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Won't Know 'til You Begin

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Frank's not a pervert or anything. He doesn't get off on sneaking around and peeping in windows or listening at doors while people fuck. It's just that he's home from work early because a water main busted and the whole restaurant had to shut down, which was fucking awesome. Frank hates being a busboy, but it pays the bills and he can fuck off whenever he needs to go on tour, so he suffers through it. Getting to go home early made Frank's entire night.

So it's not like he was trying to spy on Mikey's sex life, he just kind of stumbled across it. He came home and it took him five minutes to unwrap his scarf and take off his stocking cap with the earflaps which was over the tight black beanie and then unwrap the scarf he wore right up against his neck under the collar of his coat. And then he had to pull his mittens off and unzip his coat and hang it up and unzip his hoodie and by then his fingers had enough feeling in them for him to unlace his boots and leave them damp with melting snow on the doormat.

Frank is the fucking master of layers. Frank can function in an East Coast snowstorm like most people function in late spring. Frank has learned through trial and error just what he needs to wear, with what, and when so that he never, ever gets a chill.

He heads into his bedroom, stretching a little bit and peeling off his clothes because they always smell like garlic and meat sauce, which makes him nauseated. He can't afford to wash his work clothes every time he wears them, but he usually gives them a quick rinse in the shower or at the very least, a strong spray of Febreeze.

He's out of his work clothes and into his sweats and thick wool socks and a New York Dolls t-shirt with his huge Rutgers hoodie over top before he hears it. He's sure it had been going on before he got home, but the sounds had blended into the music coming from Mikey's room.

Frank laughs a little bit at the sudden sex noises coming through the wall their bedrooms share. Figures Mikey's getting laid, the asshole. That fucking kid gets laid like nobody's business. Frank doesn't even know how he does it, and he's watched. He's paid attention to Mikey's technique, wanting to make it work for him, but Mikey's technique mostly involves being Mikey and giving people soft, sly smiles and then tipping his head towards the door.

Frank had tried that, and the girl he'd tried it on had said, "What's wrong with your head? Do you have an inner ear infection?" Frank had just given up and didn't bother explaining that he'd been trying to be sly and seductive.

So Frank's ignoring Mikey's sex noises and he heads into the kitchen and is reading the ingredient list on the back of the instant hot chocolate Mikey always mixes into his coffee in lieu of cream and sugar. He's wondering if "modified milk ingredients" listed fourth after sugar, corn syrup solids, and hydrogenated vegetable oils, would be enough dairy to make him sick. Then he's wondering what the fuck "modified milk ingredients" actually means.

Then he hears Mikey's voice very clear and very loud, wailing, "No, no, no, no, no, stop. Stop it, please stop."

Frank freezes and he sets the hot chocolate canister down on the counter and reaches for the dirty frying pan still on the stove with the remnants of that morning's pancakes in it. He sneaks down the hall, heart beating fast, trying to control his breathing and not make a single sound.

The music changes from "Disarm" to "Soma" so Frank can hear them both, now, Mikey and some other guy. A fucking guy, Jesus, Frank's been just, like, being all happy about not having to work and putting on his warmest laze around the house clothes while Mikey's being fucking attacked.

Mikey says, "Don't," and he sounds fucking broken and Frank's seriously going to commit fucking murder, raises the frying pan over his head and takes another slow step forward, reaching for the doorknob with his free hand. If it's open he's just going to go fucking apeshit on the guy, but if it's locked he needs to stay quiet until he can figure out how to open it. He's not sure if he can just kick it down and he doesn't want the guy to panic and, like, hurt Mikey even worse once he realizes somebody's coming for him.

Frank's fingers just brush the doorknob and the guy says, "But you like this, Mikey. This is what you wanted." He says it in this fucking taunting voice that burns deep in Frank's gut. "You asked me for this, Mikey. Isn't this exactly what you wanted?"

Frank's turning the doorknob and, yes, it's not locked, he's going to fucking crack some sick motherfucker's skull in and--

Mikey moans again, pleasure-thick and breathy, and he gasps out, "Yes."

Frank freezes again. The door unlatches and opens slowly and God, oh, God, he can't see everything but he can see most of Mikey, arms tied to the headboard, blindfolded, legs tied tight together at the ankles and just above his knees. And his fucking cock, Jesus Christ. It's huge, painfully swollen and red. It makes Frank ache just to look at it. He kind of wants to jerk Mikey off just out of sympathy, just because he so obviously needs to come.

"You want me to touch you?" the guy asks. Frank can't see his face, just that he's huge, all bulging muscles and flowing blonde hair and seriously? Seriously, not only is Mikey fucking guys, now, he's fucking guys who look like Fabio?

Mikey says, "I need to come, please let me come."

Fabio runs his finger up the underside of Mikey's cock, swirls his fingertip just over the slit and Mikey shudders and moans and arches up as much as he can. He's panting and sweating and he gasps, "I fucking need it, please," and then when the guy starts sliding the palm of his hand so fucking lightly over the head of Mikey's cock, he whimpers and cries out. He's got to be so fucking sensitive like that.

Then Frank realizes that he's, like, spying on his roommate having kinky gay sex and that's totally weird, so he backs up and lowers the frying pan and tries not to listen when Mikey wails, "No, no, no, no, don't do that, don't, just let me come."

Frank drops the frying pan on the couch and shoves his feet into his boots and pulls on his coat and drapes his scarves over his neck and grabs his mittens and his hats and his keys and he's out the door. He stops in the foyer to tie his boots and wrap himself up in his scarves and hats and get his coat zipped up, which takes a few tries because his hands are shaking.

He takes a deep breath before he pushes out into the freezing night air and if he's got the fucking boner of the century, well, his coat goes down to mid-thigh so nobody can see, and just a minute or two out in the cold will get rid of it, anyway.

+++

The next afternoon, Frank shuffles out into the kitchen and drops a green diner receipt on the kitchen table next to where Mikey's shoveling cereal into his mouth with a soup spoon.

"You owe me eight seventy-two," Frank says.

Mikey pulls the receipt towards him and squints at it. "For coffee and waffles?" he asks. "Why?"

"Because I wouldn't have had to buy coffee and waffles if you hadn't been having really loud, kinky, gay sex all last night. I could have just relaxed in front of the TV, had a few beers, maybe watched porn before bed, but no. There was live porn right here in the apartment and I fled to the diner so I wouldn't have to hear you, like, begging to come."

Mikey curls in his shoulders and tilts his head down and Frank can see where the tips of his ears are turning pink. He says, "Oh, my God. You were supposed to be at work!"

"I was at work until a water main burst and they said we probably wouldn't get any water back for six hours at the earliest, so we closed early."

Mikey says, "Oh, my God," again.

Frank says, "Seriously, you could have just told me you were going to get laid. I don't give a shit that you're fucking guys, now. What, you thought Otter and Ray might quit if they found out they were outnumbered by bisexual dudes?"

Mikey says, "I'm not bi, I'm just. I don't know. Experimenting."

"Just warn me next time. I thought you were getting raped, the way you were yelling no over and over again. Leave a note. 'Dear Frank, having kinky sex, don't worry about the noises you hear unless I scream my safeword, which is kittentits. Love, Mikey.'"

Mikey snorts into his cereal and murmurs, "Kittentits."

"That's a great safeword, right?" Frank asks.

Mikey looks up at him suddenly with wide eyes. "Do not tell Gerard."

"It's not like he's going to judge you for being, um, for experimenting."

"He'll want to talk about it," Mikey says. "He'll want me to talk about my feelings and, seriously, no."

Frank nods. "I won't tell him, I swear. Is that orange soda on your fucking cereal?"

Mikey shrugs and takes another bite. With his mouth full, he says, "We're out of milk."

Frank rolls his eyes. Mikey is such a heathen sometimes. Everybody knows that Mountain Dew goes best with Cheerios.

+++

They're pretty fucking high and playing Mario Party when Frank pauses the game and says, "No, okay."

Mikey says, "I was winning, asshole."

"Like fuck you were. But so, okay, the kinky gay sex."

Mikey groans and drops his head onto his knees. He covers his head with his arms and he's got fucking bruises around his wrists, holy shit.

"I don't want to talk about it," Mikey says, voice muffled against his knees. "This is why I'm not telling Gerard."

"I don't want to know your innermost thoughts or anything," Frank says. "Just, like, what was he doing to you?"

Mikey sighs and lifts his head up. "Like, edging and overstimulation and stuff," he says, blushing again. "Um, you know, when somebody gets you almost there but then they stop right before you come. And they just keep doing that. For a really long time."

Frank says, "Huh." Because, yeah, okay, that's exactly what it had looked like. He just hadn't known there was a name for it.

"And the overstimulation part is when you do come and they just, uh, keep going."

Frank swallows hard. The goddamn boner of the century is back and he's a little light headed from that and all the weed. "But," he says. "But doesn't that hurt?"

Mikey shrugs and shifts, pulling his knees up to his chest. "Yeah," he whispers. He licks his lips and Frank thinks he's going to say more, but he doesn't. He just tips his chin at the TV and looks over at Frank with a raised eyebrow.

"Oh, right," says Frank, and unpauses the game.

+++

Frank really isn't a pervert, he swears. He totally walked in on Mikey having kinky gay sex by accident. And he's been jerking off for, like, two hours, now, totally not thinking about it, totally not thinking of the way Mikey had pulled his knees to his chest when he was talking about it, like it made him hard.

Frank isn't thinking about Mikey at all as he jerks off and then stops, breathes, stares at the ceiling of his room with arms over his head, hands clenched into fists, wanting to come so bad but making himself wait. It's kind of fucking awesome and it reminds him of when he was fourteen and always horny. He felt like this--on edge and breathless--pretty much every minute of his life back then.

He'd jerk off for hours when he was in his early teens, too, only then he came all the goddamn time. He'd jerk off in the shower every morning and then when he got home and then if his mom wasn't going to be back for a while, he'd jerk off again and again and again until he didn't have anything left in him, until his muscles ached and his dick was fucking raw.

Frank licks his lips and rubs one hand over his face, trying to catch his breath. He strokes over his chest and plays with his nipples, biting his lip to keep from moaning. Every inch of his skin is sensitive and aching. Everything feels good, even just running his fingertips over his hipbones or scratching at his thighs.

And he's not thinking about Mikey at all, except for how he is, except for how now that he's so fucking turned on that he's going crazy with it, he can't stop thinking about Mikey. He can't stop wondering if he's doing the same thing in his room, his bed so close to Frank's on the other side of the wall. He wonders if it's even something Mikey does to himself or just something he lets other people do to him. He wonders how many guys Mikey's had sex with. He wonders if Mikey gets girls to edge him like that, too. He wonders if it's Mikey's thing or just something he was trying out that Frank happened to stumble over.

He thinks about tying Mikey up, about tying his hands behind his back in one of the kitchen chairs and sucking him off and then stopping every time Mikey gets close. He thinks about the sounds Mikey would make, remembers Mikey's cries of pain and pleasure and Frank has to jerk off. He can't hold off, not anymore, thinks about making Mikey come undone like that, thinks about Mikey's cock in his mouth and Mikey crying, begging for Frank to let him come, and Frank wouldn't. He wouldn't, he'd pull back and Mikey'd be so close and arching his hips up off the chair and begging, "Please, Frankie, please let me come, I need your mouth on my cock, Frank, please--"

Frank comes so hard his toes cramp up. His eyes actually roll back in his head and he's shaking and gasping for breath and he has to curl up on his side, shivering, pressing his face into his pillow as he's wracked with aftershocks.

Once he can see straight, he reaches down to touch his cock and gives it a couple hard strokes and oh, fuck no. Fuck no, he's way too sensitive and Frank's never been into pain. He's tried it a couple of times with a girlfriend who was into it, and he liked the way she got off on spanking him, but he never got off on the spanking itself.

He flops onto his back, still panting, still trembling just a little bit, and he says, "Holy shit." He thinks he should shower and change his sweat-soaked sheets, but he doesn't, just close his eyes and floats on the post-orgasm euphoria and falls into a hard, deep sleep.

+++

They play a show in Asbury Park a couple of weeks later, and they fucking kill it. The kids are going nuts and everybody's just fucking on and Gerard's voice cuts right the fuck into peoples' bones and leaves a permanent scar. They're so on that Frank feels like he's going to burst out of his skin and he can't stay still, fuck, he can never stay still, but he's climbing amps and jumping onto Otter's kick drum and slamming his body into Gerard and then falling backwards and hitting the stage so hard it almost knocks the wind out of him. He scoots himself across the stage with his feet and it's the best thing in the world and he feels like he has to fucking scream it's so good.

His head butts up against something and he looks up and sees that it's Mikey. Mikey opens his eyes lazily and quirks a small smile at him. And yeah, okay, they'd smoked a fuckload of weed on the drive down and pretty much demolished three bottles of whiskey between the five of them, not to mention all the beers they've been snagging since they got to the club, but still. Nothing in the entire world could ever make Frank as still as Mikey, not when he's on stage, not when the music and the crowd and the thrill make him want to rip shit up.

The original plan had been to drive back after the show, but they'd all known they wouldn't really. Luckily there's a band house not too far from the club. The beds are just mattresses on the floor, but the sheets are clean and once they figure out where they're staying, Gerard invites everyone still in the club over for an after party. There aren't a ton of people there, maybe twenty or so, and everybody's pretty chill and they just sit around drinking and smoking and talking about music and it's fucking awesome.

Frank giggles and leans against Gerard's shoulder as he watches this guy in a plaid shirt with a fucking ZZ Top beard hitting on Mikey across the room. "Do you think we should save him?" Frank asks, letting Gerard take the beer from his hand and have a sip before he hands it back.

"Mikey!" Gerard shouts. "Mikey, I'm here to save you!"

The guy with the beard leans closer and Mikey takes a step back, obviously trying to find a way to excuse himself from the conversation. He takes another step back and the bearded guy steps forward. Mikey starts to drift over to the side and the guy just drifts with him.

"Kick him in the balls!" Gerard cries.

Mikey looks over at them with wide eyes. The bearded guy doesn't even seem to notice.

"I'm going in," says Frank, struggling up off the sofa and handing Gerard his beer. He takes a running start and jumps up into Mikey's arms, wrapping his legs around his waist and clinging to his shoulders.

"Frank what the--" Mikey starts but then he's falling and they both hit the ground pretty hard. "Ow," Mikey says sadly.

Frank collapses on top of him and says, "I think I just broke my fucking kneecap."

Mikey says, "Ow," again.

Then Frank remembers that his plan involved more than jumping on Mikey, it involved kissing Mikey so that bearded dude would get the fucking hint and move on. Frank pushes himself up and grins when he sees Mikey's glasses askew on his face. He says, "I'm a fucking mastermind," and leans down.

Mikey makes a surprised sound at first, then parts his lips and kisses back. He's a really good kisser. Like, amazingly good. Which, okay, he's had a lot of practice, but still. Frank thinks maybe a lot of it is just innate. Like Mikey was born to be a good kisser. Like it's his destiny.

Frank giggles against Mikey's mouth and Mikey shoves him off, saying, "You're not funny, asshole."

Frank rubs his head where he just banged it against the wall and says, "Who's being funny? I was rescuing you."

Mikey rubs his mouth and sits up.

Frank sits up, too, and sees that bearded dude is nowhere to be found. "See? I'm a fucking mastermind."

"Oh," Mikey says softly. He rubs at his lips again. "Um. Thanks, I guess?"

Then Frank leans in and kisses him again, sucks on his lower lip even though the angle's awkward. Mikey kisses him back, then pulls away and says, "The fuck, Frankie."

Frank whispers, "In case your bearded stalker's watching from the shadows." And Mikey rolls his eyes and pulls himself to his feet before shuffling across the room and collapsing on the couch next to Gerard. Frank watches him go and thinks, Yeah, and then, What? because he's not into Mikey. Sure, he's been rubbing one out while thinking about Mikey on a regular basis, but not because of Mikey. It's the sex that had gotten Frank going, the edging, the kink that had gotten him off. He's not into Mikey, like, at all. Except for how he apparently really, really is.

It maybe says something about the band when the next day, nobody mentions Frank kissing Mikey even though everybody saw it. It was such a non-event that nobody even teases Frank about it, and Gerard and Ray fucking love to tease Frank about pretty much everything ever. It was totally not a big deal to any of them except Frank.

Frank's cool on the outside, of course. Well, mostly he's so hungover he can barely move without wanting to puke, and that totally helps disguise his sudden freakout over how he totally wants into Mikey's pants holy shit.

He and Gerard have the back seat, Gerard slumped against the window and Frank lying with his head in Gerard's lap. Otter's asleep in the middle seat, Ray's driving, and Mikey's riding shotgun because he likes to be in control of the music.

"Riding on the parkway," Gerard sings softly to himself. "Gonna be a dark day, cuz our pockets got no tokens so they'll murder us in Union--"

"Did you just rhyme tokens with Union?" Frank asks.

Gerard laughs softly and pets Frank's head. "I'm singing the parkway song, Frank. Oblique rhymes are totally acceptable in the parkway song."

Frank says, "I like a boy." He wouldn't say it if he wasn't hungover and feeling shaky and vulnerable. He wouldn't say it to anybody else but Gerard. "I like a boy and I feel stupid and embarrassed and like a fucking douchewad because he's never going to like me back."

Gerard doesn't act shocked that Frank feels shitty or feed him some bullshit line about how Frank just has to look on the bright side. Frank really likes that about him. He says, "I'm sorry, Frankie," and means it. "You wanna talk about it?"

"No," says Frank, and he really doesn't for a million reasons besides the fact that the boy he likes is Gerard's little brother. "I just want to feel shitty and hungover."

Gerard tugs on one of his dreadlocks and says, "Okay." He rubs Frank's back gently the entire rest of the way back to Newark.

+++

When they get back to the apartment, Frank heads right to the bathroom for a shower while Mikey heads right to the answering machine to check their messages.

"I'm fucking starving," Frank says, starting the water in the shower. He sticks his head back into the hallway. "Order pizza. No cheese on my half." He really doesn't think his stomach can handle even a little dairy at the moment.

"You just got fired," Mikey calls back.

Frank turns off the water in the shower and heads into the kitchen. "What?"

Mikey tips his head towards the answering machine. Frank plays it. It's his boss reaming him out for not coming into work the night before, which is total bullshit since Frank took that night off the same day he found out they had the gig.

"Well, shit," says Frank. He's not exactly heartbroken and he'd kind of been meaning to quit anyway, but still. He shakes himself and sighs. "I think I'm going to shave my head."

Mikey says, "Can I help?"

Frank ends up sitting on the edge of the tub with his eyes closed while Mikey cuts off his dreads. He mutters, "Please don't stab me in the brain."

Mikey laughs and says, "I'm way more likely to stab you in the eye, dude," which isn't comforting at all. He's about half done when he says, "So, you're bi."

Frank holds his breath for a moment. He tells himself not to read anything into the question. He says, "Um, yeah. You already knew that."

"Just," says Mikey. "Okay, so--"

"Ow!" Frank cries, leaning forward and clapping his hand over his hear. "You just cut my fucking ear off."

"I did not," says Mikey, prying Frank's hand away. "I did, um, nick it a little bit, though. You're kind of. I should probably find a band-aid."

Frank's cutting the rest of his dreads off by himself, thank you very much, his ear throbbing and bandaged, when Mikey says, "So your first time with a guy. Did you know, like, right away that you were bi?"

"I knew before I fucked a guy," says Frank. "Or, actually, my first time, the guy fucked me."

"Your first time ever?" Mikey asks.

"Yeah. It sucked so hard. I was drunk and he was drunk and we weren't even friends, just hung out with him at parties sometimes and then he was shoving me up against the wall in this empty bedroom, which was totally hot. But it went downhill pretty fast since he was a total closet case just desperate to get off. Like, he called me a faggot while he was fucking me."

"Fuck, dude," Mikey says softly. "That's just...Jesus."

Frank shrugs. "I wasn't traumatized or anything, I just learned that sex with self-loathing jocks was a bad idea."

"I haven't done that, yet," Mikey says. "I mean, I'm never going to fuck a self-loathing jock, that's kind of a given. But I haven't gotten fucked yet."

Frank almost cuts his other fucking ear off. He puts the scissors down on the sink and looks at Mikey. "Yet?" he asks.

Mikey shrugs. "I don't know," he says. "I'm kind of, like. Into it?"

"Getting fucked," says Frank. He's glad he's exhausted and still achy from the hangover and his ear is throbbing like a bitch because his body just isn't in the mood to get turned on, even though his stomach swoops a little bit.

"I don't know," Mikey says again. "But, uh, dudes. I'm kind of into dudes."

Frank says, "Okay. We're talking about this. I won't make you share your feelings or anything, but seriously, Mikes. What's going on? You've never been into guys."

"I've always been curious," Mikey admits.

"Huh," says Frank.

"It just never mattered because, you know. I was always getting laid so, like, why bother with even really thinking about guys when there were so many girls around?"

"There are still, like, hundreds of girls around willing to fuck you," Frank says. "It's fucking...I don't even know. You could probably walk into a convent and leave with the hottest chick there."

Mikey laughs and blushes and tugs on his hair. He's grinning, though, like he's proud. Like he knows it's true. "So, okay. I was at this party and there was this dude there. And he was, like. He was hitting on me. And it was kind of hilarious, right? Because he was so not my type. Like, his biceps were like this." Mikey holds his hands in a circle. "And he had this blonde hair down to his freaking waist and was all about protein shakes and pumping iron and whatever the fuck. So, like, no way. But then he started to, like. He started whispering all this dirty shit in my ear, what he wanted to do to me and, um." Mikey sighs. "I kind of went for it."

Frank nods. "Uh-huh."

"He was, uh. That guy that you heard. That was him."

"I didn't hear him," Frank says. "I heard you." And since it's kind of his duty as Mikey's friend and roommate to mock the shit out of him, he gasps and says, "No, no, no, no, don't do that, just let me come."

Mikey kicks out at him, laughing and saying, "Fucker." Frank jumps back just in time to keep from getting Mikey's boot against his shin.

"So Fabio wants to fuck you and you're not sure?" Frank asks. He's kind of turned on just being that close to Mikey, but it's nothing overwhelming. He's just aware of how attracted to Mikey he is, but it's a slow burn in his gut that's comfortable, somehow. And just hanging out and talking about shit with Mikey is comfortable, too.

"No," says Mikey. "Like, I played around with him a couple of times and he said the offer's always there to do it again, which, maybe? I mean, it wasn't even really. We never even made out or, like. We were just kind of compatible when it came to, um..."

"Your kinks," says Frank.

Mikey nods. "And I've tried a couple of other things. Like, blowjobs. But I'm not, like, how do I actually know if I'm bi?"

Frank says, "Were you giving or getting the blowjobs?"

"Both."

"On a scale of one to ten, what was your overall enjoyment of sucking dick?"

Mikey says, "The first time? Maybe a four. I was kind of nervous and it's, um. Like, there's a lot of coordination involved, trying to suck and keep your hand moving and bob your head and fucking breathe and then, like, my jaw hurt and I kept kind of drooling, so. Four the first time. And the second time. Only now, maybe, eight? I've kind of gotten the hang of it and it's sort of. I don't know. I don't know how to explain why it's hot."

Frank says, "You realize that I suck dick, right? I already know exactly what you mean."

Mikey sighs and looks relieved. "So now, like, all that's left is fucking. And then I'll know."

Frank blinks at him. "Are you seriously saying that you think you have to get fucked before you can figure out whether or not you're bi?"

"Well. Yeah."

"You gave cocksucking an eight, dude. You're bi."

Mikey frowns.

"Seriously."

"But I how can I know if I haven't even had actual sex with a dude?"

Frank sighs and reaches up to tug on his dreads, kind of startled when they're not there. He scratches his ear instead. "I can't believe we have to have this fucking conversation. Putting a dick in somebody or getting a dick put into you aren't the only things that count as sex, okay? Like, the very first time Fabio tied you up and jerked you off for seventeen hours, that was sex."

Mikey laughs and says, "Seventeen."

"You've totally had gay sex, dude. Deal with it."

Mikey sighs and slides from the edge of the tub onto the bathroom floor. He pulls his knees to his chest and rests his forehead on them.

"Do we need to have a heart to heart right now? Are you actually not dealing well with this?"

"No," says Mikey. "I don't know. I'm just going to think, okay?"

Frank says, "Okay." He looks at Mikey for a while longer, then picks the scissors back up to snip off the remaining dreads. Once most of his hair is on the floor, he runs the clippers over his head, and he doesn't shave all of his hair off, but it's still really short.

"Do I look weird now?" he asks, running his hand over his shorn head.

Mikey looks up at him for a moment, then shakes his head. "You look good. Better."

"Better?"

Mikey shrugs. "The dreads were kind of awful, dude."

Bullshit like that totally calls for a full body tackle, which is how Frank ends up upside down in the shower with a possibly dislocated shoulder because Mikey is quick like a jaguar.

"Fucking jaguar," Frank grumbles as he rolls onto his back. "I broke my shoulder."

Mikey peers down at him and says, "Good."

"How do you move so fucking fast, asshole?"

Mikey says, "Public school."

"They teach you how to avoid tackles like that in public school?"

"No, but you just kind of develop lightning fast reflexes if you don't want to end up stuffed in a locker. Why didn't you ever learn how to move fast?"

Frank says, "Fuck you, fuck your brother, both your parents, and your grandma. In the ass."

Mikey grins and turns on the water.

Frank yelps and scrambles to get himself upright and turn off the water that's so fucking cold, it's apparently being pumped in from the arctic. "You're an asshole who likes sucking cock!" he shouts.

"Pot, kettle," Mikey calls back.

Frank can't believe he ever thought he had a crush on Mikey. He needs to stop drinking so much since it's clearly making him delusional.

+++

"I think I'm going to stop drinking," Frank says the next afternoon at breakfast. There's no food in the kitchen so they're both eating ramen dry out of the bag and watching Welcome Back, Kotter.

Mikey puts his ramen down and turns to look at Frank with wide eyes. "Dude," he says. "Why?"

"I think it's making me delusional."

"That's withdrawal," Mikey tells him. "The hallucinations mean you need to drink more."

Frank says, "How do you even have a liver?"

"It hates me, but I'm kind of holding it prisoner in my abdominal cavity."

"You don't worry it's going to start to agitate and incite a riot? You're going to wake up one morning and your pancreas will have made one of your kidneys into a shank and your intestines are going to be shouting, 'Attica, Attica!'"

Mikey says, "It's a risk I'm willing to take. What kind of hallucinations have you been having?"

"I'm not having hallucinations, Jesus. Just when I'm drunk, I think things that aren't true."

"Like you start thinking you're the king of Sweden or you start thinking that the girl with one tooth hitting on you is pretty hot?"

"One tooth," says Frank. Then he says, "Oh, my God. Have you actually met a person with only one tooth?"

Mikey says, "Weird people come into Barnes and Noble. And everybody gets beer goggles, man. With practice, you learn how to be discerning. And if you're not sure, just run her by me or Gee, first."

"Yeah, no, you're both always more drunk than I am."

"Which means that we have more practice being drunk than you do, which means that we've learned how to be discerning."

Frank says, "Tell me the truth. What percentage of days were you drunk in high school?"

"Weekends or school days?"

"School days."

Mikey thinks about that for a moment. "Do pills count? Because I had this Percocet thing junior year."

Frank says, "Your liver is going to climb up your throat and stab you in the brain. Seriously."

"You're the pothead who had actual fucking dreadlocks until yesterday," Mikey points out.

"My dreadlocks were awesome."

"Your dreadlocks stank."

That actually gives Frank pause. If Mikey thinks something smells bad, it's probably pretty rank.

Mikey gets up and shuffles to the kitchen, singing, "White guy with dreadlocks, lame white guy with dreadlocks," under his breath. Frank wonders if totally sucking at making up songs is a genetic trait.

When Mikey comes back, he's got a beer in each hand. "We should probably go to the store and get actual food and coffee and stuff," he says.

Frank pops the top on the beer Mikey hands him. It's Milwaukee's Best, and Frank doesn't even know how it got into their fridge. He says, "Fuck, this is disgusting."

Mikey says, "I know, right?"

There's half a case shoved in one of their vegetable drawers, and they finish it off within two hours.

+++

"Riding on the parkway," Frank croons as he coasts down the grocery store aisle on the end of the cart. "Gonna be a dark day cuz our pockets got no tokens so they'll murder us in Union. Riding on the parkway."

Mikey says, "Oh, my God, that's the worst song I've ever heard in my life."

Frank says, "We should get drunk every time we need to get groceries. Hey, do you want pickles?"

Mikey says, "Hell, yes, I want pickles," and grabs a huge jar off the bottom shelf. He puts it in the cart and says, "Should we get two?"

Frank says, "Let's get two of everything. Hey, when you were growing up did you and Gee get matching Christmas presents?"

Mikey says, "We still get matching Christmas presents, what are you talking about when we were growing up? We get matching everything from Mom. How do you think we end up with, like, the same fucking parka and the same video games and the same exact books?"

Frank says, "Man, I always wanted somebody to get matching Christmas presents with."

Mikey says, "Being an only child warped your brain."

Frank nods and says, "For sure."

Mikey puts a second jar of pickles in the cart just as someone behind Frank says, "Hello, Mikey."

Mikey stands up straight and brushes his bangs off his forehead and his cheeks get pink high up on his cheekbones and he says, "Hey, Jeff," all forced-casual.

Frank turns around and fucking Fabio is standing right there with a basket full of fruit and leafy green vegetables and healthy, sugarless granola and Frank is the happiest he's ever been. He grins wide and holds out his hand and says, "Hi, I'm Frank."

Fabio fucking shakes Frank's hand, and it's the exact same hand he'd used to jerk Mikey off for three days and Frank grins even wider. He looks back and forth between Mikey and Fabio as they make thinly-veiled small talk where they say really boring things but what they really mean is, Snap! Crackle! Sexual tension fills the air!

Frank watches Fabio walk down the aisle after he and Mikey say their goodbyes and, like, he doesn't even know how to braid but he wants to learn just so he can fucking braid Fabio's flowing golden locks. He also refuses to call Fabio "Jeff," even in his head.

Frank says, "Dude, Fabio so wants to put it in your ass."

Mikey stares really intently at the cans of green beans and says, "Oh, my God."

Frank takes a deep breath and Mikey slams his hand over Frank's mouth and says, "Do not do a fucking impersonation of me in the middle of the supermarket, asshole."

Frank licks Mikey's palm and laughs when Mikey jerks his hand away. "Maybe I wasn't going to do an impersonation of you in the middle of the supermarket."

Mikey raises his eyebrows, unconvinced.

Frank grins and whispers, "No, no, no, no, no, please let me come," so quiet that the fucking canned vegetables can't even hear him.

Mikey says, "I hate you so much."

Frank says, "Fabio's got awesome fucking hair. Do you think he deep conditions that shit? It's, like, fucking thick and luscious all the way down to his waist. I'd call him Rapunzel, but Fabio's way better. Also, I refuse to believe that his real name is Jeff."

Mikey says, "Hate, hate, hate."

Frank says, "Do you still think you need some dude to bend you over the hood of his car to figure out whether or not you're into dick? Because Fabio is totally willing to bend you over, like, anything. I could tell."

Mikey says, "Why do you keep talking, oh my God."

Frank grins at him and plants one foot on the bottom shelf of the cart and uses the other foot to propel himself down the aisle at warp speed.

They're loading the cart up with cookies when Frank says, "So is that, like, your thing?"

Mikey looks down at the package of Oreos in his hands. He says, "Why would Oreos be my thing?"

Frank rolls his eyes and drops a box of Teddy Grahams into the cart. "I mean the edging or whatever."

"Oh," Mikey says. "Um. Hey, can you have Oreos? I can't tell how much dairy they've got in them from the ingredient list. Like, you need a fucking degree in chemistry to know what goes into this shit."

Frank says, "They're vegan, they're fine."

Mikey says, "How is a cookie with a cream center vegan?"

"Because it's mostly just, like, Crisco mixed with powdered sugar."

Mikey says, "Thinking about what actually goes into processed food makes me feel weird."

Frank says, "It's cool if it is, you know. Like, okay, I'm never going to call Fabio by his real name because it's a stupid name for a dude that looks like that, but if you guys start dating or whatever, I'm going to be totally supportive. And probably I'll also want to learn how to French braid."

Mikey says, "We're not going to date, Jesus. And, like, I don't know. I'm way too drunk in the middle of the day for this conversation."

Frank says, "Yeah, that's fair," and lays off the questions.

He makes them barbecue tofu burritos for dinner and they both eat until they're so full they have to lay on the floor and unbutton their jeans and groan and rub their bellies.

"It's a fucking mystery," Mikey says as he rubs his belly and gazes at the TV, flipping through the channels. "Like, how is fucking tofu so fucking delicious?"

Frank says, "I fry the fucking shit out of it every time I feed it to you. That way the edges get all crispy and there's a variety of textures instead of just the one, like, tofu texture."

Mikey says, "You're a fucking genius. Oh, hey, you wanna watch Babe?"

Frank says, "Fuck, I don't know if I can take it."

"But it's all, like. It's a fucking vegetarian movie and shit."

Frank says, "They eat Rosanna!"

Mikey says, "Do you believe that animals can talk, Frank?"

Frank says, "I believe in the inherent worth of life and the ability of all creatures to feel pain and sorrow and, like, that farm on Babe? That's not even a real fucking farm, nothing's that pretty or clean and shit. In reality it's hundreds of chickens shoved into cages so small they can't even move their wings and they cut off their fucking beaks when they're chicks and they spend their entire fucking existence trapped and mutilated and when they die they just fucking leave them there until they get around to it so there's, like, a live chicken right next to a fucking dead, rotting chicken corpse, and that's where your goddamn eggs come from for your healthy fucking breakfast and--"

Mikey reaches out and puts his hand over Frank's mouth. He says, "Not drunk enough for this, Frankie."

Frank doesn't even lick Mikey's palm, just sighs unhappily because he's only a little drunk and he's thinking about all the terrible fucking shit he'd discovered in middle school when he became a vegetarian in the first place -- what cows actually fucking went through and how long it took them to die and how many of them tried to run away and escape and hide because no matter what people said, they fucking knew. The cows fucking ran and tried to escape and fucking hid because they knew what was going to happen to them and they were scared and they wanted to fucking live just like every goddamn creature wants to live and, okay.

Okay, Frank has totally stopped comparing slaughterhouses to the Holocaust because it pisses people off in the wrong way and he can't get people to understand that he's not trying to make light of the systematic murder of millions of people. He's just trying to make them understand that the cruelty involved in meat production is just a different shade of the cruelty that let something so fucking horrible happen that it gives Frank nightmares, like, sixty years later. It's so fucking terrible that Frank had mandatory sessions with the school counselor after they had to watch a video about concentration camps in European History and this kid in Frank's class had made a joke about how at least there weren't any fat chicks and Frank had lost his goddamn mind because there were human beings on screen being scooped up by fucking bulldozers and that prick thought it was funny because at least none of the corpses were fat.

Frank doesn't actually remember attacking the kid. It happened so fast. He just remembers the rage and the sick terror in his gut that somebody could see cruelty like that and make a fucking joke. He remembers the nightmares he had for months after watching that fucking video, though. He remembers the mandatory counseling sessions that started off with the counselor, like, thinking he was just some violent fucktard and ended up with her listening really honestly and empathetically as he told her about everything he was afraid of and everything that made him ache and how in his nightmares he always had to watch terrible suffering while he was totally powerless to help.

Mikey says, "Stop it, dude."

Frank takes deep breaths and tries not to think about it.

Mikey scoots over towards him and presses his forehead to Frank's temple and whispers, "You're spiraling out, dude, fucking stop it."

Frank says, "I can't."

Mikey sighs and says, "Your fucking brain, Jesus. You always do this. You always go from animal cruelty to, like, the fucking Killing Fields and you want to know why people always say you're too smart for your own good? Because most people's brains don't work that fucking fast, don't make the fucking connections you do, can't actually understand the implications the way you can. Okay, hold on, I'm gonna go find some shit to knock your IQ down fifty points so you're fucking average, okay?"

Frank laughs humorlessly and says, "IQ scores are total bullshit. First of all, the tests are totally fucking biased towards the literate and you can be a fucking genius but if you've never been exposed to written language or taught--"

Mikey starts packing a bowl and says, "Am I going to haven to listen to you tell me everything that's wrong with the educational system tonight?"

Frank says, "Probably."

Mikey says, "Okay. At least that shit's better than fucking Choeung Ek."

Frank's pretty fucking high half an hour later and he's only simmering with a little bit of rage when he says, "And it's so fucking racist! Like, okay, have you read The Bell Curve?"

Mikey laughs and says, "I was majoring in communication sciences at a community college. I dropped out before I got my fucking Associates degree. I took classes actually called Fundamentals of Retail and Basics of Television."

Frank blinks at him.

"Nobody but you has ever actually read The Bell Curve," Mikey says.

Frank says, "There's a class about the fundamentals of retail? What did you even? Was it how to open your own business or--"

Mikey laughs and says, "Mostly it was, like, merchandising policies and how to handle inventory, gross margins, markups and markdowns, that kind of stuff."

Frank says, "I didn't even know that there were classes about that."

"Well, they don't offer that shit at Rutgers."

Frank frowns and there's a thought trying to come together in the pot haze of his mind and he says, "No, okay--"

Mikey says, "If you start talking about fucking economic inequality and the way our system of higher education reinforces it, I swear to God."

Frank kind of was, but it's gone. He says, "Fabio would probably be a pretty good boyfriend. Like, he'd probably cook you a lot of healthy food and shit."

Mikey says, "I'm not dating Fabio. He's a good lay but neither one of us wants to date the other. And I'm not, really. There's stuff I like just as much or more than the stuff I do with him."

"Like what?" Frank asks, sitting up and sorting through their games. He totally misses his copy of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater.

"Like lots of stuff," says Mikey. "Like, he doesn't like being touched during sex which, yeah, makes it kind of hot, but I like touching."

"And sucking cock," says Frank, laughing.

"Right. And, you know, making out and, like, tickling."

Frank turns towards Mikey and grins. "Really?"

"Shut the fuck up."

"I didn't say a goddamn word."

"Yeah, but you were going to."

Frank draws his fingers over his lips, miming zipping them shut, then he laughs because, oh my God, that's one of the most disturbing visuals ever and people just do it all the time, just fucking pretend they're zipping their lips shut which is so fucking horrifying. He says, "Oh, my God, have you ever actually thought about what it means to zip your fucking lips shut?"

Mikey says, "Please turn off your brain, I'm fucking begging you. And, yes, that's an open invitation for you to start impersonating my sex noises because that's a way less uncomfortable conversation that wherever the fuck you're about to go."

Frank puts in Mario Party because they always play it when they're stoned and says, "You're totally a kinky, bisexual weirdo."

"I'm making my peace with that," Mikey tells him. "I get to be Yoshi."

"Weirdo," says Frank. "Like, who wants to be Yoshi? Everybody in the world wants to be Mario. It's fucking Mario Party, you're supposed to want to be the main fucking character."

Mikey says, "I like being a male dinosaur who lays eggs and protects babies from evil and has a crossdressing boyfriend named Catherine more than I like being a plumber."

Frank thinks about that for a while, then says, "I think the game creators at Nintendo do even more drugs than we do."

Mikey nods and says, "More hallucinogens for sure."

+++

Frank wakes up screaming and struggling and desperate to escape and there's a strong hand on the side of his face, holding him there gently, and a voice saying, "Frank, hey, come on, look at me. Look at me. You were dreaming. It was just a nightmare. You're awake, now. You're safe."

Frank takes in quick, gulping breaths and looks at Mikey and nods and says, "Okay. Okay."

Mikey strokes his thumb over Frank's cheekbone. "You want to tell me about it?"

Frank shakes his head. It's all disappearing so fast. He hasn't even been awake for twenty seconds and he can barely remember. "Everybody was screaming," he says. "Everybody was dying and I was trying to stop it, I was trying to warn them but I couldn't, no matter how much I tried to scream nothing would come out. I just kept trying and nobody would listen and I couldn't make a sound even though I was screaming as hard as I could."

Mikey says, "Well, you were screaming up a fucking storm in here."

Frank sits up and grimaces because Jesus, he's so gross. His t-shirt and boxers are stuck to him and his sheets are soaked and he can feel the sweat sliding down his spine.

"You okay?" Mikey asks softly.

Frank says, "Yeah," and leans back against the wall. He says, "I don't know," because even though the details of the dream have faded completely, he still remembers the terror and the hopeless dread.

Mikey shifts and sits next to him, close enough that their shoulders are touching. He doesn't say anything, just sits there next to Frank and Frank looks over at him and thinks that Mikey's the most beautiful thing he's ever seen. And it's not even the way that Mikey looks that makes him so beautiful, though Frank likes the way he looks a lot. It's the way he woke Frank up from a nightmare and is sitting next to him to make sure he's okay, the way he's not even complaining about it being the middle of the night or how Frank's sheets are so damp with sweat that it's probably starting to seep up through Mikey's sleep pants.

"Want me to make you some tea?" Mikey asks.

Frank shakes his head. "I think I'm going to take a shower. Fuck." He touches the front of his t-shirt, dark around his pits and down the center of his chest and across his stomach.

It feels good to wash himself clean even though he's still shaky, even though he's still afraid of something that he can't remember and was only ever real in his mind.

He wraps himself in a towel and leaves his sweaty clothes on the bathroom floor to deal with in the morning. When he gets to his room, Mikey's stripped his bed down to the mattress and is peering up at the shelves in Frank's closet. "Do you have another set of sheets?" Mikey asks.

Frank opens his dresser and takes out a pair of clean boxers to put on. Then he drapes his damp towel over his desk chair and says, "Nope. Just the one."

"They're kind of wrecked, dude."

Frank thinks about sleeping right on top of the mattress and it's kind of awful, but he's getting so tired and he doesn't think he can make it through dragging his sheets down to the laundromat in the basement of their building and then sitting down there while they wash and dry.

Mikey says, "Don't look at your bed like I'm going to fucking let you sleep there."

Frank says, "What?" His old Rutgers hoodie is lying across the top of his desk and he grabs it and pulls it on and shivers because he's exhausted and cold and he just wants to go back to sleep.

Mikey says, "I know you'd rather walk around a public shower with no shoes on than sleep on a bare mattress, you fucking weirdo."

Frank says, "Not wanting fungus to grow on your feet isn't weird." He yawns so wide his jaw cracks and he doesn't fight it when Mikey guides him out of his room, and when he realizes where Mikey wants him to sleep, he just climbs into Mikey's bed and scoots against the far wall.

Frank's halfway back to sleep by the time Mikey turns off the light and crawls in next to him. "Do you feel better?" Mikey asks as they shift around to get comfortable.

Frank ends up with his head on Mikey's chest and he's too exhausted to feel weird about it even though he's realizing that, yeah, the thing he has for Mikey is totally real. He nods and says, "Yeah. Thanks."

Mikey yawns and says, "Good," and rubs gentle circles against Frank's back until he falls asleep.

+++

Frank thinks he's going to tell Mikey how he feels. Then he thinks that's a stupid fucking idea and if he told Mikey how he felt, he'd fuck up their friendship. Frank totally doesn't have so many friends that he can afford to lose one as good as Mikey. Then he thinks maybe he'll just drop hints about how he feels and Mikey can just pick up on them or ignore them, whatever he wants. Then he realizes how fucking cowardly that is and how it's unfair to Mikey to make him be the one to deal with things.

He thinks maybe he should talk to somebody about it. He almost talks to Gerard but stops because, yeah, telling a guy that you totally want to do dirty things to his little brother isn't cool. He almost talks to Ray, but Ray's so fucking straight and while he doesn't get the same deer-in-the-headlights look Otter does when he has to deal with gay shit, he also really obviously has no frame of reference when it comes to being in love with another dude.

He's driving his grandfather to a gig in the city when his grandfather says, "Why the long face, kid?"

Frank says, "I'm fine."

"Like hell you are. We've been listening to Top 40 radio for fifteen minutes and you haven't bitched once. What's going on?"

Frank says, "It's complicated."

His grandfather says, "Girl troubles, huh?"

Frank says, "...no."

His grandfather sighs. "You're still on that whole homosexual kick, huh?"

Frank says, "Most people just say gay, now, Pops. And I'm bi."

"So date girls."

"Jesus."

"What? It would be easier on you, wouldn't it? You wouldn't have to go around doing so much work trying to figure out if a guy's interested or if he's going to pop you one if you ask him out. You ask a girl out, the worst she's going to do is say no."

Frank says, "I actually know some girls who would totally punch a guy in the face if they asked them out."

His grandfather says, "Lesbians?" And he sounds so intrigued by the idea that Frank has to laugh.

Frank says, "Some of them. Some of them are just punk rock."

His grandfather says, "I've always liked feisty women."

Frank says, "Oh, my God."

"Your grandmother's one of the feistiest."

Frank says, "If you start telling me anything remotely sexual about Nana I'm going to drive this car off the bridge and kill us both."

"A gentleman never kisses and tells," his grandfather says. "You remember that."

Frank smiles and says, "I will."

"So what's the problem you're having with this guy? He not interested?"

Frank says, "I don't know. That's kind of the problem."

"I thought that's what the handkerchiefs were for."

Frank says, "What?"

"The handkerchiefs." His grandfather tugs on the bandanna Frank has tied around his right wrist. "They're secret code, right? Can't you just see if the ones he wears match up to the ones you wear?"

Frank says, "Oh, my God. That's not. I wear this to keep from fucking my tattoo up when I play!"

"Then why are you wearing it right now? I figured it was some sort of symbol to pick guys up once we got to Brooklyn."

Frank says, "At a big band concert?"

His grandfather shrugs. "More homosexuals like big band than you might think."

Frank takes the bandanna off once he finds a parking spot and stuffs it in his back pocket. Then he thinks twice and just tosses it onto the driver's seat before lighting up the cigarette he needs more than maybe any other cigarette in his entire life.

He looks it up online when he gets home, then stalks into the living room and waves his bandanna at Mikey and Gerard, who are drunk and giggling and rolling one of Gerard's weird polygonal dice and then reacting like the rolls mean something. Frank's tried to understand the games they play with nothing but dice and a notebook, but it's beyond him.

He waves the red bandanna at them and says, "Oh, my fucking God, you don't even. No. No, okay, my grandfather, my fucking grandfather pointed out to me tonight that this? This is a giant fucking gay flag saying that I want to get fisted."

Mikey blinks at him a few times, then starts to laugh.

Gerard, the asshole, smirks and says, "I was wondering how long it was going to take you to figure that out."

"You knew?" Frank demands. "Jesus, who the fuck even uses hanky codes anymore?"

Gerard says, "There's a few places."

Mikey says, "No, no way, you are not allowed to tell me about the fucking gay bars you visit, Gee. We had a deal."

Gerard says, "I wasn't even going to go into detail!"

"You always go into detail and there are things that I just don't need to know."

Gerard shrugs. "I was just going to say that the black one he wears is even better."

Mikey says, "Please tell me it means he's into scat."

"The ones for scat are brown," Gerard says, like that's obvious. Frank guesses it kind of is. "The black one means he's a heavy S&M bottom. Whips and chains and leather chaps."

Mikey laughs and says, "I'm totally buying you chaps for your birthday."

Frank says, "The point of this is not to make fun of me. The point of this is that Gerard's an asshole for letting me fucking walk around with, like, kinky gay codes all over me."

Mikey says, "Oh, my God, is that why Ray's always concerned about me? He's always pulling that big brother shit, you know? Like, 'Mikey, you can tell me if anything happens in the apartment that makes you uncomfortable.'"

Frank says, "Ray knows about hanky codes? And he thinks that I'm? That I would? What the fuck? Like, he thinks I've got a fucking sex sling hooked up next to the TV or some shit? Jesus fucking Christ how could he even--?"

Mikey grin is huge and self-satisfied.

Frank says, "You're fucking with me."

Mikey says, "Maybe."

Frank says, "You're an asshole."

Gerard says, "Yeah but, like, you make a totally believable S&M bottom."

Frank boggles. "What does that even mean?"

"Well, I mean, I don't have tons of experience with it, but most of the pain sluts I've known have been pretty aggressive in real life, like maybe they just always need that extra stimulation, you know? This one guy, Tony? He reminds me a lot of you, actually, and he's just--"

Frank realizes that Gerard's actually going to explain what he means in painstaking detail, so he says, "Mikey's bisexual and he's totally fucking dudes now but he's afraid to tell you."

Mikey says, "You dick!" and then he springs out of his chair and totally wrestles Frank to the ground before Frank even sees it coming. Frank puts up a valiant fight, but he's no match for Mikey's long limbs or willingness to play dirty or his freakish stealth and speed.

Frank says, "Fucking jaguar," as Mikey pins him down with a knee in the middle of his back and a hand shoving Frank's face into the carpet. He struggles a little bit but, yeah, Mikey's not letting him up any time soon.

He sees Gerard's shoes out of the corner of his eye and then Gerard's sitting on the couch and saying, "Is what Frank just said true?"

Mikey says, "Sort of. It's not like I was afraid to tell you."

Gerard says, "Okay."

Mikey says, "I didn't want to tell you until I had it all figured out."

"But you could tell Frank."

Mikey says, "No. It's not like that."

"But it is. You told him and you didn't tell me."

Frank says, "You hurt his feelings."

Mikey shoves Frank's face harder into the carpet and says, "Frank knows because he's my roommate and, like, he's been here when I, um--"

"When he has really fucking loud, kinky gay sex," says Frank. He yelps when Mikey starts digging his knuckles into his back. "Oh, my God, were you a fucking medieval torturer in a past life?"

"You said you always wanted a brother," Mikey says. "This is how brothers fight."

Gerard says, "His bony knuckles are lethal fucking weapons, dude."

Mikey says, "I didn't want to tell anybody about it, but Frank found out. And I was going to tell you eventually. Once I had everything figured out."

Gerard says, "But why wait?"

"Because I know you and I knew you'd ask me all these questions that I don't have the answers to, yet."

Frank says, "Mikey doesn't like talking about his feelings."

Gerard says, "Mikes, come on, you know you never have to talk about the way you're feeling. I just want you to know that it's okay if you do."

Frank says, "This brotherly heart-to-heart would be a lot more touching if it didn't involve Mikey burrowing his fingers into my spinal column."

Mikey flicks Frank on the back of the neck and says, "You're an asshole."

Frank can't really argue with that. He sighs with relief when Mikey takes his knee out of Frank's kidney and rolls over onto his back. He's got muscles cramping up in weird places and he's pretty sure he's got carpet burn on his face.

"Look," Mikey says, "let's go to the diner and drink too much coffee and we'll talk and maybe I'll talk about my feelings and maybe I won't but, like. I'll tell you the shit you need to know so you don't feel like I'm keeping secrets from you, okay?"

"Can I eat meat in front of you?" Gerard asks.

Mikey says, "No. And if you try to order an omelet I will tell you all the fucked up shit they do to baby chickens."

Frank thinks that even though he's got carpet burn on his face, that deserves a little victory dance. It's actually just a victory shimmy since he's got a cramp in his shoulder blade and he can't really dance while he's trying to work it out.

+++

Mikey seems to have mostly forgiven Frank for outing him by the next afternoon. He's not glaring daggers at Frank, at least.

Frank goes to take a shower, then sniffs suspiciously at his shampoo. It just smells like shampoo, but he turns the water off anyway and pulls his sweats and t-shirt back on and walks out into the living room where Mikey's eating trail mix and watching WKRP in Cincinnati.

"Did you piss in my shampoo?" Frank asks.

Mikey says, "Like I'd do something that obvious."

Frank says, "Okay, good," and turns back towards the bathroom. He stops halfway there and turns around again. "Did you piss in any of my toiletries?"

Mikey sighs and says, "No. This isn't a revenge prank thing, okay?"

Frank says, "Okay." He turns back around, pauses, turns back towards Mikey. "Are you just saying that this isn't a revenge prank thing so I'll be caught unaware when you prank me for revenge?"

Mikey mutes the TV and says, "You know what's cool about outing somebody?"

Frank pauses before he answers. He's pretty sure it's a trick question. "Nothing?"

Mikey says, "Exactly."

Frank winces. He says, "I'm sorry. It was really fucking shitty of me. I just panicked, okay? He started talking about painsluts, like, totally casually, and he was going to go into some sincere explanation of personality types in relation to BDSM and I panicked. You know what he gets like when he starts talking about emotions and relationships and theories of desire."

Mikey crosses his arms over his chest.

Frank says, "Which is exactly why you didn't want him to know, yet." He runs his hands over his head. "I get that you're pissed and, like, yeah. I fucked up. I'm so sorry."

Mikey sighs and says, "I'm not pissed. I'm just. I don't know. I guess I never expected you to do something like that to me."

Frank has to sit down. He closes his eyes and tries not to have flashbacks of getting into trouble as a kid and having to listen to his parents tell him how disappointed in him they were.

"And it's not like it was bad, really. He was pretty conscious of it any time he asked something that made me uncomfortable and kept himself in check for the most part. It just sucks because I thought I could trust you."

"I'm sorry," Frank says.

Mikey shrugs. "I know. But it still doesn't change anything."

Frank tries to think of a way to make things better, but before he can, Mikey turns the volume back up and gives the TV his full attention.

Frank watches the episode for a couple of minutes, but not even Dr. Johnny Fever can make him feel like anything but a steaming pile of shit. He sighs and trudges off to the bathroom and takes a shower, changes into clean clothes and heads out into the main room again.

Mikey says, "Answer quick without thinking about it. Jennifer or Bailey?"

Frank says, "Bailey." Then he thinks about it and says, "Definitely Bailey."

"Me, too," says Mikey. "I mean, Jennifer's awesome, don't get me wrong, but--" He breaks off and looks at Frank, then slumps back against the couch and looks sad.

Frank can't figure it out for a moment, then he realizes that Mikey had forgotten he was supposed to be upset. Frank says, "Oh, my god, were you faking? Were you fucking faking being disappointed in me?"

The corner of Mikey's mouth twitches. "No."

"You asshole. You know nothing in the entire fucking universe make me feel worse than when I let people down."

"Which is why it's way better revenge than pissing in your shampoo." He pauses. "I did use your toothbrush to clean the toilet, though."

Frank looks at him for a long moment. "Please tell me you're fucking with me."

Mikey shrugs. Frank can't tell if his giant grin is because he's fucking with Frank or because he's pleased with himself.

"I already brushed my teeth this morning," Frank tells him.

Mikey says, "Sucks to be you."

Frank stares at him, then bolts to the bathroom.

"You're being a drama queen," Mikey says after Frank has finished puking up his stomach acid.

Frank says, "You gave me fucking E. Coli, you prick." His voice is rough and his throat burns. Puking when you haven't eaten anything sucks so hard.

"I didn't give you E. Coli. You're just crazy."

Frank says, "Staph, fuck, I'm going to get a fucking staph infection in my mouth."

Mikey sighs and rubs Frank's back gently.

Frank says, "Salmonella, Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium."

"I think the fact that you even know the names of those things proves that your barfing is just psychosomatic."

Frank says, "I'm going to start bleeding from the eyeballs and then die."

Mikey says, "If you start bleeding from the eyeballs, I'm calling Gerard to come over. You know he'd love to draw that shit."

Frank looks up at Mikey miserably. How can he be so unsympathetic towards Frank's obvious impending death?

Mikey hands Frank a bottle of mouthwash and says, "You're fine. Let's go to the store and buy you a new toothbrush."

Frank uncaps the bottle and drinks from it. It burns so much when he gargles that his eyes water. He spits into the toilet, then rinses with mouthwash again. After he spits the second time he says, "You go for me. I don't want to infect the rest of the world with Hantavirus."

Mikey says, "For there to be Hantavirus in our toilet, one of us would already have to have Hantavirus. And I'm pretty sure if either one of us had Hantavirus, we'd know."

Frank says, "Maybe you're a carrier. Typhoid Mary and Hantavirus Mikey."

Mikey says, "I'll go buy you a new toothbrush. Crazy pants."

Frank lies on the floor of the bathroom and waits to die.

+++

"I still think you're overreacting," Mikey says as he and Frank head towards some new club Mikey'd wanted to try.

"I still think you're an asymptomatic carrier of the Hantavirus."

Mikey says, "Where the fuck would I have contracted the fucking Hantavirus? I've never been outside of New England."

Frank says, "There are some pretty gnarly rats in the city. At least one of them has to be a carrier."

Mikey says, "Oh, I suppose I could have contracted it through my pet rat, Ben. He protected me from bullies. It was a beautiful friendship. Michael Jackson even sang a song about it."

Frank says, "I'm so glad you're taking my concerns about dying a slow and painful death so seriously."

Mikey says, "You outed me."

Frank says, "Damnit." Mikey's going to use that to win every argument for the foreseeable future, and even Frank's knowledge that he's being manipulated won't change how guilty he feels.

They get into the bar without being carded or having to pay a cover thanks to Mikey's head tip and casually friendly, "Hey," to the bouncer. That shit never works for Frank. He's tried. The bouncers he tries to charm like that just look unimpressed and expect him to fork over five bucks.

Frank looks around the club and is unimpressed. Mikey dragged him all the way to Hackensack for techno beats and strobe lights on the dance floor?

Frank says, "Did you want to come here ironically or, like, seriously? Because seriously? Not impressed."

Mikey shrugs. "I didn't come for the music, dude. It's fucking awful, though."

Frank says, "Right?"

They order shots at the bar for a pregame, then get two beers apiece and find a table near the dance floor. Frank settles in for a night of mocking pretentious, trendy douchebags, like the dude in a three hundred dollar bedazzled t-shirt and designer trucker cap macking on the dude with his madras plaid button down tucked into his Dockers.

Frank looks around the bar suddenly. All the bartenders are male and they're wearing very tight black tank tops. The redhead laughing one table over is way too tall and broad in the shoulders to be genetically female. The next song that comes on is a remix of Christina Aguilera's "Genie in a Bottle."

Frank says, "Did you bring me to a fucking gay bar?"

Mikey says, "Duh," and tips back one of his beers.

Frank says, "You brought me to a gay bar. In Hackensack."

Mikey says, "I figured it was a good place to get fucked."

The only consolation Frank has when he snorts beer out of his nose is the vague hope that the alcohol will kill any lingering gram-negative bacteria in his nasal cavity.

Mikey smirks and says, "Smooth." Because Mikey's a bastard.

Frank chokes and coughs and cleans himself up with a tiny little paper napkin before saying, "You want to get fucked in Hackensack why, now? Because I've got news for you, Mikeyway, we live really close to the ass fucking capital of the world, but it's not Hackensack."

Mikey says, "That's why we're in Hackensack. Like, I have no idea what I'm doing, and if I suck, well, so what? I disappointed some dude who's going to spend the rest of his life in Hackensack. He's used to disappointment."

Frank says, "I can't decide what's more fucked up, what you just said or the fact that it almost makes sense."

Mikey says, "Help me pick a guy."

Frank stares at him.

"What?"

"Just pick a guy? Like, I point and you go over and get fucked? Just like that?"

Mikey rolls his eyes. "No. But since you've been fucked before, I figure you know more than me. Like, can you tell if a guy's going to be a good fuck just by looking at him? I can tell with girls, but I don't know if I should look for the same things with guys."

Frank continues to stare.

"Like, if she's got an unselfconscious laugh and she takes up a lot of space," Mikey tells him.

Frank says, "Takes up a lot of space?"

"Well," says Mikey. He pulls his shoulders in a little bit and holds his arms tight to his sides. He puts his knees together and makes himself look smaller on his chair. "Girls are taught they're supposed to be like this, right? Like, only taking up the exact amount of room they need to fit in physically regardless of how comfortable it is. So most girls are like this, always pulling their arms in and making sure they're not in anybody's way and being the one to give up room if they have to share it with somebody."

Frank's never actually thought about that before, but he nods.

"So then if a girl's like this," Mikey says, and he lets his shoulders relax and broaden, lets his arms dangle comfortably, lets his knees fall apart. "If she's taking up more space than she actually needs to cram herself into, if she feels like she deserves the space her body occupies, there's a level of confidence that usually means she also knows what she wants in bed, which is hot. I mean, it's not the only thing to look for. It's mostly unconscious, the space thing, so even really confident girls do it sometimes."

"That's your thing?" Frank asks. He realizes they've never actually talked about it before. They don't talk about the sex they've had except to mention sometimes that they've had it. Mikey never tells Frank stories about his conquests, and Frank thinks that's because Mikey doesn't think of them as conquests, which is nice. Frank's always hated that kind of macho bonding. "Like, confident women, that's your thing?"

Mikey shrugs. "Yeah. Not just, but like. Is there anybody who doesn't think confidence is hot?"

Frank says, "Jerks. What else do you look for? What's your type?"

Mikey shrugs and looks uncomfortable.

"Hey, if I'm going to pick the dude who's going to fuck you tonight, I need to know what you're looking for."

Mikey says, "Brunettes, usually. Dark eyes."

"No wonder you and Fabio didn't work out. Those flowing blonde tresses just turned you off."

Mikey laughs and shakes his head. "I don't know if I can put it into words. Looks matter, yeah, but then also, I guess, I want him to be smart and funny." He shifts uncomfortably and finishes off his first beer, starts on his second. "That's stupid, right? I'm not telling you anything actually important."

Frank says, "It's a start."

"And he should be passionate. Not passionate in bed though, well, yeah. Passionate about life, about the world, about being a good person and making a difference. He can't just see fucked up shit and turn his back. And, like, he should get me, you know? I'm not. I know I can be weird but he should just get that, know that it's just how I am."

Frank thinks, Me, that's me, I'm all those things you just described, but Mikey's scanning the crowd, looking for a fuck. Frank thinks, Look at me, Mikey. Look at me.

Mikey says, "He's kind of cute."

Frank turns and follows Mikey's gaze. The guy leaning against the wall drinking something fruity and red is kind of cute. He says, "He has stupid hair and his drink has an umbrella in it."

Mikey laughs, "Don't hate on little umbrellas, dude."

Frank says, "You'd fucking ask for a little umbrella every time if they fit in a beer bottle, wouldn't you?"

Mikey says, "Fuck yeah. Little paper umbrellas are badass."

Franks about to mock him when he's jostled by the crowd. The club's starting to get really packed so it's probably not the guy's fault, but he still knocks Frank's beer to the floor where most of it spills out.

Frank says, "What the fuck, man?"

The guy, a timid looking stockbroker or some shit in khaki pants and a belt that matches his shoes, says, "Sorry, I'm so sorry, I'll get you another one," and hurries off.

"Asshole," Frank grumbles, picking the bottle up from the floor and eyeing the two swallows left in the bottom of it. He finishes them off and sighs and wipes his hand on his jeans as he tells Mikey, "This is why I don't like gay bars."

"People knock shit over in every bar," Mikey points out.

"Yeah, but if we were in my kind of bar, I could just start throwing punches. I couldn't punch that dude, he wouldn't have even fought back."

Mikey tips his chin up and says, "And if you had, he wouldn't have gone to get you another beer."

Sure enough, the stockbroker shows up with two more beers, one for Frank and one for Mikey. He says, "I'm really, really sorry."

Frank eyes the beer suspiciously and wonders if the dude roofied it. He doesn't trust anyone in penny loafers.

Mikey's saying, "No, it's totally cool, thanks for this," and tipping his beer up. "I'm Mikey."

The guy says, "Glenn," and has the nerve to sit down at their table and Frank's about to tell him to fuck back off to his office when he notices the way Mikey's got his body angled towards Glenn and is smiling up at him through his eyelashes and leaning in closer than he has to in order to hear Glenn speak.

Frank thinks, Well, fuck, and grabs his beer and says, "I'm going to dance," because he damn well knows Mikey's moves even if he can't recreate them himself. Probably Mikey will tell a story about the first time he ever read Fangoria that won't make him seem at all geeky or weird and Glenn will be so fucking charmed that he'll be sucking Mikey's cock within fifteen minutes.

Frank pushes his way through the crowd a little more forcefully than he has to because he doesn't want to fucking dance. He wants to hang out with Mikey and drink beer and make fun of people.

He pushes out onto the patio and finds an empty spot and lights a cigarette. He drinks and smokes and makes himself own up to the fact that he doesn't just want to hang out with Mikey. He wants to be the one Mikey's putting the moves on. He wants to be the one on his knees in the parking lot fifteen minutes from now, sucking Mikey off.

He was so close. He felt like he was so close when Mikey was talking about the kind of guy he was looking for. He felt like maybe he could have just taken a leap, maybe he could have said...what? What could he have said? I want you and I'm crazy about you and I think you should fall in love with me?

He thinks about trying to hook up but dismisses the idea almost immediately. Fucking just to fuck is so weird and Frank's no good at the stuff that comes afterwards, the casual, "Thank you very much for the orgasm, see you around maybe," that other people seem to come by naturally.

He makes his way to the farthest side of the patio, where it's at least quiet enough for him to hear his own thoughts, and calls Ray. He says, "I'm bored as fuck."

Ray says, "Are you at a bar?"

"Yeah. Watching Mikey hook up."

Ray laughs and says, "I swear to God that kid's got mutant pheremones."

"It's the head tilt," says Frank.

"The one where he just looks up through his fucking lashes and then tips his head towards the door?" Ray asks. "I've fucking tried that, dude. Girls just think I've got a twitch."

Frank grins and leans against the railing. "You wanna go see Ass Machine at Boom Boom?"

Ray says, "I can't decide what's worse, the name of the band or the name of the club."

"So that's a yes?"

Ray laughs and says, "Yeah. You want me to pick you up?"

Frank does, but he doesn't feel like explaining why he's with Mikey at a gay bar. He says, "I'm in fucking Hackensack, dude. Wanna meet at that diner off Seventeen?"

"The one with the blonde waitress?" Ray asks. "Yes, I do. Do not hit on her before I get there."

Frank laughs and says, "Yeah, okay." When he hangs up with Ray, he's planning on heading back inside and telling Mikey to ditch the stockbroker so they can go eat greasy fries and then watch a shitty band play at a pretentious club. He's already got a text from Mikey, though. It says, taking off see you tomorrow. He texts back, going to watch Ray not flirt with that waitress he likes. Then he sends, be sure he's wearing a rubber before he bends you over the hood of his car and makes you a man.

He calls Gerard on his way to the bus stop. "You wanna eat too many pancakes and then go see a really shitty band?"

Gerard says, "How do you even have to ask me that question?"

Frank grins. "Cool. Call Ray and make him give you a ride."

It takes Frank nearly forty-five minutes to get to the diner, but he still gets there before Ray and Gerard. He just asks for a big booth and orders a roasted veggie wrap and a beer. He thinks more diners should have a giant menu page of vegetarian options and a full bar. He's saying as much to the pretty, blonde waitress when Ray and Gerard walk in and Ray gives him a dark look.

Ray says, "You said you wouldn't--"

Frank holds his hand up as Gerard calls the waitress back and asks for two carafes of coffee. Frank isn't sure if he's planning on sharing or drinking them all himself.

Once the waitress is gone again, Frank says, "Ray, seriously. When have I ever hit on a girl you liked?"

Ray says, "Never, but there's always a first time."

Gerard says, "Not with Frankie," absently as he pages through the menu. He says, "Oooh, they have blintzes. You know that saying, 'Bros before hos?' That's Frankie in, like, his gut. Or maybe, no, waffles? Is that cliché?"

Frank says, "Are you seriously concerned about your late night breakfast foods being cliché? How can food even be cliché?"

Gerard says, "Blintzes. Definitely cheese blintzes. With blackberries. Only, like, for some guys it's a sacrifice not to go after a girl their friend likes. That's why they have the saying, you know? So dudes can brag about it and, like, thump their chests and feel manly or whatever. Frank doesn't even have to sacrifice because he knows you like Jessica so he's never going to be attracted to her. It's just how he works."

Frank says, "Who's Jessica?"

Gerard looks up at him, confused. "Isn't that what we were talking about? The waitress?"

Ray says, "You asked her name?"

Gerard looks just as confused as he turns towards Ray. "She's wearing a nametag. You're really bad at this, aren't you?"

Ray slumps in his seat and says, "In high school, I thought putting things up my nose would make girls like me."

Gerard says, "Wow."

Ray slumps down in the booth and looks dejected.

Gerard says, "No, hey, I'd be just as terrible if Mikey hadn't taught me how to talk to girls. And, like, how pathetic is that? Having your little brother give you flirting tips? Where is he, anyway? Ray said you guys went to Hackensack."

Frank says, "He hooked up."

Gerard nods and looks back at his menu, saying, "Ooooh, curly fries."

Frank's demolishing his roasted veggie wrap and trying not to make any porno noises as he eats. It's so fucking good, though, a mix of crispy fried plantains and roasted eggplant, bell peppers and onions and tomatoes dripping juices down his fingers and onto the plate. He only looks up when he hears Mikey say, "Scoot over."

He grins at Mikey and scoots over to give him room to slide into the booth. He says, "Hey, Mikes, your lips are swollen."

Mikey says, "Go fuck yourself," and pokes Frank in the ribs. "Scoot."

Frank's about to ask how much room Mikey's boney ass actually needs when notices Glenn. Fucking awesome. He scoots over to the far end of the booth and Mikey makes introductions, and while Gerard obviously realizes that Glenn is Mikey's bar hookup, Ray seems completely unaware and blissfully preoccupied with his grilled pastrami and Swiss on rye.

Glenn just orders herbal tea, which Frank thinks is totally lame, and he doesn't even go for any of Mikey's extra-cheesy cheese fries when they get there. Gerard says, "Oh, we've got coffee, do you want coffee? We can just ask Jessica for another mug."

Glenn says, "It's too late for caffeine." So fucking lame. It's not even midnight.

Frank bites viciously into his wrap and tries not to fixate on why the fuck Mikey'd choose to fuck some guy in stupid shoes with stupid hair who drinks stupid fucking herbal tea and thinks eleven forty-five on a Friday night is late.

Thankfully, that's when Otter shows up, saying, "So what the fuck kind of faggot band are we going to see tonight, anyway?" Frank has never been happier to see him or more fond of his ability to always say the most offensive thing possible.

Gerard's waving his hands in protest as Otter slides in next to him. "You can't just use that word!" he cries.

Otter says, "They're called Ass Machine." He grabs a handful of Mikey's fries and stuffs them in his mouth. "Like, if that's not a faggot band, what is?"

"You could say that we're a faggot band," Gerard says, and he's straightening his shoulders and gearing up for a fight. Frank leans back in the booth and gets ready to enjoy the show, picking at a piece of roasted eggplant that had fallen out of his wrap.

Otter says, "No fucking way. And don't talk about fucking dudes, all right? I don't need to hear any of that gay art school shit."

Frank says, "I didn't go to art school."

Otter waves his hand. "Whatever. You don't count."

Frank presses his face to Mikey's shoulder and laughs softly.

Mikey says, "This is Otter. He's a prick but we keep him around anyway. Otter, this is Glenn."

Otter tips his chin up and says, "Hey."

Gerard's making distressed sounds and his mouth is moving like he's trying to figure out where, exactly, to start his objection to everything Otter's said since he entered the diner. What finally comes out is, "Why the hell doesn't Frank count?"

Frank says, "Smoke break," and slides down off the bench, shimmying his way under the table. He gropes Otter's balls on his way out for good measure.

"That's not fucking funny, Iero," Otter calls after him.

Frank turns and grins on his way outside, packing his cigarettes against his wrist and blowing Otter a kiss. He's just gotten his cigarette lit when Ray comes out, wide eyed, saying, "That's going to be a knock down, drag out for sure."

Frank says, "I'm guessing Mikey's hookup is totally regretting coming out for post-sex pancakes right about now."

Ray says, "Mikey's what?"

Frank says, "Oh, fuck me."

"Since when does Mikey--"

"Since never," Frank says quickly. "You know me. I do a lot of drugs. You can't trust a goddamn thing that comes out of my mouth."

Ray says, "It's cool. Even if you hadn't told me, I would have figured it out right about now, anyway."

Frank looks over his shoulder at where Mikey and Glenn are standing next to a beige Toyota Camry, kissing gently. He makes a face and looks back at Ray. "Do you want to ditch everyone and go see Ass Machine by ourselves?"

"Sort of," Ray admits, "but they'll never stop bitching if we do."

Frank smokes and tries to ignore how completely jealous he is that Mikey's making out with some random fucking desk jockey instead of him.

The beige Camry pulls out of the parking lot and Mikey strolls over to them alone, hands in his pockets. He says, "You guys wanna ditch Otter and Gee and just go see the band?"

"Great fucking minds," says Frank.

Ray sighs and says, "We haven't paid the bill."

Mikey says, "Bonus."

Ray says, "I'll get the check and see if I can stop them from killing each other."

They spend then entire ride to Boom Boom listening to Gerard explain to Otter in great detail why he's not allowed to use the word faggot, why Gerard is allowed to use the word faggot, why Otter's perception of Frank's masculinity has nothing to do with his sexuality, and why the homophobia rampant in the hardcore scene is hypocritical bullshit.

Frank rests his chin on Mikey's shoulder, crammed in the center back between him and a wildly gesticulating Gerard. He whispers, "How's your ass?"

Mikey shrugs a few times just to be a jerk and jostle Frank's head, then says, "We didn't have sex."

"You looked like you had sex."

"We just made out for a while."

"You spent hours with a stockbroker and didn't even get a blow job?"

"He's a lawyer, not a stockbroker, and I was just getting to know him, okay? That's a thing I'm allowed to do, right?"

"Yeah, it's just not a thing you usually do."

Mikey shrugs again, this time with just the shoulder Frank isn't leaning against, and says, "I'm trying something new."

The band is truly awful. Frank and Mikey and Ray stand in the back of the club with their beers, watching in awe. Like, Frank automatically gives bands props for just getting up on stage. He knows it takes guts to do that, knows the weird mix of power and vulnerability that comes from performing, but Ass Machine is one of the few completely irredeemable bands he's seen in his life.

He says, "Wow."

Ray says, "No guitar deserves to be treated that way."

Mikey says, "Maybe it's performance art."

Frank's pretty sure Ass Machine wants to be grindcore, but they lack the intensity required to pull it off. He rubs his hands over his face, then lets them slide off, pulling his cheeks down as he looks at Mikey.

Mikey shrugs and gives him wide eyes.

Otter comes walking up to them, saying, "Fine, okay? Fine, you're right, I'm wrong, I'm sorry, I'm an insensitive asshole, just please fucking let it go."

Gerard says, "I'm not saying you're a bad person, I'm just..." He trails off and looks at the stage. He blinks a few times and looks over at Frank. "It's like if you took kids whose only exposure to music was adult contemporary, gave them instruments, and made them play Extreme Noise Terror covers."

Mikey says, "That's exactly what I was thinking!"

Ray says, "Can we please go before I start to throw up?"

Otter says, "They're not half bad."

+++

Ray's still talking about it at practice on Monday afternoon. He's saying, "And it's not even that they were bad. Bad can be okay if there's passion behind it but they were just. It's like they were." He throws his hands up in wordless exasperation.

Frank says, "I blame Slipknot."

Ray says, "You blame everything on Slipknot."

Frank opens his mouth to object, but it's true.

Mikey says, "You should hear his theory about how DJ Starscream's partly responsible for the creation of Jar Jar Binks."

Ray looks at Frank expectantly.

Frank says, "Yeah, no, I have to be really high or I can't make the connections. But when I'm fucked up, that Midwestern bastard's pure fucking evil. Plus, I totally resent him taking the name of the only Decepticon that's not a total pussy."

Gerard says, "Shockwave."

"Are you high right now?" Frank demands.

Gerard shrugs. "A little bit."

"Fucking Shockwave? He's a fucking embarrassment!"

Mikey says, "In the animated series, yeah, but in the comics he's a lot cooler."

Ray says, "Oh, my God, can we please pretend we play music for a living and practice?"

Gerard says, "Oh, and Kickback."

"Kickback?" Frank demands. "He transforms into a grasshopper. How is that remotely cool?"

"He can jump over forty feet high," Gerard says. "He can kick through a steel door with one blow. That's kind of cool."

Ray says, "We actually get paid to make music, guys. People expect us to be able to do it in sync."

Mikey says, "I always liked Bonecrusher."

"And who created Bonecrusher?" Frank asks. "Fucking Starscream, using the creation matrix in Optimus Prime's imprisioned, severed head. Ha." He feels like he's made a point even if he's not sure exactly what it is.

Otter says, "How the fuck do any of you ever get laid?"

Frank points at him and cries, "You understand the game with the multi-faceted dice and notebook paper!"

Otter blinks at him. "D and D?"

"Yes!"

"So what's your point?"

"My point is that the Transformers are part of any normal boy's childhood. We watch them on TV, we play with the toys, we get to know everything about them because they're fucking badass robots who transform into semi trucks and fighter jets and dune buggies."

Mikey says, "Bulldozers."

Gerard says, "Frank, if you're about to argue that Otter's being a hypocrite because understanding Dungeons and Dragons is freakish and should make it impossible for him to get laid, well. You should probably look around at your audience, first."

Frank does. Then he picks up his guitar and says, "Right. Let's practice. We get paid to do this shit, after all."

After practice, Mikey declines getting beer and pizza with everybody else. He says, "Glenn's picking me up."

Gerard says, "Two nights in a row?"

Frank says, "Wait, that's where you were last night? With the stockbroker?"

Mikey rolls his eyes and says, "Lawyer."

Otter says, "Is there any way for me to express surprise at the fact the Mikey's fucking dudes now without getting a three hour lecture from Gerard about homophobia?"

Ray says, "Probably not."

Frank watches Mikey head towards Glenn's beige sedan and he can't stop himself from waving and cheerfully calling out, "Have good sex!"

Mikey flips him the bird and Frank laughs and turns towards the pizza parlor and tries to push down the jealousy gnawing at his insides.

+++

Frank's asleep on the couch when Mikey gets home. He doesn't wake up until Mikey turns off the TV and then he's still groggy as Mikey drapes a blanket over Frank's shoulders.

"Hey," Frank whispers.

"I didn't mean to wake you," Mikey says.

Frank pushes himself up slowly, tugging the blanket around himself because it's cold. "There was a Die Hard marathon on," he explains.

Mikey says, "Do you really think you have a chance against us, Mr. Cowboy?"

Frank grins and says, "Yippie-ki-yay, motherfucker." He rubs his eyes and squints at the clock. It's nearly three. Mikey's hair is mussed and while it's clear that he's made an effort to smooth it back into place, it's obviously not the same as it had been earlier in the evening. His mouth is red and slightly swollen and he moves with the easy, long-limbed grace that only weed or orgasms bring him.

Frank doesn't ask. He curls up against the back of the couch and considers falling back to sleep.

Mikey sits down next to him and says, "I didn't sleep with him."

Frank just raises his eyebrows.

Mikey grins a sleepy, fucked-out grin. "I meant we didn't fuck."

Frank says, "Okay."

"I thought about it, though. And I think he'll be good. Don't you think he'll be good?"

Frank says, "All I know about him is that he drinks herbal tea and wears penny loafers. So I guess if you want to get fucked by a dude in penny loafers, he'll be perfect."

Mikey says, "He totally shot down my suggestion to put actual pennies in them. Like, what's the point of penny loafers if you're not going to put pennies in them? It's like owning a pair of Kangaroos without a Velcro pocket."

Frank says, "I have a pair with a zipper pocket."

"Oh, yeah. The blue ones. What do you keep in the pockets?"

Frank says, "A couple of dollar bills, I think."

"If you owned penny loafers, would you put pennies in the front?"

"Only little girls in braids put pennies in their penny loafers," Frank says. "So, yeah, I would."

Mikey smiles and leans forward and for half a second Frank thinks they're about to kiss. Mikey doesn't kiss him, though, just stands and offers Frank a hand up. "Time for bed, Mr. Cowboy."

Frank stumbles to bed alone and mutters, "Yippie-ki-yi-yay."

+++

Frank sits in his living room and watches, entranced, as Ray's fingers fly effortlessly over the strings. He's heard Ray play Romance before, of course, but he had no idea Ray could actually play classical guitar.

Frank says, "Holy shit," when Ray finishes.

Ray shrugs and tucks a piece of hair behind his ear shyly.

"Holy shit, I mean it, that could put me to fucking sleep."

Ray rolls his eyes and says, "Thanks. Asshole."

Frank kicks his foot. "Not in the boredom way. In the music soothes the savage beast way. Show me."

Ray says, "Well, there's not really enough room on your fretboard for rasgueos or alzapuas, so if you really want to learn flamenco--"

Frank waves his hand dismissively. "Dude, I'm never going to be good enough at flamenco to need a classical guitar."

"Actually, classical and flamenco guitars differ in a lot of aspects, width of the fretboard being first among them."

Frank grins at Ray. He can't even put into words how much he loves the painfully exact nature of Ray's brain and how it somehow translates into fire and passion on stage instead of rote precision. He says, "Just show me a fucking rasgueo, fucker."

Ray grins back at him and holds up the ring, middle, and pointer fingers of his right hand. "Drop your pick," he says. "We're using the backs of our nails for this shit."

After half an hour of practice, Frank has a basic understanding of the three-finger rasgueo and an ache deep in the back of his right hand. He didn't even know how weak his fingers were until suddenly Ray was making him use them in a way he'd never considered.

Mikey says, "You guys are making me hungry for tapas."

"Make Ray show me how to play Malaguena," Frank says.

"No way, dude, I am so not getting into a fight with Ray over the importance of technique. He's like a kung fu master. He'll show you when you're ready and not one second before."

Ray looks up from his guitar and stops playing. He says, "You look nice. You got a date?"

Mikey says, "Yeah," and checks his hair in the reflection of the microwave.

Frank strums a few chords and sings, "Mikey's getting his ass fucked for the very first time, it should be a crime that a boy so sublime is still a virgin." He's pretty proud of the careful rasgueos he executes with each chord and he totally deserves the can of tomato soup Mikey throws at his head.

Once Ray leaves, Frank's twitchy. He unplugs his guitar from his amp so he won't make the neighbors call the cops and plays hard and fast until he's sweating and his muscles are aching and his right shoulder is throbbing from where he'd slammed it into the wall.

He lies on the carpet for a while, panting and staring up at the ceiling, then starts to rub his cock through his jeans. Playing almost always turns him on, even on stage, and he rarely has the luxury of being able to jerk himself off afterwards.

He doesn't think about anything in particular. He just rides the high that comes with playing and lets his mind drift, thinks about the first time he got to eat a girl out, thinks about making out with Derek Lindstrom in the backseat of his car, thinks about Mikey tied to his headboard, tugging against the restraints so hard his wrists would be bruised the next day. He thinks about how hard Mikey's cock had been, jerking with every beat of his heart. He thinks about Mikey right now, naked in some stranger's bed. He hopes it's good. He hopes Mikey's hard and gasping and loving it. He thinks about fucking Mikey himself, just shoving up against him in the bathroom one morning, making Mikey brace his hands on the sink, making Mikey watch in the mirror as Frank fucks him from behind.

Frank comes with desperate grunts that start deep in his belly. The echoes of them feel strange in his ears as he comes down, trying to remember the exact sounds he'd just made. He can never quite remember or recreate the noises he makes when he comes and he doesn't want to record them, doesn't want to actually know in case they're really stupid. He doesn't have any control over them, thinks of them as the sounds of his lizard brain coming to the surface.

He's still panting a little bit when his phone rings. It's Gerard. He's still got his dick hanging out and come on his belly and fingers when he picks up. "Yeah?"

"I'm having a shit day," Gerard tells him. "I'm kind of in the mood to go out and get so drunk that any story I tell about it will have to include the phrase, 'So when I blacked in, I was surrounded by three cop cars.'"

Frank sits up and says, "Fuck, yeah. I'll be over in an hour."

+++

Frank wakes up with his face pressed into carpet and the smell of smoke all around him. He sits up and winces and groans out loud because his head is pounding and his stomach's churning and he feels like maybe his left thigh got run over by a bus. He says, "Oh, shit," and looks up to where Gerard's sitting up in bed, covers bunched around him to make a kind of desk for his sketchbook and his coffee and his ashtray.

"There's coffee upstairs," says Gerard absently, not looking up from whatever he's drawing.

Frank says, "Gonna get some fresh air," and struggles to his feet. His left quadriceps is really fucking pissed at him every time he tries to make it work so he just sort of shuffles along and makes it halfway up the steps leading from Gerard's basement apartment to the driveway. He sits on one of the concrete steps and leans against the brick and just breathes for a while before digging through his pockets and pulling out his own cigarettes.

He's finished with one and is trying to decide if he wants another when he hears Mikey saying, "I don't know what you think I'm supposed to do about it."

"Tell him to go away," comes his mother's voice. "Tell him I'm calling the police."

"So just call the police."

"No, he deserves a head start. Tell him to go away or else I'll call the police. Tell him I have a gun."

"Mom, Jesus, just fucking--"

"Michael James you march right out there and you tell that man to go."

Mikey says, "Fine," in the angriest tone Frank's ever heard from him. Then he hears Mikey sigh before he says, "Dude, you can't fucking sleep down there, okay?"

Frank says, "Okay."

Mikey leans over the railing and looks down the stairwell at Frank. He says, "It's just Frank, Mom." He says, "Mom thought you were a bum."

Frank says, "Only sometimes."

He hears Donna call, "Frank who?"

Mikey says, "Sinatra. Jesus. Frank Frank, my roommate Frank. Our fucking guitarist Frank. How many fucking Franks do you think I know?"

Donna says, "Who taught you to talk to your fucking mother like that?"

Mikey says, "Sorry, Ma. It's just Frank, okay?"

She says, "Ask him why he's sleeping in the goddamn stairwell and scaring the shit out of us."

Mikey says, "Yeah, okay."

Frank hears the door to the house slam and watches as Mikey comes around the side of the stairwell and hops down the steps to sit next to Frank. Mikey grins wide at him as he says, "Mom wants to know why you were sleeping in the stairwell and scaring the shit out of her."

Frank grins back and says, "I actually slept on Gerard's floor, I was just sitting in the stairwell, smoking. I can't believe she sent you, of all people, to scare somebody off the property."

"I know, right? Like, there is nothing threatening about me at all. You look like shit."

Frank says, "Yeah, I don't really remember a lot of what happened last night. I'm pretty sure I ended up in the pit and either somebody stomped on me, kicked me with a steel-toed boot, or ran me over with their car."

Mikey says, "That's rough. You want breakfast?"

"Not especially."

"Coffee?"

Frank says, "Oh, fuck yes."

Frank sits at the kitchen table with the mug held in both hands, breathing in the delicious aroma of strong black coffee. He takes a sip and actually groans at how good it is.

Donna says, "You look like shit."

Frank says, "I know."

"You hungover? You need food if you're hungover. Protein. I'll make you bacon and eggs."

Frank says, "Um, actually..."

"Oh, Lord, not you, too. This one all of a sudden is all, 'Mom, you don't even know the terrible conditions they keep the chickens in,' and, 'Cows try to run away from the slaughterhouse,' and, 'Pigs are even smarter than dogs.'"

Frank grins down at his coffee and only winces a little bit when Mikey kicks him under the table.

"Will you at least eat some waffles?"

Frank promises to try.

He picks at his waffles and eats about half of one before pushing the plate over and letting Mikey finish them off. He does drink two cups of coffee and a big glass of water, though, and he's still got a little bit of a headache but his stomach has settled down nicely.

He says, "How was your date?"

Mikey clears his throat and makes big eyes at Frank and Donna says, "You had a date, sweetie? When?"

Frank says, "Oh, I, um." He realizes that Mikey getting fucked is probably a really bad thing to talk about in front of Mikey's mother. "I thought you had a date last night but, uh, maybe not."

Donna laughs and says, "Oh, we had a wild time last night watching CSI." She ruffles Mikey's hair and says, "Such a good boy, spending time with his mother. God knows where Gerard disappeared to."

Frank says, "The Viper Pit."

Donna says, "No wonder the two of you look like shit this morning. I'm glad you didn't go with them, Mikey. I don't like that place, all those tattooed hooligans running around starting fights."

Frank looks down at his tattoos and looks back up at Mikey. Mikey shrugs.

They're riding the bus back to their apartment, travel mugs of coffee in their hands, when Frank says, "So your hot date last night was with your mom. I'm not sure how I feel about that."

Mikey says, "Oh, my God."

"Like, yeah, okay, two consenting adults is two consenting adults, but I guess I'm kind of a prude when it comes to those consenting adults being related to each other."

Mikey says, "I'm going to throw up all over you, Jesus."

Frank laughs and sips his coffee and tips his head against the window, watching the city pass by. He says, "Did Glenn stand you up?"

Mikey says, "No," and crosses his arms over his chest.

Frank looks over at him. "Did you stand him up?"

"No," Mikey says quickly.

"You totally stood him up."

"I texted him to let him know it wasn't going to work out," Mikey says. "That doesn't count as standing somebody up."

"It's still kind of shitty."

Mikey closes his eyes and says, "I know. I chickened out, okay? I couldn't go through with it."

Frank says, "You know you can date a guy and never take it up the ass, right?"

Mikey says, "I thought dating him would make me feel more comfortable about getting fucked but it totally didn't. He was actually kind of. I don’t know. The sex was really boring."

Frank laughs, then sips his coffee.

"He would have been perfect if he hadn't just been so--" Mikey waves his hand.

"Vanilla?"

"Like, blander than vanilla. He was all," Mikey sighs. "And that's why I thought he'd be good, you know? But no."

Frank says, "I don't understand what you're saying even more than usual."

"He was all, like, tender lovemaking and shit. Which okay, yeah, nonthreatening, but what do I have to do to get a guy to pull my fucking hair when I'm blowing him?"

The woman three seats ahead of them turns to look at Mikey with wide eyes.

Frank says, "What?"

The woman turns back around.

Mikey says, "So, pretty sure I'm actually dying of embarrassment right now."

Frank says, "If you die, I'm leaving your body on the bus. Not because I don't give a shit but just because you're going to be way too heavy to drag all the way from the bus stop to the apartment."

Mikey says, "That's fair. Maybe I'll even make the news once my rotting corpse is discovered in a week. The whole time I was just sitting here, decomposing, and nobody knew I was dead because who makes eye contact on the bus?"

Frank says, "Yeah, fucking maggots eating your eyes and shit but who can tell behind your sunglasses?"

The woman turns around to look at them again. Frank says, "Okay, this is not even close to the most disturbing conversation you've overheard on the bus this week. If it is, then you don't take the bus enough."

The woman frowns at them and sighs and turns back around.

Mikey says, "Last week, I learned all about menstrual extraction. Not on purpose, just because the women sitting in front of me were talking about it. So what they do is--"

Frank says, "Don't."

Mikey grins at him. "It's kind of badass, actually. What you do is take a syringe hooked up to a jar and, like, plastic tubing, and then--"

Frank says, "Gonna barf all over you, seriously."

"You can talk about maggots eating eyeballs but you can't talk about menstrual blood? You're kind of fucked up, dude."

"No, it's not, I know what menstrual extraction is, okay? And it's not the period part that's gross, I just have this suction thing."

Mikey raises one eyebrow.

"From being in the hospital so much as a kid, you know? And they, like, suction all the fluid and mucus out of you and it's just, ugh, the sound and the way it feels and just, no. Hell is filled with cannulas."

Mikey says, "I always imagine that hell's filled with long division."

+++

Mikey's sitting at the breakfast table alternating between bites of peanut butter and jelly and bites of dill pickle. Frank isn't sure if he should be disgusted or impressed.

"So, here's the thing," says Mikey, and that's never good. Whenever he starts a sentence like that, he ends it with, But the smoke damage is totally temporary, I swear, or, I only got arrested a little bit, or, I'm sorry I fucked your cousins. At the same time. Twice.

Frank says, "Oh, God, is the FBI going to raid our apartment and confiscate everything?"

Mikey rolls his eyes. "Gerard totally exaggerates when he tells that story. They didn't confiscate everything, just all our VCRs. And televisions. And videotapes. Mostly he's still pissed off that they took all his porn and he had to start his collection over again from scratch."

Frank says, "They didn't give it back once they realized it wasn't part of your bootleg empire?"

"Nope. It was a really good collection, though. I figure some G-man is still jerking off to Gerard's years of hard work putting it together. But, okay, the thing is that I still have not been fucked."

Frank has to take a moment to swallow his orange soda and not shoot it out his nose.

"So, like, I figured you could give me advice."

Frank takes a deep breath and says, "Okay. Where would you like to start?"

"Well, I kind of nervous about it," Mikey says. He pops the last bite of pickle into his mouth and chews as he says, "I know if I wanted to, I could just go out and be bent over somebody's couch in about half an hour, but like. It hurts, right?"

Frank says, "No. I mean, it can, but it shouldn't actually hurt. It can feel a little weird or uncomfortable, but it shouldn't be painful."

Mikey says, "Really? Because I just think that, like, yeah, okay, I totally want to do it. Like, you have no idea how much I want to do it."

Frank sighs miserably.

"But I need to find the right guy, you know? Somebody who can walk me through it. So how do I find a guy like that? How do I know what to expect?"

Frank rests his head on the table. What he wants to say is, Dude, I will totally fuck your brains out any day of the week. He thinks that would probably make things awkward. He lifts his head back up and says, "Do you have, um, any toys?"

Mikey says, "What?"

"A dildo, fuckface. I'm asking if you have a dildo."

"Oh, my God," says Mikey.

"You let total strangers jerk you off until you're half out of your mind but you're embarrassed about owning a dildo?"

"I don't own a dildo!" Mikey cries. He chews on his lower lip. "Um. Do you?"

"My sex toys are none of your business," says Frank. "And yes. A few."

Mikey grins, wide and amused.

"So buy a dildo," Frank says. "Or a vibrator. Just make sure it has a flared base, okay? And use lots of lube. And just...go to town."

Mikey's not smiling anymore.

"Do you not want to get fucked?"

"No, I do. It's just, doing it myself isn't going to be the same."

"You should probably get used to having something up there, dude. It feels pretty weird at first. I mean, do you? Fuck my life for having to ask you this shit. Do you finger yourself?"

Mikey makes a face and looks away. Frank assumes that means yes.

"So, okay, that's a good start. But a cock is bigger than a finger. Or, like, three fingers, even. So, you know. Practice is good. Holy shit I need, like, eighteen shots of whiskey right now."

Mikey says, "Twenty."

Frank highly doubts that Mikey needs whiskey because he's thinking about fucking his roommate, but whatever. They don't actually have whiskey, so they smoke up instead. They smoke until the living room is hazy and Frank feels like his feet are floating.

"My feet are floating," he whispers.

Mikey makes a questioning sound and turns over on the couch so he's on his side, looking down at Frank. Frank's curled up on the floor beneath their coffee table. It's really comfortable and, like, safe there. Frank feels totally protected.

"My feet are floating," Frank says again.

Mikey blinks at him a few times and says, "Dude."

"Dude," says Frank in agreement. Most times he gets bouncy and talkative when he smokes up, but he's so fucking mellow right now. He's mellow and the floor's so fucking comfortable, like, cushioning his entire being. He closes his eyes and hums happily.

"So, like," says Mikey. "Okay. When you're about to have sex with a dude, how do you decide who gets fucked? Is it always the same person? Like, if I actually did buy a dildo or whatever and used it and liked it, does that mean that I'd always be the one to take it? Because, I don't know. I'm a manly guy, right?"

Frank giggles.

"I'm totally manly."

Frank shakes his head and opens his eyes. He says, "You can't. I mean, you're totally trying to apply outdated fucking gender roles to something that's, like, already a total violation of them. You like having cocks in your mouth. The people that make up the fucking--" He waves his hand. "The rules. The people who make the rules would already be like sorry, no, you like cock so you're not a real man. Which is just fucking bullshit. Fuck the gender binary!"

"Sometimes you really just like to remind people you went to fancy college, don't you?" Mikey asks, grinning at him. "We didn't use those highfalutin' words in community college."

Frank says, "Highfalutin'."

Mikey says, "You fancy now, huh, college boy?"

Frank giggles and scratches his stomach. He says, "So, you just talk about it. Like, dude, I totally want to fuck you right now. Or if you want to get fucked you just say, dude, I totally want you to fuck me right now. And then you get to know the guy and you just kind of start to know what you're both into and who wants what when. It's not a big deal."

"What do you usually like?" Mikey asks him.

"Both," says Frank. "But, um. Fucking. Like, yeah."

"So," says Mikey. "Um, so you could, like. If I asked, would you...?"

Frank blinks at him and tries to shake off the pot haze. He starts to giggle, more a nervous giggle than a stoned one.

"Fuck you, I'm not asking. I'm just saying if I did ask, like, physically it's something you'd be into. Not that you actually want to fuck me, just that you like fucking."

Frank says, "Dude, I totally want to fuck you right now."

Mikey leans over the edge of the couch and looks at Frank, and then he slides down. He slides down off the couch and actually fucking crawls towards Frank on his hands and knees, and Jesus fuck, even if Frank's brain isn't completely sure what's going on, his cock is ready to go.

Mikey kisses him, an open mouthed, we're going to fuck now kiss. It makes Frank's entire body tingle, and he sinks into the floor and lets Mikey kiss him, kisses back leisurely. He's so turned on his blood's buzzing, but he doesn't need to grab Mikey and flip him over and fuck his brains out; he's so fucking turned on, but he's okay with taking their time, just enjoying the taste of Mikey's mouth and the way their bodies feel pressed together.

When Mikey tries to shift over him, he cracks his head against the coffee table. "Ow," he whispers, laughing, pressing his face to Frank's chest.

Frank makes soothing noises and rubs the back of Mikey's head. "Change of venue?" he asks.

Mikey nods and slides out from under the coffee table and stands, offering his hand to help Frank up. Then he yanks Frank forward for another kiss.

Frank thinks about just kissing Mikey right there all night long. Then he thinks about lying down on his bed and, yeah. "Bed," he says, hooking his fingers in Mikey's belt loops. "Pillows and being, um. Which way's straight across, horizontal or vertical? I always have to think about that."

"Horizontal," says Mikey. "Like the fucking horizon, dipshit. Fancy college my ass." He grins and kisses Frank quickly, then heads towards Frank's room.

Frank watches him go, and Mikey's out of sight before he thinks, Hey, I should probably follow him. When he gets to his room, Mikey's glasses are resting on the edge of his desk and Mikey's sweatshirt and jeans are crumpled on the floor.

"Oh, wow," says Frank because Mikey's legs look even longer when he's naked. His hipbones are sharp, his nipples dusky pink. Frank's seen a lot of it before since they live together, since they sometimes spend weeks at a time living in a van with three other guys and there's no such thing as privacy, but wow. "You look good," he says.

Mikey says, "You look fuzzy."

Frank frowns before he realizes that without his glasses on, Mikey can't see more than a foot in front of his face. He laughs and moves forward, gets his hands on Mikey's hips and strokes his thumbs over the jut of bone. "You're going to have to take your socks off," he says, giving Mikey a small shove.

Mikey laughs as he hits Frank's bed. "My feet get cold."

"I don't care."

"Do you have a foot fetish? Are you going to suck on my toes?"

Frank shrugs, "It's not my thing, but I will if you want me to. Mostly I just don't want this to be like bad porn, fucking with socks on." He yanks his shirt off over his head and lets it fall, shoves his jeans and underwear and socks off all in one go. Then, since Mikey hasn't moved to take them off, he grabs one of Mikey's ankles and tugs off one sock, then the other. "Much better," he says.

"You only have yourself to blame when I put my cold toes against your skin to warm them up."

Frank can live with that. He kisses Mikey's ankle, then climbs onto the bed and kisses his way up Mikey's calf, licks at his kneecap and all the way up his thigh.

"Suck me off," Mikey says, arching his hips.

Frank grins and kisses just to the side of the soft brown hair curling up in a line beneath Mikey's navel. "No."

"Come on. Fuck. Want your mouth on me."

"This is not Mikey gets his dick sucked time, okay? This is Mikey gets a dick in his ass time, so roll over."

Mikey says, "Are you this pushy to make up for your low self-esteem?" but he rolls over.

Frank slides Mikey's thighs further apart and kneels between them. Mikey's skinny, but his ass is round and, like, pert. Frank grins. Pert is a hilarious word. He leans forward and braces his hands on the mattress so he can rub his cock against the cleft of Mikey's ass.

Mikey pushes his shoulders up and says, "Dude, don't just fucking put it in!" He sounds panicked.

"Shhhh." Frank kisses the back of his neck. "I'm not. I won't. I'm just rubbing right now, okay?"

"You have to warn me before you put it in. Promise you'll warn me."

Frank smiles and rubs his nose against the knob at the top of Mikey's spine. "The whole point of this is to show you how good it feels," he whispers. "And if it doesn't feel good, just tell me no and I'll stop."

Mikey relaxes back down and takes a deep breath. He says, "I kind of like saying no when I don't mean it."

"Then say kittentits."

Mikey laughs softly and says, "Yeah. Okay."

Frank maybe keeps his lube right there under his pillow because he's a lazy fuck who doesn't want to get up to dig through his desk drawers when he's horny. It's totally handy, though, to just grab it and lean back and drip some on his fingers so he can warm it up before he touches Mikey's ass.

Mikey takes a shaky breath as Frank strokes over his hole, but he slides his legs further apart and arches his back to give Frank better access. When Frank presses two fingers inside, Mikey lets out a soft, "Oh," and the tension goes out of his shoulders.

"Okay?" Frank asks.

Mikey drapes his arms over the back of his head and says, "Weird. Good, though. I just don't usually. Usually I'm already really close before I do it myself."

Frank finger fucks him slowly, thinking about Mikey jerking himself off, bringing himself to the edge over and over again. He says, "How do you do it?"

"Hmm?"

"When you jerk off. How do you do it? Do you stop when you get close? Keep yourself on the edge?"

"Yeah," Mikey whispers. His hips start to roll against the mattress. "Until I'm just. It makes me feel like I'm losing my mind, makes me want it so fucking much." He moans softly as Frank presses another finger inside. When Frank starts to twist his fingers, Mikey says, "Don't."

Frank freezes. "Too much?" he asks, pulling his fingers out.

Mikey rolls onto his back and looks up at Frank with an amused expression. "I didn't say kittentits."

Frank says, "Oh." He looks down at Mikey, legs splayed, body completely relaxed. Something drops in his belly, hot and aching. He grabs a condom out of the drawer in his nightstand and slicks it on. "Tell me you want me to fuck you."

Mikey bends his knees, planting his feet flat on either side of Frank. "Please," he whispers.

Frank leans forward, lifting one of Mikey's legs and hooking it over his shoulder. He rubs his cock against Mikey's hole. "If you want it, you have to ask for it."

Mikey closes his eyes and Frank's pretty sure he's blushing when he whispers, "Fuck me."

Frank presses in slowly, thankful for the weed in his system that keeps him mellow enough to stay in control. He can feel his lizard brain sneaking up on him, but the desperate, all-consuming need hasn't taken over, yet.

Mikey winces and bites at his lower lip.

"Okay?" Frank asks. He's all the way in and Mikey keeps taking quick, sharp breaths.

Mikey nods. "Give me a second?"

Frank drops down onto his elbows and kisses Mikey's throat. "Do you want me to pull out?"

"No. Stay deep, just like that."

Frank does. He mouths along the line of Mikey's jaw, slides his tongue over the stubble beneath his chin, catches Mikey's earlobe between his teeth and pulls back slowly. Mikey shudders and digs his fingers into Frank's back.

"Still good?" Frank asks, Mikey's beard scraping his lips. He likes the way it feels so he trails his open mouth over Mikey's cheek, kisses his cheekbone, kisses his way back to Mikey's mouth.

"You always so, oh, that's..." Mikey trails off and shifts a little bit, arching his hips up. He lets out a slow breath. "You always use your mouth so much?"

Frank's never really thought about it. "I guess?"

Mikey says, "It's nice. You can move if you want. Slowly."

Frank grinds his hips in a slow circle and kisses Mikey gently. He says, "Hi."

Mikey smiles back up at him and Frank notices for the first time that his eyes aren't uniformly brown, notices the gold specks that make them so warm. "Hi," he whispers. "Your dick's in my ass."

"Still weird?" Frank asks him.

"A little bit. Mostly good, though. Don't stop even if I tell you to."

Frank laughs and bites at Mikey's lower lip. "You totally love getting fucked by me."

"Says who?"

"Me. You love it. Want me to fuck you harder?"

Mikey says, "No," but he wraps his leg around Frank's waist. He says, "Let me go."

"But I'm not holding you down," Frank points out.

"So pull my hair, asshole."

Frank does. He winds his fingers though Mikey's hair and tugs and kisses him hard, hips snapping forward. Mikey moans and arches up against him. He says, "You can be rough. You can make me take it."

"Don't wanna make you take it," Frank pants. His lizard brain is coming to the forefront, taking over the thrust of his hips, the scrape of his teeth over Mikey's skin. "Want you to beg me for it."

Mikey whispers, "Please." His voice is so pretty like that, raw and breathy. "Oh, Jesus, Frank, just like that."

"Knew you liked it," Frank whispers in his ear. He's hot all over, starting to sweat. Mikey's tight and perfect around him, his ass hot and slick, his arms wrapped tight around Frank's back.

Mikey gasps out, "I don't. I don't want it."

"Of course you do, fuck, look at you aching for it."

Mikey says, "Please." Mikey says, "Harder." Mikey says, "No, no, no, don't, Frank, don't, not like this, God, want to come so bad."

Frank's back is starting to ache and he has to push up and lean back on his knees. He keeps his thrusts quick and hard, though, grips Mikey's thigh tight and tips his head to kiss Mikey's calf and his ankle where it's resting over Frank's shoulder.

Mikey reaches for his cock and Frank actually slaps it away. "Don't touch," he growls.

"I need--"

"Do I have to tie you up?"

Mikey shudders and says, "Oh, fuck yeah."

There's no way Frank's actually stopping for long enough to find something to tie Mikey up with, but he pins Mikey's arms above his head.

"Touch me," Mikey begs. "I need it."

"Thought this was what you liked," Frank gasps, aware of the taunting tone of his voice. "Thought this was what you wanted. Thought you liked it when it feels so good you think you'll lose your mind."

Mikey laughs mirthlessly and turns his head to the side, wrapping both his legs around Frank's waist. He says, "Oh, Jesus, why the fuck did I wait so long for this?"

Frank just kisses him because he doesn't want to talk about all the chances Mikey's had to do this with other people. He doesn't want to talk about the way he's someone safe, someone Mikey can trust to show him the ropes. He doesn't want to talk about how after this, Mikey's probably just going to go out and slip away with nameless boys the same way he does with nameless girls and how it'll be Frank's fault for giving him this, for teaching him how good it can be.

He doesn't talk because there's nothing good he can say and because all he can think about is fucking, now, all he can think about is the slam of his body into Mikey's body, the sweat rolling down his spine, the heat where they're connected.

When Mikey's writhing and moaning wordlessly beneath him, gasping and pink-cheeked and sweaty, Frank shifts his hold on Mikey's wrists so he can reach down. He grips Mikey's cock and between their sweat and Mikey's precome, the slide is easy as he jerks Mikey off. He'd stop if he could, would get Mikey to the edge and then let go, but he can't. He wants to see it so bad, wants to feel Mikey coming apart beneath him, around him, wants to know the sounds Mikey makes when he loses control.

Mikey goes completely silent when he comes, tenses and his eyes fly open and his lips part and he doesn't make a sound. He shudders and digs his heels into Frank's back and Frank can feel Mikey coming inside and out, can feel the way Mikey tightens around him, can feel the swell of Mikey's cock in his hand and then the pulse of it, getting his hand wet and sticky.

Frank keeps thrusting and he keeps jerking Mikey's cock and Mikey's silence turns into a long, low groan. "Don't," he pants. "Don't, don't, stop, please Frankie, please." He begs Frank to stop but he's got one arm free, now, and he doesn't use it to push Frank away. He just reaches up and twists the sheets in his hand and moans, "No, no, no, no, don't, please stop, please."

Frank doesn't stop. He keeps fucking and he keeps jerking Mikey off and his own orgasm hits him hard enough that he curls forward and grunts helplessly against Mikey's chest, hips jerking of their own volition until his lizard brain is spent and sated.

He pulls out slowly and flops gracelessly onto the mattress next to Mikey. He kisses Mikey's shoulder and watches as Mikey trembles, watches Mikey slide his hands down his chest and through the mess of come on his stomach, watches Mikey slide his palm over the head of his cock and shiver.

He says, "I saw you. With Fabio, I saw you. You were saying no and I thought he was raping you so I grabbed a frying pan and opened your door and I saw the way he had you tied up. I saw you begging for it."

Mikey turns to look at him, eyes fluttering shut as he strokes his middle finger over the sensitive underside of his cockhead.

Frank closes his eyes and whispers, "You looked really good."

He doesn't know what time it is when he feels Mikey kiss his temple. The sweat on his body has dried and the post-orgasm endorphins are no longer enough to hide the ache in his lower back or the way his dick's pleasantly sore. Mikey kisses his temple and touches his hair gently, tugs the covers up over Frank's shoulders and heads quietly out of Frank's room.

Frank waits until he hears Mikey's door shut to open his eyes. He feels a little bit like crying as he rolls onto his stomach and thinks, Thanks for the orgasm. See you around, maybe.

+++

Frank distracts himself from the ache in his chest with a flurry of packing. They've got seven months of shows guaranteed with the possibility of more and everything he can't take with him is going to have to go into storage. Mikey argues that they should just leave their apartment like it is and renew the lease and pretend it's a storage unit, but not even he can justify paying rent on a place he's not living in for seven months, especially since the storage is going to be free, in his old room or in Frank's mom's basement.

"You just don't want to pack," Frank says as Mikey stands in the middle of his room, turning in a slow circle like he has no idea where to start.

"Packing's awful," Mikey says. "I take it back. Hell's not filled with long division. Hell's a place where every single morning you wake up and have to pack and move and just when you get settled in, the next morning you wake up and have to pack and move all over again. Forever."

Frank thinks that version of Hell sounds pretty bad.

They don't talk about fucking. They don't talk about how Frank's a pervert who accidentally spies on his friends having kinky gay sex.

For as much as it sucks for things to go back to normal, it's actually worse than that. They sit further apart on the couch than they used to and their banter feels forced. Any time Frank would normally mock Mikey about his taste in guys or do an impersonation of him saying no over and over again turns into a long, uncomfortable silence.

The closest they come to talking about it is one night a few days before they're supposed to leave for tour. Mikey steps around the boxes on the way to his room, then turns and says, "It sucks not hanging out with you anymore."

Frank just says, "We hang out all the time and we're about to live in a van together for a year. You're going to wish you never had to fucking hang out with me in a few weeks."

Mikey just looks at him, then shrugs and turns away.

What was Frank supposed to say? That he doesn't just want to hang out with Mikey? That what he wants is to have Mikey naked next to him every night? That what he wants is for Mikey to kiss him and make him laugh and hold his fucking hand?

+++

The first thing Frank's aware of is a hand on his shoulder, shaking him. He mumbles something that's supposed to mean, "Go away," and rolls over onto his side, tugging his covers over his head.

Mikey clears his throat.

Frank blinks a few times and stares blearily at the wall until it comes into focus. He sighs and flops onto his back. Mikey's sitting on the edge of his bed, not looking at him. He says, "Dude."

Mikey says, "Oh. You're, um. Are you awake?"

Frank says, "You're about as subtle as a brick to the face. What time is it?"

Mikey shrugs. "Late. Sorry. I'll just. Never mind."

Frank rubs the heel of his hand against his eye and says, "You already fucking woke me up, dude. What's going on?"

Mikey says, "Nothing."

"Bullshit nothing." Frank looks at the clock. It's nearly six in the morning. "Why the fuck are you up so early?"

Mikey says, "Late. I haven't gone to sleep, yet."

Frank scoots over and lifts the covers, says, "Get in here." It's only then that he remembers that he and Mikey aren't friends the way they used to be, but it's too late.

Mikey sighs with what sounds like relief and slides into bed next to Frank. Frank's about to ask if he had a nightmare or something when Mikey shoves his hand into Frank's sweatpants and starts jerking him off.

Frank thinks he does a pretty good job of turning what could have been a startled yelp into an appreciative moan. He says, "What?"

"Thinking about you," Mikey whispers into his neck. "Thinking about this." He stops stroking for a moment to give Frank's cock a squeeze. "Thinking about how fucking good it felt and I've tried it alone. I even went to that fucking shop off the 46 to get a thing and it's good but it's not the same and I just fucking--"

Frank's brain is still mostly asleep, but his body's telling him that whatever's happening is a fantastic fucking idea, so he just goes with it. He kisses Mikey back and gets his hands under Mikey's t-shirt, touching as much skin as he can. He groans when Mikey goes down on him, throws one arm over his eyes and cries out and doesn't look because if he sees how good Mikey looks with Frank's dick in his mouth, he'll come way too soon. He fucks Mikey from behind, spooned up against him, fingers laced together and held tight over Mikey's heart.

Afterwards, when Mikey shifts away from him, Frank says, "Stay. Stay with me tonight. Don't leave like you did before."

Mikey's voice is soft when he asks, "Did you want me to stay last time?"

Frank says, "I always want you to stay." Then he wants to take it back but he can't so he just leaves it out there, hanging.

He doesn't know what it means when Mikey shifts and touches his face and whispers, "Oh."

They sleep and wake and kiss for a while, grind together sleepily and fall asleep making out. Frank finally has to get out of bed around two in the afternoon to piss. He brushes his teeth and looks up as Mikey comes into the bathroom, scratching the back of his head and yawning as he heads to take a piss. It's like a totally normal afternoon for both of them except how neither one of them is wearing clothes.

Frank heads back to bed while Mikey's brushing his teeth and he doesn't know what's going to happen. He doesn't know if they're going to talk about it or if it's going to happen again, if they're going to be fuckbuddies or just friends who slept together a few times. He doesn't expect Mikey to climb back into bed next to him and yawn and curl up with his head on Frank's pillow, fingers resting on Frank's chest.

He doesn't expect Mikey to say, "Do not tell Gerard about this. I mean it this time."

"I'm pretty sure you meant it last time," Frank says, then yelps when Mikey pinches his nipple. "Ow, fuck, your bony fucking fingers are deadly weapons, Jesus."

Mikey says, "You didn't seem to mind them when they were in your ass."

Frank can't argue because that's totally true.

"He's going to figure it out eventually, but let me be the one to handle it, all right? He gets kind of weird and all big brotherly with people I'm dating."

Frank says, "I've never seen him be weird with any of your dates."

Mikey says, "That's because you've never known me when I was actually dating somebody seriously. But he gets weird and protective and I'm warning you now, I know how to handle him when he gets like that. Don't just fucking blurt shit out because you want to distract him or you feel guilty about fucking his little brother because you'll regret it."

Frank's smiling so huge, his cheeks are starting to ache. "This is serious? You and me?"

Mikey says, "Yes?" and bites his lower lip. "Unless you don't--"

Frank kisses him and says, "I really fucking do."

They smile stupidly at each other for a while in the way that Frank totally makes fun of when it's other people. When it's him, though, he just gazes into Mikey's gold-brown eyes and smiles and feels stupid and happy and nervous and giddy and pretty much every emotion he would never want to admit to anybody. Then he laughs and says, "Say dildo."

Mikey looks over at him suspiciously. "What?"

"Say the word dildo."

Mikey says, "Is that a kink of yours or something?"

"No. I was mostly asleep and getting a surprise handjob at the time, but I'm pretty sure you called it a thing last night."

Mikey says, "What are you talking about?"

Frank pokes at him. "Don't fucking play dumb with me. You told me you went to the sex shop in Fairfield and bought a thing."

Mikey says, "What's your point?"

"My point is I'm pretty sure you bought a dildo."

"And?"

"And I think if you're going to own a dildo, you should be able to say the word."

Mikey rolls his eyes and tries to look bored and too cool to care. Turns out not even Mikey can pull off aloof and unconcerned when he's totally naked and sporting sex hair.

Frank says, "Are you blushing?"

"No."

"You're blushing. You're blushing and you can't say dildo."

Mikey fixes him with a glare. He says, "Dildo." His cheeks flush dark pink.

Frank says, "Fuck, that's hot," and kisses him hard. He's got an old shoebox under his bed that holds his sex toys, sturdy cardboard that had once housed his favorite boots. He'd been planning on hiding it in his mom's basement while he was on tour, but now he knows he's totally bringing it with him if for no other reason than to make Mikey blush like that whenever he can.