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Love: The Package Deal

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Gerard has a previously unknown allergic reaction to something he eats during lunch and Mikey and Frank rush him to the emergency room. He's blotchy and not breathing right and Frank's never been more scared, even though, when he thinks about it, he's seen Gerard in what were possibly worse situations, though neither of them realized it because they were so trashed. Frank spends a rough couple of hours on the phone, in a private room, talking to Lindsey, who's on tour with MSI in Brussels where it's 4 in the morning; to Ray who's home visiting with his Mom; to Bob in Chicago; to Jamia; and to Brian, who shows up at the hospital in time to listen to the doctors tell them that Gerard's resting, but he'll be fine, they can take him home when he wakes up and here's a list of all the things he shouldn't eat until they can get him in for a full round of tests.

When they're back at Mikey and Alicia's, Mikey goes to make coffee and Frank sits with Gerard on the couch and they put on Friday the 13th, the first one, and Gerard, who seems dazed, leans into Frank's shoulder. "I feel fine, really, I'm fine," Gerard says, and then he tips his head back and it's a clear invitation and Frank leans down and kisses him, because, Christ, he was scared. Frank's going for a quick kiss, a reassuring press of lips, but Gerard opens his mouth and Frank wraps his hand around the back of Gerard's neck and it's a little more than just reassurance. Frank pulls back to see if he can figure out what exactly it is from Gerard's expression, which is a blissful smile.

"Gee," Frank says, his hand stroking the nape of Gerard's neck. Gerard bites his bottom lip like a fucking flirt.

"I'm fine," he practically purrs, and Frank can't believe he's doing this now, because Mikey is just in the other room, and besides, they haven't done this offstage since - well. So Frank thinks Gerard has to be fucking with him, until Gerard says, "This couch is nice. Are we at your house? I'm sorry, I must be really drunk." And that's when Frank starts to panic.

The doctors are baffled, though they don't say that. They keep saying things like "unusual reaction" that make Frank want to punch them out, because they don't understand. They don't fucking understand how bad this is. This isn't supposed to happen to Gerard. Not Gerard. Why couldn't it have been any of them? Why couldn't it have been Frank? He would have happily taken this one for Gerard, to spare him. Gerard asking him for a beer echoes in his head. It's the thing that freaks him out more than anything, more than the idea of four years of Gerard's memory gone. It's the fact that Gerard was a different person, lost, broken, drinking and puking every night, unsettled, heart-broken, scared. And he worked through that, he worked his ass off to get through it, to make his life what it is now. Gerard has accomplished so much and life kicks him in the fucking balls and brings him back to one of the places where he was at his worst, and Frank wants to break the first thing he can get his hands on.

The doctors begin the, "What's the last thing you remember" process, with help from Mikey and Alicia, while Frank paces on the other side of the room. Gerard treats it as a game and starts listing off random things he remembers, like the last television show he thinks he watched, the last show they played, the last time he did laundry. It takes all of them wracking their brains to figure out the last thing Gerard remembers, which seems to be a gig they played in Connecticut, and a fight he had with Bert.

Bert, Frank thinks, is the last name he wants to hear. Not now, not ever again honestly, although lately Gerard had been good about mentioning Bert without totally getting down on himself, or not mentioning Bert at all, which is better. It isn't just Bert, though Frank never really liked the guy. But if they've gone back in time in Gerard's head, it means they've gone back to a time when Bert was around, when he was on Gerard's mind, when Gerard was thinking that he only knew how to screw up relationships.

"You and Bert aren't talking right now," Frank says, and then quickly looks at the floor, silently begging that they don't have to talk about Bert any more than that.

The doctor takes Mikey and Alicia out into the hall, and, at Alicia's raised eyebrows, Frank follows. The doctor says, in a stern voice that Franks thinks sounds disapproving, "This isn't how memory works." There's a long pause where they're all waiting to see if the doctor's going to say anything more, but he just looks baffled.

Mikey finally says, "It's how Gerard works," and Frank thinks he's kind of right. Gerard has experienced trauma and reverted, not to another time that was more comfortable and safer, but to a time where things were out of control. Gerard matches like with like, and something in his body went out of his control and his brain went right along with it, casting about for the first thing that must have felt like not being able to breathe. It makes total sense to Frank, and when he looks at Mikey, Mikey's clearly thinking the same thing.

The doctor looks at both of them like they're crazy, and spends the rest of the conversation directing his comments and questions to Alicia.

When they go back in, Frank feels like they have a better sense of what's going on, but trying to tell Gerard is something else.

"Listen, seriously, are you guys fucking with me?" Gerard says, once again trying to get up from the hospital bed. He's been asking them, in various ways, if they're fucking with him, for five straight minutes, and nothing they say seems to convince him that they're not. "Because you know I don't think this sort of thing is funny. I mean, ok, maybe it could be funny. You must have gone to a lot of work, but...." Gerard stops, and Frank thinks, thank god, he's catching on, until he realizes Gerard is staring at Frank's arms. "You got new tattoos," Gerard says quietly. "I saw you yesterday, and you didn't have those." He reaches for Frank's arm, stops before he touches Frank's skin. He looks up into Frank's eyes for a long moment and Frank isn't' sure what Gerard sees, Frank's terror, the sadness, the fear, but Gerard goes sort of limp and sits back on the hospital bed.

"Mikey?" Gerard says, looking up at his brother, and Mikey nods. Gerard doesn't say anything more until the doctor comes back in and then Gerard takes it in stride, asking questions about his diagnosis, what he should and shouldn't do, agreeing to tests that would normally have made him freak out.

Frank offers to make all the phone calls, to everyone except to Gerard's mom, which Mikey insists on putting off for as long as possible, because Frank doesn't really know what else to do. Gerard sitting calmly in the hospital is a special kind of nightmare for Frank, because it's Gerard surrendering, Gerard submitting, and even if it's for his own good in this case, Frank has considered way too many nightmare scenarios where Gerard drank himself nearly to death, or overdosed, or got so scared and far inside himself that not even Mikey could get him out.

Instead of panicking, Frank focuses on the fact that Gerard noticed his tattoos. Frank's not even sure he remembers his tattoos from that long ago, except maybe that his right arm was nearly bare. Gerard's fingers had lingered over a Jamia tattoo on the inside of Frank's wrist. It doesn't mean anything, Frank thinks, except that one was obviously new. It doesn't mean anything that Gerard focused on that one.

"An MRI, Gee, and a CAT scan, good job. You didn't even flinch when the doctor took your blood," Mikey says, as they're leaving the hospital. Gerard asks pretty nicely, when he's discharged, if he can leave in a wheelchair, and they let him. Frank and Alicia each push a side of Gerard's wheelchair. They're supposed to bring him to a neurologist in two days. The doctors will call with test results. Frank thinks it sounds like the parody of bad date, giving out your number to someone and knowing they're never gonna call, or, worse, they'll call and say the same things they said before, the things that mean nothing. Gerard shakes his head, like he's trying not to remember the tests, or that he was in the hospital at all.

"You want a coffee?" Frank asks.

Gerard looks at Frank strangely, and says, "Ok," like he's not really sure.

And ok, Frank thinks, that's weird. Sure, Gerard didn't always drink coffee like breathing, but Frank has gotten so used to it, to spotting Starbucks, to sensing when Gerard might have a craving. It was just what you did with Gerard. He gives so much of himself that he needs someone to watch over him. He needs lots of people. He needs his brother and he needs Lindsey, and he needs his band. Gerard needs them all because he won't ask, he won't remember that it isn't a favor he is asking, it isn't a hardship. It isn't anything at all for Frank to give and give and give to Gerard. Frank had been sure that, after a day like this, Gerard would want coffee.

"What's my favorite coffee?" Gerard says. "I don't remember, you'll have to order for me, Frankie. Starbucks doesn't have liquor shots, right?" He's making a joke, but Frank's chest tightens.

Inside the Starbucks, the air is full of espresso and sweet syrup. Frank catches his breath in line. He wonders if when they wake up tomorrow, Gerard will be ok, if he'll be back to his normal self. If something can trigger it, like always happens on TV, Gerard's first sip of Starbucks coffee. Maybe when he kisses Lindsey. If Gerard's wife can bring his memory back, Frank isn't going to begrudge either of them their marriage.

And that makes him laugh hysterically while the barista is making his order, because Gerard has fucking forgotten he's married and none of them have remembered to tell him. The barista gives Frank a shifty look, and he smiles at her, trying to pull himself together. He takes the coffees in a tray back outside, and hands them out. Alicia is on her cell, Mikey and Gerard are talking about when Mikey got LASIK.

Gerard is half-way through his second cigarette, takes a last drag, takes a sip of coffee, and leans over and kisses Frank. Frank feels the world stop, Gerard's mouth hot from the coffee, tasting like cigarettes and so damn familiar and when Gerard pulls back, he's grinning. He takes a long sip of his coffee, and doesn't notice the way Mikey and Alicia are staring at Frank. Frank doesn't meet their eyes, because he's not sure he wants to know whether they think it's good or bad. Frank lights a cigarette, and Gerard and Mikey pick back up and they start walking to the car. Alicia hangs up her phone, falls back to walk with Frank.

"That was Lindsey. Her flight gets in an hour," Alicia says. Frank looks at Gerard's heels in front of him as they walk.

"I'll go pick her up," Frank offers.

Alicia shakes her head. "No," she says. "I'll go. You go back to the house with Mikey and Gee."

Frank nods. He can feel that Alicia wants to say something and he really wishes she'd just come out with it. Frank realizes he's holding his breath.

"Listen," she says, and then hesitates and finally comes out, with, "is everything ok?"

"Yeah," Frank says, forcing a smile.

"Ok," is all Alicia says, and then she skips forward, kisses Mikey, takes the keys, and takes off to her car.

Mikey sticks the list of forbidden foods on the refrigerator, and Gerard starts to protest when he reads it. "Hey, I like peanut butter!" he says.

Mikey just looks at Gerard and says, "This is serious," and Gerard nods.

Mikey sits down at the computer and starts opening up tab after tab of YouTube videos. Frank listens to his phone messages, two from Ray, one from Bob, two from Schechter, and then calls everyone back. He doesn't have a lot of information, mostly he just says that they're waiting for Lindsey to come back, and Mikey grabs the phone when Frank is talking to Bob and starts asking Bob questions about what he remembers from when he first joined the band. Frank wanders off when it seems like Mikey and Bob won't be finished anytime soon, and he finds Gerard with his face pressed up against the window.

"What are you looking at?" Frank asks. Gerard turns his face so he's looking at Frank, but his cheek is still pressed against the glass of the window pane.

"The outside," Gerard says and shrugs. "The window feels good."

"Do you have a fever?"

"Are you gonna feel my forehead, Frankie?" Gerard asks, and Frank just shakes his head, because yeah, he was just about to, but no, he's sure not going to now. With Gerard giving him that smile, with his head titled back and his neck bared for Frank, it would be a completely different kind of gesture, and Frank, knows when Gerard is inviting him to cross a line, and when it's better to say no.

When Frank doesn't say anything, Gerard says, "So, Bert..."

"What about Bert?" Frank says, when he really wants to say, "Shut the fuck up about Bert." He's trying to be cautious with Gerard, not pick a fight.

"Bert and I had a fight," Gerard says plainly.

"Yeah, you had a fight. And you don't talk anymore." Frank casts about for something to do with his hands, settles on tugging his jeans up. Frank watches as Gerard's eyes go to Frank's waist.

"So no one called him."

"No," Frank says, harshly.

"Ok, good," Gerard says, and turns and presses his forehead back against the window pane, leaving Frank looking at the curls of hair at the back of Gerard's neck, wanting to touch them, and having to force himself to walk away, find Mikey and get his goddamn phone back.

Maybe twenty minutes later, which Frank has spent avoiding Gerard and helping Mikey quietly remove all of the alcohol in house, Lindsey comes in behind Alicia, walks into the living room and Gerard looks up from his inspection of Mikey's DVD collection. "Hey," he says. "Lindsey, right?" He stands up and shakes her hand. "What...uh, what are you doing here?"

To her credit, she barely flinches. Her eyes are calm and she says, "I came here to see if your memory was back."

"Uh, no," Gerard says, and his smile is earnest, but confused.

"Well," she says, and then nods. "So, listen, a year ago, we started seeing each other, and then a few months ago, we got married, right at the end of your tour. At Christmas, we bought a house. I'm gonna go back there, drop my stuff off, get a change of clothes. You want to come with me? We'll come right back to Mikey's after?"

It's all carefully measured, and Frank has a new respect for Lindsey.

Gerard nods, but he's not looking at anyone. Lindsey kisses Mikey, Alicia, hugs Frank, and then she says, "Ok, whenever you're ready," to Gerard. He nods again, gets up and hugs his brother, Alicia steps back and smiles because Gerard isn't sure what to do. He smiles back at her gratefully. Gerard usually would have kissed her cheek, or pulled her hoodie up over her head, or told her to treat his brother right. It's obvious that this Gerard isn't really sure who she is.

Finally, Gerard comes over to Frank. He looks like he's about to lean in for a hug, but then Gerard reaches up and touches Frank's cheek, gently, and it's incredibly tender and also transparently intimate and it makes Frank's mouth go dry. "I'll be back soon, Frankie," he says, like he's comforting Frank when he's really comforting himself. He trails his fingers down over Frank's lips and Frank kisses them, then looks up at Lindsey, who's watching, curious, calm. Frank looks back at Gerard, who looks genuinely frightened.

"Call if you need anything, Gee, ok?" Frank says, and he's not sure it's enough, "We'll see you soon." Frank watches as Gerard pulls the door shut behind him, and follows Lindsey out to the car.

"He's freaking," Mikey says once Gerard is gone. "And I smell like fucking rubbing alcohol because I spilled some of it on me."

"He wouldn't drink that, would he?" Frank asks, but then he remembers Gerard raiding everyone's suitcases, opening everything with a cap and sniffing it, evaluating the potential for the contents to give him a high.

He goes into Mikey's bathroom, locks the door, and splashes water on his face. He leaves the tap running, closes his eyes and thinks of Gerard, of Gerard kissing him, Gerard touching his face, tracing his lips like that. When he comes out, Alicia has made him a pop-tart.

"Here," she says, and gives it to him and walks away. Frank really likes Alicia. He follows her, because he wants to ask her something.

"Alicia, would it be all right if I stayed?"

"Don't even think of leaving until Gerard gets back here, ok?" she says. Frank nods. He really, really likes Alicia. "Go play Guitar Hero with Mikey. And let him win at least once. His brother's got amnesia."

Frank plays an hour of Guitar Hero with Mikey and when they still haven't heard from Gerard or Lindsey, he goes upstairs to Mikey and Alicia's spare room, where there's a dresser, a futon, and a computer, and an exercise bike that it looks like neither of them has ever used. He sits on the futon, kicks off his sneakers, and takes out his phone. He looks at it a long time, and then he calls Jamia.

She doesn't answer, and so he leaves a message. He's not even really sure what he says, sort of rambles through the story, about how they went back to the hospital, how Gerard has lost his memory, that Lindsey is home, and that he's going to stay at Mikey and Alicia's a little longer, and she's welcome to come over if she wants. He lies down on the futon, and closes his eyes.

His phone wakes him. He thinks it's Jamia calling him back and he answers before he even opens his eyes. "Hon?" he says.

"Frankie?"

It's Gerard, and he's whispering. Frank sits up, shakes his head to clear it. "Gee? Is everything ok?"

"Besides the fact that I'm in a house that's supposed to be mine with a woman who's supposedly my wife? I don't know, not really, I guess." Gerard's voice is tight. "She's in the bathroom right now. I feel like I'm sneaking around, but apparently I'm in my bedroom. I wrote a comic book, Frankie, why didn't you tell me?"

Frank isn't even sure what to say. Gerard is sneaking away from Lindsey to call him while she's in the bathroom. "I'm sorry, Gee, I'm used to you remembering your comic book, you fucking talked about it constantly."

"I mean, a comic book," Gerard says, and Frank laughs, because it's kind of ridiculous that Gerard could not remember Umbrella Academy. "Listen, I hear the water running, I'd better go. I think we're coming back to Mikey's anyway, so, see you soon."

It's the most bizarre conversation. Frank sighs and presses the heels of his hands into his eyes, so hard he sees spots. The door creaks.

"Are you lurking, Mikeyway?" Frank says.

"Did my brother just call you?" Mikey says, nudging the door open with his toes and then leaning in the doorframe.

Frank nods. "It was strange. It was like he was hiding from Lindsey."

Mikey nods and says, "Imagine if I came in here and told you were married to Amanda Palmer."

"From the Dresden Dolls? I'd tell you to fuck off."

"And what if Amanda showed up here, picked you up and took you to a house that had all her shit and all your shit and your fucking family pictures on the wall."

Mikey's always been the smart one.

"Go back to sleep," Mikey says. "I'll wake you when he gets here."

Frank does go back to sleep, thinking about what it would be like to wake up and have gone back four years. When he wakes up, someone's sitting down on the futon. It's Lindsey. Her hand is resting on his ankle, and as soon as she notices he's awake, she pulls it back into her lap.

"Hey, sorry to wake you," she says. "I was still formulating my thoughts, I thought you were a heavier sleeper than that." She pulls her hair back into a ponytail, folds her legs up under her. "Are you awake enough to hear a proposition?"

Frank nods. He won't ask where Gerard is. He won't ask. He can sit here and talk to Lindsey and know Gerard is ok with his brother.

"So," she says. "I think Gerard should stay at the house, and I think you should come stay with us. I don't think he wants to stay with someone who's essentially a stranger to him, but I think he should be in his own house, even if he doesn't remember it. And I know he remembers you." There's something in the look Lindsey is giving him that makes Frank uncomfortable. He doesn't understand why being alone with her suddenly makes him feel like he's been cornered.

"Let me talk to Jamia," Frank says. He's already made the decision, though.

"Let's try it for a few days. He can always come back and stay with Mikey." She reaches over and squeezes Frank's knee. Their eyes lock for a second and they both look away. "Thanks," she says, like Frank's just held the door open for her, instead of agreed to consider moving in with her and her husband, who doesn't remember her. Frank's knee tingles where she's touched it.

He tries Jamia again, and then realizes, stupidly, that she left for Seattle this afternoon and she's probably still on the plane, and he hangs up before the voice mail picks up. Jamia calls him back a second later.

"I forgot you weren't home, hon, I'm sorry," he says instead of hello.

"Don't fucking hang up like that," she says fondly. "That's what happens in horror movies, you start dialing but the monster gets you just before the other person picks up."

"Do you hear any monster breathing?"

"I don't know, you could be the monster, pretending to be Frank."

Frank laughs. "Isn't that what I usually am? How's Seattle?"

"The street team here's awesome," she says. "First class, seriously. How's Gerard?" she says the last part quietly.

"Ok, I guess. I mean, he went over to the house with Lindsey and he's really freaked. He called me while he was over there."

"You've always been his touchstone," Jamia says and Frank considers the word. Touchstone. He'd never really thought of that. "And, think about it, you're the only one who hasn't really changed. Mikey's got a wife and a house. But you're still you. Gerard recognizes you."

"Yeah," Frank says, and then takes a deep breath and says, "Is this a good time to ask you something? I wanted to stay with Gerard and Lindsey for a little while."

"Of course," Jamia says. "I'll be in Seattle until Wednesday anyway. I'll come over once my flight gets in."

"Ok," he says, and tells her he loves her, and hangs up.

Gerard is quiet in the car on the way over to Lindsey's, and Frank thinks maybe he's going to fall asleep. Gerard is terrible about sleeping during drives. He's not the person you want to bring on a road trip, because he'll be all excited, talk about the games you're gonna play, 20 Questions and the license plate game and then immediately drop his chin to his shoulder, or tuck his head into his hoodie and fall asleep. It's different on the bus - it has to be different on the bus, you get used to the feel of wheels under your world. Frank thinks it's pretty reasonable, though, today - Gerard has had an exhausting day of things he usually hates - a visit to the doctor, tests, and everyone over-focusing all of their attention on him. And now they're on the way to Lindsey's, and Frank's shoulders are tense from trying to anticipate Gerard's reaction, trying to figure out what he's feeling.

Gerard's forehead is pressed against the window, and he's slumped in the seat. Frank thinks of Gerard in the early morning, after a show, pressed against the window in the seats in the kitchenette, not really seeming to pay attention and then launching into something, someone he'd seen in the audience, something smart Mikey had said, something in a comic book, the random observations that he wanted to share, and how so many of the moments made Frank wonder what it was really like in Gerard's head, with the littlest things he noticed, the small details he picked up, the tiniest things to which he attached significance, the strangest things Gerard focused on.

Gerard wasn't watching out the window. He was probably staring at the lock, wondering how it worked, wondering who designed it, who decided what it should look like. He probably wasn't thinking about the car at all, thinking about a melody in his head and when he'd have the quiet time to work it out. He was probably living in the middle of one of his fantasy worlds that he sometimes told Frank about late at night when they were both stuck almost but not quite asleep in the dark of the bus or an unfamiliar hotel bed. Worlds where they were all special, where people flew and floated and had magic in their blood and where everything they did had a story, it all meant something and it all followed a pattern. Worlds where he felt safe, where he felt normal.

"Do you want to drive?" Frank asks, because sometimes that makes things easier. Sometimes it's easier to sit behind the wheel, to be in charge of the travel. Because he thinks it might be easier if Gerard was doing something and Frank could sit and look out the window, watch the road fly by.

"I don't know the way," Gerard says, and it's sad, and true, and neither of them says anything the rest of the drive.

Frank can't get to sleep, probably because of how long he spent napping this afternoon, but he thinks it has more to do with the strangeness of the house, with the bizarre, unsettled feeling he gets from sleeping in the guest room of Gerard and Lindsey's house. He listens to the sound of the heat clicking on, listens to the creak down the hall that tells him someone else is up, too. After a few moments of quiet, when Frank almost is starting to fall asleep, he hears the door, and before he can turn around, get himself up from the futon where he wasn't quite awake and wasn't quite asleep, Gerard is next to him, lifting up Frank's shirt, licking up his spine.

"Jesus," Frank breathes out, and then, "Gerard, this isn't - "

He stops when Gerard climbs up on his legs, further pressing Frank on his stomach on the futon, and bites the middle of Frank's back. Frank moans, he can't fucking help it. Gerard's teeth tickle and hurt all at once and it feels incredible, and he's not thinking, he can't possibly think with Gerard touching him like this, with Gerard's mouth all over him. He says, "Gerard," and it comes out as a whisper instead of a protest.

Finally, he manages the willpower to turn over, dislodging Gerard, which it turns out is actually worse, because then Frank is on his back and Gerard is on top of him. Gerard's smile is a little manic, and he's already sliding his hands up and under Frank's shirt, pressing his mouth to the tattoos on Frank's stomach, when he asks, "Can we do this, Frankie?"

"Yes," Frank breathes out, and it's not what he meant to say at all. Gerard doesn't wait, just undoes Frank's jeans, hikes them down to his thighs and takes Frank's cock in his mouth. Frank bites down hard on his fist to stop from crying out, because Jesus Christ, it feels so good. Gerard feels so good and they haven't done this in forever, and it's so, so wrong and Frank just lets go and doesn't give a shit what's right and what's wrong, everything's so fucked up, and it's been so long since Gerard even touched him, since he had Gerard's full attention like this that Frank just can't refuse. Gerard is sloppy and urgent and making needy sounds and Frank doesn't even last. He comes hard, without even giving Gerard a chance to pull off and Gerard just swallows it down and Frank thinks, immediately, "Shit," because this is totally and absolutely the last thing that he should have let happen. Gerard wipes his mouth on the back of his hand, smearing come across it and it's obscene and Frank pulls at Gerard's collar, pulls him close and sucks hard on his neck. Gerard groans, "Frankie," and this isn't the way it usually worked. Gerard sucked him off, or Frank sucked Gerard off, or, a couple of times, they brought each other off frantically with hands and skin and friction. This is somehow a lot more deliberate. Gerard asked permission, and Frank gave it, and now Frank's about to wrap his hand around Gerard's cock and he doesn't want to rush. He wants to make it slow, wants to hear Gerard beg.

So he unzips Gerard's pants, shoves them down, and then, his voice catching, tells Gerard to take them all the way off. Gerard does, without hesitation, scrambling back onto the futon, naked below the waist, and Frank tells him to get on his back and spread his legs. He delights at the way Gerard's eyes go wide. Frank sucks on his finger, presses it behind Gerard's balls, then drags it slowly toward the crack of Gerard's ass. It's just spit and so Frank wants to go slow, not go too far but Gerard is whimpering and Frank presses in, just a little bit, and Gerard fucking pushes back down against Frank's finger. Frank wraps his other hand around Gerard's cock, tugs tightly and hisses, "Slow down," and Gerard breathes out, relaxes his hips slightly, lets his knees drop out. "Slow," Frank says, a little softer, and makes a fist around Gerard's cock, sliding up and down. Gerard arches up a little, into Frank's hand and Frank slides his finger a little deeper, almost until his knuckle. Gerard throws his head back and makes a strangled noise. It crosses his mind that Lindsey might hear them, might come in to check on him, but Frank doesn't really believe it, not enough to stop. He finds a rhythm, slow enough that his wrists start to ache but there's sweat across Gerard's temples and he can see the tendons in Gerard's neck and he's just waiting for Gerard to say it, just once, and when Gerard chokes out, "Please, Frankie, please," and Frank pushes a little further, tugs a little faster, does just what it takes to bring Gerard over the edge, Gerard's back arches, his breathing gets ragged, saying Frank's name too many times.

Frank kisses Gerard's jaw, kisses his mouth while Gerard still gasps for breath, and then says, lips against Gerard's forehead, "I'll be right back," and goes into the bathroom.

Frank doesn't want to turn on the light, so he runs the faucet and grabs the first washcloth he can find, squatting in the dark, soaps up his hands and wets the washcloth and then walks, quiet as possible, back into the guest room. He shuts the door behind him but before it's closed, he knows Gerard is already gone, leaving the blankets on the futon messed up, the room smelling of sex, and Frank, empty, exhausted. He lies down and falls asleep with the wet washcloth still in his hands.

Brian shows up with coffee and donuts at 8 in the morning, and Lindsey is the only one actually awake. Frank has been laying in bed, staring up at the ceiling, not really asleep anymore but trying to hold on to the blankness of the day. He hears Schechter - the man's voice is like trigger now, to be on his best behavior, to be on time, to get things done - and Frank hurries up and pulls on a clean-t-shirt and jeans and brushes his teeth. When he gets downstairs, Brian is sitting at the table, a chocolate frosted donut in one hand, a cigarette in the other.

"Morning," Brian says, like it's normal for him to be here, and that's what makes Frank want to grab Brian and fucking squeeze him hard, because Brian makes everything normal. He makes Gerard losing his fucking memory feel like business as usual. Frank could tell Brian about what happened last night, about how Frank hasn't seen Gerard since he fucking ran off last night, and Brian would just nod and offer helpful suggestions or possibly lean over and smack Frank right across the face, and either way, Frank knows that Brian would be giving him what he needs.

Frank nods, pours some coffee, looks to Lindsey to see where the sugar is. She opens up a cabinet, and Frank can fucking feel Schechter watching them. His instincts tell him Schechter is boss, and Schechter is around to see things they don't, to manage them. They never set limits on it, never said, "Ok, only manage us while we're on tour," and Brian has certainly taken up the charge.

He and Lindsey have obviously already had their conversation, and Frank forgets that Brian doesn't manage her, but his influence is the same, because Lindsey excuses herself to call her band and her manager, and she takes her cell phone and goes outside, grabbing a jacket.

"So," Brian says, as Frank reaches for a donut. 'What the hell are you doing?" Frank freezes at the tone. He meets Brian's eyes and they say, Go get your coffee, eat a donut, sit down. Frank does, and waits for Brian to talk, because if Frank knows anything, it's that you don't answer a Schechter question before he's done asking it. Frank takes two sips of his coffee and eats a whole donut before Brian says, "No, seriously, what the hell are you doing? Why'd you stay here last night? Did you forget you live, like, fifteen fucking minutes away?"

It's like Brian knows. Like he was dialed right in, like his rumored psychic connection with Gerard extended even further than anyone expected. "Lindsey asked me," Frank says.

"I know what Lindsey's idea was, what do you think she and I were talking about before you got your lazy ass out of bed, the weather?" Brian pulls at his chin like he does when he's impatient. Frank knows it's not a good sign, and so he tries to be as straightforward as possible.

"Gerard needs me."

Brian nods, sits back, takes another donut.

"And you know what that means?"

"Fuck you, Schechter, you're not my therapist." It's the wrong thing to say and Frank knows it, but he can't help himself.

"Look, I am just trying to watch out for this band, a band, I might remind you, who actively seeks out disaster despite my constant efforts to protect them. I was there, four years ago, Frank. I was woken up nightly at ungodly hours by phone calls from Gerard four years ago, and I don't mean the ones where he asked me to come pick him up because he was drunk somewhere."

Frank stares at Brian. He never knew that. "I shouldn't need to tell you this, but be careful with him. And be careful with yourself," Brian says, interrupting Frank's train of thought. He stands up quickly, gets a new cup and fills it with coffee. "I'm bringing this up to Gerard. I'm thinking of waking him up with a call for sound check, you think that'll freak him out?" Brian says, with an evil grin, and then is disappearing up the stairs.

Frank thinks that if Brian really is giving him what he needs, then right now Frank needs to have the shit scared out of him. Brian's tone was easy, and Frank loves and fears Brian's ability to see right into a situation and take it apart. Frank thinks about Brian's stark disapproval of Frank staying here, of the questions he asked Frank without really waiting for an answer. Lindsey comes back in, before Frank can get lost trying to figure out what Brian thinks is so wrong about what he's doing. Frank is suddenly, completely glad he didn't have a chance to tell Brian about last night.

Lindsey asks where Brian's gone, but she barely has a chance to get the question out before they hear Gerard shout, "Jesus fucking Christ, Schechter, I knew you were a fucking psycho from the very first moment I set eyes on you. Sound check. I'm gonna kill you, and I'll enjoy it."

Brian has brought several binders worth of news clippings, magazine articles, merch, set lists, tour schedules with him for a show and tell. "Did you keep a fucking scrapbook?" Frank asks.

Brian shoots him a withering look. "The label does have a librarian, you asshole." Gerard dives into it, like it's a toy box.

"This is like, going through someone's attic." Gerard seems calm this morning, after his outburst at Brian, and Frank wonders if it isn't the presence of Brian, giving legitimacy to a morning pawing through the archives of his own life, like it's entirely normal.

Gerard hesitates over the photo shoots the most, and Frank thinks he understands why. They never look like themselves in the photo shoots - there's always some angle, some story the photographer is telling that has nothing to do with the mood of their subject, nothing to do with their subject at all. Gerard looks at them all with skepticism, like he doesn't recognize himself.

Gerard reads over an article, looks up at Brian and says, "You're clean?"

And there's Brian's weakness: Gerard, always Gerard. Brian stumbles and mumbles out, "Yeah, couple years back. You got clean and showed me what I needed to do," and there's so much in that sentence, so much in the way Brian is holding himself, the long story of Gerard saving his own life then saving Brian's, and Gerard doesn't remember. Gerard puts the article down, and Brian actually looks shaken. He goes to get more coffee, and Frank follows.

"That's fucking freaky," Brian says. "I mean, he really has no idea."

"Yeah," Frank says, and then, because he's not sure what else to say, "Fucking Gerard."

Brian cracks up and claps a hand on Frank's back.

Frank pretty much successfully avoids Gerard for the rest of the day, between talking with Brian about what's going on with Gerard, carefully leaving out the exact reason he's avoiding Gerard, passing the phone back and forth and arguing with Bob about whether or not he ought to miss his cousin's wedding and fly in from Chicago ("Shut up, asshole, I'd fucking expect all of you to come here if I'd lost my memory.") and taking a ridiculously long shower. Brian instructs Lindsey to put on Mozart when Gerard starts getting freaked out.

"It'll make him fall asleep, like taking a fucking baby for a car ride. Two minutes in, he's fast asleep."

"So you're saying we ought to lay him down for a nap?" Lindsey says. She can't keep the smile from her face. Frank had never known that about the Mozart, but he takes the moment to grab his keys and go out to the car.

Frank needs to go home and get some things if he's going to stay over for more than one night, which he kind of thinks is the plan. Jamia's in Seattle until tomorrow, and when Frank pulls into the driveway, and his is the only car there, he already feels the quiet of the house, the heat turned down, the kitchen sink empty, everything quiet.

He pulls out a suitcase from where it never quite got put away, and starts throwing jeans and t-shirts and socks and underwear into it. He packs some things from the bathroom, a book, a couple of CDs, and then he just kind of stops and stands there in the middle of his bedroom. He's packing for a vacation, except he's not really going far and he's not really sure what he's going to do and he really wishes Jamia were here because she'd know what to pack, what to do. He could probably even tell her about what happened with Gerard last night, how he felt good about it, even now, how he felt guilty and happy. Jamia understood him when he got confused like this.

Jamia's always had a different understanding about how relationships worked. She'd been in a few relationships before she and Frank had gotten together. She lived with a couple – a man and a woman – for about a year, and she dated this one guy on and off who was also dating a few other people. He's heard Jamia correct people about the difference between polyamory and open relationships, but the idea of how it all works still escapes him.

He thinks it's the real reason that what he'd done before, with Gerard, was ok. He'd tell Jamia about it, on the phone on the quiet bus, or when she'd meet up with them on the road. Not the details, it wasn't like that, but he'd tell her like it was part of the answer to the question of how Gerard was doing. It made him feel closer to Jamia, that he could tell her about where he was vulnerable, that his weak spot was Gerard and that she understood it never meant that he didn't love her. It made him love her more, the more he opened up. Frank had thought what was going on was just about friendship, that it was just about Gerard. It was Gerard, and he always, always made exceptions for Gerard. It didn't mean anything about his relationship with his girlfriend.

He doesn't stay at the house long, because it's empty and he feels bad turning on all the lights, and so he calls Jamia as he wanders around in the dark and tells her about Brian's visit, about the effect that Brian had on Gerard, and Gerard on Brian.

"Do you think he and Gerard ever - " Frank says and he stops, because he's not really sure he wants to talk about Gerard like that.

"Ever what, sweetie?" Jamia asks.

"I don't know why I said that," Frank mumbles.

"Ok," Jamia says, "But did you mean you wonder if they ever slept together? You should ask."

"I'm not asking either of them that," Frank says quickly.

"Ok," Jamia says, backing off. "Ok, fine, but it's not a bad question. And it's not strange that you're thinking about it now, because you're trying to remember what four years ago was like for Gerard. It's not unreasonable at all to think that about Brian."

Frank gets a creeping feeling of discomfort. "I don't want to know that shit about my band."

"Ok," Jamia says, and Frank can tell he's being a little too intense. "You're the one who brought it up."

"I'm sorry," he says. "I can't wait for you to come home. I hate the phone sometimes."

"I know you do, Frankie, I know you do," Jamia says, and it makes Frank smile into the receiver, even if she can't see it.

When Frank gets back, Gerard is reading Umbrella Academy again with an expression of shock and anxiety on his face, and Lindsey is accepting an invitation to go over to Mikey and Alicia's for dinner.

"Did you get everything you need?" Lindsey says, as Frank hauls his suitcase up the front stairs.

"I forgot my toothbrush," Frank says, just realizing, picturing it lying on the bathroom counter.

"It's ok, I'm sure we have a spare," Lindsey says, and Frank wonders how people remember to do things like that, keep spare toothbrushes around for unexpected guests.

Frank follows Lindsey upstairs, where she opens up the linen closet, and pulls out a spare toothbrush, still in its plastic case.

"I hope you like purple," she says as she hands it to him.

"Thanks," Frank says.

Lindsey steps closer and Frank thinks she's about to tell him a secret about the toothbrush, but says, quietly, "Gerard asked me if we had anything to drink, while you were gone. I offered him water." She says it with a smirk, but Frank can tell she's not really amused.

"And what did he say?" Frank asks.

"He was polite about it, but he wanted something else." Lindsey is standing with her arms crossed, her foot holding the door of the linen closet open, and Frank thinks he might as well be looking at a brick wall. "He obviously waited until you were gone."

"Yeah, he'll ask me soon enough," Frank says. Lindsey's eyes narrow, but she doesn't say anything. "Thanks for the toothbrush."

"No problem," she says, and Frank waits, because it seems like she wants to say something else, but then they're just staring at each other across the hallway. Frank smiles and ducks his head, and finally opens the toothbrush package.

"It's nice," he says.

"We only have the best here. Let me know if you need toothpaste, too," she says, before heading back downstairs.

Frank tosses his suitcase into the guest bedroom, and stands there, thinking about what happened last night, about the way Gerard moved, the way his eyes closed and his mouth opened and the way he felt under Frank's hands. He's managed not to look at Gerard for almost the entire day, since the morning when Brian was there, and it's not until they're in the car that their eyes finally meet, Lindsey driving, Gerard in the front and Frank in the back. Frank catches Gerard's eyes in the rearview mirror, and Gerard smiles and Frank's heart speeds up. Gerard reaches his arm all the way back behind the passenger seat, his fingers wiggling near the foot well, near Frank's ankles. Frank reaches down and catches Gerard's fingers in his and squeezes.

Alicia and Mikey are handling it extremely well, despite the fact that Gerard doesn't remember his little brother is married, and he still thinks Alicia is a tech he can barely remember. Alicia makes Gerard coffee the way he likes it and kisses his forehead and cuddles Bunny Marie in her arms and Frank is selfishly, desperately glad that Gerard still remembers him.

At dinner, Gerard sits next to Frank, across from Lindsey and it's almost normal. Frank's eating his pizza and following the conversation and it's almost, almost normal, except that Mikey is telling a story about Warped that Gerard ought to remember, and Gerard is sort of blankly staring at his pizza. At one point, Frank startles when he feels Gerard's fingers on his forearm. Gerard is tracing one of the tattoos – one of the ones he doesn't remember – with his fingers. Frank watches Gerard's fingers moving over his skin, and then he watches Gerard's face, his mouth caught in a frown, his eyes focused on the pattern his fingers are traveling, as if underneath Frank's skin is some answer Gerard is searching for. Suddenly, Gerard looks up and meets Frank's eyes, and pulls his hand back slowly. He smiles at Frank, but it's filled with uncertainty, and Frank grabs Gerard's hand in his own and squeezes, and Frank sighs as Gerard visibly relaxes, and then turns his attention back to his dinner plate. Frank reaches for his water and takes a sip and then realizes Mikey is staring at him. Alicia is elbowing Mikey and asking him to pass her another slice of pizza but Mikey's eyes are locked on Frank, and then on Gerard. Frank looks over at Lindsey, who is adding dressing to her salad. She smiles at Frank and looks back at her dinner plate and Frank can't tell if she didn't notice what happened, or if she's pretending it didn't. Either way, Frank wishes Mikey would stop staring at them.

Mikey corners him later, as Lindsey and Gerard are getting into the car.

"Look, I know," Frank says before Mikey can get a question out. "I know."

"I was just gonna ask if you wanted me to talk to Gerard," Mikey says calmly. "And explain."

Frank doesn't have to ask what Mikey means. "It's fine. He's confused. I don't mind."

Mikey's eyebrows go way up.

"I mean, I don't mind explaining." Frank says, but, shit, he's already said it and it's clear which one's the truth.

"Uh huh," is all Mikey says, and then, after a minute, "Has he tried to get you to give him anything to drink?"

Frank shakes his head. "Not me, at least. Lindsey said he asked when I was home this afternoon, but it wasn't aggressive."

"Not yet," Mikey says softly.

"Maybe it won't happen," Frank says, but Mikey just stares back at him and he knows it's a fool's hope. "I should get going," Frank says, and he leans back in the doorway to say goodbye to Alicia. Mikey waves at him as he's getting into the car, and Frank rests his hand on his arm, covering the tattoo Gerard had touched, and closes his eyes as Lindsey drives off.

Frank can't sleep that night, either. The house is too quiet, too foreign and new. He sits up in the dark of the kitchen, with a notepad in front of him. He's trying to write a list - he's not sure of what, things he ought to research, questions to ask the doctor, major life events he's going to have to remind Gerard of - right now, the only thing that's on there is to buy orange juice, and get a book about AA.

He pours himself a bowl of cereal, eats half of it and then abandons it in the sink. Everything is fucked up. Frank is living in Gerard and Lindsey's new house, the place he never let himself think about because it always felt like they were going their separate ways, like it was a strange place he'd never find familiar and now he knows where they keep the towels and extra toothbrushes. Gerard is sleeping in his bedroom, Lindsey is sleeping in one of the guest rooms, and Frank is sleeping in the other. Motherfucking fucked up. Frank misses Jamia. He knows the middle of the night is the worst time to be alone, the worst time to try and sort things out. He always gets night sickness, the way thoughts seems scarier, larger, more confusing in the dark, in a quiet house.

"Make sure you get the kind without pulp," Lindsey says, and Frank jumps. When he turns, Lindsey is holding up Frank's list. "As for the other thing on your list...." she hands Frank a book. He squints at the title, and Lindsey flicks on the kitchen light. Alcoholics Anonymous, The Big Book. "I read some of it when we first started seeing each other, and it's good, but it's - " she stops, takes her glasses off and rubs her eyes. "I never knew him when he was drinking," she says. "I wasn't there when he got clean. You were," she says. They look at each other for a long time in the bright yellow light of the kitchen. "I'm glad you're staying," Lindsey says, and Frank flips to the index of the book. It's all distantly familiar. It's not as daunting because Frank's done this before, but at the same time, it's worse, because Gerard has done this before but he doesn't remember now. Frank always knew what they'd have to do if Gerard fell off the wagon. None of them really expected it to happen, though, because the change in Gerard had been so transformative. It had changed them all, and Gerard had been committed to that change.

"I mean, I never really asked, did I?" Frank says. "How long I could stay."

"Of course you didn't ask. You don't have to fucking ask."

"I mean - "

"I know what you mean, Frank. I know Gerard needs you. It doesn't threaten me."

It fucking threatens Frank, though, but he doesn't know how to tell Lindsey that.

Frank tries to focus on how things were before that – on how they really were before Gerard got so bad that he had to get sober. Gerard was drunk when they finished a show, and Gerard was all over everybody. Sometimes Frank was drunk, too, but sometimes he wasn't. Sometimes Gerard needed watching over, sometimes they needed to make sure he didn't go off and do something stupid - or go home with someone stupid. But most of the time, they finished a show, a rehearsal, a night of watching horror movies, and Gerard was drunk, warm, flirty and willing. This was the stage right before he was stupidly drunk and sick, and sometimes he fell asleep on the couch with his face pressed to Frank's neck. It was mostly just that, mostly just touching, the occasional rubbing, the half-hearted, breathy offer of a blow job.

Nothing ever really happened until Gerard was sober.

Frank doesn't really remember what started it, though he does remember the first time – the first time that wasn't Gee drying out. It was Gerard, unable to sleep, crawling over to Frankie and just asking, "Can I?" After that, it was after a show, or on the bus when they still had hours to go, or on hotel nights, and it wasn't always Gerard. Sometimes Frank asked, or Frank started it, and that was ok, too. That still never really meant anything. They were just friends.

It didn't even really change when Gerard met Lindsey, and so Frank didn't really know what that meant either. He didn't know if Gerard maybe wouldn't need him anymore, if he was better now, healed. Lindsey and Frank argued, a lot at first, because she was always around and she didn't get things right. She didn't know when it wasn't ok to wake up Gerard, she didn't know what things not to make fun of him about, she didn't know how to make small talk with the band. She was nice, and friendly, but just different, and still such a new part of Gerard's life.

"Anyway, it's nice not to have to do this alone," she says, and Frank watches the way her jaw tenses, the way she tilts her head. He's learning to read her body language, which feels oddly intimate. He's known her all this time and never really paid attention. He gets the idea that, right now, she's just trying to be polite, and that she wishes she did get to do this alone. Frank has never really considered before this moment how much Lindsey might resent him being here. He wants to say something, and he's not sure whether he should be apologizing or justifying himself, but before he can figure it out, Lindsey says, "He's going out with Mikey tomorrow, after the doctor's," Lindsey says. "They're all going to visit Elena's grave."

"Jesus, fuck," Frank says, his breath gone. When she died, Gerard had just kind of disappeared into himself for a lot longer than Frank had ever seen. Frank can't imagine Gerard not remembering that, Gerard having to go through it again.

Lindsey says, "Yeah, Mikey seemed pretty nervous about it," she says. "You'll have to tell me how it happened," she says, and goes back upstairs. Frank has the urge to follow her, to keep the conversation going, to try to ease some of the uncertainty in her voice, but he stops at the door to the kitchen, picks up The Big Book and starts to read.

In the morning, Frank and Lindsey wait in the empty examination room at the hospital, Gerard's jean jacket on the ugly exam table in the middle of the room. They've been waiting for ten minutes; the doctors had said the stress tests could take anywhere from thirty to forty five minutes, and if Gerard's blood pressure was fine, they were going to follow up with a second round of allergy tests.

"We should go out and get some coffee," Frank says, and Lindsey laughs, a little harshly, and looks down at her hands. "What?" Frank says. "Have you given up coffee and I've missed it?"

"No," Lindsey says, "It's just - I remember when Gee and I had just started seeing each other, you and I were waiting for him, after a show. Something had happened during the show, I don't even remember what now, but he was upset. He was talking to Schechter and I had the feeling it was going to be a while and I asked if you wanted to go get some coffee. The look on your face - "

Frank looks at her, trying to remember. He shakes his head. He thinks he remembers the show, thinks Gee was upset about someone in the audience crying and how sometimes he just wished he had the time to ask them what was wrong, if they were crying for joy or sadness or catharsis. It was an old conversation, but it upset Gerard every time.

"You looked at me like I was suggesting we lock Gerard out of the bus. Like I suggested we drive off without him."

"I'm sure I didn't - "

"You were an asshole to me, pretty much all of the time," Lindsey says, and Frank realizes that, yeah, she's totally right. "You thought I didn't care about Gee, like I didn't understand. I just wanted some coffee, wanted to pass the time. Thought maybe you and I could talk."

"What would we have talked about?" Frank says, feeling anger rise up in him.

"Anything," Lindsey says, "What do we talk about now?"

Frank shrugs, "I'm sorry," he says, after a moment.

"You don't have to be sorry. You've gotten a lot better at not acting like a jealous ex."

"I'm not a - "

Lindsey holds up her hands. "I want some coffee. Maybe a coffee cake. Do you think they have a Starbucks inside the hospital?"

They eventually find one, not inside the hospital, but just a block away, and Lindsey pays for Frank's drink before he can stop her. "So, is this us going out for coffee?" he says.

"I guess it is," she says. "Though we're going it a bit out of order. I think you're supposed to go on a date before you move in together."

Their fingers brush as he takes the coffee she hands him, and Frank startles, but when he looks up into her face, Lindsey is already looking away.

The doctors can't say anything conclusive about the tests, and so they schedule more for next week, while Gerard sulks and tugs at the bandage on his arm where they've drawn blood. Lindsey reminds Gerard that Mikey's picking him up when they get back to the house, and Gerard snaps, "I know," and sighs dramatically.

Frank's about to reach over and smack Gerard and tell him to stop acting like a pissy teenager when he sees that Lindsey has tears in her eyes. She blinks them away quickly, but the drive back is quiet and tense, and once Gerard leaves with Mikey, Lindsey disappears into the studio and Frank doesn't see her for hours.

Frank's upstairs when he hears Mikey drop Gerard off. Frank's in the right mindset, he's been reading The Big Book all afternoon, and so he isn't surprised at all when Gerard is looking in the cabinets when he comes downstairs. "There's no liquor, Gee, it's no good looking," Frank says without hesitation.

Gerard pales. "I wasn't looking."

"You looked in crevasses we didn't even know existed in our apartments, the bus, our luggage, Gee, I know how you work."

Frank hears the doorbell, hears Lindsey come down the stairs to answer it.

"Last time," Gerard says, his expression blank, and Frank thinks maybe he's shaking a little bit and so Frank goes over and hugs him. They're standing that way when Ray comes in behind Lindsey.

And Ray's face, oh, Ray's face. Frank tries to pull back but Gerard hugs him tighter, and if Schechter's insinuations and Mikey's warnings weren't enough, Ray's face is, because then Frank understands, finally faces what's happening. Frank understands that he's given in to the temptation, that all Gerard had to do was need him just a tiny little bit and Frank was stumbling all over his own feet to give Gerard whatever he was asking for. It was completely dysfunctional, and what's more, Frank had thought he'd gotten past it. Gotten past the thrill of being needed by Gerard, of wanting to see the look on Gerard's face when Frank was there for him. He thought he'd gotten over how good it felt when Gerard reached out and Frank was the one who responded in kind.

Frank still wanted to be that person for Gerard, and he was still sore in all the tender places in his heart when he knew he wasn't supposed to look.

He and Ray had talked about it once, just once. Ray had asked, and Frank had just been in the mood to talk, quiet and calm as they drove through Illinois.

"So what's going on with you and Gerard?" The question was so Ray, pointed and without judgment, just curiosity, interest.

And Frank has just said, "I'm kind of in love with him." And he had been. Kind of. It was the only way he could really explain the feelings that were more than friendship, but not quite romance. "But it's not - we're not - it's just how I feel." Frank had said. "It doesn't mean anything."

Now Ray was looking at him. And Frank knew Ray was thinking of that conversation.

Because the way it happened, they just - they just fooled around sometimes, sometimes they didn't. They were a family on tour and everything else just moved along. And then the tour ended, Gerard got married, and they all went home.

Ray looked at Frank like he knew everything, all of Frank's secrets.

Frank had lost himself for a little a week after Gerard's wedding. He never really told Jamia why, even though she made him soup and let him sleep through the afternoons like he was sick, when he actually felt perfectly fine. He ignored Skeleton Crew and didn't answer the phone and just kind of lost it a little bit, chalked it up to having a hard time transitioning from being on tour. Jamia never really asked, which was good, because he didn't know what he would have said. It was Ray who had snapped him out of it.

Ray had come over and said, "We're all in a little bit in love with Gerard. There's no other way this band would work. We love him and we love the band, and that's why we can keep doing this."

Frank had nodded along, thinking, ok, maybe they all feel like this.

"You're more than just a little in love with Gerard," Ray had said and Frank's chest had ached. "You're a lot in love with Gerard. But you never told him that and now he's gone and gotten married. So you've gotta deal with that, ok, Frank? I don't know how things are with you and Jamia - "and Frank had started to say something and Ray had held his hand up. "But this is between you and Gerard. So fix this, because otherwise you'll both be miserable."

And Frank had fixed it. He'd fixed himself. He'd decided to let it go, to be a better person and be happy for Gerard. He'd dismissed all his feelings, tucked them away, until they faded, and he'd gotten past it, or that's what he desperately tried to convince himself he'd done.

And now Ray would figure it out. Ray would know, in a matter of seconds, that Frank had never fixed things at all. So, Frank gives Ray a quick hug and then practically runs out of the house. Jamia is supposed to be home tonight and so Frank goes home.

He walks around aimlessly with a cup of black coffee in his hand, for nearly an hour before Jamia comes back, her sunglasses pushed up over her forehead and two suitcases in her hand.

"Hey, sweetie," she says, setting the suitcases down and coming over to hug him. "Is he better?"

Frank just shakes his head. He can't seem to find his voice. "No. I just. I wanted to come home for a bit. Ray's visiting. Are you hungry? You want a sandwich?"

"You want to talk?" Jamia says, as Frank starts getting out four slices of bread, the container of hummus, the block of cheese, a tomato. Frank thinks the normality of the situation, making Jamia a sandwich, might kill him. He's not sure what it is, he's spent the last three days in a house, making food, watching TV, but he's also spent it trying to figure out how to keep Gerard in his sights the whole time, how to summarize four years of his life, how to keep Gerard sober. He's spent it with Gerard stroking his palm, Gerard leaning against him, Gerard kissing his jaw before he got up, Gerard giving him a look that he hadn't given Frank in years. On stage, it was different, it was a different look, it was about the music, it was about the stage, the audience. It was -

"I don't know," Frank says, and Jamia sits down at the table with him, picks up her pickle and eats it first. She just looks at him, and so Frank starts talking. "He's so different. Four years ago was...."

"He wasn't married," Jamia says and Frank nods. "You're still upset about that, huh," she says and it's not a question. "It doesn't mean that he loves you any less. I mean, you've got me and you still love him the same, right?"

Frank stands up so fast he knocks his chair over. He knows Gerard loves him, and he loves Gerard, but the way Jamia says it - "What did you say?" Frank says, his heart pounding in his ears.

Jamia smiles at him, this calm, quiet smile that makes him start to panic. "Oh, come on, honey, you think you're keeping this big secret? You think we'd still be together if I didn't understand?"

Frank doesn't understand. "What are you talking about?"

Jamia takes a bite of her sandwich. She looks at Frank until he picks up his chair and sits back down. "It's ok," she says, and smiles at him, and curls her fingers in his. Frank reaches over to his plate and takes half of his sandwich, and he eats it because he doesn't know what to say. He doesn't know what could possibly be ok about this situation. He thinks Jamia's saying it's ok because it's in the past, it's over, they made their choices, so even if Gerard has temporarily reverted – especially because Gerard has temporarily reverted, it's ok for Frank to feel confused. And even if Jamia's just saying it's ok for him to still have feelings for Gerard, Frank doesn't really think there's anything ok about that at all. Even if there ever was a choice, it wouldn't matter, because Gerard doesn't love him back. Gerard moved on, and Frank's the one lost back here, eating a sandwich and making himself and his girlfriend miserable.

"It's ok," Frank says, and Jamia squeezes his hand and smiles at him and Frank feels like maybe his lie is going to make it true.

Frank packs another bag with clothes, thinks about maybe doing laundry when he gets back, because it seems less weird than bringing his clothes back home to wash them, and while he's debating this in his head, Jamia comes upstairs and sits down beside him on the bed, arranging things in his suitcase and then leaning over and kissing him. Frank sighs into it and Jamia breaks away to laugh, then kisses him again.

"Why don't I come back with you?" Jamia says. She kisses him once more and then stands up, grabs a pair of jeans and throws them into his bag.

"Yeah," Frank says, and then, getting up quickly, he says, "Make sure you don't have anything alcoholic in your bag."

"Of course," Jamia says, and then, as she's rooting through her purse to check, she holds up a small bottle. "Does perfume count?"

"Probably," Frank says. "Just in case. And no pills, nothing except Tylenol."

"You know I'll punch Gerard if he starts going through my purse," Jamia says, and Frank appreciates her trying to make a joke, but he's still got a sinking feeling, like they've lucked out so far that Gerard hasn't reached the point where he would dig through Jamia's purse looking for something that could get him high, and that maybe it was only a matter of time.

Ray is gone when they get there, and Frank breathes a sigh of relief even if there is a phone message from Ray that Frank promises himself he'll listen to later. Lindsey looks relieved to see Jamia, and they all sit around the kitchen table and catch up, though Gerard keeps stealing glances at the door.

Jamia pulls Frank aside maybe an hour later, telling him that she and Lindsey are going to go out for a while, and that, since she's tired and a little jet-lagged, she'll have Lindsey drop her off at home. Frank thinks it's good for both of them to be going out together, and it's not full of hidden meanings or desire for time alone with Gerard. He just wants Lindsey to have a break, and the clarity of that feeling makes him beam at Lindsey, probably a little too earnestly, because she looks back at him with a strange expression on her face.

When Frank finds Gerard, he's listening to Three Cheers on his and Lindsey's new fantastic speaker system. Frank lets him be, wanders off into the kitchen, opening the cabinets and not really looking for food, just trying to chase away the restless feeling he's got. When Frank hears the opening of The Black Parade, he goes back into the living room, because Gerard doesn't really know this album. Gerard is sitting there, quietly staring at the wall. Frank peeks into the room, but can't sit still and listen. There's too much in each song he's used to doing live, the studio version feels strange. He goes upstairs, unpacks his bag, piles up a bunch of dirty clothes, comes back just in time for the bridge of Famous Last Words, and he sees Gerard is crying. Not sobbing, just sitting there quietly with tears running down his face.

"I didn't write this," Gerard whispers, when Frank runs over and wraps his arms around him. It's as though Gerard can't believe he'd ever feel like that, ever write those words, that they could ever sound like a classic rock band with a loud, beautiful sound. And, Frank thinks, four years ago, Gerard might not have been able to imagine this record, these songs. Four years was a long time, and four years in Gerard's life was a lot like a whole lifetime.

"I need a drink," Gerard says, and Frank stomach twists, he thinks he might actually be sick.

"No you don't," Frank says, harshly.

"I know you say I got sober, but I don't fucking remember it, and it's not - I don't know how to do it! I just want a fucking drink," Gerard says, and then he sits back down on the couch and starts to shake.

"But I remember," Frank whispers. "I remember," Frank says as he wraps his arms around Gerard again. Gerard doesn't resist, just curls further into himself. Frank sits there, holding Gerard, until Gerard at least stops shaking, until his breathe is slow and Frank feels him slowly start to relax. Gerard's breathe is warm against Frank's shoulder, and Frank just leans in and kisses him. He doesn't mean to, or, well, sure, he means to, but he's thinking he shouldn't do it exactly at the same moment he actually does it, so Gerard's kissing him back by the time Frank realizes it's a bad idea, and by the time he realizes it's already too late to resist, Gerard has got his fingers tangled in Frank's hair and he's kissing Frank slow and deep and Frank has no willpower, because he wants this so badly, even if he knows he and Gerard really ought to fucking talk about it. He's never said no to Gerard, and Gerard's smart enough to have caught on to the fact that this isn't what they're doing, this isn't who they are now, but Gerard is stuck four years ago and Frank follows him, willingly, right back there, and when Gerard rubs this thumbs over Frank's jaw, when Gerard mumbles, "Please, can we?" Frank follows right along with him to four years ago, even though Frank doesn't have the excuse of amnesia. Frank follows Gerard as he stands, kissing slow and soft and Frank could do this for hours, and seriously, this isn't that bad, this is just kissing. Gerard's hands slide slowly down Frank's back as he leads him down the hall, and Frank thinks, absurdly, that they're going to the kitchen and maybe Gerard wants to make some coffee but then Gerard runs up ahead, up to the top of the stairs. Frank freezes at the bottom. He could shake his head no, he could walk away now. He isn't in the thrall of Gerard's kisses, Gerard so close to him. He should be good and fucking tell Gerard no, that this isn't ok, whatever it is that Gerard thinks is going to happen upstairs. But Gerard is standing there, with this look on his face, and Frank doesn't remember if it was like this four years ago, if there was so much agony, if there were all these choices that Frank didn't feel like he actually got to make. He's already going up the stairs before Gerard says, "Frank, please."

Gerard goes into Frank's bedroom and that's safe, Frank thinks. They've done this before there, it's familiar.

But then Gerard is stripping off his shirt and laying down on the futon, biting his lip and looking up at Frank. "Come kiss me over here," Gerard says, and Frank does. He wants Gerard so much in that moment, Gerard underneath him, Gerard telling him what to do, Gerard arching his back and looking at Frank through lidded eyes.

"Yes," Frank says, and he's surprised to hear himself speak it aloud. He wants Gerard's skin against his, and it's easy then, to slide into Gerard's arms, easy to take off his own shirt, easy to slide off Gerard's pants, and then his, easy to be completely naked, sucking on Gerard's collarbone, digging his fingers into Gerard's arms, rocking his hips slowly, lost in the overwhelming warmth and intensity of Gerard.

"Can we?" Gerard asks, his eyes going dark, and Frank knows exactly what he's saying, exactly what he means and it makes his throat go dry.

"Turn over," Frank says, barely trusting his voice, his arms already shaking. Gerard does, turning to look over his shoulder at Frank. Frank licks Gerard's spine, his hands cupping Gerard's ass. They've never done this before. This is completely new.

Frank brings his nose to the crack of Gerard's ass and breathes out. Gerard tenses, and then moans, his mouth pressed against the futon cushion. And yeah, Frank thinks, yeah, this is good. Frank licks, hesitantly at first, more like an open-mouthed kiss, wet and a little aimless, but the noise Gerard makes, Jesus Christ, it makes Frank shiver, it makes him hard and desperate and he licks all the way up Gerard's ass, pressing his thumbs and spreading Gerard open, licking short and fast until Gerard is making a whiny, throaty noise and jerking his hips. Frank digs his fingers in to Gerard's cheeks, because he's not done, damn it, he doesn't want this to stop, he hasn't made Gerard want it enough. He presses his tongue in hard, feeling the muscle, presses harder and Gerard just kind of melts. Gerard's shoulders drop, his forehead presses into the mattress, he breathes out noisily, and Frank does it again and again. He wonders if maybe he should make Gerard come like this, Frank's tongue in his ass and Frank's hand around his cock, but no, Frank thinks, they've gone this far, and Frank knows what Gerard wants.

"Stay here," Frank says, biting Gerard's thigh and getting up. He won't let Gerard leave like last time. He'll chase him down if he thinks he can be an asshole like that, if he thinks he can just leave.

He feels awkward and terribly nervous looking around in the linen closet for lubricant but he's not fucking Gerard with just spit, not the way he wants to do it, and this is Gerard's house, surely it's somewhere. He finally ventures into Gerard and Lindsey's bedroom, and after hesitating a moment, opens the drawer on the bedroom table, and finds what he's looking for. He's naked in Lindsey's bedroom, and he wants to laugh, wants to just crack up, because it's too strange, too ridiculous. He feels too turned on to even feel guilty, the urgency to get back to Gerard washing away the wrongness. When he comes back, Gerard is shifting so he's up on his elbows, his knees tucked under him. Frank can't help the sound he makes.

"Fucking Christ, Gee," Frank says, coming up and kneeling back down, running his hands over Gerard's back, down the pale curve, over the knobs of his spine. "That's good, Gee, that's really good," Frank murmurs, kissing Gerard's back.

Gerard stays like that, up on his elbows, craning his neck back to look at Frank, as Frank slicks his fingers and slides one, then two in, and it's probably too fast but Gerard's making a noise every time he breathes out, a pleased-sounding noise, and Frank's really starting to lose control. He says, "Do you want – " as he positions his cock at Gerard's opening, and presses in.

Gerard actually laughs, and says, still laughing, "Jesus Christ, Frankie, yes," and that's the thing Frank thinks as he pushes all the way into Gerard, as he rocks his hips and then slams them hard against Gerard, as he wipes sweat from Gerard's temples, as Gerard falls forward, his forehead pressed against the mattress, as Frank moves his hand under them and wraps it around Gerard's cock. Frank thinks that Gerard laughing as they're doing this is the thing that makes it real. Gerard looks over his shoulder, catches Frank's eyes, and fucking grins just before he comes on Frank's hand, and then Frank's coming, too, shouting and laughing, his mouth against Gerard's back as they collapse.

Frank falls asleep without really meaning to, cold and dirty and pressed up awkwardly against Gerard on the too-small futon, and even though he manages to pull a blanket over them, it's uncomfortable enough that he doesn't fall too deeply into sleep. He's out long enough, though, that Lindsey is back, and when Frank opens his eyes, Lindsey is standing at the half-open door. Frank can't read the expression on her face, but as soon as she sees that he's awake, she closes the door and he hears her walk down the hallway. Frank stumbles up, wincing when he puts weight on the leg that's fallen asleep. He fumbles for his clothes, and Gerard turns over, one bare arm falling from underneath the blanket.

"Everything ok, Frankie?" Gerard says, dazedly. Frank stops in the middle of buttoning his pants, leans close and kisses Gerard softly.

"It's fine. You sleep," and Gerard pulls the blanket up over his face, agreeing.

Downstairs, Lindsey is opening mail. Frank hesitates at the bottom of the stairs and then goes into the kitchen. He's conscious of how it must have looked immediately, how he must still look now, hair messy, sleep lines on his face, in the middle of the afternoon. He could have been just taking a nap, except that he was with Gerard, and the blanket can't have covered much.

"Lyn –" he starts, but she looks up at him and shakes her head slightly.

"I brought Jamia home," she says, like she never came upstairs. "How's Gerard?"

"Freaked out by listening to songs he doesn't remember writing," Frank says, and Lindsey nods. "Listen, about…"

"I just can't talk about it right now," Lindsey says.

"Ok, " Frank says, and even though it's not the right time, he has to tell her about Gerard talking about drinking. "Ok, but – just so you know, Gerard said he needed a drink again."

"And so this was how you dealt with it?" Lindsey says quietly. She looks suddenly dangerously angry. "What would you do if I told you I needed a drink?"

Frank doesn't know what to say.

"Do you remember our first fight?" Lindsey says after a moment. "Probably not. It was about a month since Gerard and I had been together, and we were going to a party. You told me not to let him get drunk? I slapped you?"

Frank feels his face flush. He remembered, all right. Lindsey had shouted at him, "I'm not Bert."

And Frank had fucking replied, "We'll see." He remembers now, and he's appalled at himself. She wasn't anything like Bert, Frank should have seen that from the start. She was a whole other kind of person, and Frank was too busy dismissing her to realize she was going to be around for the long run and perhaps he ought to have put some effort into getting to know her.

"I'm sorry," Frank says, and Lindsey shrugs.

"It's fine," she says dismissively. "If he gets bad, I'm ready."

Frank isn't sure she is, but he nods anyway.

He remembers how Gerard used to be, early afternoon, with a drink, later if there was a show, and ok, Frank tries to be honest with himself, he drank, too, but not in the way Gerard drank, like it was necessary, like it was medicine. Frank isn't sure that any of them could have made Gerard get sober, could have forced him into making that decision. But once he'd made it, they were all there for him, there to do whatever he needed. They could protect him, keep him from the poison, listen to him ask, in an uncertain voice, whether this was worth it, whether he was strong enough, whether it even mattered.

Frank doesn't have to try to remember what it was like, that level of vigilance, of concern, of whole-band devotion to Gerard. They did whatever he needed, said whatever he needed to hear. And Frank could do that again. If Gerard needed him, he could do it.

Frank tells Lindsey he thinks they're lucky Gerard isn't actually detoxing, so the desire for alcohol is entirely non-physical addiction-based. He's said a couple of times he wants a drink, but Frank thinks Gerard must be so shocked, he doesn't really know what he wants, what he needs.

It starts with cajoling. Gerard is disturbingly good at flattery, at enticement, to get what he wants, and Frank watches Lindsey's eyes flash the first time Gerard goes from having a pleasant, comfortable conversation with her to asking her to get him something to drink, please, just a drink. She handles it well, not acknowledging how egregiously Gerard has just broken all trust he was building with her, just changing the subject, but Frank pulls her aside later to make sure they're a united front. He doesn't want to get into it, doesn't want to have to explain to Lindsey how it was before, feels almost like he should protect Gerard from having Lindsey see that part of him, but he can't help it once Gerard shows he's not above sinking pretty low to get a drink.

Gerard doesn't start begging until 7 that night, and it's pathetic, and it hurts Frank as much as it fucking pisses him off, and he tries to just shut down, to take himself out of the equation. It doesn't matter what Gerard says, Frank just needs to keep Gerard in the house and away from the poison.

It's fucking exhausting, and when Gerard lets loose a final string of aspersions against their characters and calls them jailers once more and then declares he's going to bed, Frank thinks, good, they all need some rest. He and Lindsey agree to split shifts, Frank will sleep downstairs and Lindsey upstairs, and it isn't until Frank is blinking awake at the sound of someone dropping their keys repeatedly at the front door that he thinks he really should have made some coffee and stayed awake, and then his mind connects to the sound and he knows. He knows he's fucked up.

Frank opens the door, and Gerard is there, blinking at the bright light of the living room, smiling widely and completely drunk off his ass. He is carrying a bag that Frank tries to tug from him and Gerard tightens his grip.

"No," is the first thing Gerard says to him, and Frank just hopes that he can keep Gerard quiet enough so that they don't wake Lindsey, so that she doesn't see this. Doesn't blame Frank, doesn't see Gerard at his worst. Gerard would be so heartbroken and that's the thought that keeps Frank from taking a fucking swing at Gerard.

"Come inside," Frank whispers harshly.

"No," Gerard says, but a little less convinced. "You'll just lock me up again."

"Ok, you want to sleep out there, fine," Frank says and turns his back. Gerard follows him in, slams the door half on his own foot, and it bounces back open.

"Ow," Gerard says, and then he stumbles and falls. Frank takes the opportunity to grab Gerard's bag, which contains, as Frank suspects, two full bottles.

"This is shit, Gerard," Frank says, looking at it. "What were you going to fucking do with this, hide it in your bedroom?"

"Fuck you," Gerard says. He's still on the floor. Frank leaves him there, and goes into the kitchen to empty the bottles down the sink. He's not going to lose it, he's really not. He can handle this. Just pouring poison down the drain, because it isn't allowed in this house. The sharp smell of vodka fills the kitchen and Frank coughs.

Frank hears Gerard get himself up, walk into the kitchen. "Don't do that, Frankie," Gerard says, leaning in the doorway. His voice is soft, pleading. Frank can't look at him. "I'm sorry," Gerard says.

"No, you're not," Frank answers. "You're just saying what you think I want to hear."

Frank knows he's right when Gerard calls him a motherfucker and calls Lindsey a few names for good measure. "What does Jamia think you're doing here?" Gerard says, and apparently they're at that part of the conversation, where Gerard gets mean. Frank breathes in deeply, tries not to be present, tries not to get into this with Gerard. He's here just to get Gerard to fucking bed.

"Where'd you go, Gerard?" he says instead of answering.

"I asked you a question first, motherfucker, what does your girlfriend think her amazing Frank is doing, sleeping over at some other woman's house?"

"She knows I'm here with you," Frank says calmly.

"You never liked me better than her," Gerard says sadly. Frank's heart thrums in his chest.

"Where did you go," he says, trying to take control of the conversation. "To a bar?"

"I went somewhere they'd give me a drink," Gerard spits.

"You waited until we were both sleeping and you snuck out of the fucking house to go get trashed. Isn't that pathetic, Gee?" Frank says. Gerard stares at him. "Look at you. You look terrible. Do you feel good?"

"I'm not drunk," Gerard says.

Frank can't help the groan that escapes his lips. "Is this the game we're playing tonight, Gee? You're not actually drunk? You dropped your keys four fucking times outside the front door and then fell on the floor when I let you in, and you're not drunk? At least admit that you went to get fucking trashed. I'm surprised you can even talk. At least you came home and we didn't find you asleep on the street."

"That never happened."

"Fucking right it did, Gee. You were so drunk you slept on the street and Mikey found you and brought you home."

"Fuck you," Gerard says, and he comes over to the sink to examine the empty bottles. "You don't get to tell me what to do. This is my own fucking house, and you're not my boyfriend. I don't even fucking know who you are, what the hell you're doing here," Gerard says.

"No, I'm not your boyfriend, Gerard, but I'm here because sometimes you can't take care of yourself. Now shut the fuck up and go to bed before I call your brother."

Frank wonders if it's the thought of him calling Mikey that makes Gerard puke or if it's just the timing, but Frank's thankful Gerard at least makes it to the sink, even if it's not the bathroom.

Frank runs the water, washing everything down the drain, and splashes some of it on Gerard's face, who is still gasping and dry-heaving a little. Frank wipes Gerard's face, pushes back his hair when he stands up, and helps him, slowly and stumbling, up the stairs.

"I'm sorry, Frankie," Gerard says, as Frank half-drags him to the bed and covers him with a blanket, and Frank knows, this time, Gerard actually means it.

Lindsey comes downstairs as Frank is getting out the bleach.

"He snuck out?" she asks, and Frank runs the hot water.

"Yeah," he says, and then, "I'm sorry." It's his fault. He should know Gerard better.

"Gerard tricked us into relaxing and then took advantage of our exhaustion and went out and got trashed. How is any of that your fault?"

"I should have been awake. I should have stopped him."

Lindsey gives him a look he's never seen before. It's long and Frank feels like it's both wonder and disapproval. "Frank," she says, her hand on his arm, her glasses falling down her nose, incredibly warm and close. "I know you think you know Gerard better than anyone besides his little brother, and ok, maybe you do, but did you ever think that, if it's all your fault, then it means that you're the only one who can make things better? That's just not fair to me."

She kisses Frank on the cheek, and then takes the bleach from him, plugs the drain, pours a little into the sink, and runs the water again. "Go upstairs, I'll take care of this."

He just stands there, and when she turns and sees he's still there, she goes to push at his chest, but then, Frank isn't really sure what makes him do it, dead tired and strung out, and chasing after the warmth he felt when she was close, but he leans up and kisses her. "Oh," she gasps, and then kisses him back. The kitchen smells like vodka and bleach and Frank kisses Lindsey a little desperately, a little frantically, his hands sliding down her back and when his fingers touch the warm skin where her tank top has ridden up, Frank chokes and pulls away.

His fingers go to his lips and he's staring at the floor. When he looks up, Lindsey is smiling.

"That was...."

"Really wrong, I'm sorry, I don't even - " Frank stops, because he has no idea what he's trying to say.

"Confusing," Lindsey says. "That was confusing." She reaches up and almost touches Frank's arm but stops. "I'll take care of this," she says again. "I'll see you in the morning, ok?" Frank nods, still stunned, and goes upstairs to bed.

"Look, we need to talk," Lindsey says, the next morning. Gerard is still asleep, or still pretending to be asleep. Frank's checked on him twice already. "Let's go out. I've called Mikey. He's promised not to give Gerard a hard time about last night," Lindsey says. "I believe him."

"Yeah, Mikey knows what to do. He always has." Frank says.

"Mikey'll be here in a minute. I'm sure it's safe for us to leave."

Frank hesitates, and Lindsey looks at him even harder. "He has a key?" Frank says because he's not sure what else to say.

"Yeah, of course he does," Lindsey says with an easy laugh. Frank doesn't know what he's more shocked about, that he thought Mikey wouldn't have a key to Gerard's place, or that he's surprised Lindsey thought of it before he did.

The walls of the restaurant are orange and everything on the menu is vegan, and the waitress smiles at Lindsey and beams at Frank but doesn't dissolve into giggles, doesn't ask for an autograph, and Frank isn't sure she actually knows who they are or if she's just super friendly. "What'll you guys have?" she says, like they're guests at her house.

Frank orders tea and Lindsey orders lemonade for herself and for Frank, because she insists he try it, and Frank thinks it's a shame he didn't get to know her better first, before she became Gerard's wife, because she's done something everyday that surprises him. Little things, the jokes she makes, the things she knows about Gerard. He doesn't know what it is about it that surprises him, other than that he clearly didn't trust Gee's judgment. It happened so fast, was such a surprise, it wasn't like with Alicia, who was around for a while before it seemed like she and Mikey got serious, and then Alicia was there for Mikey during his breakdown. Frank doesn't want to admit that he feels like he needs the people who love his bandmates to prove themselves worthy, but that's exactly it.

"So I guess this is me talking to you about what happened last night?" Lindsey says, and then, "You ought to try the lemonade, it's the best." Frank tries it, looks at the calluses on Lindsey's fingers, at her easy smile. "I mean, maybe it doesn't hurt to look at it like we are actually four years ago, for just a little while. Maybe it will help us figure out what Gee needs."

Frank still doesn't say anything and Lindsey sips her lemonade. "How about this. Pretend that I'm Gerard's new girlfriend, and you're checking me out to make sure I'm worthy."

There's a smile, but Frank feels like she knows, right then, that he never thought her worthy. And that's not true, it's not that he never thought her worthy, it's just that he never got the chance to check her out. He never got the chance to know her. She was just there, all the time, and Gerard talked about her and they toured together and Frank kept to himself and then – and then -

"Well," Frank thinks, because it's not a crazy idea at all, maybe, to pretend, even if it's after the fact, "You're in a band, so you know what touring's like, and you know how weird it is to go from touring with your band to home without them. Gerard doesn't like to be alone."

Lindsey smiles, and Frank can see in her eyes that she already knew this, and it's a relief to him, because it's hard to explain some things about Gerard if you don't already know them.

"You should also talk to Mikey. No one knows Gee like this brother, and they're close. And if you think of the way Gerard talks and talks and doesn't always say what he means, Mikey doesn't, Mikey just says what he means, and sometimes it's vague, but sometimes it makes all the sense you need. Gee's calmer when he goes to AA, and sometimes he won't shut up about it and sometimes he won't say a word, and neither of them means one thing or another, you know? It's not like, when he says nothing that it means something's wrong, it's just the way his head works. Sometimes he can't spend too much time thinking about himself."

"Did you guys ever date?" Lindsey says, and Frank chokes on his lemonade. "What?" she says, not letting up, looking innocent. Frank admires her, so much in that moment, can totally see how she handles all the boys in her band, how she handles the scene. She's tough, she's confident, and she knows how to play. "I don't actually know the answer," she says, quietly, outside of the game now.

"We never dated, no," Frank says, and because Lindsey's staring at him and because he knows this is for Gee, he says, "I don't know how to talk about this."

"It's ok, I can ask Jamia," Lindsey says and their sandwiches come and Frank can hardly hang on, because he's trying to think how he'd explain what happened with him and Gee, because he's never explained it to himself. He just…knew how things were. He wasn't lying when he said it wasn't something he knew how to talk about it.

"I don't know what Jamia will be able to tell you," Frank says, and Lindsey frowns at him.

"Ok..." she says, hesitantly, pushing back in her chair. "Is it a secret? Because you can just tell me that. I'm not trying to get into the middle of anything, I'm just trying to understand."

"It's not a secret, not, it's just….complicated," Frank says.

"Ok," Lindsey says, and watches Lindsey's throat as she takes a sip from her glass and swallows. "While we're talking about complicated, do we want to talk about us kissing last night?"

Frank stares down at his plate, feeling like he just got caught watching her. "Can I say no?"

"Well, you can, but it's not going to make this any easier. Look, I'm trying, Frank. I come home and you were in bed with Gerard and I don't want to talk about that but we need to, at some point, because I don't understand. And then you kiss me, and maybe you were just blowing off steam or maybe you want to fuck us both or, I don't know. The only other possibility is that you're screwing around with me and if you're doing that because I married Gerard, if this is some sort of vengeance thing – "

"No," Frank says, panicking, his mouth dry. "No, I wouldn't do that. It's just – Gerard and I used to have a thing. Four years ago. And then he met you, and, it stopped."

"Yeah, I got that part," Lindsey says, clearly getting impatient. "I'm trying to figure out what that thing was, and what it means."

"I don't know," Frank says, a little helplessly.

"You really don't, do you?" Lindsey says, looking at him for a long time. "Ok," she says, and she reaches across the table and brushes the tips of her fingers over Frank's arm, letting them drift just under his wrist, as though testing him. He shivers, and she smiles, and Frank wishes he had some idea what was going on.

The thing is, Lindsey does ask Jamia, that afternoon, a little while after they get back. Frank is playing with his guitar in the living room while Mikey and Gerard glare at each other, hug, and then glare at each other. Frank remembers that, too, and he doesn't know why they're all doomed to repeat this awful time, what they did or didn't do or who they fucked over, but he's not happy about it. And then Frank hears Jamia's name, looks around and realizes that he's only hearing Lindsey's voice and she must be on the phone and Jamia isn't here. He feels a sudden homesickness, and sets his guitar down, and gestures to Lindsey that he wants the phone when she's done. After a few minutes, Lindsey says, "Thanks, honey, yeah, come over for dinner, next week, maybe? Ok, here's Frank."

"Hi, honey," Frank says, and Jamia laughs.

"It's like musical house guests," she says, "How are you?"

Frank tells her about the lunch place he and Lindsey went to, about an idea he has for Skeleton Crew, and when she asks about Gerard, he just hmmms, and she says, "It's ok, you can tell me about it later when he's not right there."

"So, what were you and Lindsey talking about?" Frank asks.

Jamia says, "You and Gerard," and Frank had almost forgotten.

"Oh," he says, and then, his voice sounding more unsteady than he means it to, "So what did you tell her?"

"You want to know what I told Lindsey?" Jamia asks, her voice tight, "Or you want to know what happened between you and Gee?"

"I just - " Frank says and stops.

"We should probably talk when I come by later," Jamia says, and then, firmly, "Let me talk to Lindsey again, I wanted to ask her something about the label."

Frank hands the phone back, stunned, picks his guitar back up and starts playing, trying not to pay attention to Gerard and Mikey, to Lindsey on the phone, to the house or the voices in his head, to the weird feeling wrapping itself around his throat.

Things get worse when Mikey goes home. Gerard keeps walking out on conversations with Lindsey each time Lindsey says his name, incase he forgot that she was actually saying something to him and not just to talking to hear herself talk, and each time, Gerard doesn't even pause, and so she just watches him go. The third time, Frank offers to go and speak to Gerard and Lindsey shouts, angry and frustrated, "No, it's fine. If he doesn't want to know what the doctor said about his test results, then that's fine with me, really, but he could fucking tell me. He could say the words, 'I don't care' instead of just walking off like I'm not even here."

"I'll go talk to him," Frank says, already halfway out of the room after Gerard.

"Oh, sure," Lindsey says. "Because I won't resent that at all."

She turns and goes out onto the porch and Frank wants to say something about how that wasn't how he meant it, but he thinks he'll only make it worse.

So he does go and try to talk to Gerard, because maybe Gerard will listen to him when he's not listening to Lindsey and even if it's stupid and even if it makes Lindsey angry, it's not really about her. It's about Gerard being an idiot, forgetting that people sometimes need to come first, before his thoughts, no matter what he's thinking.

"Asshole, come back here," Frank says, because as soon as he goes into the living room, Gerard gets up and walks out.

"Leave me alone," Gerard says. His hands are balled into fists at his side.

"I want to talk to you about what you just did to your wife."

"Stop calling her that," Gerard bites out.

Frank stops, and catches his breath. "That's who she is," he says, after a moment, because he's not sure what else to say.

Gerard just shrugs.

"Ok, it shouldn't matter who she is, you're being a jerk," Frank says, when he doesn't get any other sort of response from Gerard. "You're not the fucking center of the universe, so stop and listen to what people are saying because when it's Lindsey and I talking, we're pretty much always talking about you."

"I thought you said I wasn't the center of the universe," Gerard says, and slams the door of the studio in Frank's face.

And that's about the limit of Frank's patience and so he decides to leave Gerard be and to go try and smooth things over with Lindsey. He goes out to the porch, where she's still standing, looking out at the street. He lights a cigarette, offers her one, which she refuses. "He's just being an asshole," Frank says, and Lindsey turns glares at him.

"Oh, I know. You think I've never seen Gerard be an asshole before?"

Frank takes several drag from his cigarette before saying, "I don't know what you want me to do."

"I want you to stop acting like you can fix everything," she says

Frank never gets to respond, because Gerard comes out onto the porch, launches in a screaming fit about how he isn't hung over and he didn't do anything wrong the other night and he wants a drink and it's fucking stupid that they're holding him prisoner here. Gerard takes a swing at Frank and hits him in the stomach and Frank swings right back at Gerard's jaw, not as hard as he could have, but harder than he should have. He just wanted to shake some sense into Gerard because when Gerard was angry like this, it was blind rage, he was just so caught up in feeling out of control. Lindsey just stands at the doorway, like she had no idea what was going on.

"You might need to hit him, too" Frank says, as Gerard hurries down the hallway, and Frank distantly hears another door slam. Frank clutches his stomach and winces as he tries to stand up straight.

"Looks like it's done a lot of good," Lindsey says, and Frank turns on her.

"You don't fucking know him at all." Frank shouts.

"No, I don't know him at all," she says, cool and dry, "I married a stranger. I picked the first singer that smelled like success and I tricked him into marrying me."

Frank just walks away, but she follows.

"Let's bring him to Mikey's if you think that'll help," she says, and when he looks back, she seems at least conciliatory.

"Mikey knows what Gerard's like when he's like this," Frank says.

"And I don't. That's the problem?" Her face heats back up again, her whole body wound tight. "I've never had to punch my husband?"

"You shouldn't have to!" Frank shouts, surprising himself, and wincing again when his stomach twinges. "He's supposed to be better for you."

Lindsey pushes right up into Frank's space, her fingers tight on his arm. "So you only get the fucked up Gerard? You don't get to have him when he's better, when he's fixed?"

Frank freezes. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Jesus Christ, Frank, this is what I'm talking about," she says, and slams into him, like she's trying to knock him over, except that she's kissing him, and all of Frank's breath is gone. He kisses her back, really feeling it this time, really paying attention to how Lindsey tastes, to how her mouth feels. She pulls back first, but her hand stays on his neck.

"Um," Frank says, and Lindsey shakes her head.

"I want the whole Gerard, too. I want him exactly as he is," Lindsey whispers, and then she wraps her arms around him. Frank hesitates, then does the same, holding her close. "I didn't take him from you," she says, and Frank listens to her breathe, and tries to figure out how to tell her he doesn't think that, how to tell her he never had Gerard in the first place.

Frank waits until he hears Lindsey close her bedroom door and then sneaks outside and calls Brian. It's cold out, and he feels guilty for sneaking around when he could probably just tell Lindsey what he's doing, like it matters if she knows who he's calling.

"I...don't even know why I'm calling," Frank says when Brian answers.

"Ok," Brian says evenly. "Just tell me the first thing that comes to your mind."

"I kissed Lindsey."

"Ok," Brian says without hesitating, and Frank thinks, thank god for Brian Schechter, seriously. "Give me a little context."

"We were fighting about Gerard."

"Ok," Brian says with a sigh. "I'm taking it this is going to be one of those conversations where you give me the shortest, vaguest answers possible." Frank starts to protest and Brian says, "No, no, it's ok, I can work with that. Just – what kind of kiss was it?"

"What the fuck kind of question is that?" Frank says, because, really, does Schechter really think he's going to answer that?

"Oh, fuck you, I could have asked you to compare it to the last time you kissed Gerard, so suck it. Let's try again. Is this the first time you and Lindsey have kissed?"

"No."

Brian sighs again, and Frank knows he should have said more, but if could say more, he probably wouldn't have to call Schechter at all. "Have you only kissed since Gerard has had amnesia?"

"Yes," Frank says.

There's a pause before Brian says, "Was the kiss about Gerard?"

Frank is about to say no, but then he realizes Schechter is right. "Pretty much."

"Ok," Schechter says. "You're good then."

"I'm what?"

"What do you want me to say? Do you want me to get mad at you? Do you want me to threaten to tell Gerard, or Jamia, or Bob or Ray? Do you want me to suggest they throw you out of the band because you kissed someone's wife?"

"No, it's just - " Frank sighs. "It's just so fucked up."

"Yeah, it is," Brian says. "So figure it out, Frankie," and then, in a less harsh tone, "I'm hanging up now, but call me if you figure out what I can do for you."

Frank goes back inside, in to the spare bedroom to check on Gerard, who flips him off. Lindsey's bedroom door is closed. Frank feels horribly alone. He wants to call Jamia, but he doesn't even know what he'd say, and he's afraid his voice will give something away. They're supposed to go to Mikey and Alicia's for dinner again in a few hours, and she's supposed to come over and meet them anyway, and Frank sits down on the floor in his bedroom, presses his hands to his eyes, and waits it out. Eventually, he hears a soft knock on his door. It's Jamia.

"I heard there was a miserable man hiding out in the guest room up here," she says. "But all I found was you. Is this the right room?"

"When did you get here?" Frank asks, hugging Jamia and brushing her hair away from her face.

"Just a few minutes ago," she says. "I rang the bell, but no one answered. And all the doors up here are closed. Did you all have a fight?"

Frank tells her the abbreviated version, and thinks about telling her how he's now kissed Lindsey twice, but Jamia's only been here for a few minutes and he's not sure if he just wants to tell her so he'll feel less guilty. He's not sure he could answer any of the questions she'd be bound to have for him.

Lindsey knocks at the door a few minutes later, and Frank notices how she speaks directly to Jamia, doesn't make eye contact with Frank at all. "Are you ready? You don't have to come," she says, leaning halfway into the door.

Jamia meets Lindsey at the door, and says, "No, it's fine, let's go."

"Gerard's already in the car," Lindsey says, still not looking at Frank. In the car, Gerard isn't looking at either of them, but to Frank's surprise, Gerard manages to hold a politely chatty conversation with just Jamia for most of the ride.

When they get there, Gerard disappears upstairs and doesn't come back down. Alicia is making enchiladas, and she's complaining about how Mikey's such a damn picky eater, it's actually easy for her because she only needs to know how to cook three things, and Mikey's got instant food mastered. Frank likes the way Mikey and Alicia play domestic, too, he likes the way Alicia pretends to be the housewife and Mikey pretends to be the hard-working husband. It's funny, because everyone knows it's not true. It's also funny because Alicia is not actually the one making the enchiladas - Mikey is mixing the beans and laying out the corn tortillas and Alicia is artfully covering everything with shredded cheese. Mikey even turns on the oven and Alicia lights a cigarette, sits down at the table next to Frank.

Frank really likes Mikey and Alicia's house, and he spends a lot of time trying to figure out what he likes about it that is missing from Gerard and Lindsey's house, but he just gets stuck at the idea that Mikey deserves a house like this. Frank trusts Alicia, and he knows that Mikey and Alicia aren't playing house, they're living here, they have animals and they painted the walls colors they like and this is where they live. It feels like their house, not anyone else's.

Frank realizes his problem with Gerard's new house is that he's thinking of it as Lindsey's new house, and no matter how much he tries, he can't think of it as Gerard and Lindsey's house - it's still Lindsey's house which Gerard has moved into. It doesn't make sense for Gerard to inhabit an entire house. Gerard belongs in small, cramped spaces, crowded with his things, art pencils and notebooks and comic books with guitar picks as page markers and unwashed hoodies that smell like sweat and cigarettes and get used as pillows almost as often as real pillows. The new house is just so open. It's not a basement apartment, it's not a tour bus, it's not the armchair in Mikey and Alicia's living room that Gerard moved into last summer. It's a three bedroom place, with stairs. There's not a single thing about it that feels right to Frank. It's very nice, sunny and clean and comfortable, but it's not Gerard, and Frank feels like it's his duty to stay around and remind Gerard that this isn't who he was.

Frank worries Gerard won't ever get his memory back and he'll become the kind of guy who lives in a house with beige walls and tough, sturdy carpet and more of Frank's heart will break, because everything he feared when he woke up to Gerard getting married, when he took pictures of it on his cell phone, will have come true, and he'll have lost Gerard, lost being a part of his life. Worse, he'll have lost the understanding of who Gerard is, because Frank doesn't know any part of Gerard that would be happy in this house without giving up a part of himself.

Alicia laughs as Mikey puts the casserole dish in the oven and sets the timer. "Seriously, all this cooking takes it out of me." She sets her cigarette down on the ashtray and kisses Mikey on the forehead as he leans over. Jamia gets up from the table and offers to help get out the dishes.

"I'm gonna go see what trouble your brother's gotten into," Frank says. He catches Jamia's hand and squeezes her fingers before sliding out of his chair and out the kitchen door.

"If he's alphabetizing anything, tell him I'll never forgive him," Mikey says, and Frank hears Alicia smack Mikey's thigh and say, "No one believes you when you try and blame that on other people. I don't know why you can't just accept you're anal."

Gerard is sitting on the floor of Mikey and Alicia's bedroom, one leg tucked under the other, a sketch pad on his lap. He's bent forward, his hair falling in his face, and it's terrible posture and Frank knows his back is going to ache later but he stands there watching Gerard for a minute, because he's so focused, Frank doesn't want to disturb him. He knows if he stands there long enough, Gerard will finally notice and look up. Frank's done this a hundred times. He knows it's better than startling Gerard, it's better to let him notice you himself, it's easier for him to transition away from being inside his head to being outside.

"What are you drawing, Gee?" Frank says, after Gerard puts down his pencil, looks at the sketch pad, and then looks up and beams at Frank, and Jesus, that is going to give Frank a heart attack, the welcome sight, all of Gerard's attention on him like that, especially after how ridiculous he was being earlier.

Gerard stands up, and Frank's right, his back's bothering him, but he gets up, stretches, and hands Frank the sketchpad. It's the band as The Black Parade, details from the stage shows and the photo shoots and Gerard's imagination all mixed up in five comic-book-style figures of the band.

It's Gerard's drawing of himself that Frank focuses on - not the older, blonde buzz-cut leader of the Black Parade, not the just-into-his-thirties jean-jacket wearing Gerard he looks like now, but the long-haired, dirty, miss-matched hoodie-and-pants, younger and stringy-haired Gerard, who looks completely out of place with the rest of them.

Frank's about to say something but Gerard turns and looks away, and Frank hands the sketch pad back to him and says, "What the fuck are you doing hanging out in your brother's bedroom?"

"It's familiar," Gerard says. "I mean, not all the girl stuff that belongs to Alicia, but his clothes and the poster and....." Gerard gestures at the messy bedroom. It's true, it does look like Mikey, recognizable immediately.

Gerard pushes at Frank and then leaves his hand there, warm on Frank's shoulder. "I don't have a headache," Gerard says, quietly and looks up at Frank.

"That's good," Frank says, and he can't tell what the fuck Gerard is talking about.

"I don't have a headache. It's almost dinnertime and I haven't had a headache all day. For two days, not since….."

And that's when Frank catches on. "You're not hung over, you mean," Frank says, and there's a little edge to his voice that he can't help. There's no good in using a euphemism. Gerard's headaches weren't headaches, they were hangovers, all of them, and Gerard would go from one hangover to another. "This is what being sober is like," Frank says, and this time he's trying to sound kind, because Gerard doesn't really know what being sober is like. "This is what it's like," Frank says, and then he's got his arms full of Gerard, who's half-hugging him, half pushing him up against the doorframe.

"What happened earlier," Gerard says, exhaling into the material of Frank's shirt, so Frank can feel Gerard's warm breath on his shoulder. "That was different."

"Yeah," Frank says, and hugs Gerard a little tighter.

"I mean, it was different for you. For us, now."

Frank holds his breath for a minute and then says, "Gerard, it's just – "

"I may not remember, Frankie, but I can pay attention."

Frank nods. "I know you can."

"So, we don't do any of that anymore, now. You and I don't – "

"No," Frank says. "Not like that."

"Like what, though?" Gerard says, sounding frustrated and pulling back from Frank.

"You're married," Frank says, weakly.

Gerard stares at him for a moment, and leans in and kisses him, then abruptly pulls away.
"Ok," Gerard says, "I can follow the rules." And he tears off downstairs.

Dinner goes really well after that. Gerard is sweet to Alicia, he tries several times to say something that makes Lindsey laugh, asks Jamia questions about her trip to Seattle, and he doesn't flirt with Frank at all. He doesn't once say anything about wanting a drink. Frank feels relieved, like he's breathing clearly for the first time in four days.

When Jamia kisses him goodbye before she goes back home, she asks how he's doing, he tells her everything is going really, really well.

They next day, Gerard, Lindsey, and Frank are hanging out in the living room watching The Cooking Network, but none of them are actually watching. Gerard is flipping through an issue of Shadowman, Frank is testing his memorization of the 12 Steps, and Lindsey is watching out the window, her eyes quiet, her fingers drumming on her knee. There's a hole in her jeans, just on the inside of her thigh and Frank looks at it, wondering what it is she's really thinking. Gerard is warm pressed up against him, and when Frank leans into Gerard, he sighs happily, but doesn't look up from his comic book. Frank feels relaxed, like this is all really normal. Like they do this all the time.

"Does anyone mind if I just turn this off?" Lindsey says, leaning forward to reach for the remote.

"I really don't need to know how to make a rack of lamb," Frank says. Gerard just nods, still not looking up from his book. Lindsey turns off the TV, leans back into the couch, and closes her eyes. Frank actually feels at peace, because this feels familiar. Even if he's never done this with Gerard and Lindsey in a house, they've all found their own quiet way to be in each other's company on tour buses or at the green room in the venue, and Frank likes anything that feels familiar when it comes to Gerard ever since the amnesia began.

Gerard finishes his book, looks at Frank with a smile, and reaches across Frank to set the book down on the coffee table. Frank presses a kiss to Gerard's forehead and Gerard grins at him. Gerard sits back down, and looks at Lindsey who is still sitting with her eyes closed. Gerard reaches over and brushes her hair back from her face. Lindsey opens her eyes and smiles at him and Frank's heart clenches, because it's so tender. He feels like he ought to leave, but he's frozen, as Gerard leans forward and kisses her. Lindsey visibly hesitates, but Gerard doesn't pull back, and after a second, she kisses him back, and Frank realizes he's been holding his breath.

Gerard kisses Lindsey harder, twines his fingers in her hair and shifts on the couch so he's at a better angle, and Frank leans forward, ready to sneak away, and Gerard abruptly turns, presses his hands against Frank's shoulders so he's pushed back against the couch and kisses him, hard and a little desperate.

Lindsey makes a pleased sound and when Frank opens his eyes and looks at her, she looks almost as surprised by it as he is. Gerard bites Frank's neck and Frank snaps his attention back to him, sliding his hands up underneath Gerard's shirt. Gerard pulls back after a moment, smiles incredibly sweetly at Frank, and then leans over and licks Lindsey's throat, and says, softly, into her neck, "Is this ok?"

She says, "Yes," and swallows and breathes out quickly as Gerard licks her throat again.

Gerard looks up at Frank, and asks, "Frank? Is this ok with you?"

Frank nods, and then finds his voice and says, "Yeah. Yes, it's good."

Gerard kisses Lindsey again, and then says, cautiously, 'How about if....if we switch places. So you're in the middle."

Lindsey gets up, entirely agreeable, and sits down next to Frank. Gerard looks at Frank for a long time, and Frank, who can feel his pulse in his throat, leans down and kisses Lindsey. He knows this is what Gerard is silently asking him to do, to make this ok, to make sure Frank is on the same page. Kissing Lindsey feels good, feels really good, feels even better when she grabs the back of Frank's head and pulls him close. Frank can feel Gerard lean closer, feels Lindsey's reaction against his mouth when she gasps. Frank looks down, pressing his forehead against Lindsey's, and sees that Gerard's mouth is on Lindsey's breast, his teeth scraping her nipple through her shirt. And Christ, that makes Frank start to sweat. Lindsey gasps again and kisses Frank, biting his bottom lip. Gerard shifts again on the couch - he never stops moving - and he bites Frank's stomach, where his shirt has ridden up, then licks across Frank's lower back.

"Fuck," Frank swears, and Lindsey gets her hands up Frank's shirt, fingers sliding gently across his chest and he feels dizzy. He moves so he can kiss Gerard, and then Lindsey sucks on Gerard's earlobe and Gerard fucking moans against Frank's mouth. Frank slides his hands up under the seam of Gerard's shirt, lifts and then tugs it up, pausing for Lindsey to sit back, and then both Frank and Lindsey have the same idea, they lean forward and attach their mouths to either side of Gerard's neck, sucking and biting until they get to his collarbone. It's incredibly reassuring to Frank that they both know what Gerard likes, and that they're sharing. Gerard is making this pleased needy noise, and Lindsey kisses him while Frank whispers in his ear, "Fucking Christ, you're beautiful, Gee." Gerard reaches out and grabs Frank right around the middle, pulls him up close, so that their chests are almost touching, and Lindsey stops kissing Gerard and bites Frank's earlobe and then Frank and Gerard are kissing again and Frank thinks, hysterically, that he's never done this before, and he has no idea what's supposed to happen next, except that he might actually come in his pants if Gerard keeps kissing him like this, hot and dirty, while Lindsey licks the shell of Frank's ear and slides her hands across his ass. Frank wonders if they're supposed to take turns, but then Lindsey is taking Frank's shirt off and then takes off her own, and undoes her bra, and then both Gerard and Lindsey's warm bare chests are presses against Frank.

"Oh," Frank says. "Oh, wow."

Gerard's hair tickles Frank's stomach as Gerard leans down and kisses Lindsey's navel, and Gerard starts to unbutton Lindsey's jeans and then Lindsey is making a noise that makes it very clear to Frank what's going to happen next. Gerard backs up off the couch, gets down on his knees, and pulls Lindsey's hips toward him, and awkwardly helps her out of her jeans. She's wearing red underwear, Frank isn't sure why that's the detail that he notices, and then Gerard is sliding those down, too. He settles on his knees and Lindsey half-sits, half lies back on the couch, her eyes on Frank as Gerard kisses her inner thighs, spreads her legs, his fingers tracing over her thighs.

Frank leans down and kisses Lindsey, and he can feel when Gerard's tongue touches her, he can tell when Gerard starts to suck. It's fast, faster than Frank would have expected, one of Lindsey's hands splayed across Gerard's shoulder, the other tugging tight against the waist of Frank's jeans, and she comes with a gasp, her hips bucking up, and then a filthy groan and sigh. Gerard sits up, kissing her knee, wipes his mouth, and Jesus, Frank is staring at Gerard's mouth, his red lips, glistening, and Gerard says to Lindsey, like he's whispering a secret, "Want to watch me suck Frank off now?"

She agrees at the same time Frank groans, and Gerard simply scoots over to Frank's side of the couch, unzips Frank's jeans, and slides them off. "You want this, Frankie?" and it's not Gerard being uncertain anymore, he's fucking flirting, licking Frank's hip, pushing Frank down on the couch, making Frank scoot forward, so he's sitting on the edge of the couch, and this is dirty, this is so dirty, Gerard on his knees between Frank's legs spread wide, Gerard bending forward to take Frank's cock in his mouth, saying, "Pull at my hair, I know you want to," before swallowing him down.

Frank does pull at Gerard's hair, tugging and biting back the howl he wants to make, because Gerard feels so fucking good, and Lindsey is sucking on Frank's neck and Frank can see why Lindsey came so fast. He doesn't think he'll last another thirty seconds, and then Gerard grabs Frank's hips, fingers tight against him and sucks, Gerard's tongue flat against the underside of Frank's cock and Frank tugs hard at Gerard's hair and Gerard groans, he fucking groans and Frank looses all control, thrusts into Gerard's mouth and comes.

Gerard looks sated even though he hasn't come yet – Frank can still feel Gerard is hard when Gerard stands, presses himself against Frank, and kisses his neck.

"Should we maybe..." Lindsey says, and she's standing, not even bothering to cover up, and looking at the stairs.

"Yeah," Frank says, his heart still thrumming, and he rubs his hand over Gerard's cheek. "You wanna go upstairs, Gee?" Frank asks, and Gerard's eyes go dark. He nods, but doesn't say anything, and Frank watches as he looks at Lindsey.

Upstairs, Lindsey steers Gerard toward the bed, and Frank, who left his pants downstairs, looks down at his bare legs, and then up at the bed, where Gerard is laying down, and Lindsey is lying down next to him. Frank's heart speeds up, because, yes, they're really going to do this. Lindsey leans down and sucks on Gerard's collar bone and Gerard arches his back and Frank rushes over to the bed. He pauses, trying to decide where to put himself, but it's obvious that Gerard is meant to be at the center and so Frank climbs up on the other side, across from Lindsey, and after watching for a moment, brings his mouth down on the other side of Gerard's collarbone. Gerard goes completely still for a moment and then he whispers, "I could come, just from this, with you both - " and then his whole body jumps as Lindsey bites down on his hipbone. Gerard starts to pant, and Frank follows Lindsey, biting down first gently, then harder on Gerard's hipbone from the other side. Gerard's hips start to buck and Lindsey presses her palm down on Gerard's thigh and says, "Shhh, we'll take care of you," and Frank leans forward and kisses Gerard's stomach. Lindsey is sliding her hands up and down Gerard's thighs, and when Frank says, "Yeah, Gee, we know just want you need," and Gerard groans, Frank catches Lindsey's eye, and they both reach for Gerard's cock, Frank's hand on the bottom, Lindsey's hand on the top. Frank stays looking at her, watching her face closely, watching for the certainty in her eyes, and then he starts to move. Frank's hand bumps against Lindsey's until they find the rhythm, and then their hands are touching the entire time, sliding up and down Gerard's cock, making Gerard moan and cant his hips and splay his legs wide. Frank reaches over Gerard, takes Lindsey's free hand, and sucks two of her fingers into his mouth. Watching her eyes flutter makes Frank's breath hitch and Gerard opens his eyes at the sound. He whispers, "Oh, fuck," and then Frank guides Lindsey's hand down between Gerard's legs. She presses both fingers in, slowly, and Frank watches her bite her lip, look up at Frank and then breathe out. Gerard has gone completely still, his head thrown back, his mouth wide open. His body is tense and tight, and Frank says, "You're close, Gerard, aren't you? You're so close."

Gerard only groans, and Frank nods at Lindsey, who smiles at him. Frank moves their hands faster, tugging a little tighter, and Frank sees the moment when they both know he's going to come, when they both lean closer, hold their breath as Gerard arches and cries out.

Frank leans over and kisses Lindsey pulling her to him over Gerard's still shifting hips. They kiss until Gerard sits up, so that his legs aren't between them anymore, and then Lindsey's bare chest is against Frank's and her arms are wrapping around him. They fall against the bed, both on their sides, Gerard tucking himself against Lindsey's back, so that she turns and kisses him.

Frank watches them and feels his eyes starting to drift closed. Lindsey is warm beside him, and then he feels Gerard climb over so that he's pressing up against Frank's back. "On your back, Frankie," Gerard whispers, and his eyes fly open, because Lindsey is straddling him.

She looks at Frank, not asking permission so much as making sure he knows what she's doing before she does it. He turns and looks at Gee, whose eyes are wide and dark, and then he looks back and Lindsey and nods, and she sinks down on his cock, and Gerard's the one who makes the guttural noise as all the breath leaves Frank's lungs.

In the morning, while Frank is in the shower, Gerard comes in, sits on the closed toilet, and says, "Hey."

Frank isn't even soaping up, he's just standing there, his face under the stream. "Hey," he says. He woke up with Gerard's arms around him, Gerard's face pressed to his neck, Lindsey's leg draped over his thigh.

"So," Gerard says. "Did you - "

Frank laughs. "Did I enjoy myself? Are you kidding? I just slept with you and your wife. Gee, that was incredibly hot. Fucked up and confusing and incredibly hot. "

Gerard says, quietly, "Ok."

"Did you enjoy yourself?" Frank says, and there's a little bit of a joke behind it, but then Frank remembers Gerard arched under him, Gerard coming all over Frank's stomach, and he's hard again. He keeps his hands away from his cock, sticking his face under the stream of water and closing his eyes.

Gerard doesn't answer, and Frank hears him moving and he thinks Gerard's gotten up to leave. Frank curses himself, for not remembering how sensitive Gerard can be, how he's probably terrified, or thinks he's screwed everything up, or thinks he's the only one who can make it better, but then a second later, the shower curtain is pulled back and Gerard is there, naked, stepping into the shower with him.

"Hi," Gerard says, before he kisses Frank.

They end up with Gerard draped over Frank's back, one hand on the wall, one hand around Frank's cock. Gerard whispers, "I love you," and Frank thinks maybe he hopes it will get lost in the sound of the water, but Frank can't help but answer. "I love you, too."

The rest of the morning is a kind of pleasant blur of breakfast and coffee and a good morning kiss from Lindsey that actually makes the hair stand up on the back of his neck. Gerard is more put-together than Frank has seen him since he lost his memory. He's confident, he's calm, he's smiling sweetly at Lindsey and Frank is awed at the fact that sleeping with both of them has made him feel better about their relationship than he's felt since they got married. He feels comfortable, and he knows it's just the euphoria, the intensity of what happened. He knows he can't really trust the feeling, but it doesn't stop him from grinning when he looks up at Gerard across the kitchen.

Frank listens to a demo from a band they're considering signing to Skeleton Crew over his third cup of coffee, sitting on the floor of the living room, making notes on a little scratch pad, who plays what instrument, who might be a good manager. Gerard is singing nonsense songs upstairs, or he was the last time Frank took off the headphones, and Lindsey is organizing her oil paints, which she insists is fun for her. Frank thinks about how normal this feels. It feels a little like the perfect moments on tour, when everyone's in a good mood, and comfortable staying out of each other's way.

Lindsey opened two of the windows downstairs and Frank protested because it was still fucking cold out, it was still this side of winter, and Lindsey only said she wanted some fresh air. But hardly a half-hour later, the sun is streaming in through the windows and so is the fresh air that Lindsey anticipated like a guest ringing their doorbell. It smells like spring outside, dirt and grass and ground and earth, and it's so familiar Frank can't believe he's gone months without realizing he hasn't been able to smell that, that spring has been dormant and frozen. He pulls off his headphones, sets down his notepad, and goes over to one of the windows, bends down and presses his face all the way up to the screen. He squints at the trees, trying to see if there are buds on them, if there are crocuses. Frank loves crocuses and he figures someone must have planted them on this street, someone must have planted them in Lindsey's yard last fall. If not, he's going to have to ask Lindsey to plant them in the fall so they're ready for next spring.

He's so close to the window that all he can really smell is the weird metallic wet smell of the screen. He stands up, rubs his nose, and when he turns around, Gerard is in the doorway of the living room.

"Hey, Gee, written anything for our next album?" Frank asks.

Gerard laughs, but it's not a real laugh, and Frank isn't sure why. Surely Gee knows Frank heard him weirdly singing upstairs, and Gerard's always coming up with things for their next album, even things that would never really go on their next album. Gerard walks into the room, closer to one of the open windows. "It smells like springtime," he says, and Frank beams because yes, yes, yes. This is why he loves Gerard, just one more of the thousands of reasons Gerard is one of the most awesome people he knows, because, yes, it smells like springtime. The windows are open and it's just the tiniest bit chilly but it feels good, it feels right, it feels like everything is finally right.

"I remember," Gerard says, and Frank smiles at him again, because Frank was just thinking that, just thinking that he remembered springtime, and the way the nights got longer and the way it rained and rained and then the sun would come up the next day and the air would be all humid and warm and flowers would suddenly burst into bloom. He's so caught up in the memory and the anticipation of spring, of the joy of this morning with the windows open that he'd made fun of and the sun yellow and everywhere, sparkling against the window glass and the water in the flower vase, that he doesn't notice how Gerard looks different. He looks different, like, completely, his expression, the way he's holding himself and then Frank knows.

"You...."

"Everything," Gerard says. "It was just - I remember."

"Oh," Frank says, and he thinks he might die, because he's suddenly wrapped in Gerard's arms and everything, everything is different, just when Frank thought he might understand, might be getting a handle on how things were supposed to be. "I'm so glad, Gee," Frank says, into Gerard's shoulder. "We were all so worried. I mean, seriously, amnesia."

"I'm totally going to write the next album about it. It'll make an awesome concept album, don't you think. I called Mikey first, he's on his way over." Gerard says it all in a rush.
Frank breathes in deeply, the smell of Gerard's hair, the smell of spring, and he swallows and makes himself say it, because this will make it real. "Have you told Lindsey?"

Gerard squeezes him tight, and then says, "Not yet."

Frank desperately wants to say don't. He wants to ask Gerard never to tell her. He wants the chance to restart with Gerard, like they were doing, they were going to have something new. And as much as Frank hoped and prayed for Gerard to come back to himself, for Gerard to be able find his way back, and now Frank's feeling selfish, so horribly selfish. Frank's feeling alone and abandoned and lost.

It's all in the past. Frank tries to let go of it like it really ended four years ago, not mere moments ago. Like it slipped away so slowly he never really noticed until it was gone, not like now, where the moment Gerard left his arms, he'd be married again, and everything would be the way it was supposed to be. Not this dream-life they'd been living, that Frank had been stupid enough to believe was real.

"Well, she's upstairs, probably organizing her entire paint collection, you should go see her."

Gerard laughs. "She always says that's what she's doing, but she usually finds a color she forgot she has in the middle and starts painting."

"You should go," Frank says, and there's something in his voice he can't hide. Gerard looks at him for a long moment, then kisses him, soft and quick, and takes the stairs, fumbling and half-tripping, two at a time. He gets halfway up and then comes rushing back down, coming so close to Frank his hands are practically on Frank's chest.

"I don't remember - "

"Wait, what?" Frank thinks, panicking, that it's gone just as fast as it came back.

"I don't remember the amnesia," Gerard says, "It's all kind of foggy. I remember going to the hospital, and then.....it's kind of a blur. It's only been a week, right?"

Everything is knocked out of Frank's chest. He can't breathe. "A week. Yeah."

"Must have been a strange week. You'll have to tell me about it," Gerard says, and then he's rushing back up the stairs to his wife.

Frank thinks he might be dying, and so he calls Brian. "Fucking Gerard," Brian says. "I had just worked up a story for why we were cancelling east coast dates one after another. Figures he'd get his memory back less than two weeks before he was supposed to be on tour." But there's a relief in his voice.

"Why don't you come by? I was thinking you could be the one to tell Gee that he fell off the wagon."

"Fuck you, Iero," Brian says, laughing. "Are you ok, Frank?" Brian asks, and Frank is always amazed at how Brian can go from caring for the band to caring for them all individually on their own level of need, just like that. Like a fucking mother hen.

"Of course I'm fine. Gee's fine now. Everything's gonna be fine."

"You think you'd be better at lying by now," Brian says and then hangs up.

Mikey arrives while Gerard and Lindsey are still locked up in the bedroom. Not locked, Frank doesn't think they'd lock the door, but they've been up there more than half an hour, and Frank hasn't heard anything, not their voices, not them walking around. He imagines they're clutching each other on the bed, possibly only because that's what he wants to be doing, his arms tight around Gerard, holding him close and still.

"Did he say what it was?" Mikey asks, as Frank makes them coffee. Alicia is looking in the cabinets. "Did he say if it was something specific? Like, a trigger?"

Frank shakes his head. "He just came down and told me."

Alicia opens every single cabinet and then starts over again. "What are you looking for, Alicia?" Frank says. Mikey is watching her with a fond look.

"Where do you keep your fucking juice glasses, seriously?" she says. She opens one cabinet again, quickly, like she's trying to catch the juice glasses before they escape.

Frank opens the dishwasher. "Sorry, we only have three." And then Frank freezes and feels Alicia and Mikey both go still. "*They* had a set of six but three got broken...." He hands Alicia a glass. "Orange juice is on the door, and cranberry juice is in the cabinet. Gee likes it warm, don't fucking ask me why. He probably likes to pretend it's blood."

Frank strains to hear anything from upstairs, wants to scream for Gerard to just fucking get down here and talk to his goddamn brother and know where he keeps his own fucking dishes and let Frank go and take a nap.

"We should bring him to the doctor," Mikey says. "He won't like it, but I'll take responsibility. I'll just promise him he's a medical marvel."

Frank stares out the window. "He'll put that in the concept album, too."

Gerard comes down the stairs and it's apparent just from his expression that he remembers, that the state of amnesia is gone, completely, just like it arrived. Mikey hugs his brother and quizzes him about the exact moment that his memory returned, trying to solve the puzzle to prevent it from happening again. Alicia just hugs Gerard and says, "You were really nice to me even though you didn't know who I was, just because we told you I was married to Mikey." Alicia says. "You're a good brother."

Frank zones out, thinking about what he'll do when he gets home, what he's going to tell the band he was listening to, what he might blog about for the Skeleton Crew street team. He thinks about going home and making dinner for Jamia. Mikey calls Ray and Bob and Frank leans up against the banister, about to sneak back upstairs to get his coat and his keys.

Gerard is saying something about how much his band loves him and his eyes lock on Frank. Frank is the first one to look away. He's so shaken from the intensity in Gerard's eyes that it takes him a minute to notice that Lindsey has slid her hand over his, her cool fingers resting on top of his. Frank squeezes her hand, pulls away with just a quick look at her. It's a fake smile, but he can't help it. He doesn't have it in him to give her a real smile, as much as she deserves one. Everyone's watching him when he comes down the stairs, jacket and keys in hand. He mumbles something about being really tired, that Mikey should call him once Gerard is back from the doctors and they'll all hang out and watch a Dracula movie marathon, and then the door is closing behind him. He breathes in the fresh, spring air but it doesn't smell the same as it did from inside. It's just another day. Frank gets in the car, and drives home.

Frank likes the sound of the car, the familiar sound of the engine, of his tires on the asphalt. He pulls into the driveway, and he likes the sound of car door closing, getting out his keys. He feels outside of his body, like he's watching himself open his own door. He can't even call out to Jamia, he just puts down his keys in the old cracked bowl Jamia won't let him throw out, hangs up his coat on the coat rack, toes off his shoes. He opens the refrigerator, gets out a diet Coke, and sits down at the kitchen table. He can't even open the soda. He feels tired, he feels desperately weak, and he thinks of sleeping last night with Gerard and Lindsey wrapped around him. He gets up and puts the soda can back in the refrigerator and goes to see if Jamia is upstairs.

"Hey honey," she calls out when she hears him on the stairs. "You alone or did you bring the family?" There's no expectation in her voice, Frank knows that one way or the other, it would be completely fine, whether or not he had brought Gerard and Lindsey and Mikey and everyone. He doesn't think of the word family, which they've used forever. It doesn't mean anything different now, it can't. Everyone is who they always were. "I'm only asking because I just got out of the shower and I know how Gerard objects to surprise nakedness," Jamia says.

"Gerard's got his memory back," Frank says, and Jamia comes rushing out of the bathroom, still wet from her shower, just her jeans and a bra and water droplets still all over her back. She hugs him and he presses his face to her wet hair. It smells like shampoo and Frank feels whatever was holding him together just fall apart when he smells Jamia's shampoo, when something as simple, as normal as a shower in his home feels foreign and strange.

"I'm sorry I've been gone so long," Frank says, and Jamia stiffens and pulls back, looks at him fiercely with her hands still tight on his shoulders.

"What the fuck are you talking about," Jamia says. "You just said Gerard got his memory back. So what the hell is wrong?" She's stern and demanding and Frank sits down on the bathroom floor, and Jamia sits down on the edge of the tub. "Frank," she says, and Frank presses the heels of his hands against his eyes. He doesn't want to cry but he feels it rushing to his eyes, his nose, the back of his throat.

"He doesn't remember the amnesia," Frank says, and Jamia presses a hand to his forehead. "He says everything's fuzzy, and he really only remembers the doctor's office. He didn't know how long it had been. I mean, it's probably for the best, he shouldn't remember getting drunk, not after all the work he - "

"Frank," Jamia says, "Are you going to tell me what happened, or am I going to have to guess? Because, seriously, I'm not that good at guessing." Frank adjusts his back on the bathroom floor. " Also, sitting on the floor's hell on your back, let's go in the bedroom."

"My back's already bad. I fucked Gerard in the shower yesterday," he says, and then he looks up at Jamia, who doesn't look as surprised as she could.

"Well, that probably wasn't good for your back, was it?" She gets up and goes into the bedroom, opening up the dresser, pulling out a t-shirt, and pulling it over her head. "I'm taking it that wasn't the only time you fucked Gerard?" Frank winces. "Seriously, honey, what conversation do you think you're having with me? It's ok. "

"Look, you keep saying that, but it fucking surprised me, ok? I was surprised every time Gerard looked at me that way."

"Oh, sweetie," she says, but Frank has to say it all. He can't stop or he won't say it at all now.

"Things weren't like this four years ago, and they weren't like this now, and now, we figured something out. We figured out something that was missing and now he doesn't remember. And I don't know what I thought - "

At this point, Jamia just comes over and hugs him. "Slow down, sweetie, ok, slow down for a minute." She pets his hair. "You love Gerard. It's ok."

"But it isn't. We all slept together. I slept with Gerard and Lindsey together, last night." Frank feels such relief having said it, at the same time the tension coils in him, waiting for whatever Jamia's going to say next.

"And you did it without inviting me?" Jamia says, and she can't be entirely serious but it doesn't sound like she's joking either, and there's no anger in her voice. Frank doesn't even know what to say. He just looks at her. "Oh, sweetie, we've got a great big mess on our hands, don't we? I'm sorry, it's half my fault, I thought you knew - well, I just thought you knew."

Frank doesn't say anything, he just lets Jamia rub his shoulders for a minute, and then she says, "Honey, I need to make a few phone calls, why don't you take a long shower." Frank can't ignore the firmness in her voice, so even though he can still smell the soap on his skin from his shower this morning, he goes into the bathroom, starts taking off his clothes, and steps into the hot water, standing there, not thinking about anything.

When he gets out of the shower, Jamia's got her coat on and the car keys in her hand. "I just need to run out and get the proofs from the printers before they close, I'll be back soon." She's half out the door, but she steps back in, kisses Frank, and heads out the door.

Schechter shows up a few minutes later, before Frank even has a chance to turn on the TV. Almost like they timed it, Frank thinks, and then he realizes maybe they did. He feels like he's really screwed up if Jamia is calling Schechter on him.

Brian knocks and hands Frank a Starbucks coffee and he's barely in the door before he says, "Ok, I'm gonna tell you something that I've sworn not to tell anyone, but I'm smarter than you all and I know when it's better to tell a secret. Can we go for a walk? Let's get your coat. Secrets are always better told over a walk."

It's chilly outside, but there are robins chirping high up in the still-bare trees. Brian has his collar up against his neck and Frank stares at the rim of his coffee cup.

"Gerard was in love with you," Brian says, just as the sound of their steps was starting to fall into a rhythm. Frank stops, and a second later, Brian stops and waits for him to catch up.

"That's the big secret. You can guess whose secret it is and why I'm not supposed to share it." Brian walks, and sips his coffee, and looks at Frank. Frank doesn't say anything, he's not even sure what to say. He's just thinking that he needs to keep walking, keep up with Brian, who's a fucking fast walker, he just has to drink his coffee, which is hot and burns his throat.

"And so I'm assuming he went back there, to the state of mind he was in four years ago, in all ways. He was a drunk, he was lost and terrified, and he was in love with you. You didn't know, did you?" Brian finally says. "That's the problem. We thought you knew."

"I was in love with him, too," Frank says, and now it's Brian's time to stop.

"Jesus fucking Christ," he says, and fumbles for a cigarette. "You motherfucking boys drive me fucking insane." He lights his cigarette and offers one to Frank, who takes it. "So, he loved you and you loved him and neither of you knew. That explains a lot. We all thought - " he hesitates. "We all thought you worked it out. We thought Gerard had talked to you…." Brian takes a long drag on his cigarette and starts again. "Jamia told me the other side of the story this morning. She told me she thought that you two had worked it out, that you had said something to Gerard the same way we thought Gerard said something to you."

"We never talked about it," Frank says.

"That has become abundantly clear." Brian flicks his cigarette, tips his coffee cup way back and drinks to the bottom. 'I've got another secret for you," Schechter says, shaking the empty cup. They've turned down Frank's street and they're almost back at the house. Frank is disturbed by how well Schechter seems to know the neighborhood.

"I don't want to hear it," Frank says, but he doesn't really mean it. How bad could it be, after all this? Maybe he'll find out Schechter and Jamia used to date, or Schechter and Lindsey. Maybe Schechter and Bob.

"I talked to Gerard this morning. Turns out he never stopped being in love with you. How's that for a secret to keep, even from me?" Brian is getting out his keys and walking back to his car. He catches Frank's eyes and looks at him, serious, intense. "I don't even know what it means, but I hope you can figure it out. Tell your girlfriend I'll be home after 6:00."

"Why does Jamia need to know when you'll be home?"

"So I can tell her I'm in love with her," Brian says, straight-faced, and then cracks up. "Seriously, Frankie, someone needs to take care of you," and then he's getting into his car and driving away.

Frank stays standing out in the cold until Jamia comes home. He's trying to find the right words to tell her that he's falling apart, but he stays quiet, and Jamia lets him keep to himself.

Gerard calls him in the middle of the night. He's downstairs on the couch because he couldn't sleep and he didn't want to wake Jamia with his tossing and turning, and he hadn't meant to fall asleep here, but he's suddenly wide awake with his phone ringing on the coffee table next to his head. "Yeah," he says.

"I woke you. I'm sorry I woke you." Gerard sounds nervous. "Sometimes you don't always sleep through the night, and I thought - "

"Gee," Frank says, breathing out. 'What is it?"

"I lied," Gerard says, and Frank sits bolt upright, his stomach churning.

"Lied about what?"

"I remember what happened. This week, I remember. I remember what we did."

"Gee, I don't understand, are you telling me - "

"I fucking freaked out, okay?"

Frank rubs his hand over his face. He's not freaking out because it's the middle of the night. Frank can tell as soon as its morning he's going to lose his mind, but right now, it's too dark, he's too half-asleep and confused. "It's ok, Gee. You get to freak out. You had amnesia. Listen, maybe we - " ought to talk about this sometime other than the middle of the night, is what he's about to say.

"I'm outside," Gerard says, interrupting. "It's raining."

"Well, go inside then, and - "

"I'm outside your house," Gerard says, and Frank hangs up the phone, opens the door, and squints into the dark. It is raining, and it's cold, and Gerard is standing, not by Frank's door, but on the sidewalk on the street.

Frank says, "Jesus Christ, come inside," and Gerard follows him back into the house. "Hang on, I'll go get you a towel," Frank says, but then Gerard is right fucking next to him, Gerard is there, he's present, he is right up against Frank and he says, "Kiss me," and grabs Frank's arm and Frank doesn't have time to think, he just does what Gerard asks, steps in and kisses Gerard, whose lips are cold from the rain but whose mouth opens and is searing hot and Frank groans as Gerard grabs the back of Frank's head and holds him close. He kisses Gerard for a long time, until Gerard feels warm against him, until Frank is hard, until the din in his head quiets down and all he hears is Gerard's breathing, Gerard making pleased noises, the hum of the heat kicking on.

Gerard pulls away and Frank thinks, good, he'll get Gee a towel and maybe make him some fucking tea or something and then Gerard steps into Frank's space, steps closer, so his knee is between Frank's thighs and Gerard whispers, "Up against the wall, come on, Frankie, yes, good," and gently backs Frank up against the wall right next to the front door, making sure Frank's head doesn't hit the light switch. Gerard is so close and Frank can't breathe and Gerard is still whispering, "Good, yes, Frankie, that's good," in between sucking on Frank's neck and rocking up against him, and Jesus Christ, Frank's going to come just from this, he's sure of it, Gerard wet and close and fucking whispering to him in the dark in the middle of his living room.

"Gerard," Frank moans as Gerard's hand slips between them, Gerard palming Frank's cock through his jeans. And then, because he'd be too guilty if he didn't say it, "Jamia's just upstairs."

Gerard bites Frank's neck, hard, and Frank throws his head back, bangs it against the wall. "Do you think I don't fucking know that?" Gerard says harshly, his teeth just under Frank's jaw. "Do you think I could possibly forget that I'm married and you're in love with Jamia?"

"Yes," Frank can't help but laugh, because, yes, of course he thinks that, Gerard just forgot for an entire fucking week and it was amazing. Gerard laughs, too, against Frank's chest, and then unzips Frank's jeans and wraps his hand around Frank's cock.

"Come for me, Frankie. Come for me right here, just one more time." It's too rough, too fast, but Frank does, all over Gerard's hand and his still-damp shirt. "Motherfucker," Gerard whispers, and it's so dirty, it's so fucking dirty, and when Gerard kisses him, Frank shoves his hands down the back of Gerard's pants, against the bare skin of Gerard's ass and squeezes. Gerard gasps and bucks forward, and Frank can tell Gerard was about to run, Gerard was about to run back out into the rain.

"That's not how we end, Gerard," Frank says, and digs his fingers into Gerard's skin, rocking up against Gerard even though he's still soft and sensitive. "You've got to come for me," mouthing Gerard's ear, unbuttoning his jeans. "I really should be on my knees," Frank says, and Gerard lets out a strangled cry. "Or on my back. We haven't done that. Are you telling me we're never gonna do that? You're never going to fuck me? You're never going to come, panting, balls-deep in my ass?" Gerard whimpers and Frank brushes his fingers over Gerard's cock, lightly, and Gerard thrusts into his hand.

"No, Frankie, I'm never - " Gerard whispers and Frank wraps his fingers around Gerard's cock and squeezes and then Gerard is coming, whimpering, his eyes wide and locked on Frank's face.

They clean each other up in silence, Frank retrieving a wash cloth and soaking it in warm water in the kitchen sink a lot longer than he needed to, wiping up Gerard's hands and over his chest, feeling incredibly tender, while the entire time Gerard refuses to look at him.

"I should go," Gerard says. He halts Frank's hand, brushing aside the washcloth, but not bothering to straighten his shirt. He kisses Frank, quick, mostly on the side of his mouth. "We'll still do that, though, right?" Gerard asks, and when Frank nods, Gerard practically runs for the door. Frank finds he can barely walk, can barely go over and lock the door behind Gerard.

Frank sits in the dark downstairs for maybe an hour, his mind blank, or as blank as he could make it, forcing away the memory of what had just happened, of Gerard's face, his broken voice. Of Gerard's lie, and giving up the thing they never could have.

The stairs creak as he goes upstairs, and he tosses the washcloth into the laundry bin.

"How's Gerard?" Jamia said in the dark. Frank jumps and swears. "Sorry," she says. "But you were pretty noisy."

"Jamia, I'm sorry, it won't ever ..."

"Shh," she said, reaching out for him, pulling him against her. Frank is raw, and he leans against Jamia, his head on her shoulder, not really even sitting up. "We've got a lot to talk about," Jamia says, and Frank's heart clenches in desperate fear, "but we both need sleep. A real good night's sleep." Frank falls into it, exhausted, falling asleep to the sound of Jamia's breathing and wondering how much loss he'd wake up to in the morning, if there would be anything left at all.

When he wanders downstairs, late in the morning, he hears the sound of Jamia making breakfast, but when he walks into the kitchen, Lindsey and Gerard are sitting at the table, drinking coffee. "I told them you'd make your hash browns, ok?" Jamia says when she sees him. She's dipping bread slices in egg wash. "The ones with lots of garlic."

Frank's obviously walked into the middle of a conversation, because as soon as Jamia tells him about her hash brown promise, Lindsey starts talking again about something about making an omelet on the bus on tour. Frank can't really track the conversation, and he's too busy trying to avoid looking at Gerard. Finally, though, he has to, and when he looks up, Gerard is looking back at him. Gerard looks as scared and trapped and freaked out as Frank feels, and so he knows it wasn't Gerard's idea to come over for breakfast.

"I already washed the potatoes, sweetie," Jamia says, and Frank startles.

Frank is worn out and he's panicking and so the only real thing to do is make the hash browns like Jamia asked. "Right," he says, and goes over to the countertop where Jamia's piled the potatoes, picks up the knife and starts smashing garlic cloves.

He can't tell if she's angry, he can't tell if Lindsey just dropped in or if Jamia invited them over. Frank doesn't understand, and so he just drinks the coffee that Jamia puts in front of him and when he finishes the garlic, he starts shredding potatoes. Gerard, when Frank risks looking over at the table, is miles away.

It's still raining out, and Frank listens to the sound of it, loud and sharp on the windows, the gusts of wind making the tree branches scrape against the side of the house. He listens to Jamia and Lindsey, who are now talking about Skeleton Crew. He thinks, unbidden, of Gerard, all rain-wet and flush against him. Frank looks over at Gerard, who's looking up at him. Frank had seen Gerard watching the rain out the window and he wonders, desperately, if they're thinking the same thing. They hold each other's gaze for a long moment, too long, because when Frank looks away, both Jamia and Lindsey have stopped talking and are looking from Frank to Gerard.

"Frank, honey," Jamia says, "Go over there and kiss Gerard." Frank drops the knife, which clatters on the cutting board, nearly falling off the countertop.

"What?" he chokes out. He looks quickly over at Gerard, who looks nervous and trapped. "It's not - we're - we're over," Frank says, and Gerard is just looking at his hands. Frank looks pleadingly at Jamia. "We worked it out, and it's - we're over. I'm sorry," Frank says, feebly.

Jamia is still smiling at him, but it's a kind smile, not angry at all.

"No, you're not," Lindsey says. Frank looks at her, and she's holding Gerard's hand and speaking to him. He's trying to squirm away, but Lindsey's fingers twine in Gerard's over the coffee mugs and Gerard doesn't get up and run. "I know you want to kiss him again," Lindsey says to Gerard. "I know you want to kiss Frankie good morning, squeeze him tight, feel his hips against yours, feed him cinnamon buns from your fingers, lick the sugar from his lips...."

The whole time Lindsey is talking, Gerard's eyes are getting wider, his mouth falling open. His tongue flicks out and touches his bottom lip. "So do I," Lindsey says and Frank gasps. He can't help it. He feels all the eyes in the room on him and he quickly looks down, tries to take a sip of his coffee but the cup is empty. Lindsey gets out of her chair and Frank starts to panic. His heart is pounding so loudly he can hear it thudding. With a nod at Jamia, so small Frank almost misses it, Lindsey comes over, takes the empty cup from Frank, sets it down on the counter, places her hands on either side of Frank's face and licks the corner of his mouth.

Frank whimpers, and then Lindsey kisses him full on the mouth. Frank can't really pay attention to how it feels, can't even really kiss back, because he's too busy trying to back away, trying to figure out what to say to Jamia, whether she's going to slap him, stunned at what the hell is going on. Lindsey pulls back and smiles at Frank and then she walks over and kisses Jamia. Lindsey's fingers stroke down Jamia's jaw and down her neck and Frank watches, his mouth open, his eyes watering from the shock. When Lindsey pulls away, Jamia's eyes follow her, and Frank notices how wet Jamia's lips are, how her cheeks have gone pink. Frank can't help thinking it doesn't look like their first kiss.

Frank chokes out, "Are you fucking with me? Because this – this isn't ok. Whatever I did, whatever we did, this isn't fair."

No one answers him. Jamia is watching him, though, and he wants to swear at her, wants to demand she tell him what he did wrong, what he can do to fix it. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Lindsey take Gerard's hand.

"Tell him what you told me this morning," Lindsey says. Gerard is ghost white. He shakes his head, quickly, no. "Go on, Gerard, it's ok," Lindsey says, and then Gerard is on his feet, standing up so fast he almost knocks over the chair.

He strides over to Frank and he says, fast, his voice tight, "I thought I couldn't have you and so I moved on. Except I never really stopped wanting you."

"What?" Frank says. Gerard's eyes are fierce, and suddenly Frank forgets everything else going on, and just wants to take a swing at Gerard, because that's not what Gerard is supposed to say. Schechter had told Frank as much yesterday, but it was different, coming from Gerard. He's supposed to say they made a mistake or he and Frank are being punished, he's not supposed to say that he wanted Frank, that he never stopped.

"You never gave me a choice," Frank says, getting right up in Gerard's face. He's furious, he's so angry he can't even see straight.

"You always had Jamia," Gerard says, and Frank can't even stop, he just leans forward and pushes Gerard hard in the chest

"Fuck you, Gee, shut the fuck up and get out of my house," Frank shouts.

Gerard doesn't push back, he just staggers and regains his balance. And then he leans in and whispers, fierce and frightening, "You saying there would have been a chance?"

Frank feels the question like ice down his spine. "I…." He wants to say yes, wants to say, for you, of course. "It doesn't matter," Frank says. "That was a long time ago."

"It was just a day ago for me," Gerard says, and his voice is terrifying.

"Your wife is right behind you," Frank says bitterly. He looks up at Lindsey and feels immediately guilty when he sees the hurt expression on her face.

"Frank," Jamia says, a hand on his arm and Frank jerks away. "Frank, calm down."

"You're telling me to calm down?" Frank bites out, turning on her. "I know you're angry with me, but this is sabotage. This is fucked up. If you wanted me to admit I was still in love with Gerard, you could have just fucking asked me, you didn't have to do this. I would have told you."

Everyone is quiet, and Frank realizes what he's just spoken aloud.

"I wasn't sure you knew it yourself," Jamia says, and she takes Frank's hand. "I don't know how to tell you this so you'll understand," she says. "I've been trying for months now, sweetie, and you just won't hear it. But it's ok."

"What about this is possibly ok?" Frank says. He's still angry, though he thinks it's mostly just panic. Gerard won't look at him. "I'm sorry," Frank says again. "I want to fix this."

Jamia smiles. "There is a way to fix this," she says. "You need to kiss Gerard."

"No," Frank chokes. "No, that's - I can't. That's just – that's just too much. I know I hurt you and I'm sorry but that's just - "

Lindsey steps forward, and Frank is suddenly feeling way too crowded. "Jamia and I have talked a lot this week, and we should have done so sooner."

Frank can hardly hear what Lindsey is saying. Gerard is shaking, and he's holding himself apart, his knuckles white as he grips the edge of the counter. Frank's looking from Gerard to Jamia, thinking about if he can call Ray – or Schechter – and ask if he can stay with them, thinking about when everything is going to come apart.

"Frank, listen," Jamia says and Frank snaps out of it, looks at her, and thinks his heart will break if he's lost her. She has to see it in his eyes because she says, "I'm not leaving you. I'm talking about something new." Frank wishes he could believe her. He watches as Gerard looks at Lindsey and Frank wonders if they've already had this conversation, if Lindsey has already given him this ultimatum.

"So long as I kiss Gerard, and then this is all over," Frank says.

"No, it's not all over," Jamia says, frustrated and she sighs and turns away and pours another cup of coffee. "Jesus Christ, does anyone else want coffee?"

Gerard quietly goes back over to the table and gets his cup, comes over to the coffee maker and gives it to Jamia, looking at her with a guarded half-smile. She looks up at him and then throws her arms around him. Gerard looks startled but he hugs her back, and then she pulls away, laughs, and fills his cup with coffee.

She looks at Frank and says, "Ok, sweetie, I'm gonna say this once, and you'd better be listening. I know what you want and I know what it means and you can have it. You can have Gerard – for as long as he'll have you," she says with a laugh, "And you've already got me."

"I don't - "

"Shhh, I'm not done," Jamia says, and Frank stops. "I know you love me, that's not in question. I'm not worried about our relationship. I'm worried about you. You've always come as a package with Gerard, every since the two of you met. I've known that all along, and I guess I thought you did, too. But now we have Lindsey," she says, reaching out and grasping Lindsey's hand. "You come as a package with Gerard and Gerard comes as a package with Lindsey, and I'm ok with that. It's not easy and it's not something I'm saying we won't mess up, but we can fix it."

"But that doesn't make any sense," Frank says. "Relationships don't work like that."

"No?" Gerard says, suddenly confident, coming up fast toward Frank, his fingers finding Frank's jaw, his mouth suddenly so very close. "Don't you think we should try?" Gerard asks, before he kisses Frank, and Frank finally lets go, because, he doesn't know if this is for real or not, but Gerard is kissing him, slow and warm and sliding his hands up underneath Frank's shirt.

"It's not a secret anymore," Gerard says against Frank's mouth.

Frank thinks he must be going crazy, because he feels suddenly hopeful. Jamia comes up and takes his hand, and Lindsey is now so close he can feel her breathe against his face.

"Oh," Frank says, breathing out.

"Yeah, I'm a pretty awesome girlfriend," Jamia says. "Good thing I understand you,"

"We all do," Lindsey says.

Gerard laughs against Frank's mouth. "Yeah, you're pretty fucking lucky," Gerard says, and Frank closes his eyes and leans into the kiss, thinking, underneath all the confusion and panic, that maybe that thing he's feeling is gratitude, and maybe, just maybe this will work.