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Breathe on your neck, make knots with our fingers

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“Please tell me you’ve read that.” Frank looks up. Gerard looks like a total dweeb in his Barnes and Noble polo. He’s looking way cleaner and more aware than the last time Frank saw him, at some house party in Nutley on Saturday night, drunk and clinging and grinning about My Chem’s upcoming string of shows. Frank had grinned back, of course, because when Gerard was smiling you really couldn’t help it, but inside he’d been a little sick. They’d also be the last three shows he had booked - would ever book - for Pencey, and even though he still had Shaun and Hambone, I Am A Graveyard just … wasn’t the same.

Frank looks back down at the book in his hands. “The fuck, dude, of course I’ve read it. I even have the first three trades, it’s just been a while and I don’t know what happened to my singles. I didn’t even come in here for comics, I swear, just to sell back some textbooks, but - “ He shrugs.

“No! I didn’t mean to - sorry. Hi,” Gerard says, smiling crooked and going in for a one-armed hug. “Good to see you, Frankie.”

“You saw me on Saturday, motherfucker,” Frank points out, juggling the book and his coffee and his sunglasses and of course they get tangled up somehow, pressed chest-to-chest in a not-just-one-armed hug. He hitches in a little breath; Gerard smells like cigarettes and dryer sheets and his weird splotchy dye job is really stupid - not that Frank has room to talk about stupid hair - but he got the same fluttery feeling on Saturday when Gerard was leaning up against him, grinning and tugging on Frank’s dreads. Has been getting it for a while, if he’s being honest. This maybe means it wasn’t the beer talking. Ever.

Frank flails a little and Gerard says, “Oops!” and plucks the book out of his hands. Frank makes a face and sticks the sunglasses in his pocket. “I’ll take the coffee, too,” Gerard tells him hopefully.

“Fuck you, no you won’t,” Frank tells him. “Show tonight.”

“Like I could fucking forget,” Gerard replies. He leans back against the shelf and starts flipping through the trade. “Seriously, if I thought you hadn’t read The Invisibles I would cry, dude. Volume Four ... it’s really fucking short, but it’s worth it just for the art.”

Frank sets his coffee down on a shelf and takes the book back. “It’s been a few years, but I just remember how crazy the story is.”

“Grant Morrison,” Gerard says dreamily. “He’s a fucking genius. Did I ever tell you I interned at DC, while he was writing it? He used to come into the office in, like, a leather trenchcoat and fucking vinyl pants or some shit, like actual fucking King Mob was walking by.” He picks up Frank’s coffee and takes a sip, like he doesn’t even realize it’s not his. Fucking Gerard, seriously.

“Are you trying to sell me comics or tell me about your boner for Grant Morrison?” Frank raises an eyebrow and Gerard turns a little pink in the face, but laughs anyway.

“Do I have to try to sell you comics?” Frank makes a face. Not really. “But really, if you like The Invisibles - and who doesnt? - his new book The Filth is coming out this summer and it looks fucking incredible.”

“Now you are trying to sell me comics,” Frank teases, and Gerard turns even pinker.

“Hey, productive member of society and all that shit,” he says, and Frank laughs.

“Yeah, right. See you tonight?”

“Yeah, hey, speaking of selling. You mind working merch for us tonight, dude?”

“You owe me a beer, then. And a coffee,” Frank adds, looking at the cup still in Gerard’s hand. Gerard looks at it too, sort of surprised, then hands it back. Their fingers touch.

“Yeah, yeah. You know I’m good for it, motherfucker.” Gerard grins. That tone of voice from anyone else, that would be fucking flirting and no mistake, but with Gerard … Frank’s just not sure. Well, fuck.

*

That night at Hamilton Street Frank’s back at the merch area, listening to Gerard ramble his way through his mid-set stage banter and cursing under his breath at Shaun, who was supposed to be back here helping him but who has instead fucked off to parts unknown with some chick. Frank’s running back and forth between his own merch and the My Chem stuff, talking to people and collecting sweaty, crumpled bills, when he finds it - there’s a piece of white paper tucked into the My Chem cashbox, under a few twenties. It’s folded over and the outside says “Thank You Frank xo” in sharpie. Frank plucks it out; it’s heavy drawing paper, the nice kind, and when he unfolds it there’s a small but amazingly detailed drawing of Frank in full-on King Mob getup sitting on a stack of what Frank thinks are tee shirts. “My Hero,” a little caption underneath declares.

Frank just stares at it for a moment, then glances up at the stage where its creator is screaming into the mic and experiences an actual full-body shiver. Then he slips the piece of paper carefully into his wallet and lowers his face into his hands for a moment. He is so, so fucked.

When My Chem finishes up, there’s a flurry of movement as members of the audience scatter to go to the bathroom, bar, whatever, and Ray Toro emerges from the confusion with two Bud Lights clamped in his hand. “Iero,” he grins, clunking one of the bottles against Frank’s shoulder. Frank dodges back and grabs the bottle by the neck, passing off the cashboxes into Ray’s free hand.

“Thanks, man. I swear to god, if Shaun’s not back there in like five minutes I’m beating him to death with his fucking Moog.”

Ray laughs. “I think I passed him on the way back here, Frankie. Go get ‘em.” Frank takes a swig of beer, coughs, and spits into a nearby trashcan.

“Going, going.” When he pushes his way towards the stage, he keeps his eyes peeled for Gerard, but he’s nowhere to be found. Of fucking course.

He forgets about it when he gets onstage, throwing himself into the music. It’s harder to do these days, because there are different bodies onstage than he’s used to. It feels crowded, like Neil and Tim are still up there, as, like, chalk outlines or some shit, and if Frank’s thinking that he needs another beer, a fucking joint, what the fuck ever. He settles for screaming instead.

Afterwards, in the chaos of the loading zone, he finally runs into Gerard. Not literally, although it’s a fucking close call. Gerard’s in all black, it’s dark, and Frank’s carrying a fucking amp, for chrissakes. Which he does not drop, thank you very much. He does shove it unceremoniously into the back of the Graveyard van and hurry back to grab Gerard’s arm. Gerard beams. “Frankie!” he says. “You were awesome!” He goes to give Frank a hug and is momentarily confused by the tangle of cords in his arms. “Oh,” he says, deflated. Frank rolls his eyes and gives him a little shove in the direction of My Chem’s van. Gerard drops the cords in the back and turns back to Frank, flinging an arm around his shoulders. “I sent you a beer, Frank!” he says expansively. “Did you get your beer, Frank?”

“From Toro?” Frank asks. Gerard’s at least half-drunk, and Frank’s sorta blazed now - Shaun is totally forgiven - and this conversation is going fucking downhill.

“He was supposed to tell you it was from me.” Gerard sounds disappointed now, and Frank’s heart thuds painfully, once, against his ribs.

“I got your drawing, though.” Frank leans in, drops his voice, eyes widening a little to watch Gerard’s face.

“Yeah?” Gerard sounds pleased, a little breathless.

“Yeah, I - what the fuck, dude?” he interrupts himself, turning around. Hambone has just walked by and smacked him on the back of the head, hard.

“You forgot to fill up the van, cocksucker, and now it’s doing that fucking thing with the starter again.” Shit. Yeah he did. He’d been reading the fucking Invisibles all afternoon. He turns back to Gerard.

“I gotta - “

“Go,” Gerard says, smiling his weirdly sweet little smile. “I’ll see you this weekend. Maybe I’ll buy you another.”

Ten minutes later, when he’s up to his elbows in the mysterious innards of the van’s engine compartment, he’s still wondering if that was flirting. Again.

*

He goes back to Clifton on Friday for another volume of The Invisibles. He doesn’t even know for sure if Gerard’s working, but it’s hard to say what’s more tempting. At first he doesn’t see Gerard at all. He’s handing over a twenty to the grandma behind the register when his fingers nudge the folded piece of drawing paper that’s still stuck in his wallet, and it’s like it actually makes Gerard appear, walking out from the back of the store with an armful of magazines. Frank waves the Volume Five trade at him, and Gerard jerks his head in a get over here movement.

“Back so soon?” he asks, glancing at Frank and smiling as he stands the magazines in place on the shelves.

“Finished Volume Four, and it was driving me crazy wondering what happens next,” Frank grumbles. “Might as well buy the next book while I’ve got the cash. After these last two gigs this weekend....”

Gerard looks at him intently for a moment, then sets his stack of Car and Drivers down and grabs Frank’s wrist. “Come with me,” he says. “Cheryl, I’m going on break,” he calls over to the lady behind the registers, and tugs Frank into the cafe.

“Whatcha doing, Gee?” Frank says, eyebrows raised. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t follow along obediently, of course.

“Buying you coffee.” Gerard leans over the coffee counter and says something to the barista, then tugs Frank over to one of the tiny two-person tables. “What’s going on with the band, Frank?”

Frank sighs. Gerard’s looking at him all earnestly, and Frank has the strong and sudden urge to grab the front of his stupid Barnes and Noble shirt and haul him in for a kiss, shitfuckdamn, and at the same time he’s so fucking irrationally mad, that Gerard has this fucking fantastic band and Frank - “It’s just not the same,” he says. It’s what he always says, in his head, and what he can’t bring himself to say to his bandmates, because who the hell is he to say that, really?

The barista carries two cups over, and Gerard’s ordered him a soy latte, and Frank takes a cautious sip. It’s good. Gerard takes a sip of his drink too before answering. “Of course it’s not, it couldn’t be,” he says gently, suddenly sounding older and wiser and like he doesn’t live in his mother’s basement with a fucking hobbit sword, Christ. “But why do you think the band’s over, Frank?”

Frank’s quiet for a while. He isn’t quite sure how to explain. It’s just a feeling. “Fuck if I know. I’ve been in bands for, like, ten years now and I just.... Shit, Gee, I should just stay at Rutgers and get my degree and get a real fucking job and make my mom happy, shouldn’t I?”

Gerard’s hand closes over Frank’s where he’s tapping the tabletop silently with his fingertips. His hands are warm and dry and a lot softer than Frank’s calloused fingers. “That’s not you, Frankie,” he says quietly.

Frank frowns, even though his stomach is doing weird flip-flops and he wants to turn his hand over, slide their palms together, tug Gerard close. “You saying I’m a fuck-up?” he challenges.

“Nah, m’sayin’ that you’re special,” Gerard told him. “Now go home and read this book, it’ll cheer you up,” he says, a strange little note in his voice like he’s maybe making a joke. If he is, Frank doesn’t get it, but he smiles a little anyway. “See you tomorrow at Bloomfield.”

“Yeah, okay,” says Frank. “And Gee? Thank you for the coffee.”

Gerard smiles.

Fucking Friday night, and Frank doesn’t even want to deal with people so he stays home, gets baked and reads his new book. Once he’s part of the way through, he starts to get why Gerard was making that little joke. A lot of it is way over his head, in a way where he could happily think about it for days, but … there’s a lot more sex in this comic than he remembers from when he was sixteen. Huh. The more he thinks about it, the more he remembers the amused little huff in Gerard’s voice, and then he’s thinking about Gerard, Gerard’s smile, Gerard’s mouth and he’s got one hand cupping his dick through his jeans before he even realizes what he’s doing.

Shit, it’s good. He’s at that point of being stoned where everything just feels fantastic and loose and he can’t fumble his jeans open fast enough. The book drops from his fingers as he shoves one hand in to grab hold of his cock, pushes his jeans and briefs down around his thighs with the other, and he sighs happily. Frank arches his back and flexes his hips, stretching into it as his hand works steadily on his cock, palm twisting over the head every few strokes, spreading precome over the satiny hot skin.

It feels like he’s been jacking himself forever, but in a good way, little hot currents running through his body to fizz in his chest, his toes. Keeping a steady rhythm with his right hand, he rucks up his tee shirt with the other, sliding a hand up the center of his chest to play with his nipples, rolling them between his fingertips and pinching a bit. He can see Gerard if he keeps his eyes closed, Gerard crouched over his lap with an intent expression, Gerard’s splotchy red and black hair clenched in Frank’s fingers as he lowers his lips onto Frank’s cock. In the backseat of Frank’s crappy Buick, maybe. Maybe right here in Frank’s bedroom.

Frank moans at the thought, pushing up hard into the grasp of his own fingers, rhythm going erratic as he pumps, thoughts on a loop of yespleasethisnow over and over till he’s arching his back and turning his face into his pillow and shooting all over his hand and belly. Fuck, it just feels so good. He’s barely got it together enough afterwards to wipe himself off with a corner of the sheet, to shove his jeans the rest of the way off and pull his briefs back up. Once he does, he’s asleep in seconds.

*

He steps on the comic the next morning when he rolls out of bed, and he picks it up, still half-asleep, and smooths the few bent pages before setting it aside on his nightstand. Frank doesn’t remember his little jerk-off fantasy until he sees the subject of it that night at Bloomfield Street Cafe, jeans sagging halfway down his ass as he helps Ray hook up his pedals, and thinks, really? The answer, coming from his stomach and his fingertips and his dick all at once, is an insistent fuck yes. Frank tips his head back against the wall, takes a deep breath, and then goes outside to grab another beer.

Hambone and the other dudes are still unloading the last of their gear, but Hambone grabs his sleeve when he tries to help, keeps him in the van after Shaun and the other guys climb out. “Hey,” he says, and Frank knows that tone of voice and it’s the only reason he doesn’t make some sort of comment about Hambone and vans and candy. “I ran into Shaun at Three Guys last night and we got to talking.”

Frank tugs his carton of smokes out of his pocket and lights one up. It gives him something to do for a moment so he doesn’t immediately fucking flip. “Yeah?” he says over a puff of smoke.

“You don’t seem happy, dude.”

“What’s your point?” Frank doesn’t bother to deny it. Hambone will just call him out on it anyway.

“It’s okay to want out,” Hambone says. “We’re gonna understand if you do. We can all - there’s other things out there, man.”

The fuck there are. There’s, like, lecture courses and starting from scratch out there. Frank puffs through the rest of his cigarette and doesn’t answer.

Finally, Hambone sighs and pushes himself off the back bumper. “Whatever,” he says, grabs his bass case, and walks inside. Frank flips open the top of the cooler, grabs the neck of a bottle, then reconsiders and grabs two. Might as well.

Frank coasts on autopilot and Bud Light through the end of their set and to the bar afterwards with most of the guys. He ends up talking to Mikeyway for like half an hour, and that kid has him laughing his ass off as always. Everything’s comfortably fuzzy: the dim bar, the discontented feeling about Graveyard, even Mikey’s face, but that’s probably just the stupid hair. People keep coming up to talk to Mikey and Frank’s attention wanders. He mostly tracks Gerard around the edges of the room, and it doesn’t strike him that he’s being obvious until he focuses in on Mikey saying his name. “Frank. Frank,” like he’s maybe been saying it for a while. Mikey’s raised eyebrow is fucking killer, and Frank is so busted. He’d make a terrible spy. What Mikey’s actually saying is, “Want another beer?” By the time Frank can get it together enough to reply, Gerard appears suddenly and throws his arm around his brother.

Gerard, apparently, would be an awesome spy. Ninja. Ninja spy. Frank looks down at his white tee shirt and jeans. Maybe he should wear more black. “I owe him a beer,” Gerard says to Mikey. He’s weaving very slightly, Frank thinks, although that could be his own eyeballs. Shit. “If you buy him a beer, than I’ll owe you a beer,” Gerard tells Mikey, frowning disapprovingly.

“You always owe me beer,” Mikey says in a monotone. He looks down at his hand, where his cell phone is buzzing, and when he starts punching buttons Frank grabs for Gerard.

“Where’s my beer, Gee?” he asks, tugging at Gerard’s sleeve, and either he’s stronger than he thought or Gerard’s drunker, because when he pulls Gerard closer they get all tangled up again, chests bumping and Gerard’s boot nudging between Frank’s sneakers. Frank giggles and starts to apologize, voice strangling to a halt when he catches Gerard staring at his mouth, and it’s like a fucking cycle because then Frank stares at Gerard’s mouth, and Gerard licks his lips, and Frank licks his own, and when he looks back up into Gerard’s eyes Gerard is staring way more intently than Frank would have expected.

“D’you really want one?” he asks, voice low, closer to his stage voice than his normal voice, and Frank’s dick fucking twitches, because this is the voice, the fucking tone he couldn’t figure out, just times ten, fucking distilled and bottled.

“No,” Frank answers, leaning closer, pressing up on his toes a little, and Gerard curls a hand around the back of his elbow.

“Shit. Wait.” Frank’s stomach sinks sickeningly at those words, but then Gerard’s looking around and saying, “Okay, this way,” and tugging on Frank’s arm, pulling him off toward the bathrooms, and. Holy shit.

It’s a single stall bathroom, and it’s empty, thank god, because Gerard barely even looks around before he locks the door and pushes Frank up against it. This is so far from what he expected from Gerard he can’t even fucking process it, so he just goes, lets Gerard kick his feet apart, nudge a thigh between Frank’s, press up against him from knees to chest and - yes, fucking finally - kiss him. It’s so dirty right away, lips smearing together and tongues tangling and Gerard’s hands threading into his dreads, grabbing on and taking charge, angling Frank’s head the way he wants it and just going for it.

Frank groans, grabs on to the front of Gerard’s shirt, and just hangs on. The things that Gerard is doing with his tongue right now have him so fucking hard already, body pulsing, head spinning. He shifts a hand to Gerard’s hip, shoves it up under the hem of Gerard’s shirt to spread across the small of his back, urging his hips closer, and Gerard takes the opportunity to roll his hips, thrusting up against Frank. He’s hard too, and his dick pressing against Frank’s thigh makes him moan into Frank’s mouth.

Gerard’s dick - fuck. It suddenly feels like all he’s ever wanted is to strip Gerard down, lick and bite his way across his chest and belly and thighs and swallow him down, and he’s so fucking ready to do it - but Gerard has other ideas. Gerard’s pulling their mouths apart with a wet noise, burying his face in Frank’s neck and sucking a hickey into the skin, fumbling for Frank’s belt with both hands.

“Gerard,” Frank gasps.

Gerard stops nibbling his way along Frank’s jaw - really, Frank should have re-thought that, because it felt mind-numbingly good - and mumbles, “Yes? Frank, please, I’ve got to, I want, so much -”

He’s got Frank’s jeans open now, fingers curling into the band of Frank’s Hanes, and Frank just groans, “Whatever you want.” Gerard braces his hands on Frank’s thighs, folding down onto his knees in a shockingly graceful movement, then looks back up at Frank, eyes bright behind his stringy fringe of bangs, and licks his lips. Fuck, he’s gorgeous, and no amount of sweat, stupid hair, ripped layers of hoodies and dirty tee shirts can hide that. He tucks his thumbs under the band of Frank’s underwear and tugs them out of the way, and Frank looks down his own body to see his cock, flushed and hard and gleaming at the tip, watches Gerard’s crooked pink mouth close around the crown, feels it, and he has to close his eyes.

Gerard is not fucking around, he’s going for it like a fucking champ, one hand wrapping around the base of Frank’s cock while the other one splays across Frank’s hipbone. He pumps Frank’s shaft steadily, licking and sucking at the head, tracing the tip of his tongue across the veins before sinking all the way down to meet his encircling fingers. Frank curses, the back of his skull thudding against the door as his back arches, and he clutches at Gerard’s shoulders convulsively. Gerard moans around his dick, unwraps his hand from the base and fumbles for Frank’s wrist, shifting Frank’s fingers into his hair.

The message is pretty fucking clear; Frank curls his fingers around the back of Gerard’s skull, fucking gently into his mouth, then faster as Gerard sucks harder, his free hand skimming along Gerard’s hollowed cheek. Gerard lets up on the suction after a few thrusts and moans, and Frank’s so fucking close already and that doesn’t help matters - well, it does. He tightens his fingers in Gerard’s hair, thrusts a few more times, and the orgasm starts rolling in from his thighs and balls and the pit of his stomach. He tugs on Gerard’s hair, but Gerard doesn’t release him, just pulls off far enough to swallow as Frank gasps and comes.

His thighs are still quivering - hell, his hands are shaking - but he’s still desperate for Gerard, for more, and he wraps his hands in Gerard’s hoodie, tugs him to his feet and pushes him into the corner. “Gee, fuck, Gerard,” he mumbles, licking from Gerard’s ear to his chin, finding his mouth and his tongue and kissing him fast and sloppy. He can taste himself, and it drives him wild, sends his hands grasping and fumbling for Gerard’s belt, the fastening of his pants. Gerard’s already cursing into his mouth at the press of Frank’s hands.

Frank’s lips drift back to Gerard’s cheek, his jaw and neck, and he can hear what Gerard’s saying now, mumbling “Touch me, fuck, jerk me off,” and Frank is so fucking okay with that plan. Clumsy and orgasm-stupid as he is, when he gets his hand around Gerard’s cock it’s already hard and hot and leaking, and Gerard moans fucking loud as Frank starts stroking, fast and probably too rough but Gerard’s not complaining, just hitching his hips into Frank’s hand and clutching Frank’s bicep and the back of his neck and panting into his ear until his spine locks and he gasps and he’s coming hot all over Frank’s fist.

They don’t talk as they clean up and straighten their clothes, and it’s weird, because they’re both always talking, ever since they’ve known each other, every time they see each other. Frank feels stupid, like he’s moving through quicksand, and the only thought in his head is “I wanna fuck you till we can’t see straight” but he can’t say it, somehow, because it’s true but it’s not right, it’s not everything. Gerard’s clammed up, too, moving jerky and unsure, surprising Frank when he stops his hand on the doorknob and tugs him in by the front of his shirt for one more kiss.

Frank still has no idea what’s going on with anything, but he melts into that kiss and everything suddenly feels that much closer to okay. They’re still touching when they let themselves out of the bathroom - Frank’s not sure how long they were in there but no one’s waiting, not that he really gives a fuck - but when they get back into the bar they’re tugged in opposite directions almost immediately. Frank feels like he could stop it, could hold onto Gerard, but he’s pretty sure it’s almost last call, and he’s drunk, and Shaun has his car keys, and there’s always tomorrow, after the show. The last show. He sees Gerard once more, the crowd of people leaving shoving them briefly together near the door and he grasps at Gerard’s sleeve and says, “Tomorrow. Gee, tomorrow?”

“Yeah,” Gerard breathes, hand pressing against Frank’s chest for a moment before he turns to follow Mikey.

Yeah. Tomorrow.

*

For all the crazy spinny feelings in his head and chest on the way home, Frank wasn’t really that drunk. But when he wakes up the next morning, as he stretches and rubs his cheek against the pillowcase, he still thinks it was a dream for a moment. It wouldn’t really be the first time. Then he remembers that it wasn’t, and the spinny feelings start up again. It wasn’t a dream, and it wasn’t casual either. Not after months of knowing each other, weeks of flirting. It’s not like Frank hasn’t indulged before in a casual hookup. He’s usually way more direct with those, and he doesn’t know about Gerard, but the way he’d reeled Frank in for that last kiss hadn’t said “hookup”, it had said “can’t get enough.” Frank could tell, because he’d felt the same way. Feels the same way.

Tonight’s gig is at a youth center house, so Frank and the guys get there early to evaluate the setup possibilities, even though they’ve all been there before. They’re the first ones there, and when they’re finished running cords, while Frank is shuffling around making sure they haven’t overloaded any outlets, he sees Hambone jerk his head deliberately and Shaun sit down on an amp and he turns and faces them, looks them both over, and sighs. “Fine. I’m not happy with the way things are going, okay? I love you two dicksmacks, and I love playing with you, but it’s not the same.”

“We know, Frank,” Shaun says.

“We do too.” Hambone takes over. “But it’s not, and we know it, and we were in it for you.”

“Fuck you,” Frank says automatically, “in it for me. What makes you think I’d want that?” He can see the logic, though. They’ve all got other things they could be doing, other areas of interest. He … doesn’t. Which fucking burns him, because fuck if he doesn’t have a million ideas for things, but all his life it’s all he’s wanted, to be in a band, to do this for a living like his dad and his granddad.

Yesterday, he was pissed off. Today, he’s surprisingly close to okay. They’re making it easier to get there, anyway, to trust his instincts. “So … last gig,” he says. “Then what? We see what happens?”

“Yeah,” says Shaun. “We do.” They’re all nodding together, then Hambone trips over a cord and Shaun makes fun of him and Frank slips out onto the porch by himself for a cigarette. He’s sitting on the steps smoking when the My Chem guys pull up, Gerard’s shitty silver beater following the van. The guys start pulling gear out of the vehicles and trudging up the steps with it, and Frank gets up and shifts out of the way. His eyes meet Gerard’s and there’s a sudden moment where everything seems to pause, to let them both acknowledge the faint sizzle in the air. No, definitely not a one-time thing.

Frank waits and puffs slowly on his cigarette, rolling the butt idly between his fingers once he’s stubbed it out. Eventually Gerard reappears, walking over to slouch in front of Frank. He pulls out his pack of cigarettes and shakes one out. Frank flicks his lighter and Gerard leans over, inhales, blows a stream of smoke out the side of his mouth. They’re not touching. They might as well be touching, for how incredibly, totally aware Frank suddenly is of Gerard’s body, of his own. They don’t talk, either, not for a minute, and then Gerard says, “Frankie?”

Frank says, “Yeah,” and Gerard’s breathing wobbles audibly for a moment. Frank doesn’t understand how Gerard went so suddenly from Mikey’s weird brother to hot nerdy dude to someone Frank is desperate to decode, to deconstruct, to trace the outlines of with hands and lips and mind alike. He doesn’t much care, though. “After the show,” he adds, reaching out and pressing his thumb against the corner of Gerard’s mouth. Gerard’s lips part a little.

“After the show,” Gerard echoes. He shoves a hand through his messy hair and tugs - nervous habit - and flicks his cigarette butt to the pavement. He grinds it out with his boot and turns. Frank follows his slightly slumped shoulders back inside.

It’s a good gig - at least, Frank feels better about it, the kids are into it, they sound good. My Chem might even sound better. Gerard’s having a good night. It sort of does weird things to Frank’s stomach to know he might have something to do with that, so he goes outside for a smoke, sipping his half-full beer and staring at his shoes, not thinking. Afterwards, when they get all their shit loaded, he stops Hambone and hands over the van keys. “I’ve got another ride. I’ll help with all the shit tomorrow, okay?”

Hambone gives him a look - the who are you hooking up with? look. Or maybe he’s wrong, and it’s the I know who you’re hooking up with so just admit it look. Frank doesn’t really give a shit right now, because Hambone snaps the keys up out of his hand and nods, and Frank slinks off to lean on the trunk of a tree, by the curb near Gerard’s car. Gerard’s car, because Gerard drove, because he’s not going out with the rest of them. Because he’s - right in front of Frank, actually, finishing up a cigarette and looking really amused. Frank’s way more sober than last night and way less convinced that Gerard is a ninja spy, but here he is again. Frank almost bobbles his own cigarette and Gerard laughs.

“Did I scare you?”

“Scare me? Fuck no.” Yes. He’s fucking nervous, isn’t that some shit?

Gerard bounces his car keys in his palm. “You - ah - what do you wanna do?” He’s nervous too. Frank can tell. Motherfucker, this is insane.

“Dunkin? And then back to your place,” Frank adds, in case Gerard thinks he’s getting blown off. He’s … not getting blown off. Not tonight. Frank giggles to himself, and that makes Gerard smile too.

“Okay,” he says, and they get in the car together.

There’s plenty to talk about - their sets, the ridiculous fight Cassie Rimaldi and Karen Jackson had in the kitchen over that meathead bouncer they both dated, what the fuck Mikey had done to his hair that night. Then they get coffee and Gerard pulls over in the back corner of the parking lot and they both pop the tops on their cups and blow over the hot surface. As they start sipping Gerard says, “You guys seemed better today.” His voice is gentle, not pushing.

Frank laughs a little, mostly not bitter. “Yeah, now that the band’s done.”

“Is it really? For real.” Gerard sounds speculative.

“Good as. Dunno if I really want to talk about it right now, though, Gee.”

“Sorry,” Gerard says, putting a hand on Frank’s thigh. He really is sorry, Frank can tell, but it’s just about the last thing on his mind right now with Gerard’s fingertips pressing against his inseam. The car’s suddenly a lot hotter, and it’s not just the coffee burning a trail down to his belly.

Frank makes a little noise, and their eyes snap to meet the other’s. He sets his coffee down deliberately in Gerard’s cupholder, watches Gerard swallow and do the same. “I don’t want to talk about it right now,” he repeats, pushing himself up on his knees, leaning over the center console to push his fingers through Gerard’s hair. Gerard obediently tips his head back, baring his throat for Frank’s mouth, and Frank takes his time, licking and nipping up Gerard’s neck and along his jaw to his ear. “I don’t want to talk at all right now,” he whispers, shifting one hand to Gerard’s crotch.

Gerard whines and bucks up immediately and breathes, “Fuck, Frank!”

“Good idea,” Frank teases. “How’d you come up with it?” He nips Gerard’s earlobe and Gerard turns his head, nudges till he can lick into Frank’s mouth, gasping when Frank squeezes his dick a little. His own hands reach to bracket Frank’s cheeks, gentler than Frank probably deserves, and his fingertips press into the curve of Frank’s jaw when he pulls their mouths apart.

“I can’t drive with you on top of me, Frankie,” he points out breathlessly.

“Then drive fast,” Frank says, nipping at Gerard’s bottom lip once more before shifting back into his own seat. It’s only a few more miles. Frank can keep his hands to himself. Maybe.

The Ways’ house is dark when they pull into the driveway, and Gerard grabs Frank’s hand and pulls him around back to the basement stairs, stumbling a bit with him in the gloom. They both pull off their shoes at the doorway, and Frank hasn’t been here too often, but he knows the floor is usually a minefield of books and cups and movies and art supplies. It’s clear tonight, though, which means Gerard cleaned. Which means he was thinking about this. Frank has to stop, then, pull him closer, shove at his jacket to get his hands underneath. “It’s not usually this clean down here,” he murmurs into Gerard’s neck, sucking gently at Gerard’s pulse. He can feel it when Gerard laughs.

“I can be clean when I want to, motherfucker.”

“I make you wanna be … clean?” Frank teases. He bites at Gerard’s chin again and Gerard grasps him by the hair to tug his teeth out of range.

“You make me want a lot of things.” Fuck, it’s that voice again. Okay, teasing time is over.

“Tell me more,” Frank demands. He’s got Gerard’s shirt up around his ribs now, splaying his fingers over the pale skin, stroking gently up and down, but when he shoves at Gerard’s jacket Gerard helps him push it down, lets it fall to the floor, wrenches at Frank’s tee shirt and his own.

“Rather show you,” Gerard says, tugging him in to kiss him again. His hands wander down Frank’s back, tug at Frank’s belt buckle. When that clinks and releases he reaches for his own, but Frank’s there first, pushing his hands away and opening the buckle and button, sliding the zipper down slowly. He gives in to the heavy pressure at the back of his neck and sinks to his knees. Not that he has a problem with being there. Gerard’s cock is tenting the front of his briefs, and Frank wraps a palm around it and squeezes gently before tugging the cotton out of the way.

Frank was in too much of a hurry last night to really look at Gerard’s cock, and when he does now, from up close and personal range, his mouth waters and his own dick pulses. Yeah, Frank’s not really in a hurry here, but the thought of Gerard fucking him has gone from “hot jerkoff fantasy” to “need it or I will fuckin’ die” real fucking quick. But for right now, he leans in and licks at the head, tracing the veins down with the tip of his tongue, closing his lips gently around the crown, and Gerard moans quietly above him, one hand wrapping around the side of his neck. He doesn’t move, just lets Frank cup a hand around the back of his thigh, another around the base of his cock, tongue curling around the shaft before he starts sucking in earnest.

He’s just barely hit his rhythm when Gerard tugs at his hair, gasping, “Frank!” Frank pulls back and looks up, wiping the spit out of the corner of his mouth with the back of his hand. “Not tonight, Frankie,” Gerard tells him, eyes gone dark, a flush riding across his skin even in the gloom. “I want - I need -” He shoves at his jeans and Frank helps him step out of the tangle of material, letting Gerard tug him to his feet so Frank can do the same.

“You want me to blow you … you don’t want me to blow you … make up your mind, Gerard,” he teases throatily.

“What do you want?” Gerard asks, tugging him close so their chests, stomachs, dicks all press together in a slip-slide of skin and warmth.

“Fuck me,” Frank says, burying his face in Gerard’s neck to mouth at the soft skin under his ear. Gerard freezes, shivers, moans sudden and loud. Frank does it again, adding a little press of teeth. “Yeah?”

“Shit, Frankie, yeah,” Gerard babbles. “I … lie down, I’ll -” He’s already steered Frank over to the bed himself, and Frank clambers onto the mattress, leans back against the pillows to watch as Gerard fumbles in the bedside table for lube, a condom.

“Just one?” he teases, and Gerard turns to gape at him. Frank laughs. “Because I am not leaving here after just once. Not after all this buildup.” Gerard’s expression shifts to something a little seductive, a lot amused.

“What buildup is that?” he asks, returning to the bed and tossing the supplies on the mattress, running a heavy palm up Frank’s thigh.

“I didn’t miss the flirting, Gee, I just wasn’t sure that’s what it was. For you. Then there were the comic books, and I was a little more sure, and last night … fuck, Gee, I feel like I’ve been waiting forever. Please.”

“I had a plan,” Gerard whispers, crawling up the bed and pushing Frank’s thighs wide. “Before last night. I was going to offer to lend you the last two volumes.” He pours lube over his fingers, traces behind Frank’s balls with a feather light touch, kissing the smooth insides of Frank’s thighs.

“You were going to … lure me here with comics?” Frank says on a gasp as Gerard’s slick fingertip presses inside him. Fuck, it’s been a while since he’s been with a guy and the stretch is so good, he’d forgotten how much. This, he’ll never forget.

“With whatever worked,” Gerard says. “Because here’s the thing: you’re really not leaving here after one time.” He adds a second finger and wraps his free hand around Frank’s cock, bites not-so-gently at Frank’s knee, and Frank can’t do anything but gasp and grab for handfuls of the sheets, bucking up into Gerard’s hand and back onto his fingers. “You good, Frank?” His breath is coming shorter, and Frank falls into its pattern without really thinking about it.

“Yes, fuck, fuck, yes,” Frank mutters, and Gerard starts moving before he even finishes, rolling the condom on and slicking himself up and pushing Frank’s legs up against his chest. Frank can feel Gerard’s cock press for a moment against his opening and then he’s pushing in, steady and not-slow, huge and hot and too much, just enough. Frank groans and arches up against him, grabbing for his shoulders to pull him down for a kiss. Gerard lets him, folding down and opening his mouth. They both moan when his next thrust presses him even deeper.

He’s moving faster now, still steady, hand hot and perfect around Frank’s cock, and now he’s hitting the fucking sweet spot every time, and Frank can’t keep his mouth shut. Moans, swear words, Gerard’s name spill out against Gerard’s lips, then into Gerard’s hair when Gerard stretches to mouth at Frank’s collarbones, chest, nipples. “Frank,” Gerard groans in response, breath hot against Frank’s skin. “Fuck, you feel so good.” He presses Frank back into the pillows, hips thrusting faster, more erratic, bracing himself with a hand by Frank’s shoulder as Frank strains upward to catch his mouth again.

“Gee,” he whines. “Please, fuck, now.” He’s on fire, all his nerve endings crackling, and Gerard crushes their mouths together, snaps his hips forward a few more times as he jacks Frank, and that’s it, Frank’s gasping and freezing, back arched, coming all over his own stomach even as he grabs for Gerard’s neck and hair. Gerard thrusts in once, twice more before Frank can feel him coming too, calling Frank’s name against his lips as he pulses deep inside.

Neither of them move for a moment, Gerard pressing Frank down into the mattress, warm and solid, breathing hot against Frank’s cheek. Then Gerard pulls out gently and gets rid of the condom, brings Frank a towel to clean up. He hovers in an endearingly awkward manner for just a moment until Frank says, “Come here, Gee, fuck,” and holds out a hand. Gerard laces their fingers together and lets Frank tug him back down to the mattress, settling onto his side next to Frank.

Frank immediately stretches up to kiss him again and Gerard makes a tiny noise and leans into it, smoothing straggling dreads out of Frank’s face, tracing over his tattooed armband, the flame inked onto his chest.

“Thought about this ever since I met you,” Gerard tells him, because of course he is exactly that fucking earnest.

“Did it live up to your expectations?” Frank teases, reaching out for Gerard and watching the way his tanned, rough fingers look spread over Gerard’s pale chest.

“More than,” Gerard says in a low voice. “Never felt farther from getting it out of my system.”

Frank looks up at that. Gerard is smiling, a little seriously, and Frank can’t help but touch his face, can’t help but say, “Good.” He feels so good right now, fucked and tingly and warm, with Gerard’s soft touch on his chest.

“Stay for breakfast?” Gerard asks.

Frank pulls him closer, till they’re slumped comfortably together. “I’m there, baby.”

*

Frank does stay for breakfast, which is day-old bagels and hot, strong as fuck coffee and even a bowl of cereal. Gerard has a little thing of soy milk in the fridge. Frank twitches and takes it and says thanks and does not comment on how Gerard obviously had been prepared for this occasion. He doesn’t even make a single half-hearted boy scout joke. That right there is proof of how far fucking gone he is on this dude.

Mikey comes down the stairs when Frank is about halfway through his bagel. He looks supremely unsurprised to see Frank sitting at the kitchen table in last night’s tee shirt and a pair of his brother’s old gym shorts. It is, in fact, the same look that was on Hambone’s face last night, and Frank suddenly wonders how long all their friends have been waiting for this to happen. “Hey, Frank,” Mikey says, taking the cup of coffee that Gerard pours and hands him.

“Hey, Mikeyway,” Frank answers, waiting for a beat before asking all casually, “So who won the pool?” Mikey fixes him with a poor excuse for an innocent look. Gerard splutters into his coffee. Frank giggles. “Yeah, that tells me everything I need to know right there. I expect a cut of that, you know. I have a boy to take out.” Gerard splutters again, this time with a red flush on his cheeks.

Mikey rolls his eyes in disgust and grabs a bagel. “I’m going to have to see you at breakfast all the time now, aren’t I?”

Frank grins cheekily. “You know you love this face.”

Mikey doesn’t see Frank at breakfast again that week, because things get abruptly busy and all he can manage to do is talk to Gerard on the phone every day or so and jerk off later to the memory of his voice and of round two - and three - that had happened after he and Gerard had made their way back downstairs Monday morning. On Friday afternoon Gerard calls, sounding faintly harassed, and asks Frank to meet him for coffee.

It’s not Dunkin this time but Starbucks, the closest one to My Chem’s practice space, and Gerard shows up with his hair all over the place and ink smudges covering his hands and face. Frank grins and rubs at the biggest one, right along Gerard’s jaw, and Gerard laughs nervously and scrubs at them himself. “Writing,” he explains. “We go into the studio on Wednesday.”

“Wow,” Frank says, impressed. “That’s so fucking quick, dude, I don’t even -”

“Yeah, it is, and here’s the thing - Frank -” Fuck, he looks nervous, fucking twitchy. He won’t meet Frank’s eyes and Frank is starting to get really fucking convinced that Gerard’s about to break things off after all, when Gerard takes a deep breath and continues. “We’ve been talking - the band - and we want, that is, Ray thinks it’s a good idea and so do I and … we’re looking for another member, is the thing. Rhythm guitar.” He looks straight at Frank for the first time, stares really, and all Frank can do is stare back.

“You want a rhythm guitar player. For My Chem.” He repeats it slowly, almost unable to believe his ears are working properly. Something in his gut is churning and it’s not the thing that was churning ten seconds ago when he thought he was about to get dumped.

“We want you,” Gerard says quietly. “For the band.”

Frank takes a deep breath, forcing back the shouted “Yes!” that’s struggling to escape. “What about you?” he asks, with careful emphasis.

“I want you,” Gerard replies promptly.

“For the band?”

Gerard puts down his coffee, smiles a bashful little smile. “I want everything.”

“I -” He’s fucking speechless. “Yes, Gee, jesus, yes.”

“Yes, you’ll be our new guitarist?” The smile’s playing around the corners of Gerard’s mouth now, drawing them out wider to show his teeth, the crinkles around his eyes.

“Yes, to everything. Yes.” Frank reaches out blindly across the tabletop, bumps into Gerard’s fingers, and they both cling. For the first time in months, when he thinks things aren’t the same, what he really means is … they’re so much better.