and there's a bottle of whisky shoved underneath a stack of papers and he grabs it and starts drinking. He drinks until he starts crying, and then he keeps drinking so he can stop, and then he just keeps drinking because he's got a bottle right there in his hand, so what the hell else should he do?

+++

Gerard wakes up with his head throbbing, his entire body aching. His knees feel bruised and his stomach muscles are sore and so tight it hurts to breathe. He moans and rolls over onto his stomach, and that's a little better.

"If you're going to puke again, there's a trashcan right next to the bed."

Gerard's head is throbbing in time to the beat of his heart. He licks his lips, then whispers, "Mikey?"

"Who the fuck else would babysit your drunk ass?" is Mikey's reply.

Gerard says, "What time is it?"

"Ten-thirty."

"Night?"

"In the morning."

Gerard nods and says, "Okay." He closes his eyes again and he might puke. His entire body feels like he needs to puke. He scoots closer to the edge of the bed, retches into the trashcan, and his stomach muscles burn but there's nothing left in him to come out. He says, "Oh, God. Just kill me."

"Not really into murder, even if it's a mercy killing," Mikey says. "But Mom's probably going to kill you, so there's that to look forward to."

"She knows I'm hungover?" he asks weakly.

"Um. Are you fucking kidding me?" Then Mikey laughs softly, and he's actually laughing at Gerard, which is something he rarely does. "What day is it?"

Gerard furrows his brow, which hurts, and thinks, which hurts some more. He says, "Saturday."

Mikey makes an obnoxious buzzing sound in the back of his throat. "Sorry, wrong answer."

Gerard says, "Don't ever make that noise ever again."

Mikey says, "It's Monday, you fucktard."

Gerard moans and says, "How?"

"I don't know. Time's a mindfuck of a concept if you think about it too much. Everything goes forward, but why? Why just one direction? Why not two, three, infinite time directions? Maybe it's another dimension, like height or whatever. Maybe it's an illusion and we actually exist in all times in all places. Maybe--"

"Oh, fuck, stop being an asshole."

Mikey chuckles and says, "I don't know how you got from Saturday to Monday, really. I know you were holed up in your room all day and then you came upstairs for dinner and, like, fell over a billion times because you were totally shitfaced. And mom started yelling and you seriously don't remember this?"

Gerard sighs miserably and says, "No."

"Yeah, well, you are not her favorite person in the world right now."

Gerard moans and pulls a pillow over his head.

"She and dad spent most of yesterday having Very Important Conversations in hushed tones that I wasn't allowed to listen in on. But I did. I mean, obviously."

"Obviously," Gerard says.

"The good news is, they've decided you don't need an intervention."

"Oh. Good."

"The bad news is, they're considering giving me the basement and making you move into my room so they can keep a closer eye on you."

"The fuck?" Gerard lifts his head up and stares at Mikey.

"Don't look at me. I don't want to live down here. It gets fucking cold in the winter, and Frank hates basements because he has this whole spider thing. It's kind of hilarious but totally sincere in, like, that weird way that phobias always are."

Gerard closes his eyes and remembers. He remembers Mikey and Frank kissing and stumbling their way to Mikey's room so they could fuck. He remembers how they couldn't even make it ten feet before they had to stop and touch, reckless laughter and burning kisses.

"I, of course, voted to keep my room and make you sleep in the yard. Said we could get you a dog house for the winter."

Gerard says, "Leave me alone."

"I'm kidding. I did tell them I didn't want to switch rooms, though. And that you're probably just acting out or whatever."

"Get out of here," Gerard whispers.

"Are you going to puke again? Or, like, shit the bed? Because I've seen a lot of gruesome stuff come out of you this weekend, Gee, and it's like going to war or something. I started out a boy but now I'm a man, battle scarred but confident that I can face any challenge life throws my way."

Gerard remembers Mikey whimpering, pleading with Frank, saying, I need, oh Jesus, Frankie, please, please, so fucking hot.

He lifts his head up and shouts, "Get the fuck out!" He regrets it immediately, head throbbing so hard he thinks his skull might split, nausea rolling through his belly.

Mikey's expression is startled, and he just stares at Gerard for a long moment, eyes wide and mouth open. Then he shakes himself and rolls his eyes and says, "Fine. Asshole. See if I fucking stand up for you next time you're, like, rolling around on the kitchen floor trying to get Dad to sing fucking Bowie with you."

He snatches up Gerard's latest copy of The Sandman and pushes himself out of Gerard's desk chair, muttering, "And thanks for cleaning my room, Mikey. Oh, yeah, no fucking problem, I love spending my Sunday afternoons sifting through fucking moldy dishes and jizz-stiff tissues and eighty-seven billion black t-shirts that smell like ass. And thanks for doing my laundry and cleaning all the puke off my sheets, Mikey. Thanks for rubbing my back when I was crying and barfing up my goddamn spleen. And thanks for staying up all night while I was passed out to make sure I didn't stop breathing and die of alcohol poisoning." Mikey slams Gerard's door shut, then opens it again and snaps, "You're fucking welcome, asshole," before slamming it again.

Gerard thinks dying of alcohol poisoning doesn't sound too bad right then.

+++

Gerard feels mostly human again by Monday evening. He manages to drag himself into the bathroom and wash the stench of alcohol sweat and vomit off his skin and out of his hair, lets the hot water beat down on his aching muscles until they stop hurting. His abs still hurt from all the puking, and when he steps out of the shower and wipes the fog off the mirror, he sees that he's got bruises on his forearms and chest and he doesn't remember getting them, but they look like the bruises you get after falling and hitting the edges of tables or countertops or chairs.

He makes it upstairs just after the sun goes down. The smell of food is faint in the air, and he's hungry but afraid to eat. His mother's sitting in her chair in the living room, smoking and paging through a magazine. His father and Mikey are laughing about something, but when Gerard walks into the room, Mikey stops laughing. His face goes tight and he runs his fingers through his hair before getting up and leaving without a word.

Gerard sighs.

His mom stubs her cigarette out in her flowered, porcelain ashtray and looks up at him. "Look who's risen from the dead," she says dryly.

Gerard says, "Mom, I--"

"No, no, don't apologize. You're only my oldest son. Watching you suffer is only like ripping out my heart."

"I'm sorry," he says. He's still shaky on his feet, so he shuffles forward and sits on the couch, in the same spot Mikey had been sitting in earlier. "I didn't do it on purpose. I was trying to deal with some stuff and I screwed up."

His dad pats him on the arm and says, "You scared us pretty bad, Gerard."

He nods. "I know. I'm really sorry. I'm. If you want me to, like, move out or--"

"No," his mother says, her voice going soft. "Gerard, we don't want that, not at all. We like having you back home."

He nods. "I just think it wouldn't be fair to make Mikey give up his room just so you don't worry about me. But I'll do, whatever you want. Whatever will, like, make you feel better."

His mother says, "What I want is for you to never drink that much again."

He nods, "Yeah, I want that, too." It's not just a line, either. He feels wrung out and embarrassed about all the time he's missing.

His father says, "Think about Mikey. Think about the way he looks up to you. That's the example you want to set?"

Gerard shakes his head and stares down at his hands. They're shaking just a little bit. He feels like the inside of his body is shaking, too.

"We're not naïve enough to think Mikey doesn't drink sometimes," his father tells him. "And that's fine. He's seventeen. He's going to go to parties and drink. But we don't want him to see the kinds of things he saw this weekend. We don't want him to think that kind of binge drinking is normal."

Gerard nods.

"So," says his mother. "Do you feel like total shit right now?"

"Yeah."

"Okay. You look like it, too. Do you think if I made you some toast you could keep it down?"

He shrugs and says, "I'll try."

When she goes into the kitchen, his father says, "You should talk to your brother. He says it's fine, but I think this really upset him."

Gerard says, "I yelled at him this morning. Just. Not because of what he did, but because I'm a jerk. He's still really pissed at me."

"So go apologize. You know he'll forgive you."

Gerard says, "I don't know if I deserve it."

+++

Gerard makes it to his first class on Tuesday, but he's so tired and shaky, still, that he skips his studio time and just heads home, actually napping on the train. His room is the cleanest it's been in months, though he has no idea where anything is. He finds his colored pencils tucked between a copy of No Prayer for the Dying and an old videotape of Sailor Moon episodes. He can't find his favorite sketchbook anywhere, but there's an old, battered one in the center of his desk. He could mock Mikey's filing system, but, well, it's not like Gerard has one of his own. Not unless you count, "I put it over there by that thing so I wouldn't step on it."

He heads over to a quiet little coffee shop in North Arlington that roasts its own beans. He likes their coffee and how quiet it is and how nobody minds if he sits at the same table for hours at a time.

He gets a large mug of Tanzanian Peaberry and settles down at a small table in the back corner. There are only two other people in the café. He tries to work on storyboard ideas but instead he draws Mikey. He draws Mikey on the couch watching TV, remote dangling from his hand. He tries to capture the way his shoulders curl forward and the way he always leans a little to the left, the way he's always got one foot tilted at an angle. He draws a close up of Mikey's face, his angular jaw and soft full mouth and sharp, gentle eyes. He draws Mikey in bed, nothing he's actually ever seen, just from his imagination. He draws him stretched out beneath a sheet, long limbs and sex hair, glasses on the bedside table, soft, welcoming smirk on his face.

"That's gorgeous," says someone at his elbow. Gerard looks up to see the girl from behind the counter holding a pot of coffee in her hand. "Refill?" she asks.

"Oh, yeah, thanks," he whispers. He thinks he's probably blushing from getting caught drawing something so intimate. He flips back a few pages, wanting to hide Mikey's body from sight, and as she refills his mug, the girl says, "The same guy, right?"

He looks down at an old drawing he'd done months before of Mikey playing the bass with his head tipped low, eyes closed, feet spread. "Um, yeah. It is."

She's got dreadlocks and bright green eyes and freckles across her nose. He can smell her body a little bit; it's nothing bad, just like maybe she doesn't believe in using chemical deodorants. He wonders if she shaves her pits. It's maybe a weird thing to find sexy, women with pit hair, but Gerard does. He thinks about flirting with her. She's pretty and he needs to just fucking move on, start living in reality, actually date someone so he can get over his stupid Mikey infatuation.

She says, "Your boyfriend, right?"

"I, um," says Gerard. "Yeah." He says it because he wants it to be true. He says it because he doesn't want the pretty, hippie barista to know he's a fucking loser that nobody loves. He says it because he likes to lie.

"I could tell just from the way you draw him. Like he's precious to you."

Gerard nods and looks back at the picture. He'd drawn it before anything had started, before he'd let himself believe that anything could happen. But Mikey's always been precious to him.

"First refill's free, after this they're fifty cents a piece," she tells him and walks back to the counter.

He starts actually drafting out ideas for his wordless comic, fills page after page with rough sketches and half-formed ideas. After an hour or so, he flips a page and what he thinks is going to be a samurai turns into Frank, laughing, Mikey smiling fondly at him and just about to roll his eyes. It hurts to look at, even though he's the one drawing it. Mikey and Frank look good together, bright eyed and affectionate.

Gerard drinks three more large mugs of coffee and gets an éclair to go, eats it on his way home and still has a little chocolate on his thumb when he gets there. He's sucking it off as he walks into the house, licks a little whipped cream off his finger, and Mikey's looking at him, wide eyed, eating cereal out of a mixing bowl at the kitchen table.

Gerard clears his throat and says, "Hey."

Mikey nods and looks down at his huge bowl of cereal. He can eat it all, Gerard knows. He's seen Mikey do it before, then ask for seconds at dinner.

"So, um, I wanted to say that I was sorry. Sorry for getting that drunk and sorry for yelling at you and sorry for making you take care of me when I'm the one who's supposed to look out for you."

Mikey shrugs and pokes at the marshmallows floating in his milk.

"And thank you. I know I was a dick, I know I made it seem like I didn't appreciate everything you did for me, but I do. You didn't have to do all that stuff, and I probably didn't deserve you being so good to me, so thank you."

Mikey says, "It's not a big deal."

"Yeah, it is."

"You would have done it for me, so." He shrugs again and pokes at his cereal and doesn't eat it. "You were really fucked up."

Gerard winces, embarrassed.

"You want to tell me what the hell made you get that fucked up?"

Gerard really doesn't. He says, "I was just, you know. Brooding about shit. And things got out of control."

"You can tell me when you're upset, you know. I'm not a little kid."

"I know."

"You used to tell me everything."

Gerard sits down at the table across from him and says, "I still tell you everything."

"No, you don't. You're, like." He waves his hand. "You would have talked to me first, before. You wouldn't have just gotten drunk and not told me anything. And I know you resent me--"

"Why the hell would I resent you?" Gerard demands.

"It's okay. I get it, all right? I know that I'm, like, that this is my fault, but it still sucks that you didn't come talk to me."

It's on the tip of Gerard's tongue to snap that he couldn't talk to Mikey because Mikey had been busy fucking Frank at the time, but it cuts too close to the shit that really hurts, the shit that could fuck things up forever. He says, "I don't resent you."

Mikey says, "You don't have to say that. I know I'm annoying. I know I'm always bugging you and making you hang out with me and my friends and, like, being the stupid kid brother."

"You're my fucking stupid kid brother," Gerard snaps. "So I'll fucking tell you if you're annoying me, which you're not. Except for right fucking now because you seem to think that hanging out with you is, like, the suckiest part of my life." He kicks Mikey's foot under the table. "You're my friend, too, you know. I don't hang out with you just because we're related and I feel obligated or some shit."

Mikey just nods again, but the tension goes out of his shoulders and he almost smiles. Gerard wants to ruffle his hair, but he's not sure if he's allowed. He's not sure if it's anything he would have wanted to do before his attraction to Mikey burst into a place where Gerard can't ignore it.

"So," Gerard says. "Friday night movie marathon, possibly extending into the wee hours of Saturday morning. You pick the theme."

Mikey grins at him and says, "Really. You trust me to pick the theme?"

Gerard shrugs. Even if Mikey picks, like, 80s romantic comedies, he has good enough taste that they'll end up watching Say Anything or Reds, so it'll be fine.

+++

Mikey picks all Corey Haim movies for their marathon. They start with Lucas and Gerard thinks about putting rum in his Coke, but he's still not quite recovered from the last Friday. He drinks his Coke with nothing but ice in it, though he does pass the bottle of rum over to Mikey when he gestures for it.

"Poor little guy," Mikey says sadly when the movie's over. "Fuck, that always bums me out that he doesn't get the girl."

"He doesn't get that girl," Gerard tells him. "But he totally gets Winona Ryder and, face it, she grows up to be hot."

Mikey sighs and says, "Can we skip over A Time to Live and just watch Lost Boys next?"

Gerard nods, because they both love making fun of the way Jamie Gertz talks.

Sam's just met the Frog brothers when Mikey's phone rings. He looks at the screen, but instead of hitting ignore like he usually would, he answers it. "Hey. Nah, not in the mood. Corey Haim marathon with Gee. The Lost Boys. Of course we're watching Dream a Little Dream, asshole. Yeah, okay. Bring Cheetos." When he hangs up he says, "Frank's coming over."

Gerard nods and tries not to be pissed. Of course Mikey's fucking....Gerard doesn't even know what to call him. Best friend? Boyfriend? Fuck buddy? Of course Frank's coming over, because Frank always comes over. This is just the first time it's ever pissed Gerard off because he'd never seen them kissing before, never heard Mikey moan Frank's name. He's never been pissed before because he'd never had a reason to be jealous, but he is.

He smiles the way he's supposed to when Frank shows up, shifts over so Mikey can scoot closer to him and Frank can fit on the foot of the bed. He's got Cheetos and Red Vines and weed. Mikey says, "Sweet," and goes to stuff a towel into the crack under Gerard's door, opens his tiny little window even though it's cold outside and it doesn't really provide much air circulation.

Gerard's always thought the plot of Dream a Little Dream was contrived, that the writers were trying too hard to be deep with too little substance, but when he's baked he doesn't even care. He says, "Man, fuck that guy," when Joel is being an abusive asshole, and he laughs at Dinger's disgruntled sarcasm, and he giggles when Bobby dances like Michael fucking Jackson.

He says, "Fuck, remember when I told you I knew Michael Jackson?"

Mikey laughs, such a fucking stoner giggle, and lets his head fall against Gerard's shoulder. He says, "You're such a dickwad sometimes."

"Wait," says Frank, blinking at both of them. "Wait, you tried to impress your little brother by telling him you were friends with Michael Jackson?"

"He told me he was friends with Michael Jackson and if I didn't do what he said, he'd get the zombies from the Thriller video to come after me." Mikey laughs again, and Gerard sees his hand rest on Frank's thigh, just above his knee. It's casual and if Gerard didn't already know, Mikey's stoned sprawl wouldn't have made him think anything of it.

Frank laughs and leans into Mikey, pushing him closer against Gerard, and Mikey says, "I did all your fucking chores for a week. Dickwad." His breath is hot against Gerard's ear.

Frank says, "I totally fucking missed out not having a little brother to torture. Oh, shit, Meredith Salenger's tits are amazing."

Mikey and Gerard look back at the screen and sigh, because they really are.

+++

Frank spends the night in Mikey's room, and Gerard doesn't let himself think about the things they do when they're supposed to be sleeping. Frank hangs out all Saturday and climbs up onto the roof to help their dad clear leaves out of the gutter, and at dinner their mom doesn't put any meat in the spaghetti sauce and she leaves the cheese on the side and she beams at Frank and says he's such a helpful boy, with pointed looks at Mikey and Gerard.

Frank hangs out with them on Saturday night, watching schlocky horror movies with Mikey and Gerard in the basement, laughing with his mouth full of popcorn at the terrible effects in Beginning of the End and, later, when he gets bored, grabbing Gerard's copy of The Hobbit and sitting on the floor in front of Mikey, leaning against his legs, reading for hours as the B-movies play on and Mikey occasionally reaches down to card his fingers through Frank's hair.

After they've finished Deadly Friend, Mikey yawns and stretches in a way that's so obviously fake it's almost funny. He says, "Man, I'm exhausted. Frankie?"

Frank looks up from the book and blinks a few times, says, "What, not really, I, oh. Yeah. Exhausted. We should probably sleep."

If Gerard didn't already know, he would have figured something was up then. As it is, he just shrugs and puts in Slumber Party Massacre like nothing's wrong, watches it but can't concentrate and eventually switches the movie out for Guys Gone Gonzo! It's a totally embarrassing title, but whatever. It's porn and it's really fucking good, hours and hours of ten or fifteen minute clips of really dirty, hardcore fucking, and no matter what Gerard's in the mood for, it always gets him off. The scene playing when he puts in the tape is some fucking cowboy theme, two muscled guys in a barn wearing cowboy boots and bandannas and nothing else, one guy draped over a bale of hay as the other guy works a fist into his ass.

Gerard kneels close to the TV so he can hear it even with the sound turned low, jerks himself off wondering if he could do that, if he could take an entire hand inside him. He wonders if Mikey could take it, thinks about working his fingers into Mikey's ass, stretching him slow, thinks about Mikey just moaning and grunting and letting Gerard open him like that. The guy getting fisted is moaning low and steady, stopping only when he has to breathe, and the way he's shaking apart from being opened so wide brings Gerard off hard and fast, like it always does.

Frank spends Sunday morning with them, sprawled on the floor in the living room watching cartoons and telling their mom that he wants to go to Rutgers and that his guidance counselor says he's got a really good shot at a scholarship because of his grades and his test scores.

Gerard's surprised at that. He doesn't know why. Looking back, he can always remember Frank doing stuff like working on calculus while Mikey flipped through comic books or having really in depth conversations with Gerard about literature, talking to their grandmother about things like classical music and art. It had never clicked, though, until that moment, that Frank wasn't just a hyperactive little pothead.

It's his own fault, he supposes, for assuming that Frank and Mikey are the same. Mikey's a lot more sober than Gerard had been in high school, but it's not like he really tries. He goes because he has to, because their parents would be devastated if he dropped out, but he's admitted to Gerard that he'd rather just work than ever go to college.

Frank probably would have stayed for lunch and dinner, too, but he says, "Unlike some people, I like to change my shorts more than once a week."

Mikey laughs and says, "You know you like my smell."

Frank says, "Yeah, no, gross motherfucker." He's grinning at Mikey and Mikey's gazing back at him, and Gerard wants to wave his arms and declare the entire house a No Eye Fucking Zone because Jesus Christ. Even his mom will be able to tell that Frank and Mikey are sleeping together if she sees them looking at each other like that.

After they've made another pot of coffee and watched the last Sunday morning episode of Invader Zim, Mikey says, "You wanna play Risk or something?"

Gerard says, "I have a lot of work to do, sorry," and goes back downstairs.

+++

Looking back, he wishes he'd said yes because he practically doesn't get a single minute alone with Mikey again for months. Frank's always over, or Mikey's over at Frank's, or Gerard actually does have a lot of work to do and can't hang out. Frank's there for four days during Christmas break, and then he goes home but Mikey goes with him. They actually spend all of Christmas Day apart, but Frank's back the day after, he and Mikey whispering to each other and laughing and showing off all their presents.

It hurts less. He still wants Mikey all the time. He still forgets how to breathe sometimes when the light catches Mikey's face just right, or Mikey comes to the breakfast table looking sleepy and fucked out, or Mikey falls asleep on Gerard's shoulder while they're watching movies, curling up against him so perfect that if he let himself, Gerard could pull Mikey into his arms and hold him close.

But it doesn't hurt the way it did, and he's happy for Mikey. Frank's good for him, gets him out of his own head, makes Mikey smile even when he's not there. Gerard knows it's for Frank, the way Mikey gazes into the distance and smiles to himself, tugging on his hair or rubbing his fingers over his mouth. And Gerard feels like shit because he wants to be the one to make Mikey smile like that.

He's hiding from the happy fucking couple in his room, pretending to work but really grinding his teeth together and wondering if going out and getting fucked by strangers would calm the itchy, anxious feeling beneath his skin.

There's a knock on his door, and then it swings open and Frank's there, saying, "Hey, I, um. Merry Christmas."

Gerard thinks of saying something shitty about how Christmas is supposed to be a family holiday and Frank's not a member of their fucking family. He just says, "Yeah."

"I, uh, this is for you." Frank steps forward and holds out a package wrapped in black paper with silver foil stars.

Gerard takes it and looks at it for a long moment.

"It's a present," Frank says after a while. "You, um, you know. You take the paper off and see what's inside. It's like a thing people do sometimes around the holidays." He laughs nervously and shoves his hands in his pockets and when Gerard looks up, he thinks Frank's blushing.

Gerard takes the paper off carefully, sliding his fingers along the seams and under the tape, because he's pretty sure Frank wrapped it himself, chose the paper and the holographic silver bow himself, and he feels like if he ripped it, it would be disrespectful somehow.

When the paper's off, he turns the book over and runs his fingers over the cover. It's a nearly pristine version of Hellblazer: Original Sins. He says, "Frankie."

"It's not valuable or anything," Frank says quickly. "Not, like, a first edition or even close to that, really. I just. I thought you'd probably like it, and I looked to see if you had it, but it's not on any of your bookshelves, so I thought maybe--"

He'd had a copy once before, had taken it with him to New York, to his first apartment when he'd tried living on his own. He doesn't know what happened to it, really, just knows that it disappeared along with all of his valuables when one of his roommates had skipped out on them three months into the lease.

Gerard says, "Thank you. I, um, I had a copy once, but somebody took it, so. This is really great."

Frank smiles and him and looks up at him through thick eyelashes and Gerard thinks for half a second that maybe Frank's hitting on him before he dismisses it and says, "I didn't get anything for, oh, wait. Maybe this." He sifts through his sketchbooks, finds the battered one with the forest green cover and flips through it. He tears out one of the drawings he'd done in the café, the one of Frank laughing and Mikey gazing at him the way he always did, with fond exasperation and love in his eyes.

He tears the drawing out carefully, making sure the edge is clean and straight before handing it to Frank. "It could still smear if you touch it," he says. "I haven't sprayed it with lacquer or anything which, um, I could do that if you wanted. It's not, like, a good present or anything, but--"

He stops talking when he sees all the color draining out of Frank's face. Frank's looking down of the drawing Gerard had done of him and Mikey, and he's gone so pale and his voice is shaking when he says, "He promised he wouldn't tell. Not anyone. Not even you."

"He didn't tell me," Gerard says. "Frank, hey, it's all right. Breathe. Mikey didn't tell me anything. I just knew."

Frank says, "You can't tell my mom." His knees buckle and he grabs for Gerard's bed to keep himself from falling, grips the blanket tight and sits down on the mattress, drawing fluttering to the floor. He wraps his arms around his waist and curls in on himself and whispers, "You can't tell her, you don't know what she'd, if she ever finds out--"

Frank shakes his head and closes his eyes and he doesn't look like Gerard's rival anymore. He just looks like a sixteen year-old kid who's terrified that his mom's going to hate him when she finds out he's queer.

Gerard picks up the sketch and sets it on his desk, steps towards Frank, then kneels down so he can dip his head and see Frank's face. "Hey," he whispers. "I'm not telling anybody, all right? I promise."

"But you knew," Frank says. "You could tell. If you could tell, then--"

"Then that means that I've known Mikey the whole time he's been alive and I've spent fucking hours and hours of my life with the both of you. Also, I was in the kitchen one night getting a snack when the two of you came home drunk and made out in the hall."

Frank laughs and covers his mouth with his hand. "Which time?"

"Christ, I don't know. One of the apparently billion times you've made out in the front hall at three o'clock in the morning, okay?" He takes a deep breath and he loves Mikey. He really fucking does, loves him in a way that's probably too fucked up for words, but it's real. He loves Mikey so much that he's willing to let him go, so he says the things to Frank that he wishes somebody had said to him when he was sixteen and queer and felt completely alone. "Frank, look at me. You're okay. You and Mikey, that's just. It's fucking awesome. There's not a goddamn thing wrong with you, with the way you feel. I don't give a fuck what anybody else tells you, your mom or your other friends or the fucking Pope."

Frank takes a deep breath and reaches up to touch the crucifix that always dangles from his neck.

"They're wrong," Gerard tells him. "You know they're wrong."

Frank nods.

"And you and Mikey, whether it's just about sex or--"

"No," Frank says quickly, finally looking up at him. "I mean, yeah, that part's really good." He's really pretty when he blushes, and his eyelids flutter closed. "That part's good, but I love him. I'm in love with him."

Gerard says, "He's in love with you, too."

Frank nods and he looks so happy and so close to tears. "I know," he whispers.

"What I was going to say before was that there's nothing wrong with wanting to sleep with guys, even if all you want is sex. And there's nothing wrong with being in love with another guy. And I know you've been hearing all your life that there is, but that's bullshit. People are so wrapped up in their own little minds that when you're different, it freaks them out and they're terrified and they treat you're like a piece of shit. But that's on them, okay? They're the ones who are fucked up, not you. You know I'm bi, right?"

Frank nods.

"And when I told my parents, it stressed them out. Like, they're cool with it now, but it totally stressed them out when I first admitted it. And your mom--"

Frank says, "I can't tell her. Not ever."

"You don't have to. But if you do, even if she's upset at first, she's going to come around."

Frank shakes his head. "She's not like your parents, okay? All she's going to care about is that it's a sin."

Gerard says, "I'm not going to try to convince you right now, but I really think she loves you too much to ever reject you. Just think about that, okay?"

Frank nods and he doesn't look as scared as he had before Gerard started talking.

He hears Mikey's feet on the stairs, hears Mikey saying, "Are we going to play or what, the fucking game intro's been cycling through for, like, fifteen minutes. Hey. What's going on?"

Gerard sits back on his heels and runs his fingers through his hair.

Frank says, "He knows about us."

Mikey steps into Gerard's room and closes the door behind him. He looks at Gerard and says, "I thought you might. You never said anything."

"Neither did you."

"I promised I wouldn't." He sits down next to Frank and rubs his back before leaning in and whispering, "You okay?" against Frank's ear.

Frank nods, "Yeah. Yeah, I kind of freaked out there for a minute, but I'm okay now."

Mikey kisses Frank's temple and Gerard looks away. He swallows against the knot in his throat, says, "I was telling Frank that I'm bi--"

Mikey snorts and says, "Barely."

Gerard just grins because yeah, okay, he's way more into men than women. But he's still into women, so he usually says bi just to be accurate. "I was telling him that I was queer, okay? Fucker."

Mikey smiles at him, and his hand is curled possessively around Frank's hip.

"And that, you know. I was scared, too, before I came out. I thought there was something wrong with me because the whole fucking world kept telling me there was. But there's not. And there's nothing wrong with you, either."

Mikey presses his lips to Frank's ear again and whispers, "Frank's fucking perfect."

Frank turns his head so they can kiss and yeah, okay, Gerard's getting up and turning away, clears his throat and says, "Please don't fuck on my bed."

Frank laughs, loud and nervous, and Mikey says in his low, throaty sex voice, "Come on. I'll fuck you on my bed."

"Didn't need to know that," Gerard calls over his shoulder as Frank and Mikey laugh and hurry up the stairs.

And he really didn't need to know that. Fuck. He doesn't want to think about Mikey slicking up his cock and pressing into Frank so fucking slow that Frank whimpers and grabs at Mikey's hips, his pretty pink mouth wet and open as he gasps for breath and, God. Now Gerard's perving on his little brother and his little brother's boyfriend. He needs to get fucking laid.

He changes into black jeans and a clean black t-shirt, sniffs his pits and runs his fingers through his hair to calm it down. His mother's doing a crossword puzzle and smoking in the living room. He says, "Hey, some friends are having, like, a last minute belated Christmas party in Newark and they want me to come. I, uh, I might be drinking so I called a cab and I'll probably just crash over there, so don't wait up or anything."

She says, "Oh, sweetie, put on a hat at least. It's freezing outside. And that leather coat? The wind's going to cut right through you."

He grins at her and says, "Mom, I'll be fine."

The cab drops him off in front of the club and, yeah, Gerard had been worried that it might be closed the day after Christmas, but he can feel the music vibrating too low for him to hear as soon as he reaches the door. The bouncer doesn't card him, just looks him up and down and nods for Gerard to step forward, where a second bouncer asks if he's carrying any weapons and gives him a quick pat down.

Gerard pays ten dollars for a locker and stows his jacket inside. He takes forty dollars out for drinks and tucks his wallet between the folds of his jacket, locks the door and secures the key deep in his jeans pocket. He heads for the dance floor. He doesn't dance, really, but he doesn't mind pressing through the crowd and feeling bodies rub against his as he makes his way to the bar. He orders two shots of whisky, downs them both, and orders two more. He heads back out onto the dance floor, closes his eyes and grins as he feels the alcohol start to hit his bloodstream. He lets some guy grind up against his ass, tips his head back for a dirty, open-mouthed kiss, then moves on through the constantly moving swell of bodies.

He grinds and kisses and gropes his way through the crowd, and then his arms settle around the waist of a guy who looks out of place and a little wide eyed. He's married, Gerard thinks, probably has kids and a wife sound asleep in their beds. Probably he's an accountant or, like, an office supply salesman who only does this once or twice a year, and now he's got Gerard pressed against him, wild black hair and eyes smudged with kohl and Gerard thinks, yeah, he's going to fucking rock this accountant's world.

He grins at the guy, knows his lopsided smile is charming and sort of boyish. They grind together for a while, a little awkwardly until Gerard puts his hand on the small of the accountant's back and tugs him forward, pressing their hips together and saying, "Like this. Like you're fucking me through our clothes."

The guy says, "Oh, fuck," and kisses Gerard, a little sloppy at first but then, yeah, Gerard's accountant can fucking kiss. He grips the side of Gerard's face and licks into his mouth and his kisses are deep and dirty as fuck. They kiss and grind together, and Gerard feels hands brush over his shoulders, bodies pressed to his back, feels somebody grinding their cock against his ass for nearly a full minute before moving away.

The accountant leans in close so he can be heard above the music and asks, "What's your name?"

"Does it matter?"

"What? I don't even. I'm Eric."

He says, "My name's Gerard. I want you to fuck me."

The guy, Eric, gasps against his ear and says, "I, fuck. I don't. I don't have that much cash on me but, um, if there's an ATM I can--"

Gerard laughs hard, letting his head fall back. He's just the perfect level of drunk and his fucking accountant is amazing. He practically has to shout in Eric's ear as the music changes, louder with a thuddier bass. "I'm not a hooker. I just really want you to fuck me."

"But," Eric says. "But, fuck, you're so goddamn hot."

Gerard smiles and, yeah, he made the right choice. He fucking loves to hear shit like that, gets off on being wanted almost as much as he gets off on sex. He takes Eric's hand and starts walking backwards through the crowd, then, when he's sure Eric's not going to pull away, he turns and leads the way to the back room.

It's dark and humid in the maze of cement walls at the back of the club. The few lightbulbs are coated red, but most of the place is in shadows. Eric whispers, "Oh, shit," as they pass their first couple, like maybe he's never been in a back room before. Maybe he hasn't. Gerard remembers how turned on and nervous he'd been his first time, how exhilarated he'd felt afterwards, like a little kid who'd just gotten away with something naughty.

Gerard leans up against a bare patch of wall, near enough to one of the lights that he can still see Eric's face but far enough away that the darkness lets them pretend they have privacy. He says, "First, I'm going to put this on your cock." He holds the condom packet in his teeth as he unbuttons Eric's fly, slides down the zipper and tugs at his waistband. Eric's wearing underwear which, okay, rookie mistake. Gerard tugs them down, too, rips open the condom packet with his teeth and slicks the condom down over his cock. He's cut, Gerard can feel, a little shorter than average but nice and thick. Eric whimpers and thrusts into his fist.

Gerard feels so fucking turned on, feels practically wicked as he grins at Eric and says, "Yeah, your fat cock's gonna feel so fucking good."

Eric kisses him again and unbuttons Gerard's fly, yanking and tugging until all the buttons are undone. Then he shoves Gerard's jeans down to mid thigh and turns him, shoves him up against the wall and Gerard gasps when he feels Eric's cock pressing into him. God, Eric was such a good fucking choice.

Gerard crosses his forearms in front of his face, presses them against the wall and leans his forehead against them. Eric's slide inside is slow and barely controlled. He's gripping Gerard's hips tight and panting against the back of his neck and when he makes it all the way in, he mouths at the top of Gerard's spine and just waits.

"I like it hard," Gerard tells him, breath coming hard, blood singing through his veins. "If you think you're fucking me too hard, it's just right, okay?"

Eric says, "Jesus Christ," and starts to thrust. He fucks hard and quick, grunting and biting down on Gerard's shoulder, fingers digging so hard into his hips that it hurts.

Gerard doesn't even try to keep quiet, just lets the moans and whimpers come out of his throat unimpeded. The only lube is from the condom, and Eric's cock is so thick that the stretch is just on the edge of too much. He rolls his head against his arms and moans low and needy and, yeah, fuck, it's exactly what he needs.

"Take it," someone whispers, and it's not Eric. "Look how much he fucking loves it." There's someone's hand on his stomach, and both of Eric's hands are still tight on Gerard's hips.

Another guy says, "You love getting fucked, don't you?"

Gerard whimpers and nods, moans, "Yeah, fuck, love it," and shudders when the hand on his stomach is joined by another on his thigh and a third in his hair. The guy on his left grips his hair tight and yanks his head back, kisses him rough and demanding. He can't even see what the guy looks like, just knows he's tall and has big, strong hands.

"Fuck him," the first guy whispers, sliding his hand up Gerard's thigh to cup his balls. "His cock's so fucking hard right now, yeah, fuck him hard."

Eric's thrusts become erratic and he grunts, "Take it," before he cries out and slams forward one final time, shuddering and groaning and mouthing at Gerard's neck.

Eric pulls out and Gerard shivers, turns and leans his shoulders against the rough concrete wall. He can see the vague outline of the two men who'd been touching him, one of them broad and pale, the other slim and dark. He pants and runs his fingers through his hair, wets his lips with his tongue and says, "Okay. Who's next?"

+++

He's got Eric's business card in his wallet which, okay, Gerard might have to explain to him a couple of things about anonymous hookups, the first being that you don't give guys you meet and fuck in a bar your business card with your full name and place of employment on it.

He never actually calls Eric. He goes back to the bar, though, and hits the baths a couple of times a week whenever he's in the city.

He's thinking about getting his own place. He'd had a mattress on the floor of a studio he shared with three other guys when he was eighteen. It was a total shit heap, and he probably can't afford much more than that now, but he thinks about it. He thinks about how fucking cold the commute is in the winter, the way the wind coming in across the Upper Bay cuts right through all his layers and seeps into his bones every time he takes the ferry. He thinks that it might be good for him not to see Mikey every day.

"Where were you?" Mikey asks when Gerard comes home late for dinner.

"There's a plate for you in the oven," his mother tells him.

Gerard says, "Thanks," and hangs his coat up, drops his messenger bag by the door and pulls off his boots. His toes are frozen, and there's a hole in his sock right over his left big toe.

"How was class?" Mikey asks snidely after Gerard retrieves his plate from the oven and sits down to eat.

Gerard says, "Fine."

"They have showers at art school, now?" Mikey asks.

Gerard tugs on a strand of damp hair and shrugs and starts to eat.

"I don't see why I have to be home for dinner on time, but Gerard can just waltz in whenever he feels like it," Mikey says.

Their father says, "You don't commute into the city all day. If you did, you could come home late, too."

Mikey snorts and shovels mashed potatoes into his mouth. "He's not at class," he says, mouth full of food. "He's out fucking."

"Michael James!" Their mother throws her napkin onto the table.

"What? He is. He doesn't even have class on Thursday night."

"Your brother is an adult--" their mother starts.

Mikey laughs, sharp and hard.

Their father takes a deep breath. "We're not arguing about this, Michael. When you're in college, you'll have fewer rules than you do now. But you're not in college and you're not an adult, so the same rules that have always applied to you still do. You come home for dinner on time and you don't curse in front of your mother."

Mikey looks down at his plate and says, "Sorry, Mom."

She nods and smoothes her napkin over her lap and they eat in awkward silence for a while.

"I'm thinking about getting my own place," Gerard says softly. "I probably can't afford Manhattan, but maybe Brooklyn. I'm not sure, yet."

Their mother says, "Oh, sweetie, you should stay here at least until you graduate."

Their father says, "I'll talk to my cousin Annie, the one who does real estate in Hoboken. She can probably give you advice on finding a good place."

Gerard's been in his room, sketching for a couple of hours while the Tom Baker episodes of Doctor Who play as background noise, mostly unwatched. Mikey pushes his door open and just leans in the doorway, watching him.

Gerard looks up and says, "Hey."

Mikey pushes his glasses up his nose and doesn't break his gaze.

"You can come in, you know."

Mikey sighs and nods, and when he walks in he's a little off balance and his movements are jerky as he locks the door behind him. He pushes flicks his hair out of his eyes, then stuffs his hands in his pockets and looks at the floor, making his hair fall back over his forehead. "You really going to leave?" he asks softly.

"I don't know, yet. I'm thinking about it."

"You're thinking about leaving because of me."

Gerard sighs. "No, I'm thinking about leaving because the commute sucks."

"Who do you fuck when you go out at night?" Mikey asks. He sways on his feet, closes his eyes and holds his hands out to steady himself.

"You're drunk."

Mikey shrugs. "So? Tell me who you fuck when you leave here. Tell me his name."

"Drink a glass of water and go to bed."

Mikey sits on the edge of Gerard's bed and looks miserable. "I know you're hiding him because of me."

"I just fuck," Gerard snaps. "It doesn't matter who. We all don't have a goddamn Frank to love us, okay?"

Mikey shakes his head and says, "No. You don't get to bring him into this. You don't get to be pissed at me because he gives me what you never would."

Gerard blinks at him. He says, "What?"

"He fucking kisses me, okay? He lets me touch him, and he likes it. He's not just fucking tolerating me. He's not just, like, taking fucking pity on me and suffering through it to get me off out of some stupid sense of responsibility."

Gerard says, "Are you saying that I? That you think I--"

"Why can't you just let me be happy?" Mikey asks. "You punish me because I want you and then you punish me because I'm trying not to want you, and it's fucked up and now you're leaving. Because of me."

"You want me?" Gerard asks.

"I said I was sorry. I know it's fucked up and I know I never should have acted on it, I know I screwed everything up and made you resent me and I know it's my fault that things are fucked up between us and I'm sorry, okay? I'm so sorry and I don't know how to make it better but I'm trying and--"

"Jesus," Gerard whispers, reaching out to touch the side of Mikey's face. He runs his thumb along Mikey's lower lip and whispers, "We can't do this."

Mikey kisses the pad of Gerard's thumb. "Do you want to?"

"It doesn't matter. We can't."

"I thought. You hated it. You wouldn't even look at me after."

"If I had, I would have ended up just holding you down and fucking you."

Mikey shudders and his eyes close. "I want you to. You can, God, Gerard. You can do anything you want to me. Don't you know that?"

"I didn't," Gerard admits. He's thinking, Bad idea, and, Don't do this, and, Mikey deserves better. He climbs onto the bed and kisses him anyway, Mikey's mouth pliant under his. His lips part the moment Gerard touches his tongue to them, slides his arms around Gerard's waist and moves so close they're touching everywhere.

He gets Mikey's shirt off, touches his sharp collarbones and trails his fingers down Mikey's ribs. Mikey laughs and twists away, smiling huge and happy as he unbuckles his belt and wriggles out of his jeans.

Pressing his naked body to Mikey's is amazing, so much skin to touch and kiss and lick. He kisses Mikey's mouth until they're both panting, kisses his way down his neck, over the hollow of his belly.

Mikey spreads his legs and arches his hips, pushing off the bed and whispering, "Yeah," as Gerard's mouth nears his cock.

Gerard grins up at him and flips him over, kisses the backs of Mikey's thighs and the curve of his ass, then spreads his ass and dips his head low.

Mikey's entire body freezes as Gerard starts to lick at his hole. Then he goes limp and moans softly, "Oh God, oh fuck, please, please, Gerard, please."

Gerard closes his eyes and loses himself in it, licking deep and listening to the sounds Mikey's making, helpless and needy. He keeps going, keeps teasing, licking over Mikey's hole, then around it, lapping at it until Mikey's squirming and rutting against the mattress and whispering, "God, God, God," over and over until he stills and shudders, and Gerard can feel Mikey clenching against his tongue as he comes.

He shivers for a little bit, then rolls over onto his back and gazes up at Gerard. His eyes are dark and heavy-lidded and he says, "I didn't even know, nobody's ever."

Gerard kisses his knee, kisses his way up Mikey's thigh and spends a long time kissing and licking at biting at his hips and along his ribs. Gerard kisses Mikey's collarbones and licks the hollow of his throat, tasting sweat. "Did you like it?"

Mikey smiles lazily at him and nods. His hand is warm on Gerard's thigh and he says, "You should probably fuck me now."

When Gerard presses into him, tight like he's only been fucked a few times before in his life, there's a voice in his head saying, You're fucking your little brother, you pervert. What the hell is wrong with you? Gerard just ignores it because it feels so good, because Mikey's smiling up at him, sated and happy and his hands are on Gerard's hips, urging him forward. Because after they kiss, Mikey whispers, "I love you."

Gerard fucks him more slowly than he would anyone else. He rocks into him and kisses him and smoothes his hair back, whispers, "You feel so good," and, "So fucking beautiful," and, "God, Mikey, love you so much."

Mikey bites at his lower lip as soon as Gerard pulls away from a kiss, gasps, "I need it harder. Do it harder."

"I don't want to hurt you."

"I want you to," Mikey whispers, closing his eyes. "I like it when it hurts."

Gerard presses his face into Mikey's neck and groans, "Oh, Jesus," and comes.

After, when they're both still breathing hard but Gerard can think again, he rolls onto his side and drags his fingers over the sweaty skin of Mikey's throat. "So, um," he says softly.

"You're not going to get weird on me, are you? Like, run away and join a convent because you can't handle the guilt?"

Gerard grins and kisses Mikey's shoulder. "I think you mean monastery."

"Whatever. You're not allowed to freak out."

"Not freaking out," Gerard says. He wonders if he will, later. He might. "I was just wondering, when you said you liked it to hurt, what level of pain are we talking about?"

Mikey grins and he's actually blushing, which is a really good look for him. "Not, like, dungeons or anything," he says. "Just, um, a little bit. And, um, fuck. You're going to think I'm so weird."

"I'd like to remind you of the fact that the person I'm most attracted to is my own brother," Gerard says. "And also of the fact that I already think you're weird, which is one of my favorite things about you."

"I like, um," Mikey whispers. He rolls onto his side and presses his forehead to Gerard's collarbone. "Control stuff. Doing what people tell me."

"Like, 'Get on your knees,' kind of stuff?"

"Well, yeah, but not just. Okay." He takes a deep breath. "Last week," he whispers, "on the way to school, Frank was like, 'Don't piss.' And I was like, 'Okay?' Because I didn't have to go. And he said, 'All day. I don't want you to piss all day.' And it was just fucking. Awesome. Like, if I hadn't thought about it I probably wouldn't have even had to go, but then it was all I could think about all day, and after school I just laid on my bed and tried not to move and for as bad as I had to go, it felt good because I was doing what he wanted. He called me late and he said I could go, and it was just. Fuck, Gee, I knew he was listening and he was whispering in my ear and finally letting it out felt so good I was practically shaking. And it wasn't even sex, but it felt like it was."

Gerard feels Mikey's cock pressing against his thigh, and he grins and starts to stroke it. "He let you piss in the toilet?" he asks breathlessly because it turns him on, too.

Mikey nods and sighs and rocks his hips.

Gerard pushes Mikey onto his back, keeps stroking him and kisses him hard, then whispers against his mouth, "I would have made you wet yourself."

Mikey keens, arching up off the bed.

Gerard grins and shoves him over onto his side, pushes Mikey's top leg up and presses into him quickly. "This okay? Can you take it again?"

Mikey just arches his back and shifts his legs to give Gerard better access, whispers, "Yeah."

"I like it dirty," Gerard says against his ear. Mikey's ass is so tight around his cock he has to close his eyes and shiver. "I like it fucking filthy. Like being watched, like the way silk panties feel against my balls, like it in public knowing I could get caught, like being tied up and called a little whore. I like talking."

Mikey laughs weakly, "You always like talking."

He nips at Mikey's earlobe. "I like talking about how dirty it is. I like hearing other people talk to me. Talk to me, Mikey."

"Feels so good," Mikey whispers. "I don't know what to say."

"It doesn't matter what you say. Just tell me how it feels."

"Sore, but, fuck, so good. Not even real pain, just, feels really good knowing I'm getting fucked again. Frankie--"

Gerard slams into him hard, wants to growl, Don't say his fucking name, but he doesn't. He shoves Mikey over and pins him to the bed, fucks into him hard and quick, letting his hips set the pace.

Mikey groans and says, "Frankie fucked me six times once and, God, by the end we were both just sweaty and sore and groaning and I couldn't even come anymore but taking him again and again like that, fuck. Fuck, Gerard, just like this. I need, please. Please, please, please, yeah, so good."

Mikey doesn't speak in complete sentences after that, just moans softly and whispers, "Gerard," and, "please." Gerard thinks he understands, now, why Mikey begs like that. He wonders what would happen if he told Mikey not to come. He's not going to because he wants feel Mikey come around his cock, but he thinks he might say it one day. He thinks that Mikey would look gorgeous like that, turned on and panting, cock so hard it's leaking, struggling to hold himself back, to not come until Gerard gave him permission.

They tangle together afterwards, arms and legs intertwined, kissing lazily and satisfied. Finally, Gerard asks, "What about Frank?"

Mikey says, "I love him." He says it like it's obvious, like he doesn't know why Gerard's asking.

"Yeah, but you can't just. You have to choose."

"Why? I love him and I love you. That's my choice."

Mikey says it like it's simple, like it's the most natural thing in the world. Gerard wants to argue with him, but he doesn't know how. He doesn't want to piss Mikey off now that they've finally gotten together.

Mikey smiles sleepily at him and touches the end of Gerard's nose with his fingertip. "No fucking basement brooding about this shit allowed, okay? You're the one who told me to embrace the unconventional."

"I'm pretty sure we were talking about Halloween costumes at the time."

"Yeah, well, you're pretty smart. Your advice applies to all aspects of life, not just dressing up like post-suicide Andrew Cunanan."

"You got sent home from school for dressing like that."

Mikey shrugs and yawns before tugging the sheet up over them. "Like missing school has ever broken my heart. Besides, that costume was bad ass."

+++

He lets Mikey drag him to a party the next weekend where, of course, they meet up with Frank. Gerard drinks a lot of shitty beer and tries not to be jealous when Frank and Mikey tip their heads together, whispering and laughing. They're not even doing anything. They're definitely not kissing or holding hands, and they're not even gazing at each other or exchanging secret grins. But they're best friends to anyone that's looking, and to Gerard, well. Gerard knows what they are to each other and after an hour of having to watch it, he needs to go.

He rubs one hand over his face and says, "I'm going to take off."

Frank says, "Yeah. This party blows."

Mikey says, "Let's get fucked up and watch Time Bandits."

Gerard doesn't know how to get out of it without being really obvious, so he just ends up sitting on his bed thinking about how Mikey'd sucked him off that afternoon. It's better than thinking about Mikey sitting curled up with his boyfriend on Gerard's bed. Better than thinking about how Frank's going to spend the night in Mikey's room, in Mikey's bed, doing all the things that Gerard wants to do.

Gerard doesn't mean to look over when he hears the soft, wet sounds, but he does. He looks, and Mikey's kissing Frank slow and easy, running his fingers through Frank's hair and cupping Frank's cheek in his hand. It's really beautiful. Gerard wants to draw it, wonders if he can capture the need and the tenderness between them.

Mikey puts his hand between Frank's legs and starts to rub him through his jeans.

Gerard says, "Jesus, Mikey. I'm right fucking here."

Mikey breaks the kiss and looks at Gerard, eyes dark. He says, "Yeah."

Frank's blushing and ducking his head down, laughing softly.

"You're both right here," Mikey says. He nuzzles against Frank's ear and whispers, "You should kiss Gerard."

Frank takes a sharp breath. Gerard bites his lip and thinks, No, Mikey, what the fuck are you doing?

Mikey sucks on Frank's earlobe, then whispers, "I know you want to. I see the way you look at him."

Frank says, "Mikey, no, that's not, I wouldn't do that to you."

He runs his fingers up Frank's thigh. "But would you do it for me? Will you kiss him so I can see?"

Gerard knows he should stop it. He should just get up and tell Mikey he's fucking insane. Instead he tips Frank's chin up and leans in. Franks' mouth is just as soft as he imagined it.

Gerard pulls away and Frank's eyes are closed, lips parted and slick with spit. He opens his eyes and looks up at Gerard for a long time, then looks over at Mikey. "What?" he asks.

Mikey starts rubbing Frank through his jeans again. He kisses Frank, then turns and whispers, "Gerard. Kiss me."

Gerard kisses him. It's one of the stupidest things he's done in his entire life, kissing his little brother in front of someone else, someone who could tell the truth and ruin their lives. He kisses Mikey anyway because he can't not, because he's so turned on he can hardly think. He licks into Mikey's mouth and kisses him dirty and unhurried, putting on a show, knowing Frank's watching.

Frank says, "Oh, fuck."

When Gerard pulls away from the kiss, Mikey's eyes are unfocused and he touches his tongue to his lower lip before turning towards Frank. He whispers, "Frankie," and touches their foreheads together.

"You guys," Frank says. "You, what?"

Mikey says, "Yeah. And you said you wanted to watch me with another guy. And I know you want him. You do, don't you?" He drops his hand down between Frank's legs and starts rubbing, slow and hard. "You want Gerard."

Frank whimpers and arches his hips up into Mikey's touch.

"You think about him," Mikey whispers. He kisses Frank's neck, then bites down just above his collarbone. Frank moans softly and he tangles his fingers in Mikey's hair. "You think about him and you touch yourself, don't you?"

Frank whispers, "Yeah."

Listening to Mikey talk dirty like that is churning so good in Gerard's gut. He slides his hand over Frank's belly and kisses his ear, nuzzles against it just like Mikey had on the other side. "Tell me what you think about when you jerk off."

Frank drops his head back against the wall and whines high in the back of his throat. "Oh, Jesus," he pants. "I can't fucking. Jesus."

Mikey tugs on Frank's shirt, pulls it up and over his head and tosses it over the side of the bed. Then he's unbuckling Frank's belt and the three of them are shifting, Frank lying back and lifting his hips so Mikey can get his pants off, Mikey kneeling next to him, Gerard sliding to his knees on the floor, hand skimming over Frank's soft, pale skin.

Mikey grins at him, smiles wide and happy at Gerard, and Gerard smiles back. He mouths, Love you, dickwad, at Mikey, and Mikey laughs and tugs his own t-shirt off and shoves down his jeans artlessly. He stretches out next to Frank and starts kissing him, and they're both right there. They're both naked on Gerard's bed, arms tight around one another, Mikey's knee pressing Frank's legs apart. And Gerard can see it happening not a foot away, can reach out and touch the sharp angle of Mikey's shoulder blade, the soft curve of Frank's hip.

"Talk for him," Mikey whispers against Frank's neck. He starts kissing his way down Frank's chest, stopping to nuzzle into Frank's armpit for a moment. Which, yeah, Gerard wants to do that, too. He lifts Frank's arm above his head, then licks up along Frank's ribs from his waist all the way to the joint of his shoulder. He smells sharp and sweaty, a little sour and raw like guys should smell. Gerard laps at the sweaty skin there, feels the rough texture of Frank's hair against his tongue.

Frank whimpers and writhes -- a little ticklish, Gerard can tell, but mostly turned on.

"He likes it when you talk," Mikey says, and he's kissing Frank's soft, white belly and sucking bruises into the skin. "Tell him what you like, Frank. Tell him what you think about when you're jerking off."

"This," Frank admits breathlessly. "Oh, fuck, I think about this, about both of you like this." He grips Gerard by the back of the head and pulls him up for a kiss, sloppy and frantic. Gerard gazes down at him after the kiss, and Frank's mouth is red and wet, his pupils blown, his breath coming in soft, ragged puffs. Then he closes his eyes and his head arches back and he whispers, "Fuck, yeah," so quiet Gerard can hardly hear it.

Mikey's climbed over him, is sinking down onto Frank's cock and bracing his hands on Frank's chest for balance. He grunts softly and Gerard reaches out to stroke Mikey's cock. He knows his knees are going to be sore from kneeling, but he doesn't care. It's like he's got front row seats to the hottest fucking show he's ever seen. Mikey starts riding Frank's cock, and Gerard wants to draw him, wants to capture the way motion makes all of Mikey's awkward angles turn graceful and sharp.

"You're gonna fuck me," Mikey whispers, leaning forward and bracing his hands on the mattress next to Frank's head. "And then Gerard's going to fuck me. And then, God, you can fuck me again, right? Just, both of you, you can do that, right? You can just keep fucking me all night?"

Frank says, "Yeah." Gerard thinks from the expression on Frank's face, he'd agree to anything Mikey asked.

Gerard slides his fingers up the back of Mikey's thigh, then over to feel where his hole is stretched tight around Frank's cock. He watches as Mikey arches his long back, tilts his hips until he's got just the right angle, Frank's cock hitting that spot inside that makes him moan.

"And you can," Mikey pants, voice going breathy and strained. "You can both just, whenever you want. The way you do at school, Frank, when you just need to fuck, you can do it like that whenever you want. Just bend me over and fuck me."

Gerard licks the sweat from Mikey's ribs and whispers, "Oh, fuck," because he's imagining it and it's so, so hot.

"And you, too," Mikey says, looking at Gerard. "You do it that way too, okay? Just like, oh, fuck, Frankie. Oh, God, please, just like that. Just like that, please, please." He lets his upper body fall forward as Frank fucks up into him fierce and relentless. His fingers are digging hard into Mikey's hips and he's grunting and sweating and then he clenches his teeth and growls deep in his chest before he shudders and comes.

Mikey waits until Frank's breathing has evened out before shifting and sliding up off Frank's cock. Gerard's fingers are right there, pressing into Mikey's hole and, fuck, it's so wet and slick. It's dripping because they'd done it bare and Frank had shot inside him. Gerard dips his fingers into his little brother's hole and thinks about sliding in bare, too. He thinks about fucking Mikey with another guy's come as lube, and then he's climbing up onto the bed and fisting his cock and resting his hand on the small of Mikey's back as he pushes in.

Mikey drops his head down and moans softly, and Frank whispers, "Is he...?"

"Fucking me," Mikey moans. "He's fucking me, oh, God." He drops down onto his elbows and rests his forehead against Frank's chest. "You're gonna like it so much when he fucks you, Frankie, and his mouth. He's gonna lick you open, work his tongue into your hole and spread you wide and make you fucking scream, he's so good."

Just having Mikey on his hands and knees like that for him, willing, arching back and wanting his cock brings Gerard's so close to the edge. And then he also knows that the slick he's using to fuck Mikey is jizz, and then, fuck, Mikey's voice. Gerard's never heard him talk so much, but he's not going to complain, not when he gets to hear Mikey whimper things like, "Oh, fuck yeah, Gee. Just like that, please, fuck, yeah, Gerard, so good, so fucking good."

The three of them are covered in sweat as they collapse onto the bed, sated. Mikey's literally dripping with come, Frank's and Gerard's sliding down the inside of his thigh, and Frank's got Mikey's come all over his belly and chest and even up onto his throat and it's disgusting and filthy and Gerard doesn't even pretend that he wants to clean up.

He dozes for a while and catches his breath and feels Frank's body pressed against his. Mikey's on Frank's other side, rubbing his fingers in circles over Frank's skin, and Gerard listens half asleep as they start to talk. The words don't make much sense; he's too exhausted to force his brain to pay attention and translate the sounds into meanings. He just hears Mikey's voice, soft and gentle, and Frank's sounds the same.

He falls asleep, and when he wakes the lights are dark and the TV's off and he's warm with blankets up over his shoulders and a warm body to spoon up against. It's Frank; he can tell even in the dark from the smell of Frank's hair and how he's softer and smaller than Mikey is.

"It wasn't ever like that," Mikey's saying softly. "We didn't even, not until, like, a week before you and I started. And then, I don't know. I didn't know what was happening with him and I didn't know what was happening with you, not for a long time."

Frank says, "I'm sorry."

"No, hey. You know it's all right. You know I get why you were scared at first."

Frank makes an amused sound and says, "I was horny at first. I was scared second."

Gerard listens to them kissing, feels Frank's body move against his as he shifts in Mikey's arms.

"I'd, like, come up with any excuse I could think of to touch myself in front of him," Mikey whispers. "Because he'd take pity on me and suck me off. I thought it was pity. I didn't know he wanted me, too. But he does. And I love you both. And this is cool, right? The three of us?"

Frank says, "Yeah." And then he shifts and rubs his ass against Gerard's dick. "Your brother's hard-on says hello."

Gerard grins and rubs his nose against the back of Frank's neck, and he smiles wide when Mikey wriggles his hand between their bodies to give his cock a squeeze and say, "Hi."