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Frank feels his pulse speed up instantly when Mikey mentions it.

“So my brother’s back from Italy and I was able to convince him to come out with us tonight.” He says it into the fridge at breakfast time on a Friday morning.

Frank thinks he manages to school his features into something resembling indifference before Mikey turns away from the fridge with the milk in his hand and looks at him. “Oh, okay.”

Mikey cocks his head like he’s expecting more. “Is that okay?” He narrows his eyes.

Frank makes a show of finishing chewing his mouthful of cereal. “Yeah, of course.” He hopes his blank and innocent look passes Mikey’s inspection. It must, because Mikey doesn’t say anything else until he’s putting on his coat before leaving for work.

“So don’t be a douche tonight, okay?”

Frank shakes his head like has no idea what Mikey means.

“Cut the shit, Frank. Just…” Mikey sighs. “Gee’s only been back for a few days and this will be his first time going out since…” He waves his hand.

Frank shrugs. “So what are we all not allowed to drink because of Gee, now?”

“No, that’s not-” Mikey grunts, exasperated. “That’s not what I mean. It’s fine. We can drink if we want. I’m just talking about you.”

Frank sees red. “What about me?!” He doesn’t keep the angry edge from his voice.

“Frank.” Mikey says it as if he’s trying to reason with a daft schoolchild. Frank shrugs. “Just don’t… I know you weren’t happy with how he left things between you guys. Don’t lie. You totally gave him a hard time that last time he was here after you guys hooked up. Just don’t… do that tonight, okay?”

“Whatever, Mikey.” Frank shakes his head. “I’m not going to drive your brother back to drinking.”

Mikey sighs dramatically as he opens the door and snorts. “It’s like you don’t even remember.” He’s shaking his head as he closes the door behind him.

*_*_*

The problem isn’t that Frank doesn’t remember. It’s that he remembers too well. He thinks about it all day while he’s working at the music store.

He remembers when Gerard showed up at Ray’s house for pizza and movies, and somehow Frank thought upon seeing him that the reason Mikey was always so reluctant to introduce Frank to his brother was because he just knew. Frank remembers his first thought being that getting with Gerard was inevitable, unavoidable, because he’d never felt such an immediate attraction to someone like he did with Gerard.

He remembers too well the amused glint in Gerard’s eyes when he looked at Frank. The look that said Frank was getting under his skin in a good way. He also remembers when Gerard’s gaze changed from amusement to want.

Frank remembers the taste of his mouth and the way the skin dragged against Frank’s teeth when he bit Gerard’s lips. He remembers Gerard’s musky scent and the feel of his fingers digging in when he grasped Frank’s hips. Frank remembers his arms sliding around on Gerard’s sweat-slick skin when he wrapped them around his neck and held on tight; the way Gerard’s breath sped up when he was so close, and the soft little noises he would make when he came and was trying to be quiet about it because Mikey was sleeping in the next room.

Frank wants to hear the noises Gerard makes when he comes and doesn’t have to be quiet about it. Frank wants another chance; another chance at the whole thing.

Most vividly, for some reason, Frank remembers how he had rested his ear right over Gerard’s heartbeat when it was over and listened as it gradually slowed down.

The worst thing Frank remembers is after, though, when the want was sated and drained right out of Gerard’s eyes before being replaced with a cold, blank stare.

Yeah, Frank remembers.

*_*_*

It’s not something that Frank can really explain, and he doesn’t have an excuse for himself, but he has no intention of heeding Mikey’s words tonight. He needs Gerard; needs him like a constant thrumming under his skin that hasn’t gone away since Mikey mentioned him this morning. Not that Frank thinks the thrumming will be sated simply by being with Gerard again. It never completely went away before, but he wants just the same.

Frank lines his eyes in black during the half hour he has after work, before he needs to leave for the show, and realizes as he does that this is all it will take for Mikey to know something’s up. He’ll know Frank isn’t going to leave well enough alone.

It’s fine. Mikey can be mad. Frank doesn’t care because as far as he’s concerned, it isn’t ‘well enough’ – not at all. It’s unfinished business that if he gets his way will never be finished. Because he’s never felt this burning for anyone else like he does for Gerard. Like his skin is on fire.

*_*_*

Frank fidgets while he waits. Not because he’s nervous, but because he’s anxious – excited-anxious. He feels like his thoughts are moving at a breakneck speed inside his head, but time seems to have slowed down around him. The disconnect is making him agitated. He downs a beer quickly, just to loosen up and then drinks a glass of water and sucks on a tic-tac, hoping to get rid of the taste and smell. He keeps wondering if he should have styled his hair more or not worn such tight jeans. He doesn’t care if he’s being obvious, but he doesn’t want to seem desperate.

He forgets about what he’s wearing the second he sees Gerard and feels his pulse speed up exponentially. When Gerard’s eyes land on him, they lose the edgy glint they’ve had since he walked in the door with Mikey and Ray, and immediately gain the same old fond, amused expression. Frank counts that as a small victory and abandons the bar to meet the guys in the middle of the club. He doesn’t really even acknowledge the other guys, but he can’t help but notice the way Mikey rolls his eyes at him as if he knows. Frank ignores it, immediately moving to hug Gerard instead. He wraps his arms around Gerard’s neck, pleased to feel his arms come around his waist without hesitation.

Just like that, all of Frank’s irritation with Gerard over how he left things between them melts away, changing instead into relief that he’s back in his life and hope that it will stick this time.

Gerard murmurs, “Hey, Frankie,” into his ear and Frank feels encouraged.

He nuzzles into the side of Gerard’s face just slightly and says, “Missed you, asshole.”

Gerard shrugs and smirks at him as he lets him go and doesn’t say anything else. He stays close, though, as they claim a spot by the wall. Tonight’s band is the biggest new thing at the indie label Mikey works for and the show is expected to sell out. Frank’s glad they got here early. He has every intention of working his way up to the pit later, but for now he doesn’t want to be away from Gerard if he can help it. He has so many questions - Why didn’t you call me? Why did I have to find out from Mikey that you were going away? Do you still want me as much as I still want you? - but he knows now is not the time or the place for all that, so he tries to content himself with just being close.

It isn’t enough, though. He wants to smell, to taste, to crawl inside Gerard’s skin or eat him alive or something. He nudges close, unobtrusively, and doesn’t think anyone notices him nosing gently just once at Gerard’s shoulder and taking a deep breath in through his nose. It’s the same. He smells the same.

Gerard raises an eyebrow at him in question, quirking his lip up the tiniest bit. Frank shrugs. “You don’t smell like a foreign country.”

Gerard tilts his head to the side. “Were you worried that I would?”

“I don’t know.” Frank scratches his eyebrow with his pinky. “I guess maybe I was worried you’d come back different.”

Gerard places his hand on the back of Frank’s neck and squeezes. Frank can hardly hold back the tremble that wants to shake his body at the unexpected touch. “I’m the same, Frankie,” Gerard says, and winks at him before dropping his hand.

Frank watches Gerard closely for a little while as he talks to Ray about all the places he went in Italy. The only thing Frank can see that’s different from the last time they were together is that Gerard is fidgeting a lot more. He tended to move around and gesture a lot before, but this is different. It isn’t like he’s having an ‘I desperately want a drink’ fit, it’s more like, ‘I’m not totally sure I want to be here, but I’m going to do my best to not freak out.’

Frank watches this and he’s torn because he’s thinking about what Mikey said this morning and, as much as he desperately wants to get in Gerard’s pants tonight, he doesn’t want to make all this harder on him. He doesn’t want to be some kind of stumbling block in Gerard’s recovery if he’s still struggling.

Frank’s always wondered if he was part of the reason why Gerard decided at the last minute to do this semester in Italy thing for his last term of grad school coursework. It feels like a really narcissistic thought, but Frank can’t help it. They hooked up twice and the next thing Frank knew, Mikey was telling him that Gerard was going to Italy for four months. And that was it. Remembering makes Frank angry again and it makes him want another beer. He isn’t going to have one, but he does separate from the guys and make his way up to the pit just as the lights go down for the opening band.

The first band is great. The drums are out of this world. Frank just loses himself in it. He goes nuts in the pit, flailing and thrashing around and by the time he’s heading back to the guys in between bands, he’s soaked with sweat and thrumming. He grins at Gerard as he maneuvers through the throng of bodies, crashing into him when he finally gets close, and letting his hands fall on Gee’s belly. Gerard smiles at him and Frank can’t help it as he tickles Gerard’s stomach until he laughs.

It’s loud in the club with the buzzing of voices, even though the music being piped in over the speakers is quieter than when the band was onstage, so Frank has to yell as he leans up to say in Gerard’s ear, “I can tell you one awesome thing Jersey has that Italy doesn’t.”

Gerard shouts back, “What’s that?”

Frank licks his lips before he leans up close and says, “Me.” His lips meet Gerard’s ear as he says it and he doesn’t miss the shudder that goes down Gerard’s body at the touch. He grins at him as he backs away to work his way back up to the front.

*_*_*

After the show, they decide to go to a nearby all night diner to eat. Frank slides into the booth right next to Gerard, pretty obviously nudging Mikey out of his way to do it. Mikey makes a face at him, but Frank pretends not to notice it. He sidles up close, so that he and Gerard are touching all along their sides. Frank feels like his whole side that’s touching Gerard is burning and tingling in a way that makes his body shout ‘more, more, I want more.’ He only hopes that Gerard feels a fraction of the desire that he feels.

When their coffee arrives, Frank is pleased to see that Gerard takes it the same as he did before he left. Not that Frank has a ton to go on. It was only twice that they had coffee together at Ray’s house, but still. It’s nice. Frank appreciates making notes in his head of the things about Gerard that haven’t changed since he’s been gone. Gerard drops his hand under the table after he starts drinking his coffee and slowly rubs it up and down Frank’s leg. Frank isn’t sure Gerard even knows he’s doing it. He’s not looking at Frank. He’s talking to Ray and Mikey across the table about what he wants to eat. Frank thinks Gerard’s body is somehow oriented to his and needs to touch the same way Frank needs to, even if Gerard’s brain isn’t acknowledging it.

After they order, Frank gets up to go out and smoke and pulls Gerard along with him. It’s cold outside and it isn’t long before all the places where Frank’s clothes were soaked with sweat from the show start to cool and he’s shivering. Gerard pulls him close and rubs his free hand up and down Frank’s arm and they smoke in silence, embracing like that. Inside Frank’s head is anything but silent though, his thoughts tumbling around like a drum beat that keeps losing its rhythm. Frank wonders how much time they have before their food arrives and wants to ask Gerard all his questions, but he’s suddenly so, so nervous about it. It’s stupid. He feels shy, even though Gerard’s fucking holding him.

Frank thinks talking would probably be the wisest course of action, but it’s suddenly the last thing he wants to do. He flicks his cigarette away and turns around in Gerard’s arms, reaching his hands up to either side of Gerard’s face. Gerard drops his cigarette and rests his hands on Frank’s hips and Frank knows. He just has to go for it.

He doesn’t have to lean up too much, because Gerard comes down to meet him so that Frank doesn’t feel like it’s just him initiating the kiss. He likes that. If nothing else, he’s sure he’s wanted back and that strengthens his resolve to make something happen with Gerard tonight. The kiss isn’t tentative or sweet or careful. It’s almost angry, almost like they really are picking up right where they left off, only without the blankness Gerard had in his eyes after the last time. Not that Frank is looking into Gerard’s eyes at the moment. He isn’t, because his eyes are closed. All Frank’s really thinking about right now is how Gerard’s tongue feels, pressing against his and searching around in his mouth. Frank is just settling into the whole making-out thing when he feels Gerard’s hands on his hips gently pushing him away. The kissing stops and it takes Frank’s brain a second to catch up and open his eyes to find Gerard looking at him again with that amused glint.

Frank just stares back because really what is there to say?

Finally, Gerard brings his hand up and runs his thumb over Frank’s bottom lip. Frank wants to bite it, but instead, he just pulls it into his mouth and sucks until Gerard drags it away across his cheek and says, “So, we’re starting off with this, then?” He cocks his head. “No questions about Italy or art or school or anything?”

Frank shrugs. “I’ve been listening to you talk about Italy to Ray and Mikey all fucking night. I would be lying if I said I didn’t care, but I’m hoping I’ll have plenty of other opportunities to hear about it.” Frank grabs Gerard’s ass and surges up to rub their groins together. “And while talking is nice, I know fuck-all about art and honestly, I think it’s my dick that’s missed you the most.” Frank knows Gerard can feel his hard-on through his jeans and is satisfied when his head goes back involuntarily and he gasps.

Frank leans up to nip and lick at Gerard’s neck, but it doesn’t last long before Gerard is pushing him away again. He takes a deep breath, apparently attempting to get control of himself, and looks in through the window of the diner. “I think our food is ready.”

Frank says, “Fuck the food.”

Gerard turns around, pulling Frank with him. “Come on. We can’t leave Mikey and Ray.”

Frank rolls his eyes because they totally could leave Mikey and Ray; even if they were annoyed, they’d both get over it. He goes along with Gerard though, because he is kinda hungry and he did order the food. It would be pretty rude to leave the other guys with the bill for his and Gerard’s meals.

Frank doesn’t say much while they eat, but he revels in Gerard’s hand traveling up and down his thigh under the table the whole time. He’s trying to act calm and chill, but Frank’s heart feels like it’s going to explode out of his chest the entire time. And he’s uncomfortable, because he’s still semi-hard, and Gerard’s hand isn’t helping that any.

Finally, the check comes and they pay. Frank grabs Gerard’s hand as they slide out of the booth and intertwines their fingers. When they get outside, he surges up to whisper in Gerard’s ear, “We can go back to your place.” Gerard squeezes his hand and nods and Frank says to Mikey and Ray, “Gerard and I are going back to his place. We’ll see you guys later.”

Mikey makes a face at them like he’s just sucked on a lemon and says, “Seriously, Gee? It’s the first time we’ve hung out since you’ve been back and you’ve hardly seen Ray.”

Frank feels tendrils of jealousy welling up because he knows Gerard and Ray have a history. It’s only a friendship history, but still, it makes Frank feel like an irritating interloper. It’s totally harshing his flail at being thisclose to hooking up with a hot guy. He’s annoyed because he doesn’t really have anything to say to defend himself for wanting to take Gerard away from them. He thinks he probably is being really selfish right now.

It turns out he doesn’t have to say anything, though. Gerard shrugs and waves his hand vaguely at Frank as if to say, ‘hot guy wants me, sorry.’ And Mikey simply rolls his eyes and says, “Whatever,” in a really disappointed tone before turning around to walk toward his car, pulling Ray with him.

Gerard turns to follow Frank to his car and puts his hands on Frank’s waist. He pulls him close and says, “He’ll get over it.”

Frank knows he will. But he also knows he’ll probably have to endure a couple of pretty uncomfortable days in the apartment first. Mikey excels at giving the silent treatment. Frank thinks Gerard is totally worth it, though.

*_*_*

Gerard backs Frank up against a wall the minute they walk in the door. He’s gnawing at Frank’s neck before Frank really even gets to process the space he’s in. He didn’t get to go to Gerard’s apartment either of the times they hooked up before. He’s torn because he wants to look around and see some of Gerard’s work, but he also can’t ignore the insistent thrumming under his skin that feels like yearning and made the drive over a living hell. They only talked to each other for Gerard to give Frank directions on where to go and that was fine with Frank. The way he basically feels like his insides are trying to crawl out of him, he doesn’t think he could have held a coherent conversation about anything.

He looks around now. In the dim light he can see that there’s art everywhere – canvasses stacked against walls and sketchpads strewn all over. In between stacks of comic books and DVD’s, Frank can see piles of art materials – paints and brushes and pencils and charcoals and things he can’t even identify. Gerard looks up from Frank’s neck to peer around and looks slightly sheepish. “It’s kind of a disaster since I got back. I haven’t really had a chance to settle back in yet.”

Frank snorts. “Liar. It always looks like this. I live with your brother.”

Gerard laughs and shrugs and shakes his head. “It doesn’t matter. The bed is clean. I just changed the sheets, c’mon.”

Frank follows in the direction Gerard pulls him, but whines, “I wanted to look at your work.”

Gerard smirks as he pulls Frank down on the bed on top of him and starts working his hands up under his shirt. “Thought you knew fuck all about art.”

Frank lifts his arms for Gerard to pull his shirt off. “I don’t. But I’d like to know more about you and to listen to Mikey talk, your art is your life, so…” Frank trails off, shrugging as he works to undo his jeans and start shimmying out of them.

Gerard helps Frank gets his jeans down over his feet after he kicks off his shoes. When Frank comes back to push Gerard’s shirt up, kissing at the exposed skin on his belly, Gerard says, “It’s fine. I don’t want to bore you.”

Frank stops and looks up at Gerard. “It wouldn’t bore me.” He shakes his head. “I like you, you fucker.” He puts his hands on Gerard’s cheeks and says, “You aren’t boring,” before kissing him hard and a bit desperate. He’s reluctant to let his lips leave Gerard’s mouth for the second it takes to pull his shirt off over his head. When he comes back, he lets himself go, teeth clacking and faces mashing together until they have to pull apart because they’re both breathless.

Frank moves back to put his hands on Gerard’s belt. “I’m going to suck you off so good right now you’ll forget your own name.” He gets Gerard’s pants and briefs off in record time, yanking his shoes off harshly to pull the jeans and underwear off over his feet. Then he crawls back up Gerard’s body slowly, stopping here and there to lick and kiss and nip at his legs. He slowly pushes Gerard’s knees apart as he settles between them, taking the time to lick teasing stripes on his inner thighs.

Frank doesn’t even go for Gerard’s dick with his mouth right away. He gives it a few good jerks with his hand and goes instead for his balls, licking at them and sucking them into his mouth carefully. With his mouth full, he breathes in deeply through his nose, loving the smell and the feel of it when Gerard’s whole body shudders. He smiles as he lets Gerard’s balls drop out of his mouth and finally goes to put his mouth on his dick.

He licks around the head teasingly before spitting into his hand and licking his fingers and then he starts a slow stroke up and down the shaft. Once he’s set up with a rhythm he likes, he sinks his mouth down and takes Gerard in bit by bit until he can’t go any deeper. He feels the head of Gerard’s dick hitting the back of his throat, stops, and hums.

Gerard’s hips jerk up off the bed involuntarily and Frank keeps up his happy humming. He moves his mouth in time with it, stroking his hand along with the rhythm. Eventually, he stops humming, removes his hand and lets both arms come away from Gerard’s hips where he’s been holding on. He rests his hands off to the side on the bed and looks up at Gerard meaningfully, waiting for him to get the idea. He loves this. He remembers this from before, remembers that Gerard isn’t the kind of guy who would just fuck someone’s face without clearly being invited.

Gerard does get with the program eventually, though. He starts out slow with just little thrusts, feeling things out to see what Frank can handle. Frank relaxes his throat and opens up - totally calm - to let Gee know he can take whatever he gives him. It isn’t long before Gerard’s thrusts get more intense and he really goes for it, fucking Frank’s face like there’s no tomorrow. Frank hollows his cheeks and sucks on the way out on each thrust and loves the little sounds Gerard’s making in the back of his throat.

Frank isn’t completely satisfied, though, until Gerard finally puts his hands on his head. Frank feels that Gerard’s been holding back, but now he can’t any longer. He tangles his fingers in the strands and finally seems to just let himself go, moaning loudly. It sends chills down Frank’s spine and makes him work even harder to open up and suck and use his tongue to work the vein on the underside of Gerard’s dick. Gerard gasps each time Frank swirls his tongue over the head on the way out.

Frank starts fondling Gerard’s balls gently and hums again, and within seconds he feels Gerard’s fingers tighten in his hair. Gerard says, “Fuuuuck,” dragging it out and gasping at the end. He starts to stutter in his thrusts, and Frank feels his leg muscles tighten. “Frankie!” is all Gerard manages to get out before he comes. Frank lets it land on his tongue and savors the flavor before swallowing it all down, using his fingers to wipe up what dripped down his chin and licking them clean.

When he’s finished, he looks up to see Gerard staring down at him with a disbelieving expression. “How so hot?” he pants out. “How are you so fucking hot, Frankie? C’mere.” He pulls Frank up and kisses him deeply, his tongue chasing the taste of his own come in Frank’s mouth.

Frank isn’t ready for it, too lost in the kiss, when Gerard flips them abruptly so that Frank is on the bottom, and then begins moving down Frank’s body. He stops and laves his tongue over Frank’s right nipple, sending sparks down Frank’s spine, before moving further down to lap at his navel. Gerard pulls Frank’s underwear down slowly as his mouth works its way south, licking over the ink on Frank’s belly and leaving wet kisses all the way down to his dick.

Gerard moves back just long enough to pull off Frank’s underwear and then he’s back, licking his way all up and down Frank’s cock. Gerard sinks his mouth down and uses his hand to help set his rhythm. He strokes exactly how Frank likes, tight and firm but not too fast. Frank hopes it’s because Gerard remembers how he likes it, not because this is how he always does it. He chooses to believe it’s because Gerard remembers. When Gerard first uses just that little bit of suction on the head of his dick, Frank trembles and cries out, “Shit, fuck, damn!” and can’t keep his hands from landing on Gerard’s head. He tries not to push down, but simply lets them rest on top, pushing Gerard’s hair back. He needs to touch, he feels like he just can’t not touch Gerard. It’s crazy and wild and Frank doesn’t care as he allows himself to let go and thrusts up into Gerard’s mouth.

Gerard opens up and takes him easily, but keeps his hand on Frank’s dick, pumping him more quickly now. Frank knows he’s going to go off soon. He feels like he’s been hard for hours, and his body’s been on fire for hours before that. Since this morning, it feels like, he’s just been gunning for this - this release, since he found out he’d be seeing Gerard tonight. Frank tries to hold back and relax and enjoy the sensation, the way Gerard massages his balls and uses his tongue so expertly, but he only makes it a few minutes before his thrusts become erratic. He tenses and Gerard seems to sense what’s coming because he sucks hard and Frank tumbles right over the edge. He comes for ages, his dick spasming in Gerard’s mouth and Gerard just takes it all down, working his cock and milking him through all the aftershocks. Gerard swallows everything.

When Gerard finally crawls up Frank’s body, he murmurs, “Always so fucking good with you, Frankie,” before he rests his head right over Frank’s heart where it’s beating so rapidly Frank is surprised he doesn’t go into cardiac arrest.

“Do you hear that?” Frank asks. Gerard nods. “It’s been like that all fucking day.”

Gerard turns his head to look up at Frank questioningly. He puts his hand over Frank’s heart, first his palm, and then he turns it over to press the backside of it against Frank’s chest. He looks back at Frank’s face with wondering eyes, “All day?”

Frank nods. “Since Mikey told me this morning that you were back and I knew I was going to see you tonight.” Frank picks up Gerard’s hand and intertwines their fingers. “Been thinking about this all damn day. It was like… I couldn’t stop thinking about you, couldn’t escape it.”

Gerard only leaves his hand in Frank’s for a moment before pulling away. He grabs a pack of cigarettes from the nightstand and lights one first for Frank and then one for himself, before he lies back down on the bed and stares up at the ceiling. He lies next to Frank, their sides still touching, but he doesn’t embrace him.

Frank is unsure, but he cuddles up into Gerard’s side, and Gerard doesn’t push him away. Frank rests his head on Gerard’s chest, right over his heart and listens to his heart beat slow down, his head rising and falling as Gerard breathes in and out, taking drags of his cigarette. Frank smokes his quickly and sits up to put it out in the ashtray on the nightstand. When he comes back with the intention of curling his body around Gerard’s and falling asleep entwined, he finds Gerard sitting up and running his fingers through his hair agitatedly.

Frank feels the bottom falling out of his stomach just as Gerard says, “You should go.”

Frank doesn’t say anything at first, just tries to make eye contact with Gerard who’s looking anywhere but at Frank. His expression is impossible to read. It’s not quite as blank as it was the times before when he slipped out of Frank’s bed before his dick was even fully soft, mumbling excuses about wanting to be gone before Mikey woke up. There isn’t any warmth in Gerard’s eyes, though, when he does finally look at Frank. Instead, what Frank can read looks more like pleading, as Gerard starts mumbling, “I don’t, um… I don’t sleep well with other people. I mean, like… I thrash around and stuff-”

“No, it’s fine.” Frank cuts him off before Gerard can ramble any more excuses. “I get it, it’s just,” he gets up and grabs his clothes up off the floor, pulling them on quickly as he talks, “just a hook-up. It’s fine. I won’t make things awkward or anything.”

Once Frank is dressed, he turns to look at Gerard. He knows he should just go, but he feels like he has to give him one more chance to say… something. Anything. He doesn’t have that pleading expression anymore, now he only looks… sad.

Gerard doesn’t say anything. Frank just shakes his head. Whatever. “I can show myself out. I’m sure I’ll see you around,” is all he says and he doesn’t look back as he walks out the door, resisting the urge to slam it behind him.

*_*_*

Frank and Mikey don’t really talk for the rest of the weekend. They exchange maybe two dozen words between them. This is a pretty incredible feat since they’re both home most of the time. Mikey goes out on Saturday night to check out some local bands. He doesn’t invite Frank to go with him. Frank feels this scorn acutely because Mikey almost always invites him. Frank doesn’t always go, but he’s invited just the same. He’s pretty sure that if he had tried to tag along, Mikey would have let him, but Frank’s pride is too great.

By Sunday night, Frank’s nerves are shot. He doesn’t want to fight with Mikey, but he can’t help but feel that if Gerard is just a player, then Mikey should have warned him. Mikey’s never been happy with them hooking up, but Frank always thought it was because Frank’s a handful and drinks a lot – he’d assumed it was about Gerard’s recovery. But now he doesn’t know what to think.

He’s antsy all evening. He can’t seem to make up his mind about what he wants to do. He keeps starting shows on the DVR and then turning them off and picking up books to read and then putting them down. He’s smoked way more than usual this weekend and is in the middle of emptying ashtrays into the kitchen garbage when Mikey comes in and says, “Don’t be mad at Gee.”

Frank snorts. It’s the most words Mikey’s said to him at one time all weekend. He shrugs and doesn’t say anything as he pulls the full garbage bag out of the bin and ties off the top. Mikey follows him out into the hallway to drop the bag down the garbage chute. “C’mon, Frank, don’t be like that.”

Frank stops and pins Mikey with an incredulous glare before going back into the apartment, he doesn’t hold the door open for Mikey. He hears Mikey follow him back in as he lights up a cigarette. Once he’s had a nice, long drag, he asks, “What did Gee tell you?”

Frank hears Mikey shuffling as he moves to sit on the sofa, but he doesn’t turn around. Finally, Mikey sighs and says, “He said he maybe came off as kind of a douche, asking you to leave. He feels bad about it.”

Frank turns around and points at Mikey rudely, “And you were worried about me being a douchebag.”

Mikey shrugs one shoulder slowly. “Well, you kind of were, before. I don’t know, Frank. I mean…” He scratches at his arm. “It’s fine. You were fine on Friday. Thank you for like, not teasing him or anything.”

Frank shakes his head. “Why would I tease him?”

Mikey lifts his hands up and makes a face like it’s obvious. “When you like someone, you give them a hard time, sometimes. I mean, usually.”

Frank finally sits down on the couch and sighs. “Not Gee.”

Mikey looks down for a second. “Yeah, I know.” He rubs at a hole in the knee of his jeans. “Thanks for that, I guess.”

Frank takes another long drag and then shakes himself, trying to shake off his ridiculous self-pity. “But it doesn’t matter anyway. It was just a hook up. There was no reason for me to stay over. It’s done. It’s fine.”

Mikey looks distressed. “Gerard really isn’t like that, though.”

“Then what is he like?” Frank snaps.

“He’s like,” Mikey waves his hand, “confused? He’s still trying to figure himself out with the not drinking and he just got back after being gone for months. You’ve gotta cut him some slack, Frank.”

Frank puts out his cigarette and shrugs. “It’s fine, Mikey. I’m over it, really. I’m not mad.”

“He does like you, though.” Mikey says, quietly.

Frank rubs at the back of his neck. “Well, then I guess we’ll be friends. I like him too, but I can’t do this fucking around thing. It isn’t me.”

“I know.” Mikey sighs. “But Friends is good.”

Frank nods and hopes his face is convincing. “Sure it is.” He gets up quickly and grabs the first book he sees on the coffee table. “I’m gonna go read for a while.”

He hears Mikey say, “Kay,” in a sad tone as he shuts his bedroom door behind him.

*_*_*

Frank thinks about Gerard all week. He can’t keep him out of his waking head, it seems, no matter what he does. The thing he keeps coming back to is just how damn sad Gerard looked when Frank left on Friday night. And then how Mikey said that Gerard felt bad about things. Frank can’t help but think that if Gerard was so sad then why did he do it? Frank totally gave him time to say something else or change his mind and ask Frank to stay, but he just let him go. And if he feels so bad about it now then why doesn’t he call Frank or at least text him? They have each other’s numbers. He could be less of a douche by at least trying to make some sort of contact.

Frank also kinda feels like an idiot about the whole thing because it occurs to him now that when a guy hooks up with you twice and then skips the fucking country, it can’t be a good sign. He probably should have taken a hint from the total radio silence the first time around. He realizes he’s cut Gerard way more slack than he would with most guys and he hates that because it tells him he really is totally gone on Gee and that sucks. It sucks because Gerard obviously isn’t interested in really dating him and Frank just needs to be okay with that.

*_*_*

Thursday night Mikey tells Frank that Gerard’s coming along with them again tomorrow to another show. This one isn’t as big a deal and they might not stay the whole time. There’s talk about possibly coming back to the apartment after for movies or Xbox. Frank tells Mikey he’s fine with it. And he is. He totally is.

Except for how he isn’t.

When he wakes up with a killer headache on Friday morning after another shitty night of tossing and turning, he decides enough is enough. He has to come to a conclusion of some kind in his head so that he can move the fuck on. He really does like Gerard a lot. It’s not like he’s only physically attracted to him. So he settles it in his mind that they can be friends like he told Mikey.

Being friends is good. If Gerard likes him, then there’s no reason they can’t be friends.

This is what Frank tells himself all day at work. It’s like a mantra running through his head on repeat. Just being friends is better than nothing and Frank really doesn’t think nothing is an option considering that Gerard is his best friend/roommate’s brother and they hang out kind of a lot. So Frank works on getting his lust-addled brain in line with this decision all day so that by the time he heads home from work, he’s actually feeling pretty okay about it.

He struggles with how to dress for the show when he gets home to change. He skips the tight jeans and debates on the eyeliner. He loves how it makes his eyes look, but he doesn’t want to give the impression that he’s hoping to get lucky tonight. He’s been going over this in his brain all day. He just isn’t the type of person who can handle fucking around with someone he actually likes. He doesn’t play games. He’s not going to do anything tonight to make Gerard think he’s interested in hooking up again.

In the end he decides to line his eyes very lightly and wears the looser of the two t-shirt options he considers.

He and Mikey drive to the club together and wait out front. Mikey has tickets for Gerard and Ray, so they stand around and Frank smokes two cigarettes while they wait. He’s jittery, but not in the worst way. He’s pep talked himself into optimism at this point. It’s going to be fine. He can be nice to Gerard and cut him slack and they can be friends.

It’s totally fine.

Frank makes sure it’s totally fine by turning around as soon as he can see Ray and Gerard walking toward the entrance. He flicks away his cigarette and gets in line, hoping to avoid any awkwardness that might come in the place of an expected hello hug with Gerard.

The others catch up to him when they get inside and he edges away quickly, gesturing toward the bar. Mikey said he’s allowed to drink, so he’s going to. He only has one beer, though, and drinks it quickly. He doesn’t worry about trying to get the taste out of his mouth this time. It doesn’t matter if his mouth tastes like beer because he isn’t going to be kissing Gerard because they are just friends.

Frank only stays with the guys long enough to let them know he’s heading up to the pit. It’s pretty early still, and he’s not that into this band, but he doesn’t feel like he can be around Gee right now. Not yet. He has nervous energy he needs to work out before he can do that and the pit is the best place for getting that out of his system.

The wait for the opening band to take the stage feels interminable. Frank keeps turning around to look at Gerard. He can’t help it. It’s like Gee is some kind of magnet for his eyes. It’s like Frank’s whole person is attuned to him and needs to see for himself what he’s doing each moment. It’s the same thrumming that he feels under his skin every time they’re together. And it’s the way his heartbeat’s been going crazy ever since Gerard showed up outside the venue. Frank wants to ignore it, but he just can’t, because Gerard looks so fucking good tonight. He looks hot. Hotter than usual, even, in a leather jacket and the tightest jeans Frank’s ever seen him in and he’s wearing eyeliner tonight, too. Frank wonders who Gerard got all dolled up for. He’s obviously not that interested in Frank, so he must be looking for a random hookup. Frank feels his blood boil at the thought of Gee hooking up with someone else. He internally rolls his eyes at himself for that thought because he has no claim on Gerard at all, whatsoever. He’s pissed off at himself that he has that involuntary possessive response. That’s the thought that’s in his mind when the lights finally go down for the first band.

Frank doesn’t really wait for the crowd to warm up before trying to get a circle pit started. Luckily, there are several other guys who also look to be blowing off steam tonight and they get one going pretty quickly. Once he starts, Frank feels like he’s in perpetual motion for the entire set which easily lasts 40 minutes. He knows he’s hurting himself and he’ll feel like shit tomorrow with dozens of bruises, but right now he just has so much pent up angst that he needs to get out that he really doesn’t care. He thinks going hard right now is the only way he’s going to be able to get through this night, so he doesn’t hold anything back.

As soon as the first band’s set is finished, Frank goes back to the bar without even checking in with the other guys. He drinks his beer pretty fast and starts working his way back up toward the pit. He’s about halfway back to where he was before when he gets waylaid behind a wall of tall dudes who won’t budge. He’s pondering what might be the best angle to try and sidle between them when he feels hands come around his waist. He knows immediately that it’s Gerard. He knows because he can smell him and because he knows his hands.

Frank freezes. Gerard pulls him back into his body and lets his hands rest on Frank’s belly. Frank doesn’t do anything right away. He just stands stock still and lets Gerard hold him in the middle of a club where any asshole could take issue with the display. The rational part of his brain is telling him disentangle himself and tell Gee to fuck off, but the other, much louder part of his brain wants him to grab Gerard and haul him into the bathroom to suck him off with the sounds of the concert muted in the background.

Frank doesn’t end up needing to decide which part of his brain to listen to because Gerard leans down and says into his ear, “Loosen up, Frankie.”

That finally breaks Frank out of his trance. He stutters forward, dislodging Gerard’s hands from his belly to his hips and bumps into one of the big guys in front of him. He mumbles, “Sorry,” as he removes Gerard’s hands and attempts to maneuver off to the side and out of the throng of bodies. Gerard follows him through the crowd and all the way out the side entrance to where a bunch of smokers are huddled. Frank fumbles in his pockets until he finds his pack. His hands are shaking. He finally gets one out and Gerard is right there with a light for him.

Frank huffs out the first exhale and leans against the brick side of the building, letting his head loll back and shutting his eyes. He hears Gerard light up his own cigarette and gradually it gets quieter as the chatter of the other smokers dies down as they all finish up and go back inside for the headliner. Frank hears the pounding of the bass and can feel the beat of the drums when the band finally comes onstage. Only then does he risk opening his eyes.

Gerard’s still there, smoking quietly beside him. He raises his eyebrows when Frank looks at him. Frank rolls his eyes and all he can say is, “What the fuck?”

Gerard shrugs and says softly, “I guess you are still pissed, then?”

Frank shakes his head. “No, I mean…” He waves a hand. “I get that, whatever, it was just a hook up, it’s fine, but like…” he takes a drag before he continues, “I can’t play these games because I fucking told you last week that I fucking like you! And it’s fine if you don’t feel the same, but I can’t do the fucking around thing. I think…” he drops his cigarette butt and looks down to stub it out with his toe as he says, “we need to just be friends because I’m no good for only hooking up.”

Gerard doesn’t say anything at first. Eventually, he finishes his cigarette and puts it out before grabbing Frank’s hand and intertwining their fingers. He shakes his head, his expression deadly serious when he looks into Frank’s eyes and says, “No.”

Frank furrows his brow. “What?” He can tell he’s blushing. He hates conversations like this. With his free hand he scratches at the hot spots he can feel blooming on his cheeks. “No, what?”

“We can’t be friends.” The intensity in Gerard’s eyes remains.

“Oh, um…” Frank isn’t sure why Gerard is still holding his hand so tightly and looking at him with such heat in his eyes. He’s completely off-kilter. “How come? I mean, Mikey said you like me.” Frank flails his arm around, he feels so unsteady right now, even with the wall of the club right behind him.

Gerard grabs his hand and stills him, eventually dropping it to place his hand on Frank’s hip. “I do like you. I like you a lot and I’m sorry I freaked out.” He lets go of Frank’s other hand and brings his hand up to gently rub his thumb over Frank’s bottom lip. “I don’t just want to hook up with you.”

Frank shakes his head minutely. “But you didn’t call or text me or anything and before when you just left, I didn’t know what to think.”

“I know.” Gerard sighs. “I’m sorry I jerked you around like that-”

Frank cuts him off, “You say you’re sorry, that’s great, but why did you do it?”

Gerard rolls his neck a few times, his hand still on Frank’s neck, massaging it absently. “Because… uuughhh!” Gerard groans in frustration. He closes his eyes tightly for a few seconds and then opens them again. “Because I’m supposed to start with a houseplant! Or a pet at least!”

The rise in Gerard’s pitch surprises Frank and he steps back a fraction, but Gerard doesn’t let go of his neck. Frank doesn’t understand the explanation. “What?” He says, dumbly.

“I’m supposed to…” Gerard waves his hand. “I’m too young… in my recovery. I’m too young in my recovery to be starting a new relationship and you…” He gestures vaguely at Frank. “You’re just so much! So big and boisterous and really showing that Mikey wasn’t very far off at all when he said you were an extremist.”

“I’m a what?”

“An extremist. Like, it’s all-or-nothing with you. To you, the hooking up wasn’t enough, you want more, and that’s cool, but if I’m not ready then after just a week you’ve already decided we can only be friends.” Frank’s trying to wrap his mind around all this when Gerard grabs his hand again and says quickly, “But it’s okay. It’s fine. I’m like, ready, I think. More ready than maybe other drunks would be at this point.” Gerard’s speaking quickly, his words all running together. “But what I mean is I like you and I really don’t think I could stomach trying to be just friends, so if you want to date then that’s what we’ll do.”

Frank’s mind is reeling. His thoughts are trying to catch up to the speed of his pulse thrumming through his veins. Gerard likes him. It was just because of his recovery that he was gun-shy and Mikey was right. Frank’s trying to think of a way to defend himself for jumping to conclusions about Gerard’s intentions when Gerard says, “Fuck it,” and pulls him in for a searing kiss.

Frank can feel the vibrations of the bass from the band inside traveling up from his feet to his head as he drowns in Gerard’s taste. He suddenly remembers and pulls back. “I had beer,” he says quickly.

He tries to wipe at his mouth and wonders if spitting will help get rid of the taste, but Gerard pushes his hand away and says, “I know. It’s fine. I don’t care. I just can’t stand to not be kissing you right now.”

They kiss for a long time and Frank feels his blood rushing in his veins. Gerard’s tongue is insistent and demanding, but it’s okay. Frank likes it that way. After he’s relaxed into the kiss for a little while, his thoughts start to come back on line and he remembers some things. He pushes Gerard away and tries to make his brain work over the sound of the rushing in his ears. He pokes Gerard in the chest as he says forcefully, “You need to learn how to use a phone.” Gerard nods, his expression fond. “And you…” Frank tries to remember what else was bothering him. “You just left! I mean, before. We talked a lot and you never told me about any semester in Italy.”

Gerard drops his head down so that his forehead meets Frank’s and sighs. “There were a lot of reasons for that decision. When we got together those first couple of times, I didn’t know for sure yet. It didn’t seem worthwhile to mention it.”

Frank’s voice trembles as he asks feebly, “Was it me?”

Gerard shakes his head, but doesn’t separate it from Frank’s. “It was a lot of things. I was running away. I mean, I needed to. It was the right decision, but it was because I was scared of stuff here that I wasn’t ready to deal with sober, yet.”

Frank bites his lips and says, “Oh,” softly. He can’t think of anything else to say, so he just grabs Gerard’s face and brings him in for another kiss.

*_*_*

In the wee hours of the next morning, Frank tries to catch his breath while coming down from the best orgasm he’s had in years. He breathes deeply as he settles in against Gerard’s side and rests his head on his chest, right over his heart. He came home with Gerard after watching movies at his and Mikey’s place. It was a really fun night, he thinks, as he listens to Gerard’s heart beat. He can’t believe how fast Gerard’s heart is beating right now. It’s crazy.

Gerard murmurs, “That’s what you do to me, Frank.” Frank turns his head and looks up Gerard, his eyebrow raised and smirking. Gerard says, “You also scare the shit out of me. I mean, I’m seriously fucking terrified that I’m going to royally fuck this up.” He bites his lip and then blows out a long stream of air. “I’ve never had a boyfriend sober before, and I wasn’t really even that good at it when I was drunk.”

Frank leans up and nibbles Gerard’s chin. “You’ll be fine.” He licks at the spot he just bit. “I mean, I think we were kind of inevitable, right?”

Gerard nods. “Oh yes. I don’t think we could have avoided being together. I’ll just have to be brave and hope that you’ll help me.”

Frank smiles. “I’ll help you.” He nuzzles into the side of Gerard’s face for just a few seconds before he moves back and sits up.

Gerard grabs his wrist to stop him from moving away. “Where are you going?”

Frank shrugs. “I’m going home. I don’t want to be an all-or-nothing extremist. You can have your space if you need it.”

Gerard shakes his head and pulls Frank back down on top of him. “I don’t need it. I thought I did, but I was just being a headcase. I want you to stay.”

Frank puts his hands on Gerard’s cheeks, searching his eyes as he asks, “Are you sure?”

Gerard nods decisively. “Positive. I want to wake up with you here with me.”

Frank drops his face down, feeling bashful. He thinks he’s probably blushing. He bites his lips as he rests his head back on Gerard’s chest again and listens as his pulse gradually slows down. He listens all night.

 

END